#BlogCamp 2016

After posting on Friday night about being a bit anxious about attending BlogCamp, I'm delighted to report that it was fab!

As soon as I arrived and joined the queue for coffee I got chatting to the lovely Becky from Pinks Charming, we had a pastry and a little chat before it was time to go into the main room for the welcome.

It was quite a surreal experience, as there were so many familiar faces, yet I'd never actually met anyone before! It's amazing how close you can feel to someone as a result of reading their blog and watching their life on social media. Very bizarre!

We were welcomed by Sarah from Tots100 and the event sponsor, Wood Window Alliance, before heading off to our preferred sessions for the morning.

I chose to attend:

DSLR Basics - a great no jargon session, where I learnt that 'p' is king!
Love Living Chic Blogger Tales - The inspirational Jen talked to us about her journey, which was extremely thought provoking
Stats and Analytics - the only session of the day that didn't live up to expectations. I thought it would featured google analytics but it was about the Tots100 monthly ranking

At lunch I joined Becky again and also Amanda from Ginger Mum, who was also lovely. Eilidh from Mummy and Monkeys also joined us, so we had a fab chat about all things blogging.

After lunch I attended:

Tips for Busy Bloggers - a popular and useful session, with some good ideas for apps to try
Pinterest Advanced - lots of food for thought, I really need to sort out my Pinterest and use it more effectively!

Before the final session I managed to say hello to Jess from Mummy of Boy Girl Twins. I was so happy to finally meet Jess, she's one of the first bloggers I came across when I first started blogging and she just reminds me of me! If I don't have much time for blogging, Jess' blog is the one I always find time to read.

The final session was by Emma who blogs at From Aldi to Harrods. Her session was on 'Monetising Your Blog', which was really interesting. I've actually been in touch with Emma since and she's going to help me move my blog from Blogger to self-hosted Wordpress (I'm finally taking the plunge!), so keep an eye out for that!

After Emma's session it was time to say goodbye to my new blogging pals. We've agreed to keep in touch via social media and support one another where we can.

I left feeling really inspired - I now just need to find some time to put what I've learnt into action!

Did you attend BlogCamp? What did you think?

J xx

My Captured Moment

It's been a while since I've linked up to this link-up, but It's one of my favourite ones, so I'm really going to try and link up more often. The link-up is ran by the lovely Heledd over at Running in Lavender  and it's a great way to capture a moment every week.

My Captured Moment is from last week. Henry had started potty training (finally!) and his reward for doing so well was a sleepover in Oscar's room. Obviously Heidi being Heidi, there is no way she wasn't joining the fun, so they all slept in Oscar's bed together.

Thankfully it was too mad, we had about half an hour of giggling and silly antics, but once they'd got it out of their system they all went to sleep and stayed in bed until the next morning.

I captured this pic, just as we were heading to bed.

J xx

Running in Lavender

My first blogging conference #ImDoingBlogcamp

Tomorrow I'm going to be attending my first blogging conference. I'm attending Blogcamp, organised by Tots 100.
It's a free event (hurrah) and is taking place in Birmingham, which is only about an hour away from me. I was really excited when I managed to get a ticket as these events normally sell out super quick.

I'm excited about the day, but also a little anxious. It's my first event of this type, and I know that there will be quite a few 'proper bloggers' there and I'm paranoid that everyone will know each other! Also, with my recent marathon training my blogging has taken a bit of a back seat. I haven't been posting much, haven't been linking up to other bloggers' linkies and haven't been reading or commenting on blogs as much as I used to, so I feel a little out of touch.

However, I am hoping that the day will provide lots of inspiration and help me get going again. I'm also looking forward to properly meeting some of the other bloggers that I've chatted to on Twitter and whose blogs I read. Although, I think it will be slightly weird though as I feel like I actually know these people, when I've never even met them before!

So, I've bought a new notebook, painted my nails, ironed my clothes, checked my train times and packed my bag. I think I'm ready!

Wish me luck, or if you're also attending please come say "hello"!

J xx

Review: Exante

Since January, when I started my marathon training, I've been trying hard to eat better and include more protein in my diet. As well as to benefit my training, I was keen to shed a few pounds too!

Now the marathon is over, I'm keen to continue the new habits and keep my diet healthy with lots of protein rich foods, so I was really excited to be contacted by Exante to see if I fancied trying out a few of their products - I never say no to food!

The brand have previously marketed themselves as a diet product. However, they have recently developed the range to focus on providing wholesome, healthy low-carb and high-protein meals and snacks. The variety is amazing and also includes some treats, which have been made that little bit healthier - bonus!

From the products I tried, my favourites were the Pot Meals, the Protein Chips and the Protein Wafers.

I found the Pot Meals were great for taking to work. I didn't have to worry about preparing anything, the meals were super tasty and filling and I knew that I was getting a healthy, low calorie meal. I tried the Thai Green Curry with Rice and the Moroccan Chicken Cous Cous. They were both really tasty. I'm definitely planning to order some more.

I had the Protein Wafers as a little snack. I tried the strawberry and chocolate flavours. They tasted quite sweet, so they felt like a naughty treat. They were very filling, so I'd break them in half and have one half one day and the other the next.

The Protein Chips were also great for a snack. You get quite a lot in a bag and at only 85kcals, they make a great snack and a perfect way to up my protein intake (11.2g per bag).

I'm really keen to try the Protein Crackers, which smothered with cream cheese and tomatoes will make a perfect lunch.

I've also got a couple of meal replacement bars stored away in my handbag. These are perfect for those days when I'm rushing between meetings at work and don't have time to stop for a proper lunch. These bars are high in protein, fibre and have lots of vitamins and minerals, so even though I'm not have a 'proper' meal, I'll still be getting all the nutrients I need.

I've been really impressed with the Exante products and definitely plan on ordering some more. They're perfect for when you don't have time to prepare something from scratch (which is quite often with me!).

If you fancy trying some of the products, you can purchase them at Exante's website.

J x

We were sent Exante products in return for a review. However, I was under no obligation to be nice, so all my comments are completely honest.

My First London Marathon - Part 2

Hopefully you've read Part 1 of my London Marathon experience. If not, it's probably worth having a quick glance over before reading this post.

So, I was finally there, all ready to go. I felt good, but deep down was a little anxious about whether my recent foot injury would actually hold up enough for me to get over that elusive finish line.

I was surprised how quick the race got going and my offcial race stats say I crossed the start at 10.14am, 14 minutes after the race began, which is quite good, athough I perhaps shouldn't be surprised as the race was so well organised.

Simon rang me as I was just heading over the start to inform me that he was just crossing over too. We were meeting just after 3 miles, so needed to try and go at the same pace to ensure one of us wouldn't be waiting too long.

The atmosphere was amazing, lots of supporters cheering us on right from the very start. I had a quick look at my watch to check my pace as everyone goes on about not starting too fast and I can now see why, I was running at just under 10 min miles (I was aiming for around 11 min miles) and I hardly felt like I was running. It's so easy to get carried away with the atmosphere.

Around the 1 mile mark, I really needed a wee again! There was a sign saying that toilets were 200m away, so I tried to call Simon. No answer! Not great as I wanted to warn him so that he could slow down. I decided to stop and queue (it took about 5 mins) and kept calling him whilst I was queuing but he didn't answer. After my loo stop, I picked up my pace a little, but consciously tried to keep it steady.

Just after I passed the 2 mile marker, Simon rang. "I'm at 3 miles!". I told him to slow down and do lots of stretching, he said he'd wait for me. I'd been stressing a little about meeting up amongst so many people, but it was fine. It was busy, but it wasn't ridiculous. The one thing that I was really surprised about was the amount of empty water and lucozade bottles that were all over the roads. I was a worried about tripping on one, so had to consciously dodge them as I was running.

At around 4 miles we both had our energy gels as planned. I was feeling good, my foot was fine. The atmosphere was amazing. It was around this point that I started speaking to a lovely local lady. She'd recognised my running vest and was aware of me due to the social media updates from the local charity (Forever Stars, a charity set up by our friends, following the stillbirth of their baby girl) that I was running for. She was also running for a baby loss charity. We chatting for a bit and she shared that she had been pregnant twins, around the same time I was pregnant with Henry and Heidi, but one of them didn't make it. We chatted about our kids. It was emotional but lovely. After a while, we wished each other luck and she ran on ahead.

One of the best things about the London Marathon is how evident the strength of the human spirit is. Along the whole 26.2 miles, there are supporters, all cheering and supporting. People were shouting out my name and willing me on like they really wanted me to succeed. I think that in England, generally people are often negative and aren't overly supportive, particularly of those who appear to be winning at this crazy thing called life. But at the London Marathon that is all turned on it's head. It makes me emotional to think about it. It's just amazing and such a wonderful thing to experience.

The miles seemed to pass by really quickly. We reached the Cutty Sark around mile 6, which was brilliant. The crowds were really big around here and the support was amazing. We managed a quick selfie stop before we continued on our way.

I think it was probably around this point that I started to feel my injured foot niggling a little. Although, I'd taped it up, so I couldn't be sure if it was the tightness of my tape as my foot swelled. Thankfully after a couple of miles it eased and although my foot was bruised and sore at the end, my weeks of worry were uncalled for as it held out!

We knew that Simon's parents and Oscar were waiting at mile 11, so after we had another energy gel at mile 8 we focused on seeing them. I think we had a little walk as we were running quite fast and as my foot was niggling I wanted to take it steady early on. It was amazing when we finally spotted them. We stopped for hugs and sweets (wasn't keen on trying to chomp on a haribo whilst running if I'm honest!) and  feeling re-energised we were on our way.

My lovely boss at work had come down for the weekend with her friend so that she could see us. I'd rang her just before seeing Oscar and she was around the 11.5 mile mark. She wasn't quite so easy to find and I was worried that we'd missed her. Finally we saw her. Another quick stop for hugs and photo's!

By this point I was feeling amazing. I wasn't tired and was high on emotion and atmosphere. Not long after came the bit I'd been really looking forward to - Tower Bridge. I'm delighted to say it was every bit as amazing as I'd imagined. Lots of people and just stunning. We had a little walk at this point to allow us to take in the atmosphere and get those all important pics. I think this bit was definitely my favourite bit of the whole marathon.

It's probably a good job that Tower Bridge is fab, just after you turn right, but if you look to the left you see other runners who are around the 22 mile mark. They're running fast and you know that they are about 9 miles ahead of you. Definitely a bit of a low moment. All that seperates you from them is a piece of tape. Although I would never ever cheat, Simon and I had a chat wondering how many people had cheated. In fact we later found out that the sister of someone from Towie actually did just this at some point during the day - there really are no words!!

We had planned to see my parents and the twins at around the 15 miles mark. However, after calling them a few times we realised that they weren't able to get there. Not great news, as looking forward to seeing people you know along the route really keeps you going as it gives you something to focus on that isn't too far away.

Our next focus was to see Simon's parents and Oscar once again at mile 17. At around the 16 mile mark my left knee started to hurt and the back of my left leg started to feel tight. The miles were starting to feel longer, I took energy gels but can't really remember taking them. I remember running on sticky roads after we passed gel stations and I remember gripping my bottle of Lucozade like it was a life line!

When we saw them at mile 17, I decided to take a couple of paracetamol to help with my knee. Again there were lots of hugs and we chatted to them for a little bit. We then went on our way, knowing that we were going to see my parents and the twins at mile 18, who were waiting just outside our hotel. It was amazing to see them. The twins both had little signs and were so excited. The people they were standing next to gave us jelly babies (much easier to get down than Haribo!). A few more hugs and kisses and we were on our way.

Around this point Simon started to struggle a little, so we did a bit of walking. He did lots of stretching, but my legs felt completely odd at this point and stretching just felt all wrong. I just needed to keep my legs moving. I didn't really enjoy this point of the route much. I remember Canary Wharf being impressive, but then it seemed really industrial. I just kept focusing on getting to that 20 mile marker. I kept thinking once we get there, we've only got 10k to go!

When we hit 20 miles, the miles seemed to get longer. My knee was really hurting at this point and I was exhausted. We did lots of run/walking. I remember mile 22-23 feeling like it took forever. It really was time to dig deep. Simon was doing okay by this point. He said he'd carry me to the end if needed. I wasn't that bad. Quitting never entered my head, I just knew that I needed to take it steady to make sure I got to the end.

I'd expected around this point to see lots of ill-looking people. Previous marathoners had warned me to expect scenes of carnage around mile 23, but I don't remember seeing any. Simon said that there were a few ill people, but I was so focused on just getting to the end that I think my mind just didn't allow me to see them. We later found out that, soldier, Captain David Smeath, had collapsed at mile 23 and later died. This had taken place around 2 hours before we got to that point, so we didn't see anything, but it really is tragic.

I'd been really looking forward to seeing all the sites as we ran the final few miles along the embankment, but I didn't really enjoy that bit as I was so exhausted. We saw Simon's parents and Oscar at some point during this stretch, but I don't think we were with them very long as we wanted just to get it done. Simon also forced me to have a couple of selfies. At the time I wasn't keen, but I'm so glad he did now.

I remember running through a horrid tunnel, seeing Big Ben and then turning on to the Mall. I remember seeing the 1K to go sign, but rather than feeling elated, I remember thinking that it seemed so far to! My stomach was bloated and uncomfortable, which I think may have been the two bottles of Lucozade that I'd consumed on the way round or maybe it was just in shock! My whole body felt like it belonged to someone else. I really had hoped to enjoy the final bit more, but at the time I just wanted to get over that finish line, which we finally did - we ran the last bit and went over hand in hand! Amazing, I'd done it! Being handed that medal was one of those moments in my life that I'll never forget. After months of training, weeks of worrying about my injured foot and mental anxiety about whether I actually had it in me, I'd bloody well done it!! The girl who hated PE had run a marathon!

After a quick trip to the loo, we posed for finisher photo's and I was all a bit wobbly. I felt like just lying down! I didn't has we had to meet with with Simon's parents to collect Oscar before we headed back to the hotel.

My legs ached and my knee was killing. I was also starving! When we tracked them down, I scoffed a bag of crisps and we then headed to get a taxi (with a quick pit stop at McDonalds!)

The trip getting back to the hotel, took ages. We'd not taken into account that a lot of the roads were closed. We finally made it back to be greeted with hugs from my proud parents (my Dad cried!) and glasses of champagne - cheers (although despite my best plans, I only managed 1 and a half glasses, before I needed a bath and bed!)!

All in all, one of the best days of my life. Definitely up there with getting married and having my kids. The sense of achievement was out of this world. I ached a lot for about three days afterwards and my foot and knee are still hurting, but they'll heal!

Will I do it again..? Absolutely! I want to smash the hell out of those last 6 miles next time!!! In fact, I've already entered this year's ballot!

J xx