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30.4.15

The 'I’m Going to BritMums Live 2015' Meme

Name 

Lauren. I also answer to 'Dale's Sister' and Laura for those who find the name Lauren too hard to remember.

Blog

Real Housewife of Suffolk County. A lifestyle, parenting, bit of everything type blog.

Twitter ID

@LaureninSuffolk

Height

5ft 5ish


Hair

Blonde, shoulder length.


Eyes

Two. Both are blue, and generally tend to be surrounded with lots of mascara.

This is my face:

 


Is this your first blogging conference?

No. It is my fourth. It is my first conference which I am helping at though.


Are you attending both days?

I am.


What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2015?

The last two years at Britmums Live involved me being jealous and envious of the room moderators. This year I am in that role myself which I am really excited about.
I also really look forward to the atmosphere, and seeing a room full of people all passionate about the same thing. 
Also, Carol Smillie. And the train journey...two words: FREE COFFEE.

What are you wearing? 

I'm not completely decided yet but it will involve a skirt and/or dress.

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2015?

I think the same as every year. Confidence, meeting new people, and inspiration.


Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before?

The wine at the BIBs party and ceremony is really lovely....however...make sure you keep count of how many you have and try not to have too many.
And I still stand by my tips from last year:
Plan your sessions in advance, make a list of which ones you want to go to. If you feel shy put a call out on Twitter and ask if anyone else is going to those sessions to see if you can sit with them or walk to the room with them.
Make sure you take your phone charger incase you get lost in London with no battery.
Get to the main room in time for the keynotes on the Friday so you can get a seat at a table.
Don't be afraid to take time out if you need to.

Are you going to BritMums Live? Join in the Linky.

April: Instagrammed

I'm so envious of people with an interesting and beautiful Instagram feed. I look at mine sometimes and wonder what I'm trying to achieve?
Other people seem to have this style, or theme and it's almost quite narrative. Mine is a mish-mash of allsorts. Some photos are decent enough, and some are an absolute mess.

Maybe then, what I'm actually trying to achieve is a diary of things that I felt were good enough or worth enough to capture and to have a reminder of.

April was a wonderful month, mainly because of our trip to Somerset.
I don't really tend to Instagram a whole lot when I have a day out or a holiday. I think there's nothing worse than someone spamming your timeline and that the odd photo here and there is much better. Photo spamming on a blog post however is totally acceptable.

My pick-of-the-best Instagram photos this month were these.
Bargain Converse. And a warm day where wearing shorts was totally acceptable.
Clevedon Pier. And a boy on a bike. Harry was hilarious! He kept asking my brother to put his engine on and to go fast!
The tastiest Somerset Cider I have ever had. And an evening sat outside, opposite my twin as we both enjoyed the sun and cider.
We were on a flight path and it was fab sitting in the garden and watching the planes fly over. They were so low down that we could make out who the planes belonged to. There were a lot of EasyJet ones! My aunty treated me to this make up bag! I have a few make up bags but my Naked palette doesn't fit in them. This one however is perfect!
Charles went back to school a day later than Harry, so we met our friends at the park and fed some squirrels. This one was super tame! And whilst Charles and his daddy went out on a hire fleet half decker, Harry and I sat at the river side collecting daisies and acorns and made friends with these ducks. Who he named "Harry and Elsa".
I love these photos SO much. We went out for a family meal and I couldn't help but to look at the boys and feel so so proud. The photo on the right was supposed to be just me and Charles but Harry photobombed, which turned out to be wonderful. I love how Charles snuggles his face against mine in a photo...and how Harry very rarely smiles now preferring to pull a funny face instead.
I wanted to enjoy these lighter evenings so I took the opportunity to do some blogging outside, with a mulled cider. I went for a coffee with my friend at our usual hang out. She knows the owner, as do I now, and when she mentioned her new green juices we decided to give them a go. They were DELICIOUS!
My evening walks are so worth it when these are the views I get to enjoy.

29.4.15

He

He made her happy. He made her smile. He made her feel good about herself.
He brought out her confidence. He made her feel beautiful.

She had expectations. She had an image of how things would be.
She played things out in her mind, of how she imagined things could be.

He confused her. At times she felt he wanted her around. He wanted her to be a part of his life, even in just a small way.
And then he pushed her away. And she felt like nothing.

She felt discarded. She felt sad. She lost her smile.
She no longer felt good about herself. Her confidence faded.
She felt ugly.

She tried to pick herself up. She plastered a fake smile on her face. She tried to make herself look nice. She tried to be a different person.
She tried to make him interested again.

She chased. Just like she always did. She felt like all she ever did was to chase people, to keep them interested, to keep them in her life.

She saw glimmers of hope. The confidence started to come back a little.
But soon enough. It was gone.

She didn't know what to do.

She felt silly.
She relied on him so much.
And as much as she realised that she needed to accept that he was fine without her in his life. And that he didn't miss her, and that he could let go of her so easily.
She couldn't do the same.
However much she tried.

She felt stuck.
The urge to chase was forever there.
She didn't feel this was a bad thing in a way, because it was proof that there was part of her that felt she was good enough. And that she was worth it.
But as much as she tried she couldn't convince him of that.

He made her question herself. He made her discover a lot about herself. In a good way but also in another way too.

She expected more from him.
He expected nothing from her.



28.4.15

Wicked Uncle | Toy Store Review

One thing I miss from our high street is a good toy shop. Growing up there was a wonderful one in our town centre. It sold everything. You could spend all day walking from each room, choosing future birthday and Christmas presents, pressing every noisy toy you could find. It all seemed to be about the experience back then too. No "DON'T TOUCH" orders or requests for children to not play with the toys on the shelves. It was a lot more hands on.

I suppose the recession had a lot to do with the decline in decent toy stores on the high street, and now it is really limited, unless if you want to travel to a nearby city.

The world of toy shops now lives online. It can be pretty daunting when wanting to try toys out or when looking for a variety of toys, games and activities.

Wicked Uncle is an online store aiming to be The World's Best E-Toy Shop.
We were given a budget and could choose whatever we liked for the boys. Usually I would give them the option of what to buy in this situation, however I wanted to really research the site and make sure I was aware of everything on offer...not wanting to waste our money.

The variety of items available is fantastic, with ages ranging from babies to teens.
I am one of those mums who tends to ignore age recommendations. I won't tend to buy things that are too young for the boys, however I will quite happily buy them something if it is recommended for 8+ for example.
For this reason I didn't look too much into the age ranges, because I wanted to have the same experience I would do if I wasn't reviewing the site.

I found the site easy to work my way around and soon found myself with so many tabs open on my laptop full of items I desperately wanted to buy.
I was able to narrow it down to three things in the end and I think you could agree that for £40 (our budget) I did pretty well.

I wanted to get items that were practical, these being the chalk board and white board which was ideal for our holiday to Somerset, as was the Brainbox-The World game. Charles absolutely loved this, as did Harry. They are both fascinated with learning about the world and about different countries and this game was ideal for that.
I also chose a butterfly garden kit as, despite being scared of butterflies, I have wanted to grow them ever since Hayley did last year.

It was great to be able to buy a variety of items, suiting different needs. The only reason I opted against buying toys is because we have so many, however, if I needed to buy any then the range at Wicked Uncle is fantastic and I'd be able to find something in no time.

Wicked Uncle are hot on giving their customers a great experience "We can post your gift direct, we can giftwrap it, and even send a hand written Birthday or Christmas card.
Our customer service is brilliant too; if the child already has your carefully chosen present, we will change it for something else." 


This is definitely a site to bookmark for birthdays, Christmas, special treats and school friends birthday presents. Without a doubt you will be able to find a gift for everybody.



Holidays on the Suffolk Coast

Living on the Norfolk Suffolk Coast means I get the best of both worlds. With various cute villages in both counties, stately homes to visit, parks, castles and so on we are quite lucky.
The best thing though has to be the beaches we have right on our doorstep. We are spoilt for choice with the many beaches we can go to.

Comparing the two I always have this image in my mind of Norfolk being a big more rugged and of Suffolk being a bit more composed I suppose.

We tend to explore Norfolk a little more than we do Suffolk, however when it comes to Suffolk we have our own special places and towns we like to visit.


Aldeburgh

Where to visit: The Red House where composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, Peter Pears, lived and worked.
Today The Red House is the home of the Britten-Pears Foundation, inviting you to discover Britten’s music in the place where much of it was written.
The Studio where Britten composed is open to visitors year-round, as is the Gallery, the historic Library and the Gardens. The House itself is open during the summer months.

Where to eat: Although located in Saxmundham, The Cafe Restaurant at Friday Street Farm is amazing! The atmosphere is wonderful, and the food is amazing!

Where to stay: This beautiful cottage on the Aldeburgh coast has a sea view, roadside parking, located on the beach it is only a short walk from the town centre with shops and pubs nearby.

Thorpeness

Where to visit: Thorpeness Meare, a boating lake with islands and covers sixty acres with forty acres of water. The Meare is perfectly safe for children with the water being no deeper than three feet. 
There are a variety of boats to hire, dinghies, kayaks, large family rowing boats, canoes, punts and sailing boats, most of which being original 1913 boats.
Where to eat: The Kitchen is located just opposite the meare and serves a range of beautiful cakes, ice creams and coffee. It's also very dog friendly and has free wifi for those who can't tear themselves away from technology.
Where to stay: A short walk from the beach and Meare, is this cute cottage set in the heart of Thorpeness. 


Walberswick

Where to visit: The beach is beautiful at Walberswick and if you visit in the Summer months I urge you to bring a net, some bait, and a bucket and to go crabbing. This is extremely popular so either get there early or expect to have to squeeze between other eager locals and tourists.
Where to eat: One of my favourite pubs in Suffolk is The Bell Inn. With a lovely cosy atmosphere in the winter and the chance to enjoy the sun in the beer garden in the Summer they serve a variety of local beers and the most amazing food.
Where to stay: This Walberswick cottage has the perfect location being just a short walk to the pub, beach and the village green. Pets are welcome, and there is private parking for up to two cars.

Snaptrip's aim is to make finding the right cottage at the best price as easy for you as possible. Working closely with cottage owners, and carefully selecting the properties they feature, they ensure high levels of customer service and satisfaction offering everything you want on one site, instant bookings at great discounts.
See their Suffolk Cottage breaks for details on some amazing coastal holidays.

How Your Exterior Color Scheme Can Contribute to an Increased Profit of Your Home Sale | Guest Post

This article is a guest post by Baker Door Company, a dealer of garage doors in Harrisburg, United States.
Curb appeal is most important in selling a home. A house with good exterior colour schemes will invite potential buyers. This includes painting garage doors and other doors and window frames as well as exterior walls.
A new, coordinated paint job will increase the value of your home. New paint will make an older house look new and tell potential buyers that you care for your home. Your decision on colours will depend on the design of the home and any restrictions in your neighbourhood association, if applicable.
Remember that lighter colours can make a house look larger while darker tones can appear to shrink its size. Consider the exterior of your home as important as the interior when selecting colours.
Exterior walls and roof
Check around your neighbourhood and note the colours used for homes. A traditional design home may use greys and even blue tones while contemporary designs are often in browns and tan tones. Yellow, blue and green may be popular colours in your area. Build on those colours and stay consistent with the neighbourhood if they work with your architecture. 
The climate and environment may play a role in colour selections:
  • Wooded areas may feature homes with siding that looks like wood boards or shingles painted in brighter or darker colours. Roofs may be shingled.
  • Lovely old brick and stone exteriors found in the UK and the USA, usually have lighter trim that emphasises the masonry.
  • Homes in seaside areas may have lighter exterior walls.
Brick, slate and granite walls can be painted but it is usually better to pressure wash walls. The trim should receive new paint to give the home fresh curb appeal.
If you are replacing the roof, select a colour that complements the exterior of the house. Roofs are no longer dull black, grey or brown. They are available in a variety of colours and styles for all architectural design periods.
Doors and windows
Doors can be painted to contrast or complement the exterior wall colours. A dark green door will stand out against a pale yellow, cream or white exterior wall. Window sills and shutters can be painted in the same colour to frame the windows. You may want to carry the colour through to the garage door as well.
Brown and beige combinations with light cream trims are popular on traditional and contemporary designs. White or light colour doors and window frames will highlight a traditional red brick home. Contrasting paint can highlight architectural fixtures such as columns, dormer window and cornices.
Coordinated exterior colour schemes will involve at least two colours and often three. Doors and windows may use two colours with a light tone around the frames and a darker colour on shutters. Three colours work well if siding is to be repainted.
Add flower boxes painted to match the window trim to front windows. Flowers will enhance the exterior windows.
Your landscaping may include a fence that should be freshly painted to complement the house colours. A wood fence can be painted to match the front door or window frame colours.
Take the time to consider the colour combinations that will work for your home. A good colour scheme will add ambiance along with value to the exterior of your home.

Internet Matters | Childrens Online Safety

Although only almost 6 Charles is aware of the internet.
He has a tablet, which isn't connected to wifi unless I connect it, to play games on and he will occasionally ask if he can go onto Google.
I will sometimes let the boys go on my laptop, although this is kept to a minimum. They like to visit the usual sites children seem to be fascinated by, these being Youtube or the children's tv channels to play games.

I think that, despite their young ages, it is really important to explain to them why we want to see what they are clicking on, what they are watching, playing. I don't want to limit their access to something without telling them exactly why I am doing that.
But it's also important as a parent to keep up to date with the dangers out there and knowing where or how to get help if needed.

Internet Matters is an independent, not-for-profit organisation to help parents keep their children safe online.The website is full of advice and help for parents, and focuses on three main points, which I think work really well to give parents confidence in dealing with situations if they arise.
These three points are:

Learn About It

Internet Matters offers information about many of the issues and technologies that children may come across in the online world. From sexting to cyberbullying, our recognised experts help to ensure we provide access to the most up to date and relevant information available for parents.

Talk About It

Almost without exception, research tells us that the most successful way to keep our children safe online is to talk about it. Internet Matters has practical tips about how to start and continue those conversations with children. It’s never too late to talk about it.

Deal With It

Internet Matters provides practical suggestions about how to take preventative measures, but also what to do if your family needs advice about a specific issue. Whether it’s finding out about filters to search safely or what to do about cyberbullying, Internet Matters aims to put you in touch with the best resources and support.
When it comes to the internet, and young children now having access to it, it is really easy for them to come across inappropriate content. As an adult there are times when I search for something completely innocent on Google and end up with results that shock me and that I didn't quite expect.
Knowing how to communicate with your children is a daunting thing when it comes to the internet. How much do I tell my 5 year old? Or my 3 year old? And how do I tell them? It's easier to explain to an older child, because they understand more and because hopefully they are more aware. However, a younger child isn't as aware of dangers or of consequences, and we need to explain the dangers and inappropriate content there is around on the internet without compromising their innocence.

For me the most helpful aspect of the Internet Matters website is the fact that there are e-safety resources divided into specific age groups.
So for me, currently, I'll be focussing on reading the Preschool resources and resources for young children (6-10).

At 1pm today @tots100 will be hosting a Twitter party with Internet Matters (@IM_org) discussing online safety. Use the hashtag #KidsandTech if you want to join in.



27.4.15

Life Experiences | The Motorbike

This year I seem to have this attitude that I don't really recognise, but quite like.
I am fully embracing the fact that I have a big birthday in September and as a result I'm saying yes to a lot more opportunities and experiences, that maybe I have turned down before or would never have considered.

One of which is going on a motorbike. Even now, after doing it, I still get a bit freaked out by it and still have this "DID I ACTUALLY DO THAT?!" feeling.
My brother has a motorbike. I couldn't really tell you the engine size and stuff, but the colour is nice.
He joined us when we were staying at the barn in Somerset, and travelled from Reading on his bike. I knew that the plan for the week was for me to get on the back of the bike at some point and I agreed. I know it's something my brother wanted me to do and other than being petrified I had no other reason to say no.

With my mums bike jacket and helmet on I climbed onto the back of the bike. Seriously climbed, it's quite high up! And clung on tightly to a belt my brother was wearing and rested the other hand against the tank.
I think I pretty much froze in one position the whole time. I didn't really look around much at all, but at the same time didn't keep my eyes closed as I had expected to.
The feeling was so weird. It was odd to be on this big machine and not to be strapped on in any way.
You feel really open, and quite vulnerable, and very aware of the space around you and so on. However, it was also quite an amazing feeling. Being open like that, and also putting your trust in the person riding the bike.
I don't think I could go on the back of a bike with anyone other than my brother. I trust him completely. Hell, going on the back of a motorbike with him means I well and truly trust him with my life!

Getting off my legs felt like jelly and I felt a bit emotional. I was really quite surprised that I enjoyed it, I thought I would hate it but really...it was FANTASTIC!

I've said before, and I'm quite honest, about how much I adore my brother and I felt proud of myself for fighting against my anxiety and my fears to do something that I know meant a lot to him.
It was nice for me too that we had that time together. We weren't talking (other than when he told me I needed to lean over as we went round a roundabout) but we were enjoying that time.
Sharing that experience is something that meant a lot to me, probably because I am super soppy and a bit ridiculous.
Knowing I had that experience with him, and because of him, made it extra special and even more fun.

And in just over 5 weeks I will trust him with my life again as I go on the back of the bike again...except faster. 


24.4.15

Five Things | 'Comfort Eating'

I have a love/hate relationship with food, and do regularly have a problem when it comes to comfort eating. It is something I had to discuss with my doctor anytime I had an appointment about my anxiety and was also a factor when he was deciding which tablets to put me on. I was already quite strict with wanting control over what I was taking, and my only condition was that the side effects can't be 'weight gain'.

I remember going to him thinking I had water retention in my legs and feet. He checked and confirmed that in fact, it was weight gain and not water retention. I was horrified and it was part of that wake up call that gave me the push to sort my life out.

My comfort eating is considered a little different to the 'grab-a-tub-of-ice-cream-and-all-the-chocolate-girly-heartbreak' because it is classed as a form of self-harm. This is due to the reasons why I do it, and what I want to achieve from it.

Anyway, part of my "fight" and whatever against what I am going through is to not give in to the comfort eating temptation. I fall off the wagon, mostly when pizza, pasta, or nachos are concerned...or bread....oh why did I start listing the foods I love?!
When we went to Somerset I was caught in this comfort eating mode and really struggled to get out of it. Although I was able to resist Cheese and Marmite tear and share bread, despite the fact I totally regret not getting any.

Wow, that was a longer intro than I planned! So...here are five reasons why I hate 'Comfort Eating'.
http://www.realhousewifeofsuffolk.co.uk/search/label/five%20things

1. It craves specific foods

Probably one of the most annoying things about comfort eating is that it craves specific foods. Ever been really angry, hurt or frustrated and wanted to just stuff your face and thought "oh yes! I am hardcore. I am going to eat a peach. That will make me feel better and cure this emotional eating pang". Doesn't quite work does it?
Emotional hunger needs an instant hit, which is going to be delivered better by fatty foods like a burger, pizza, or something sweet like the biggest piece of chocolate cake you can get your hands on.
Physical hunger is satisfied with healthy foods, fruit and vegetables...as well as fatty foods too.

2. Bad Skin

Fatty and greasy foods can lead to bad skin. I know that when I'm stressed anyway my skin can react, and this is especially so when combined with a rubbish diet. For me it takes a while and a lot of hard work to get my skin back to normal. In a good way though this does remind me to take care of my skin more, whether or not I am eating horribly or eating well, and to adopt a better routine. However, this then takes getting used to and makes the comfort eating so not worth it.

3. Weight Gain

Stating the obvious, and this is one of the worst things I think about comfort eating. The weight gain. And is the exact reason why it sucks that specific foods are craved instead of salad and fruit. 
I have now found an almost reasonable way around this by tracking when I have bad days, or when I'm out of the emotional fog I am really strict with what I eat and I make sure I exercise as much as possible. It doesn't combat the weight gain but at least helps me have some kind of control.

4. Short-term but with long-term effects

As above really, short-term comfort eating has so many negative effect such as the ones I mentioned. Half an hour or less, or more, of filling your face with horrid food which at the time makes you feel better, will create issues that can then take days, weeks or months to fix.

5. It doesn't fix the original issue

Although whilst eating you may feel some form of relief or comfort, once that is over the initial problem, stress, tiredness, anxiety, or whatever it was that caused you to need to take that form of action, will still remain.
It's so easy to say "Just don't do it" or "Do something else" but when you are in that frame of mind you can't be rational and you don't have time to stop and do something else.

21.4.15

Home Emergency: 5 Tips for Handling Your Repair Emergencies | Guest Post


The last thing you want to deal with in your busy life is a home emergency. Your home is supposed to be an oasis from life's problems, right? However, when emergencies do happen (and they will), being prepared makes it easier. So, stay calm and don't panic, because here are tips for handling five repair emergencies:
 
Even the smallest leaks can create a lot of damage. The water may seep into drywall, popping its seams. Broken pipes are the most common cause of mold. Act fast:  
  • Find the source of the leak.
  • Shut off the water. (Consider shutting off electrical power.)
  • Open windows and use fans and a dehumidifier to air-out your residence.
  • Use a wet/dry vac to rid carpets and upholstery of water.
  • Call a certified plumber and 24 hour emergency service that offers water restoration. (Mold can start growing in hours!)
  • Call your insurance agent. (Your policy may cover damage made to your property from a pipe but not the actual pipe repair.)
     
A jammed door may simply mean that you need to remove an item obstructing the door track. Check to see if an item that usually leans on the wall has fallen over, jamming the track with its handle.
Pull the manual override cord so that you can open your automatic garage door when there is a power cut. Usually, the cord has a red handle, and it's near the guide track.
The door's position, weight, and tension from cable wires makes most repairs too dangerous for a homeowner. Call a professional handyman if the garage door:
  • is off its track
  • has broken springs
  • has a jammed pulley
  • has any broken/frayed cables
     
3. Leaking Roof

Identify the source of the leak. (For example, a clogged gutter may be channeling excess water inside the house so simply remove the debris.) Move furniture, paperwork, or anything else by the leak. Call a roofing company if necessary, and/or call the past roofer if the roof is still under warranty.
 
While repairing some leaky roof problem may be within your capabilities, the major issue of concern is your safety when climbing up to or on the roof. When in doubt, call a roofer.


4. Boiler Breakdown

If the heat goes out, you may feel stressed to the max. Take a deep breath, and go through this checklist to help deduce problems: 
  • Does your programmer or thermostat have old batteries?
  • Does the condensate pipe to the outside need to be defrosted?
  • Is the pilot light extinguished? (Check the manual to see if this is something you can re-light.)
  • Is there a problem with the gas supply? (If no gas is coming through, call your gas supplier.)
If you can't or don't feel comfortable fixing the problem yourself, call a professional immediately.

5. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless gas, may be difficult to detect but it can cause brain damage and death. If an appliance isn't ventilated properly or malfunctions, it can emit CO, You may simply feel fatigued, dizzy, or get a headache. Get out of your home immediately. Seek medical attention. 

Install carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home. Change and test the batteries regularly. 
As a homeowner, you have a lot of responsibilities. Each problem seems like a major deal, but treat it as a learning experience. Now, you're prepared to try quick problem-solving so problems don't magnify. Sometimes, just knowing when it’s time to call the professionals is the key to being a responsible homeowner.

20.4.15

Five Things | Lifestyle Changes

Last year was a big year for me in terms of my lifestyle. I made major improvements to how I lived and now it feels quite silly to have waited so long to do those things because the changes were so simple.
I somehow lost my way in June which I think was down to Charles' birthday, Britmums Live and I found it hard to find my way again. As a result I've been around the same weight ever since. Although over Christmas and my two holidays I have put on weight but something has clicked and I've been able to get back into that frame of mind to get back on track.

1. Food

Food was the biggest change for me last year. Cutting out takeaways, reducing portion sizes, reducing bread intake, checking calories, eating more vegetables, simple changes really that now seem so obvious and like things I should have been doing for years anyway.
I really enjoy putting together lunches and dinners for myself and do come up with some weird combinations but I think the fun thing is to try different foods together and seeing what you can come up with.
My latest obsession is with raw beetroot. Before I would buy it pickled or already cooked in the vacuum packed bags, or if I bought it in the fresh bunches I would cook them first and then add them to a meal. Then I Googled to see if they could be eaten raw and then....well then I fell in love and became addicted (I have 3 bunches on order from Sainsburys for this Tuesday, which excites me more than it should).
I also love using Philidelphia Lightest as a base to make my own sauces, and am really becoming obsessed with that mixed with sweetcorn. This week I also mixed it with some cauliflower, broccoli, onions and sweetcorn, served alongside some Calamari. Oh my goodness it was DELICIOUS.

2. Fitness

I found the best way to introduce exercise into my life was simply to start walking in the evenings, and walking to school with Charles. I found this really helped me to lose that "easy weight" but recently it doesn't seem to be enough. I am still carrying on with it though as I can feel the benefits of it and set myself targets of either walking so many miles or getting to a certain point on the trail I usually walk until I turn around and walk back.
Up until recently I have been mainly using a running app on my phone to track my walks but needed an alternative as I've found the one I use has become a little unreliable.
Aldi have recently launched a running range with essentials including clothing, trainers, a heart rate monitor and an activity tracker.
The activity tracker, £39.99, is a multifunctional wristband which measures daily activity, time, steps and more.
• Set daily goals
• 7-day data storage 
• USB battery charging
• Interchangeable straps
• Water-resistant up to 3 bar
• Detailed reports available via Smartphone, Tablet and on cranesportsconnect.com
• Automatic synchronisation
• Available in 4 colours
 As with all of Aldi's Specialbuys these are only available whilst stocks last.The running range hit stores on April 16th so be quick if you want to check out what is still available.

3. Clothes

I had to buy new clothes when I lost weight, obviously. It wasn't until this weekend when I was having a wardrobe sort out that I realised how big I was, and how different my body shape is now.
Last week I wore shorts. I felt a bit paranoid, and self conscious, and like my thighs are too big to be able to wear them, but I still did it anyway.
I think that wearing clothes is all down to confidence, and if you are not confident in what you are wearing then you won't look as good. This isn't an excuse to wear something see through, or two sizes too small and so on. But more like "I like my legs, so I will wear shorts. I don't care if you think my thighs aren't quite right for them".
I've worked so hard to change my body from what it was and although I'm not where I want to be yet, I don't think I look too bad but realise I still have a way to go and work to do. However, I will celebrate and take the opportunity to wear shorts whenever I can now.

4. Frame of Mind

I'm not silly and I think when losing weight or wanting to improve your lifestyle it is best to be realistic and sensible. There are times I get frustrated and can't understand why I didn't lose a stone by walking Charles to school.
I found a quote recently, when feeling a bit deflated, and felt it was perfect. It reminds me how far I've come, and of the differences I have made so far.
I do have a target to reach by September and I think that, even if the progress is slow, I can definitely reach it.

5. Skincare

I am so lazy when it comes to skincare, I anger myself. I have so many lotions, potions and oils and I go through phases of being in a good skincare routine, and then completely lose it. I've been really stressed recently and noticed how it has affected my skin so have taken action and started a proper routine which actually doesn't take too long and is pretty simple.
I think the secret is to get into a routine that is quick, isn't too fussy but also can be adapted if needed. So, with my current skincare routine it's all about using my Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser twice a day, using a face oil twice a day, moisturising twice a day, using a Liz Earle tonic once or twice a day, but also when needed adding a face scrub or face mask, eye cream and so on.
It's amazing how quickly I noticed a difference in my skin from having no routine and being lazy by using face wipes (which I think may have been part of the cause of problems recently) to using good quality products and spending time pampering myself.
 I think one of the best things for me, and my skincare, is being subscribed to Birchbox. A lot of the products I use are ones I discovered because of the Birchbox, or are full size products I have received one month.


A Woman's Guide to Garage Maintenance & Repair | Guest Post

This guest post is courtesy of Door Systems Inc., experts in garage doors in Boston, USA.
Your garage can be a haven or just hideous, depending on how well you maintain and repair it. Garage maintenance and repair falls into two main categories of static and mobile parts, each with its own needs. 
The Immovables 
  1. Floors
Garage floors take the greatest punishment in your home. Part of annual maintenance should include thoroughly sweeping out your garage and cleaning the floor, to reveal imperfections in the concrete that you can remedy. 
  • Concrete efflorescence—the whitish, crystalline deposit of minerals from water brought into your garage—can be scrubbed away and swept up. 
  • Use concrete patch, which you can easily mix yourself in small batches, to fill in small gaps and irregularities in the floor. 
  • Seal the concrete with a high-quality sealer. This preserves the floor and prevents oil spills from discoloring the concrete.  
  1. Walls 
  • Check your shelves to ensure you haven’t overloaded them; inspect the bolts or screws holding shelving to the walls. If you find a sagging shelf, a quick fix is to flip the individual shelf board so the sag becomes a bump. The weight of stored items will gradually flatten (and eventually sag) the board. 
  • The bottoms of walls in garages routinely suffer moisture and impact damage. Check for signs of rodents; you may need to enlist the help of a pest control service. Consider applying rubberized skirting board to both discourage pests and spruce up the garage. 
  1. Windows
  • Garage windows deserve the same cleaning and maintenance your home’s windows get. Clean the glass, check the locks and inspect paint inside and out.
  • For double-hung windows, check the sash channels to ensure the windows open and close easily.
  • For casements, check and lubricate hinge assemblies and handles. 
  1. Overhead
If you have a loft access hatch in the garage, make sure it is weather-stripped to improve energy efficiency, especially if your garage is attached to your home. If you use overhead storage, carefully check the condition of all attachment points. 
The Movables
The largest, heaviest moving objects in your home are your garage doors. Maintaining and repairing garage doors means striking a balance between what you can do safely yourself and knowing when to call in professionals.
What You Can Do
  • Clean metal parts with paraffin—what we in America call kerosene—to remove old grease, grime and dirt
  • Use a light oil to lubricate and prevent rust from forming on those same metal parts; avoid getting oil on plastic rollers
  • Align the tracks—the vertical tracks should be perfectly upright (plumb); horizontal tracks should drop slightly as the door moves into your garage. You can use a spanner to tighten the bolts that hold the tracks. Never attempt to remove the hinges or rollers from the garage door sections. 
  • Run a safety test—your garage door should automatically reverse if it encounters an obstacle coming down. Place a block of wood in the path of the open door and lower it. When it hits the block, it should reverse. If it does not, call a professional. 
  • Inspect—check the lifting cables for wear, nicks or kinks. If you see defects, contact a professional for replacement. 
Bring in the Professionals
If your garage door has real damage, call on a professional garage door company to assume responsibility for the heavy lifting, safety issues, and liability. This applies to:
  • Removing or replacing springs
  • Repairing or replacing the motor
  • Replacing track
  • Repairing or replacing garage door sections
  • Any safety concerns you may have
Working hand-in-hand with trusted local contractors, you can keep your garage maintained and in such good repair that you take justifiable pride in it as an extension of your home.