Eat Well – Feel Well

If any of you know me, you will know that I have a keen passion for healthy eating and lifestyle.

With the current situation, it can be very challenging to eat well or exercise or in fact do a bit of both!

As a member of Slimming World for over 3 years I have learnt a few trick along the way, that said, the last couple of weeks have really been difficult for me too so I have had to re-evaluate my own lifestyle.

Eating

When you go to work every day, you will have a routine of when you will eat and when you will eat it.  Some people will have breakfast before leaving home, others will take it with them.  Lunch is usually something you made the night before or a quick run to Tesco in your lunch break.  What ever it is, you had a structure and with the exception of the work biscuit tin, you had it all under control.

Now you are working from home, suddenly everything has changed.  Not least because the supermarket shopping has been a bit like playing bingo.  It is times of change like this that can have a dramatic impact on our eating habits.  This in turn can impact our health and well being.  So what can we do about it?  Here are a few tips that I find work for me:-

Plan – Even though you are at home, still plan when you are going to eat and what you are going to eat.  If possible, keep to a structure – eating at specific times.  The night before plan all your meals for the next day.  If you can, why not prepare them then too.  It will stop you deviating from what you planned.  Just because you are at home, doesn’t mean you can’t still make up your pack lunch!

Stop – It is a known fact that people who sit at the table with no distractions such as computers or TV eat less.  Use mealtimes as family time, or time to relax.  You will find you will enjoy your food a lot more.

Water – Water is vital throughout the day.  Sometimes hunger is actually thirst.  Have a glass of water with your meals.  You will feel full quicker.

Creative – Be creative with your cooking.  I know that with the limited fresh food available recently I’ve really had to be creative with some of my meals.  It is a great way to bring new ingredients to your table.  Don’t be afraid to try different things.  Ask friends and family for ideas.  I have a little book that I keep and when something springs into my mind I write it down.  I then work on that to come up with new recipes.  It doesn’t have to be complicated or take a long time to prepare.  If it fails there is always beans on toast!

One of my favourite programmes was Ready Steady Cook.  I watched every episode and have all their recipe magazines – and there were lots.  This is what gave me the inspiration to cook.  If you haven’t seen the programme it is on again now, or try and get it on catch up.  It might inspire you too.

Snacking – I’m not going to say don’t do it because that would be unrealistic.  However, I will ask you to carefully think about why you are snacking?  Is it boredom?  Are you lonely?  Sometimes, snacking is to replace something that we are missing.  If you fancy a snack give yourself 15 minutes. Try to distract yourself with something.  If you still want it then, then have it, but in moderation.  If you want chocolate only have a square then wait another 15 minutes!  Better still, don’t have it in the house or choose healthy snacks such as fruit.  Boring I know but you will be glad of it after a few weeks of working at home!

Exercise

The next thing to consider is exercise.   With the current restrictions of only being about to go out for an hour once a day, I am sure many of you have suddenly found your steps have dramatically reduced.  

Exercise not only helps us regulate our weight it is also good for our health especially our lungs and heart.  

Plan into your day 1 hour of exercise.  It can be just walking the dog, or taking the kids for a stroll around the estate.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just getting outside will make you feel a whole lot better.

When you are back at home, try and be active as much as possible.  Have a little jig when cooking dinner or brushing your teeth.  Put some music on and dance around the room!  Instead of going up and down the stairs with your hands full, take one item at a time.  You will be amazed at how many more steps you will get in that way.

We don’t know how long these restrictions will go on for.  However long they last, make sure you are looking after yourself inside and out.

If you want some help with ideas for recipes I am more than happy to help.

Feeling hot hot hot !

Wow, what great weather we had this weekend! So who has a Braai? Ok BBQ? Yep it has the be done.

We went the whole hog and had 2! First one Friday night and another last night. You have to love eating outside.

Last nights Braai was all about using the leftovers. It’s amazing what you can create with a bit of imagination.

Saturday temperatures reached over 34 degrees for us! Not that I sat out in it myself! Oh no! We had friends round on the evening so first things first I needed to catch up on the housework! It has to be done especially with 2 malting dogs!

Talking of malting dogs, they do struggle when it’s so warm! Fido thankfully knows how to cool down. He stands in the shower waiting for someone to turn the taps in for him!!

Anyway, back to the friends coming for dinner. As it was going to be such a lovely day I decided the menu needed to reflect that.

Hubby offered to make his prawn soup! It’s light but very tasty. Perfect for a hot summer evening.

For main, I opted for pineapple and salmon kebabs with Jerk seasoning, with home grown new potatoes and a pomegranate and feta salad. As a salad dressing I made a Dijon mustard dressing. So far all free on Slimming World, but still tasty.

Now, this is where it got interesting. For dessert, I decided on an ice cream cake. Well why wouldn’t you!

The cake requires 2 layers of ice cream and a raspberry coulis, topped with a ginger biscuit layer! Sounds fab doesn’t it! And it was apparently (I made a syn free version for me).

The problem I had was the weather! I mean, when it’s over 34 degrees outside, how are you supposed to stop the layers melting while constructing them!

It was a case of moving very quickly and having a hubby on hand to open freezer doors for you!

I published a video of it here!

I had to laugh when I watched it back. I looked quite fresh at the start of it! By the end I was definitely wilting !!

The main thing is the food went down a treat! Note to myself though! Don’t try it again unless it’s about 10 degrees cooler!

I’m not complaining though! I love it when it’s hot hot hot !

Have a good day.

What a fab weekend

I can’t believe it’s back to work again so soon. This weekend has been amazing. There are 3 reasons why it was so special:

1) A 4 day weekend

2) The sun was out

3) It was hubbys birthday

The 3 combined meant we had a fun filled weekend.

As you know, we both have a very early start during the week. To be able to wake up when we wanted to, relax in bed with a couple of cups of tea, and getting up when we wanted was magical. The dogs loved it too. Especially Lola who isn’t a morning girl.

Friday we decided to go into Birmingham for the day. A bit odd you may think for people who travel there everyday for work! Whilst we work there, we never really go into the centre.

With the worlds biggest Primark, hubby was intrigued as to what it was like. I needed to get him a birthday present from my parents do this seemed like to perfect excuse to go.

I have to say, shopping for men’s clothes is a nightmare. He wanted a lightweights jacket. Do you think we could find one? It was so hard! It seems that men only get a limited amount of space in stores! Very frustrating!

As hubby isn’t a shopper, we agreed we would get his things together, then he would go off and do some photography around the city while I shopped for me!

Check out what we bought here !

After a few hours we met up and had lunch on the canal at Marco Pierre White Restaurant- Bardolinos! It was so lovely to chill out and enjoy a nice late lunch together!

Saturday was even more chilled which just a hair cut for me before heading out to Hubbys favourite Thai restaurant for Dinner.

Sunday was his actual birthday so after another lazy start, we went off for a nice long walk around Charlecote. With the warmth of the sun, it was a perfect day out!

In the evening we celebrated with friends at their house.

The last day of the weekend was equally as chilled! We visited a museum at our local airfield which was a training airfield for British, Canadian, American and Belgium RAF. Reading stories of bravery and lives lost, it was very humbling. A spot of brunch at the cafe followed by a bit of gardening and a braai, it certainly had been a magical weekend!

Now I’m back on the train and it will soon be a distant memory, but at least they will be good memories!

Have a great week.

A perfect weekend with friends

I’m on my way home now after an amazing weekend with friends!

Our friends live in Bridgend in Wales. After feeling very guilty about how long it’s been since we last visited them, we put a date in our diaries!

So yesterday we drove the 2 1/2 hours to see them. Now if you know me, Wales and I just don’t get on when it comes to the weather! For some reason it always rains on me! This weekend however it was kind! The sun came out. A little bit chilly, but still it was a beautiful spring day.

After arriving our friends took us out to 2 amazing beaches. The first one was in Ogmore-by-sea. So beautiful. The dogs would have loved it.

Next was Dunraven Bay – Southerndown. Again the dogs would have loved this beach, but what was stunning was the rock formations!

Both beaches are absolutely worth a visit. There is something magical about walking along the beach. Listening to the waves. I just love it. Great way to get exercise too.

We headed back to their home and enjoyed a few drinks in the garden in the spring sun. A nice Cedars gin and tonic was perfect ! Followed by a Slim Wine!

As the sun set the braai (BBQ) was lit! Steak, South African sausage were cooked to perfection by our host.

The salads to go with it were amazing. Slimming world friendly pasta dishes and salad. Even a @promise roll for garlic bread. Delicious!

It was a lovely evening catching up.

This morning after a cooked breakfast we headed home via Caerphilly Castle.

Wow, we were totally blown away by it! If you have never been I highly recommend it! I’ll post some pictures on my YouTube channel. In its prime it must have been magnificent! The entrance fee is £8.90 for adults, but well worth it!

Eventually it was time to head home.

We have had such an amazing weekend. Thank you to our hosts Derek and Michelle.

Sometimes just a night away can really recharge your batteries, and getting to visit new places is fantastic.

Here is a fuller insight to my weekend

We will certainly not be leaving it so long next time!

How is it Monday already?

Wow, I can’t believe it’s Monday already. How does it come round so fast?

It’s like Groundhog Day when the alarm goes off! While I try to wake myself up to take the dogs out for a walk with hubby, Fido is there jumping all over the bed in excitement! Lola is a bit like us. Actually no that’s wrong. We do get moving when the alarm goes off, whereas she lies there moaning, groaning and stretching! She really doesn’t do mornings !

At least now the mornings are lighter! Chilly but spring is definitely here!

The weekend was good. For a weekend with nothing planned it was fun.

Saturday morning was a leisurely start. An amazing brunch followed by a spring clean! I do love it when you give the house a good going over! Hubby was productive too in the garden. It’s the first time this year he has been able to really get out there! It looks so much nicer now with the spring bulbs coming through and the new shoots appearing. It’s amazing what a bit of sun can do!

Saturday evening hubby had offered to cook dinner! If you know me you will know that rarely happens! He had seen a recipe in the latest Tesco magazine for a Chinese soup! As long as I made sure he had all the right ingredients he would make it for me!

OMG, for a man that doesn’t cook very often it was amazing! I know he followed the recipe, but even his chopping and presentation skills were spot on! Restaurant quality.

You can see what we ate here on my YouTube channel.

We ended a perfect day by watching Bohemian Rhapsody. It was a great film don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure I’d go and see it multiple times. Hubby thinks we feel that way because we already knew the story, and maybe he is right! I’d still recommend you watching it though.

As the days are brighter we decided on Sunday to take the dogs for a longer walk. We opted for Earlswood Lakes. I haven’t been there for years. I printed a walk off the internet and off we went!

Now, I have to point out that today it wasn’t our fault! I know whenever we go on long walks hubby and I will always take a wrong turn at some point, but today wasn’t down to us!

The route we picked didn’t include a map! The instructions looked clear when we started, but soon they didn’t make sense. We had to ask directions a couple of times. Well I did! Hubby wouldn’t ask lol!

Eventually we gave up on the route and did our own thing. We didn’t mind. It was nice just to get out!

As we headed back to the car it dawned on me! We went the wrong exit out of the car park at the beginning! No wonder it didn’t make sense!

At least it made us chuckle!

The afternoon was relaxing with a visit from my wonderful parents.

As with every Sunday in our house we had a lovely roast to finish off the weekend.

Next thing I know the alarm is going off and it’s Monday again.

As we arrive at the station the car park is more full than usual! I’m dreading the train now. I’m expecting to crush my way on!

As it pulls onto the platform I look through the windows. A few people are standing but there is still daylight! I’m shocked but pleased. What happens next shocked me even more ! I got a seat! Woo hoo! I can’t believe it! Maybe Monday isn’t going to be so bad after all!

Have a great week!

Letter to my scales!

It is with deep regret that I find myself writing this letter!

We have been together for many years now! You have always been a trusted friend. We have seen some highs and lows. You have always been honest with me. You have never hidden the truth from me, regardless of how bad it has been!

You have ensured my clothes on a Wednesday don’t exceed 0.3kg! You have even made sure I have never exceeded my baggage allowance when I went on holiday!

We have fond memories of my puppies when we checked how much they were growing! It was lovely to see them grow week on week.

You have been such a huge part of my life.

It saddens me now that you have suddenly changed towards me! I don’t understand why! There seems to be no explanation!

I’m doing everything I can for you. I’m eating well, I’m going to the gym. I’ve even done dry January ! What more do you want from me!

I really don’t want us to part company but this attitude towards me has to change!

I hope this letter will clear the air between us.

I look forward to seeing the changes in you when I see you again soon!

Your ever hopeful friend

Xx

This cold weather plays havoc!

As an asthma suffering, I dread the winter. I can go for 8 months of the year without a single problem. Once the temperatures start to drop, so does my ability to breath!

Asthma is a condition that effects the airways. When someone has an asthma attack, the muscles around the walls of their airways tighten, causing the airway to narrow. The lining can become inflamed and swollen, with a sticky mucus or phlegm building up, causing the airways to close further.

When this occurs, it is difficult for the person to breath, causing tightness of the chest, wheezing or coughing. It can feel pretty scary!

I was diagnosed with asthma in adult hood, but it can start from childhood, as is the case for my younger brother.

There are a variety of situations that can bring on an attack. Allergies, such as pollen or animal fur, smoke, pollution, cold air, exercise, and infections like colds and flu, are the most common.

For me, it certainly is the cold weather, and colds and flu.

Tomorrow I am returning to work after 2 weeks off. Initially, I went down with the flu. I have had the flu vaccination, but this does not mean you are immune from getting the flu.

I have to say, I think that this was the worst case of flu I have ever had. It completely knocked me out. I then had the added complication of my asthma.

As with other sufferers, I take inhalers everyday. One is to prevent an attack which I take twice a day, and the other one is to relieve any symptoms, as and when the happen.

Unfortunately, neither seemed to help. Night time was worse. I would lay in bed and feel like I was physically chocking. I would end up sitting up in bed or actually getting up, until such a time as I could lie down again.

After 6 days of not improving, I visited my GP. I attend annual check ups, where they measure my peak flow. This is the measure of how much air you can blow out of your lungs, and is an indicator as to how well air is moving out of your lungs. Mine was down by 25% and so I was put on a course of steroids. I don’t particularly like taking them, they can cause weight gain as well as poor skin, but at the end of the day, if it helps me to breath again, I will.

When your asthma isn’t controlled, you feel extremely tired. I cannot begin to tell you how much I have slept, or just laid around unable to do anything, over the last couple of weeks. Even now, because it isn’t fully sorted, I am exhausted all the time.

It also means that I struggle to do exercise. As you know, I love the gym. Being fit does help keep asthma under control, however when you have had an episode, it is very difficult to firstly get the energy to exercise, and secondly to do so without coughing, wheezing and struggling to breath.

I am hoping that next week I may be able to get back into the gym, even for light exercise, and build myself back up.

If left untreated, asthma can turn into a lung infection (pneumonia) or even worse, death.

As a sufferer, it is really important that I manage my medication properly. I know when I am most vulnerable, and try to find things that will help. Unfortunately for me, my current lifestyle doesn’t help me.

My company relocated over 6 years ago. I went from driving to work in a warm car, to having to commute on public transport. This means that during the winter months, I have to stand on a train platform in the cold and damp. I then have a walk to the office. Both of these put a strain on me. I always increase my inhalers during the winter months, but sadly, I am always going to be more open to attacks.

On the plus side, a few years ago, I was suffering with my asthma. We were flying out to South Africa to visit my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Unfortunately, my husband and I were seated on separate rows. I was coughing very badly. The gentleman next to me must have thought I had a cold, so very kindly offered to swap places with my husband! I didn’t think it would be worth telling him the truth! Ha ha!

Although most asthma sufferers will manage their own symptoms, if you do see someone who is struggling to breath, get them to calm down if they are stressing, as this makes trying to catch your breath worse.

Get them to sit up. Look for their reliever inhaler. It is usually blue. Get them to take a puff every 30 to 60 seconds, up to 10 puffs. This many puffs will make the person feel dizzy, but that is normal. If they are not improving call for an ambulance immediately. Get them to continue with the blue inhaler.

If they don’t have their inhaler and are struggling, call for an ambulance straight away.

Approximately 3 people a day die from asthma attacks, of which they estimate that 2/3 could have been prevented. By recognising the symptoms early, and controlling them, many more lives will be saved.

Thankfully, for most of us, with our medication we can live normal lives.

Tomorrow is forecast to be really cold. I will be making sure I am wrapped up warm on the train platform. I will have a scarf to prevent the cold air getting into my lungs! I will be carrying my inhalers, and making sure I take them throughout the day! I know I will be coughing a lot throughout the day, which will make me tired, so an early night will definitely be in order tomorrow night!

If you want to know more about asthma visit https://www.asthma.org.uk/

First week in!

So, today is the 6th day of my 2019 Slimming world Journey. As weeks go, it has gone really well.

I decided, as well as healthy eating, I would also embark on Dry January. I think my hubby has finally stopped laughing at that one. I know its only the 6th day, but weekends are when I would usually have my Slimline wine. I’ve really missed it, but I’m determined to go the full 31 days without touching a drop.

I know Slimline wine is low calorie, but it isn’t really about the wine. It is about giving myself a good detox and reducing my total syn intake to maximise my weight loss.

During the week, its easier as I never touched it, but come Friday, I was missing the taste. I don’t think it was about the wine itself, but the habit of it. I decided, to make sure I don’t fail, I would buy some alcohol free wine. I called in at my local Sainsbury’s hoping to buy a couple of bottle of Eisberg sparkling, non alcoholic fizz. I’d had it before and it is really nice. Sadly they didn’t have it, so I opted for a bottle of Eisberg flat white and another one, both non alcoholic. I have to say, neither of them did it for me, and at 3 syns for 250 ml, I didn’t think they were worth it.

What I did pick up also though, was a bottle of Winter Spice Ribena. I know from my Slimming World group that it was supposed to taste like mulled wine. I thought I would give it a go. It is actually gorgeous. The first one I made was too strong, but after that, I’m hooked. As it has been so cold recently, it is perfect. And it is syn free!

I have also been so good with my meals and syns. During the week, I struggled to have more than a couple of syns. Even at the weekend, with my non alcoholic wine, I was well within my syn value.

I’m allowed 5-15 syns on Slimming World, but I have set myself a personal target of a maximum of 12 syns. That way, I should hopefully have a better weight loss!

Below is an idea of some of some of my daily meals:

Breakfast

Omelette with Ham, Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Cheese
Overnight Oats
Egg Muffins with Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Peppers
Smoked Salmon, Eggs and Wholemeal Toast
A Slimming World Full English. Wholemeal toast with light cheese spread, bacon, mushrooms, baked beans and eggs

Lunch

Dinners

Sirloin Steak, Potato Wedges & Peas
Chicken Breast cooking in chopped tomatoes and Chorizo, served with mushrooms, tomatoes and potato wedges
Chilli with Rice
Cheesy Pasta Bake

In addition, I also had a beautiful pork medallion, topped with Stilton Cheese from my HEA, served with a selection of vegetables.

I know I probably could have had more speed vegetables, but I hadn’t done my shopping for some of the meals, so it was what was in the fridge!

All the meals were completely on plan.

For snacks, I would have fruit, bananas, satsumas, apples and grapes, Baby Bell Light (you can have 3 as part of your HEA), Muller Light (1 Syn each) or a slice of ham.

I haven’t been tempted to have any sweets, even though they would have been in my syn allowance!

Every day, I have managed to get my 10,000 steps in, if not more, and I have also done 30 minutes of sit-ups, while watching the TV!

I don’t have my official SW weigh in until Wednesday, but according to my scales, I have lost 2.5 lbs already since 1 January, so I am very happy with that.

Tonight, I am still going to have my roast beef dinner. I haven’t had any syns today, so I will have Yorkshire Pudding, but I will make mini ones, with frylight which will only be about 2 syns each! I will make everything else, including my gravy syn free!

I’ll let you know what my SW weigh in is on Wednesday!

Have a good week

Here are the links to a couple of the recipes above

Follow me on YouTube https://youtu.be/0_-AScYkZVg

New Year, New Start

So 2018 is almost over! I still can’t believe how quickly this year has gone.

I am now like millions of other people! I’m sitting here planning what changes I am going to make for next year!

First one – lose weight! This year, I have really struggled to maintain my ideal weight. I think a big part was to do with my hubby, family and friends constantly telling me I was too thin! I decided that the odd pound on didn’t matter then! Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there!

Over Christmas, I feel I have just eaten rubbish. I am not having the balanced meals I would normally have. I am actually craving fruit and salad!

So from 1 January, I am back on Slimming World properly. I’m also going to put one of my temptations out of my way! I am going to do Dry January!

My hubby couldn’t stop laughing when I said this! Ok, I fully understand why. I mean, I do like to have a glass or 2 of wine at the weekend, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go without it too! Slimming World have dropped down the syns you can have daily. You can now only have 12 per day, so with Slimline Wine, that is only 3 small glasses. I know I could stick to this, but I want to be able maximise my weight loss by having the minimum of syns possible.

By not drinking, I can save my syns for other things like the odd piece of chocolate or hot chocolate!

I plan to get fitter too! Don’ get me wrong, I’m not unfit. I already do a lot of walking and go to the gym around 4 times a week, but this year, I want to see if I can start running again. If not running (I’m not sure my knees could stand it), power walking!

I’ve also stopped doing my 100 sit-ups a day. I used to have quite a toned stomach. I need to start making sure I do it every night while watching my soaps.

So what else to I plan to do? Well I’m going to keep telling the stories of Lola through my blog – The Adventures of Lola, as well as building on my website and Youtube channel. I’m still a novice on Youtube, but it has been fun doing it and trying to improve.

I’m also going to hit a certain birthday in 2019! I have a list of things I want to achieve during the year. I will share that list with you in a later blog!

The main thing for me is to be happy and healthy! Life is too short to waste it!

Whatever next year has ahead for you, make sure you enjoy it!

Feeling like a beached whale!

Is anyone else feeling like they have eaten and drunk far too much over the last few days?

I laid in bed last night and my stomach felt so heavy. I feel like I’ve eaten a months food in just a couple of days! The scales said the same this morning too!

I’m a bit surprised that I felt like that, as I didn’t think I’d been that bad! I know I have been running around so much prior to Christmas. I even had a few days where I never actually sat down, until bedtime. Surely that must have helped me? Exercise burns calories, right?

Christmas day and Boxing day, I had only a light breakfast, consisting of a roll from my HEB and a ‘free’ filling. So why do I feel like a beached whale?

Well, as today is my weigh in day, It’s a good time to be honest with myself! I might have made some really good choices, but portion control? Who can say honestly, they kept their portion of Christmas Dinner to a minimum? It’s so difficult. When you think about what you serve up, there is no way I had portion control.

I cooked the dinner this year, so I know how everything was cooked. We had roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, pigs in blankets, turkey, gammon, prunes wrapped in bacon, butternut squash, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts with bacon, carrots, parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, bread sauce and of course the cranberry sauce. I missed out the mashed potato and the 2 sauces, but the rest were all on my plate!! Even if I had on a spoonful of each veg, that is a lot of food!

Starter was healthy. A prawn cocktail with freshly made bread! Again, I made the bread so I knew what was in it! Ok, it might be healthy, but i’d already had my HEB for breakfast!

Dessert was a challenge too. Why is it, even though you are really full, you decide you can still manage a small pudding! This year the options were Christmas pudding (which I hate!), my mums homemade trifle and apple pie, chocolate Yule log and custard or cream. I opted for the yule log, but to be good I didn’t have the custard or cream!

Then of course, we had champagne. It’s Christmas after all!

Boxing day, I had a wholemeal roll with turkey and poached egg for breakfast. A good start!

I didn’t start finishing the 2 open bottles of wine in the fridge until the evening, so that was good. I wasn’t bothered about drinking last night, but as the wine was bubbles, it would have ended up being poured down the sink, which was a waste!

I have so much left over food, I decide to make a turkey and ham pie for dinner! I only had a pastry lid, to help keep the calories down! I didn’t have pudding.

I’m finally on the sofa relaxing, before I have to go to bed, as I have an early start tomorrow as I have to get up for work. Ooh look, some Galaxy chocolates. I’ve been good all day, so a couple won’t hurt!

So now I’m lying in bed feeling awful. I can’t even think about food or drink. I feel like a beached whale! I really don’t understand why!

WHO AM I KIDDING!!

I know exactly why I feel this way! Today, I’m back to work. It’s time to start again! Today is another day! I’m going to group tonight. I’m going to make a commitment to myself! I’m going to do this!

I know what I need to do, and I’m going to do it! I don’t need that chocolate! I don’t even really enjoy it! I have a goal, and I’m going to achieve it!

The Salt Mine – Krakow

Today we headed off to the Salt Mine. Instead of booking a formal tour, we went solo!

We headed off to the main train station in Krakow, to catch the 8.51 am.

We initially tried to buy the tickets through one of the many machines, but not speaking the language and being a little unsure, we opted to go to the main ticket office!

As you walk through the station, it’s all very well signposted. It’s also very clean!

At the ticket office the cashier speaks English, so it’s very easy. You can’t get a return ticket so we buy just a single! I can’t believe how cheap public transport is here. 3.50 PLN each, which is about £0.85 each!

We head to platform 1. The train arrives on time. Again, it’s clean and modern. There is also a ticket machine on the carriage, so if you don’t have time to get one before boarding, you can still buy one!

I’m also impressed with the seats. They are comfy and have plug sockets underneath? Plus a bin for each set of seats!

Above is a screen which shows you the trains route, and where you are on that route. For foreign travellers, it’s perfect to make sure you get off at the right stop. Which we do!

The Salt Mine is only about 5 minutes walk away from the station, up a slight hill.

As we have arrived early, there isn’t really a queue! Entry, for a 2 hour tour is 89 PLN, approximately £22 each. If you want to take photos or videos, you have to pay an additional 10 PLN (£2.50), which of course we do!

The tours are in different languages, so we head for the queue for the English one. We are given headphones and receivers, so we can hear our guide better!

You then start the tour. Be warned, we will go down a lot of steps, so sensible shoes are a must.

The tourist books say to take a jacket as temperatures fall to between 13/16 degrees, although we were rather hot in ours!

To descend to the Danilowicz Shaft on level 1, you walk down 380 steps, taking you 64 m underground!

In total you will descend 800 steps, taking you down to 135 m underground to level 3! There are a total of 9 levels to the Mine, so the tour only covers about 1% of it !

In total, there are nearly 2400 chambers in the Mine, with 245 km of corridors! Reaching to 327 m underground! I’m amazed, just thinking of what lies beneath us! All this is supported by wooden beams! The Salt hardens the wood, so it’s perfectly safe!

Don’t worry about the way back, there is a lift back up!

As you walk through the Mine, you will be blown away at its natural beauty! If you touch the walls and lick your fingers, you taste the Salt!

As you pass through chambers upon chambers, you will see many sculptures carved out of the Salt! The chapel of St Kinga is said to be the largest underground temple in the world!

An emerald lake sparkles in the light.

Due to the darkness in places, it’s difficult to video, although, I have tried it on my GoPro, so I will see when I download it at home.

I’ve take many photos, so I’m hoping they too will show it’s beauty!

There are plenty of toilets on route, and a couple of places to buy gifts and have a drink or snack!

The highlight of the tour though has to be the chapel! You can get married there too! What a magical place to take your vows!

The tour takes a nice pace, but I was very thankful for the lift back up!

If you are scared of enclosed spaces, please tell your guide! The lift is very small, and they will fill it to capacity! It’s certainly not for anyone who needs space!

The trip back up only takes about 20 seconds.

Outside, there is a kiosk which sells food and drink! I highly recommend the sausage! You get the sausage, a roll and a coke for 15 PLN (£3.75). It was delicious!

After a feed and rest we head back to the station. There isn’t a ticket office here, but now as seasoned travellers, we buy our return ticket from the machine! You can’t pay cash through the machine only card though!

The train arrives on time and we do the 20 minute journey back to Krakow!

It’s been a great trip. Here are some more photos.

https://youtu.be/Zu4QsSfdx7A

As we head to the main square, it’s hard not to notice how much busier it is. Obviously the locals must come out on a Sunday. There is a lot going on! Musicians are playing, people are making bubbles or balloon animals! It’s absolutely lovely!

The sun is out, so it’s a perfect afternoon for a stroll!

When you see your name in print!

Oh wow, how excited was I on 21st August , when I opened my emails?  There, in black and white, was an email from Countryfile Magazine, telling me a photo I had sent in of one of my dogs,  was selected as the winning entry, for the September edition of their magazine.  The competition was being sponsored by Halti, so I was also to receive a selection of their products!

I have been a fan of Countryfile ever since it started! Thankfully, my husband really enjoyed it too.  It has become a religion in our house now.  Every Sunday evening, we would have a roast dinner, then curl up on the sofa, to watch that weeks episode.

One day, I was sitting in a waiting room waiting for my medical.  On the table was a Countryfile magazine.  I had never seen it before, but was so absorbed in it, I was gutted when I had to go in for my appointment.

I immediately went out and subscribed to the magazine.  That was June 2012. And I’m still subscribing to it!

Every month, I have read the articles, looked at the walks and the competitions.  I have mentioned to my hubby many times that he should enter the competitions.  Both hubby and I love photography.  I have seen his photos, and I firmly believe he has some award winning pictures of his own.

I have never really thought any of mine would be good enough.  Then in July, after a trip to Isle of Skye, I saw the competition regarding pets on holiday.

I love taking photos of Fido and Lola, and had been pleased with how they had come out.  My hubby actually was the one who thought I should enter one of them into the competition.

I thought – why not!  What have I got to lose?  So on 16th July, I send off my photo.

When I received the email telling me I had won, I was absolutely shocked.  I didn’t care about the prize!  It was the fact that someone had thought my photo was good!  I couldn’t stop smiling.  Immediately, I started spreading the news!  I was now an award winning photographer!  Ok, it isn’t like I’m on TV or anything, but I was having my photo published in September’s edition of Countryfile Magazine.  I mean, Countryfile!

I have been waiting in excitement to see it in print.

Last night a friend received her copy of the magazine.  Mine hadn’t arrived, but she sent me a photo.  I was again in ‘smile’ mode!  She promised to bring me the magazine into work the next day.

When I saw it in print, it was like I had won the lottery!  Ok, most people won’t know me, but everyone who buys the magazine, will see the picture I took of Fido!

I was always into photography and competitions, just not both together!  This has given me a new motivation, to get out there and take more photos.  Learn more about my camera and  explore the countryside.

Sometimes, you just have to have confidence in your own ability.  If I hadn’t won, I wouldn’t have been disappointed, however now I have, I feel 10 feet tall.  I am very proud of myself, but more importantly, I am proud of my husbands word.  I know he takes some amazing photos too.  I will be pushing him more to get his work out there now!

Don’t ever doubt yourself.  Push yourself out there!  Sometimes, it turns into nothing, but other times, it fulfills your dreams and more!  I certainly will be doing more photographic competitions.  You never know, once day it may even get me on the TV with my photo in the Countryfile calendar!

You have to have a dream and ambition!

I have now started uploading some of my photos to YouTube.  If you are interested, subscribe to my channel.

Our walk from Pooley Bridge

So this morning we can’t blame the neighbours for the early start!  They seemed to have left yesterday!

5.24 am Lola lets off a half-hearted little bark.  I know that is a signal that she needs the loo, so I get up and take them both out.  We come back in and both of them jump straight back into their beds!  I’m ever hopeful of a few more hours sleep!

Ok, it was going quite well until just before 7 am, when Fido starts whining and howling. Only gently, but you know he isn’t going to stop until you go to him.  Lola has her attention seeking bark and he has this!

Hubby is awake, so offers to go down to him. He comes back with a cup of tea for me.  I say I’ll just have 20 minutes then I’ll get up and join him.  That turned into an hour!  Whoops!

This is our last full day in the Lakes.  We decide to go to Pooley Bridge.  There is a 7.2 km walk from the village, which takes about 2 hours!  From the walk you should get amazing views of Ullswater, see the Cockpit stone circle, and Cop Stone.

The route to Pooley Bridge is via the Wrynose Pass again.  This really isn’t a fun road, but we are now getting used to it.  Before hitting the village you also go over the Kirkstone Pass.  Nowhere near as bad as the Wrynose Pass that is for sure!

What we had forgotten until we arrived at the village, was that in 2015/2016 floods washed away the old bridge.  There is a temporary one in place at the moment, but it isn’t a photo opportunity!

We start the walk and head up the hill to the stone circles.  It’s a bit cold and damp.  Then it all goes a bit wrong.  We keep climbing, but can’t seem to find all the right paths!   The higher the climb the rougher the wind!

After 2 hours of some really steep climbs, we decide to turn around and go back to the car.  The forecast was for heavy rain around 3 pm.  It was now 2 pm.  It had been very windy and damp at the top so didn’t want to risk it any more.

The views from the top were stunning though, so I wasn’t complaining.  Ok, I wasn’t quite complaining, but one of the climbs was really really tough.  We had to stop a few times, before we got to the top.  I think even the dogs struggled!

DSC_0728

As is usual for us, the 7.2km walk turned out to be 12.67km.

As we head back down the weather feels likes it’s improving, so we think we must have missed the worst of it.  We could see heavy rain in the distance though!

While hubby takes the dogs to the car, I pop to a local shop called Chestnut House, to get a bottle of wine.  I was amazed at this shop.  It had so many Gins, Vodkas and whiskey’s in the one place that I have ever seen!  I ended buying a couple of miniatures as well as the wine to try when I get home!  I was hoping it might had some sweets or biscuits too to take home as gifts, but sadly not!

We picnic in the car before heading home.  The weather has now taken a turn for the worst.  Hubby rightly takes the decision that we shouldn’t go via the Wrynose Pass on the way back, as it would be too dangerous.  I was so thankful.  Visibility wasn’t good on the Kirkstone Pass, so the Wrynose would be worse!

I took a video of the Kirstone Pass and Wrynose Pass which I will put on Youtube shortly.

He sets the sat nav to detour us via Lake Windermere!  Although it was pouring with heavy rain, it was still nice to drive through that way.  I hadn’t been there for many years.  Although we didn’t stop, I was still surprised at how it had changed.  So many more shops. It felt very commercialised now.

We are now home safe and sound in our comfy  cottage!  Tonight is scrabble and curry!

Tomorrow we are heading back home.  We plan to take a detour via Morecombe.  It will break up the journey but also give the dogs a chance to stretch their legs.   We are in no rush to get home so we may as well make the day of it.

Its been a good week even if the weather wasn’t on our side.

Taking the Line to Latrigg!

Taking the Line to Latrigg is another walk from our AA walking book of the Lake District.

I was so happy this morning!  The first bark from the dogs next door wasn’t until 7.13 am!  An improvement on the previous days!  Even better, Lola only managed a weak bark, then went back to sleep!

Just after 7.30 am Lola then did her usual attention seeking bark, as she needed to loo!  Obviously, she must have been lying there wondering if she had the energy to get up or not!  Eventually, her bladder won!  I didn’t mind then as I was already awake.  I took them both out  and came back to make the usual cups of tea for hubby and I.

As he was still sleepy I returned the favour from yesterday, and let him sleep, while I came down and sorted dogs out.  I wanted to catch up on the news anyway so I didn’t mind.  I do miss that hour of the news in the morning.  It also gave me time to sort the picnic out for the day.

Today we were going to try and do a lighter walk.  After yesterday we felt we, and the dogs needed it.

We decided on a walk from Keswick, along a disused railway line.  The line was used regularly from 1864 until it was closed in 1972.

The walk according to our AA walking book would take around 2 hours,over 8 km!

To get to the starting point, we had to drive over Wrynose Pass again!  Thankfully hubby offered to drive today.  I wasn’t going to argue.  Although I’m not sure if being a passenger is worse.  At least when you are driving you are more in control! At least I got to take some photos and videos on the way!  Check out my Youtube channel to see them!

The walk starts at a car park outside what used to be the old railway station.  It’s now a hotel, but I’m pleased to say they haven’t changed the look of it from the outside.

As we started our walk we saw a few signs talking about a bridge being closed.  As we had walked over 2 bridges, which took you over the River Greta, we didn’t think they related to us.  In fact, we thought they were signs that hadn’t been taken down!  Well, that was until we reached the reached the bridge that was actually closed!

A flood in 2015 damaged a lot of the old railway track path, as well as taking out the bridge across the river!  We thought our walk had ended before it started!  Have no fear, we found a signpost just back down the path, and decided to take it!

As luck would happen, although this was quite uphill and with a few nervous drops to our right, on some thin paths, it actually took us back onto the path we wanted.

After a long climb, we eventually came to a view point at Latrigg, which gave spectacular views over Keswick.  It was extremely windy, but the sun did try and come out!  At the top, I remembered that I had been here a few years earlier.  We had been to the Lakes with my mother, brother and sister in law.  My mother and sister in law were over from South Africa for a holiday, so my hubby, stepdaughter and I had a week together with them in a log cabin in the Lakes, along with my brother in law who also lives in England now.

There was a carpark to the right of this view point, which we drove to, then walked up to the viewpoint. It was windy that day too!

Many years ago, hubby and I were up in the lakes with our old dog Ember.  We did a walk up Cat Bells.  It was such an exhausting walk which took us about 7 hours in total.  The views were stunning though.  From the viewpoint at Latrigg you can see the same mountain.  When you look at it, you can see why it was so tiring and long!

DSC_0689

We really wanted to do this walk again on this holiday, however the weather has been against us!

We then descended down a track.  The views on this trip were amazing.  Wherever you look, there is always something to photograph! Thankfully we missed the rain, which after yesterday was a great bonus!

So, the walk was supposed to be 8 km.  My app on the phone worked today!  Ok, we do stop a lot to take photos, so it was always going to take longer.  In fact for us, it was 2 hours 44 mins.  How far did we walk?  Over 11 km’s!  That detour must have really added on the km’s.  Not that I am complaining.

Another quiet night is required especially for 2 tired dogs!

Tomorrow is our last full day.  I have clocked up over 130,000 steps in the last 7 days!  Tomorrow, will no doubt be another good walk!

Yew Tree Tarn From Coniston – Lake District

Well today started a lot better than the last few days!  The dogs next door didn’t start barking until 6.30 am!  What was even better, Lola and Fido must have been so tired as Lola  gave out a little quick bark, but that was it!

I came down anyway just to check on them.  Lola was fast asleep on the sofa!  Yes the sofa!  She isn’t allowed on it, but had got herself comfortable with her head on the cushions!  Fido was in his bed.  I took them both out for a walk anyway, so they could do their business.

They both must have been very tired, as I hadn’t even put the leads away when Lola was back on the sofa asleep!

I went back to bed for a bit.  The dogs next door had quietened down very quickly today and we didn’t hear from them until 7.30 am.  I got up and made a drink to take back to bed.  I was so so tired.  I was so relieved when hubby told me to go back to sleep, and he would go down with the dogs!  Lola was quiet but Fido was crying for attention so we couldn’t really leave them on their own.

I slept right through to just after 9 am!  Heaven!

Today we decided on a 10 km walk from Coniston to Yew Tree Tarn.  It was absolutely pouring with rain when we arrived, but as we started to walk it eased off!

Just before we went around the Tarn we spotted an ice cream van.  Hubby can never resist an ice cream so while I had a diet coke, my  hubby and my stepdaughter both went for a 99!  Just what the doctor ordered!

The walk round the tarn was beautiful.   With the rain there was a lot of mist, but you could still see the beauty of the place!  We were doing so well up to this point, but then we just couldn’t work out the correct route.  We use a book called ’50 walks in The Lake District’ by AA. Most times it’s easy to follow, but today it certainly wasn’t clear!  We had to change our route a couple of times and were still not convinced if we were right.

At this point the heavens opened!  And it stayed heavy for the rest of our walk!  We really wasn’t sure our path was the right one and with the rain, our book was getting soaked and so it was hard to turn the pages!

In the end, we saw a path for Coniston.  Even though it wasn’t the books route, we knew we would be going in the right direction for the car.  We had been walking for 4.45 hours at this point,  we were soaking wet, and hungry.  I think all of us just wanted to head back to the car!

According to the signposts we were 1.5 miles from Coniston.

We start to see the village in the distance and my spirits lifted!  By this point, my shorts were so wet they were dripping!  I had a waterproof on, but I don’t think they are designed for this type of rain.

We finally reach the carpark.  When we arrived, I spotted a shop that sold lolly pops.  When I say lolly pops, I don’t just mean your ordinary ones.  Oh no, this one had probably about 30 different flavours if not more!  I just had to stop and get some for my stepdaughter.   I wish now I also got a couple for me too!  They smelt delicious. I just didn’t think at the time! Doh!  I have never seen a shop with so many.  Next time I’m definitely stocking up!

We got into the car and I think we could all agree that we were starving.  We were only 45 mins from home, but after walking what was actually nearly 16 km in 5.5 hours, we just needed fuel!  I’d done my usual picnic so we all sat in the car tucking in!

On the way home I had the heating on to try and dry us all out!

The hot shower when we got home was so so welcome!

The fire was put on to dry the book out and our bags.  Even though we were wet I think we all had a good day.  Even the dogs.

Sadly the app on my phone didn’t pick up all the walk, but my fit bit recorded 25,000 steps!  I think we will all have a few aches in the morning!

A quiet night in front of TV is definitely in order tonight!

Home Sweet Home!

So today we head home! It’s been a good week, but with the rain, we decided not to extend the holiday until Monday!

Lola must be so tuned in to our work wake up time, as just after 5am she gave her warning bark! Only quick and sharp, but enough for me to know it’s her toilet break time.

I get up and take them both for a walk behind the cottage for the last time. It’s raining so I’m so pleased at the speed of both dogs. No messing around today!

Back at the cottage, both go back to bed easily! I’m able to get some more sleep myself before the alarm goes off at 7.20 am.

We have to leave the cottage by 10 am. As we have the dogs I need to vacuum the ground floor before we leave. I’ve done it once this week already. The vacuum they have is a Vax, but as with most hoovers, it seems to struggle with our dogs hairs! I’m convinced they have super strength hair!

Back of cottage

Front of cottage

I bought a new vacuum at Countryfile Live! They showed us it holding a 10lb ball! I thought woo hoo, that will pick up the hairs easily ! When I tried it at home with the dog hair, it still struggled !

I also need to strategically pack the car! With 3 adults, 2 dogs and the cases, cameras, left over food etc, space is at a premium. I need to be creative with every ounce of space !

My car doesn’t have a spare wheel. Instead I have canisters of foam. I keep meaning to get a spare Tyre but never got round to it!

Without the tyre, I have additional storage space! On the way up to Lakes it was perfect for storing my wine and Fanta! I filled the rest of the gaps with our waterproofs!

There is also space under the front seats, ideal for shoes etc! No space is wasted!

What also helped on the way, was that I placed a Tesco delivery to bring our food for the week, to the cottage! I always take enough for the first night, just in case there is a problem with the delivery. It is a perfect space saver!

Well the car is packed! We decide to stop off at Morecombe on the way back. It will give the dogs a chance to stretch their legs.

Hubby and stepdaughter would like a MacDonalds but our timing is out! We will have to try and find a service station on the motorway nearer lunch time!

There won’t be much in when we get home later so it will be a trip to the chippy!

It will be good to be home. The holiday has been good, but you can’t beat home sweet home !

Our publish what we did over the next few days!

No connection!

It’s weird how reliant we are on our phones and computers !

This week I’m away in the Lakes with my hubby 2 dogs and stepdaughter.

We have a little 2 bedroom cottage in the middle of nowhere! For approx 80% of our time we have no phone or internet coverage! I have to say, it’s quite liberating!

Everyday we have been exploring the countryside. We have done many long walks and taken some fabulous photos. All will be revealed when I have more than just my phone coverage.

So far in the last 7 days I have walked over 130,000 steps! Waded across a swollen river up to my thighs, walked up mountains and around lakes. We have had sunshine and showers. We have gotten completely soaked. Have cuts and bruises and tired limbs!

Would I change it? Not for the world !

Fido and Lola have been having a ball! Although every night they lay in their beds exhausted, as soon as they see us getting ready the next day to go out, they run around in excitement. Both jumping in the car to take their rightful places! Lola on the back seat and Fido in the boot!

I can’t wait to share our adventures with you when I’m home next week!

Here is a little taster!

Stay tuned !

Staycation or Vacation?

When you have 6 weeks annual leave a year, it’s impossible to always use it to go away.

This year the travel pot is a bit depleted so we had to carefully think how we could recharge our batteries without breaking the bank.

Our first break in 6 months was as you know a little cottage on the Isle of Skye. It was out of school holidays so was cheap as chips. We also took the dogs which saves a fortune in kennel fees. They can sometimes be more expensive than our own holiday!

Whilst this holiday was cheap, I have to say It was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had! I felt so relaxed the minute we arrived! Yes it was basic and self catering, but somehow it felt magical!  The cottage was in a really quiet location with amazing views.   Everyday there was something new to explore.  Hubby and I would be up early and out to make the most of the day.

We both love photography so took many pictures.  In the evening we would down load both cameras onto the laptop and talk about the day we have just had.  It was lovely sitting planning the next days route over a glass of wine.

This holiday certainly proved you don’t have to spend much money to have a great time.

I was then fortunate to win a trip to Italy to see where Slimline Wine was made. It was only for a few days but the scenery, food and of course Slimline Wine were amazing !  The company laid on everything for us.  We visited the factory and vineyards, as well as having time to relax around the hotel pool.  Thanks to the generosity of Slimline Wine, we only had to pay for the dogs to go into kennels so another cheap break away!

Last week we had a week off work but opted to have a staycation! Getting away from work is always nice, but I’m not good at doing nothing ! When you are at home everyday blends into the next .

When we were in Scotland there were so many new things to see and do. You don’t want to lie in, you want to be up and out to make the most of the day.

When you are at home there is nothing to rush around for. There is also the housework, food shopping, jobs round house that need doing ! You just can’t leave it .

It’s weird,staying self catering somewhere away from home doesn’t feel the same! Yes you still have to cook and clean but it’s not a chore then . I can’t tell you why!

For me I like to use my leave to do things.  Even though I’m at home, I like to think the break has been worthwhile.  Going on long walks and exploring new things.  When your at home, we seem to struggle to do that.  My stepdaughter was with us too last week.  Anyone with teenagers will know that they are not great at getting up early in the mornings, so our days started quite late.   Then it was what to do?

When you live somewhere you tend to go round with your eyes closed.  You struggle to think what you can do or where you can go?  We did manage a trip to the cinema on one day and a lovely walk in the Cotswolds another day.  It certainly wasn’t the tourist packed days of our trip to Scotland.

As Sunday came closer, I considered the return to work the next day.  When I came back from Scotland I was so relaxed, even though we had done so much.    After our staycation, I didn’t feel like that at all.   I felt like my usual weekend had just been extended.

So am I a fan of staycations?  Certainly not.  I know that you can’t always go away when you are off, and everyone needs time away from work to unwind.  For me though getting out and exploring new things is my way of doing that.  That is why, when I do get the chance to go away I appreciate it a million times more!  I never take anything for granted.  I don’t need expensive holidays to have fun.  I just need good company.

Is the current heatwave effecting your weight loss?

This is a question I asked myself.  My answer was a resounding yes!  The reasons I told myself were:-

Its too hot to exercise?

Ok this is partly true?  I have 2 dogs as you know.  I would normally walk them twice a day.  They are still getting their morning walk, but with temperatures at around 28/29 degrees when we get home at night, its not fair to take them out.

The way I look at it is, would you walk bare foot for an hour in a fur coat that time of night?  The answer is no!  Firstly, you would just die from the heat in the fur coat, and secondly, the sun has heated up the tarmac all day.  You would burn your feet if you tried to walk on it without shoes.  Dogs are the same.  Their paws would burn very quickly.   Instead we allow them to run around the garden.

As for the gym, well yes its air conditioned but they don’t seem to have it turned up enough!

Lets fire up the Braai/BBQ

In my house that means having a plate of nibbles while the fire is heating up, and a cold drink of wine for me and beer for my hubby?

Do you have salad dressings that are high in calories, garlic bread, white rolls too? Of course we do!

Why be inside when I could sit outside?

So I have a choice, the housework or sitting in the sun, in the garden with a book?  Yep, I’m going for the sun everytime!  I mean, we only have it a few months of the year don’t we!

Its such a nice day, why don’t we got to the pub on the way home for a quick one?

Isn’t it funny that as soon as the sun comes out, sitting in a beer garden suddenly seems so appealing.  And its only the one drink.  Then you come home and think you may as well sit in the garden and have another!

Lets invite friends around for a garden party?

Its such an opportunity to get your friends round for some drinks and nibbles.  We can all sit in the garden chatting.  Dipping our hands into a selection of nibbles and not really knowing what we are doing!  Then there is the alcohol!

Its so nice, I could just have an icecream to cool me down!

Well it would be rude not too wouldn’t it!

STOP!

My hubby and I have been doing all of the above to some degree lately!  We were on holiday recently in Scotland, the weather was warm but not like it is now.   We still enjoyed a couple of drinks in the evening, but managed to come back 1.5lbs lighter!

On Monday I got on the scales and am now another 5lb heavier in 2 weeks.  So what is the difference?

I really had to think about this question!  The truth is the difference was me!  Its nothing to do with the weather, it is my own attitude and motivation!

So what did I do differently?

Exercise

I wanted to make sure I did the most steps I could each day, so made sure we chose activities that meant we did a lot of walking.  If it was warm, we took the dogs on routes on grass and near water so they could cool off.

I also realised there wasn’t an excuse not to go to the gym!  Yes it was a bit warm, but I just needed to make sure I drank plenty of water.  I also didn’t push myself as hard if I was getting too hot!  It’s better to do something than nothing!

Food

I planned my food better!  I always put a packed lunch in our cool bag each day.  I planned when I was going to need bread, so that I could have my HEB of a wholemeal roll rather than a white one!

I knew each day what I was eating and when.  I always filled up on the right things so I wasn’t tempted.  If hubby wanted an icecream, I had a diet coke!

I thought about my treats.  I would save them for the evenings in case I wanted that snack. If I did, I measured it out!  I also made sure there were healthy option of treats, and not many bad ones. If I didn’t have them, I couldn’t eat them!

I put plenty of fruit in too!

Alcohol

I kept to my Slimline Wine.  Its less calories than normal wine.  I also love it, so rather than drink it quickly, I’d relax and enjoy it.  It is only 410 calories a bottle, comes in white, red, white sparkling and red sparkling.  The sparkling ones are equal to any champagne you will drink!  Its only available online at the moment, but well worth it.  Check out their website https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePncnDheAGk&t=1s .

It’s also sugar and carb free and suitable for vegans! Another bonus is that due to the low sulphur, you don’t get a hangover !

If I was really thirsty I would have a sugar free soft drink first!  You will be surprised how much that makes a difference!

If we did go to the pub, what is wrong with a soft drink?  If you really want a glass of wine, order a small not a large!

Inviting friends round!

You don’t need to stop seeing your friends, just think about it!  If you don’t know what is being served, eat before you go out.  If you are already full, you are less likely to pick!

If you are doing the entertaining perfect!   Fill the table with healthy options, such a raw vegetables, homemade vegetable crisps etc.  Cherry tomatoes are good for picking at!  Look online and be creative!  Pizza made from Weight Watchers wraps are really good and if you plan it in, it could be your HEB too.

If you want garlic bread, again you can make this yourself using your HEB, Garlic Frylight and lazy garlic!

Make sure you have lots of healthy salads available, as well as salad dressings.  Balsamic, lemon and vinaigrette dressings are perfect!

Don’t forget to remove the skin from the chicken!   See how much fat is in the skin on my Youtube channel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePncnDheAGk&t=1s – you will be surprised!

When it comes to the desserts, avoid high calorie ones.  Fruit salads, recipe on my website for a mousse is delicious.  Check out http://www.slimminginspirations4u.com.

Ultimately, the only thing that is impacting on your weight loss is you!  When you stop and really think about it, there are some easy things you can do to put it right.  So what are you waiting for?  I’ve now given myself a good talking to, so am hoping to get those pounds back off!

Good luck with your journey too!

Walking around Hampton Lucy

Today we decided to stay closer to home.  It’s all too easy to take the countryside around you for granted.  We drive around all the time without really taking in the scenery.  So today, I had picked a walk off the internet, which started off from a beautiful village a couple of miles away from us called Hampton Lucy.

A little bit of history about Hampton Lucy

Hampton means land by the river.  In AD781, the King of Merciathe  granted land to the Bishop of Worcester.  Up until 1549, the parish was know as Bishops Hampton or sometimes, Hampton Episcopi.  The water mill in the village was first mentioned in 1086 and is well worth a visit.

The first church was built in the village in the 13th century, but by 1480 the village was enclosed and many of the villagers were driven out.

The Bishop of Worcester sold the manor in 1549 to John Dudley who was the Duke of Northumberland.  In 1555 though, during the reign of Mary Tudor, he was executed.  The lease was granted to Thomas Lucy of Charlecote by Queen Mary in 1557 which is when the village was renamed Hampton Lucy.

The current church – St Peters was rebuilt by the Lucy family in 1826, and has a Gothic feel to it.  The church is open most days and is stunning inside as well as outside.

Today the village in my opinion, is one of the prettiest in Warwickshire.  It is still very small, with the church being the focal point.  It has a lovely local pub – The Boar’s Head which serves lovely meals.  Its definitely worth a visit if you are around Charlecotte area.

The Walk

The walk starts off in the village.  You have a couple of options.  A 2.3 mile walk or a 5.5 mile walk.  We opted for the longer one.  We will however go back to do the shorter one soon, as it takes in the river Avon.

You enter a huge field through a gate, past River Keepers Cottage.  The warning on the map was for badger holes, and we certainly found a few!  You then enter some woods.  Watch out for the nettles!  That said, the views across towards Warwick over the river are amazing.  On a clear day such as the one we had, you could see for miles.  Why did I know know about this walk before!

The walk takes you through many fields, passing through gates or stiles.  Its quite level, so not overly strenuous.  As usual though, my hubby and I miss a turning past a copse!  Thank heaven we did, as we first stumbled upon a wood full of gorgeous bluebells, and then a nature reserve run by RSPB.  Sometimes it’s ok to go off track, but you really have to make sure you are not on private property!

The fields this time of year are full of rape seed, so you have vibrant yellow wherever you look.  The weather was beautiful so the yellow stood out even more!

There was a short stretch of road towards the end, but apart from that it really is just fields.  What surprised me is that this little road, I travel down quite often, I just never really thought about what was around it.

On one particular part of the walk, we spotted a very large hair running around the field of corn.  It was a little bit like Watership Down, but with a happy ending.  You don’t see this when you are in your car!

I have a fascination with birds of prey, so seeing them hovering around above us looking for food was a joy.  I am hoping to get some binoculars for my birthday this year to see them better.  I really want to learn more about them too.

The walk is a circular walk back to the village again.  It took us just under 3 hours.  Its a perfect way to get some exercise, see your local countryside and just relax and unwind.  We took the 2 dogs with us and they really enjoyed it too!  If you do take your dogs though, please keep them on a lead.  Yes there might be cattle around, but this time of year, there could be birds or other animals nesting in hedges etc, which a dog could upset.

Next time you have a free weekend and are not sure what to do, google walks in your local area.  You will be surprised what you have missed.  I’m now planning what to do on our next free weekend.  Top of my list is the village of Sherbourne!

 

Dogs are better than a personal trainer!

Dogs Trust

So you want to get active but you just don’t have the motivation, then a dog could be just the answer.  Having a dog is like having your own personal trainer, they are also a lot more rewarding!  Walking an hour with your dog can burn off approximately 205 calories.  If your dog is more bouncy and pulls you, you could burn more!

What’s more, a dog encourages you to be out regularly, come rain or shine.  You also get to see and experience new things. They encourage you out into the countryside, trying out new walks and new locations.

I have always had dogs around me.   My memories from my childhood are going for regular walks with my parents and the family dog.  When I left home in 1988, I decided to have 2 kittens instead.  Whilst I really loved them and they were a delight to come home to, they do not compare to a dog.

I used to go for long walks on my own.  One day I was walking in the Malvern Hills and it struck me.  I love being out in the countryside and the reason I don’t do it as much as I like is because I don’t have the full motivation.  It was there and then I decided to look for a dog.

Choosing a dog

When you decide to buy a dog you have to take many things into consideration.  Dogs are for life, they are not a play thing you can put away when you are bored with it.  They can also be expensive.

Things to consider are:-

  • What type of home you have?
  • Are you allowed pets where you live?
  • Do you have a garden?
  • How long will you be out of the house each day?
  • How much time you can dedicate to the dog?
  • Do you have children?
  • What would you do with a dog when you go away?
  • Do you want a puppy or an adult dog?
  • Does everyone in your household agree with having a dog?
  • Who will walk it and take care of it?
  • Can you afford a dog? Vets bills, pet insurance, food, toys, bedding etc cost money!

Reality of having a dog

When thinking about a dog I can’t reinforce how important the above points are.    Dogs need a lot of time, not only to walk them but to train them.

Puppies look cute, but they grow up.  Make sure you know how much they will grow!  Some dogs can put on 1kg’s a week as puppies!   Also remember a puppy needs training on basic things such as going to the toilet, sit, walk etc.  These take a lot of time and patience.  You will have lots of accidents while you are toilet training them which you need to be prepared for.  Its not the puppies fault it has had an accident, as its still learning so don’t shout at it.  You can impact on its development by doing so.  And lets not forget chewing!  You can buy as many toys as you like but a puppy will still try and chew your chair legs, tables etc.  If you have children or adults come to think of it, they have to make sure nothing is left in a puppies reach!  They are like babies started to crawl, into everything and pushing all the boundaries.

Think about your day and be honest. Can you walk them twice a day.  If you are a single parent for example with pre-school children, working full time, are you really going to be able to get up and walk the dog as well as get the children up before going to work?  When its freezing cold and pouring with rain do you really want to be outside walking them?

Why do you want a dog?  Is it for company or to get you out and about?  If it’s purely for company, consider a small dog.  If you have visions of playing ball in the park, then maybe a medium sized dog.  Remember the larger the dog the more dog food space you need!

Research the breed to find out how much exercise they need.  Border Collies for example are intelligent working dogs that need a lot of exercise and stimulation.

Dogs are a tie!  They are not like cats where you can have a cat flap or litter tray and leave food out for them over night!  Dogs need to be looked after.  You can’t just decide to go out for the day or stop overnight at friends.  You need to make sure you don’t leave them too long and without the opportunity to go to the toilet outside.  They also need company.  Depending on the age of the dog will depend on how long you can leave them.  A puppy shouldn’t be left for more than a couple of hours for example.

Cost is another major factor.  You have the initial cost of the dog, food, collar, leads, bedding and toys.   This when you first get your dog can add up.  Then ongoing you need to factor in pet insurance (around £40 per month), annual injections, having dog spade (£100 – £250 depending on sex), kennel fees when you go on holiday (approx. £30 a night) etc.  They are not cheap!

If after all this, you still want a dog then great!  They are so rewarding.  Here are my experiences of dogs.

My First Dog

At that time, I was working full time and living on my own.  I decided that a puppy would be out of the question.   Puppies need constant attention, they can’t be left too long and you need to be able to spend the time training them.  I just couldn’t commit to that and so it would be unfair on the dog.

I contacted my local Dogs Trust.  They will assess your circumstances and advise you on the best type of dog for you.  We decided that an older dog would be more suitable for me.

The Dogs Trust as with other dogs homes don’t just take in strays.  There are also dogs in there where the owner could no longer keep them for various reasons such as a new baby, moving house or even that the owner has passed away!

I don’t know if you have ever been to a dogs home before.  If you haven’t you may think that as soon as you go and see the dogs you will want them all!  That wasn’t the case for me.  Whilst I thought a lot of the dogs were cute and I felt sad for them, on my first visit nothing said ‘take me home’.  Bizarrely, my mum was disappointed that I didn’t ask her to go with me on my first visit, so we both went back the same day to look again. On this trip I saw her.  She must have been out when I visited in the morning.  She was 8 years old, a cross between a greyhound and German shepherd.  She was absolutely beautiful.

The dogs home didn’t have a lot of detail about her only that she was a quiet timid dog, who just wanted company but also liked to be left alone.  Perfect for what I was looking for.  The minute I saw her I knew she was the one!

When you see a dog you like, the Dogs Trust check your suitability then introduce you to them.  The dog was called Tilly at the time.  She hadn’t been in the home for long so didn’t really know the name, so I changed it to Sophie.

The dogs home do a check of your home before they will let you have a dog.   They particularly want to make sure that your home is suitable for the dog you have chosen and the garden is secure, so the dog can’t get out.  A 6 foot fence or wall is perfect.  Also, how long will it be left and who lives in the house etc.   I had my 2 cats, so they also had to check that she would be ok with them.  Thankfully I was approved, and Sophie came home with me a few days later.  The Dogs Trust don’t sell you the dogs, but they do ask for a donation which covers the cost of vet bills, vaccinations etc.  At that time it was £50.

As Sophie was an old dog, I couldn’t get pet insurance for her, so any vets bills were covered by me.  Although I didn’t have any history on her.  I did know that she was once shot by a pellet gun and one was still lodged in her.  As it was only a few millimetres from her heart they couldn’t remove it.  You can imagine that she didn’t like bangs after that!  She also used to run away if a newspaper came through the front door!

Every morning I would walk her, my mum would call in every lunch time and then I would walk her again at night.  At weekends we would go for long walks together.  It was due to walking her that I met a man who was to become by husband!  Our early dates were walking her across the Saxon Mill and fields in Warwick, in the summer months.

One of the strange things about Sophie though was that when I was out she didn’t like being in the house.  In fact, she ate my kitchen carpet once as she got stressed.  The vet suggested that as she was a stray, I should try buying her a kennel and seeing how she was in the garden.  She absolutely loved it!  So, from then on if I went out she would go to her kennel, but as soon as I came home she was in again.

At home Sophie was the most perfect dog.  In the 4 years I had her I never heard her bark!  Unfortunately, the 2 cats bullied her in the first few weeks which ended with a Tom and Jerry like fight!  After separating them and having a good talk to them all, they came to a strange understanding.  Sophie wouldn’t go into their space if they didn’t go into hers.  It stayed like that until the day I lost her.

That was an awful day.  I knew it was coming but I didn’t want to face it.  This is one of the down sides of having a dog.  You love them so much that when you have to make that decision, it is so hard.  My vets knew how I worshiped her so when I took her to be put to sleep, the vet offered for it to be done under a tree in the sunshine.  It was beautiful, I brought her home and she was buried in my garden.

I said I would never have another dog!

My Best Friend

IMG_0944

A year later, I had a huge hole in my life.  I couldn’t have children but still had a lot of love to give.  My husband suggested I bought another dog.  I wasn’t sure but decided that maybe a trip to the Dogs Home would help me make my decision.

Again, on our first visit I saw nothing that I wanted to bring home.  The second visit there was a dog, but it had tree issues!

On our next visit I saw him.  He was a 2-year-old border collie/golden retriever cross!  He was the most beautiful dog I had ever seen.  The problem was he had major issues!  They had taken him in at 6 months old and he had been in the kennels for 18 months.  They had been unable to rehome him as he didn’t take well to humans.  Other dogs he was great with, in fact they used him to settle in new dogs into the home.

I knew he had problems, but I was determined to have him.   The staff warned my husband and I that it may not work, and if it did, it would be a slow process.  I didn’t care how long it took Ember was coming home with me.    A strange name I know but he was found in November.  The dogs names the animals based on when they are found or where etc.  As he had known it most of his life I decided to not change it.

Initially, they suggested a slow introduction.   They would walk him, and my husband and I would slowly walk along catching up with her, but ignore the dog!  I did this, but my husband couldn’t resist going to stroke him, which caused Ember to snap at him.  The dog handler was very cross with my husband as was I,  but thankfully she allowed us to continue.

It took many weeks of slowly building up our contact with him to build up trust.   We went from just walking with him to walking him ourselves.  Then to playing ball and finally sitting down and him coming to us for fuss.   Gradually, after seeing him every day for a few hours over many weeks, we could bring him home.  I was so excited.  We did have to sign a consent form though to say he would always be on a lead, muzzled and kept away from children.

When we got him home had to do work with him on what a door bell and letter box were, as he had never been exposed to these.  He also hated feet and boxes.  My view was that he was put into a box and stood on, but I will never know!

Sadly, a year later my husband and I separated, so Ember and I moved into a new home together.  He became my best friend.  Someone to come home to every night.  It didn’t matter how I was feeling, he was always happy to see me.  He also needed his 2 walks a day so it meant I couldn’t sit at home feeling sorry for myself.

As time went by Ember relaxed around me and other humans.  By the time I met my new husband he was more secure.  My hubby loved him straight away.  He no longer needed his muzzle or lead when we went out.  He was also great with my nieces.  He was the most perfect dog you could ever meet.

I was so proud to have him.  I was never short of people to look after him if I went on holiday.  When I had my breast cancer he kept me motivated to do my physio and build my strength back up.  Because he didn’t need a lead, I could walk him every day on my own.  It meant I could also get out of the house.  He would never cross a road without being told to, and if we went to the shops he would sit patiently outside waiting for me.

As he was getting to nearly 12, he had started to slow down.  The vet and my husband suggested another dog to keep him active.  My husband wanted a border collie puppy!  The vet thought this might be a good idea as Ember could help train it and in return the puppy would keep him going longer.

The search for another dog!

I still wasn’t sure I wanted a puppy as they are such hard work.  We both work full time and I didn’t think we would have the time to train it.  As a compromise, I decided that maybe we should look at the Dogs Trust first.

We saw 2 dogs that we both liked.  We spent time with both.  One was a ‘snoopy’ type dog, but it was too timid and didn’t even want to walk.  The other was a 2-year collie cross.  She was beautiful, very loving and playful.  We thought she would be perfect with Ember.

We arranged a meeting for the 2 dogs to meet.  It was fully supervised.  I had Ember on a lead and a member of the Dogs Trust had the other dog.  Immediately the other dog saw Ember it attacked him.  She had to be pulled of him.   It was heart breaking firstly as the dog had hurt Ember and scared him, but secondly the match wasn’t going to happen.

We left the Dogs Trust and decided to leave it a while!

When home I was looking at the internet at dogs for sale – as you do!  I saw an advert of a 16-week-old border collie puppy for sale.  The owner was selling it as she said she couldn’t keep it!  He looked so cute.  Maybe a puppy might be better for Ember as it wouldn’t attack him!  I showed him my husband and he agreed so I made the call.  We arranged to go that evening to see him.

IMG_0568

When we arrived, I was surprised to see it was a block of flats.  The flat was on the first floor.  When we went in, the flat was quite small.  The owner had 2 children under 5 with the puppy and no garden just a small balcony.  I could see this was not the right environment for this type of dog so immediately said we would take him there and then!   We paid her £200 and took this little bundle home!

As we were not expecting to have a puppy or a dog that day, we were not prepared so I had to do a quick shop the next morning!

The puppy was initially called Ben but my hubby always wanted a dog called Fido, so we changed his name!

From day 1 it was evident that Fido was an alpha male.  He tried to dominate Ember and us!  Ember was so good and patient with him.  Because he had spent 8 weeks in the flat, without a garden his toilet training was awful.  You have to remember that puppies can’t go out until they have had all their injections, so you have to ensure you have somewhere for them to go in the meantime to train them.  This can be for a good 4-5 weeks if you have them at 8 weeks old.

I would put him out almost every hour during the night to try and train him.  As it was January, I can tell you now, it was not fun sitting outside in the freezing cold trying to get a puppy to go to the toilet.  It took about 6 months and many accidents to fully get him trained.

He did help Ember get more active, but sadly he died from a seizure 6 months later!

Ember was my world.  I couldn’t imagine my life without him.  He had been such a massive part of it for 10 years.  We had been through so much together.  I can’t even tell you how devastated I was.  Fido would never replace him but coming home to him helped take away some of the pain.

IMG_2998

As time went on Fido started to show some behavioural issues.  He chased cars, bikes, lorries, joggers etc when out walking, barked at the slightest noise, wouldn’t let my hubby or I leave the house without him to mention a few!   It was a complete nightmare.  When he was calm he was lovely, but I was struggling with him.  We took him to puppy training but he kicked off around the other dogs, so we spent the 8 week course either in the carpark or in a separate area.  I really didn’t know what to do with him.

I spoke to the vets who recommended getting a dog behaviourist in.  We did this and the second she walked through the door she identified the issue.   She said he was constantly in ‘fight mode’.  She said that the first few weeks of bringing a puppy home are crucial.  If you get that wrong and you don’t socialise them properly they will have issues.  She said a key sign is his face.  He looks like he has had a face lift his face is so tight.  It was going to take a lot of work and patience, but we could help him relax.

First thing we had to do was to walk him and our recent addition separately!  I used to take both our dogs out in the morning on my home.  My hubby now had to come with me.  He isn’t a morning person so the 5 am starts didn’t please him but he knew it was important.  We also had to walk him in a quiet area away from traffic, so this meant driving him for his walk.  A lot of distraction techniques were needed for noises or leaving the house.  That was 16 months ago, and we are still work in progress!

Fido has really tested me especially in light of how well Ember turned out.  There are times even up to a few weeks ago when I have thought of giving him up!  I don’t think I ever would, as I do love him dearly.  Its not his fault, its how he has been treated in his early days, but I want people to realise that dogs are not just cute, they are really hard work.

The new addition

After losing Ember, Fido was on his own.  My hubby and I thought he might welcome having another dog as company.  We knew he had dominance issues so felt that a female dog would be more suitable.   I wanted another rescue dog as the thought of a puppy filled me with dread.  I wasn’t sure I could cope with another 6 months of toilet training!

We did some research and found a border collie rescue centre.  There were a few dogs we liked the look of so arranged to go and visit it.

We had a look around and again there was one in particular I fell love with.  She was 2 years old and so cute.  She was a smaller collie and very loving.  We introduced Fido to her.  Initially it went well, but then his dominance thing kicked in!  We abandoned that thought although part of me for a while wished we tried harder with the union.  Thankfully someone took her a few days later so I was pleased.

After this experience we decided that an older dog which already had issues wouldn’t be suitable.  A puppy would however be able to develop around him.

To make sure any puppy we got was given the best attention possible, we decided to get one just before Christmas when we would be home for 2 weeks, then at work a couple of days before I was due to have an operation, which would mean another 3 weeks at home.

I researched breeders and found one which had border collie puppies ready around that time.  We drove up to Derbyshire to see them.  There in the corner of the pen was the cutest ball of fur.  She looked just like a teddy bear.  All the other puppies were running around but she was just curled up in the corner.  That was it, I was sold!  As she was ready we could take her home there and then!  We had taken a blanket with us just in case, which we asked the breeder to rub on the mother.   This way, she would still be able to smell her mum. On the drive home, I wrapped her in the blanket and cuddled her.  At home I had already bought a play pen for her so put her into it, so she could be introduced to Fido slowly.

IMG_3850

The first night she slept like a baby in her playpen next to me.  Not a single cry!  I got her up a couple of times during the night to go out to the toilet but that was it.

Fido tried to show his dominance and did attack her a couple of times.  As with most puppies they can annoy older dogs.   I was advised to leave them to it if they fought so Lola would learn her boundaries, but I just couldn’t see her get hurt or upset.    I put her in kennels with him a few months later and the kennels said the same to me.  They had a fight while they were in there and Lola has the scar to prove it, but everyone is right, she did learn very quickly.  Lola used to come to me for comfort, which I happily gave!  I wasn’t doing her any favours.  She was a delight.  Sometimes tough love is needed!

She was so different to Fido.  Her toilet training only took a couple of weeks.  In 2 years we have had less than a dozen accidents!  She is super intelligent.  Too intelligent!  Within 24 hours she worked out how to open the zip on her play pen.  We fenced off the garden as the two dogs were ruining our lawn, and she learnt how to open the gate!

Lola is a chewer too!   She has eaten jeans, t-shirts (both left on floor by hubby), my friend left a pair of leather shoes out (he was told not to) and she ate them!  She has chewed the kitchen table, chairs, sideboard, garden plants etc.  We have bought her dozens of toys, but they don’t last very long!

She is quite an independent lady!  Whilst Fido is very insecure and always wants cuddles, she is happy to be on her own.  She is very loving and loyal though.

IMG_1982

Both of my dogs have very different characters.  They can be hard work but the joy they give us makes up for this.  Being the breed they are, they need a lot of exercise.  This suits us as it means we get a lot of exercise too.   We also have someone who helps us out during the day.  We couldn’t have them without her.

Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I’m exhausted on the way home from work.  I really want to just go home, put my pj’s on, and sit on the sofa!   You can’t do that with my 2.  The second you walk in the door they know you need to go upstairs, get changed and take them out.   They won’t settle until you do!  I have to say though, once we are out, we are so grateful to them.

I really enjoy the early morning walks too.  You get to see foxes, deer etc.  It’s a time to think about the day ahead.  Frosty clear mornings are my favourite!

Because my dogs are very intelligent and need stimulation, we have 6 activity toys which we give them every day full of treats to keep them occupied.  Dogs who are bored will become destructive, so you need to know your dog well, and ensure you make sure they are comfortable and happy.  I also have CCTV at home, so I can keep an eye on them.  It has been very entertaining watching Lola, especially as she reorganises the furniture in the kitchen to make sure her bed is getting maximum sun during the day!

Weekends are a pleasure, as we have a great excuse to get out into the countryside for long walks.  Both dogs leap into the car with excitement.

I certainly would recommend a dog, but only after you have carefully thought about it.  Dogs are for life not just for Christmas!

 

Date Weekend – Day 2

img_2075

So I can officially call it a ‘date weekend’ as hubby’s birthday is now officially over!

It was due to be raining this morning, but I am pleased to say that even at 7 am the sun was out.  Yesterday we ran out of time to visit Hardwick Hall, which wasn’t a bad thing as it also started raining around that time. The plan today was to do a 10 km walk however we decided to put this off to a time when we had the dogs with us.  Instead, we will get up, have breakfast and head off to Hardwick Hall.  If we have time later and the weather holds,  we will go for a walk.

Breakfast at the hotel is buffet style.  I always say you can tell the quality of the hotel by the breakfast especially the fruit salad.  If it’s tinned its lower quality, up to all fresh – top of the class!  Today its a bit of both which is about right for this hotel.  The hot buffet is full of variety including the usual suspects of bacon, sausages, beans and fried eggs, along with black pudding, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and hash browns.  Great for my hubby but not for me though.  I was impressed to see gluten free bread.  This is not always readily available for anyone who needs this.  There is also a good mix of cereals with full fat and semi skimmed milk and even soya milk.  My friend Heather would be very happy with this breakfast selection.

I opt for the healthiest option of the fresh fruit salad with weetabix and semi skimmed milk, followed by baked beans, the better of the fried eggs, grilled tomatoes and a few mushrooms.  I don’t have any toast or bread as I had already had my HEB for a my weetabix.

We check out and head to Hardwick Hall.

Before I tell you about our day, let me give you my thoughts about the hotel.

Eastwood Hall Hotel

eastwood-hall

The above is the photo you see on all the brochures.  It looks absolutely lovely doesn’t it, however this isn’t the part of the hotel you see!  The smaller building next to it is some ambulance depot or something, then you come to the main reception building.

eastwood-hall

The hotel is very large with 150 bedrooms and 36 meeting rooms that can cater for anything from conferences to weddings.  Being a Saturday, there was a wedding on so the hotel and carpark was quite full.  There also seemed to be some rugby tournament for young boys on as there were hundreds of lads running around in their team rugby kits.  Because we had passed this ambulance buildings when we parked around the back of the hotel, my husband thought it looked like the back of a hospital so we were a little confused!

We checked in at reception and the staff were lovely and friendly.  Due to the shape of the building it was a long walk to our room.  This actually turned out to be a blessing as the room was very quiet.  It was clean and tidy and not a bad size. The only negative was the bathroom.  I always request a bath when we stay in a hotel and yes we did get one.  The only problem was you had to be about 4 foot tall to actually be able to relax in it.  The shower though was wonderful.  Very powerful.

eastwood-hall-nottinghamshire_031220140945402584

The hotel itself is set in beautiful grounds and if the weather had been better we might have seen more of them.

The restaurant was good with a good selection of food.  The service was excellent.

So how would I rate it?  Well lets break it down and score it out of 10!

Customer Service – 10

Cleanliness – 10

Bedroom – 8 – the bath let it down!

Restaurant – 9 – Fishcakes a bit dry!

Location – 9 – only 1.5 hours from home, good grounds

Value for money – 10 – I paid £110 for Dinner, bed and breakfast and a free bottle of wine with Great Little Break.

Overall – 9.3

So not a bad score.  Would we stay again – probably yes, especially if I can get the same deal again.

Hardwick Hall’s

This is 2 houses in 1 visit.  The first house is derelict and owned by English Heritage, while the other one just a few yards away is fully furnished and owned by the National Trust.  Both having amazing histories.  The sun is currently out so a fabulous day to start exploring the derelict one first!

Hardwick Old Hall

DSC_0133

This sadly is now a ruin but was originally the birth place of an Elizabethan lady called Bess of Hardwick.  One of the things I love about English Heritage sites is that you can choose to do a guided tour or an audio tour.  We always go for the latter as it allows us to wander at our own pace and take lots of photos.

Even though this home is now a ruin, you can still some of its original features.  As you listen to the history on the house and of Bess, you really start to feel like you know her.  By all accounts she really was a formidable women!  She had been married 4 times.  Her first husband died when she was only 16.   Her other marriages meant that she rose to the highest levels of English nobility and became extremely wealthy.  She was a shrewd business women with assets such as mines and glass making factories. In fact she was the richest women in England after Queen Elizabeth I!

Her fourth husband George Talbot really didn’t seem to like his wife very much and actually thought prison would have been a better sentence than being married to her!

It would seem that for Bess, showing off her wealth to everyone was important and that shows in both the halls.

Both homes have amazing views over the Derbyshire countyside.  It is strange then to wonder why Bess built the new Hardwick Hall a stones throw from her birth place.  I mean it wasn’t exactly small!  It was all about wealth I believe.  She didn’t abandon the old house when the new one was built as you would expect, she continued to live in both.  Unfortunately she didn’t continue to keep the old hall in good repair so it eventually became inhabitable and in the 18th century was opened to the pubic to visit it.  You can see though from the photos below what a stunning place it must have been in its time.

New Hardwick Hall

DSC_0173

Bess started building her new home in 1590 and moved in in 1957.    It remained in her family until the mid twentieth century.  The house was designed for her by Robert Smythson.  To show off her wealth, she filled it with the most beautiful of tapestries.  Many of which are still on show today.

The house apparently has more glass than walls!  It was the first English house to have the great hall built on an axis through the centre of the house rather than at a right angle to the entrance.

The gardens too are stunning.  They are filled with herbaceous borders, vegetable and herb gardens and an orchard.  We were there in spring so most plants were not out but the daffodils and tulips were beautiful.  I also had a little friend visit me in the garden, who brushed past my knees when I was bending down to take a picture.  He stopped for a while to make sure he got into the shot too!

If you want a day out I would certainly recommend both of these houses.  Each has its own character and charm.   The audio tour of the old house gives you a real insight into who Bess was.  I could talk more about her but then it would lose the surprise when you go and visit the house yourself.

After touring the gardens and houses, the plan was to take a walk around the extensive grounds.  Unfortunately just as we headed off the heavens opened, so we had to abandon that idea and headed home.

As we were driving out of the estate we noticed a carpark which had amazing views back across the houses.  The rain had eased off so we parked up to take some more photos.  We were down by the estate lakes so decided to have a quick walk around them before continuing home.  We are so glad we did as it gave us even more understanding of the vast land that Bess had owned in her day.

Getting out and exploring places like this is a wonderful way to get some exercise as well as to see some stunning landscapes and historical buildings.

We are members of both National Trust and English Heritage.  They cost around £80 each a year for a family ticket, however they are well worth it.  If you have children especially it is a great way to entertain them in the school holidays, teach them some history and also get a bit of exercise. In the last 2 days we have done over 35,000 steps which isn’t half bad!

To see more photos of our walk go to my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/JFgJ74hwPwg

Can you lose weight without exercise?

This is a question I have heard many times on the Slimming World social media pages.  Before I answer that though, let me ask you a quick question:

What is exercise?

For many of you when you saw the word exercise would have probably started thinking about one of the following:-

  • Gym
  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Tennis
  • Football
  • Fitness Classes

Am I right?  Thought so!

So how many of you exercise, especially daily?

Exercise comes in so many other forms though such as:

  • Walking – could be to shops, school, work or just walking the dog
  • Housework – vacuuming, dusting, ironing,
  • Decorating
  • Gardening
  • Washing the car

So if I now asked the question how many of you exercise, would that be different to your first answer?

Can you lose weight without exercise?

Going back to my very first question,  the answer is actually very few people will do literally no exercise.  The key thing to keep in your mind though is that you lose weight in the kitchen and inches in the gym’!

If you follow Slimming World’s principle of food optimising you will lose weight.  The key is to ensure you are burning off more calories than you are consuming.  If you don’t do high activity and you are not losing weight, maybe its your portion sizes.  One of the things I love about Slimming World is that I don’t have to weight a lot of my food as its free.  That said, I can’t eat constantly free food all day long and lose weight.  Keep a food diary especially in the first 4 weeks of joining, this will help you see where you could still make changes.  Talk to your consultant.  They usually ask you to hand your diaries in during the first 4 weeks so they can help you.  Make sure you do this.  You will be surprised how it will help.  A year on I still look back at my initial diaries to remind myself what I was eating.

Increasing your activity

As I have shown above exercise isn’t about going to the gym etc.  In this blog i’m going to avoid the word exercise and use activity instead.

To help your weight loss the more active you are the better.  This doesn’t mean you have to immediately go out and buy a whole new fitness wardrobe and join a gym.  Make a list of what activity you already do.  Not just the type of activity but how long you spend on it.  Then think about anything you do now that you could change!  Do you drive the kids to school when you could walk it?  Could you get off the bus 1 stop earlier?  Could you use the stairs rather than the lift?

The above all sound simple, but increasing your activity is!  I bought my husband a Fitbit a couple of years ago to try and encourage him to think about his activity levels.  He never used it so I decided to.  I was amazed what activity I did on some days compared to others.

They say we should do an average of 10,000 steps a day.  I know that on days when I work at home, even with walking the dogs twice a day, that is still difficult to do sometimes.

You don’t need to go out and buy a Fitbit either to track your activity.  Some mobile phones now have an app on them or you can buy a cheap pedometer from Amazon for as little as £6.99 http://amzn.to/2rC0y66

This may sound silly but I will go to the toilet upstairs rather than the one downstairs to increase my steps!  I’ve also been known to walk up and down the stairs a few times to make sure I hit my 10,000 steps!

So how much activity are you already doing?

I’ve already shown you that you may already be doing some forms of activity, but do you know how many calories you could be burning off?  According to an article in Women & Home http://bit.ly/2n6xu1X this is what they say:

  • Making the bed – 70 calories per hour – equivalent to 20 minutes Pilates
  • Ironing – 157 calories per hour – equivalent to 30 minutes of water aerobics
  • Sweeping – 161 calories per hour – equivalent to 30 minutes cycling
  • Dusting – 166 calories per hour – equivalent to 20 minutes aerobics
  • Vacuming – 178 calories per hour – equivalent to 20 minutes jogging
  • Washing the car – 344 calories per hour – equivalent to 45 minutes of swimming

I don’t know about you but I suddenly have the urge to clean!!

Tips for getting more active

If you want to increase you activity be realistic.  Don’ t set yourself goals that you know will be difficult to achieve.  Consider your current level of fitness too.  No-one can go from being a couch potato one day to running a marathon overnight.  It takes a lot of training.  You may also need to consult your GP for advice and guidance.

Pick something that you will enjoy.  I love the gym and dancing, both which my husband would absolutely hate!  Sometimes, getting friends to do the activity with you will motivate you, sometimes it doesn’t.  I know my husband would rather go jogging on his own rather than with someone else.  Also if they find an excuse not to go, you may use that as your excuse not to go too!

Don’t put pressure on yourself either.  It doesn’t have to be a formal session or cost money!   I can sometimes be found dancing around my house with my dogs.  Anyone looking in may think i’m completely mad, but its fun and keeps them active too!

I also have an Amazon Fire.  Anyone who has one will know that the song lyrics come up on the TV.  I had a great weekend with my 2 young nieces the other week dancing and singing along to lots of different tunes!  I was amazed at the number of steps I had done that day too!

Just going for a walk at the weekends with your family will increase your activity levels.

You may have things around the house you can use to increase your activity.  Especially is you have kids!

When I joined Slimming World I measured myself.  Every month on the anniversary, I measured myself again.  I was so motivated to see the inches coming down, especially if the scales didn’t feel like they were moving.

I used to to go the the gym before going to Slimming World.  My inches have reduced massively since I joined.  I haven’t increased my activity levels, I’ve toned.  I don’t believe I would have achieved the results I did by only going to the gym.  The new me is down to food optimising!

One word of warning!

Many weight loss programmes I have been on before allow you to ‘buy’ yourself more calories by doing exercise.  Slimming World doesn’t do that and I’m proof you don’t need them either.    Keep to the principles of food optimising and you will succeed.   The worst thing you can do is tell yourself you can have the extra glass of wine or chocolate bar because you went for a walk!

What activity do I do?

I’m very lucky as I get a gym membership as a benefit with my company.  The gym is also in the same building.  This makes it very convenient for me as I can go during my lunch hour.  Whenever I am in the office I always try and go for 30 minutes.  As its only a short time I concentrate on cardio.  If i’m not feeling great even 30 minutes on the treadmill walking is better than nothing.

As you know I have 2 border collies so every morning and evening they will get a walk.  This varies from 30 minutes in the morning to longer in the evenings and at weekends.  If we have a nice dry weekend, my husband and I love taking them on long walks in the countryside.

I hurt my back in 2015.  Previously to that I used to have an App on my phone to work on my abs.  It built you up gradually doing different exercises to tone your abs up.  I did it for about a year and actually got to a 4 minute plank which I was so proud of.  the App was free and so a great way to exercise with structure without spending a penny.  There are many other Apps out there doing similar things.

I missed working on my abs, so I bought myself an Ab machine.  This allows me to work on my Abs without putting pressure on my back again.

This was really cheap – less than £30 from Ebay.  I don’t think this specific one is available now but both Amazon and Ebay have similar ones within the same price range.

Every night I get it out while watching one of my favourite programmes and use it for 30 minutes.  I recently stopped using it for a few weeks and have really noticed the difference.  I’m now back on it!

My advice to anyone looking at their levels of activity is to make sure firstly you can do it.   Like me, my days of the 4 minute plank are over so there is no point saying I’m going to do it.  But I can still do by abs using my machine.    Don’t say you are going to start going to gym when you realistically don’t have time to go because of the kids etc.

Secondly, do something you enjoy.   If its a chore you will lose interest very quickly.

And finally build it up gently.  You will do more harm than good if you push yourself too hard too soon.  You will either find it too difficult and lose interest or you will injure yourself.  The same goes if you decide to join a friend in their activities.   I have a colleague who has now joined the work gym.  When she first joined she tried to do the same as me!  I’ve been going for 4 years.  I could see she was struggling to keep up with me so suggested to her she starts walking on the treadmill and builds herself up.  I admired her for her commitment but we were never going to be at the same level.  That is not disrespect to her.  I struggled when I first joined and had to build up slowly to where I am now.   She took that on board and no longer tries to keep up with me.   I hope this will help increase her activity levels and