Thursday, 28 May 2015

Essential Oils: My Five Favourite Essential Oils for Exercise

Whilst I am finally loving the way my body feels, now that I am actually getting fitter and healthier, I sometimes have to drag myself to my classes at The Circuit Factory. The aches from the last session, or the tiredness from no sleep, or the huge tub of ice cream I ate last night, all will me to put on my yoga pants and settle down on the sofa with wine and more ice cream. 

So I've found that there are several essential oils that have the ability to dissolve each and every one of those devils on my shoulder, and make getting to the gym just that little bit easier on my resolve. 

Here are my five favourite ones: 

Deep Blue is the ultimate soother for sore and aching muscles after that intense work out. I add it to the bath the following morning and it really helps to soothe all those aches and pain and give my body what it needs to relax and unwind. I also dilute it in coconut or olive oil (it's quite cooling on my skin) and apply it topically to whichever muscle is doing the most complaining. 

It really helps me to feel more normal, so I don't have to hobble back to the gym (or let those muscles give me an excuse for sitting on the sofa!). 

There is literally nothing like doing a Circuit Factory class when you're all heavy with the weight of all the crap you've eaten that day. In the past I've often just made excuses and not gone,  worried I might actually be sick. Grapefruit essential oil has been great in relieving those sugar cravings, so I am abstaining from the ice cream more often. So I feel lighter, and it doesn't feel like such a drag getting off my backside and going to class. 

I kinda need to breathe when I'm working so hard my lungs want to explode. So the biggest excuse I make for myself is that I can't possibly go to the gym when I've got a little sniffle. I'm not sick, but I can't breathe, so it's not worth it. So I apply Breathe to my chest three times a day, and definitely before class, as it helps to support my respiratory system to clear my airways. I can get to the gym and get on with my day.

I really want to kiss the person who invented these! After another sleepless night with my two angel babies, the last thing I want to do is go to the gym. I want to conserve my energy for lifting my wine glass and crying at soppy movies. Mito2Max is a great supplement which supports the body's optimum aerobic capacity and supports stamina naturally without the use of stimulants like caffeine. 

Wintergreen is great for when you tweak a tendon or a muscle. It's fantastic at supporting the body's natural healing and it supports the body as it tries to reduce inflammation and heal the pull to the muscle. I apply it twice a day to any injuries I pick up. 

Does this help you with any of your excuses? 

If you are interested in doTERRA essential oils, click here for details on how to get started!

Please join my Facebook group on essential oils and like my Facebook page to be kept up to date on my latest blog posts. 

Please note: Products mentioned in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products and information on this page are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This website is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a medical, psychological, or psychiatric problem, or a disability that requires medical attention, then you should consult your licensed medical doctor or appropriate health care provider. Always consult your medical doctor regarding your medical care. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Recipes: Gluten Free Parmesan Crackers

I have been looking for a gluten free cheese cracker recipe for a while. S's favourite snacks are goldfish crackers or mini cheddars. Plus I'm rather partial to them as well! So I wanted to find a gluten free version so that I can indulge, and reduce S's gluten intake a little bit. 

S is a typical toddler, so she won't be fooled by bad knock off versions. If it doesn't taste perfect, she simply won't eat it. 

That's why I love this gluten free parmesan cracker recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring. They don't taste like they are gluten free and they have a great crunch to them. 

I use their "Mock Better Batter" flour blend, and I find it works great as a gluten free flour for quite a few of their recipes. We can't get Better Batter flour blend in Dubai or in the UK, so I can't just order it in from Amazon. 

I've started making the dough in large batches and freezing it. I'm not sure if the crackers would retain their crunch if you froze them after baking them. They taste just as good after the dough has been frozen as they do if you make them completely fresh. 

Make sure you roll them out pretty thin though, because otherwise they lose their crunch when you store them. If they are thin, then they stay crispy and crunchy for over two weeks (not that they usually last that long!).

I tend to use cookie cutters to get interesting shapes, but you could easily just slice the dough up before baking (I'm a bit OCD about wonky crackers, clearly been eating store bought crackers for a long time). 

I've also used normal buttermilk instead of the cultured buttermilk and found that it worked just fine, but the crackers need more cooking so that they are still crunchy. 

Gluten Free Parmesan Crackers from Gluten Free on a Shoestring:


1 1/4 cups (175g) all-purpose gluten-free flour (I like Better Batter (or mock Better Batter) here)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1 cup (132 g) coarsely ground gluten-free cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
4 tablespoons (23g) cultured buttermilk blend (Saco brand – available in most larger supermarkets)
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup (6 fl. oz.) milk, at room temperature (not nonfat)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted (still warm)


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit or 175 degrees celsius . Line rimmed baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornmeal, baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and buttermilk blend, and whisk to combine well. Add the finely grated cheese, and mix to combine. Add the 4 tablespoons butter and the milk, and mix until combined and the dough begins to come together. Divide the dough into two parts, and press each into a small ball. Place the first ball of dough between two sheets of unbleached parchment paper, and roll into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick (about the thickness of a nickel). The dough should roll out quickly and easily. With a fluted (or simple round) 1-inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds of dough and place them on a prepared baking sheet, about 1-inch apart (they will not spread during baking). Gather and reroll scraps. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Using a toothpick, poke 4 evenly spaced holes toward the center of each of the rounds of dough. Poke the holes in a tight circular motion to create well-rounded holes. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of all of the rounds of dough lightly with the remaining teaspoon of melted butter. One tablespoon of melted butter should be enough to cover all of the rounds lightly. Sprinkle the tops of the rounds liberally with coarse salt.

Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake, rotating once during baking, for about 12 minutes, or until the crackers are dark golden brown on the edges and lightly golden brown on top. Allow to cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in a tightly sealed container at room temperature. For best results, store at room temperature in a sealed glass container, to maintain crispness.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Moving On

It's funny how life takes you on different twists and turns, many of them were never in the plan, or turned out like you expected. 

For me, becoming an expat was one of those unexpected twists, and it definitely did not turn out the way I thought it would. As I'm sure I have said before, I have never had this burning desire to live overseas. I wasn't one of those people who was desperate to disappear on a gap year to Australia or the Far East. 

Don't get me wrong, I love my holidays, but permanently immersing myself in another country, I'd never really wanted to. I was more than happy in the UK, and as I chose a career path which was only really applicable in the UK and a handful of other countries (in a previous life I was a lawyer), I hadn't really set myself up for a life abroad. 

But Gary has always wanted to work overseas. He has made that more than clear from the moment we got together. We discussed it, and discussed it, and discussed it, but as time went on, it slipped further to the back of my mind. 

Until the offer of a job in Qatar came through. 

I'm usually a bit of a believer in fate, I believe that things seem to click together at the right time. If it feels right, it probably is. With the job in Qatar, it was fairly clear that things were clicking together. 

We were only three months away from getting married (a prerequisite if I wanted to live with Gary in Qatar). We had already discussed starting a family soon after we were married (necessitating a career break for me). We had already started looking at houses, in readiness to move out of our apartment and start a new chapter. 

We snuck off to Qatar for the weekend to investigate and we liked what we saw. It was obvious that there would be a culture difference, but English was commonly spoken and there was a large amount of expats living in Qatar, making the transition much smoother. 

Then, less than nine months after we arrived in Qatar, a job came up in Dubai. I was pregnant and getting more and more so each day, and the clock was ticking as to whether we would even be able to get out of Qatar before it was too late for me to fly. I did not fancy an eight hour road trip through Saudi Arabia when nine months pregnant. 

Again everything seemed to come together so that, in the nick of time, we moved to Dubai. In less than four weeks, we moved countries, found an apartment, found a hospital and had a baby. 

Dubai has been the most amazing place for us to have started our family. We had the most amazing care from the hospital for both of our children, and we've had the most amazing opportunity to experience Dubai as a family. 

We've made some amazing friends. Friends that have become family to me. Friends who all jumped up and offered to look after Miss S while I was in hospital having Mister L. Friends who would happily come over at the crack of dawn to look after the kids if I wasn't well enough. 

There is something about being expats that has banded us all together. We have leaned on each other much more than we probably would have if we were in the UK with family close by. And that has been such a blessing, as it turns out. 

One of the hardest things when you are an expat is not having family nearby who can just pop over. And yet my friends have more than made up for that by being so amazing. I feel like we've all changed and grown, but grown together, as our children have grown alongside us. 

I'm not the person I was when I left the UK. Not only have I had the opportunity to meet the most amazing people, I've also had the chance to experience another amazing culture. I knew nothing of Islam before I left the UK (and I'm no whizz at it now!). I had no understanding of the religion, or it's people. 

My understanding of Islam was limited to what was in the newspapers, along with some limited wider reading. I hadn't realised what a limited view that actually was until I lived in the Middle East. Living in a muslim country has given me a new appreciation for other people's religions, and how to respect those religions. It also gives you a hugely different view on the politics of the Middle East, and on the decisions that are made in rooms far away from here. 

I am a much more worldly person that the one that left the UK four years ago. I feel like I have morphed and changed and expanded (metaphorically, thankfully not physically!). Seeing more of the world, and spending more than a week in one place, has changed my perspective on so many different things. 

It has also taught me my own strength. It's taught me that I can move house, move country, move continents, without much chaos. 

It's taught me that I can make friends, can build relationships and bonds with people, again and again and again. And that those friendships might just become some of the most important to me. 

It's taught me that I can take care of two children while Gary works abroad, for weeks at a time. It has taught me that I can be patient and calm, when there are no reinforcements. 

It's taught me that I can maintain and even improve relationships with friends and family that are still in the UK. That the miles between us really do mean nothing at all, as long as we love each other, and want to support each other. 

It's taught me that I can watch friends leave, and smile even when I wanted to cry. To see the bigger picture for not only me, but for others. To see what is best, and to encourage and support their decisions, even if they aren't the decision I'd wish they'd make (for purely selfish reasons). 

I love Dubai, but the time has come to leave it. To leave behind the place where we built our married life together. To leave the apartment that we brought our children home to. To leave the friends who have gotten me through the first tough years of motherhood. 

As I look around me, I wonder how we will ever do it. To sell or pack up all of our worldly possessions (which have multiplied in four years), and ship them across two continents. I wonder how we'll ever settle into another life, a very different life than the one we are leaving behind. 

I know that we can, and that we will. I know that it will be easy and hard in equal measure. I know I will grieve and rejoice in equal measure, as we begin our new lives. There are so many opportunities lost to us, but so many more that we will gain. 

It's hard to leave when you aren't fed up of where you are, but then that's also exactly the time to go. Again it feels rather like fate has intervened, there were so many coincidences that happened as we walked towards this decision, towards the new job, new home, new life. 

I will miss Dubai, and all of those amazing people we leave behind. But they have a very special, and very warm place, in my heart. Dubai has made me the person that I am today, and for that, I'm more grateful than I can possibly express. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Dealing with the Toddler Tantrums

I thought we'd avoided the toddler tantrums with S. 

Ok, stop laughing..... seriously, stop laughing. 

In hindsight it was the most ridiculous thing, but as S approached two and a half, and she hadn't really progressed into full meltdown mode, I thought she was just one of those kids who didn't really have them. She had strops now and then, but no hysterics, and she was fairly easy to cajole out of them. 

At the time, I kept saying "they'll come", but to other people. The fact that they really were going to show up didn't really lodge itself in my brain. 

And then the world came crashing down with meltdowns and throwing herself on the floor and using the word "no" so many times a day I felt like screaming my head off. 

My particular favourites both revolve around chocolate. First of all there was the time when she asked for ice cream, and then had a meltdown when I opened the ice cream instead of the chocolate I'd bought for baking.... in public, which included lying on a bench for fifteen minutes screaming her head off and crying hysterically.... while I ate most of the ice cream.

Then there was Valentines day, when she was given chocolate hearts in every shop we went into (in Dubai they give chocolate to children A LOT!), and then had huge hysterics demanding chocolate as though I'd refused to let her have any. Cue a twenty minute crying fit in the double pram while I wandered around and ignored her. 

I am not the most patient. I can pretty much ignore the full blown tantrums, because there isn't really a way to stop them once they've started and it's better for S if we just ride the wave of emotions for a little while and let her sort herself out. 

But the incessant not listening, and refusal to do anything I ask her to (even if it's something she really wants to do).... it makes me grit my teeth and want to punch a wall. So I've had to develop coping mechanisms to get through the every day hum drum of the two year old's basic ignorance of anything she hasn't started by herself. 

Now, I'm not saying these coping mechanisms will work for everyone, but they do help me keep my temper in check (most of the time). So if they help anyone else, even a teeny tiny bit, then that's all good! 

Ask once,  then lead: 

This one has been the biggest one for me. I used to ask S to get her shoes, or come here, or whatever, and she'd ignore me. She would ignore me again, and again, and again regardless of whether I raised my voice, got cross or upset. So to save my own sanity, I decided to accept that she's not quite in that place yet where she can listen all the time, and that me getting cross doesn't benefit any of us. 

So I now ask her once. If she doesn't move, I take her hand and gently (but firmly) lead her to her shoes, or to have her nappy changed, or to have her dinner. This lessening of expectations has really helped my stress levels, and I even feel that S listens to me more as a result, because the way that I ask has changed because I'm not gearing up to have to shout. 

Time Outs:

I don't really like the idea of Time Outs, because they are often perceived as abandoning your child. But sometimes, they are just necessary. Like when S pushes her baby brother so hard he falls over and bangs his head, for the fifth time that morning. Or when she runs off in the park and I have to scramble to grab L and chase after her. 

Our Time Outs take place in the pram. I try to not make it about punishment, although sometimes I am REALLY mad that her brother has hit his head HARD. I explain that she needs to be nice to her brother and that if she can't be calm with him, she needs to sit in the pram until she calms down. 

At most she gets left for a minute and then I go back and calmly explain what went wrong, and how we can fix it. She then says sorry and kisses me and L before moving on. This does seem to work temporarily, but not for long. Although she is a toddler so I'm not sure it would work for a long period of time no matter what tactic I used. 

Discussing what comes next: 

This one has been a big revelation for me. I forget in the hustle and bustle of the day that S doesn't always know, or remember, what's happening that day, and so she doesn't know why I'm asking her to do things. 

I now try to continually give her cues throughout the morning about where we are going and why, so that she is really for the changes that are coming. So while I'm making breakfast I'll tell her that after breakfast we can get ready and go to the park/see friends/go to nursery, and I repeat it as I move through the morning tasks like dressing and brushing hair. 

I've found it makes her much more willing to sit still and have her hair brushed, to go and get her shoes and to generally move a little bit quicker. 

I also give her count down warnings before we leave places. I'm pretty honest about timings, but S knows the order the warnings come in, so she is much more prepared to leave by the time I am ready to go. It's made the upset at leaving a lot easier to handle. 

Lots of Balance: 

Spending all day with young children does wear on me quite quickly. I love them to death but it's really hard trying to think for three people, to keep everyone entertained and on track and teach them about the world and how to live in it all at the same time. 

I don't always succeed in keeping calm, in fact I shout and stress more than I would like. So on the days when the stress threatens to take over, I make sure that the kids and I have had doTERRA's Balance blend applied to the backs of our necks. It really helps to bring everything back into perspective, especially when all three of us get a dose of Balance all at the same time! i think it's one of my most used essential oils, and I think I'll be needing it for the next few years, while S gets out of and L gets into the toddler tantrums. 

So those are the mechanisms that I employ at the moment to keep myself sane and to get through the day unscathed, do you have any more tips? 
Twinkly Tuesday Linky

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Circuit Factory Challenge - My Ass Kicking and My Results

The Circuit Factory runs a Challenge every six weeks or so. The Challenge lasts for four weeks and it focuses on intense training, and a strict lifestyle, known as The Holy Grail. 

I decided to take The Challenge as my training had fallen behind with bouts of sleep deprivation, Christmas and the accompanying feasting, and far too much wine and celebrating. The Challenge is the perfect way to get back on track and to focus on my diet, which is the first thing to slip, when it comes to me. 

The Challenge is fairly simple, attend a Circuit Factory Class four times a week, do breakfast exercises in the morning before the Circuit Factory Class in the evening (or vice versa), and stick to The Holy Grail (which in short means, stop eating all that crap!). 

Pre-Challenge Weigh In:

No cheating allowed here! All information laid bare at the beginning, so I can really see what I've achieved, and where I need to work harder. Here are my Pre Challenge photographs, I'll take photographs each week, to see the changes. 

All photographs, measurements and weights will be taken at 9pm each Saturday night, as I tend to gain about 1kg over the day, and I want to make sure all the changes are comparable. 

My weights and measures are as follows: 

Weight:        66.4kg
Bust:            30 Inches
Waist:          28.5 Inches
Stomach:     36 Inches
Hips:           40.5 Inches

Week 1:

This week has been a challenge, mainly because of portion control. I actually started weighing my carbs, because I have a tendency to just stick a load of rice in the pan and not bother to think about how much of it I am actually eating. Too much it turns out, and it's been a little bit of a shock when I realised how much is actually one portion! 

I did start seeing some results on day 4 though. I felt like my stomach had gotten flatter, but maybe that was just psychological. Plus as soon as I eat gluten, which I did over the weekend for my cheat meal, my stomach bloats up anyway, so possibly not a good indicator! 

I also only completed three Circuit Factory sessions, not four, because I went to my third one, and then realised in the warm up that I really wasn't well, and had a bit of a 24 hour bug. So I hope I can make four sessions next week. 

The one big thing that hit me in the face this week is how HARD it has been! I'm sure loads of you have heard the saying "sweat is fat crying"..... well, my fat might be crying, but my muscles are too! They are screaming in protest and I resemble someone who is 9 months pregnant when I try to get out of bed in the morning, I have to just take a deep breath and roll! 

It takes forever for my muscles to warm up during my Circuit Factory sessions because they are so stiff from all the exercise. I had no idea that the breakfast exercises would make such a difference. I have a few muscles that are protesting louder than all the others: 
  • A spot on my hamstring just above my left knee
  • Part of my abs on my right hand side
  • The sides of my back, just above my waist
They aren't injured or damaged, just in shock! 

My cardio system has taken a beating too. My 1 mile runs are getting incrementally slower, which is really frustrating. I'm wading through the treacle again, and I do not like it! I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn't realise I'd feel like I'd never exercised before. 

Ok, so the weights and measures at the end of week 1: 

Weight:        65.0kg
Bust:            30.0 Inches
Waist:          28.5 Inches
Stomach:     35.5 Inches
Hips:           40.0 Inches

So that's 1.5kg's lost, and 1/2 an inch lost from my stomach and 1/2 an inch lost from my hips! Yippee!!! Really excited by that loss, in a week. Shows that it does work and it really gives me the motivation to keep going. 

Here are the photo comparisons! Pre Challenge on the left, and end of week 1 on the right. I can't see much of a difference yet, but hopefully the changes are coming! 

Week 2:

This week has been a tough week. I've struggled much more with sugar cravings and with feeling rubbish. 

I already knew where my cheat meals would come in this week, it was Gary's birthday on the Monday and then I had a baby shower afternoon tea on the Friday. So cake was going to be present on both of those days. I was expecting to keep to those days being cheat days and avoiding sugar on the other days. 

My body had other ideas. The stomach bug I came down with on the Wednesday bogged me down and, combined with the dreaded time of the month, completely ruined my self control. I ate an entire 100g bar of Lindt milk chocolate with hazelnuts. And the only thing that stopped me from eating more crap was jumping on the scales and seeing I'd only lost 0.1kg since Saturday. 

It's strange but it seems that I have a really weird view when I look in the mirror. I don't see the weight gain until it is serious, I seem to ignore it and focus on all the good points I can see instead. The only real way to keep my motivated and focused is to weigh myself regularly. That probably puts me in the minority, most people find it demotivates them, but without it, Wednesday night would have gotten even more messy and off track than before! 

Although Thursday wasn't much better, I was really sick that day and ended up eating an entire tub of Vanilla Haagan Daaz to myself. I'm having to force myself to write it here because I really cringe when I think about this! Followed by a Baby Shower Afternoon Tea on the Friday and it was a really bad week for food. 

The stomach bug also prevented me from completing four sessions at The Circuit Factory this week, because Gary was travelling. Really frustrating not being able to get to four sessions, but I know I wouldn't have been up to it, and I could have set myself back even further. 

I'm still pushing to try to beat my personal best on the one mile warm up. It's stuck at 9:04 and I can't seem to push past it. I'm hoping the next couple of week will see me improve there. I think I might have beaten it during one of the sessions but we had to do ten squats (with the clock running) before the run, so I came in at 9:08, which may have been a personal best without the squats. 

I am seeing a bit of improvement in my recovery time though. As we change stations and change the exercises, my body seems to be recuperating better and I'm starting each exercise stronger than I would usually, especially towards the end of the session. 

Weights and Measures at the end of Week 2:

Weight:           64.4kg
Bust:               30.0 inches
Waist:             28.0 inches
Stomach:        35.0 inches
Hips:              39.0 inches

I'm shocked to have lost any weight at all this week, given my diet. Even though the core wasn't too bad, all the extra treats has really bogged me down. I suspect the weight loss may be solely down to the stomach bug, rather than anything else. 

Although, I have lost 0.5 inches from my waist and stomach and an entire inch from my hips this week. I wasn't expecting that at all, and it's definitely spurred me on to work harder next week. I don't have any special events this week, so I'm going to work on a very low key cheat at the end of the week, and stick to the Holy Grail like glue. 

I'm hoping to be able to get to 62kg by the end of the challenge, which is possible still do able as long as I rein it in over the next week. 

Here are the photo comparisons, photo on the left from the beginning of the challenge and photo on the right from the end of week 2. We are half way through, two more weeks to go! 

It's amazing, because I have lost inches, but I really can't tell the differences between these two sets of  photographs. It just shows how much more work there is to be done, and that now is not the time to quit! 

Week 3:

I've actually managed to get my four sessions in this week, which is a first this challenge. They have been really really tough, but the first session finally yielded a new personal best on the mile run warm up. And not just a small personal best, but a huge one! I went from 9:04 all the way down to 8:36! i was totally shocked when I got it because I was running after a stomach bug, with one shoe untied (I didn't dare stop to fasten it and lose more time!). 

I've managed to keep my running up to scratch since too, with an 8:41 the last time I did it. I know that 8:36 is going to be a difficult time to beat, and it might not happen for a while, but I know that it'll come as long as I keep training. 

I've been really craving sweet foods this week, but I've been having fruit instead, and that has seemed to keep the cravings under control, which is a big improvement. 

I feel like my legs are changing (not  my upper thighs which is a shame), as though the muscle is building. They feel straighter, not wobbly, and they don't flap about as much when I walk (I'm painting a really lovely picture there aren't I?).

My diet hasn't been amazing though. I was doing so well at the beginning of the week, but I lost it over the weekend. The food was always going to be the main difficulty for me, but I'm surprised how difficult it has been this week because I started so well, and I was determined to have a clean week. 

I need to pick up the food next week and finally give it a proper go. 

Weights and Measures at the end of Week 3:

Weight:           64.4KG 
Bust:               30.0 Inches
Waist:             28.0 Inches
Stomach:        35.0 Inches
Hips:              39.0 Inches

An absolute identical reading to last week. Its strange how I've had such a good week fitness wise, but not weight loss wise. I guess you can't have them both! 

Here are the photograph comparisons from the beginning of the challenge, to now. I still can see very little difference, but I'm not sure if I was expecting too much from a four week block. 

Week 4:

This week is going to be a tough one, because I already know that I can't get to four sessions of The Circuit Factory. Gary is away with work, so I'm having to push it to get three sessions in. I might try to get to a morning session, but we'll see how the week goes. 

I need to get my food right this week, it's really obvious that the first week (my best week diet wise) I lost 1.5KG and then that dropped right off as soon as I started adding the crap back into my diet (even though I was trying not to). 

The great thing is that my week started off with another personal best! Down to 8:22 on the 1 mile run for the warm up. I'm shocked and slightly concerned because I have no idea how I did it, but it's a great way to start off the week. Although my arms seem to have given up in defeat, I can't even do a crucifix hold with 3kgs in each hand, it really really hurts! 

But then my third session of The Circuit Factory ended halfway through the warm up, with a tweaked hamstring. I was sent home with instructions to rest, but unfortunately the rest was going to be for almost ten days while Gary was away. 

Although, as EVERY SINGLE INSTRUCTOR told me as I left the building "It's 80% diet, 20% exercise, so keep the food clean". So I worked so, so hard to keep my food completely clean. 

And I managed it! A full six days of absolutely nothing but the Holy Grail to eat. It was so tough, I wanted sugar every single day, especially when I was on my own and there was no one to watch me devour an entire tub of haagen daz. But I did it (save for a tiny tub of ice cream that I shared with my two year old on the sixth day!). The seventh day was Valentines day, so S and I made Chocolate Mint Cake for when Gary arrived home on his brief stopover before going away with work again, and there may have been a sneaky bottle of wine, but one cheat meal in a week is a complete record for me! 

I can actually keep my diet clean, who knew! 

Weights and Measures for the End of the Challenge:

Weight:       62.5kg
Bust:           29.5 Inches
Waist:         27.5 Inches
Stomach:    35.4 Inches
Hips:          38.5 Inches

Ummm WOW! I kinda accepted that it was 80% diet, but I had no idea exactly how true that was, especially when I can't exercise. 

I've lost 1.9kgs in a WEEK and 1/2 an inch from my bust, waist, stomach and hips. That is impressive. 

I was aiming to get to 62kgs in an ideal world, so being 0.5 kgs away from my goal is brilliant, especially when I struggled so much in week three. It also gives me the push to keep going with the clean eating, and see what I am really capable of. 

I was also aiming for a hip measurement of 37 inches, which would make me a perfect size 10 ;-) I'm still 1.5 inches away, but I'm a lot closer than I was before. I also tend to keep weight on my hips, so it's going to be the last place it comes off. 

Here are my final photographs for comparison:

Mama and More

Monday, 11 May 2015

Essential Oils: My Five Favourite Essential Oils for Babies

I feel like I say this all the time, but I wish I had known about essential oils when I was pregnant and when my kids were really young. I could have really offered them some additional support (and something to help me get through those tough early days too!). 

For those of you who have young babies, or are pregnant and expecting your bundle of joy, here are the five essential oils that I would arm myself with if I were pregnant again!

On Guard is such an important blend in this house! Babies and toddlers seem to get every single germ that comes within a ten mile radius of them! I use a single drop of On Guard in 10mls of coconut oil or olive oil and apply it to their feet every day to give their immune systems a much needed boost! 

Lavender is the ultimate essential oil for babies. It's fantastic for general calming, so would be amazing during the witching hour (if you don't know what that is, don't ask, better to remain oblivious!), it also helps to wind a baby down for bed. 

I also use it in the bath as it's great to support the skin as it repairs and renews itself. Now I have a crawling baby and a running toddler, Lavender comes in handy for all those cuts and scrapes that come with moving targets!

I don't think I mention Lemon too much but it's great oil for babies. It can be used to help the body to bring down a fever (rather than peppermint which can be too strong for some babies) and it's a great essential oil for supporting the body as it deals with the aftereffects from vaccines. Given our babies get so many in the first year, it's a nifty little oil to have on hand. 

Fennel is my first essential oil I reach for when my baby's reflux flares up. It's really gentle on the stomach, but it helps to strengthen and support the digestive system. I would also use it on babies who have colic as often babies with colic have some kind of digestive upset and could do with the additional support. 

I feel like I've been using this everyday for months on end. When my baby and toddler are sick, they are always sick with a massive snotty nose. I have no idea where my kids get all the green mucus from! Breathe is fantastic at helping the respiratory system as it tries to clear out all the gunk. It's particularly useful at night, because if your baby can't breathe, they can't sleep, and if they aren't sleeping, neither are you. 

Are there any other essential oils that you think should in the new baby survival kit?

If you are interested in doTERRA essential oils, click here for details on how to get started!

Please join my Facebook group on essential oils and like my Facebook page to be kept up to date on my latest blog posts. 

Please note: Products mentioned in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products and information on this page are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This website is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a medical, psychological, or psychiatric problem, or a disability that requires medical attention, then you should consult your licensed medical doctor or appropriate health care provider. Always consult your medical doctor regarding your medical care. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Recipes: Paleo Triple Chocolate Mint Brownies



These brownies have been on my mind for sometime. I love love love mint chocolate, sometimes a little bit too much! 

So I've been dying to make these triple chocolate mint brownies from Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind and see if they are really as good as they look. 

They are. In fact, I think they are better! 

They are really rich and squidgy, but the mint makes that all work perfectly! I'm always struggling to really make Paleo recipes that make people want to eat the whole lot in one go, but these are definitely one of those desserts. 

So take a look at the recipe and then go make some! I also substituted the peppermint extract for doTERRA peppermint essential oil because I couldn't find peppermint extract in Dubai. I swapped the 1/4 of a teaspoon of peppermint extract for just 8 drops of the peppermint essential oil. I think any more than that and you would swamp the recipe, because the chocolate bar you are adding in also has mint in it. 

If you taste the batter after you have added the eight drops, you'll be able to check whether it has enough mint for you. 

Paleo Triple Chocolate Mint Brownies
*Makes 9 servings


3 ounces/85 grams mint dark chocolate bar 60% cacao or higher (I used Alter Eco)
1/2 cup or 105 grams coconut oil
1/4 cup or 60 grams creamy almond butter
1/4 cup or 75 grams pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon plus a few drops peppermint extract or 8 drops of doTERRA peppermint essential oil
3 organic cage free eggs
1/4 cup or 45 grams coconut palm sugar
3/4 cup or 90 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup or 80 grams of chocolate chips (Enjoy Life or Ghiradelli Dark 60% Cacao)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F or 175 degrees C.

2. In a medium sized bowl melt the Mint Dark Chocolate bar over a boiling pan of water (make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl)

3. Once the chocolate is melted, slowly stir in the liquid coconut oil.

4. Then stir in the almond butter, maple syrup, peppermint extract and eggs.

5. Now whisk in the dry ingredients, the coconut palm sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder.

6. Fold in the chocolate chips.

7. Grease an 8×8″ square glass pan with coconut oil or butter and pour in the brownie batter.

8. Cook for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool and enjoy!

Cuddle Fairy