Thursday, 4 July 2013

Just gone live for Tesco

Family Holidays in the East.

Hey up m’ducks! This is my part of the world this is, and it’s dead good in’t it.

My neck of the woods…

Nottingham: I live in Nottingham. It gets a pretty bad rep and I’ll concede that a book on crime stats wouldn’t necessarily make for a perfect holiday read if you’re heading our way. But I love my city: I love the shops, the people (not the crime-stat-contributors, but the others are friendly, promise) and most of all I love the culture. Yes, that’s right, culture. It’s got a cool arty vibe in this city – here’s a couple of ways you can catch it:

Nottingham Contemporary: As well as having fantastic multi-media, provocative and stimulating exhibitions for everyone, this gallery takes what it terms “family fun” seriously. With free children’s activities most Saturdays from 11am-3pm and oodles more come the school holidays, you’re never stuck for what to do if you need a break from the bustling city streets.

Broadway Cinema: Another favourite haunt. Here’s an art-house cinema that won’t break the bank. They have new and older films and even special screenings for babies and ones for children with additional needs. The café bar is chilled and has a children’s menu that we’ve worked our way through many a time.

Other top-spots in the East:

Belton House, Lincolnshire: A National Trust stately home set in fabulous grounds, and to boot one of the best National Trust play parks there is. Take a picnic (the café isn’t remarkable) and spend the day playing, chilling and learning.

The Denes Beach at Southwold, Suffolk: A quiet and secluded (perfect for toddlers) shingle beach next to the River Blyth – good for walking, dunes and admiring the views across the estuary.

Rutland Water, Leicestershire: Popular with wildlife enthusiasts, cyclists and water-sports junkies; here there’s something for everyone of the outdoorsy persuasion.

Psst! Not many people know about…

Rufford Park a great, cheap (free to get in) day out with kids. A play park, ice-creams, café and a ruin to explore.

The Collection Museum in the heart of Lincoln, lots of hands-on kid-centric activities.

Eating out with kids in the East, top tables:

Alfresco, West Bridgford Nottingham: No airs and graces here, just paninis, toasties, ice-creams and coffee to die for. All served by an Italian family whose art of speaking broad Nottingham interjected with romantic Italian is worth a visit for alone.

The Olive Branch, Leicestershire: Situated in the picturesque village of Clipsham (just minutes off the A1) this pub serves proper posh food in a relaxed, friendly environment. Kids are spoilt rotten and everyone is made very welcome. On a sunny day the beer garden is an even bigger bonus.

Wagamamas, Lincoln: A new addition for this chain. Here you can suck on your soya beans in the beautiful harbour: kids can choose from noodle and rice dishes galore.

Wells Deli, Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk: Serving fresh sandwiches and top-notch quality coffee, it’s no wonder this perfectly placed (right on the sea front) deli has gone from strength to strength. Top tip; leave room for the cake!

Donnington Hall Farm Shop Café, Lincolnshire: Fantastic for lunches and for cream teas, here’s a farm shop in rural Lincolnshire that’s got it spot on. Children have a special menu, a basket of toys and lots of colouring-ins to keep them busy, so you are free to browse the cakes with the seriousness they call for.

Giraffe, Cambridge: If you’ve never visited a Giraffe restaurant, this is a good one to start with. Set in the centre of this fantastic city, here’s a chain designed with children in mind, but not compromising on the adult experience either. It’s fun, friendly and a lesson in getting it right for family eating out.

Where to stay…

For glampers: Woodhall Country Park, Lincs in a beautiful conservation area of Lincolnshire, a 5 star camping experience.

And campers: Wing Hall, Rutland slightly run down but good for a couple of nights roughin’ it; close to great activities in Leicestershire and fantastic views.

For big spenders:  Ickworth Hotel, Suffolk a divine house and a splendid, luxury family hotel.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

My latest blog post for Tesco

Walk this Way

It’s that time of year when our New Year pledges of fitness can become challenged by our instinctive desire to just give up! Phoebe Doyle has some motivation tips to keep you on the right track with the walking challenge…

Weren’t we doing well? On January the 2nd we were back to work, boasting of yet-to-be-achieved goals, envisioning Olympic-esque fitness levels and pounding the pavements with our new BFF - our pedometer.

Now we’re not so sure. Walking’s OK, but cars were invented for a reason surely. And TVs. And sofas.

Feeling pessimistic about our best laid plan is totally understandable, logical even; our dreams of dropping weight in record time haven’t been realised as quickly as we’d hoped and we still feel just as exhausted all the time. Hold it right there! Stop being so predictable! Apparently over 3 quarters of us give up our new year’s resolutions at some point in January… you don’t want to follow the crowd now do you?

Here’s some tips to keep motivation high during this most testing of will-power time…

1.     Buddy up! Chances are you have a friend who was going to give up wine/cigarettes/men but has already given up on giving up… but don’t follow suit. Instead take such a friend under your wing and help spur each other along on the walking challenge. Walking with a friend has a twofold beneficial effect: Firstly you’re more likely to stick to it as you won’t want to let them down, secondly chatting whilst walking is about 77% more satisfying than walking alone.*

*Statistic based on No Research Whatsoever, but it’s true, right?

2.   Feel the rhythm. Whether music could help exercise had been argued by sports boffins for years and was scientifically found to be the case by researchers at Liverpool John Moore’s University in 2009. The scientists found that exercise endurance and performance improved by 10% when people listened to music. So plug yourself into your ipod and get into the beat of your favourite tunes; time will fly by.

3.  Reward yourself.  Our fitness goals can take so long to achieve; fitting into some ridiculous jeans, losing a stone, getting properly fit. Because such goals are far from instantly realised we can often find ourselves becoming despondent and asking what on earth we’re doing it all for. By giving yourself some rewards in the short term you can help to keep your motivation up constantly without having to always measure up against the long term aim.

Little note though, when we say “reward” it’s best to think more, say a beauty product than an enormous desert. Walking is a great calorie burner but you’ll put them all back on, and more, if you over-eat.

4. A change is as good as a rest. Well, maybe not quite, but almost. If you’ve been building up your step count by simply walking around your block or doing the same old circuit of the park it’s no wonder you’re beginning to flag. Change your route often, even if it means driving somewhere to start walking. Getting out of town and into the sticks has to be the biggest motivation-booster, with the fresh air being a mood-lifter in itself. But if you can’t do that visit another park… or even another block will be more interesting than your own!

5. Borrow a dog or a child. Not something I often advise, in fact this might be a first. And obviously I’m assuming you’ll ask first and be given full consent.

If you’re finding it hard to stick to your initial reasons for starting the challenge, why not make a new one; being helpful to a friend. You must have a friend who needs their dog walked whilst they’re out, or perhaps a young child that needs a sleep and will only succumb once they’ve been taken out in their buggy and marched sufficiently… well you can become said friend’s knight in shining armour! Offer to take their dog/child/partner/whatever out on a walk and you can polish your helpful halo as well as your fitness one.