Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Power Hoop

About a month ago, a friend of mine on Facebook asked if anyone would be interested in a Power Hoop class in Brentwood. I was really intrigued; I’ll try most things once! I did a bit of research and decided I really liked the idea of it, especially as my number one body niggle is my core. When I followed the Power Hoop link I saw that the hoops are weighted which ultimately makes it easier to gain the momentum and yet provides a degree of resistance. Their hoops are quite pricy so I went on Amazon. There was a big range. Unsure what weight I would be suited to I spent ages umming and ahhing over the reviews. Eventually I decided to buy a 1lb hoop. When it arrived I was excited and I gave it a go straight away but I was a bit disappointed that I found the 1lb was too light for me. It was still fun all the same, and it was challenging going anti-clockwise! My upper body also felt worked out as I had to keep my arms out of the way, but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it with my arms relaxed. It’s actually quite good fun hooping around to MTV Dance and the movement feels really nice and feminine. 

I didn’t want to fork out for a heavier hoop, so I bought some steel garden wire and some electrical tape and added a bit more weight to my hoop DIY style! A week or so later my sister and I went to the B-fit expo in the London Excel Centre where Power Hoop had a stand and I had the opportunity to try a heavier hoop and I loved it, it’s also shaped so that it massages your core as you work out. I’m very gutted I went for the cheaper option, you certainly get what you pay for! I’ll eventually end up spending more de to the false economy! Whilst at the expo I purchased a DVD from Power Hoop to work out at home whilst I wait for the classes in Brentwood to start, which I have to admit I found a little bit boring and preferred to stick to free styling it with MTV Dance!

Because of the DVD I started to worry that the class being set up in Brentwood might be boring too, so when the date came I was actually dreading it! I had to go though because I had told my Facebook friend that I would and that’s just the way I am. When I walked in with my cheap DIY-extra-weight hoop the instructor took mine off me and replaced it with one of her 3lb hoops which worried me – could I do a whole hour with a 3lb hoop?

I needn’t have dreaded it or worried, the class was so much fun! Being the first one, we were all in the same beginner’s boat that it was really relaxed and fun. The instructor was also really good fun and encouraging – to my amazement she taught us all how to walk around with our hoops within the hour! I had tried this at home many times and simply failed! Some of the songs we hooped to and others we danced to, using the hoop as resistance for moves such as bicep curls. The hall was too small for us to move around too much so we’re going to look for a bigger one, but for now we are meeting on a Tuesday evening 8pm at the Knights Way Centre, Brentwood. The class is £6.00.  

Monday, 27 February 2012

Brentwood Busimums Network

On the last Monday of the month at 09:30 I host the Brentwood Busimums Network at Larchwood Childrens' Centre, Brentwood. It's a child-friendly networking group for local business mums. We had our first meeting in January, so today will be our second meeting. 

In January I did a brief presentation on Value Engineering, and this month Claire Mackaness will be doing a short presentation on the value of social networking, as well as providing cake using ingredients from her new Your Inspiration At Home (YIAH) catalogue. 

The sessions are totally free to attend but please be aware that it is incredibly informal - we join our little ones on the floor! 

I have provided last months' notes from my Value Engineering presentation below: 

Value =          Quality
Value engineering aims to reduce costs without compromising the quality of a product or service. Compromising quality would reduce the value of the product or service completely.  
Benefits of Value Engineering include:
  • A clearer understanding of your customers needs
  • Consideration of more options, alternatives and innovative ideas
  • Increased efficiency in production or delivery
  • Promotes a holistic approach, encourages Whole Life Costing techniques to be used, and minimises “false economies”
  • Achievement of optimum value for money, with sole focus on the purpose of the product of service, value engineering can sometimes lead to increased quality.
  • Improved team working.
Depending on the industry and the size of the company carrying it out, value engineering involves the collaboration of key role players, designers and sometime specialist external value engineers. They come together for a few days where they will follow a set procedure which will resemble:
  1. Understanding the brief and the clients’ objectives
  2. An audit of solutions and processes
  3. Critique
  4. Exploration of alternatives
  5. Discussion
  6. Decision
A client wishes to have their garden re-landscaped. The designer has the opportunity to ask the client many questions in order to formulate a brief. Standard questions include the exploration of the uses of the garden, what the client would like and how much they are willing to spend etc.
Using Value Engineering, the designer would encourage the client to expand upon those uses, how often they will be using certain aspects and what for exactly, which things are the most important. For instance, the client could simply say that a lawn area is important. If the designer specifies a medium quality lawn, it might not be sufficient of the client was looking for something on which to play boules, and conversely if it is important to the client for their children, a medium grade lawn may be over specific and thus wasting a proportion of the budget which may have delivered better value if spent elsewhere within the scheme.  
In a nutshell, elaboration of the client brief and taking the time to properly understand it together with alternative solutions enables the designer to ensure that they are allocating more of the budget to the most important features, thus providing optimum value for money.  

This process can be modified to suit most business industries.
I hope that you find my handout useful and do let me know if you would like to come along to the next meeting.


Friday, 24 February 2012

It's where the magic happens

In my garden, it’s where the magic happens. I love sowing seeds in the greenhouse, in fact I love working in the greenhouse full stop. It’s so relaxing and I love the mild temperate. When we moved in, repairing the broken panes was the first job I did in the garden. Sadly more have broken since and I need to repair them again. 

The first job my husband did in the garden was to reduce the crown of the apple tree. I’m not allowed to tell you how old the apple tree is because my mother-in-law grew it from seed when she was a child (the house was previously occupied from new by my husbands’ grandparents). Stupidly I was working in the greenhouse when he did it and was feet away from having a pane smashed on my head as a branch came tumbling down. My husband yelled my name, but I was a bit too stunned to respond. I think I might have been working in the greenhouse before he proceeded to work on the tree if I remember rightly… as a heap of branches lay on our lawn for the best part of a week I had an idea to make a small fence out of them to separate my vegetable patch from the lawn. My husband didn’t like the idea of doing it so being the headstrong person that I am, I announced that I will be doing it myself then! The following weekend I set out to build my fence. My husband watched and couldn’t help himself interfering as I hadn’t selected a method of executing the job that he would have. To be fair, his method was much better than mine and the fence looked great. He said it would only last a year as it would rot. That spring some of the branches used as posts had buds, which was interesting. It’s still there two years later. It might need a few extra branches to thicken it out a bit but it’s still standing. I love the way the grass grows long through it. I continued to grow vegetables from seed and began a battle with the slugs. I tried everything as naturally as possible before having to resort to pellets, I won’t be able to do that this year now little girl is walking. One of the natural methods we tried was introducing natural predators by building a small pond. This will need to be fenced off before long so that little girl can be safe.

There is a lot of junk in the greenhouse at the moment, where my husband has cheekily used it to store some items for Ellis & Mays over the winter. I told him it won't be long until I need the space back. As you can see from the photo above I also have a lot of repair work to be getting on with as mentioned before. My beds are currently all bare awaiting my seedlings which is very exciting. I'm considering spreading some green manure seeds again to supress weeds. The bees love Phacelia flowers and they're so pretty.

Apart from the greenhouse, my favourite spot in the garden is the south-east corner. It’s the last place to get the sunlight before nightfall. I begged my husband to build an extension to the patio to reach the spot, which he did in the summer. I usually have a little bench there. The space has been consumed by the log pile for now as above, but I will soon reclaim it as the days grow longer! When we were trying for a baby, my husband promised he would buy me an olive tree when we conceive. I didn’t receive it until after little girl was born, but I knew instantly that it would go in my favorite corner with the strawberry patch. Another lovely place to sit is in the “mini Stonehenge” that my husband built at the back of the garden by the apple tree. It’s slightly raised so you can look over the garden and it’s shaded so it’s nice with an ice lolly in the height of summer when it’s very hot and you’ve been hard at it weeding etc.The picture below doesn't do it enough justice, it has a curve to it, and my husband placed a cobbled footpath along the base. 

I am really looking forward to enjoying the garden with little girl this summer, not that I want to wish our lives away. 


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Weighty Wednesday

I’m in between weights at the moment. I have a dumbbell tree but apart from any lateral lifts my medium weights (2.3kg) are too light and my large weights (4.5kg are a bit too heavy for anything other than bicep curls and squats! Ideally I need some 3kg dumbbells. I can’t really justify buying them as I will soon progress from them (hopefully). I thought I’d have as little look on eBay to see if anyone is selling a used pair locally. What I did find was someone selling some spinlock weights. I thought that would be perfect as I can alter the weight as I progress, and a pair of cast iron dumbbells will look better than my cheap vinyl ones!!! The ones on eBay were a bit further than I’m prepared to travel.

 I looked on Amazon for a new pair. They were £26.99 but I couldn’t really spend that without asking my husband first. When I suggested it he said yes on one condition – I have to cut his hair! Argh – I hate cutting his hair, he’s got a cyst on his head and I hate touching it now that it’s grown bigger (after pressure from the whole family, he finally went to the doctor, who says it’s fine).  Well, needless to say I cut his hair and then placed the order while he was in the shower.

I was really excited when they arrived and I assembled the dumbells for my ability ready for use in my regular workout the following morning. When I chose to buy these dumbells, I had only taken into account the weight of the round bits you put on the ends, and not the weight of the actual bar they attach to which are 1.25kgs each. So instead of attaching 1x1.25kg and 1x0.5kg to each end of the dumbells I only attached 1x1.25kg to each end making them 3.75kg each instead of the 3.5kg I was expecting but that's fine, it's only 0.25kg difference!

That afternoon I went to collect little girl from the childminders and when I got back, I found my husband stripped down to his underwear using them fully assembled in front of MTV dance! At the time I thought it was really funny, but I wasn't laughing when I woke up inthe morning to find I had to reassemble them for myself!  

Monday, 20 February 2012

Blog training with Claire Mackaness

I was taught how to build my own blog on Wednesday by Claire Mackaness and it was a lot of fun. She came to my house (with delicious cupcakes and a sample of her YIAH Mediterranean risotto mix) and showed me one to one how to set it all up in the comfort of my own office. I could have done the basic stuff myself, setting it up, making it look pretty etc but Claire added value to the whole thing by sharing her knowledge in some things that I would never have found out simply by having a play and looking around the site. She showed me how to schedule the publish dates, so that when I find myself on a bit of a roll and I start going on a tangent to a different subject, I can cover several releases in one session. This is an excellent time management tool too, as sometimes making time for an activity is a lot harder than actually executing it. She showed me how to add extra features and gadgets including some that are available that I would have otherwise not known about, and she showed me how to add links to my blog texts.

She also showed me various methods of adding pictures to my blog entries and this is where the fun really began. Not only did she show me how to copy a link to an existing picture on the web, but she also took me into my garden and it's hard to explain, but she taught me how to view my world in blog entry pictures. We got creative in the kitchen collecting ingredients from the last meal I cooked for my baby to support a blog entry, we took photographs of my greenhouse so I can show all my readers where the magic happens. We took pictures of my currently naked vegetable patch, the compost heap, the rustic apple tree branch fence, and the old apple tree swing at the bottom of my garden.  

I recommend training with Claire if you are considering starting your own blog because it really adds value to what you can include in it. Click this link for Claires' website, a two hour training session in a single discipline is £45. She also offers Twitter and Facebook training.   

Friday, 17 February 2012

Quinoa stuffed peppers... a successful experiment

My little girl isn’t a fussy eater, she’ll generally eat what she’s given. If she’s not too keen on something, or dislikes the texture, or simply gets bored of it too quickly, the meal will take a longer time to feed and a higher proportion of it will end up on the floor because she’d rather play with it than eat it.

It is definitely worth making a note of culinary successes. To date my most successful meal has been an Annabel Karmel cheesy pasta recipe which always gets eaten very quickly and last night I finally saw my little girl eat something else just as keenly! 

I had some peppers in the fridge that were about to turn all wrinkly so I decided to stuff them with cous cous. So I cut the “lids” off the peppers and removed the pips and set aside and went to get the cous cous. Panic… where’s the cous cous gone? Ah yes, I remember I finished it a few weeks back! What do I do? I don’t have time to make rice because I have to go out running in an hour… then I had a lightbulb moment – I had some quinoa I’d tried to have instead of rice as part of one of my many crazy diets in the past. I located it and it was not drastically past it’s best before… as I was cooking it I became concerned about it being a little bland, so I mixed in some cream cheese and caramelised red onions. I stuffed the peppers and put them in the oven. 

I had some leftover quinoa and decided to give it a try (I always eat after running) and it was very yummy but I love food and most things are yummy to me! The ultimate food critics in our house are my husband (he once went without dinner at all because he hated my vegetable biryani so much) and of course my little girl, who will feed it to the imaginary dog on the floor if it’s not up to scratch. Sadly my husband was unwell but little girl loved it! She kept nodding with approval and saying “mmmmmmm”. Success!

Unfortunately my husbands headache deteriorated and I was unable to go out running, but the delight from seeing Jessica enjoy my food dampened my disappointment. I did an extra workout on EA Sports Active 2. I chose the cardio advanced workout and it was really hard!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

It’s all About Me... And my plants... And my little girl...

I am a mum of a beautiful girl who is the sunshine of my life. I want to spend as much time with her as I can, which is why I found it difficult to return to my job in London. The days were just too long, I’d wake her up, take her to the child minder, collect her, feed her and put her to bed. I worried that I’d wake up one day and it would be her Eighteenth birthday!  

I have turned to the life of the “Mumpreneur”. I began managing the commercial side of my husband’s new landscaping business from home and as time has gone by I have found that my thoughts have become increasingly entrepreneurial so I also do my own bits on the side to maintain a sense of independence. From a young age I have been interested in Horticulture. I have a BSc in it, so when we moved into our house and inherited a greenhouse it was inevitable that I would begin nursing vegetables and flowers from seed. I hate rejecting excess seedlings and in our first year I ended up with a little more than I could manage. I always fancied the idea of setting up a small nursery and now here is my chance!

In addition to this I have developed a keen interest in nutrition since weaning my daughter. I spend a lot of time preparing meals for her, my husband and myself and have ideas to generate an income from this in the future.

Life as a “Mumpreneur” is not an easy one. I’m constantly juggling conflicting demands. The need to gain some financial security versus meeting the needs of your child, especially those of attention which will directly affect your child’s confidence levels later in life. Then there is pressure from the hubby who doesn’t physically see the work I do during the day and thinks I have it easy...

I also get up to other stuff – I volunteer at the Children’s centre and help run weekly buggy walks, I run a monthly child-friendly networking club for other likeminded “mumpreneurs”, and I love to go running. I’ve still got a bit of baby weight to shift so for motivation I’ve signed up for the London Duathlon and plan to climb Helvellyn this year. I’m bizarrely addicted to EA Sports Active 2. My heroes are Chalene Johnson and Jillian Michaels. My favourite fictional character is Eden Sinclair (Doomsday) and my celebrity crush is and always has been Ewan McGregor, but I also like Tobey Maguire.     

Through this blog I hope to vent my challenges and celebrate successes. I hope it will serve as an inspiration to other working Mums and of course promote my enterprises and showcase the vegetables and flowers I grow and sell in my spare time.