Monday, 25 July 2011

Zaggora HotPants - Week 2! The Results...

So, my two week trial of Zaggora HotPants has come to an end. I have been to the gym 9 times over the two week period and done plenty of walking besides. I have cycled just over 52km, which would have got me to Birmingham. I have run (ran? runned?) 20km - enough to get me to Nottingham. I've done a toning class, an abs class and tried TRX suspension system for the first time. With all my exercise combined, I could have got from Leicester to Sheffield all under my own steam.

Considering I have never, ever done any running before, I feel like this is a great achievement. The first Monday of the trail period I ran 1.3km. Today, I did a nifty 4.5km! I couldn't be more pleased. But enough of this, what you all want to know is what are my measurements, how were the HotPants and most importantly, who won the competition!

I have really enjoyed trying the HotPants. They are really comfortable to wear and have really become part of my routine. They do make an entertaining swishing noise, but this can be overcome by wearing them under a pair of jogging bottoms. To be honest though, you don't even notice it after a while, it's hardly a downer. The zip has been much discussed and I think having a zip is a bonus because they fit more snugly. They hold in all your wobbly bits and I think this probably does have a positive impact on performance when you are doing cardio.

One thing I've noticed today... (skip this paragraph if you don't want to know about my personals!) I came on this morning, and naturally didn't give it a second thought. However, I am more of a sanitary towel than a tampon girl. So, when I get to the gym, I put on a nice fresh towel and an hour and a half later when my workout is done, not only do I have soaking pants, but a soaking, not sticking towel as well! Had I got a spare, this would have been fine, but I didn't, so it was a bit of an uncomfortable journey home. Therefore, recommend combining HotPants with tampons only! Probably obvious to most people, but didn't even occur to me before!

To the tape measure! First off the bat, I have lost a shiny 2lbs. Which is great, because I started at 9 stone and only need to lose about 6lbs max, so that's got me a long way along the road. If you remember, in my first post my measurements were waist measurement - 30", hip measurement - 36", upper thigh - 31". And now.... waist - 27.5" hip - 34" upper thigh - 20". Woo hoo!! The main thing this makes me think is that I wasn't looking at the tape measure properly when I did my thigh measurement the first time! I'm assuming I means 21" and I have lost an inch! But yay, I am very pleased.

I have no idea how much of this is due to the HotPants and how much is down to my renewed gym routine. Certainly it normally takes me a very long time to shift a pound or two, given that a. I don't have much to lose anyway and b. I drink far too much booze to be a legitimate "healthy person". They have made me feel better, they make my silhouette look better when they are on and most importantly, they give me motivation to work that bit harder so I sweat a bit more! I even wore my HotPants for the entire day on Saturday, just to see how it went and they were just as comfortable first thing in the morning as when I took them off last thing at night. A very impressive 9 out of 10 Extreme Points from me - and they only drop the point through my own sheer laziness at not having the motivation to do a control experiment to judge the results against.

So that leads us to the winner of the competition! People who guessed 27.5" were sand74, gemma.freer and twannywun - well done! So now they are numbered 1, 2 and 3 and random generator says the winner is... number 1 - sand74! Congratulations! I'm sending you a message through Blogger messenger as that's the only contact I have for you. You have until 8pm on Wednesday 27th July 2011 to send me your address details otherwise I'll have to pick another winner. Set the Countdown music going... NOW!

Important Edit: sand74 - Blogger isn't giving me an option to message you so I have no way of contacting you, I'm afraid you'll just have to check back and see you've won! I hope you see this!!!! You can tweet me @Morrighani or email me through the blog xx

Further edit: I didn't hear from the original winner, so I have redrawn from all the entries, regardless of answer and @RedRoses4 is the winner! Congratulations. Send me your details by 9am on Saturday to claim your prize!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Zaggora HotPants - Week 1

I've not quite had my hotpants for a week yet, but I've been to the gym 4 times since Monday and now seems to be a good time to update on my progress. Obviously I won't be including any measurements as that will give people who haven't yet entered my competition an unfair advantage!

I have worn the hotpants for four sessions at the gym, each of about 45 minutes. Some days, when I've had to do other things and not been able to shower at the gym, I have carried on wearing them on the walk home and for a while afterwards - so some days I have worn them for up to about 4 hours, including the walk to and from the gym.

The first thing to note is how they feel. They are really comfy! They are made of a kind of wet suit feeling fabric, but are very soft and comfortable when they're on. They are tight enough that you feel nicely supported, although I will be happier when my little tummy bulge at the top reduces a bit more! This support continues when you are exercising and although they do make your legs feel hot, as you would expect, it is not uncomfortable. In fact, it's quite pleasant and really feels like your workout is having an impact. Some people have complained about the zip, but I haven't found it the least bit intrusive as of yet. In fact I'm quite pleased it is there as it is proving I am getting results - the first time I put them on, I had to get my husband to zip them up and now, 4 sessions later, I can easily fasten them myself! They certainly haven't stretched or anything either, the quality is excellent.

They really do make you sweat! This is not the least uncomfortable when you are wearing them. They pretty much hold it all in, unless you are doing crazy exertions. The only things to watch out for is if you need the loo or anything then you'll notice you need to change your underwear! Mine has been soaked right through every time! You don't even notice when your hotpants are on, but as soon as you take them off it's unbearable! However, my legs dry off immediately and I've noticed the skin is left really soft! If you haven't got the time to wash your hotpants between each use, make sure that you hang them up inside out to dry out properly!!! They really are that good at keeping the moisture in!

I have of course washed my hotpants as well. I just threw them in the washing machine with the normal load, and they were absolutely fine. Had to make sure I turned them inside out though, once the outside had dried!

So far, so good. I have lost a pound since Monday (and I only need to lose about 6lbs in total to be at my ideal, healthy weight). I have got used to the slightly crazy swishy noise that they make when you move around in them (usually by wearing a pair of joggers over the top of them) and all in all I am really pleased. I am looking forward to seeing what my final two week results will be!

Remember - to get 10% off at the Zaggora shop, just type in LAURAHAD at the checkout!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Pippa Middleton Crumpet Mosaic!

”mosaic”
Lips first - use up all the strawberry jams!
Guess what? Those crazy folks at Beefeater Grill are now doing a breakfast menu! So until 10.30am you can enjoy the glories of a buffet breakfast. Yum. I love breakfast me, best meal of the day. Which is weird, because I forget to eat it so often.

But I digress. In order to celebrate this wonderful new menu, they asked me to make them not one, but two giant mosaics of Pippa Middleton. Turns out they asked the British public who they would most like to have breakfast with and the overwhelming majority apparently said P-Middy. You could say "she's a nice bit of crumpet"... You see where this is going?
”mosaic”
 So dutifully, I designed it up and last Saturday we went back to Warrington's Parr Hall - where this whole crazy giant food based mosaic thing started back in October 2010 and we made it.

”mosaic”
Finished!
Once again my friends and family were on hand for moral support and more importantly, spreading duties. There was plenty of spreading to do. The portrait mosaic was 81 x 111 crumpets and the 'behind' shot (as we have been delicately calling it) was 60 x 120 - a grand total of 16 191 crumpets! We had six 'colour ways' - buttered, plain, upside down, marmite on upside down, blackcurrant jam and strawberry jam. I reckon somewhere in the region of 10 000 ultimately had spread of one sort or another on them.

”mosaic”We started at 8am, but couldn't actually begin laying the crumpets out until 10.30am, when all the cameras and time lapse jiggery pokery had been organised. It was looking very tight time-wise. But thanks to a steady stream of friends and relatives, who came to lend a hand, we got there in the end. It looked a bit sticky for a while when we were running out of spreading utensils as all the plastic knives I'd brought had snapped by that point, but everyone perservered, some people scooping spreads directly from the tubs with their fingers to get the job done. Now that's commitment!

I have to say I'm really proud of the 'behind' shot. When Beefeater were telling me they really wanted that image of Pippa from behind, I thought it was going to be impossible to do in crumpets - after all she's wearing a white dress and holding the train of a white dress in front of her. But I messed around with the colours, did some testing and I was really, really pleased with the final effect.

And so the day came and went, the crumpets were laid and photographs taken. So sad that my artwork is that transitory I think. I hope my art doesn't make anyone angry or upset. I hope you can just enjoy it for what it is; big, silly and a bit random.

Monday, 11 July 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Well - Peter Labrow

The eminently lovely tweeter, Peter Labrow, very kindly sent me a copy of his first novel, The Well, so that I could see what I think and pen down a few thoughts. Peter is ever such a lovely guy and you can find out more about him by following his prolific blog posting!

As for the book, well, from the cover I didn't know what to expect. It has the look of a pretty standard horror book - think Koontz, Herbert or dare I see it, even King. However, I love a good horror novel so I dived in with glee.

I was not disappointed! Unlike the real horror greats that I have mentioned above, Labrow does not waste time getting to the action. A normal day suddenly turns very, very scary right from page 10 - and that includes the acknowledgements page and all the other bumpf!

I like the description of this book on Amazon. For once, it absolutely summarises the plot without giving too much away and the suspense it conveys is actually there in the book!

"Trapped. Missing. Cursed. Fourteen-year-old Becca Richards 
and her stepbrother have fallen to the bottom of an ancient well. 
Their parents are away; they won't be missed for days. 
The predatory man who had been stalking Becca now switches his attentions 
to her best friend. Two women who know where Becca is trapped 
are desperate that she should never escape. 
Over the course of a week, family, friends and strangers 
are drawn together by a terrible shared fate - from which not all will escape. 
'The Well' is a darkly gripping tale about how we respond to the hand fate has dealt us
- and the consequences of our choices. The Well deftly intertwines 
a story of supernatural horror with a tale of one of the greatest fears of modern life. 
As the book progresses, the two stories become one 
- driving relentlessly towards a single, thrilling finale. 
The Well is a fast-paced, riveting story that will grip you - 
and keep you guessing - until the very end"

 This novel is an absolute page turner. Some way through I suddenly thought I had the plot figured out, and I was partially right, but I didn't get the full complexity of the twists and turns. And trying to second guess Labrow was half the fun and thing that kept me obsessively reading on. 

I think my only criticism would be that the ending played out a little too long. It's a bit like the last Lord of the Rings film, where scene after scene keeps coming, letting you know where every single character has ended up. In fairness, there were still plenty of complete surprises that kept me hooked, even in those final few chapters, and plenty of things that were unexpected to keep the reader deliciously scared. In many respects this is an excellent example of a book that questions the hand of fate and the morality of the choices that we make. It also has a supernatural edge that is not overplayed, but provides the reader with a view of the modern world, but where witches and monsters can still exist, hidden in the shadows.

Given my slight reservations about the ending, I feel I can only (only!!?) give this book 9.5 Extreme Points out of 10. I think I am being massively fussy and possibly marking down slightly. That's probably because I've given the last two books I've reviewed a full 10 Extreme Points so I don't want you all thinking I'm a soft touch! But I really can't recommend The Well highly enough. It's a gripping read and hugely entertaining. Everything you want from a horror novel. I hope that this is a sign of great things to come from Peter Labrow.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

COMPETITION: Zaggora HotPants

I was chatting to @GetHotPants on Twitter and guess what? They made me a HotPants Ambassador! I'm really excited about this, because not only do I get to try them out for myself, but there's benefits for you too, dear reader! Carry on reading to find out why...!

HotPants are a revolutionary new type of shorts. They are ever so durable and sort of feel a bit like wetsuit fabric! Zaggora claim that these magical shorts will help you to lose 2 jean sizes in 2 weeks! Wowee! And how does it work? Well their website says:


"HOTPANTS™ contains Celu‐Lite™ technology which maximises 
the results of your workout by heating those areas covered by HOTPANTS™.

Celu‐Lite™ technology reflects back the heat naturally generated 
by the body to promote deeper warming of your tissue leading to 
higher levels of perspiration and therefore breaking down fat and toxins 
that contribute to the appearance of cellulite."

This sounds potentially icky, but very promising! The bold claim is that wearing them will maximise your workout, or normal every day activities and help to reduce the appearance of cellulite. All of the Ambassadors have received their HotPants now and first impressions are good.

My HotPants could not have come at a better time. My old gym has closed down and with work being so busy I wasn't getting chance to get down all that much any way towards the end. So the long and short of it is that I feel like a bit of a bloater at the moment. My new gym opens tomorrow, but I have plans this weekend which means I am unlikely to get down there until Sunday, or perhaps even Monday.


So, I will be starting my two week test run on Monday. And here's where you guys come in. Zaggora have kindly sent me another pair of HotPants for you guys to win! They are a Large size, you can see what this equates to here by clicking on the size conversion chart. They are worth a stonking £44.99!

In order to win this lovely prize, all you need to do is guess how effective my HotPants and new gym regime will be! Follow my blog and leave a comment below with a method of contacting you (Twitter ID or email please) telling me what you think my waist measurement will be in inches at 9pm on Monday 25th July - when my two week trial period is up. The winner will be whoever guesses spot on the correct half inch. If more than one person guesses correctly, the winner will be selected at random from the correct entries. If no-one gets it spot on, the winner will be the closest guess. Good luck!

So, in order to help you guess, I have to publish my current bloater stats! Boo... I will update this page when I have been to the gym and measured myself. At the time of writing, my stats are waist measurement - 30", hip measurement - 36", upper thigh - 31". I can still just about squeeze into my size 8 jeans, but it is getting uncomfortable. If I fit in them properly at the end of two weeks I'll be really happy! HotPants really are getting rave reviews at the moment so I am hopeful!

And finally, if you just can't wait to try HotPants for yourself, you can use my exclusive Ambassadors code to get 10% off in the Zaggora store! Just type in LAURAHAD at the checkout!

So there you go - good luck in the competition and wish me luck with getting my healthy lifestyle back on track. The competition closes at 9pm on Monday 25th July and my waist measurement will be as measured by me, no correspondence will be entered into on my judgement and measuring abilities! One entry per person please, UK only. Remember, if you're not following this blog, you can't win the prize!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Summer is here!


 Today has been a lovely lazy day in our house. I've treated myself to a day's annual leave after the whole major exhibition fit out, generally having so much to do that it can't possibly be fitted in to a normal working week type thing. So I've essentially taken time off when I'm busier than ever in the world ever. So be it. I'm glad I did and I make no apologies for being off next Monday as well!

We've done a variety of stuff to keep ourselves busy today, although you can see by the photo some family members have been busier than others. First off the bat I picked all our lovely blackcurrants.

I've heard that blackcurrants get sweeter the longer you leave them on the plant, so we've left ours to the last possible moment. A few were getting to the verge of falling off, so I thought now was the opportunity to pick them. I've been trying to find a good way to use them up now, more on that later in the post!



The melon's thinkin about it!


Looking at the progress in the garden, summer is well and truly here. The broadbeans, melon, parsnips, french beans and so on and so on, are all showing vigorous signs of life. I can't wait to see if the melon actually fruits! That single plant is the sole survivor from my packet of old seeds, but it's showing real promise. Maybe, touch wood, this is the year I will grow my own melonsies!

I have to admit I'm looking forward to courgette season. We've got about 3 or 4 that are on the way - just a matter of time before they are big enough to pick. There are also a tonne of buds on the plants - some female, some male, but all in showing enough promise that we'll be getting sick of courgettes within a month or so and I'll be back to finding inventive ways to use up the glut, like last year's courgette cakes. In fairness courgettes are a really lovely and versatile vegetable that can be used in many different ways and considering how easy they are to grow, I get the impression that they are totally overpriced in the supermarkets so I am more than happy to have too many.

Check out my lovely little courgetties growing in the picture though - they make me so proud! :)

 We've also done a lot of tidying in the garden today. Check out the front little patch over here. We've tidied away all the nastiness, the lawns are done and now we're looking at digging over the front borders properly. They've been really neglected in comparison to the back garden and need some good nutrition adding in. Thankfully, all the bushes we've moved to the front from the back have weathered well, as has the lavender that I grew from seed. Now I'm thinking it's time to look into creating more of a substantial boundary between the lawn and the borders as they are just bleeding into one at the moment. More on that as it happens!
 
The garden tidying has also extended to the back garden. Not only has the grass been cut there for the first time this year, but we have sorted the edges to produce THE STRAIGHTEST EDGES KNOWN TO MAN!!
Seriously, this might not seem exciting, or extreme, to some people but we're really happy with it all. It's made the Happy House have even more of a party atmosphere and put me in the mood to invite everyone I know around for a BBQ immediately.

 And what did I do with the blackcurrants? I made a lovely tart. As the name suggests, it is very tart, despite me putting sugar in with the berries. However, a bit of cream with it takes the edge off a treat and it tastes lovely. I am so pleased with my 99p smartprice blackcurrant bush from Wilkos, it is finally earning its keep but I hope that it goes from strength to strength.

What a great day.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The God Species - Mark Lynas

I was sent a copy of The God Species by Mark Lynas to review. This was quite inspirational, not least because I was sent the review copy by Mark Lynas himself. The press release states 'Lynas is an activist and journalist. He was editor of the website www.oneworld.net and has made many appearances in the press and TV as a commentator on environmental issues.' Not only this, but in the book he also outlines his role as part time advisor on climate change to the President of the Maldives - becoming in 2009 one of the first nations to pledge to go carbon neutral by 2020. An impressive CV and no mistake, so I was looking forward to reading the book.

And indeed I was not disappointed. The book outlines the impact of a number of 'planetary boundaries' - the upper limit to which certain processes or systems can be pushed before the stability and sustainability of the human race and indeed the entire biosphere becomes irretrievably under threat. Leading scientists have discussed and set the parameters on these boundaries according to their global impacts.

These boundaries are biodiversity loss, climate change, the nitrogen cycle, land system change, global freshwater use, chemical pollution, atmospheric aerosol loading, ocean acidification and stratospheric ozone depletion. Hearteningly, some of these boundaries have not been reached by post-industrial society and others, although crossed, could be brought back to manageable levels. And herein is the heart of Lynas' argument - that 'the grounds for optimism are at least as strong as the grounds for pessimism' and all in all, optimism is much more likely to produce action.

There are many arguments in this book which will provide uncomfortable reading for more traditional Greens. Lynas calls upon the political sphere to recreate its banning of CFCs in the mid-80s to join together one more in multilateral agreements which will allow for economic growth and free enterprise, but in a carbon neutral and more sustainable way. Yes, he's actively advocating economic growth throughout this book, recognising, for the first time that I've seen, that telling people to give up flying, or not to heat their house properly in the winter is not the best way to bring them onside with the environmental debate.

He also thoroughly champions nuclear power and the use of genetic engineering on food crops - arguments that previously have been shunned by most self respecting environmentalists. The arguments he puts forward are new to me, however the evidence he provides appears to be well researched, referenced and compelling. It has certainly led me to reconsider my opinion - and to desire to obtain further information to help me clarify my thoughts on the subject.  I would never have thought that I could turn into an advocate for the use of nuclear power, but already the paradigm shift has begun in my brain. Interestingly too, Lynas is not shy about admitting to past errors of judgement, or misreading the evidence to suit an ideological position. This honesty also makes his argument more compelling, demonstrating that firmly held political stances may be holding back progress more than advancing it.

As you can probably tell, this book is well written and cogently argued. The terminology is accessible for the average reader and indeed some of the explanations have clarified to me some environmental issues that I have dimly been aware of since childhood, but never completely understood, such as the problems caused by the run off of nitrogen fertilisers into local water systems. In places the book is so well written as to provoke an extremely strong emotional reaction. The chapter on biodiversity, with its seemingly endless list of the decline and extinction of creatures large and small all around the globe certainly brought me to tears on several occasions - not great for someone who does most of their reading on the bus to and from work each day!

I have not yet had the opportunity to do my own fact checking into Lynas' key arguments. I suspect they are not perfect, but will stand up to some considerable scrutiny. As with all scientific theory of this nature, and as Lynas himself concedes, his ideas are probably Planetary Boundaries 1.0, with further research and development being necessary to find workable, economically attractive solutions. My only criticism of the book is that Lynas often states the financial benefits of environmentally responsible actions - e.g. saving x amount of rainforest will generate $x in profits. I think that these statistics are genuinely interesting but the cause of these economic benefits could be more clearly stated. If there's a buck in it, this is what will encourage governments and big business to heed his arguments and if I was keen to get through the book in order to see the full argument and not get bogged down in reference checking, I would assume that other people also skip them to some extent.

More than ever before, my Extreme points system seems hugely relevant. For such a well written, interesting and thought provoking book it can receive nothing less than a carbon neutral 10 out of 10 Extreme points. Buy this book and feel like you can happily change the world, not be bullied into it.


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