Category Archives: lifestyle

Guest post: 4 Ways To Improve Your Running Speed

Whether you run for the joy of it or are prepping your 11th marathon, sooner or later, you’re going to want to boost your running speed—to shave off seconds, or even minutes, from your personal best.

Improve Your Running Speed

If you’ve reached that point, then today you’re in the right place.

In this article, I’ll unravel four training strategies for taking your running speed to the next level.

Let’s lace up and dig in.

Hill Reps

The extra resistance of going up a hill puts a much greater demand on your body and cardiovascular system than running on a flat surface—the more challenging, the better.

Although hills come in various sizes and inclines, the main idea is the same—You run up the hill as fast as you can with good technique, then jog or walk down for recovery.

Here’s how to do them right. Start by locating a hill that’s roughly 150 to 200m in length with an incline that’s enough to test you but not to the point where your form goes south.

Improve Your Running Speed

Then following the warm-up, run up the hill at your 5K pace, or a little bit faster.  Once you get on top, jog down at a very easy pace to recover, then repeat the process for 15 to 20 minutes.

Make it a goal to maintain the same effort level as you climb you the hill. Engage your core, keep your shoulders loose, and gaze straight ahead.

Go Plyo

Plyo training consists of high-velocity, explosive exercises that depend on the power produced through the stretch-shortening cycle by often performing bodyweight jumping movement.

These are an awesome way for you to increase your power output and athletic performance.

Again, don’t take my word for it. A study published in the Journal of Strength And Conditioning Research reported that middle and long-distance runners who did plyometrics for six weeks improved their race results by up to 4 percent.

Just like sprinting, a few minutes of plyometric can go a long way.  Try doing 5 to 10 minutes after completing an easy run or as a part of your weightlifting sessions.

Just make sure to push your body to the max. Here are some of the best plyo moves for runners:

  • Jump roping
  • Box jumps
  • Burpees
  • Med ball toss
  • Jumping lunges
  • Jumping squats
  • Skipping drills
  • Standing long jumps

What’s more?

Typical plyo moves are technically more demanding and call for good form for making the most out of them while staying injury-free. To err on the side of caution, consider hiring a personal trainer to evaluate your form or filming yourself so you can assess your form. 

Strength Train

Not all the steps required to improve your running speed are running steps. Your cross-training activity—as in, non-running workouts—can also greatly impact your ability to crank up the speed and maintain it. One of these favorite cross-training options is strength training.

A regular weight lifting routine achieves the following:

  • Helping run faster by improving power and neuromuscular coordination.
  • Preventing injuries by but not only strengthens muscles but also joints, bones, ligaments, and tissue.
  • Enhancing running economy by promoting stride efficiently and coordination.

Here are some of the strength moves that are the most beneficial to runners.

  • Pushups
  • Planks
  • Back squats
  • Front squats
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Nordic curls
  • SB hamstrings curls
  • Russian twists

 To build your routine, feel free to either focus on one area (upper body, lower body, or core) or pick a couple of exercises from each area for a total body workout.

Improve Your Running Speed

Avoid Overtraining

Don’t assume that giving it your all every day will make you better a runner—in fact, push your body too much too soon, and you’ll be asking for injury and burnouts.

When you exercise, especially when you push your body hard, you create micros tears in your muscles. The only way to let those micro-tears and damage heal by letting your body rest.

As a rule of thumb, don’t perform back-to-back days of intense training—at the very least, give yourself one recovery day per week.

How do you know it’s time to ease off?

Here are some of the signs that you’re running your body into the ground.

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic aches and pains
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Inability to focus
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Poor athletic performance
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Feeling like you’re getting sick
  • Poor sleep

Conclusion

There you have it. In order to improve your speed, you simply need to put the following tips into practice. Then it’s just a matter of time before you start reaping the results of your hard labour. The rest is just details, as the saying goes.

What about you? Do you have any favorite speedwork you’ll love to share with us? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

About the author:

David Dack is an established fitness blogger and running expert. When he’s not training for his next marathon, he’s doing research and trying to help as many people as possible to share his fitness philosophy. Check his blog Runners Blueprint for more info.

Guest post by David Dack
Images purchased by David Dack from Fotolia

Guest post: When should I replace my running shoes?

“When should I replace my running shoes?” This is a common question all runners have. But why should you even consider swapping your running shoes?

Here’s the truth. Even if your shoes feel as valuable as gold, they won’t last you forever.

As you log in more miles, the cushy foam starts to get compressed under the weight, and the outsoles begin to go bald. Once your shoes are past their prime, they can no longer protect your body from the repetitive pounding, leading to soreness and injury.

That’s why it’s always vital to know when to replace your shoes.

old running shoes

To help you make the right decision, I’ve compiled a list of tips and signs to help you decide when your shoes are indeed done. This guide will show you how long-running kicks typically last, the telling sign of a worn-out pair, and when to replace your running shoes.

Sounds good?

Let’s get started.

The Exact Range

Estimates on how long running shoes should last vary, but the rule of thumb says to look for new ones every 400 to 500 miles. This means if you average 15 miles per week, you’ll need new kicks every six to eight months.

Of course, I guess you could keep running in worn-out shoes, but just like driving a car on bald tyres, the risks of something going wrong increases each time you stride the ground.

However, the 400 to 500 miles rule is not cast in stone. It’s simply a rough estimate. The exact mileage depends on many factors, such as your body weight, running style, training intensity, and more importantly, the surface on which run.

So, for instance, if you run on tough terrain or trails, you’ll need to swap your trainers for a new one sooner than if you primarily stick to softer surfaces.

The Signs to Check for

Here’s what you need to do to make sure that your sneakers don’t run you into the ground.

Keep track of your Shoe Miles

It’s often hard to tell just how many miles you have logged in your shoes, especially when you are not following a detailed running plan, or rotate through many shoes.

Here’s how to make it easier.

Use a permanent marker to write down the date of first use on a part of your trainers that won’t get worn off, then keep track of your mileage in a diary to know when it’s time to swap them out.

You should also consider using running apps such as Strava that let you monitor your mileage in different pairs of shoes. Some apps may even inform you once you’re past that 500-mile mark and suggest that you start looking for a new pair.

Check the Outsole

The outsole consists of the rubber part of the shoe that gets in contact with the ground from heel to toe. It plays an essential role because it offers the clearest sign of wear and tear.

The outsoles of your running shoes are equipped with treads, just like car tyres, which helps reduce landing’s impact and grip the road. As you log in more miles, the rubber on the bottom outsole begins to wear away.

Look for any bald spots on the outsole of your trainers where the rubber has broken down.  This is especially the case if the tread is entirely gone or the outsole is completely white.

You’re Feeling Pain

Wear, tear, and mileage aside, one more thing to check whether you need to ditch your shoes is your own body.

When your sole-mate no longer offers ample support and protection as they did when you first started using them, it usually leads to pain.

If you’re starting to experience annoying little pains, especially aching arches, sore soles, painful knees, tender shins, and other small nuisances, then it’s time to assess your shoes.

running shoes

Conclusion

There you have it! The above guidelines are all you need to make sure you know when it’s time to turn off the switch on your running shoes and look for new ones. Just make sure to head to the nearest running speciality store when looking for new sole-mates. That way you make sure you make the right decision both for your wallet and running enjoyment. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

Keep running strong.

About the author:

David Dack is an established fitness blogger and running expert. When he’s not training for his next marathon, he’s doing research and trying to help as many people as possible to share his fitness philosophy. Check his blog Runners Blueprint for more info.

Guest post by David Dack
Images purchased by David Dack from Fotolia

An eco Christmas Gift Guide ad

Disclosure.  This post mentions products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.
This post is classed as an advert because I have been requested to include a specific URL

It is getting to that time of year to start thinking about Christmas presents, so I would like to share some of my gift guide ideas. Regular readers will know that I’ve tried to adopt a much more sustainable philosophy this year, so I’ve been keeping an eye out whenever I’ve been in the charity shops. I’ve got quite a few toys, games and books as stocking fillers for the boys. Some of them even look brand new. Of course I still plan to get them at least one thing that they each specifically request.

Sous Chef salt plate

However you can also get some nice new sustainable gifts and when I was browsing the cookware section of the Sous Chef website, I discovered some great finds, which they kindly sent me for free. First up is this fab Himalayan salt plate. It comes in two sizes and this is the smaller 21cm x 10 cm. Salt is naturally antibacterial, so there is no need to use soap to clean the plate. Just wipe with a damp cloth, and dry well before storing. You can heat the plate in the oven or chill it in the freezer, and it will season the food you are serving on it. Just imagine frying scallops on it or using it to serve your caramel ice cream. What a wow factor at the table!

Sous Chef grow your own sunflowers and kale

And for the gardener in your life, there is a great range of grow your own products. I chose these grow in the bag Towering Sunflowers and Gigantically Good Dinosaur Kale (cavolo nero). The instructions on the reverse indicate that you start the seeds off in the natural biodegradable jute bag, then transplant the whole thing outside to mature. See I’m also thinking about the bees with the sunflowers, as I had been contemplating making my own bee bombs.

Sous Chef grow your own sunflowers and kale

I’m planning to make some homemade foodie gifts for the extended family, so the final two items I chose from the cookware range are early Xmas gifts to myself to assist in that process. There is a large Cook’s Muslin Square 93cm x 100cm that I’m hoping to use to strain jellies and steam Christmas puddings. Two things I’ve never tried previously, but I can remember as a child watching my mum tie her jelly bag onto a kitchen drawer handle overnight when making crab apple jelly. You never know, I might even try making my own cheese with it. Muslin is a natural fabric which can be washed and reused time after time.

Sous Chef Cooks Muslin

And after any cooking, there is the cleaning afterwards, which is where this copper washing up sponge will come in very handy. It is made by Andrée Jardin, a traditional French family business where everything is produced in small batches, using artisanal techniques. The company’s motto is Simplicity, Quality, Sustainability.

Sous Chef copper sponge

Do take a look at the Sous Chef site here https://www.souschef.co.uk/collections/cookware. There are so many more fabulous items. I’ve got my eye on the dehydrator. It would be great to make my homemade fruit snacks and vegetable crisps, avoiding all the plastic packaging that they tend to be sold in. The trays are stainless steel, so no need to worry about toxins from plastic either.

My other big sustainable gift suggestion is to give someone a memory. I’m thinking of paying the entry fee for a swimming race for my partner, but it could be buying a membership of say Woodland Trust or adopting an endangered animal via WWF or tickets to an event. The list is endless.

I’d love to hear what you would like to give or receive for Christmas. I’m especially looking forward to hearing about sustainable ideas.

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£100,000 for BBC Children In Need

Disclosure. This post mentions an event I attended for free. Plus I received a free goody bag. All opinions are my own.

Bassetts Vitamins support BBC Children in Need

I recently attended a press lunch event at the Good Hotel in London hosted by Bassetts Vitamins. They have partnered with BBC Children in Need this year and have contributed an amazing £100,000 to support this fantastic cause.

BBC Children in Need is the BBC’s UK corporate charity, and the number one children’s charity in the UK. Since 1980, they have raised over £1 billion to change the lives of children & young people in the UK. Their vision is that every child in the UK has a childhood which is safe, happy and secure and allows them the chance to reach their potential. This is achieved by finding and funding inspiring ideas that change children’s lives.

BBC Children in Need

BBC Children in Need are currently supporting over 3,000 projects across the UK, in every region. In the last year they helped improve the lives of 600,000 disadvantaged children and young people. And in the last grant year, they awarded £63.3m to 1,516 projects. Just one of the main grants might pay for a therapist, a specialist youth worker or a bereavement counsellor. It might pay for three years of residential trips, or specialist sports equipment, breakfast clubs, afterschool clubs or an outdoor play area. It might mean the world of difference for a family struggling to cope.

We heard from staff at one such project, the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford. This is the UK’s first hands-on story centre focusing on stories, language and imagination, which opened in 2003 in consultation with local regeneration funders, educationalists, children and parents. They had over 140,000 visitors in 2018/19.

Discover Children's Story Centre

The aims of the Discover Children’s Story Centre are as follows.

  • To provide young families, particularly those in East London, with a safe space to play and learn.
  • To transform outcomes for children by improving literacy and communication skills, particularly those who are underachieving.
  • To promote children’s literature and reading for pleasure to one of the most diverse communities in the UK.
  • To increase the parents/carers’ confidence in engaging with and supporting children’s education.
  • To provide accessible activities for children and families with disabilities.
  • To provide teachers with the skills and techniques to adopt innovative, effective approaches to the learning and teaching of literacy.

A BBC Children in Need grant has been funding the Mighty Mega Special Needs Club at the Discover Children’s Story Centre. This club is a weekly session for children aged 5-14 years with disabilities and special educational needs, and their families. Mighty Mega is a place where a child with a disability isn’t just tolerated but positively welcomed. The children can have the kind of time they want to match their different moods.

And that is just one of many projects at the Discover Children’s Story Centre. Another is Story Sandwich, which is storytelling for children aged 0-5 facing homelessness or transience. Families attend an interactive session, with lunch, free books and free tickets to Discover. Helping to reduce the negative impact on families of living in temporary accommodation. Providing families with stability and improve social engagement in their locality.

There is also Story Worlds – immersive environments to stimulate curiosity, creativity, and imagination. Story Building – a child-led, collaborative way of developing children’s literacy skills. Author and illustrator events. Storytelling for 0-3 year olds. Exhibitions Installations bringing acclaimed books and illustrations to life.

The main fundraising date for BBC Children in Need this year is coming up shortly on Friday 15th November, so whether you’re dressing your kids in spots, baking spotty cookies or something more ambitious, do have lots of fun and let’s hope that plenty of funds are raised for this great work to continue. Don’t forget to tune in to the TV show on BBC1 at 7.30pm.

BBC Children in Need

It was great to network with some of the other bloggers and influencers after the formal presentation. Sorry I didn’t get to speak to you all, but I would like to say thanks to Helen of KiddyCharts, Anna of Twins and Travels and Gemma for some great tips. And we each got a goody bag to take home too. Plus I got to meet Pudsey Bear.

With Pudsey Bear of BBC Children in Need

And finally a huge thank you to Jade and team from Hill+Knowlton Strategies who coordinated the event, including colouring entertainment for infuencers’ children and a delicious buffet lunch.

Bassetts Vitamins support BBC Children in Need

I’d love to hear about how you support BBC Children in Need or other charities?

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Britmums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge ad

Well I’ve certainly noticed the change in temperature over the last couple of weeks. It is definitely Autumnal feeling, although we’ve managed to avoid putting the heating on yet. Trying to wait until November. I even treated myself to a new secondhand pair of winter boots from the charity shop. I’ve been trying to be more sustainable this year, but this is the first time I’ve purchased secondhand footwear.

Luckily we have plenty of wardrobe space, so all the cosy jumpers and leggings, etc are easily accessible. I remember as a child, my mum used to use a suitcase as storage for summer or winter kids wardrobe according to the season, checking what still fitted us when she unpacked it again. However I have rearranged our hall cupboard and put all the sandals, crocs, flip-flops and sunhats back upstairs in the wardrobes and brought down our winter coats, hats, scarves, gloves and boots.

Winter wardrobe

But what’s with the idea behind the #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge? I was rather sceptical of the hashtag but signed up when Britmums challenged bloggers to take part, so I received two free boxes of ACE for Colours Powder. Apparently the brand-new ACE for Colours Powder reinvigorates clothes, using stain-removing powers and bringing coloured garments back to life. Plus, unlike other stain removers, it comes in a plastic-free fully recyclable carton. It was the latter point that sold it to me, as regular followers of my blog will know that I am trying to reduce plastic.

Britmums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge

However I drew the line at testing it on my winter wardrobe, straight from the hangers. It is already clean, so that does not seem very environmentally friendly. Instead I waited until I’d actually worn some of my winter clothes.

Britmums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge

There are various options on how to use all listed on the box, including pretreatment or soaking for stains. As this load of laundry was all standard, I just needed to add the detergent as usual, then add 2 tablespoons of the ACE For Colours powder to the main wash dispenser drawer. You would double the dosage for very dirty laundry like my boys’ school sports kits. But I’m not going to talk about that now, as I blogged about washing those last year here.

Britmums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge

All looked clean and bright, hurrah. And of course now that it is getting colder, it is time to swap my cropped running leggings for full-length. So there will be plenty of mud splashes on those as well as on school sports kit. Definitely the best time of year to begin the #ACEWinterRefresh, but it will certainly be on-going all winter.

About ACE

  • ACE makes life easy with the never-ending school laundry pile by gently removing stains
  • ACE keeps garments bright, robust and clean meaning clothes last for longer
  • Keep those colours bright and fresh with ACE for Colours
  • Ace for Colours Powder comes in a fully recyclable Tetra pak
  • Use ACE in your daily wash to keep clothes looking fresher for longer
  • Call to action: Pick up the ACE product range including ACE for Colours powder at your nearest Morrison’s store or buy online on Amazon.

I’d love to hear about your washing tips or nightmares.

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Disclosure. This post is an entry for the BritMums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge, sponsored by ACE for Colours Powder. Get help for all kinds of stains with the ACE Stain Helper and pick up the range at your nearest Morrison’s store or buy online on Amazon.
This post mentions a product I received for free. All opinions are my own. This post is classed as an advert because of the requirement to include the #ACEWinterRefresh hashtag.

Guest post: How does the Ketogenic diet work?

Guest post by Ricard Ponsi of Workout-Temple

Nutritional ketosis is a dietary protocol whose objective is to improve our metabolic flexibility when using fatty acids as the main energy substrate. For this, the intake of carbohydrates is limited, depending on the individual, approximately 50 g net per day.

With this we generate low levels of insulin in plasma and, subsequently, a reduction of glycogen levels in muscular and hepatic reserves. In the absence of the main fuel of our body (glucose) the ketogenesis process is activated, where the liver will produce ketone bodies to feed the different tissues and cells.

KETOSIS is a NATURAL state that human beings have experienced since the beginning of time. Therefore, we are evolutionarily adapted to use both energy substrates (ketone bodies and glucose), which means that past civilization may have consciously sought a state of fasting or induced ketosis. This is why, evolutionarily speaking our physiology seeks an alternative mechanism to glucose as it is the only source of energy.

ketogenic diet

Photo source: https://pixabay.com/

Nutritional ketosis and metabolic flexibility

We can define the metabolic flexibility as the efficiency of our body when using energy substrates depending on demand such as walking, running or sprinting. Remember that, although our glycogen reserves (both muscular and hepatic) are limited, the same is not true of our fat stores, the latter being able to represent a much greater amount than the former. So… Why doesn’t our body use fats? What happens is that in a traditional diet based on hydrates (and not always from the best sources) our body always finds plasma glucose and glycogen stores full. Therefore, it does not need to look for any other energy source. Our body has simply ‘forgotten’ how to use fats as energy. It is here when the ‘low carb’ or ‘ketogenic’ guidelines are an interesting tool.

Adaptation to a new fuel

It is the process called Ketoadaptation, which we could define as the process through which human metabolism adapts to the use of fats optimally as the main source of energy. In the beginning a drastic change it can condition sports performance and your daily life, but in most of the cases the symptoms are diluted after the first week.

Symptoms of Keto-adaptation:

– Fatigue
– Worse sports performance
– Dizziness
– Cramps
– Constipation
– Palpitations

Once past the moment of adaptation we will see how the symptoms disappear, signal that our metabolism works optimally and achieving efficiency in both our sports and personal performance.

Very important considerations

Ketosis is NOT a pathological state. And I must emphasize this because, in a still very widespread way, nutritional ketosis is often confused with diabetic ketoacidosis.

Many symptoms may be due to a lack of electrolytes during the beginning of the ketosis process. There is a reduction in glycogen levels and, as a consequence, also a loss of water associated with this glycogen. With this loss of water there will be a ‘drag’ of electrolytes that we should know and replace, with special emphasis on 3 of them.

Sodium DRI = 5000 – 7000 mg
Potassium DRI = 1000 – 3500 mg
Magnesium DRI = 300 – 500mg

I must emphasize that nutritional ketosis is NOT a hyperproteic diet, but moderate or protein-adjusted. The amount of protein is maintained at constant values depending on the objectives of the subject, and can range between 1.4 to 2.0 g / kg body weight.

Ketosis and sports performance

Resistance discipline: In this type of activities there are promising investigations and cases of ketoadapted athletes where the fat / glycogen use ratio is optimized, which positions as a great tool to maximize performance. Nutritional ketosis improves fat oxidation and metabolic flexibility, which is vital in long-term efforts where the main energy system is aerobic.

Discipline of strength: In disciplines where the main component is strength and power, the dominant energy substrate is the path of phosphogens, which is not impacted by a nutritional ketosis.

Hypertrophy training: This modality seeks to increase the total volume (series and repetitions) so the glycolytic pathway is a very important metabolic pathway. Since nutritional ketosis reduces muscle glycogen levels and also circulating insulin, it makes sense to think that it is not the optimal state to build muscle mass.

Conclusion on keto diet

In my opinion, the ketogenic diet can be an interesting strategy to introduce in periods of 6 to 10 weeks (a couple times a year) and benefit greatly from its effects.

During the intervention time there are very notable improvements in fat loss (extensive benefits proven), while maintaining the muscle mass and keeping performance levels measured through RM in different exercises.

Guest post by Ricard Ponsi and Pere Coll
Originally posted on the Workout-Temple website here.

An eco holiday at Owl Barn Retreat

In line with trying to become more eco-focussed this year, we decided that we wanted our holiday to follow the same principles, so we chose to stay at Owl Barn Retreat. This is a delightful barn conversion in a rural location about a mile from the village of Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant in Wales. It is a sustainable and eco-friendly holiday cottage which has achieved a gold award from the Green Business Tourist Scheme. This was how we discovered the cottage. I’m particularly impressed with the kitchen work surfaces having been constructed from recycled glass bottles.

Owl Barn Retreat

Owl Barn Retreat

From here, we were able to do several walks to the nearby villages of Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant and Penybontfawr, plus most magnificent of all, a longer walk from the cottage all the way to Pistyll Rhaeadr, the tallest waterfall in Wales which is in a remote area of the Berwyn Mountains. And of course we had to take a trip to CAT, the Centre for Alternative Technology, my third time there. We also enjoyed a walk from Lake Vyrnwy to a nearby smaller waterfall.

Pistyll Rhaeadr

Centre for Alternative Technology

Penybontfawr

Stepping Stones near Lake Vyrnwy

We were provided with Faith in Nature toiletries and Ecover, Ecoleaf and Method cleaning products, along with a tasty welcome pack of local food. We continued to try to buy locally with produce from the village butcher, Oswestry market, Llynclys Hall farm shop, plus Honeysuckle whole foods shop in Oswestry and Down to Earth in Llanfyllin. Zero trips to the supermarket on this holiday.

Recycling and composting are key at the cottage with separate clearly labelled bins for each type of recycling. I’m already aware how recycling varies from county to county. Here in Powys, there appears to be no recycling of tetra packs or metal jar lids. We did consider the possibility of bringing those back home but decided there probably wasn’t space in the car. But we did head home with an eco brick half filled.

butterfly

Owl Barn Retreat

And I loved relaxing in the wildlife garden watching the butterflies and listening to the birds. We’ve also seen rabbits, squirrels and a fox. Son2 has enjoyed using the telescope when it has been less cloudy and has spotted Arcturus. He also loved playing in the maze, which is another great area for wildlife with all the long grass and bracken.

Owl Barn Retreat

It was a great feeling to be on the same wavelength as the owners. Anne phoned me a few days in advance of our holiday and told me things like there being a fishmonger at Oswestry market on Wednesdays. Just like I do here at home, Anne takes her own boxes to the butcher and fishmonger to avoid plastic. She was quite happy to leave me a supply of boxes to use, so we didn’t have to pack those.

We loved it so much at Owl Barn Retreat, that we have already booked two future stays there.

I’d love to hear your eco friendly holiday suggestions and tips please.

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Chicago Town Cheesy Stuffed Crust pizza review

I was recently asked if I would like to review the newest variety of Chicago Town pizza. Now I had to think hard about this request, as this is one of my favourite brands of frozen pizza, but I’ve been avoiding buying frozen pizzas this year, instead either making homemade pizzas or enjoying one at a restaurant.

But in the end, I decided my blog would be a great way to highlight why I’ve been avoiding buying something that all the family enjoy. It is all because of what is hiding between the cardboard box and the pizza – namely plastic! And not just any plastic, but a single-use film which is not recyclable. If frozen fishfingers can be sold loose in a cardboard box, then why not pizzas? Come on Chicago Town. I hope you’re reading this. Let’s lose that unnecessary plastic please. The pizza will be just fine loose in the box.

Chicago Town pizza

So I received five £2 money off vouchers to try out the new Chicago Town Cheesy Stuffed Crust pizza along with any others from the range. I headed off to one of the large superstore branches of Sainsburys. But luck was not on my side. Surprisingly that branch didn’t seem to stock the new variety. And since I had already told the boys that it was pizza for tea, I bought the following varieties.

Tomato Stuffed Crust Cheese pizza – £2.50 (special offer)
Tomato Stuffed Crust Pepperoni pizza – £2.50 (special offer)
Deep Dish Four Cheese – £2

Chicago Town pizza

The first two for tea and the latter reserved for my next 12 hour shift at work, since the Deep Dish range are suitable for microwave. This used to be one of my regular night shift dinners before trying to reduce plastic. And the Tomato Stuffed Crust pizzas were a huge success. Not only very tasty, but son2 who never eats his pizza crusts, actually cleared his plate for the Tomato Stuffed Crust Cheese pizza and gave it the thumbs up.

Chicago Town pizza

A few days later and it was back to the shops for another go at buying the Chicago Town Cheesy Stuffed Crust pizza. After unsuccessfully trying at Co-op, Tesco, Waitrose, M&S and at a second branch of Sainsburys, I finally hit the jackpot at a second branch of Tesco. There it was, the elusive Chicago Town Cheesy Stuffed Crust pizza, although wrongly labelled on the shelf.

So I put the last 2 vouchers towards the cost of that plus a Classic Crust Chicken and Bacon Melt, which were both on special offer at 2 pizzas for £6. The boys would be overjoyed at getting pizza twice in less than a week.

Chicago Town Cheesy Stuffed Crust pizza

And the big question. Would son2 eat the pizza crust this time too?

Chicago Town pizza

Unfortunately not, but he did still enjoy the rest of the pizza. And I have to say that I found the cheese in the crust tastes quite different to the cheese on top, as it is a cheese sauce, which is something else he won’t eat. He is a very fussy eater and the only cheese he eats at all is mozzarella, but only the pizza type, not the mozzarella balls. So hush, he quite happily ate mozzarella, monterey jack, mature cheddar and emmental on this, assuming it was just mozzarella.

This is another area where I haven’t been able to find a plastic-free solution yet. I always feel guilty buying the bags of grated mozzarella or packs of mozzarella slices for him so if anyone knows where to buy plastic-free mozzarella, then please do let me know. I can’t even seem to find a block of mozzarella, which should be marginally less plastic than buying grated or sliced.

Chicago Town pizza

However the rest of the family all enjoyed our Cheesy Stuffed Crust, plus the Chicken & Bacon Melt too. So I can recommend these pizzas for being great tasty and excellent value for money. But as said above, please please lose the inner plastic. In my opinion, a frozen product is fine loose in a cardboard box.

And for those who are interested, here are some more Chicago Town posts from my archive a few years back.
Chicago Town Takeaway pizza review
Chicago Town Deep Dish pizza review

I’d love to hear what is your favourite pizza?

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I purchased using vouchers I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Jibbergiggle game including giveaway

A rainy day in the long school summer holiday and what better way to spend it than trying out our latest free game Jibbergiggle from Gamely. We have had great fun playing their other three games, so we were certainly looking forward to testing this one out too.

Jibbergiggle

Also just like the other three games, Randomise, Soundiculous and The Pretender, it comes in a nice small box, the size of two decks of playing cards. This has always been a plus point for me, as the boys’ possessions seem to be gradually taking over the rest of the house. And I’m even more focussed on minimal packaging this year, so I would add that perhaps they could lose a layer of cellophane to reduce waste. Currently the cards are wrapped in cellophane and then the external box is wrapped again.

Moving onto the game itself, the boys were delighted by the rule of how to choose who plays first, this being the player with the longest tongue. Son1 was voted the winner on this count, but who would become the ultimate Jibbergiggle champion.

Jibbergiggle

Once the rules are mastered, it is fairly simple to play but lots of fun. 9 possible scenario cards are laid out, the player then looks at their nonsense sound card and secretly chooses which scenario they wish to perform. But you have to sit on your hands and only perform the scenario using your sound and facial expressions. For example cast a spell using only the phrase “piggle wiggle”. The other players try to guess, but have to shout Jibbergiggle before making their guess. We had quite a few instances initially where the Jibbergiggle shout was forgotten allowing another player an opportunity.

Jibbergiggle

I do have one question for clarification though. We were playing as a 3 person game and both boys guessed wrongly for one of my scenarios, so they were out of the round. We misinterpreted this as just out of the turn and it was only when I re-read the rules that I realised it should have been out of the round. Doe that mean since I was the only one left, with nobody remaining to guess, that we should have discarded the remaining round 1 cards and moved onto round 2?

And as you can see from the photo below, hands did not remain sat upon for long.

Jibbergiggle

Our game went to a tiebreak between son1 and son2, with me trailing in third place. My reactions just weren’t quick enough.

The rules indicate that it is for 3-8 players and suitable for age 8+, so good for a party. What a lot of fun for a load of nonsense.

Jibbergiggle currently retails at £12.99 on Amazon and John Lewis. Great value in my opinion. I can certainly highly recommend this game.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a Jibbergiggle game to one lucky winner. What a fun prize. Open worldwide.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your idea for a new game.

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Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Guest post: Best Ways to Play Together as a Family

Families that can play together spend more quality time together. If you want to strengthen the ties and bonds within your family, playing together is one of the best ways you can do that. This is a holistic approach that has worked for many families. There have been studies done to show that families who play together will be closer to one another.

If this is the type of family you want to have, learning more about the best ways to play together as a family is a great idea. However, before doing so, there are a couple more things to note. First, there are so many adults who are so busy with work and other responsibilities that they forget to take the time to play. Just because you are an adult, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play. You can have a great time, relieve stress, and bond with your family members through play. Choose one of these ways to start playing with your family today.

Finding Ways to Laugh More Often
Laughter really can be the best medicine for your family. Laughing helps you and your family members to decompress from complicated and stressful situations. It helps to prevent stress in the family. When did you last belly laugh? You know that full type of laugh that really comes from inside of you. Research does show that laughter helps to increase longevity. If you can find more ways to laugh with your family, this can help you all with so many things. Not only will it help relieve stress and improve longevity, but allows you all to connect with one another as well. Many families don’t like spending time around each other. This may be because they don’t laugh and have a great time together. The more you do this, the more you may actually enjoy each other’s company.

Keeping Things Simple
It is easier than it seems to make things simpler in life. When you spend time with your family, you don’t have to do something complicated and intense. There are many ways to play together and have fun without getting even more stressed out. You can take a small getaway to the local park. Maybe you can even have a quick picnic instead of eating out at fast food. You can make memories by playing in the river down the street, instead of driving all the way across town to a lake. Think of the simple things. Do you have trails in your yard? If so, you and your family can play in the trails. Make a tent out of sticks. Keeping things simple really is the best way to have fun and play together as a family.

Meeting the Needs of Everyone
Do you feel that everyone in your family is getting their needs met? If not, there are ways to make sure this happens. You can let everyone pick one weekend a month to plan a playful activity. Family meetings are a great way to get everyone involved in planning out fun events as well. Maybe your youngest child loves going to the park while your oldest loves playing board games. You can always play chess in the park or do one of these things every other weekend. Being positive around your children and making sure they know you want to meet everyone’s needs is a great way to teach them to care for others. By meeting everyone’s needs, you might just find that everyone in the family is happier and more content on a regular basis. In addition, you teach your children to take turns.

Spontaneity Can Breed Happiness
Some families stick to the same routine repeatedly. While routines are great for children and entire families, sometimes spontaneity can breed happiness. You can find many fun and spontaneous things to do. You can spontaneously decide that instead of electronic time, you are going to take the children outside to play in the mud. You can decide that instead of taking an afternoon walk outdoors, on a rainy day, you make forts in the bedroom. Being spontaneous can help everyone to loosen up and have a great time. You can also find new things that members of your family didn’t know they enjoyed by being spontaneous.

Letting Go of the Electronics
There are so many families that spend most of their extra time on electronics. When everyone is glued to electronics, you can’t truly bond with one another. It may be time to let go of the electronics. How do you feel your family would do if they didn’t have electronics for 3 hours, 1 day, or even a weekend? At first, they may not know what to do. However, in time, they are going to find other ways to spend time together. Your children may start playing together. They may go outside and build a fort. They may pull out those Legos they haven’t played with in months. You can join in with them as well. Letting go of the electronics is something that you may want to implement regularly to help everyone grow and connect as a family.

Taking Pictures
When was the last time you just got everyone together for some pictures? Maybe you snap a few pictures, here and there, on your phone. However, when you look through them, when was the last time you had a true family picture. You can take pictures of everyone doing their favorite things for instance. If your youngest child loves reading a book, have her pose while reading a book, and you snap a picture. If your oldest child, loves playing basketball, have him jump in the air with the ball, and you snap a picture. Taking purposeful pictures of the family can be a fun and playful activity you all do together. Let the children take pictures of the parents doing fun and exciting things as well.

Making Up a Game
Have any of your children ever tried to make up a game before? What did you do? Were you responsive to their ideas or did you put it aside? Don’t worry either way. Now is your chance to get more involved. Everyone in your household can get involved. Let everyone take turns making up a game and having everyone play. This could be a game that involves everything made up or they can change around a game they already have. You might just be surprised at the ideas they come up with. You can come up with a game that everyone has to play as well, even if it is a cleaning game.

These are some of the best ways to play together as a family. If you or anyone in your family is stressed out, tired, bored, or just need to have some bonding time, any one of these ideas can give you something fun to do. If you are worried your teenager may become a teenage alcoholic, these ideas can show them how much you care about them. You can use these ideas to help you create other fun ways to spend time with your family as well. What are you waiting for? Go and get with your family. Pick one of these activities and do something fun together as a family. Remember, playing is for the entire family, not just for the children.

Author Bio:
Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

Patrick Bailey

Guest post by Patrick Bailey