7 Ways to Improve Your Winter Experience

 

 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think this winter is never going to end.

 

I feel like I have looked out of the window to a sky the colour of overwashed white T. shirts way too many times and I’m more than ready for some spring sunshine.

 

However, even as I write this week’s blog post, more bad weather is imminent in the West Country.

 

Stuck in Groundhog Day misery, I’ve tried lots of different ways to keep my “pecker up” over the past two months, which I thought I would share with you, in case like me you need a little inspiration.

 

Get Outside

I know it’s been Baltic outdoors at times this winter, but wrapping up in a duvet-style coat and chucking on a pair of walking boots has been the highlight of some of my weekends.

 

Getting us out-of-the-house has worked wonders on a Sunday, especially when you know you’ve got another week ahead of long nights indoors.  We’ve picked places where we haven’t walked before, has a café shop near or thereabouts for a cuppa post walk, and has decent views to lift the spirits.

 

If we’d had a dog with us it would have been even better, but that’s another blog post.  The knowledge that a roast and nap was on the cards once home also helped ensure it was a Sunday well spent.

 

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Spoil Someone

 

It was my friend’s 50th birthday last October.  A big deal, we took a trip with our husbands to New York after many years of saving what we could from the housekeeping!

 

For her actual gift, I bought a three-hour Thermae Bath Spa experience and we agreed to go in February.  What a great idea.  A day out with a mate, who can make you laugh, remind you why you love, need and hold your girlfriends dear to your heart is just the tonic to fight the gloom of winter.

 

I know she needed it as much as I did and spoiling her for the day, with hubby as taxi, a bit of retail therapy, and plenty of booze thrown in was just the ticket and possibly too much fun for a Sunday.  But hey, we’re only “young” once.

 

It was also great to enjoy the sauna and steam rooms for a couple of hours.  We had a giggle while enjoying the heated outdoor pool over-looking the beautiful Bath skyline, and the delicious meal that came with the package deal was fab.  Thoroughly recommend Thermae Bath Spa,  if you haven’t tried it yet.

 

Read Up and Sit Up

 

I love a self-help or motivational book and I’d read a quote or two of Shonda Rhimes online that made me want to learn more from her.

 

I found that the writer of great TV shows that I love, like Grey’s Anatomy, had a book called A Year of Yes, and then found it was in my local library on shelf 12 (I love online access), so off I went to pick it up.

 

A great read, Shonda basically decided that for a year she would agree to anything and everything, where she would normally say no.

 

It’s a really honest read and I think a lot of it we can all identify with.  Who doesn’t like staying in their comfort zone?   But as you might expect, by getting out of it you can achieve so much more.

 

The book covers a number of areas including relationships, self-love and weight. I won’t go into detail and this might not be the book for you (I enjoyed it), but if there is something stopping you from achieving your dreams, there’ll be a book to help you out there.  Another positive way to while away the dark days

 

Try Something New

 

Valentine’s Day isn’t full of surprises in our house.  SP won’t mind me saying that he is a little rubbish at surprising me. So this year I decided that instead of cooking dinner for two, SP would. I bought all the ingredients for Sticky Pan-Fried Scallops, Sweet Chilli Rice, Dressed Greens and Quick Brownies to follow.

 

An hour and 40 minutes later and the kitchen is carnage.  I’ve offered SP a glass of wine on repeat after he first started swearing 10 minutes into cooking dinner, but he denied the “sweetener”, which as our main cook, I always lean in to when cooking something I don’t want to mess up.  But each to their own!

 

However, the meal was fabulous and buoyed by the highlight of trying something new, we agree as SP doesn’t have the kids tomorrow night, that we’ll go out to the pub for a cheeky meal.

 

We’re on a trying something new roll, so I go for a cod and chorizo stew and SP has a prawn linguine.  It’s delicious.  We also bump into three friends who come over to our table and say hi and SP outdoes himself in the drinking stakes (which will come back to bite him the next day).

 

It’s a successful week though, we have a laugh, and you know what we head into the weekend, not with the usual moans and groans from a week at work, but with a little more energy to make it special.

 

A change is as good as a rest and sometimes you need to switch the routine up to give daily dullness a kick up the butt.

 

Smell Good

 

I’ve been really keen to make my time indoors a better experience, so the fire has been on with its leaping (fake) flames.  New cushions, a pouffe and several new plants were also purchased in the Autumn to make our sitting room more welcoming this winter.

 

Adding to the ambience, candles have been lit most evenings.  I just love the smell and the way a scent can change how a room feels.  A favourite was the new Mandarin, Lime and Basil candle from Amphora Aromatics.  Fruity as you might expect, I found it quite delicate and could leave it on for hours at a time, without it getting over-bearing.  Loved it.

 

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Raid the Rainy Day Fund

 

I rarely reach for the rainy day fund and I’m not a fan of spending lots of money, in fact I drive SP mad with my procrastination, but this month I delved into the rainy day fund and bought a few things to give myself a boost.  It has rained, after all.

 

It doesn’t have to be expensive, though I did buy a winter coat, but even a pack of three knickers, can give you a real confidence boost when needed.  I found the coat in HM, by chance, and I didn’t need it, but it was cut so classically that if I’m not wearing it for years to come I’ll eat my (woolly) hat.

 

At the other end of the scale, I bought a new moisturiser in Boots, which was on offer for around a fiver

 

I can’t recommend Your Good Skin SPF30 Anti-Oxidant Day Cream enough.  It is formulated with Green and Vitamin C, is quite a heavy cream and has a slight sheen/highlighting quality to it, which I absolutely love for giving you a much needed glow.

 

My skin feels super nourished when I put it on and it gets rid of that tight, dry skin feel you can get during the harsh winter months.

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It’s certainly made me feel better, as has all the other activities.  I hope you’re getting through February without letting it get to you.  I know I’ve found it pretty tough this year.  If you are, perhaps try some of these tricks.  They might help.

 

And before we know it spring will be here….or it better be!

 

Have a great weekend.

 

Gail xx

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Love Running

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The least sporty person in my family, I have never been very athletic.  Always last to be picked for the netball team, I never once made it over the hurdle.   In fact, I would rather face those awkward cold sprints through the communal showers than attempt sports day.  But I love to go for a run.

 

As a child I avoided sport, but as soon I hit my 20s and wanted to look half way decent on the beach, I hit the gym.  Going with friends to aerobics, bums ‘n’ tums and step classes became as routine as brushing my teeth and I have always gone three or four times a week up until I settled down and got married.

 

With less time to commit away from running a home and work, exercise gradually sloped off my ‘daily grind’.  That, plus the cost of gym memberships seemed to be forever rising. I think my last membership was around £80 a month.  Before I knew it, I had stopped exercising completely.

 

SP had been a keen runner before I met him and his answer was simply to buy a pair of trainers, chuck on whatever old clothes he had lying around and get out on the road.  With trainers costing around the same price as one month’s gym membership it seemed like a solution.

 

And it was, I’ve been running for around 10 years now and I still absolutely love it.  I’ve found that although I’m not the quickest runner (I still wouldn’t get picked for the athletics team) I do have quite a bit of stamina and can keep going for a long time.  I have completed the Bristol 10k and nowadays look for hotels with a gym when we go on holiday!   There is even video footage of me running near Uluru one early January morning in 2017.

 

I love running because:

 

  • First and foremost, it helps me control my weight. Running is a great cardio workout.  It gets the heart pumping and uses lots of energy (kcals).  So, if I have a big night out, like I do tonight, I will go for a run beforehand, knowing I’ll feel less guilty sinking a second cocktail
  • It’s free. You only need a simple running kit – I’ve just bought a great selection of kit from Primark with leggings costing around £6-8 per pair.  You can spend as much as you want, but it doesn’t have to break the bank
  • You can squeeze in a quick run first thing in the morning, lunchtime or last thing at night. It fits into your schedule and you don’t have to go anywhere to do it, just leave the house
  • It is great for stress relief. I can let my mind wander, think through any problems, or drown them out with a playlist of good tunes.  Either way when I get in the shower I am in a more positive mood, which is probably why I love to start the day with a run. So that I’m on the right footing for a banging day
  • I can run solo or join up with people. Most of the time I run on my own, but that’s because I work from home, so it makes sense to use the time I would normally spend commuting, exercising.  However, it is good to get some support or be supportive.  I’m a member of the free app Strava and you can see how others are doing and give them a thumbs (kudos) up when they beat their PBs

 

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What I’ve learned about running on the net….

Source: ww.guardian.com

According to a review of evidence in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, runners live three years longer than non-runners.

You don’t even have to run fast, or for long, to see a benefit. You can drink, smoke, be overweight and still reduce your risk of dying early by running – by between 25% and 40%.

The authors of the review say that no other exercise has such an impact – an hour of running will, statistically speaking, increase your life expectancy by seven hours.

Even a jog counts as moderately vigorous exercise. If you are time poor, you need run for only half the time to get the same benefits as other sports.

Running may be particularly good at shifting abdominal fat.

 

The last point is possibly my favourite and my most needed!

 

Have a great weekend.

 

Gail xx

 

Do you like running?  Or, if you don’t, what other exercise do you enjoy?  Leave thought and comments below…

How I’m Going To Tackle My Weight Gain

 

During the second half of 2017 I gave in, to weight gain.

 

Last summer I was in a really good place – happy at home, busy at work, was positive, up-beat, looking forward to my husband’s 50th birthday celebrations and two highly anticipated trips abroad.  Good times.

 

But, following my sister-in-law’s wedding in June, I had taken my eyes off the ball, eating-wise. I had stopped a Slimming World membership, which had kept me on the straight and narrow, because I was going to club each week, weighing-in and then promptly not following the plan.  I was bored to be honest.

Pic credit: Karly Gomez via Unsplash

 

Neither going up or down, I figured I was happy with my weight, four or five lbs heavier than I would like, but hey “you’re four or five years older than you used to be, Painter”, said my inner voice.  So I got comfortable with those extra pounds and took even less notice.

 

Until we got to the end of September and SP and I went to Porto for a 48-hour trip.  Enjoying great food, great port (he was only turning 50 once), it was “fun times” all the way.  Until I came home heavier and it was just two short weeks until I was heading to New York with friends.

 

Already making bad choices, it was a slippery slope, eating food not normally on my menu and drinking beer and wine to celebrate the joy of being in the big apple, the lbs piled on.

Pic credit: Herson Rodriguez via Unsplash

 

A week after landing home my mum became poorly.  As an elderly lady with little to no mobility it was all hands-on deck, but a lengthy stay in the hospital couldn’t be avoided, which meant my normal routine was up the gum tree.

 

Just to help create the perfect storm, I began to work freelance for an agency I hadn’t worked with before, which is like starting a new job.  I wanted to work to the best of my ability, as hard as I could, while still taking care of the stressful situation at home.

 

What I ate was the last thing on my mind and even though I couldn’t wear a lot of my clothes by now and I was feeling really sorry for myself, my stress levels were through the roof.  I couldn’t buckle down to lose weight and by now the world was in full-on festive mode.

 

I mercifully didn’t put on any more weight over Christmas – no parties, no tubs of chocolates – but the damage was already done.

 

It’s a new year and I am at my heaviest, and about as uncomfortable as I ever want to be.  Nearly a stone above my normal weight (11 lbs), I’d rather stay in my dressing gown (if no-one minds), but that’s not going to solve the problem.  My overall bug-bear is that I did this to myself.  I consciously made decisions based on not giving a damn.  Every time I made a bad choice, there was a voice in my head saying, “Who cares?”  Well, I should of.  I should of damn well cared.

 

Those damned choices have turned into bad habits that are going to be much harder to stop.  You see it’s not mealtimes that have ruined me, it’s all the hours in between.  I cook Slimming World meals, out of habit, 99% of the time. It’s just that in between all the good that I’m doing there is red wine, delicious craft beers, family bars of chocolate, ice cream (salted caramel is my fave), crisps and cheese balls that go in my tummy as well.

 

If you’re wondering why I choose to cook Slimming World meals, it’s because they’re healthy eating dishes based on common sense.  Nothing is off limits, in sensible portions, and the dishes are tasty.  I know many people love to up the protein, drop the carb, go plant-based and smoothie their way to great bodies, and that’s great, whatever works for them.  However, for me to try and lose/maintain my weight, I prefer to have more room to manoeuvre and cutting out food groups will eventually make me turn towards them again, with a vengeance, undoing all the good I’ve done.

 

When I asked SP what I should do about my weight, he said “eat less, exercise more”.  Simple isn’t it! Of course, those rules apply and make perfect sense, but it’s more complex than that.  For a start, going cold turkey on evening treats is going to be leg fidgety, arm twitchingly tough to do.  So, as well continue eating my Slimming World dishes I’m going to need to replace old habits, with good habits.

 

THIS is what I’m going to do.

 

Cut back on alcohol and make less calorific choices – I usually have a drink or two Thursday to Sunday, but this hasn’t been my rule recently.  I’ve gone off-piste.  So, I will re-install this rule and also choose spirits with low calorie mixers, avoiding beer and wine, which also leave me bloated.

Ditch the evening treats – SP has the sweetest tooth.  One of his Christmas presents was a jar of honey with a stick of honeycomb inside!  He likes to have chocolate every night and 99% of the time I join him.  I’m going to swap this for low fat yogurt and fruit, or low calorie hot chocolate (while it’s still cold).  Ideally, my aim is to reduce right down to a cup of mint tea post evening meal during the week and have a treat or two (within reason) at the weekend.

Share the calories (and fool myself at the same time) – I read an article before Christmas that said if you want to keep in control of your weight during the festivities, but don’t want to make yourself miserable by not having any festive goodies, just cut the amount you eat.  It actually worked for me.  Half the time I’m not hungry, but feel like I want a treat.  A bite or two satisfies me emotionally and the rest of it goes in SP’s mouth.  It’s win-win.  Similarly, a piece or two of dark chocolate does the trick.

Not use exercise as leverage to eat more – I think this is a common problem for many.   I’ve been for a run therefore I can eat a chocolate muffin and enjoy a glass of red wine.  That’s fine if you’re maintaining, but if I want to lose a pound or two I need to work towards building a deficit in calorie in-take.

Drink more water – Yes, it is really obvious, but I’m truly bad it.  I like to have three mugs of coffee of a morning, which isn’t great I know.  I need to reduce my coffee intake and drink more water, aiming for two litres a day.  I like to add cucumber for a bit of taste and choose to drink luke warm water so it helps my sluggish digestion.

Try new exercises to re-ignite my interest – I tend to pound the street, or run on the treadmill.  Doing a 40-minute jog or 25 min HIIT workout on the latter, and some days that’s all I need or have time for, but I can do it in a mindless manner, getting up early and jogging while I’m half asleep.  I will continue doing these, but I’m also going to try new exercises, like boxercise, to help ‘shock’ my body into action.

Switch up the timetable – I always exercise in the morning, after a coffee and before breakfast, which has always worked for me.  This January I am turning it round and exercising early evening. Often over the past four months I’ve gone to bed uncomfortably full. I’m hoping an evening workout will not only shock my body into action, but gives me less time to eat mindlessly.

 

So that’s the plan.  I’m hoping that these small, but significant changes will make a big difference.

 

I can do this and hopefully this time I’m not giving in!

 

Gail xx

 

Are you constantly trying to control what you eat?  What works for you? Please leave a comment below and let me know.

New Year New Me!

The end of another year is here! What a year. So much upheaval in the world and change afoot, it’s hard to feel sure-footed now, let alone have faith in what’s to come.

 

As a cog in a big ole machine all we can do as individuals is seek to make the best of the opportunities around us and try and make good stuff happen, while looking out for each other.

 

For me that means making my yearly commitment to setting new goals.  They don’t have to be revolutionary, but small changes in my daily routine can make all the difference, so I set weekly and/or monthly actions, with the aim that by the end of twelve months I reach my goal and hopefully have improved a situation.

 

1.To read more books.  I spend too much time on social media.  My favourites being Instagram and Snapchat of late.  I used to be in a book club, which I loved, but work got too busy and it took a back seat.  I think the only book I read this year was on holiday.  Poor show and I want to get back to it.  Realistically, with other commitments, I reckon I could read and finish a book every two months.  I also want to read more non fiction books too, so I’m planning on reading at least two in 2017.  You have to start somewhere…

 

Photo by Annie Spratt and Sourced from Unsplash

 

2. To spend more time with my friends.  I don’t have enough girlie natter in my life and I miss the inspiration.  Nuff said.

 

Photo by Anete Lusina sourced from Unsplash

 

3. I’d like to find more time to be quiet.  That means putting the mobile down before 8 pm, not having the TV on as much and removing myself from the daily grind that clutters my brain.  I’ve also being toying with the idea of learning about meditation.  Om…  Failing that, I do like a walk in the park with my thoughts.

Photo by Tirza van Dijk sourced from Unsplash

4. Plan what I’m going to wear.  I never, ever do this, unless it’s a wedding.  On a daily basis I chuck on whatever takes my fancy and I know I could improve my appearance so I  think just giving my wardrobe a bit more thought will mean I make better use of it and hopefully make me look and feel a little better.

 

Photo by Rosan Harmens sourced from Unsplash

5. Continue sharing.  I so enjoy writing the blog and I’ve been very grateful recently to receive some lovely comments from readers.  It really is a work in progress and I want to continue improving the content to make it more interesting for you.  I didn’t think when I started it just over a year ago that it would focus so much on fashion, but I seem to have headed down this path and found a subject that not only am I interested in, but others are too.  I also never imagined I would use my own photos, erm and appear in them, but I started doing that too in recent months.  I’m not sure how it will evolve in 2017, but the aim is to share the journey with you.  Please stay around for the ride.

 

Photo by Juliette Leufke sourced from Unsplash

When you read this I’ll be in Sydney.  It’s been a big dream of mine to return here since my trip in 2005 and now I’m here with SP.  We’re spending New Year’s watching the fireworks and SP is doing the bridge climb the next day before catching a flight to Melbourne. After that it’s Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and Byron Bay to stay with friends, before we head back to Sydney and the journey home.  We are away for three weeks and I’ll be taking a short break from the blog while travelling, but if you fancy seeing what we’re up to hop over to Instagram, where I’ll likely post a few pics.

 

Have a great New Year’s Eve and I’ll see you on the other side.

 

Gail xx

 

 

The Scoop on Great Gelato in Bristol

I haven’t covered food and drink for a while, so writing this week’s post about a new venue in town just shows that I think it’s really worth sharing with you guys.

Last week I met up with a friend for lunch.  Walking back to our cars, after having a bite to eat at Bambalan on the city centre in Bristol, we stopped by Swoon Gelato.  It’s right on College Green, opposite the Bristol Royal Marriott Hotel, and has a welcoming sign that says Gelato Time.  Too right.

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Whenever SP and I are lucky enough to travel we have a couple of traditions.  We ALWAYS buy a fridge magnetic (come on, it’s better than tea towels) and we find an ice cream or gelato parlour.  It confirms that we’re on holiday and if you’re walking around sightseeing you need sustenance to keep you going.  That’s why everyone is eating it, it’s basic holiday math!

I have been known to research gelato ‘pit-stops’ before we get on the plane.  There is a fantastic one just to the right of the Trevi Fountain in Rome and there was the time I made SP walk the back canals of Venice to find the much talked about, Gelateria Alaska, which is known for making fresh, interesting flavours.  He opted for a quirky one, but as you can see it must have been good.

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Back in Bristol and it appears that the true taste of Italy has come to us.  Oh happy days.  Swoon is owned and run by an Italian family and makes its gelato fresh, on the premises, each day.  Not only do they have eight regular flavours, including favourites such as  pistachio, Madagascan vanilla, mango sorbetto, strawberry and white chocolate, they also offer eight new or seasonal options which changes monthly.  You can have input too, as they have a Twitter flavour poll @swoongelato with a winner each month.

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I went for a classic cone topped with Amarena cheesecake and pistachio, but staff were very keen to offer little spoons of exciting flavours before I made my final choice and salted peanut and Bacio (which translates to chocolate with a kiss of hazelnut) nearly made it a three-scooper for me.  It’s okay, I restrained myself.

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Each flavour tastes exactly like it should and the texture, oh my days!   It felt like I was eating the best flavoured cream of my life. A snoop on their website confirmed that they do get milk and cream from a Bruton Dairy in Somerset and it’s always nice to know that local business is being supported.

While I tucked into my double scoop I had a little look around.  You can sit in to eat if you want, which I’d like to do another time. because wait for it, Swoon has this fantastic idea of warming up a brioche buns, splitting in two and filling the inside with scoops of gelato.  Seriously I have to try this.

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There are also gelato-filled macarons in pretty pastel shades and Sorbetto, which I cheekily asked to try.  The pear tasted as good as the fruit and a scoop of gin and tonic was as good as my favourite tipple.  Hello!

Of course, I can never come home empty-handed, SP was treated to a Raspberry & Pistachio Semifreddo. You might have seen him enjoying it on Instagram Stories?!  It was lush.

Bristol has really upped its game in recent months, as far as food and drink is concerned.  Lots of new venues are opening.  SP and I have enjoyed the Saturday stalls that have opened in and around the centre and harbourside and going for a mooch where you can enjoy a bowl of Thai noodles, a locally-made slice of carrot cake, artisan beer brewed nearby and now fresh gelato at the bottom of Park Street.   Who needs to go on holiday to find great food.

Did I mention that gelato has less fat than ice cream?  I shall be going back for more; there’s a brioche bun that’s got GP written all over it.

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Gail xx

Disclaimer: my friend introduced me to the team at Swoon who she knows well.  I was not paid for this post, but I did get a free gelato cone, which in no way sways my thoughts.  If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t write about it. I’ll be a happy paying customer the next time I visit.