4
Nov
2016

Goodbye to Blogging

Categories:

For the last few months, I’ve neglected my blog a lot and I had thought about taking a break for a while.  But I came to the realisation that it’s just not what I want to do anymore.  I think once you’ve lost that enthusiasm for something, it’s time to walk away and find something that makes you happy.  I’ve been blogging for almost 8 years now and it’s changed so much over the time I’ve been involved in it.  It started off as just a hobby for me and no one really knew what blogging was – I was always met with looks of confusion when I explained my little pastime. I poured hours and hours into blogging for years with little to nothing in return. I met lots of lovely bloggers all over the country. It was this fantastic little community of supportive, positive togetherness. Over time, the blogging scene has evolved into something completely different and for that reason, I just don’t feel it’s the right fit for me anymore.

There are some wonderful things that come with being a blogger but there are also some pretty horrible things that come from putting yourself out there. This has been a really stressful and unpleasant year for me and at times I’ve just wanted to sit in a corner and cry. The stress has been crushing at times and although I’m the type of person to always put on a happy face, it’s been a real struggle to stay positive sometimes.  I do leave blogging with a heavy heart because I’ve met so many good friends because of it, who will continue to be people I have in my life, no matter what.  It’s been so amazing to get to know people who have read my blog over the years and have watched my life develop. Your support has meant and will always mean so much to me.  Without you, I wouldn’t have had a blog so for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I am crying writing this, not because I am sad but because I feel like I am letting go of something that has been weighing heavy on me for a long time. Its very emotional to move on from something you’ve been doing for 8 years but I am really ready to move on and embrace a new chapter in my life. Thank you to everyone I’ve ever worked with in conjunction with my blog, for the wonderful opportunities and experiences and for the positivity and support you guys have shown me.

12
Oct
2016

Review of Sweet Deceits Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

***Firstly I’d like to apologise for the lack of posts on my blog over the last few months. The house renovation is reaching a really difficult and complicated phase and I find myself spending most days dealing with that, leaving me little time for much else outside my family life. WordPress has also been playing up a bit and there’s certain areas of it I can’t currently access due to some glitches! I’m currently dealing with all that so thanks for sticking with me through all this!*** 

I’m all for treating myself and when that treat comes in the form of chocolate and peanut butter? Well all the better in my eyes! I’ve tried the chocolate brownies and raw caramel slice from the brand and I’d have to say that the brownies are definitely my favourite.  They taste rich and indulgent and are also the quickest and easiest to make so that’s an added bonus. I decided to buy the newest product in the range to see if they’d match up to the brownies and I also thought they’d be a great pre/post workout snack. It can be hard to find healthy snacks that taste more like a treat and this brand is definitely the best I’ve tried.

IMG_4106

All of the Sweet Deceits dessert kits are refined sugar free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan and Non-GMO. They all come with really easy to follow instructions with all the ingredients neatly packaged up. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with them! I really like their no fuss packaging too.

The chocolate peanut butter balls are made with crunchy pea protein pieces that add a nice texture.  They were really easy to make and not as messy as I thought they’d be! A little tip is to pick up your peanut butter balls with a cocktail stick and dip them in the liquid chocolate to avoid making too much mess. You can make 15 balls with the mixture and the packaging states it takes around 55 minutes from start to end but I did it a lot quicker than that…it could be that I’m awesome or it could be that I’m very impatient. I shall let you decide!

IMG_4108

I was really excited to try one but I was a bit disappointed by these because in my opinion they are far too sweet.  They contain Stevia (a natural sweetener) and I would have liked the peanut butter centre to be slightly more savoury to balance it out.  Everyone has different tastebuds and preferences but for me they were just too sickly.  I much prefer the brownies which are also sweet, but the chocolate flavour of them balances much better with the sweetener.

I stupidly deleted the picture I took of the balls once I’d made them but here’s a picture from the Sweet Deceits website to give you an idea of the finished product:

Peanut-Butter-Ball-Inner

Pic courtesy of Sweet Deceits

The packs retail at £6.99 and you can get them from the Sweet Deceits website here.

This wasn’t a product sent for review. I bought these with my own money and I’m in no way sponsored or affiliated with the brand.

23
Aug
2016

My Thoughts On Carbs…

Before I say anything on this subject I’d just like to put a disclaimer up that I am by no means a nutrition expert and I cannot advise anyone on their diet.  I am simply sharing with you what works for ME.  In sharing this, I hope you can take some pointers on how to experiment with your own carb intake to make it work for you.  There are simple principles to follow but only you can know how you feel within the confines of your own specific routine and lifestyle. You have to listen to your body. Your overall goal also has a massive bearing on how you use carbs to your advantage – be it losing fat, building muscle or maintaining. My personal goal is to lose body fat whilst building lean muscle mass.


This post idea came about because whenever I post my meal prep on a Sunday, I get a lot of comments and messages about carbs.  More specifically, the fact that I eat them before a workout. I noticed that my body fat percentage began to plateau after rigidly sticking to the eating plan I used on the 90 Day SSS Plan. At first I couldn’t understand why it was happening because it had always worked up until that point. But then I was missing out a very important factor.  My training had changed.  I was training harder and for longer than before.  I was also working out 5 times a week instead of 4 days. Sticking rigidly to any eating or training plan for an extended amount of time is bound to end up in a plateau because your body simply adapts and gets used to what you are doing. You have to change things up and keep it guessing.

Now I’m sure you’re all aware that my serious foray into fitness was kick started by going on The Body Coach 90 Day SSS Plan last year.  Cycle 1 and Cycle 3 are very much based around only eating carbs post workout.  I progressed well during the plan using this guideline.  However, once I finished the plan and was going it alone, I found that constantly following that golden rule started to impede my progress rather than aid it.  The more intensive my training became, I found myself getting fatigued more quickly and a lot more hungry. A first I felt guilty for being so hungry all the time and then I realised I should listen to my body and give it what it needs. It makes sense that the more intensive the training, the more carbs will be required to fuel yourself.


A lot of people seem to be very scared of carbs and fear they will make them gain fat.  However, it’s all about when you eat them and making sure you’re getting them from a quality source i.e. wherever possible choosing complex carbs. I’ve been asked if I carb cycle but for me that just becomes too complicated and I hate having to think too much about what I’m eating. I am a perfectionist by nature and that type of thing definitely encourages an obsessive element that I definitely do want to encourage in myself.  It works great for some people but for me? No.  Different strokes for different folks and all that.  This is all about finding a healthy, balanced lifestyle that works for you, that makes you feel happy and strong and nourished.  You’ve got to play around with different elements to get the right fit and balance to keep you happy both mentally and physically. I don’t se much point in coming up with something too restrictive because it simply won’t be sustainable.

I decided to start experimenting with carbs to see how it affected my body. After all, everyone is different and depending on your metabolism, activity levels and exercise intensity, you’re bound to react slightly differently than the next person. Some people function quite well on a low carb diet but me? Not a chance! I went from having a low carb breakfast and lunch and a higher carb dinner post workout to having a little more carbs in my lunch before working out.  This little tweak to my diet has made a whole lot of difference. In my personal case, this is how my day is generally structured:

7am: Fasted HIIT (20 mins high intensity)
7:30am: Breakfast (generally something like protein pancakes, porridge or sweet potato hash browns and eggs)
10am: Brisk walk with the dogs (approx 2-3 miles)
11am: Snack (usually a protein ball, fruit, nuts or greek yoghurt)
1pm: Lunch (I always make sure I get a good amount of protein, veg and about 30-40g of carbs and this gives a good couple of hours for the carbs to digest and go to work to fuel my training)
3:30pm: Weight training session (I weight train 5 times a week for about an hour per session)
4:30pm: Protein shake post workout
5:30pm: Dinner (I cook this meal from scratch and ensure I get a good protein source, veg and about 100-125g of complex carbs)
6:30pm: Brisk walk with the dogs (approx 4 miles)
7:30pm: two squares of dark choc (this stops me from craving a chocolate binge!)

I’m not showing you this as something to follow to the letter, but simply to demonstrate why I eat the way I do and the logic behind it.  I eat a small amount of carbs a couple of hours before training to make sure my blood sugar levels are up and glycogen are full prior to starting on the weights. Since lifting heavier I started to find that I didn’t have the energy to really push myself. But since adding in the small amount of complex carbs into my lunch, I’ve found this powers me through and has allowed me to progress much more. I’ve continued to become leaner and have more muscle definition eating this way. I also like to have a high protein snack between lunch and my weight training because it’s supposed to help with muscle repair, increases resting energy expenditure for up to 48 hours and helps maintain lean muscle mass during high intensity workouts. I generally sip on BCAA while I’m actually weight training.


So what does a rest day look like for me? Well Wednesdays and Sundays are my rest days and thats when I tend to keep the carbs pretty low. So ill have something like an omelette for breakfast, a protein snack, some chicken and veg for lunch, another high protein snack or fruit, then a dinner with about 80g of complex carbs. I always try to plan a cheat meal on a training day just so my body is already fired up to burn more calories at rest. Even on rest days I will still take the dogs for two brisk walks and if I feel like I have the energy I’ll do some low intensity cardio on the rowing machine.

Like I said previously, it does take a little time and experimentation to find the right balance for your body and a lot of it is about using intuition.  You know your body better than anyone does. Everyone will have different opinions on various different aspects of fitness and nutrition but as long as what you’re doing is balanced, healthy and encouraging progress then you know you’re on the right track.

17
Aug
2016

House Flood Renovation Update

Categories:

I haven’t been too great at blogging over the past few months and I’m completely aware of it but sometimes life takes over.  If you’re a regular reader of my blog or you follow me on social media, you would have seen that our house was flooded up to chest level during Storm Frank in January this year. That was over 7 months ago but the building work has only just started on the house this week! People kept asking about progress and I got so frustrated having to give the same answer all the time…”nothing is happening”.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 13.52.44

Above: This is where the kitchen will be and those two windows will be joined to create a huge picture window looking out on the river that will spread the length of the room and wrap around the building at 90 degrees to the left of the picture.

You can all imagine the stress of delays and paperwork and false starts and regulations and the like. It’s been a very stressful few months with a few other things that have happened which have added to that. I think this is definitely a massive reason why I got into my fitness so much – because for me working out became a fantastic way to work through my stress and frustration at the situation. It’s literally kept me sane at points where I just wanted to sit and cry!

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 13.52.48

Above: This is where the staircase used to be and the original kitchen. The supporting walls have been removed as you can see to allow for the restructure of the rooms.

If you had seen the news coverage during Storm Frank, you’ll know the devastation it caused to so many families.  To see our home, which we’d spent so much time, effort and money on, being destroyed was something I’ll never forget.  Watching the water pour in is an image which is forever burnt into my memory. I think once something like that happens, people assume that the insurance company pays out, the house is sorted out within weeks and you go on your merry way.  This is not the case for the majority of people.  What actually happens is that there’s a very long period of phonically and negotiations and periods where you hear nothing at all.  So you wait and try to get on with daily life.

You experience high levels of stress in the months following the incident. It’s a bit like post traumatic stress where you convince yourself you’re fine and then you have a mini meltdown out of nowhere. The delays we have experienced have been so frustrating and also the financial strain of having to pay out a lot of our own money to get the place sorted out. Everything you have mentally, emotionally and financially goes into getting the house back to what it was. The insurance company only pays like for like. So if your building is as old as our converted water mill (from the early 1800’s) then you have to put updated flood prevention measures in place. Just when you think you are making progress, you take 10 steps back. You need surveyors and architects and flood prevention engineers and things have to be signed off.  It take a hell of a lot of time.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 13.53.15

Above: This is the downstairs living room and dining room and as you can see all the plasterboard has been torn out that was affected by the flood water.

The house has essentially been completely stripped internally.  Even the staircase has been removed because there was extensive diesel contamination throughout the house. Walls have been torn down and flooring ripped up and the house really is just a shell at the moment. It’s only been recently that I’ve actually felt ok about visiting the site.  It was just too upsetting before and stressed me out too much. But something that has never gone away is that I miss that house terribly. I miss the whole vibe of the place. I miss the river and the wildlife. I just miss my home. I’m homesick.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 13.53.33

Above: This is the downstairs spare bedroom looking into Conor’s nursery. All the plasterboard and flooring has been removed so there’s just the original tile floor left.

We were lucky to find such a lovely place to stay in the mean time and I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has done everything they can to help us.  However, we are still pretty much living out of boxes and that creates this constant unease and makes it difficult to relax.  It’s a nice house but it’s not home. But this week the joiner, electrician and plumber are getting started so it feels good to finally be heading in the right direction. I don’t think we will be back in the house until late October/early November. We have taken the opportunity of the flood to move the kitchen upstairs in case of any future floods, meaning that hypothetically we could still live in the upstairs of the house as that’s where the front door is located. We are moving the bathroom to where the kitchen was downstairs so it would be easy to block up the pipes and prevent issues, should the house ever flood again. The upside is that flood gave us the opportunity to make decisions to protect the house in the future, make it more practical for our lifestyle and it means I’ll have a brand new kitchen (something which I’m VERY excited about because the last one was tiny!).

So the last few months have been a struggle but we are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel now and I’ll keep you all updated on what’s going on. Thank you so much to all of you who have taken the time to ask how things are, how I am coping and even offering help. It means the world to me and it’s lovely to know there’s such kindness out there.

1
Aug
2016

Union Square Summer Food Fest

If you’re a bit of a foodie at heart then you’ll definitely be interested in what’s going on at Union Square in Aberdeen at the moment. They are currently hosting Summer Food Fest which runs from 4th July to 15th August and it includes lots of new seasonal menus at the restaurants within Union Square. You can take advantage of great discounts using the Union Square PLUS App available to download from the Apple store or Google Play.  There’s a chance to get free food samples throughout the duration of the Summer Food Fest and remember to check the competition tab on the app as there’s currently a chance to win various different amazing food treats!

I dine at Union Square quite a lot because it’s just so convenient to pop in after a long day of shopping. My favourites have to be Las Iguanas, Thaikhun and Giraffe.  However, I was invited along (with my mum and Conor in tow) to sample the new seasonal menu at Coast To Coast which I’d actually never been into before. They specialise in all-american classic dishes with the decor taking inspiration from american sports bars with leather booths and classic memorabilia on the walls. It has a very relaxed vibe to it and is very child-friendly, as well as a great place to catch any big matches on the widescreens behind the bar. I loved the music that was played in there too…old skool motown, soul and classic rock. It basically caters to a wide variety of needs and the layout of the restaurant lends itself well to that ethos.

Coast To Coast

There are some delicious mocktails on the menu including the Elderflower Cucumber Cooler which is so summery and refreshing and Tropical Root Fizz which is for those with a sweet tooth! They do all the usual standard cocktails but I was driving unfortunately so I couldn’t have a tipple. The peanut butter and key lime pie martinis sound amazing!

coast2

The staff were really friendly and helpful and before long we had a selection of the whole menu sitting in front of us.  We kicked things off with a starters platterWe knew we wouldn’t be able to finish everything so we did our best to make sure we tried everything.  The garlic and mozzarella flatbread was divine and I literally could have just eaten all of it…but I held back…just! I loved the loaded potato skins with bacon/cheese or brisket and BBQ sauce.  A seriously tasty mouthful! The chicago chicken wings and sourdough bruschetta were gorgeous too. A platter is always a great idea for a small group because there’s something for everyone and the variety is great too.

coast3

Next up, we got a taste of some of the main courses. A couple of mini beef and chicken burgers, mac and cheese with ham hock, sweet potato and potato fries and the american club sandwich.  It was a whole lot of food! I loved the burgers and sweet potato fries will always be a favourite of mine but the mac and cheese could have done with a stronger cheese sauce as it was a little bland. The american club sandwich was absolutely HUGE so if you go for that I would recommend the lunch version instead of the main which is gigantic. Unless you fancy a challenge!

coast4 coast5 coast6

If you like your classic american food and your portions on the larger side then this place is definitely for you! It has a very relaxed, laid back atmosphere and it’s a great place to meet with groups of friends because they have these really cosy circular booths so no one is left at the end of the table.  Their pizzas are served chicago style and although I didn’t have room to try the desserts, the ones I spied whilst I was there looked awesome.

coast7

The best deals I have spotted on the PLUS app are:

  • 25% off at Ask Italian
  • 20% off at Coast to Coast
  • 30% off at Pizza Express
  • Free dessert at Thaikhun

I’d advise downloading the app before you go so you can consider which option would be best for you and also to make sure you to full advantage of everything that’s on offer!

*(disclaimer: I was given this taster menu free of charge in exchange for a review – I do not profit from any affiliate links included in this post)*