Thursday, 26 September 2013

Summer's End

Well that's pretty much it. October is nearly here and our summer is over. It's been a pretty good one. We've just had our last BBQ in the garden after yesterday giving it a good old clean up. As you can see, I've really been neglecting the driveway - now it looks unbelievably spacious!

Most of the plants are dying back or being pruned - we've picked our berries and taken seed from the rocket. Only the pumpkin and the butternut squash are still going strong. More on that pumpkin when I pick it. We've kept the berry bush punings to dry out and use for mulch around the strawberries which have been the surprise success.
Tomorrow our lovely Morrighan kitty turns four and our thoughts turn to preparing for winter - and hopefully getting away to somewhere sunny!

How has your summer been?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Bloggers Christmas Slimming Club

After last week's bonzer beginnings, this week has been a little disappointing, as anticipated. To be honest, I knew things weren't going to go well!

Monday: I ate well, cycled to work, the gym and home and did my step class.
Tuesday: I cycled to work, the gym and home, did my aerobic and tone class but then went for a three course meal using a Groupon with friends. With wine. It was delicious and we had excellent mussels.
Wednesday: I cycled to work, then home, then to my Bootcamp class. We did the class, then cycled back into town where I had a two course meal as a mystery diner. With wine. Then we cycled home. So I cycled around 20 miles over the day, but I also ate a good deal of naughty food. Delicious.
Thursday: Back on the wagon, cycling to work, then to the gym, then going to aerobics and going home. Making reasonable food choices.
Friday: No exercise other than cycling to work and back, then made us a roast dinner when I got home.
Saturday: Walked over 15 miles, but had another single course mystery dine and then stopped at a couple of pubs on the way home.
Sunday: No exercise at all, but some pretty decent food choices.

The last glass of house wine and I got a short measure, so she gave me another small glass for free - score!

I guess I'm lucky that I only put on 400g this week, so I now weigh 59.9kg. That does still mean that I have lost 2lb overall towards my stone off for Christmas goal. Only 12lbs to go, we can do it!!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Bloggers Christmas Slimming Club

I'm back on the diet wagon, thanks to regaining my inspiration from my lovely friend Jane, over at 7hippopotamus. I'm back on recording my food and exercise intake using MyFitnessPal so I know where I am up to, and as my wii balance board seems to have randomly bit the dust, I am now weighing myself weekly before my Step class on a Monday.

So last Monday I plucked up my courage and stepped on the scales of doom. And doom there was...


Ouch. That puts me right back where I was last time I was trying to lose weight. None of this maintaining business, we're back on the losing game.

I monitored my diet. I made the odd good choice and the odd bad choice, but generally speaking I thought more about portion sizes and did more good than bad. I only drank alcohol on one night in the week (admittedly I had quite a bit, but hey, it was just one night. Drink responsibly Extreme Fans). I avoided snacks and when I didn't, I had less than normal. I literally cut myself a sub-1cm slice of birthday cake when offered it, just to have the taste, and that was enough.

Here's me on a tiny trampoline at a bootsale. Keeping it fit.

The weather's getting back to the point where porridge is a viable breakfast option as well, so that's definitely a help for me, gets me having less bread, cheese and eggs in the morning, which I would pretty much have in vast quantities every day if I could!!

I went to Step, Aerobics and Tone, Bootcamp and Aerobics again. I cycled a lot, then I cycled back again. And today I went to Step again. And before that class I weighed myself, and what did I see?


Woo hoo! That's 3.5lbs of my stone to lose before Christmas. That means I just have 8.5lbs left to go for a fabulous Christmas of fitting comfortably into my size 8 Levi jeans. Bring it on!! If you wanna join us, step right in, it's really helpful to have supportive friends!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

REVIEW: Yu! Healthy Snacks

Jus Fruit 100% Fruit Chews
 Now I'm back on the diet bandwagon, hosted by the lovely Jane at 7hippopotamus, I've been looking for some healthy snacks to get me through the working day when those hunger pangs hit. Luckily for me, Yu! sent me a delicious selection of their treats in response to a highly complimentary message I sent them on Twitter about their mango Jus fruit chews, which I had bought on a whim at Tesco and was absolutely made up with.

So, over the last few weeks, The Boy and I have been giving the whole range a go, to see how satisfying they are, which tastes the nicest and whether they really deal with that fanciful mood! I'm terrible for snacks at work. I never used to snack at all before I got my first full time job - now, it there are biscuits or any treats available, I just can't resist! I seem to get ravenous at work in a way I have never felt before. Perhaps it's all that physical activity and brain power I'm using. 

Yu! Jus Fruit 100% from fruit
These fruit chews are the first from the range that I tried. I loved the mango flavour, as it was a real hit of mango flavour with a chewy sweet style texture. They are made from fruit all squidged together and I found them satisfying without being too moreish that I ate the whole package in one go. I found I could stretch a package out over an afternoon, treating myself to one or two here and there in between jobs, which was loads more satisfying than just having a chocolate bar all in one go.

The fruit flavour is really strong and natural tasting, particularly the strawberry ones I noticed. A 24g package of these contains just 90 calories and is of course gluten and wheat free and suitable for vegetarians.

Yu! Bar
Yu! Bar
The bars are a mixture of a coated cereal bar and a real fruit layer. I found that these gave the most energy and were the most satisfying to eat when you were really hungry and needed something to put you on and help regain focus.

The bar is coated with a yoghurt layer which is light and creamy and pretty much like a thin chocolate layer, lets face it. But without the guilt - bonus.

Inside is a sandwich of cereal layers with a sticky fruit layer in the centre. I thought the wild berry flavour, a combination of fruits, was particularly tasty and complimented the creamy yoghurt well. The mixture of textures is also nice with the crisp cereal adding interest to the softer ingredients.

At 133 calories per bar for the wild berry, I was really surprised at how satisfying these were and I found them particularly good to take with me to the gym, to have shortly before an aerobics session, or directly after.

Yu! Fruit and Yoghurt
Now, you all know that when I do a review, the one thing I am is honest. And to be honest, I really didn't like these. Is is because the banana flavour was so concentrated in the fruit pieces that it tasted more like banana sweets than actual bananas? Well, yes, a little bit. I'm not mad keen on bananas at the best of time, so I was never going to be the biggest fan of these, but more, much more than this, was the comment The Boy made when I gave some to him to taste:

"They look like teeth."

 And yes, yes they do look like teeth. Which is gross. Sadly, Yu! only sent me the banana flavour of these snacks, so I cannot give you better news about an alternate flavour. I am sure the principle is sound, it's just this whole banana thing does not seem to work. 

If you do fancy the idea of eating little yoghurty, chewy teeth, then you'll be pleased to know that these are only around 116 calories per bag. So guilt free toothy pegs.

Yu! Granola
These were delicious, but I felt a much smaller portion size than the other snacks, presumably because the tasty carbs in the granola soon eats up your calories allowances, so you get less bang for your buck. Whereas the fruit pieces lasted me over a whole afternoon, I snaffled the whole pack of these in about 3 minutes.

I guess that shows you that they are pretty darn delicious though! And at 96 calories per packet you can probably cope with a short, sweet snack attack, just this once!

I happily give Yu! Healthy Snacks a stonking 8 out of 10 for the overall range. There are some flavours that didn't suit me and some formats I didn't like as much as the others, but the Yu! Bars and the Jus Fruit will certainly be a regular part of my work lunches from now on.

You never know, perhaps they'll sponsor my Christmas Challenge and help me get this stone off using only healthy, natural ingredient snacks... (I know, aren't I shameless?)

My Kalixa Spending Diary: The Anniversary Celebration!

 We were asked to try the new Kalixa Pay card which is a combined prepaid Mastercard and e-account that gives you the opportunity to shop securely online, over the phone or even in person - anywhere in the world!

It is accepted anywhere that Mastercard is accepted and you can even use it to withdraw cash from ATMs, which means it gives you added security against fraud and is a cheaper way to spend abroad by avoiding fees and loads on transactions. There are zero foreign exchange fees for the rest of 2013! In order to make it easy to keep track of your spend while you are away, you can also set up email or SMS alerts every time you spend over £5, detailing your transactions. It also gives you your remaining balance so you always know where you are.

It's not linked to your main bank account, so if the worst does happen and it is lost or stolen, you can rest assured that your main account details are still safe and sound.

An anniversary's worth of receipts!
It costs £6.95 to open an account with Kalixa, which is taken out of your first load amount of a minimum of £10. This includes both receiving the prepay card and also the eWallet service, so is very good value. I found it really easy to set my account up - you just tap in a few details, add your first amount to your card with a simple transaction that can be done through a range of credit or debit card, eWallet or electronic bank transfer methods and then kick back and wait for your card to be delivered. 
Brought our anniversary card to the hotel with us!

It looks just like a regular credit card, with a chip and pin and the Mastercard symbol. We decided to go on a spending spree for our wedding anniversary to road test it. I admit we were a little sceptical at first, thinking it wouldn't really be accepted anywhere, but boy were we wrong!!

We started off trying to decide what we could do with the time and money available. We wanted to have fun and spend some time together, so naturally we thought a night in a hotel would be a good little break. Nothing too fancy and nothing too far, so we when I had finished work for the day, we hopped on the bikes and rode out of town for about an hour.

We found a nice little hotel in an old 17th century inn building which was cute because of the beamed ceilings and idosyncratic, almost labyrinthine corridors and rooms. It was really cute and we were lucky the morning's rain tailed off and allowed us to really enjoy a nice cycle!

Once we got there we had our first test for the Kalixa card - could we pay for our room? I handed over the card and the receptionist didn't even look twice at at, he stuck it in the chip and pin machine and away we went. Simple! So time to do some more spending!

That evening we went out for a special anniversary dinner. We were so engrossed in spending time together that I completely forgot to take you a photo of the meals as they happened - but you can see that it was pretty tasty by the empty plates!

 We had a great slap up time. The Boy had a Mexican steak, smothered in chilli and cheese and all kinds of goodness that you shouldn't treat yourself to too often and I had fish and chips, since it was Friday! We had a very nice bottle of wine and even shared a portion of profiteroles for pudding. Naughty, but very very nice. Satisfied, we retired for the evening, but not before paying for the meal on my Kalixa Pay card. Again, not even a raised eyebrow - clearly the Mastercard logo is a reassuring sign for vendors!

The next morning, we saved ourselved yet more effort and washing up by going out for our breakfast and we tried to decide what else we could do for our anniversary. We'd done the traditional special dinner, but we wanted to have a bit of fun that perhaps is a little out of the ordinary for us... So distracted were we by this conversation that once again I forgot to take a picture of our tasty full English. Here again is another empty plate. Please apply your own imagination. 

With breakfast bought and paid for (thanks Kalixa!) we went a bit more off piste. We went back to the hotel and I used my Kalixa card to book and pay for our next activity on my iPod via the hotel wifi...

I just typed my card details into the website using my iPod and presto! activity booked!
We jumped on the bikes on what was a lovely sunny morning in early September and went thirty minutes up the road.

On the way, I got distracted by a garden centre that I had never visited before, and so The Boy was more than happy to pop in. We treated ourselves to a new thyme plant and a new oregano - and of course we paid via our Kalixa card. I really liked this as an anniversary activity as now we will have those plants for a long time to remind us of our fun weekend!

New herbs for the garden!
 After this short stop, we soon reached our destination - bowling! Of course, I'd already prepaid online, so we walked in, changed our shoes and got into a great fun hour of bowlingtasticity!

Now, I don't know about you, but I have not been bowling since attending people's birthday parties in school! It's got to be at least 17 years since I bowled!! Knowing people in bowling leagues, we have been to alleys, but only to meet them for a drink when they have finished not to actually play.

Surprise, surprise, I was pretty rubbish! We realised during the last game that we could get it set up to put the barriers up on my turn, but not on The Boys so I'd score fewer gutter balls, which was a very good technique as I won the final game! I was so surprised with two strikes at the end of the game that I just had to take a picture of the winning score for posterity and future gloating power!

Laura wins! Check out my two strikes at the end of the game...

After this, our appetite for things we don't normally do was whetted, so we went on Groupon to see if there was anything else fun we could use the Kalixa card to book online. And huzzah! 10 bootcamp sessions for 2 people for £20! That means we can keep fit and have some regular time together every week for the next 2.5 months - perfect!

While I was there, I noticed a great deal for a £46 meal for 4 - three courses with wine, so I thought I'd share the wealth and buy it so we could treat some of our friends as well.

Add your details and BOOM! Groupon booked
So that's an anniversary weekend made up of a hotel stay, slap up dinner, full English breakfast, trip to the gardening centre, prepaid bowling experience and we're lined up for a set of 10 bootcamp classes each and a meal out with two of our best friends sometime in the next week or two. A fabulous set of experience and not a single worry about the security of our payment or protection from fraud. Thanks to Kalixa Pay for making our weekend special. We'll be using this card all the time now - in fact I can't wait to try it overseas, so I'd best treat myself to a lickle holiday!! 

Edit: Since finishing our lovely weekend, I noticed on the Kalixa website that I could use the card for contactless pay - an opportunity not to be missed! So I mosied on down to my local Wetherspoons pub with a colleague after work and bought us both a well earned glass of wine. And presto! No pin, no messing about with cards in machines, no mucking about, just hold the card up to the reader and ping! for transactions under £20 you've paid! Isn't technology marvellous?

For more information and to register for your Kalixa Pay prepaid MasterCard 

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