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Mum to four adult children and two little monsters. A very special and different six year old and cleverclogs of a two year old. Starting a series of weight loss themed reviews.

Reviews written

since 21/10/2002


Stefit, Colchester 23/04/2017

Get Fit With Stef

Stefit, Colchester Up until July 2016 my only experience of organised exercise classes had been the torture commonly known as Aerobics in PE at school. I'm pretty sure that if my fourteen year old self could look forward 30 years, she would have laughed at the idea that I would not only be attending several classes a week but would actually be looking forward to them. So what (or more to the question who) is it that has wrought this huge change in my mindset, well read on and find out. Fitness With Stefit Based in the Manningtree/Brantham area, Stefit is a one woman operation offering fitness classes and Personal Training. With a variety of classes available there is something for almost everybody no matter what your fitness level. Classes are priced from £3 (for members of Busybody's Gym) to £5, or a monthly membership can be bought that includes all classes held throughout the month (except Buggy Boot Camp). The price of monthly membership does vary from month to month, but if you take more than to classes a week then it will save you money. Personal Training sessions can be held at a place convenient to you, whether that be in your home or in the great outdoors. While a 30 minute PT session comes in at £25, Stefit often runs special offers for members including two sessions for £30, or even better this month she held an offer of three sessions in the same week for £40. I have to say that Stef herself is bubbly and full of infectious enthusiasm. Although slightly crazy she has uncanny ...

Chelmsford Springfield Premier Inn, Chelmsford 22/04/2017

Tired, Inconvenient Springfield

Chelmsford Springfield Premier Inn, Chelmsford A couple of times a year we make a trip in to Chelmsford to meet up with my now adult children for a meal, this generally means spending the night in a hotel and then eating in the adjoining restaurant. For the last couple of trips we had stayed in the newly built Victoria Avenue Premier Inn but for some reason we decided to use the Springfield Premier Inn on our latest trip and to say I was less than impressed is an understatement. Booking Although it is possible to book over the phone as a regular user of Premier Inn hotels I chose to make my booking online and did so far in advance of my stay. When booking online there are a choice of two tariffs, the Saver Rate and Flex Rate, with the Flex Rate generally being a little higher but also giving you the option to amend or even cancel your booking up to 1pm on the date of your stay. As I was booking so far in advance I chose to book using the Flex rate, because as we all know life happens and there could always be unforeseen circumstances that demand a change in the booking. Prices vary wildly depending on the day of week and time of year but generally range from around £40 upwards. When making an online booking you have the option to add a meal deal to your booking, (which includes dinner and unlimited breakfast) or upgrade from the free to the Ultimate Wi-Fi. There are a number of different room types available but as I was booking in with my two younger children we were allocated a family room. Location Premier Inn ... 16/04/2017

Run, Walk, Hop, Skip and Dance for Life Around eighteen months ago I decided I had to do something about my weight and so began a new lifestyle of eating less and moving a lot more. In order to help track how much more I was moving I bought myself a Fitbit and as I began to get more active I was introduced to Leap4Life, a website that rewards activity with cold hard cash (well Amazon vouchers actually). The Premise Do you want an extra incentive to insert a little more activity in to your day? Do you own a Fitbit, Fitbug or Jawbone UP and enjoy the daily step challenges among your friends? Would you like to be rewarded for pushing yourself with Amazon vouchers? If the answer is yes then it may well be that Leap4Life is the site for you. On a very basic level Leap4Life is a website that connects with your activity tracker's app and allows you to enter challenges that are then rewarded with Status points, with some of the challenges also offering Fitwell points. Collect enough Fitwell points and you can redeem them for an Amazon voucher. Most of the challenges are Individual but there are also regular Team challenges where you team up with other members and it's in some of these challenges that the rewards are the highest. Signing Up I have to say that the sign up process was extremely easy when I joined, I signed up via Facebook and then linked to my Fitbit account. I don't recall it taking more than a couple of minutes or being particularly stressful, but the has recently been an issue with how the site links ...

Busybodys Fitness, Lawford 14/04/2017

Getting A Better Body at Busybody's

Busybodys Fitness, Lawford Located in the heart of beautiful Constable Country, Busybody's Fitness (Ltd), is a small, family run gym, that houses free weights, weight machines, basic cardio equipment, steam room, sauna and a floor area which is often used for various exercise classes. So that's the spiel, and if you add the fact that I've now been a patron of Busybody's for 16 months, I'm sure you can guess that I would recommend it for those that are within reasonable travelling distance. But let's get in to a little more detail. Location Busybody's is rather well placed as a local gym, being located on the main road between Manningtree Train Station and Manningtree Town Centre within Lawford Industrial Park. I actually walk there and back and the only real issue is probably the fact that no matter which of the two roads out of Manningtree I use still have to walk up a 10% hill to get home. For those that use cars there is a small car park on site, with free parking but this does get full at busy times. There is also a rail to lock bicycles to and the Clacton bus goes past every two hours (with another going to Colchester from Manningtree High Street, up that hill, every half hour during the weekday). For me, personally, location gets 10/10 but I couldn't imagine travelling more than five or so miles to get here. Opening Times While many big box (chain) gyms are open 24/7, Busybody's certainly are not, the opening hours aren't bad but I would like them extended at the weekend as I can't make ...

Member Advice on Weight Loss 10/06/2016

Little Steps To A New Me

Member Advice on Weight Loss Some people may think I'm a little hypocritical writing this now, after all I'm still very much overweight, but being halfway to my goal weight and having dropped more than 80lb, I regularly find myself being asked how I've managed to lose weight. So here goes nothing, I'm going to share the secret to my success and it may not be exactly what you expect. Let's Start At The Very Beginning I wasn't fat as a child, in fact I could possibly be described as a bit of a “skinny Minnie”, right up until puberty, when the pounds gradually began to pile on. By the time I had my first child I was more than a little bit overweight and as the years went by I just got bigger and bigger. I binge ate and ate for comfort, there were some events in my life that caused me a great deal of mental anguish and to make myself feel better I would eat. Some people self harm by cutting, I self harmed by eating, I thought nothing of eating a giant sized bar of chocolate in one sitting and literally didn't know when to stop. The scales were my enemy, I did managed to lose weight every now and again, but it would soon pile back on as I would lose the weight by starving myself (more using food to self harm, this time by with-holding) and then return to the binge cycle. When I did finally step on the scales on the 9th of November 2015 I was horrified to see that I weighed 289.5lb, which was 20 stone 9.5lb. As I'm a bit of a shorty at just 5'1” this gave me a starting BMI of 55.2, which meant that I was ...

Lego Ideas 21304 Doctor Who 03/06/2016


Lego Ideas 21304 Doctor Who What happens when a Dr Who obsessed six year old, who has just started “getting in to” Lego realises that there is a Tardis themed Lego set available? Well the pestering begins, doesn't it. It doesn't matter if said set is considered suitable for the over tens, or that said six year old has significant motor difficulties, he simply has to have said set. For a good six months I was able to delay things, to persuade the six year old that it was impossible to buy and that maybe, if he was good, Santa would bring it next Christmas. I knew he wouldn't forget about it, but £50 was rather too much to pay for a spur of the moment, not a special occasion, gift and he simply couldn't not save all his pocket money and not spend a penny for a whole ten weeks. Then came the fateful day, strolling through Asda, “just looking at the toys”, when the coveted Lego set was spied at the end of the aisle, proudly displayed and being sold for “only” £35. After being informed that no, Mummy did not have a spare £35 floating around and no there is not a money tree growing at the bottom of the garden and no £5 pocket money is not enough to buy it, the six year happily informed me that “if he asked Grandma, she's buy it for him”. Thankfully, for the sake of this review at least if not for my sanity, he was right and having spent several hours putting it together and several more watching the six year old interact with it, I'm ready to write this review. First Impressions Mummy, Mummy, look what ...

Fitbit Charge HR 29/04/2016

Step to it

Fitbit Charge HR Way back in November, with my weight approaching a previously unheard of number, I decided I really needed to do something about those excess pounds. I started by logging my food on the excellent MyFitnessPal and after a couple of weeks decided that I'd like to up my activity level and so needed something to track that activity. It just happened that Fitbit seemed to be featuring on every other advert break (something about it being the run up to Christmas), so ever the one to be persuaded by flash advertising (not really), I bought myself a Fitbit Flex (after some but not enough research). That Flex lasted about a month before it decided to stop working and rather than replace like for like, I decided I wanted a few other features and upgraded to the Charge HR. The Fitbit Family There are quite a few Fitbit models on the market that can be broken in to two distinct categories. For those that don't like the idea of an activity tracker on their wrist there are the Zip and the One, which look rather like conventional pedometers and can be easily placed in a pocket or clipped to a bra. Then there are the “wearable” Fitbits, which are worn on the wrist, just like a watch. The most basic of these is the Flex, which shows very limited data and really is little more than a pedometer. Then there is the Charge, which has a digital screen that shows (among other things) how many steps you have taken and how many floors you have climbed. Next is the Charge HR which has the same ...

Lego Duplo 10607 Spider-Man Web-Bike Workshop 16/01/2016

A Bike Fit For A Super Hero

Lego Duplo 10607 Spider-Man Web-Bike Workshop The smallest of the Duplo Super Hero range, Spiderman Web Bike Workshop was given to two year old Jake by his big brother for Christmas. Although the standard price for this rather small set is £15 I refused to let big brother pay this rather inflated price, instead adding it to my online Amazon basket and then waiting until the price was reduced to a far more reasonable £10. A Look Through A Parent's Eyes As this is the smallest set in the Super Hero range it only contains a total of thirteen pieces, the vast majority of which are special bricks and accessories. With there only being four standard bricks, there isn't as much chance for a child's imagination and building skills to flourish. There are only so many ways you can combine the pair of sloped bricks, flat brick and tall brick even with the addition of the special bricks. So this is probably not the best Duplo set to by as a first or only set in a collection. The special bricks are all rather special though, definitely add play value to the set and many cannot be found in other Duplo sets. There is Spiderman himself, who is also in the Spider Truck Adventure set. Based on the cartoon version of Spiderman, this little character follows the standard Duplo format of articulated arms, claw hands, rotating head and bending at the waist, meaning he can be used with all other Duplo sets and vehicles. I love the way this Spiderman looks in his full body suit and face mask, he has something of a cutesy look to him and is ...

LEGO DUPLO Super Heroes 10544: The Joker Challenge 08/01/2016

Ner-Ner Ner-Ner Ner-Ner....Batman

LEGO DUPLO Super Heroes 10544: The Joker Challenge One of three Batman themed Duplo sets The Joker Challenge comes in at a fairly eye-watering £24.99 as standard, although I managed to pick it up for a slightly more reasonable £19.99 just in time for Santa to deliver it to two year old Jake this Christmas. A Look Through A Parent's Eyes As with the other Duplo sets we've bought, The Joker Challenge is supplied in a rather sturdy cardboard box that is easy to open without ripping by simply cutting two pieces of tape. As the box doesn't need to be ripped or torn to open it can be used to store the set for transport, should you so desire. Within the box the various elements are supplied in plastic bags and there is a leaflet that gives step-by-step pictorial instructions to build the main design along with ideas for other builds. Each step is easy to follow, with the required number of each brick listed and generally no more than four or five bricks to a step. At just over two Jake is a little too young to follow these instructions himself, but he is able to look at the pictures of the needed bricks and then find the brick we're going to need. Within the set there are a total of 40 elements and a there is a good mix of standard bricks and special pieces including not one but two characters. I love the way that Duplo is so similar to actual Lego, with the same method of stud and tube being used to connect the bricks together. There is the same quality to the Duplo brick as there is to Lego and although there are cheaper, ...

Amazon Kindle Fire 8 GB 06/01/2016

Does It Light My Fire

Amazon Kindle Fire 8 GB With the introduction of the first sub-£50 Kindle Tablet, the basic fifth generation Fire 8GB seems to offer good enough value at £49.99 and incredible value at the £35 it was selling for over “Black Friday” event. We have several of these bottom of the range Kindle Fire tablets in the household, I bought myself one for £49.99 when they were first released, Santa bought five year old Freddy the Kid's edition (which is the basic edition plus a case and subscription to Kid's Unlimited and will be reviewed in the near future) and then Nana took advantage of the Black Friday offer and bought another basic model for two year old Jake for just £35. Although the children have only had their Kindles for a couple of weeks, I've had mine since the beginning of November and so have had chance to test it to it's limits. In The Box Supplied within an easy to open, very distinctive orange box you will find: The Kindle Fire 7” (5th Generation) Amazon 5W power adapter USB Charging Cable I was pleased to see that a power adapter was supplied as I'm pretty sure that at least one of my previous Kindles did not come with one and although it can be charged via USB this is a lot slower than via a plug socket. The lack of instructions may be an issue for some, but you are guided through initial set-up and there are plenty of websites that can help you make the most of the Fire. Specifications I'll be looking at how they affect use in the main body of the review, but for those interested here ...

Melissa & Doug Pirate Chest 04/01/2016

For Your Little Pirate

Melissa & Doug Pirate Chest In common with many children his age two year old Jake currently has something of an obsession with pirates. He loves to watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates and thinks there's nothing better than dressing up in his pirate outfit. It therefore came as no surprise that when he was recently gifted £10 he wanted to spend it on a Treasure Chest. Now there are plenty of treasure chests for sale, but the vast majority of them are made of cardboard and with Jake being a rather rumbustious two year old (not to mention his behaviourally challenged big brother) I wanted something a little more sturdy. A Parent's View A little more expensive than the cardboard options, being wooden I had high hopes of this, the Melissa and Doug Wooden Pirate Chest, which I purchased from Amazon for a fairly reasonable £10.99 (as ever with Amazon the price does fluctuate and it is selling today for a far less reasonable £16.49). Before I go any further I'd like to have a little rant at about how this chest is sold on Amazon and in particular the description Amazon themselves have given it. We don't do gender stereotyping in this house, we don't believe in girl's toys and boy's toys, so it was a little disheartening to read “Ahoy Matey! Boys can store their treasures in this fabulous Melissa & Doug Pirate Chest “ and “A great gift idea for boys”. Being female myself and having been a little girl several decades ago, I can categorically state that little girls like playing at pirates too. To be fair to ...

LEGO DUPLO Super Heroes 10543: Superman Rescue 03/01/2016

Super...Daddy to the rescue

LEGO DUPLO Super Heroes 10543: Superman Rescue Although two year old Jake already had a huge box filled with Duplo, there is no such thing as too many bricks and so Santa brought him the Super Heroes range, based on characters from the Marvel and DC Comics. Santa wasn't the only one to buy him sets either, big brother bought him this small set featuring Superman. Although the standard price for this set is £14.99 by adding it to my “save for later” basket on Amazon and keeping a close eye on the price fluctuations I managed to bag it for just £10. While I think big brother got value for his money at that price point, if I'm perfectly honest I don't think this set is quite worth the standard £14.99. Supplied within a rather small yet sturdy cardboard box, the Superman Rescue set contains a total of 19 pieces, many of which are of the special variety rather than just basic bricks. Among the basic bricks there are a few a couple eight stud and a sixteen stud flat bricks, a couple of curved roof bricks, an arch, a standard eight stud and four double height bricks. There is also a brick printed with the Daily Planet's logo and what I like about the way Duplo is decorated as opposed to other (cheaper) brands is that any decoration is printed on the bricks rather than using stickers. While there really aren't that many basic bricks in this set there is still plenty of opportunity for imaginations to go wild, especially when the special bricks are added in to the mix. One of Jake's favourite special bricks in any set is a ...

Lego Duplo 10608 Spider-Man Spider Truck Adventure 02/01/2016

The Friendly, Neighbourhood Spiderman

Lego Duplo 10608 Spider-Man Spider Truck Adventure There is absolutely no doubt that two year old Jake has a huge collection of Duplo, after all he has not only inherited his older brother's collection, but has also received a large number of sets for his birthday and, of course, Christmas. While the majority of the sets he received on his birthday were themed on Jake and The Neverland Pirates, for Christmas he unwrapped all of the Marvel and DC Comics Superhero collections including this Spiderman themed set. With a standard price of £24.99, I added this to my Amazon basket a couple of months before Christmas so that I could be alerted to price changes and managed to snag it for just £20, which turns out to be a very reasonable price. Duplo Although I have no objections to other brands of constructions bricks there is no doubt that as far as quality and finish goes, Duplo wins hands down. Lego's little brother (on steroids), Duplo is aimed at children aged between around two and five years old and features the same system of studs and tubes that are so good at holding the bricks together. Perfectly sized for little hands each brick is made from durable plastic, with there being a good range of size, shape and colour. While there isn't as much variety in either individual bricks or sets as Lego, there is still enough to allow your child's imagination to go wild and there are some special bricks such as chairs, vehicles and accessories to help spark those imaginations. One thing I really do like about Duplo as opposed to ...

Lush Father Christmas Bath Bomb 31/12/2015

I'm Dreaming of A Green Christmas

Lush Father Christmas Bath Bomb Christmas has once more come and gone and my toiletry box is once more full to bursting with all manner of delightful goodies from Lush, courtesy of those that know I love my Lush baths. In amongst these goodies, nestled in a gift box, in bath bomb form, was the man Himself, Father Christmas. Strongly scented, before exploding in the bath Father Christmas is one of the larger Bath Bombs in the Lush Christmas range and is vaguely round and shaped to look like Santa's face, with white detailing such as a beard on a quite muted pink. The scent that Father Christmas gives off is a beautifully sweet with a floral edge and slight hint of musk, it's not a complex scent by any means, but it is rather pleasant. Pleasant enough for Father Christmas to have been my second choice of bath out of a fairly extensive collection of Christmas themed bath products. After filling my bath to the perfect level and temperature, I shut the bathroom door, jumped in the bath and then dropped Father Christmas in to the water and that's when the fun began. For the first few seconds he fizzed furiously as the Sodium Bicarbonate and Citric Acid combined in a chemical reaction that is as fun to watch now as it was during chemistry lessons all those years ago. Less than a minute in to the action something amazing happens, something that I really wasn't expecting, Father Christmas begins to spew a vivid green fizzy froth, turning the water a brilliant green. But that's not all, oh no, the sweet scent also ...

Lego Duplo 10513: Never Land Hideout 08/11/2015


Lego Duplo 10513: Never Land Hideout Jake was a very lucky boy on his second birthday, while Mummy and Daddy bought his the Jake and Neverland Pirates Ship Duplo set, his brothers and sisters all bought him the smaller sets including this Neverland Hideout. I'm not exactly sure how much Big Brother paid at the time (apparently once you're over eighteen and have your own house it's none of Mum's business how much you spend on your baby brother), but this very same set is currently available from Amazon for a fairly reasonable £14.95. Jake And The Neverland Pirates Crammed full of Disney sentimentality with a barely concealed moral message to each episode, Jake and the Neverland Pirates is a regular on pay-to-view Disney Junior. While not a favourite, it is something that my own Jake will watch occasionally, if only because he's trying to get his head around the fact the main character shares his name. So what's Jake and the Neverland Pirates about, well I guess the clue is in the name. Revolving around the adventures of Jake, Izzy, Cubby and their parrot friend Skully as they outwit the dastardly Captain Hook, we are treated to thrills, spills, (very) mild peril, a dusting of magic and very important life and moral lessons (such as the importance of wearing a helmet when skateboarding and how we should play fair). Although the programme is very loosely based on the Disney film Peter Pan, it is very loosely, with there being a total absence of the Darling family, Tinkerbell and Lost Boys and Peter Pan himself ...
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