Thursday, 29 May 2014

The One Where I Run My First Ever 10k

I did it... 10 days ago I ran my first ever 10k. Yes, I'm overweight, no I'm not an athlete but I did it... on the hottest day of the entire year. At first I was disappointed with my time but given that I started the race with a bad knee and the addition of all of the other mishaps that happened along the way I am proud that I completed the race and even got up and did it at all.

This time last year I had just accidentally won my place on the 5 mile National Lottery Back to the Stadium run on Twitter. I hated running. I'd never run anywhere in my entire life. Running for the bus was a struggle. But that day... that day that I got the tweet... really changed my life. I HAD to get fit. Gradually I began to run a couple of times a week. I didn't enjoy it - I was running because I had to, running because I was going to be in a race. As the weeks past I got in to it... I went from running to train to running for me. Then somethnig strange happened.. after the race, I didn't stop. I carried on running a couple of times a week and I enjoyed it.

So when work were gathering a team to compete and raise funds for the NSPCC I didn't hesitate. It would be my longest ever run but I wanted to do it... for me... and and for the kids.. obvs!

On the morning of the run I was so nervous. It was hot... really hot and I didn't start until 12.30pm when the weather would reach 25 degrees. Being an amateur I wasn't sure on how much water to drink pre race. I took it easy and gathered at the start line. The atmosphere was fabulous and then boom... we were off.

The first 1k was slow and steady but as I jogged round a corner I was distracted by something going on to the side of me. Something kept coming in to my line of vision, just on the corner of my eye.... I ignored it but it didn't go away. Finally I glanced to my left, only to see that it was my dad trying to take a picture of me! I slowed to help him out but as he still struggled to keep up he ran straight in to a car park meter. I giggled and ran off.

Soon I spotted the 2k marker. I was happy with my progress but the heat was starting to take its toll. My mouth was dry and I felt desperate for some liquid.

The water station was just before the 5k marker, just after my run past Old Trafford. I grabbed a bottle with the intention of slowly sipping but my body told me to drink drink drink. BIG MISTAKE. After that I really struggled. I soon got a stitch in my left side and after that it was less of a run and more of a hobble.. jog... walk.. hobble... jog...walk.

I reluctantly headed for the run through shower at 6.5k and that spurred me on a little but the stitch would not subside. By the time I hit 8k I was virtually walking and that's when my extremely hungover - been out on the Razz in Leeds the night before - friend Emma, caught up with me. She was feeling ill, I was broken. We jogged, talked and walked.

At 8k we were met with what I can only describe as a hose shooting a jet of water in to the air. It looked refreshing and we figured that the cold mist of water that we could see would refresh us. As we ran through it was like someone had poured a bucket of water on to our heads from a great height. As refreshing as that was on such a hot day, it meant all of the sweat from my head was washed in to my eyes. The salty water mixed with my contact lenses and a hint of mascara meant I was temporarily blinded just before the 9k marker!

I slowly regained my vision only to hear my son, Mister A shout "Mummy". My emotions got the better of me and tears filled my eyes. We upped the pace, we were nearly there... we ran but slowed again when we were safely out of view.

As we neared the finish line we spotted Emma's family and upped the pace again to cross the finish line in 1 hour and 24 minutes. I'm pretty sure I looked like I was going to vomit as I crossed the line, it was hard work in the heat but we did it!

Here I am at the start of the Great Manchester Run with my friend Cat - I'm smiling because the sun and stitch hadn't 'got me' yet!!!
I'm so proud of my achievement and proud that some of my friends have been inspired to start running too. I do get asked a lot about basic kit  so look out for my post this Saturday where I'll share my reviews in some fantastic must have buys if you love your running.

3k time 00:21:26
5k time 00:38:12
8k time 01:05:28
Finish 01:24:30

Sunday, 11 May 2014

#MorrisonsMums - Bank Holiday Shop

Last week, over the Bank Holiday weekend I was challenged by BritMums to become a #MorrisonsMum and complete my weekly shop at my local Morrisons store. Usually I do my 'big shop' at the local Tesco store (purely out of convenience) but to coincide with Morrisons new 'I'm Cheaper' campaign, I was given £80 in vouchers to spend.

I shopped on Friday and bought everything I had on my list for the Bank Holiday weekend - we were planning a BBQ so meat and salad items were a priority as well as our usual cereals, snacks and fruit.

One thing I did notice was that the fresh raw meat was a fantastic price. I regularly shop at Tesco and I've noticed that over the last few months the price of meat has rocketed. Asda has always been cheapest locally, however I find the meat to be really fatty and for that reason I would never do my big shop there as we tend to cook all of our meals from scratch.

The shop I did was focused on us hosting a family BBQ over the weekend however the weather was awful so we ended up eating the BBQ food for dinner over the course of the week. One of my favourite meals being the Morrisons Signature Kebabs served with cous cous and salad. I bought 2 flavour variations:Spiced Lamb with Apricot and Lamb and Mint Shish with the apricot versions being my favourite. The meal was delicious and fed the 4 of us for only £2.02 each..

If processed kebabs aren't your thing and you want something a little cheaper then why not try these delicious home made kebabs we had later in the week for only 95 pence per serving!!

The Verdict

I had always thought Morrisons to be a false economy - plenty of offers but all on the items that I believed were over priced in the first place. This shop has been a real eye-opener for me and I am really impressed. We cook from scratch at least 5 nights a week and Morrisons has really impressed me with the quality and price of their fresh meat - great value for money.

The shelves are amased with the new 'I'm cheaper' logo wherever you look from own brand ready meals through to famous brands like Coca-Cola, Birds Eye and Pampers.

Going forward I will seriously consider traveling the few extra miles to Morrisons, the only down side is that I'll miss out on my Tesco Clubcard points but maybe I'd prefer to take my value in the here and now.

For now, I would definitely recommend you shop there if you like home-made meals.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The future of laundry? The one where I meet the Samsung WW9000 Washing Machine

Two weeks ago I headed to John Lewis’ Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square to take a sneak peek at the brand new Samsung WW9000 Washing Machine.

I've got to be honest, usually I wouldn't be interested in domestic appliances but I absolutely love Samsung and couldn't pass up the chance to see their latest invention. I wasn't disappointed...

First off, I should tell you that this picture really doesn't do it justice, the washing machine design is sleek and streamlined and I love the attention to detail the designers have given the machine. Even so far as the circle design to the side of the machine that allows you to place it at the end of a work surface without looking bland and boring.

But let's face it, design isn't what we necessarily look for in a washing machine is it? It's a device of necessity and what I was really interested in was the machines performance and durability. Will it get grass stains out of PE kits on a daily basis? Will it take the constant stream of Lego bricks/coins/action figures that will accidentally be added to the laundry basket? Will it be cost effective because we're on a water meter? And the question I always ask myself as a working mother of 2 - will it save me time? Well it appears the answer is yes to all of the above...

We were shown all of the incredible benefits of the machine by Nick Bevan, Senior Product Manager  - Laundry at Samsung UK and Ireland and he was happy to answer all of my questions on the new machine.

The first thing I was attracted to about the machine was the intuitive smart touch screen. I have a retro dial on my washing machine and I have to admit I've only moved that dial once in the past year because I have absolutely no idea what the other settings are for. In fact I have a very strict set routine when doing my laundry which I guess I should tell you before I go on...

1. Gather the laundry (not as simple as you may think) This usually involves emptying the laundry basket on to the floor of the landing then frantically searching the children's rooms for various socks/vests/school uniform that the children have left lurking under their beds.

2. Attempt to carry said washing load by hand (why?!) to the washing machine, dropping several socks en route like a modern day version of Hansel and Gretal dropping bread.

3. Drop washing on the floor in front of the machine then trace the steps back up the stairs to locate dropped items.

4. Search for washing up tablets..

5. Scream at the top of my voice "Chris? Where the washing tablets? I cant find them"

6. Locate washing tablet right in front of my eyes, throw it in to the machine.

7. Add washing and close door

8. Glance at the dial... realise I don't know what any of the settings mean.

9. Press 'Start'

10. Question whether I should have added an extra rinse/spin/extra washing tablet.

11. Realise I missed the one item out of the machine that needed to be washed for tomorrows ballet/athletics/swimming lesson.

12. Go off and forget that the washing load finished 6 hours ago and is now creased to death and starting to smell.

13. Sniff it...It smells... start over.

Sound familiar?! Yes, well read on...

The WW900 has a touchscreen rather than fiddly buttons and dials. Samsung say "Every other smart device has a touchscreen - why not your washing machine?" and I like their style, the 5” LED screen responds straight away with just one touch of your finger. The machine automatically shows your 'Most Used' cycle as soon as you switch it on, so if you are a one cycle wonder like me then you can start your wash with literally one tap.

There are different programmes too that can be selected for every stain scenario: a 'Gardening' cycle that shifts soil and grass stains, 'Cooking & Dining' gets rid of food and grease marks, and 'Active Sports' that would be perfect for the kids' football kits.

I particularly love the idea of having no detergent draw. Mine gets scummy quickly if I use powder (which is why I usually buy tablets that go straight in to the drum) and I hate cleaning it. This smart machine holds up to a month’s worth of detergent in the drum (in a similar place to the filter in your tumble dryer) and magically dispenses just the right amount you need for each load by weighing the laundry as well as sensing how soiled it is. Amazing!

It has a Super Speed Wash for those items you need washed in a rush. You can wash an average load of 5kg in just 59 minutes – or a load of 2kg or less with light soiling on a 15 minute wash!

If that's not enough to entice you then how do you fancy controlling your machine from your smartphone or tablet - very futuristic. With the WW9000 you can pause or start a wash using your mobile or tablet, so if you don't want to put a wash on in the morning and leave soaking in the drum all day until you get home, then you can load it in the morning and switch it on as your leaving work - that way it’s done by the time you get home.

You can also get notifications telling you how long there is left and when a cycle has finished so if your snuggled up on the sofa watching your favourite soaps, then you don't need to keep getting up to check if it's finished.

The WW9000 also uses Samsung's ecobubble technology, producing special bubbles which dissolve faster and deeper into your clothes - making them cleaner but also meaning you only have to put your laundry on a cool wash as the bubbles (rather than the heat) do all the hard work.

It has a huge door with double hinges, meaning it can fully open back on itself (my current washing machine is always bashing my legs as I'm loading so this would spare me the bruises) but as a mum this also worried me as the door, combined with it's 10kg drum, could easily attract children as a hiding place. Nick assured me that safety was key - both the door and the touch screen have child locks, however, should the unthinkable 'hiding' happen then the door is easily pushed open from the inside.

Finally, it’s quiet too (or so I'm told) thanks to its motor and 3D vibration sensor  the machine creates minimal noise even during fast spin speeds of up to 1600rpm - so you can put a load on at night and it won't disturb your little ones.

The verdict?

So all in all the WW9000 sounds amazing.. so much so that I decided I must have one... which is why I was a little down-hearted when I heard the £1700 price tag. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that this machine is worth the money but at that cost it would definitely have to be an appliance we'd need to save up for. And this is why meeting this machine has really got me thinking about the way in which we perceive our appliances - I really feel that in the future our appliances buying decisions will no longer be made out of necessity but, much like we want the best mobile with the best operating system, we will want the same for our every day appliances too.

I for one really want this bad boy in my life but by the time I've saved up my pennies I'm sure that they'll have invented a robot that can load the washing and press all these buttons for me! Well, a girl can dream!

The Samsung WW900 is available now at John Lewis and at other retailers later in the year.