Saturday, March 28, 2015

Do I Need a Heart Rate Monitor for Fitness?

Heart rate monitors come in all shapes and sizes and have now become a standard piece of kit for many fitness fiends. When I started out running the only kit I had was a pair of trainers and a decent sports bra - I would hit the road without even clocking my mileage. But little by little I have started to see the benefits of adding a bit of technology to a workout.

This weeks training

The first addition was my iPhone, which I would shove in the back pocket of my running gear, and an app that recorded my distance. I then added an armband and good running headphones - oh the joy of reaching the crest of a hill with your favourite track blaring in your ears!

I then began measuring not just distance but speed too - watching (or hearing) not just your miles increase but your rate too is an amazing motivational tool. So I guess it was only a matter of time before I added BPM to my training.

Why use a heart rate monitor?

Heart rate monitors are a great way of helping you to keep a consistent pace and exertion rate - no slacking and no overdoing it!

You can set your monitor so that you aim to stay within the maximum and minimum Beats Per Minute (BPM) zones for your target - whether that is fat burning, fitness or simply safety. 

Using a heart rate monitor is also a great way of tracking your fitness - the first mile you run will give you a far higher heart rate reading than the mile you run after training consistently for a couple of months. Watching that progress is a great motivation to keep going. 

How to use a heart rate monitor

First work out your maximum heart rate. The easiest way to do this is MHR = 205 - (.5 x your age). So mine is 184. 

According to Runners World these are the levels you want to stay between in relation to your chosen run:

Easy run and long run 65-75%

Tempo run 87-92%

Interval repeats 95-100%

Race Distance

5-K 95-97%

10-K 92-94%

Half-marathon 85-88%

Marathon 80-85%

How Beets Blu Heart Rate monitor measures up.

Beets Blu sent me my very first heart rate monitor to try out and I've learned a lot in the process of testing it. 

The monitor is extremely comfortable - so much so that you really would forget you are wearing it. It fits under your chest \ sports bra and clips at the front. I'm not quite ready to show the world my mum tum so here's the back of it so you get the idea. 

The Beets Blu has it's own app which is basic but works well, or you can pair it with a number of other apps. I switched from NikeRunning to RunKeeper for this purpose - which allows you to track lots of other activities not just running. My only problem with the app so far is that the calorie count doesn't measure up - a 1 hour, 10k run burning only 58 calories?? I hope not!

So far I've used the Beets Blu for running and cycling, but unfortunately not swimming as you can't get it wet. I found it most useful with running as you can hear how you are doing as you go. Think you are working hard going up that hill? You can try harder says the monitor as it dips to 160BPM.

Beets Blu is easy to use, comfortable and accurate. You can buy now on Amazon for £29.95

Disclosure: Beets Blu sent me the heart rate monitor and a key finder for the purposes of this review. All words and images are my own and I retain full editorial control.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

LeaversHoodies - A review

Leavershoodies are the top UK provider of custom printed college clothing. They specialise in school and university leavers hoodies and custom college style clothingI'm not sure when this became 'a thing' but I may be showing my age by not knowing about it until now.

Anyway, their site allows your school \ college \ family \ friends to design a personalised hoodie (they also do other garments). They pride themselves on quality, choice and customer service, so when they asked if I would like to test them out I thought we could have a pretty good go putting them through their paces.

First off choice - as it turns out I'm not the greatest decision maker when faced with a wide range of options. And believe me there are a wide range of options. Colour, design, picture, print, front, back, side, zip, no zip - anything was possible - which of course left me frozen like a terrified rabbit in the headlights. 'What do you think?' I ask them hopefully.

With a little help from Leavershoodies and a little nudge from the kids we finally nailed down the designs.

Their customer service on this was truly wonderful - nothing was too much trouble and they even sent over screen shots of what the finished product would look like so that we could be sure we were happy before ordering.

We had two different designs, three different names, four different sizes and four different colours.

I can't begin to imagine the logistics of doing a whole year of a school or college but they were extremely organised with our little batch and they have plenty of experience.

Once the hoodies were printed up they were quickly shipped out to us. The kids were thrilled with each of theirs and put them on immediately. That was Friday.

It's now Thursday of the following week and I'm a little bit ashamed to say they haven't actually taken them off yet. Marley has even insisted on sleeping in his. I can't really give a better recommendation than that.

I have to agree that the quality is great - very soft with nice little touches such as loops for your headphones to go through and button holes in the front pouch to feed your cable through.

Naturally I got one too - a lovely purple zip up one that I find myself wearing far too frequently. I couldn't quite bring myself to put my name on the back though.

Disclosure: I was sent the hoodies for the purposes of this review. For more on how to order and what's available go to

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rack of Irish lamb recipe from M&S

This is not just rack of Irish lamb, this is herb, olive and mustard-crusted rack of lamb from the M&S spring recipe selection.

This is rack of lamb for beginners, so easy an idiot could make it. And I should know.

The simplicity belies a very impressive finished product, so if you are entertaining over Easter (or any other time really) this is a perfect go to dish. No need to be faffing around with multiple types of veg and perfect roast potatoes - this dish is ready in 45 minutes tops from start to finish.

Ingredients: (All available from M&S)

·         380g pack Rosemary Potatoes
·         25g sourdough pavĂ© bread
·         25g Greek Olives with Oregano, finely chopped
·         1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
·         1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
·         1 tbsp olive oil
·         1 x 330g French-trimmed rack of lamb
·         1 tsp Dijon mustard
·         200g Boston beans or fine green beans


1.       Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 (180°C for fan ovens). Cook the potatoes according to the packet instructions.

2.       Put the bread in a food processor and pulse to form rough crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and stir in the chopped olives, thyme and parsley, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3.       Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the lamb. Cook over a high heat until browned all over, then transfer to a board. Remove any excess oil with kitchen paper. 

4.       Spread the mustard over the lamb and press the crumb mixture on top. Put the lamb in a small roasting tin and roast for 25 minutes. Transfer to a board and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the beans in boiling salted water for 3 minutes, until just tender.

5.       Divide the potatoes and beans between 2 plates, then slice the lamb into cutlets to serve.

Per serving:

141 calories 9g fat (3.6g saturated) 8.3g carbohydrates 1.3g sugar 2g fibre 6g protein 0.45g salt

Here's what it looks like coming out of the oven. Convinced yet?

 I've always been a bit scared of this cut for some reason - but I'll be adding it to my collection from now on.

A huge thumbs up and thanks to M&S for a truly delicious meal.

Disclosure: I was provided with the products by M&S to test out this recipe. All words and pictures are my own. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cool Kids - The T-Shirt Edition

I do love a good t-shirt, and the thing I love about kids' t-shirts is how long they last. Unlike jeans or dresses it seems to take years from my kids to grow out of them. We've had some old favourites knocking around here for at least five years. God bless hand-me-downs!

I've been lost in the world of cool t-shirts from Melijoe this week. There are just too many great ones - for boys and girls. In fact some of these I'd nab for myself if only they did adult sizes.

Cool t-shirts for kids

If I had to pick a favourite it would be the old skool Lacoste blue one, or maybe the Palm Tree one by Scotch & Soda or possibly the Australian Trip or...

Hmm, if only we could take the lot.

The beauty of a cool t-shirt is that you can pair it with pretty much anything and still look great. Denim cut-offs, chinos, jeans, leggings, skirts - whatever floats your child's boat. PLUS they wear them all year round so they aren't a short lived seasonal thing.

And what child doesn't love a super soft, super cool t-shirt?

Imagine a life with no 'what to wear' arguments... It's a win-win as far as I'm concerned.

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with All words and opinions are my own

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mass and kids - not always a great combination


I took the kids to mass yesterday.

As it's Marley's communion year we're supposed to be going as much as possible - which isn't really often enough in our case. So what with it being Mother's Day I thought I would use the emotional blackmail I had on hand and get all three of them to go.

I knew it could be trouble when we sat down waiting for the start and Baxter asked loudly if mass was nearly over now. Oh dear.

As the 'bor-rrring' mass went on his behaviour got worse and worse - lying down on the bench, sighing loudly and asking could we go yet.

Annoyingly I had uncharacteristically cleared my handbag out a few days previously so the usual raisons \ pens \ toy car supply was non-existent. All I had at my disposal to amuse him was the mass missalette. Great fun.

So we devised a game. He sat on my lap and pointed out any words he knew how to read. We got a good five minutes out of that one.

Then I pointed out the word G-O-D and asked him to find all the other instances of the word on the page.


- he exclaimed all pleased with himself. 

'And there!' 

- he said a little louder. 

I shushed him, asking him to whisper - but he took it as a sign to start shouting.

- he pronounced to the amused congregation as he pointed out the words.


Well at least somebody did. We slunk out of the church shortly after.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How (not) to choose a name for your child

It's a fact that my mother actually refused to tell her friends what I had chosen to call my third child. Instead she took the "I don’t think she’s decided yet" option. Which got a bit lame after about six months. She was actually mortified by our choice of name for each of the three children, but this last one was obviously one step too far. 

It could possibly have been something to do with the fact that we had inadvertently named the boy after my sister's dead childhood pet - a hamster that went by the name of Baxter. How this had escaped my memory I’m really not sure – but by the time it was pointed out to me it was simply too late. 

Sorry Baxter - being the namesake of a dead hamster isn't really the greatest start in life is it? 

Oh, or of a pot of vintage marmalade. No wonder he's despairing.

But going back to my mother...We had actually eased her in to the name game fairly gently, so she should really have built up some resistance by the time Baxter came along. We called our first child Kaya ("No, Mum, it rhymes with 'hiya'. Hiya, Kaya) – different but not too crazy. 

But the thing with choosing 'different' names is that 1) you can’t expect everyone to like them, and 2) unexpected things can come of them. In Baxter’s case it was being named after a dead hamster. In Kaya’s it was our finding out that not only did it mean "elder sister" (aww), it also meant "really strong weed". 

So. Kudos in college for her, I guess.

We named our middle child Marley, again much to the disdain of my mother and the amusement of my siblings. And once again the universe struck back, as a year later the book and film Marley and Me raced up the bestseller charts. 

So that’s a dead dog and a dead hamster ticked off the list. I just can’t wait to see what deceased-animal sensation comes along to knock Kaya off her ganja-laced throne.

Anyway, by now everyone has got used the "strange",  and even my mother manages to utter their names without too much of a grimace, so that's good. But for anyone who is thinking of naming their child anything outside of the norm, my advice would be to develop a thick skin - if grandparents or the possibility of dead animals are involved - chances are you're going to need it.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Dino Tales App Review

Dino Tales is a new educational app aimed at children aged 4-10 years old. It works on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

We were asked to put Dino Tales to the test and review our experience - having three children aged 6, 8 and 10 we reckoned we could give it a good going over!

Here's what Dino Tales themselves have to say about the app:

Kids can customise and control a baby dinosaur to explore a rich 3D island filled with dinosaurs, plants and fossils. The game has been created with educational specialists and tested with pupils and teachers across 25 primary schools in UK. There are 6 characters to try, as well as plenty of games and activities (lava slides, rock bowling, scary cave and more).

Dino Tales unique features:

  • Children can create a digital Storybook from their adventure, which can then be shared and read with an adult.
  • Parents can set playing time limits, reading age and receive the Storybook via email every time the kids play.
  • Kuato’s (KAGE) technology powers the game - adjusts the language evolves according to the user age group as they progress.
  • Includes an interactive dino guide (named Darwin) to whom kids can ask questions such as “how fast can a T-Rex run?” via special Word Wheels.

I set the game up at the lowest end of my children's ages so that they could all play on it. I'm not sure how this effects the KAGE technology - but they all seemed very happy with the options available to them. 

Baxter (6) has had a bumpy start to his reading education so anything that encourages reading, vocabulary and story-telling is a hit with me. The problem is most of the apps in this area are ones that he bores of within seconds, and no matter how I present them there is just no tricking him into playing them. 

That was the first difference I noticed about Dino Tales - the balance of 'play' and reading meant that he didn't even realise that there was an educational side to it. (*Insert evil laugh here).

Marley and Kaya both really enjoyed the customising their own dinosaurs, Kaya loved creating her own storybook and Marley was interesting in all the fossil facts he picked up.

There are often fights between the boys about who gets to play on our family iPad first, but they seemed quite happy to explore this one together, with Marley helping Baxter out on some of the words he couldn't make out.

Setting the time limit option is also a great way to ensure they both get their fair share of time on it - and also that Mum doesn't let five minutes turn into fifty just because she's having a sneaky coffee in the kitchen...

The cost of the Dino Tales app is £2.99 which is more than I would normally spend on an app, but given it's educational function and the ability to 'grow' as your child does it's actually money well spent. The graphics are also really amazing. 

If you'd like a good look around before you buy here is Kaya's run down on some of the functions...

Disclosure: I have been paid expenses and supplied with a product sample for this review but retain all editorial control. 
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