The Mum’s Guide to Serious Fitness

I like to think I maintain a healthy lifestyle, as much as a single Mum with two young ‘uns running around can that is. In fact, the kids can help with losing weight, especially when you need to set a good example.

However, why not take it one step further?

We’re swiftly approaching another brand spanking new year and it is the perfect opportunity to be one step ahead of the pack so polish off the trainers and get your favourite fitness playlist perfected; you can easily try any of these with enthusiasm and success.

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Get the know-how

Every serious fitness fanatic knows you need the right information to make the most out of your exercising. Doing the moves wrong can lead to injury and muted accomplishments.

For the ultimate guide, head to a Live Fit trainer to not only tailor create a regime that completely suits your hectic lifestyle, but give you all the information to fully optimise that time. From classes that specifically target Mums to Boot Camps to really push yourself to the extreme. You can gradually up your game in a positive and highly motivational environment.

Stick to your schedule

Your schedule is already jam-packed but if you don’t set time aside for not only exercising, but some quality alone time, you will never get into a new and more beneficial routine. After all, the benefits of exercising are not only weight related, but exceed that over thrice fold. For example, your standard of sleep will improve, you will have much more energy and your confidence will skyrocket.

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Of course, there can be a bit of leeway, but one easy way to keep your routine is to pre-plan it with time to spare. Spend your Sunday evening analysing what spots would be great for exercising and make sure you’ve leave one or two hours either side to give you more time to manoeuvre if something arises.

Literally school run

The school run can be a stressful process as it is. If your little ones happen to have those micro scooters all the kids love, then why not let them scoot to school whilst you jog alongside them. This works for cycling as well. A super easy way to incorporate a decent amount of exercise into your existing lifestyle.

This won’t always be possible. Perhaps you live a little bit away, maybe your children don’t own scooters or bicycles. No worries, but you can use that time out of the house. When having dropped the kids off, instead of heading straight home to do the ironing, put that on hold. Half an hour at the gym will revitalise you throughout the rest of the day and doesn’t alter your schedule to the point of panic.

Use exercise as a way to de-stress

This is especially true for weights and stretching techniques so popular in yoga.

Exercising for whatever aim does not necessarily mean 100% cardio. Integrate weights and stretching techniques into every single workout to ensure your maximising your time. In addition, when done post-cardio, weights and stretching still burn the calories; the alter in heart rate is enough to keep your body active.

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Write everything down

Whether it’s a food diary or every time you’ve exercised (even if that is walking to the shops instead of taking the car), writing everything down will give you a fantastic insight into where you’re failing and succeeding. This allows you to set realistic goals and feel like a supermum when you see them through.

Throw yourself into the deep end

Whether it’s deciding to run the marathon or starting from scratch, make sure you go into exercising and fitness with a strong head on your shoulders and a genuine desire to achieve. Your confidence will grow and grow each month and you can go about creating another plan but taking it up a notch.

Top exercises for Mums

-   Squats and lunges – are perfect for Mums looking to tone the entirety of their legs (from quads to hamstrings to glutes) as well as working the core, calves and thighs. Try to use exercises that work a number of muscles to make the most out of your tight schedule. Squats and lunges are also perfect at increasing your heart rate and therefore continuing to burn those calories.

-   Step ups – These exercises are all so easy to do in the comfort of your own home. For step ups, you can either use your stairs or grab an exercise step so you can do these in front of the telly. It does what it says on the tin, just remember to keep your back straight.

-   The cobra stretch – Lying on your stomach, the ideal is to keep your hips on the ground (perfect for easing you into a new routine) and lift your torso upwards. This is great for all-round stretching but especially the abdomen muscles.

Chair dips – This is great because it can be easily done around the house. Sitting on the edge of a chair, hands on either side, slide gently off the edge until the elbows are at 90 degrees. Keep your

Make Me A #MarkWarnerMum

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Paxos, Greece. One of my favourite places!

I feel like everything in my life goes at a million miles an hour. I work full time, I blog not nearly as much as I’d like to, I clean, I cook, I drive (note: I don’t actually drive at a million miles an hour). Sometimes I feel like I never have time to just stop and take a breather.

I’ve written on more than one occasion about how important time off is – time to yourself and time with family – and yet I still need to make sure I am prioritizing it in my own life.

Because of this I have already made one New Years Resolution for 2015. I have promised Elfie that we will go away as a family – a proper holiday to a sunny country, our first as a single parent family.

Looking out of the window at the cold, dark and slightly damp evening and there’s nothing I would rather do right now. NOW!!!

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The stunner that is Greece

Which is why I am applying to be a #MarkWarnerMum Ambassador in 2015. Pick me, Mark Warner!

So what do we want out of a holiday? Hmm, this is where the children and I differ slightly. The kids like to do as much as possible and I like to follow that grown-up pursuit of relaxation. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it but it’s this thing that child-free people do, they spend time with old-fashioned contraptions called books and enjoy sunshine and cocktails.

I know, sounds bonkers doesn’t it?

What we most want out of a holiday though is quality time together. A chance for us all to re-charge our batteries away from home, somewhere we can enjoy a little bit of sunshine and a lot of fun.

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This is London. Not a beach.

But this is why a Mark Warner holiday would be perfect for us. Included in the price of the holiday is childcare and kids clubs entertainment so the little ones need never get bored. I can picture us now getting the best of both worlds – them spending their mornings having indoor and outdoor fun time with MW’s qualified nannies while I enjoy a little R&R. Then us re-grouping in the afternoons to hang out and enjoy some quality family time swimming and building sandcastles before having a lovely evening meal together.

Again, I want to go NOW!

Mark Warner are looking for special bloggers who will make the most of this opportunity and will get stuck in with carrying out product reviews and assisting with content and blogging strategy. Lucky for them this is what I have done as a day job for the last 10 years so I’m pretty good on the old Digital Marketing front. Plus, my blog is now an old lady (we are FIVE!) and I can offer my overwhelming enthiusiasm for Twitter and Instagram (you’d be very quickly annoyed at my number of Mark Warner updates, I imagine).

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And what can Elfie and Hux offer? Well, Elfie is the most opinionated 4 year old I know so she’ll definitely be able to help with all my review posts. And as Hux isn’t that great at forming opinions just yet (or words, let’s face it), I will have to interpret his. But he does love to give every activity he tries a damn good go!

So, Mark Warner, how about it? Take a look at our travel posts so far (most recently I visited Greece and, erm, Manchester!) and have a think about us.

We reckon we’d make great Ambassadors for you!

How To Save The MTT Way

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Me and my finances, we have a bit of a love/hate relationship. I like money – love spending it – but historically have never had as much as I would have liked ;) It’s only in the last couple of years that I have learned how to use it more effectively: earning, saving, budgeting. I’ve started to enjoy checking my bank account daily, not dreading it. This is probably because I don’t enjoy shopping as much as I used to (shocker! I must be growing up…) so less of my monthly income goes to Zara and more of it is now in my savings account.

As part of my whole working hard/building an independent life thing one of my goals is that I want to save up for a mortgage so I can buy property within the next couple of years. Not an easy thing to do, I think you’ll agree! But I’ve got some sure-fire tried and tested ways to get the money ball rolling, and here they are:

Know exactly what is going out and coming in.
I love a good spreadsheet and the one I used for my household incomings and outgoings is my favourite. With nursery payments, rent and bills I have a lot of direct debits to keep on top of and my spreadsheet allows me to know at a glance where I am with my accounts.

Shop around regularly.
Every time my insurance policies are up for renewal I check I’m getting the best deal by using one of the insurance comparison engines. But I don’t just think about insurance – mobile phone and internet providers will also look at your contracts every twelve months. Last year I managed to get £20 a month off my 24 month mobile phone contract 12 months in. It’s worth a phone call!

Know your goals.
It makes sense to know how much you could be looking at spending when you’re considering a mortgage vs. renting, right? TSB’s really handy mortgage repayment calculator will tell you how much your repayments would be. 

Clear your most expensive debts first.
There’s nothing I despise more than interest on old debts – it’s such empty money. So though it might feel a bit counter-intuitive to spend money before you save it, focus on clearing those debts as soon as you can.

Plan your meals (and your supermarket).
Meal planning saves my life. Though it’s not very exciting, when I’m busy I have a current roster of about 5 meals that I rotate weekly. This way I know exactly what I’m eating, what I’m buying at the supermarket and means I waste minimal food. If you shop regularly for the same items it’s worth using mySupermarket to track the prices of these items and to make sure you’re getting the best possible deals.

Big thanks go to TSB for working with MTT on this post. 

 

The Day Elfie Became A Princess

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For reasons I really want to write about at a later date, I’ve become somewhat of a feminist in the last 12 months. It’s been an odd thing – I’ve gone from feeling slightly ambivalent about feminism to being confident that I strongly identify this way. Not to sound emotional about the whole thing but it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster - empowering, scary, shocking, maddening, exciting.

And as such I want to make sure my children, both Elfie and Hux, know they can do whatever they want to do in life, be whatever they want to be, no matter if they’re a boy or a girl. I try not to gender stereotype them, I’ve never dressed Elfie in pink and Hux in blue. Hux loves his tea set and Barbie and  Elfie likes to craft guns out of LEGO (I think she learned about guns from her friends, all boys, at school?) and goes gaga for Spiderman. Yet despite this Hux still spends an unhealthy amount of time banging his head against walls (such a boy) and Elfie has a total love affair with anything Disney Princess.

Which is how I knew she would go into paroxysms of delight when I took her to the Disney Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Harrod’s . I really shouldn’t have told her about the expeirence so long in advance because for two weeks she spoke of nothing apart from the day she would be turned into a princess. All the teachers and lunchtime helpers at school knew, as did quite a few people in the supermarket as well as our next door neighbour. SHE WAS EXCITED!

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And so last Sunday we arrived at Harrod’s looking like this (above), not particularly princessy, I think you’ll agree? We made our way to the fourth floor to see how this transformation would take place.

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Now there is something I find totally magical about Disney. Disneyland Florida 1999 is still in my personal history books as the BEST HOLIDAY EVER and I literally get chills in our local Disney store. The stories, the characters, the music – it’s so wonderful, no matter how old you are.

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When we first arrived at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Elfie was given a buzzer that would go off when it was our time to be transformed. A quick five minutes later and it was our turn – we were off to meet Charlie, our very own Fairy Godmother-in-training! Charlie used her magic to summon up the main woman, the Fairy Godmother, who told Elfie all about what it meant to become a princess. We were taught the magic words, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo! And we magicked the doors to the boutique open. IMG_9840

We’d selected the ‘Coronation’ package, which meant Elfie would be transformed into none other than Anna from Frozen. And upon being shown to her very own changing room – poof! – a few more magic words and Anna’s dress and a beautiful pair of glittery shoes appeared. It was magical!

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The Fairy Godmothers-in-Training set to work. Elfie chose a hairstyle, a nail colour and face paints and was lavished with so much attention. At one point she had four Fairy Godmothers-in-Training attending to her every need: brushing her hair (which I am SO NOT ALLOWED TO DO, fyi), singing to her, reading her stories, painting her nails, talking to her about her favourite princesses… it was wonderful.


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It was an absolutely priceless moment to see, she was so aware of being pampered and to see her feeling like the most important person in that room at that time – I felt so proud. She was beaming, absolutely lit up from the inside. She looked like a real princess, and I’m sure felt like one too, as ‘Princess Elfie’ had been her name ever since we’d entered the boutique. I’m not going to pretend I minded being referred to as ‘Queen’, either ;)

One of the best moments was when she got the first glimpse of herself as a princess. She couldn’t believe the way she looked. And then the seriousness with which Charlie crouched down and explained what was expected of a princess was lovely – that she was loyal, caring, kind and a friend to all. Pretty good life advice, really.

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We were led to the ‘window’, where Elfie had her picture taken overlooking her kingdom, and then on to the royal throne where Elfie swore to behave in a princessly manner. Wide eyed, she was given a bag of goodies (a big cuddly Olaf that she hasn’t let go of since, Anna and Elsa dolls, a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique certificate, a framed photo of her as a princess and a little makeup bag) and we slowly wandered through the kids department and out of Harrod’s.

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She refused to wear a coat (it was 6pm and FREEZING) but totally basked in the adoration of all the tourists who kept stopping her and telling her how beautiful she looked. This lasted for a while – two tube train journeys to be exact – until we boarded our train home and she promptly fell asleep. It’s tough being a princess!

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The hair do stayed put for two days (luckily school was closed for training the next day) and the makeup lasted 24 hours. Basically she did NOT want to stop being a princess. She’s taking her princess crown and sparkly shoes into school for her ‘treasures assembly’ next week and hasn’t stop talking about the day since. It has obviously been a very special event for her.

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It’s not the most feminist thing I’ve ever done with her but I would absolutely do it again. As important as feminism is to me I believe it is also important for children to be made to feel special. And on this day I could see that she knew just how special and beautiful she is from the inside out.

I can’t finish this write-up without praising the Fairy Godmothers-in-training. Each and every one we met was so sweet, enthusiastic and captivating to the little girls in the boutique. They were so lovely to us both, even at the end of what must have been a very long day for them. Ten out of ten.

When I found out the price of the experience – £300 – I wasn’t sure I would be able to justify that amount of money on an hour. But for what Elfie got out of it? I think it is definitely worth it. I’m already planning on taking her again for her birthday and I for one CAN’T WAIT.

You can find out more about the experiences (they start at £100) and book online at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique website here. And for what it’s worth, if they did the equivalent adult’s experience I’d be first in line.

Huge thank-you’s for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for having us last weekend. We will definitely be back! 

Mummy’s Day Off

 

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Recently I sat down, scrolled through my calendar and discovered something slightly shocking.

I have not been in my house alone since the 20th September.

Furthermore, thanks to Elfie and Hux’s dad working away for a few weeks (and Elfie’s various 2/4/5am antics) I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since 15th November. Factor in the long days and a manageable bit (A LOT) of work stress and I was, by the beginning of this week, about ready to go a bit bonkers.

The one shining beacon in the craziness of the bonkersness was this coming weekend. I’d (kind of) cleared the diary and decided to be as low key as possible. With nothing planned, this weekend was going to be all about ME.

It is now 4pm Saturday and so far today I have: had a lie-in (10am, BOOM), cooked a brilliant breakfast, had a shower, read the beginning chapters of two books, watched my first episode of Made in Chelsea, been invited to a party, baked banana bread, watched a film, done an hour’s work and spent 30 minutes looking at eyebrow shapes.

I’m bored.

I can’t go to the gym because I went last night- after a gin and tonic which was a massive rookie mistake – I don’t want to go swimming because I painstakingly blow dried my hair last night and I can’t clean because that was done on Thursday. I did my supermarket shop yesterday, I don’t want to work because I promised myself I wouldn’t, I refuse to go to the shops because it’s Saturday and I’m not mental and I can’t nap because I’m not tired.

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I miss the kids.

Sidenote: why does Made In Chelsea have a weird yellowy filter on it, like Instagram? It’s really annoying me, real life doesn’t look like this. Or maybe it does when your bank account has lots more money in it? Maybe you just grow yellowy lenses over your retinas and everything literally looks more rosy?

I have three hours left until I leave for Bryony’s house to watch the X Factor and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all this time… apart from eat Banana Bread and the block of Duchy Organics stilton I have in the fridge that’s been calling my name all morning. Or maybe I’ll spend those three hours trying to figure out the intricacies of the various relationships in Made in Chelsea? I could be here a while. But then what happens tomorrow?

Don’t get me wrong, I think that as a hard-working mother, or a someone who works hard, or is a mother, WHATEVER, time to yourself is so incredibly important. I sometimes feel like I spend so much of my time serving others – the children or those at work – that I forget about myself. I can go days and days and days without realising that I do exist to relax and spend time on my own and not just to be busy busy busy busy. I know I have my evenings after the kids go to bed at 7.30 but these are invariably spend working, cooking, bleaching or washing. SO BUSY.

Still bored.

What do you do with your alone time? I NEED INSPIRATION!

5 Ways to Decorate a Child’s Bedroom

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The new year is on its way, and if one of your resolutions is to get cracking on the DIY, here are some great ways to get started with ideas and tips for the kids’ bedrooms. These are all affordable and perfect for any parent, regardless of skill.

Keeping Organised

Getting the kids to tidy their rooms can be a nightmare, but there are plenty of ways to make it easier and more fun. First of all, as a tip, keep everything at the kids’ level. There’s no point telling them to put things away where they can’t reach! Closets, drawers and coat racks will all get used more often if they’re at the right height.

Storage under the bed is also an efficient way of freeing up space in the room. Having a bed with drawers underneath are great for keeping toys, spare bedding, or just about anything.

Pocket Tidies

Pocket tidies are always a good thing to have. They’re great for storing the little things like toys and are more likely to be in use. They’re pretty easy to make yourself too, if you don’t mind sewing. If your kids are collectors, there also great for storing all sorts of things and can hang on the wall, the door or on the side of the bed.

Getting Creative

Kids love to make their own art. There are plenty of things you can have in their bedroom that will let them have a permanent drawing space, such as a whiteboard or chalkboard. Chalkboard paint is also a great idea for one area of the wall. They will also want somewhere to display the drawings and painting they make elsewhere, so have a corkboard to pin things up. This is also great for photographs and little trinkets.

If you’re thinking about painting a chest of drawers or a wardrobe, why not let the kids join in? They can add their own little contribution with a handprint, a signature or by painting their own pattern.

Colour Choices

A child’s bedroom needs to be colourful, but not overbearing. Having a range of calm, pale colours can still bring a vibrant element to the room, but much more soothing and easy to look at. Try painting the walls a pastel colour, like lavender or pale blue.

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Don’t forget about neutrals though. Whites, blacks and browns allow the brighter colours to pop and makes sure that there’s not too much.

Lights

Make sure there are multiple, creative ways to light the bedroom. Fairy lights are a great choice as they’re not too bright, give a reassuring glow and are cool to the touch. Try hanging them on the wall or wrapping them around a bedstead.

Another idea is to have a reading light. This can be attached to the bed or next to a little reading area for you and your kids for bedtime stories.

It’s always a good idea to still have lamps and a main ceiling light. Having patterned and coloured lampshades can add a little extra touch to the colours in the room.