Couch to 5k Week Four

This week it's intervals of running 3 mins, walking 90 seconds, running 5 mins, walking 2.5 mins. I'm finding the breathing etc okay but my overall pace is dropping rather than increasing with added running times.  

I know your overall pace drops in proportion with distance, but should it drop when you run more than walk in your intervals? It's a little discouraging especially when RunKeeper is harking back to my old training days & congratulating me, "That was your 51st fastest run!". 

There are fewer photos too as I'm returning to places I've been before, plus there is fewer times I can stop for a photo as I'm walking less. 

Run One- Crawfordsburn


Run two- Donaghadee  


Run three- Marina to Ballyholme

Tried to pick up the pace and got my 29th fastest rather than 51st this time! 


Run Four- Bryansburn

Increased pace & managed to drop a whole minute off per mile. It was hard work! 


Run Five- Bangor West

Just round the school area before getting out time. 


Run Six- Balloo Wetlands

Just behind Bangor Recycling Centre and Sainsburys is this man-made wetlands area. I ran laps of it this morning as my last Week Four run. 

Its a fun place to take a toddler. You park close and there are lots of information boards about the birds and beasties who live among the reeds and bullrushes. 

If you go at the right time of year you can sometimes bring a jar & scoop out tadpoles to experiment with at home. 


So Couch to 5K Week Five starts on Monday. I'm nervous because I was even finding the 5 min solid run interval hard today. I usually defer off the set plan a couple of days into each week, but I was still needing the 2 1/2 min walk in between. I was quickening my pace though. I do at least 2 miles every day so approx 15 miles a week!

We shall see! Monday will be interesting anyway. 

WIN a Scooby Doo Stretch Armstrong! Plus Our Stretch-Off Vlog


Here is a blast from the past! Stretch Armstrong is back and stretchier than ever. We tested out mini Stretch and Fetch from  Character Toys to see who was the most flexible.

It was a lot of fun tying Stretch in knots and watching him magically return to his original shape. Watch our vlog below to see him in action.

These new releases are the 7" size, and are priced around £12. There is also the big size available, I wonder if Original or Small Stretch is more stretchy? Maybe we will leave that for a future vlog on the Smix Brix channel.

The whole range is available at Smyths Toys, but we also have one to give away.

Want to win your own stretchy toy to experiment with? You can win a Stretch Scooby Doo by entering below. 

More Snapshots Bangor - Couch to 5k Week 3

I was dreading the step up in intervals this week, but was surprised when I managed the 3 min run quite well.

Week 3- 5 min warm up walk followed by 90 secs run, 90 secs walk, 3 mins run, 3 mins walk, repeat twice. 

I extended the run to 40 mins so I had 4 x 3 min runs by the end of the exercise.  I'm trying to edge my way towards 5k, which is just over 3 miles, but so far I'm hitting just over 2 miles.

Run One- Crawfordsburn Country Park


Run Two- Helen's Bay

Ran up the trail & back by the roads, so only one little flower photo. 


Run Three- ran around Bangor West just before school pick up. Was a mistake cause there was no breeze at all! 


Run Four- Bryansburn

Doing intervals of 4 mins run, 1 or 2 mins walk now. 


Run Five- The coast just outside Donaghadee

I was trying to think of new places to run that are fairly flat, so headed out Donaghadee direction & when I found a flat stretch, I ran that. 

Now doing 90 secs run, 60 secs walk, 4 mins run, 90 secs walk. Will revert to proper Couch to 5k intervals on Monday. 


Run six- Marina to Ballyholme

I was itching to get out this morning after such a successful run yesterday, upping my distance and intervals. 

The sun had gone in, and the rain stayed off during my entire 40 min jog. 

However this morning was a bad run. They happen. I know they happen but it's always frustrating and disappointing when they do.  

It was muggy & by 20 mins in my face was burning up with mega rosy cheeks which my cold hands couldn't even cool down. 

I was doing 90 secs run, 90 secs walk, 4 min run, 2 mins walk repeating, but the final ten minutes I had to revert to 90 secs run, 90 secs walk from the pier back to Pickie. 

I felt so discouraged, but I have to remember bad runs happen. I'm going to try to not run tomorrow, so this ends week three. 

My legs could do with the rest but again I've got myself so totally hooked on the running buzz, I don't want to have to wait until Monday. 


Family Friendly London #1- The London Duck Tours


First of all, all these London posts are horrifically overdue. I'm talking a year overdue. We visited London for the first time together in Easter 2016, so that's why Smix looks younger in the photos. 

All my photos were stuck on my old iPhone 4, and I've finally got the first visit transferred to my iPad Pro to actually be able to share them. Then I've to try to get August 2015's visit moved over too! 

Anyway, the reason I wanted to blog was to share with you the things we got up to on our visit. A family friendly guide to a break in London, what's worth spending money on and what's a rip off? Will your child even be interested in the event or tour you've booked? If it's the  London Duck Tours, then the answer is yes- they'll love it.


I had been to London a handful of times over the years, but this was Smix's first time there, so I thought starting with a tour to see the sights would be handy.  

We got our train from Gatwick airport into London, then to Waterloo, the nearest station to the Duck Tours terminal. It's on the road beside the London Eye, so if you just leave the station and walk towards the Eye, which you can't miss, you'll find the Duck Tours.

They advise booking online, which means you will definitely get a tour on the day of your visit, however if you want to try last minute you can always purchase a ticket at the depot. Prices are adult £27, child £19 or family £79. The tour isn't recommended for under-3s, but at the same time there was no reason I saw that a sleeping baby couldn't come on board, and it's up to yourself to decide that sort of thing. Luggage and prams are stowed at the depot for you to collect on your return.


Your duck tour lasts about 75 minutes, with 30 minutes on the river. You have a driver and a tour guide. Our tour guide was very jolly & joked with us during the tour. 

You'll get to see many of the best tourist sights, including Westminster, Big Ben, Trafalger Square and The Ritz. Smix was excited because the guide pointed out a location from the Paddington movie.


Then it's time to hit the water. This is the exciting part. You approach the muddy, brown water beside the huge MI5 & MI6 buildings and splash! 


You drive slowly through the water past the huge MI5 building. If you are a major James Bond fan, there is a special Bond themed tour you can take with them too. 


You won't get wet, but if you are wary you can zip close the windows beside your seats. You can get some amazing photos of the sights from the river, that you wouldn't be able to photograph otherwise. 


The tour concludes with a sneaky peek at Buckingham Palace from the side. 

So is the tour worth going on? If you have kids aged six and up, it's a total yes. You cover many of the big tourist spots that a regular bus tour would hit, but you have the added novelty of taking to the river. The tour guides are funny, engaging and make the trip educational for all. 

I would definitely recommend Duck Tours, and I would most likely go again if Smix wanted to give it a whirl around river next time we visit too. 

North Down Love- Couch to 5k Week Two


Week two of Couch to 5k, if you want to play along, is 5 min walk then alternating 90 seconds run, 2 mins walk, for 20 mins, exercising every other day. My version is 1 min walk warm up, then 90 run, 2 min walk for 30 mins, every day.

I'm starting to have to double up on places I'm running, but getting photos of my little jogging journey is part of the experience. The weather has been tropical the whole two weeks so far, so maybe if the weather changes I can repeat location photos with different skies. 

Many of these photos can be saved if you like, and used for iPad wallpaper etc. Feel free! If you'd like to see the new photos on the day of each run,  you can add me on Instagram. I've quite a lot of home sick Bangorians far and wide on there. YOU SHOULD'VE HAVE STAYED HERE FOREVER AND EVER LIKE ME! How dare you leave Northern Ireland for better prospects! Aww well.

Run one- Ballyholme


Run Two- Groomsport


Run Three- Bangor Marina


My Bangor lighthouse snow globe tattoo


Run Four- Crawfordsburn & Helen's Bay beaches


Run Five- Bangor


The Schadenfreude Maintée- My 5 Favourite Documentaries About Failed Movie Making


If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I tweet a lot about what I'm watching. My favourite genres of tv shows are documentaries, or reality tv, so two absolute opposites. I love long, detailed, complicated documentaries, which I'll follow up with 45 minutes of watching Megan McKenna stick her bottom lip out like a spoilt child (I flipping love Megan McKenna).

I currently have Netflix again for a spell, as they are showing the new ninth season of 'RuPaul's Drag Race', airing the new episodes on Saturday mornings (it airs on Friday nights in the US), so I've rewatched 'Making a Murderer' and some other documentaries on there. I may well do a post about the best documentaries they have to offer, but my list today has films from them, some I've found hosted free online, and some you have to buy or rent from Amazon to catch.

I can't recall how I stumbled upon the 'failed movie making' genre, but I gathered a nice little selection of documentaries showcasing what can go wrong in Hollywood, from budget spirals to actor meltdowns to attacks of extreme narcissism which demolishes a fledgling career before it gets started.

1. 'The Death of Superman Lives. What Happened?'

This documentary is just so much fun. Tall tales that will make you laugh from Kevin Smith and Tim Burton about their failed superhero movie project. I don't like superhero movies, but loved every minute of this documentary.

 Free in all it's glory here.


2. 'Lost in La Mancha.'

Whilst liking 'Brazil', I'm not a huge Terry Gilliam fan otherwise, but I enjoyed this look into his failings to bring 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' to the screen. He and Johnny Depp battle weather, fighter jets & the lead not being able to sit down on a horse, amongst other set backs.

 Watch it on YouTube







3. 'The Sweat Box.'

This is a really hard to find, never actually released documentary, that legend says Disney tried to get banned. After the success of 'The Lion King', Disney started to put together a feature length cartoon set in Peru, with a prince and the pauper style storyline. Sting was brought on board to do the music, and so his wife picked up and camera and started documenting the process in the footage we see as the film 'The Sweat Box'.


The movie begins as being called 'The Kingdom of the Sun', but 31 minutes in you start to see why Disney never wanted this behind the scenes film to see the light of day. Bosses screen the work so far and basically hate 90% of it. Characters, storylines and songs are scrapped. The chief writer looks like he's going to cry around 40 minutes.

The film ends up being what was released as 'The Emperor's New Groove', you know, the Disney film that's no-one's favourite.

 Watch it for free here.

4. 'Lost Soul. The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr Moreau.'

In the late 90s, young, hip, indie director Richard Stanley wrote a script and was given the reigns of Dr Moreau to be his first big break in Hollywood. The concept art and ideas that are talked about in the first 20 minutes of this documentary about how it all went wrong, look really cool, and I would have loved to see the finished movie, had Stanley taken it that far.

Unfortunately things unravel as Stanley doesn't have the authority to stand up to bully lead actor Val Kilmer, and he breaks under the pressure of the studio's demands & the bad luck of poor weather on location.


Already a train wreck (but such a fun one to watch), the real fun starts when Marlon Brando arrives on set about two thirds into the documentary, and begins to mess with the stand in director by changing the script and suggesting ideas. I've never actually seen the finished 'Island of Dr. Moreau' that was released, but it's worth going into this documentary knowing the movie that was made has been named one of the worst films ever seen on screen.

Catch it on Netflix. 


5. 'Overnight.'

'Overnight' is pure schadenfreude from beginning to end. Immensely unlikeable oik Troy Duffy is an ordinary guy, who happens to bump into movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who likes his Irish gangster script 'The Boondock Saints'. Harvey buys the script, bringing Duffy on to direct, but also says he will sign his band for albums, and buy a bar for he & Duffy to split and run. Troy's band is made up of his long suffering friends, and brother.

Troy Duffy goes on to completely alienate and infuriate all friends, family and well wishers over the next couple of years. His arrogance and actions will amaze you. He is king of the pr**ks. He wastes the opportunity of a lifetime for himself and his friends, by being stubborn, rude and at times repulsive.

You will enjoy finding out how many albums they sold at the end.

I couldn't find a free version, but it's worth renting and streaming on Amazon video, trust me.


So if you are loving this genre there are a few more documentaries I can suggest, some I have seen, some I haven't. 

'Hearts of Darkness', a study of the perils of producing 'Apocalypse Now'  is one of the most famous troubled making-of documentaries, watch it for free here. There's also 'Burden of Dreams' a documentary about the famous documentarian Werner Herzog. 


If you want something more lighthearted,   'Doomed!' visits the lovingly pathetic 90s' Fantastic Four reboot attempt, which looks incredibly dated beside our new franchises of Superheroes of all descriptions.

I haven't seen 'Jodorowsky's Dune', but having neither read or watched the original Dune, it's not on my to view list, but it might be your kind of thing- free copy here.

Finally two films about the trials of aspiring filmmakers, 'American Movie' and 'Kingdom Come'. I haven't seen either of these, so if you do give them a spin, let me know what you think. 

North Down Coastal Path Couch to 5k Week One


Couch to 5k is a running plan that helps even the most unfit and sedentary of us running a 5k non-stop in 9 weeks. The outline of the plan is readily available all over the internet, and there are even podcasts to download that you can play as you are out there, and benefit from the interval timing being fed into your ear like a personal trainer.

One thing I wasn't prepared for, when I tried jogging the first time around in 2009, was how bloody hard it is. 

I remembered as a kid just running around everywhere. In my mind when I think of Primary School lunch times in the playground, I picture me just running about, non-stop, for at least that half hour. It was as easy as walking. No real effort at all. 

So, roll on to 2009 when I was 29, and DIDN'T even have M.E. at that time, and I decided to head out for my first run in my new running clothes. Just a quick 20 minute run to start with. 

30 seconds later my chest feels like it's going to explode. What the heck is going on? Why can't I run for more than that without hurting and gasping and sweating? It comes as a shock to realise you couldn't even run away from an attacker or danger if you needed to. 

This is where the Couch to 5k plan comes in and saves the day. You build up doing intervals of running and walking, over nine weeks, until you can finally run for a full 30 mins and 5k without stopping.  

Week One is a 5 min walk warm up, then repeating intervals of 60 seconds running and 90 seconds walking. Believe me, that first 60 seconds of jogging will be the hardest of your life, but each interval helps you build lung capacity, and you WILL be able to do it. 

This is my second time around doing Couch to 5k, and I'm running every day rather than the guide of every other day. Here's what I see on my outings. 

Run One- Helen's Bay- above.

Run Two- Ballyholme


Run Three- Pickie


Run Four- Helen's Bay


I ran into Judy & Dad on this one


Run Five- Pickie


May Day in Holywood, Home of Ireland's Last Remaining Maypole.

Holywood is a small town about fifteen minutes drive from our house. We lived there the first two years of Smix's life. It's a very wealthy area, and the town reflects that. Lots of independent boutiques, indie toy shops, cafes, delis, it's a great afternoon out. 

Holywood is also home to Ireland's last remaining all year round Maypole. Other villages might make a pole to dance with ribbons round for the May Bank Holiday, but Holywood has one there in place all year round. So a few years ago they decided to make the celebrations a bigger deal, and now on the Monday Bank Holiday the streets get closed off for pedestrians only and from 10am to 4pm there are stalls for charities with buns, Bric a brac, tombolas galore, and another street becomes a food fair. Sweets, crisp sticks, burgers, paella, fancy hot dogs, etc. 


We learnt from earlier years that getting parked can be tricky. So instead we drove and parked for free at the Transport Museum in Cultra. From the car park it's a ten minute walk to Cultra station, and a four minute train journey to Holywood.  

We got there about 11am and already the town was bustling. We shopped the junk & second hand stalls & I bought a little wooden music box house for £1.

By noon it was getting difficult to walk up and down the streets as it was becoming so busy, so we strolled down towards the seafront and began our walk back toward Cultra. 


The weather was perfect, so sunny and bright but not too hot.  A note for other families, the playground at Seahill seems to be closed at the moment for refurbishment. If you do go down to the seafront however, there was an ice cream van there today.


This is the yacht club where my parents had their wedding reception. 


Magical little dream house. 


Back by Cultra station there was a Maypole illustration. It took us about an hour to walk back via the coast.