It’s so important to be warmly dressed when out in the bitter cold especially if out for more than half an hour. It’s essential to have the right clothing.
Sheepskin – gloves, hats, boots – all help to keep out the cold and keep us active. We have never really found man made material to be as warm as natural fibres. Expensive, but really easy to pick up a bargain on eBay. We will be writing about our experiences soon.
And a hat, woollen, silk, sheepskin, whatever, essential to keep the heat in and your scalp warm.
Finally a real silk scarf wound round the neck, even covering the ears, is a must – warm, colourful and snug.
Sniffles, especially when going into a warm building from a cold outside, seem to happen all the time and a sore throat sometimes follows. We carry around with us little honey and menthol sweeties. They are very comforting and certainly clear a blocked nose – the menthol has anti-bacterial properties, naturally killing of micro-organisms that might lead to a throat infection. Jakemans original Throat and Chest Sweets are delicious, reminiscent of those we sucked on our way to school on cold and frosty mornings. Recently launched in bags of ten sweets, handy for keeping in coat pockets, they are available in most supermarkets and pharmacies.
And, what about aches and pains? We found Deep Heat Patches, activated when you strip off the sleeve, placed in strategic spots worked really well – they are self adhesive and easy to apply. This worked especially well for Jane who had hip pain and found real relief within 20 minutes – the heat lasted for more than eight hours! These were so good we are keeping some in the medicine cupboard. Deep Heat is available as a Rub and a Spray.
Then for those days we were hanging around the football pitch waiting for the young ‘uns to finish their game we used little Hotties, put them in your footwear and warm feet are guaranteed. You can get similar pads for gloves. Look for them in pharmacies, sports shops, some supermarkets.
A strong cold wind can really dry out your skin – we swear by Lotil Cream for our face and hands, it’s so rich. It will give relief for the pain of cracked or fissured skin on feet as well.
We always have a little tube of lip balm in all our coat pockets, handbags, sports bags and this year we have been using Lotil Lip Care SPF30. It has kept our lips moist and free of chapping and splitting that often comes from exposure to bitter winds.
And socks … We have tried about six different types of sock in the past six weeks and can honestly say the only ones we found that really kept our feet warm in the bitter weather we have had lately have been natural fibre, more particularly goat wool. This is what our reviewer said: These impressed as soon as I saw them! Well, it WAS a cold day! Full calf length, but not too grippy. That is, no powerful elastic to give those horrible rings round your calves (ie good for those with circulation problems). They stay fresh for a long time too. They have a good cushioned sole, perhaps the only downside, might be if you wear tight shoes or boots, you may need to up your size a little! They make wonderful house socks, toasty, with a fully cushioned sole! There are four sizes available; they may seem dear, but boy, they are warm! Nice colours too! Available from the Wiggly Wigglers website.
And, of course, thermal underwear – we find silk or merino wool the best – having used and loved Icebreaker for the past five years. Their garments are warm, can be worn for ages and never pick up body odours – long distance sailors swear by them! This Icebreaker sleeveless top is five years old and shows no signs of wear and is just as warm as it was originally. Great value for money.
So keep as warm as you can and if you come home really chilled through have a bath. Why not try an Olbas Bath? Absolutely fab! The mix of clove, juniper and eucalyptus really made us feel we were in a hot tub with vapours all around to help with our breathing. Available in supermarkets, pharmacies and health food shops.
Keeping warm reaps benefits, it makes you more resistant to germs of all kinds.
Yours in health,
Val Reynolds, Editor
Have you ever thought about sleeping in a tree-house, or in a light house? Or perhaps on a jumbo jet?
Hostelling International, one of the world’s largest budget accommodation providers, has hostels in many of the world’s most inspiring and interesting countries, in some of the most unique buildings.
A Jumbo Jet
You may have slept on a hot, stuffy plane before, on the way to a destination; however Jumbo Hostel in Stockholm offers a completely new and unique experience, which is far more pleasant. Located in a refurbished Jumbo Jet, in Stockholm this (static) hostel offers modern amenities, en-suite guestrooms (double and private rooms available), in addition to a café. Jumbo Stay is located within close proximity to Stockholm airport, so it also works well as a great stopover hostel. Prices start from £37.08 per night.
A Prison (but you’ll have the key)
Offering a completely unique experience, the Langholmen hostel in Sweden is located in the original Crown Remand Prison (Kronohäktet), but has been completely renovated to a luxury standard. Built in the 1840’s, the hostel offers accommodation in 2 and 4 person ‘cells’, as well as a café and shop containing prison inspired souvenirs. Prices start from £20.51 per night.
A Tree House
For the ultimate way to experience nature, why not stay in our Kadir’s Tree Top Houses Hostel, where after a day’s hiking and climbing in the picturesque town of Olympos, guests can return to a bed located in their very own tree house. Situated just 1km away from Olympos beach, one of the world’s only known breeding grounds for the loggerhead turtles, this guesthouse offers a variety of nature based excursions and adventures, for families, groups and adventure seekers alike. Prices start from £9.64 per night, per bed.
For the real fairy tale feeling, why not stay in our Stayokay Heemskerk Hostel, an impressive 13th century castle, complete with a moat, turret rooms and royal décor. The hostels central location in North Holland makes it a great base for tourists, as well being close to shops, cafes and a national park. Prices start from £22.67 per night.
On The Beach
You may have stayed near the beach before or perhaps within view of the sea, but perhaps not directly on the beach, within reaching distance of the waves. Our Kaikoura YHA Hostel in New Zealand, located directly on the beachfront, maintains a glass exterior, allowing guests to enjoy the stunning surroundings in their full glory. Animal lovers can also walk along the beach to experience the fur seal colonies, or take a marine cruise, which sets off nearby. Prices start from £17.44 per night.
Built in 1875 to work as a fog signal station, this gorgeous lighthouse building has been lovingly preserved and refurbished by HI to now offer 45 beds to guests. Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel, in California has its very own secluded beach, with a four-mile stretch of tide pools, as well as a bar and landscaped gardens. The coast side location also makes the hostel a perfect base for horse riding, surfing, kayaking and surfing. Prices start from £16.44 per night.
In the centre a bustling city (Rotterdam, Netherlands), Stayokay Rotterdam is situated in striking cube houses, overlooking the river. The unusual accommodation, designed by the Dutch architect Piet Blom in 1984, offers stylish private rooms, family rooms and multi-share rooms in your very own cube!Prices start from £19.19 per night.
On A Husky Farm
Located next to the Karasjohka River, close to the Arctic Circle, the Karasjok hostel is in the perfect location to view the Northern Lights whilst also offering guests a variety of unique activities to enjoy. Nestled within a Husky Farm, the hostel is fantastic in welcoming families and animal loving groups, who are encouraged to join in the all-year-round puppy and dog training workshops. Prices start from £46.95 per room, per night.
For more information on any of the hostels above, or to book, please visit hihostels.com
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We usually only write about our own travel experiences but this list was so enticing we wanted to share it with you! We can’t decide which one we would like to visit … something to chew over during the Christmas break. What about you?
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
One of my most enduring memories of a year long stay in France, as an au pair, was a hot drink made from verveine, a plant we refer to as lemon verbena. It was wonderfully comforting, had a familiar lemony aroma and sugar really enhanced its flavour. So when I heard about a hand cream with that wonderful scent I just had to try it out.
Winter time is one when my cuticles have a tendency to crack, resulting in that really long period of pain. The lemon verbena hand cream has a 20% shea butter base. It’s creamy texture is easily absorbed, leaving hands soft and supple and I find especially effective when rubbed round the fingernail.
On my desk at the moment are the final contestants in my Strictly Skincare hand cream choice. I started with about 20 different products. The five are, in no particular order of preference – they are all used regularly:
Energizing Verbena Hand Cream – Panier des Sens, en Provence that comes with very pretty packaging
Morrisons Unscented Hand Cream, Concentrated – a glycerine based cream it is useful when you don’t want to wear a second scent that might conflict. It is very creamy, softening dry skin and useful to add before you start to work in the garden.
Q10 by Pharma Nord is another hand cream that conditions and protects at the same time. It contains ginkgo Biloba, Pycnogenol and Vitamin E. All ingredients considered highly beneficial by skincare aficionados.
Lotil Original is specifically designed for cold weather and I always check there is a small tube in my handbag at this time of year.
On a recent visit to The Dales I took my tube of English Weather Cream. I always use this in cold weather because my face dries out in cold windy weather and this cream works absolutely fantastically. However, it has been recently discontinued … Made by Lotil it is no longer available – such a shame. I’m looking for a replacement product and will let you know if I find one.
Wearing silk lined gloves helps to keep my hands warm and in conjunction with any one of these handcreams I’m able to keep them in good condition, safe from damaging cold weather.
All are available online but of course in store is always a good place to try them out!
Kate Campbell, Health Editor
Kate has worked with editor Val Reynolds since 1996 and they are constantly looking for top quality, effective skincare products. Do you have a favourite? Do let us know and we will pass on your recommendations.
Every year we put together a list of the products we have tried and loved over the year and include them in our Christmas List. 2012 has been a memorable year for visits, tastings and tests.
These are our favourites:
Chocolate bouquet – can’t think of anything more tempting than this astonishingly beautiful chocolate bouquet – we’re sending it as a family gift to five families who live far and wide who will be meeting up for Christmas in a country house in the Midlands. A smaller bouquet and individual flowers are also available. Utterly charming, seems a shame to eat them.
Last year we were impressed by and ordered several items from the Thompson & Morgan catalogue of bouquets and other floral gifts. This year they have added to the items on offer. All details on their website.
Booja Booja chocolate truffles are oh so yum! Organic and made by hand, we have to restrict ourselves to one each a day until the box is empty. Delicious flavours include raspberry – our absolute favourite is the Champagne Truffle … so irresistible they should be banned! Ingredients for chocolate aficionados: Dark chocolate (cocoa solids 55%, cane sugar, emulsifier, soya lecithin, vanilla, coconut oil, champagne 8%, Agave, Cocoa powder.
Cooking in someone else’s kitchen is always interesting and on our return from a two month stay in France we immediately bought a hand blender – there are lots on the market but we plumped for the Sainsbury 200K version. At the surprising price of £4.13 it does the job quite well and is good enough for soups, blending cooked fruit and vegetables. We love the flexibility of blending direct in the saucepan. Much less washing up. For slicing, chopping and making small quantities of sauce our Magimix is indispensable – it has considerably more power with well designed cutting discs.
We love our Russell Hobbs Brita Filter Kettle. Living in a hard water and limescale area, dark rings on cups and a film on coffee and tea is really noticeable and slightly unpleasant. All that disappears using this filter kettle and your tea and coffee tastes so much better too. Of course you have the ongoing expense of the filters, but we prefer that to the unpleasant effects of scale. We use the filtered water for cooking as well.
Another useful device in the French kitchen was a simple Spoon Rest. I could only search out one, in John Lewis, the Playnation Ceramic Rest costs £8. It’s big enough to hold more than one wooden spoon, it gives me less cleaning to do of food marks on the worktop. Just throw it in the dishwasher, well best not to throw … Definitely the most useful piece of kitchen kit I have come across in years.
Digital scales As I am on a calorie restricted food programme (called a diet by everyone else!) an accurate, easy to clean, set of scales is essential. Again John Lewis came up trumps and I was pleased the nicest one I found, Salter 1036 Electronic Disc Kitchen Scale, 5kg, Black only cost £12.80. It has a lot of positive reviews.
I was lucky enough to interview Stanley Kubrick’s widow, Christiane, a month or so ago to talk about her, painting, work methods and style. The feature will appear in the New Year.
Christiane was kind enough to sign a copy of the Taschen Book: The Stanley Kubrick Archives for us to offer to In Balance readers. This giveaway will appear on this website early in 2013.
The book is the first to explore Kubrick’s archives and the most comprehensive study of the filmmaker to date. It would be a must for any film buff. Reviews on the Taschen website are enlightening.
Another book we came across is Uniquely British, A Year in the Life of The Household Cavalry, written by serving officers and soldiers. The book covers events that took place during 2011 and 2012 and gives a unique insight into the background activities of a 350 year old organisation. Published to fund the launch of the Household Cavalry Foundation, a new charity to support serving soldiers, operational casualties, veterans or even their horses. Uniquely British is available direct from the publishers Tricorn Books, who presumably pay their British taxes which is more than be said about that huge organisation that sends most of its UK profits home to the US whose name begins with a capital A and from whom we assume you wouldn’t order this book. Sorry, our prejudices are showing.
OTHER Favourites to Give you Inspiration
For those who find listening to book a lifeline when driving long distance, or doing any repetitive activity like gym work, talking books might be an appropriate gift. Our recent feature gives details
George Foreman Grill – Absolutely besotted with this easy to make sandwich grill that cooks steaks to a T! Our feature gives details
Rose Oil is our absolute favourite product for facial care. From Living Nature we would never be without it!
Belleville Rendezvous – If you haven’t seen this do have a look at our feature – it’s a cartoon which is so funny and whacky yet charming and engaging.
Insect House – This is a fascinating item to attracts insects that will stay in your garden to help pollinate your fruit and vegetables. Young children love it. Our recent feature gives details.
And FINALLY, we’ve left the best until last! We spent an overnight spa stay at Whittlebury Hall. We so enjoyed this. A world class hydrotherapy centre, offering a vast range of treatments, beautiful decor, spacious accommodation, wonderful food … seriously large swimming pool, golf course, beautiful grounds to explore … You might just like to book up one of the special deals on offer up to Christmas! I took my husband who loved it … now that’s a recommendation!
Phew, I hope you find something of interest to choose as a thoughtful gift.
Good luck and the compliments of the season!
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
Favourite books from readers – all of them have been read more than once and they would never ever give them away. Eat your heart out Oxfam!
Heidi – a heartrending story by Johanna Spyri of such poignancy that it still makes me cry every time I read it even now at 70! J Jarvis
The Rough Guide to Classic Novels – this is such a good crib book. It’s used it a lot just to keep me up with those references in the media that crop up from time to time – I’m always up to date! J Gorringe
The Man who Planted Trees – a very short but hugely inspiring book – it renews hope and faith in the human psyche. L Alexander
RHS Pruning by Christopher Brickell – I’ve had this book for more than 30 years and it never lets me down. V McDonald
How to Grow Fresh Air – an astonishing book that came out of research for a breathable environment for a lunar habitat. K Colston
Travels with Watercolour – Lucy Willis inspires her readers to be courageous in their painting in new surroundings. S Walling
Mr Thrifty’s How to save money on absolutely everything – a hugely amusing and useful book written by Jane Furnival, now sadly no longer with us. A book to read and read – get a copy! K Gardner
Food in England – Dorothy Hartley wrote a series of books based on her travels around the UK in the 1930’s to 1950’s. Her beautiful line drawings are humorous as well as accurate and her description makes her books essential for anyone interested in social history. J Marshall
Way of the Peaceful Warrior – a lyrical, hauntingly beautiful book that might just change your life! I go back to it regularly. K Campbell
Bob Flowerdew’s Organic Bible, successful gardening the natural way The first book I go to when needing inspiration, reliable and understandable guidance for the garden. V Reynolds
All these books are of course available on Amazon, however rather than support a company that doesn’t want to pay tax on its UK profits perhaps you could find a bookseller who does. We are researching this – if you have any suggestions do get in touch.
If you have some favourites feel free to send an email to email@example.com
Do you have any books you use to read in the gym when on the walking machine? Here’s a link to our feature.
One of the joys of biking is the feeling of freedom, the wind in your hair and a sense of wellbeing. Certainly riding up the hill you once had to walk your bike up gives a great sense of achievement.
I started fettling my own bikes as a teenager and soon found the right way and the wrong way to join up a cycle chain by having a chain break 10 miles from home and using someone’s garage to fix it! Similarly the inevitable punctures! The Bike Book should have been available years ago, it would have saved me a lot of time and energy.
Having said that, bikes have evolved a long way from the old simple Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub gear to today’s 24 or more gears (33 are possible, though not really useable).
For me, servicing your own transport gives an appreciation of the limitations of the individual components, for example simply banging over large pot holes makes you realise that you will have to sort the front suspension the following weekend, to replace the bent king-pin or worse, wish-bone, reminding you not to be so stupid! Similarly servicing the bike helps to realise that servicing the bike brakes is just as important as servicing cars. Bike brakes may look simple they are not necessarily so, as you find out when they fail, when they shouldn’t!
This book helps bike users to realise the amount of development that has gone into bike parts. Just because things look the same they frequently are not, this book carefully explains the whys and wherefores of fitting bike parts. This is not to say that as soon as things go wrong, you should give up and haul the thing to the local bike shop to get it fixed. To me a large part of biking is, that it is ME; I chose the bike and very often the parts for my own good reasons, for a purpose, whether it be racing, or riding to school. The pleasure of owing a bike is vastly enhanced, by knowing something about the bits that make it work; especially when a funny noise starts! What is it? Can I fix it? Does it matter? Can I get home OK? In short, knowing simple maintenance can go a long way, literally and again save a lot of wasted effort. Pumping the tyres up, is a prime example of this, the number of times I see bikes, with nearly flat tyres is really painful; 5 minutes with a pump saves a lot of time and effort propelling the bike and in all likelihood, repairing the almost inevitable puncture. Just pump the tyres up, then see how much more easily you go and fun it is!
An excellent book for the enthusiastic biker that gives a good introduction to the evolution of the bike and its parts. There are discussions missing, but these are more likely peculiar to the racing fraternity, who very definitely service their bikes with great care; such as the more specialised tyres (for example tubular tyres and bar extensions).
The Bike Book: Complete Cycle Maintenance £16.99
ISBN: 978085733 118 2 Haynes Publishing, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ
Reviewed by John Reynolds a cyclist for the last 60 odd years and counting!
Visiting gardens is a most interesting and a very popular pasttime. Wimpole Hall was the latest we visited end of May, 2012 where it was interesting to see the advanced growth of their onions, whereas ours were mere blips on the landscape by comparison! We also noted the wild bee houses liberally sited throughout the gardens. A variegated horseradish was much admired by visitors and irises were in full bloom despite the lack of rain for the last week or so. Based in Hertfordshire we tend to spread out north and east, so for us a visit to the Langford village gardens in Oxfordshire on Sunday 17 June between 2 and 6 pm is not really on our agenda. However the gardens sound magnificent and if you are anywhere near do consider a visit.
There are 26 gardens to wander round, both large and small including one created by Hardy Amies, famous for dressing the Queen for more than 55 years. The Grange and Ansells Farm gardens are open for the first time and Lower Farm House, a garden at the medieval end of the village has been completely remodelled.
Garden visiting wouldn’t be the same without tea and homemade cakes and there will be two locations to choose from.
£4.50 per person on entry and children go free!
More information on website
Val Reynolds, Editor
When I heard of a super strength cat repellent I was sceptical – I have tried so many products over the years. Cats wander through our garden at will and catch and kill birds visiting the garden. We feel responsible for the safety of birds visiting our garden as we encourage them by providing a seed feeder and apples from our trees for a pair of song thrushes.
One year we had a great spotted woodpecker that visited regularly and brought its two young to eat the hazelnuts we put into a bough of a dead tree. To read that feature click here.
However, to our great delight the Neudorff Super Strength Cat Repellent has worked! We haven’t seen a cat since I scattered the granules where they appear over the fence, through the privet hedge and under the garden gate.
At £4.49 I thought it was a bit on the dear side. I also read on the instructions the granules will lose their strength if it rains, so another tub would be necessary after rain. But, in view of its complete success I won’t begrudge the cost.
The clay based mineral granules are grey in colour that hold plant based oils – garlic oil in fact. The long lasting odour is disliked by cats so the best places to scatter the granules is where the cats enter the garden and also where the birds are most active. In our garden this is where the bird feeders are, on seed beds and beside the pond.
Depending on the weather, the period of protection is 3-4 weeks.
The granules come in a 500 g can.
So would I buy more? A resounding yes! And I would have a couple of spares to make sure I can keep those pesky critters out of our garden forever, or is that tempting fate!
Super Strength Cat Repellent is £4.49 available from:
Blue Diamond centres, full range at Derby, Trentham and Le Friquet
All good garden centres
Val Reynolds, Editor
An unprepossessing name hides a remarkable new product. The Groove Bulb is a high quality, low energy light eminently suitable in the home. It uses 85 per cent less electricity than standard bulbs, so despite its higher purchase price* it ensures immediate savings. With an approximate life span of 30 years there’ll be no need to replace it for a very long time**.
So what are its credentials apart from the impressive cost savings?
It’s available in bayonet or Edison screw cap
Provides a clear white light – good for reading and activities involving small detail much easier
They are dimmable
99 per cent recyclable
Has the lowest CO2 emissions of any lighting technology on the market
Aesthetically we prefer the natural – nearly white – grooves to the silver grooves
The company, Groove Bulb, intends expanding the range to include a 100w equivalent and a candle style bulb by the end of the year.
Groove Bulb is a privately owned company operating in the UK. The founder, James Theobald, has over thirty years’ experience of LED manufacturing.
This bulb is neat. It’s very bright. We have used it in the entrance hall and would prefer it to be somewhat less bright, so a dimmer switch would make it more appropriate. Perhaps placing it in an enclosed light fitting would help to reduce its brightness.
OTHER ADVANTAGES It could be left on all night, with a dimmer switch, in dark corridors rather than using the much more expensive motion sensor light switches used in hospitals and high activity corridors.
WILL WE BE BUYING SOME?
Yes – what’s not to like?!
The Groove Bulb can be purchased exclusively via the website: www.groovebulb.com
*9w bulbs are retailing at £15.95, which is 25 per cent cheaper than similar quality LED bulbs on the market
**Calculations are based on a UK average of 24 bulbs per household used for three hours per day with electricity charged at 15p per kilowatt saving you c. £200 per year/£16 per month.
Val Reynolds, Editor
It would seem to be a generational thing. I’m old, much older than many of our readers, and I don’t clean my shoes very often. All made from Nubuck they only needed proofing on purchase and later, much later, a clean/restoration session.
Okay, so I’m different and don’t do the polish bit, but what I do remember about polish is Cherry Blossom, Meltonian, Mansion Polish, along with other contemporary products such as Dinky toys, sugar in blue paper bags, crisps with blue twists of salt in the packets, broken biscuits in Home & Colonial – all products my generation will be familiar with. And just how many are still around?
Well Meltonian has gone, as has Mansion Polish but Cherry Blossom shoe polish is blooming, or should I say shining! Apparently these days we are more conscious of repair and care, rather than throwaway and buy again and shoes are taking a more centre stage position.
Cherry Blossom is a British product through and through, originally conceived and produced in 1906 but over the years the name has changed hands. In 1992 Grangers, the company well known to campers wanting to reproof their tents, equipment and clothing, bought the right to use the name, manufacture and sell in the UK and export to certain other countries.
I visited the Cherry Blossom factory in Alfreton, near Derby a couple of months ago. It had a real good feel factor about it.
The science of polish is not hugely technical, although over the years it has adapted to health and safety standards and more recently bypassed the need for certain specific ingredients by creating replicas. This sounds a bit odd, but in the case of a specific wax – mined in Hungary which is becoming very scarce as the mines close down – it makes total economic sense.
So why the interest? I was curious to see how polish was made. The production methods are not specially high tech, nor base production, and some parts are labour intensive. But there is something reassuring about a British company still producing goods that go all over the world. I felt a quiet pride that such a successful original was still being produced in the UK.
With a widening user base, a broadening range of trade customers, and 30 different polish colours on offer it’s no wonder impressive sales are in evidence.
In fact an impressive range of products to complement shoe polish, creams and wipes is going to push the company’s profits hugely in the next year or so.
Grangers are astutely widening their product range to include shoe inserts, insoles – the ones I tried are excellent, orthotics, toe warmers – great for skiers, hand warmers – excellent for football fans among others and I can foresee a very promising future.
Have a look at their website.
Interesting fact: Although called Cherry Blossom Polish the tin has never depicted Cherry Blossom but shown the rich shine which appears on ripe red cherries. Good question for a pub quiz!
Val Reynolds, Editor
Photography © Pintail Media