As the post-Christmas indulgence blues of January merge with the cold and gloom of February, thoughts turn to the glow of a warm holiday. For those of us not too adversely affected by the country’s economic woes, the glossy brochures or internet sites showing sun-soaked faraway places, adventure-filled or just relaxing, hold great appeal. But there are destinations far closer to home, albeit without the sun-soaked factor that offer the possibility of a highly enjoyable and memorable holiday. One such place is an all-time favourite city of mine, Amsterdam.
With a population of around 800,000 it’s such a welcoming, relaxing place. Criss-crossed by romantic canals, its picturesque buildings are adorned with a wealth of flowers. And culturally, it has a wealth of treasures to offer.
The year 2015 is significant for a number of reasons. First, the 50th anniversary of Provo is marked by the documentary film The Rebellious City. Provo was the radical political movement that was also a fore-runner of the hippy movement of West coast US and also a major influence on the ‘evenements’ in Paris throughout France 3 years later in 1968. It’s worth remembering that for centuries Amsterdam has been a centre for free speech and thinking and a refuge for those seeking a safe haven from religious persecution, notably Jews from Spain and Portugal and Protestants from France and Belgium.
From 20 March to 17 May, the celebrated tulips from Amsterdam, along with an abundance of other flora, bloom in the Keukenhof, the renowned flower park about 30 minutes from the city. 2015 marks the 65th anniversary of the project, which gives new meaning to the phrase ‘say it with flowers’.
One of the city’s most famous museums, the Van Gogh, honours this year the untimely death by suicide of the artist. The museum has just undergone a stunning makeover to mark the event and it will also host a remarkable exhibition featuring the works of Van Gogh and that other troubled northern artist, the Norwegian Edvard Munch. With 40 paintings from each artist on show, visitors will have the opportunity to compare and contrast the works and to perceive how both strove to convey the human condition. The exhibition runs from 24 September to 17 January 2016.
There are so many other reasons to head for Amsterdam this year. The Stedelijk Museum is celebrating its 120th birthday and is putting on a landmark exhibition of the works of Henri Matisse entitled Oasis, complementing the hugely successful exhibition of the artist’s cut-outs at London’s Tate Modern last year. Oasis runs from 4 April to 16 August. And the late works of Rembrandt, drawing on the exhibition recently seen at London’s National Gallery will be on show at the world-famous Rijksmuseum from 12 February to 17 May. While there, it’s a must to contemplate the artist’s Night Watch, perhaps one of the world’s greatest works of art.
Unusually, in June and July, the Beach Volleyball World Cup will be staged in the iconic Dam Square, Amsterdam being one of the four Dutch cities to build temporary stadia for the event. London did, of course, showcase the same sport on Horse Guards’ Parade for the 2012 Olympics – beach volleyball can clearly make itself at home anywhere!
As in so many European cities these days, a wide, sandy beach will appear for visitors and residents alike to ‘be beside the seaside.’ And to continue the water theme, from 19 to 24 August, the biggest maritime event in Europe will happen, as it does every 5 years, when a parade of 5000 of the world’s finest sailing vessels are moored for the millions of visitors to the city to contemplate and wonder at.
Finally, looking forward to 2016 when Holland holds the presidency of the EU, it will showcase its most famous city as one of great international diversity. And so this year, next year and any year will be a great time to visit Amsterdam.
Arts & Travel correspondent
We asked busy garden writer Amily Grossman, to give us some of her ideas for gifts for Fathers’ Day. With a little help from friends and relatives, here is her list.
Dads can sometimes feel a little left out in the early days with mum and baby sharing so much one on one time together. Water Babies, is a leading baby swimming school with classes all over the country. Water Babies lessons are a great way to get Dad involved as little ones are able to take lessons from birth, giving Dad and baby a fantastic opportunity to bond. Our favourite Father’s Day gift!
The weight of garden tools can become an issue if you frequently dig, hoe and rake. So your dad might welcome on of the new Light Gardening Tools from Fiskars. The lawn rake looks especially useful, it efficiently clears grass with much less effort than usual. The patio knife on a long handle would save a lot of back ache. Having just broken a wooden handled spade we’re now seriously considering the Light spade for our own gardening activities.
My dad really likes doorstep size slices of bread, toasted muffins, toasted crumpets and fast toast. The Magimix Vision Toaster comes top in all these requirements – the chance to watch the toast cooking a plus feature.
This toaster is great for the man who is of the opinion there is no point in heating up the grill in the cooker for a couple of slices of toast – a total waste of electricity. The side by side design means it fits on the work surface neatly, although we would have it on the table for easy access. Just so you know, this toaster is a Which Best Buy and although pricey at £145 it has good user reviews.
OK, so a toaster is not appropriate for your dad. What about a book?
How about the Penguin series devoted to Simenon’s books – he may well enjoy the first Inspector Maigret novel Pietr the Latvian, if only for nostalgic reasons! Penguin are publishing the entire series of the Maigret novels, so this could cover your gifts for several years!
Confessions of The World’s Best Father – a tongue in cheek series of web entries that started an internet phenomenon. His bewilderment as to how to best raise a child makes Dave Engledow’s book an amusing read. The photographs are pretty good too!
If you’d prefer to give a more sober present, you could go for The Death of Money. James Rickards shows how we could avoid financial collapse.
James Lovelock’s A Rough Ride to the Future confirms his belief that the survival of the human race is one of the most important steps in the evolution of our planet.
With Flowers Shows happening all over the country why not get tickets?
- For instance the Blenheim flower show 20-22 June. http://blenheimflowershow.co.uk/
- Hampton Court Flower Show is on from 8 to 13 July. Yes, it’s pricey but it’s big, a great time to talk to like minded gardeners, many exhibitors are readily accessible and it’s generally good weather! Link
- Harrogate Flower Show is 12-14 September. http://www.flowershow.org.uk/
If your dad is a keen veggie grower he might just like a copy of the Suttons Vegetable Garden Planner <firstname.lastname@example.org> An absolutely winner for us – it takes out all the guesswork and is an easy to refer to record throughout the year.
Backdoor shoes – if your dad is constantly in and out of the garden, he might well like a pair of lightweight Backdoor Shoes to slip on and off. Might keep mum happy too with less mud to clear up. We love ‘em, ours has taken 4 years of hard wear and need replacing now. Which design to choose will be a challenge!
Does this portable USB iShaver razor appeal? Designed to easily slip in a pocket or washbag significant features include:
- Recharge via USB
- Stylishly sleek compact design
- Ultra-thin net foil with floating blades
- Cleaning brush included
- Easy on/off switch
- Comes in a high gloss case and ultra-thin net foil with floating blades for a close, comfortable shave
Finally, some alcohol? Yes, it is a bit of a get out clause, here are some suggestions
You could sign him up for Naked Wines. The company was started up by two former employees of Virgin Wines, with the added ethos of supporting the wine producers, all small scale but dedicated growers. You might like to make your dad a wine angel! Sounds fun? Here’s a link.
Taylor’s 10 year old Tawny Port is rather tasty, we keep some for special occasions and in the winter when we feel the need for something to keep us warm. http://taylor.pt/en/port-wine-ratings-awards/press-comments/
Lastly, for the dad with a dog. The Forestry Commission England has created a one-stop-shop for owners and their dogs looking to take a break in and around forests and woodlands. The Ruff Guide to the Forest showcases 34 Forestry Commission locations across England, highlighting each site’s trails and facilities suitable for dogs, along with dog-friendly places to stay nearby.
Phew, will have to take a break now and go for a spot of weeding! The sun’s out and I’ll don my Backdoor Shoes, pick up the handy trowel with its graduated scale for planting seedlings, put on my Ethel gloves and make sure the waterproof jacket is by the backdoor in case of an unexpected show.
Amily Grossman, gardening expert and occasional contributor to In Balance Magazine
Help for holidaying with your dog is here, with the launch of Forestry Commission England’s Ruff Guide to the Forest.
Forestry Commission England has created a one-stop-shop for owners and their dogs looking to take a break in and around forests and woodlands.
The Ruff Guide to the Forest showcases 34 Forestry Commission locations across England, highlighting each site’s trails and facilities suitable for dogs, along with dog-friendly places to stay nearby.
Each location in the guide has been reviewed by one of its regular four-legged visitors, helping newcomers to find out useful information such as if some areas are kept dog free and where to find water and waste bins. There is also the opportunity for owners to share their thoughts and recommend places to stay nearby.
Paddy Harrop Recreation and Public Affairs Manager for Forestry Commission England commented:
“Across the country, you are never far from a Forestry Commission England location – which means you are never far from a great walk with your dog.
“We want to make it easier for people to bring their four-legged friend with them on a great day out, short break or longer holiday. By showcasing the dog-friendly facilities at our woods and forests and local dog-friendly accommodation, we hope we can provide all the essential information for a fantastic forest visit.”
The Forestry Commission’s accommodation partners, Forest Holidays and Camping in the Forest, have also seen a rise in popularity for dog-friendly holidays.
Camping in the Forest welcome dogs at almost all of their sites and they even camp for free, whilst all Forest Holidays locations have plenty of pet friendly cabins where your dog will feel right at home.
The Ruff Guide to the Forest is being launched as part of the Forestry Commission’s Paws Outdoors campaign. The campaign marks ten years of working together for the Forestry Commission, the Kennel Club and Natural Resources Wales. The organisations signed a new concordat at Crufts (7 March 2014) to promote opportunities for responsible dog-walking in UK forests.
The Forestry Commission has also announced England’s first Walk Your Dog Week, which takes place from Monday 28 April to Monday 5 May 2014. The awareness week will encourage dog owners to get into the habit of giving their pets more regular exercise, including time off the leash when appropriate, to improve their health and well-being and reduce dog obesity. Dog owners can also nominate their well-behaved pet as a contender to become the dog face of the Paws Outdoors campaign.
Links for further information:
We found MacWet Climatic sports gloves to be suitable for many activities where a good grip is essential: including gardening, cycling, golfing, Nordic walking, even walking the dog!
They are well grippy, non-slip without being sticky, in wet or dry conditions and keep the cold at bay, though perhaps not as well as a fully lined glove. Again they are breathable, wicking moisture away, so you don’t get sweaty hands. A Velcro wrist strap provides a weatherproof closure.
I used them for the first time, sawing wood, an activity when you need a good firm grip. The day was fairly cold, but I didn’t feel it at all – though the exercise probably helped. I was using both a hand saw, then a circular saw. With a circular saw, it is crucial to have a good grip on both saw and wood, slips could be disastrous. But the results were fine with no problems. The wood was not thorny, so any anti-jab protection was not tested, but they did seem jab-proof. The only downside could be that they don’t stretch, hence sizing has to be accurate, easily solved by the sizing template given on the MacWet website.
The gloves did get dirty, with the fine sawdust, but they are washable – the Velcro wrist strap provided weatherproof closure and stopped debris getting in.
On a country walk on a very cold day they were ideal. Light, warm and comfortable when used with Nordic walking sticks. They are very popular with the shooting fraternity and golfers* too.
Prices vary from £24.99 to £29.99 (Amazon) Note the Amazon comments were generally supportive, but you do get the picky ones occasionally.
Christopher Johns, occasional contributor on topics related to sports activities
* If you are keen on practising your game while on holiday do have a look at Coet Per in Brittany. This 5 bedroom holiday chateau/country house, hidden away in beautiful countryside has its own four hole golf course.
10 February 2013
I have now dropped 38 lbs since I started my weight loss programme. There have been some periods when my weight has levelled off and it has taken real determination to get it dropping again. Four more pounds to go and I will have lost 3 stones.
The effect is really noticeable – I can get into my size 12 clothes – that is the biggest bonus and I noticed yesterday I can cross my legs. Another thing, I can kneel on the floor, something I haven’t been able to do for years! I can get into my sheepskin coat that has been languishing in a cupboard for more years than I can remember. I have been buying cashmere jumpers on eBay at an alarming rate! I go for the auctions of used items. There is a knack to getting what you want, at least I have devised a method where I receive items that are clean and ready to wear. I send an email to the seller asking them to confirm the item has been cleaned and ready to wear. If I don’t hear from them, and that does happen, then I don’t bid for it. I also ask for confirmation the label shows it is what the seller says, for instance one item was described as silk, but turned out to be polyester. Look out for ‘style’ or ‘type’. For instance cashmere type, or silk type, or couture style. I have found it means whatever the item is it is not 100% silk, or cashmere. That’s what I have learned so far – check out detail before you buy. I have made mistakes, mostly with measurements. I get carried away with the photo and forget to actually check the measurements given … this entails returning the garment and that is tedious, especially as return postage is seldom refunded.
One incentive to keep to the weight loss programme I have devised is to aim for couture clothing in size 10! I have to decide whether the investment will be worth it, whether in fact my willpower will ensure I succeed in further weightloss. It is so easy to slip back into old, negative ways. I still have a tendency to overeat when I feel a bit blue, or feeling stressed. I have no trick to get over this. I can foresee getting into size 10 clothes may well be a size too far. Or shall I just keep trying? Probably! I love being able to wear my ebay bargains!
17 November 2012
Most of us who seriously need to reduce our weight, and I’m thinking here of anyone with more than 3 stones to lose, need to spend a long period concentrating on food. Which may seem a contradiction in terms.
One of the biggest challenges during that long period is maintaining motivation.
Sometimes serious health conditions help focus that effort, and most long term dieters are aware of the possibility and danger of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer – just a few of the serious health problems associated with serious over weight.
If assured we would definitely be dead within two weeks through eating more than 1200 calories a day I’m pretty sure we would all make certain we kept under that target, indefinitely.
To begin with controlling our appetite is hard. The trick is to maintain that control – we have to be creative with food, keep meals interesting, colourful, tasty, satisfying and recorded. This in turn can work to prevent a sense of deprivation developing. Deprivation can include resentment, isolation and the downward spiral of eating more than we need to survive.
Sooner or later those of us on the Sainsbury Diet find food becomes less important. Why this is is not clear, but I think it might be a consequence of a smaller stomach that no longer demands food so often. Also the taste of highly sweetened, or salty food is not as attractive as before. It would seem our tastebuds become more sensitive. However fat in food doesn’t seem to lose its attraction, it’s so high in satisfaction. Alarm bells should ring if you start eating more than 20% of your total daily food intake. This is all monitored on the diet so you can quickly see if you are close to making a mistake.
However, like recovering alcoholics, we are vulnerable and have to be vigilant. That’s the reality … food can never be what it was before we took our health seriously.
The importance of exercising can’t be emphasised enough. The making and maintaining new muscle which is heavier than fat can in turn lead to what is referred to as a plateau. No one likes this to happen but it seems an inevitable feature of serious weight loss. The body seems to need time to rearrange itself – well that’s how we see it!
Exercise can become addictive! It stimulates endorphins and adrenaline and although to begin with might be painful it really is worth it to feel more alive, move around more and feel more energetic. What’s not to like?
The Sainsbury Diet Forum is littered with references to hunger. Many of the long term dieters are able to provide sound advice. Onesuch is: If you feel hungry try waiting for 5 minutes – still hungry? Then eat. It’s more likely you no longer feel hungry. Or it could be your body needs fluid. Try a glass of water.
The Forum is a positive self moderating organism – providing support, empathy and down to earth feedback.
I have at last reached a two stone loss after a three week plateau. What a relief … On now to my next stone to lose … I can do it! Yes, I know I can!
Why not join us? If you are serious about weight loss this could be the site for you.
November 5 2012
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, as dispiriting as, when following a diet, any diet, reaching a plateau for whatever reason. What is hard to bear is when no matter how hard you try, the weight will not budge. How long will it go on? Can you avoid succumbing to temptation because you feel so low. Jam, bread and butter, cheese, chocolate, crisps, peanuts all raise their profile and the mouth waters.
Recently, on the 8th day of a plateau, I went for a bike ride, 8 miles in an hour. Not as fast as I used to be two years ago, but acceptable.
I returned home absolutely ravenous.
I ate jam on Ryvita, two little tubs of chocolate mousse, biscuits, bits of cheese, two glasses of wine, a biscuit, leftover meat. All eaten out of hunger – the thought of possible weight gain the next day didn’t stop my guzzling.
Next morning: My weight had dropped by a pound!
Ah! But the following week my weight rose by 2 lbs and stayed the same for the next two weeks and no amount of ‘being good’ had any effect. Very, very frustrating but perhaps understandable. I simply couldn’t get back into the swing of restraint and although I kept to my 1200 calories a day I did slip from time to time, especially in the evening with the odd biscuit.
I lost my pedometer down the loo – now this may seem insignificant but it really put me off making sure I covered 2,500 steps a day. It took me 6 days to replace it, during which time I was fairly inactive.
I then restarted using my stationary bike, 5 minutes the first time, then 10 the next day and that did the trick! Phew at last weight loss – miniscule but significant.
With the target of 15 minutes on the bike every day. I have also been keeping a note of the number of steps with my new pedometer. So that and the bike riding should beat it! Onwards and downwards at last!
October 15 2012 – 92nd day
Today the weighing machine shows I have now dropped from 14 stone to 13 stone and .8 of a pound. So close to two stones lost! My BMI is now 31.9, a drop from 37 since 9 July 2012.
The key to this steady weight loss has been achieved through following the Sainsbury Diet. Using their website I now plan up to 7 days’ meals ahead and make sure I have the food available, so accurate shopping lists are very important. Everything is recorded as it is eaten on the Food Diary. This calculates the calorific value of any food from the weight entered. It’s a very flexible system and works well if I decide to eat less, or sometimes, more, or change my choice of bread to potato. Whatever, the flexibility suits me down to the ground.
Another use of planning is a way I thought up to cope with anticipated social events and others that crop up before the big festive season. I have begun to ‘save’ a few calories each day from my 1200 daily allowance. Difficult to begin with, but I keep a note and watch the total grow, it’s a bit like saving money in a bank account! The plan is to use this accumulation of calories to cover those inevitable, irresistible goodies. Using the saved calories will eliminate that feeling of deprivation when everyone is having what they want and I can’t. Whoopee!
Over the 14 weeks spent on this diet I have identified a sense feeling of deprivation as being key to much of my past indulging and overeating behaviour. I intend eliminating that sensation at every possible opportunity, it feels that important.
My current target is 11 stones 2 lbs … planned to be reached by 1 December 2012. Just over a 2 lb weekly drop, my weekly average has been between 1.5 and 1.75 lbs a week so far, but I’m travelling hopefully … Onwards and downwards is a familiar cry on the Sainsbury Diet Forum! A huge support that reinforces achievement and helps those who lapse from time to time, and that includes me!
September 25 2012 – 78th day
Although it has not been a steady drop of 2 lbs a week, overall 22 lbs have gone now in 11 weeks. I am very happy with this result and really amazed how effective the regime is that I’m following.
I’ve had a lot of emails asking which diet I am using. Well, I’m trying out, with what I think the best possible results, the Sainsbury’s Diet. Essentially you weigh and record every single thing you eat during the day. All the hassle is taken out of the recording if you use the Food Diary: enter a food, add the weight and hey presto the result is recorded on your screen diary as carbs and fat in grams and totalled by meal and day. Or you can use a Meal Plan at any time, for any day. This is where everything is planned for you to follow, including a shopping list. When you join the Sainsbury Diet you are given a daily food allowance and every gram is counted down until you reach your target for the day.
The flexibility really suits me. I like to plan the day ahead, depending on what’s in the cupboard/fridge. If I change my mind later about a food, or the amount I want to eat, that’s endlessly adaptable.
If you wish you can request an Exercise Plan. It’s emphasised that reducing your food intake together with exercise – as gentle or strenuous as you want to make it – gives you the opportunity to lose weight faster. It seems to work for me. Over the 11 weeks I have gradually increased the amount of exercise and I have maintained the weight loss.
My current target is to reach a 28 lb loss – due in about 3 weeks. I am experiencing a bit of a plateau but with a bit more table tennis I should manage to get there!
There is a forum where you can vent your feelings, congratulate other participants on their loss and commiserate when things don’t go the way they want.
So far, this diet has worked remarkably well for me … I’m hoping to reach my final target of a 4.5 stones loss by the end of March 2013.
I’ll keep you posted!
August 11 2012 – 34th day
11 lbs gone – and am feeling pleased with myself. Have ‘discovered’ Weightwatchers Chocolate Biscuits! At 89 calories and 4.3 fat and individually wrapped I have to keep them in a box at the top of a cupboard that I can only get to using the steps. To get at them I have to make a real effort and that strategy, together with being out of sight, has meant I have managed to eat just one every other day.
My husband really likes another Weightwatchers biscuit – Fruit Crumble 89 calories and 2.4g fat. He likes them so much they’re on the shopping list already! He’s lucky, he doesn’t need to watch his weight, nor does he have the same food cravings I have. Explains why we are like Jack Sprat and his wife!
Onto the next goal to make it 14 lbs lost. Then I will be able to make a new target. This breaking down the whole amount to be lost is a really positive feature of the programme. Bit like eating an elephant, one bite at a time!
August 3 2012 – 26th day
8lbs down, just don’t ask how many more to go! But this is progress and I’m delighted. Been shopping in the charity shops and was pleased to find a pair of slacks size 18 that fitted me! Have gone through all my clothes and put them in size order. Some size 22′s have gone into a big bag in the attic to be used for painting jobs. Others I returned to the shops for recycling.
Had a sneaky look at size 10 clothes and there were some lovely dresses. Was so tempted to buy one but resisted … can look forward to that treat sometime next year … in the meantime size 16 is my next target but haven’t found anything in the trouser line yet. It will be my daily walk about the town to get those 5,000 steps in.
I have a pedometer and can note every day’s total in the record ‘book’. So far it is a bit erratic but is gradually improving.
A new George Foreman fat reducing grill arrived today. I’ve had one for about 8 years and it is still going strong. This new one is slimmer and will stand on its back to give space on the worktop when not in use. It’s really sleek.
I interviewed George Forman on one of his promotional visits about 9 years ago and he is a sweetie pie. The rumble in the jungle was a distant memory even then but he was just as lean and lithe as ever. He still oozed raw energy though and made me jump when he suddenly laughed and thumped the table!
He delighted in showing us how the grill worked and how much fat it removes. I’m looking forward to using this new one especially for its space saving feature. What I like is that it saves having to put on the oven grill, or use the oven thereby saving such a lot of time and costly energy. The grill makes the most delicious toasted sandwiches and cooking vegetables is a breeze. It comes with a recipe book and a tray for the fat that runs out. It’s easy to clean – to finish off I use a damp sheet of kitchen tissue that removes any residual bits and pieces. The grill is available in stores and on the web. This the one gadget my husband actually uses! He just loves toasted sandwiches.
July 25 2012 – 17th day
Nothing in the wardrobe was suitable for the heat so I went out and bought 3 cotton tops for all of £7.49 from the local Help the Aged shop.
The good news is they are size 20, down from 22 … Although they are just a little tight, I feel I’m on way to success … keeping a tight grip on my appetite, lots of exercise and lots of glasses of water and strict weighing and recording food.
Looking forward to donating the tops back and getting ‘new’ ones size 18 … until I get back to size 12!!! What a prospect!
July 24 2012 – 16th day
5.5 lbs lost so far in 16 days.
Am loving this diet, I’m in control and am choosing all kinds of food, safe in the knowledge that every gram is calorie counted. With a target of 1200 calories a day and exercise built in, I’m feeling confident and optimistic that at last I will be able to reach and maintain a sensible weight for my age and build. If you would like to know the programme I’m following just send an email email@example.com. There is absolutely no catch, it’s just that I don’t want to publicise a weight loss programme that I might just not complete or fail at totally. If I do lose the 5 stone I want to shed then I’ll announce it to the world! Plus pictures of before (ugh) and after!
July 15 2012 – End of First week
When I want to eat I have to eat, I don’t want to hang around. So you can see why/how I have always had a weight problem! Monitoring exactly what I eat has been the key to successful weight loss in the past and today, after a week of keeping a very accurate diary, I have dropped 4 lbs in week , a huge boost to my confidence.
Yesterday, feeling very hungry at lunchtime I luckily had ingredients in the fridge ready prepared when it was crucial to eat a sensible meal.
Here are the ingredients of the open sandwich I put together. It added up to 323 calories, well within my lunch target.
Generous covering of Sweet Harissa Houmous 58 g
Teaspoonfuls of Philadelphia Extra Light Cheese 28 g
Small tomatoes sliced 37 g
Grated carrot 24 g
Sultanas cut in half 11 g
Sprinkled with squeezed lemon juice 4 g*
This was sufficiently large enough to need a knife and fork to eat it – very tasty and filling too.
Sultanas came from a tub of reduced mix from a supermarket deli section
The tomatoes gave the moisture I like
The houmous gave body and flavour
The carrot was left over from the previous evening which gave crunch and the sultanas sweetness
The Philadelphia extra light cheese gave it creaminess
The bread gave it a satisfying chewiness
*The weight of each ingredient was of course my choice and is endlessly adaptable to suit any appetite
Of course the next few days’ lunches will have similar ingredients but with a bit luck I’ll be able to add different bits and pieces to make them interesting to look at and great to taste.
We have a supermarket just across the road from us and tend to buy most of our food there. Occasionally I nip over about 7 pm to see if there are any ‘Reduced’ items – there generally are. It’s true to say all the ingredients for today’s lunch, apart from the Philadelphia Extra Light and the soya and linseed bread, were at a reduced price. This access to low cost food could make for overeating, in fact it did until recently. I buy all kinds of unusual things to try, like the harissa houmous. I found some salmon loin and some fillet steak at half price last night. Kept in the freezer with other bits and pieces bought over the last couple of weeks they will give me the opportunity to produce some interesting, low cost and carefully weighed meals.
I have sometimes bought a really high calorific item, like treacle tart which goes in the freezer. This week I found some at the back of the freezer and cut off a very slender slice, weighed it, made a note of the calories* and ate it with a feeling of righteousness! There is some cheesecake in there too … Yummy outlook!
The food weighing machine is the key to success for me. I really enjoy entering an allocation of grams in the diary and then comparing later how the quantity I want matches up with what I have planned. This makes for a really flexible recording system and eliminates any feelings of deprivation. Everything is my choice, including any drop offs from my schedule.
The systematic weighing of food is the most important aspect of the diet for me. I write down everything I weigh as I go along. The weighing machine is zeroed between each item weighed as it is all too easy to forget the number of grams and I want to keep as accurate record as possible.
There are many calorie recording schemes for dieters on the web. I have used several in the past, especially those provided by pedometers.
This time I’m using a calorie recording diary on the web provided by a supermarket, it requires joining as a member with a very affordable monthly charge. We’ll see how it goes. There are forums to read other members’ experiences, very useful as I’m a bit sceptical as to the extent of my determination, I have not been hugely successful in the past. Mark Twain’s ironic remark: Giving up smoking is easy, I do it all the time, is all too true of my dieting behaviour!
Right now I’m travelling hopefully – I feel quite good too!
*A little wire bound notebook to write down everything is kept with the weighing machine.
Val Reynolds Brown, Editor
Val Reynolds, Editor
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
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
Having become rather bored with the MTV screen at the gym I tried reading while on the treadmill. Magazines printed on shiny paper reflected too much light for me to read very much and the type size meant I had to hold it to be able to read it.
Then I hit on the idea of getting large print books from the library. The choice was limited to several hundred in the usual classifications. I read all the biographies I liked the look of – many were excellent but most were not very well written. I went through the fiction fairly quickly too. However, reading as I exercised worked – on one occasion I had set the timer for an hour and I read an Agatha Christie thriller – at one point the machine seemed to judder and looking at the readout I had reached cool down. The hour and a half had passed very very quickly.
I was addicted! But then I ran out of books to read! I hit on the idea of music to listen to which I hoped would keep my speed up and make me smile! So I bought an ipod shuffle. A dinky little thing that I can transfer music from my cds/dvds, via my computer. I was set up with some of my favourite Elton John and Queen. Joy!
Then I discovered talking books. There are hundreds to choose from at the local library! But what to choose? The same problem I had choosing fiction surfaced again. Anyway I chose a book at random – short stories by Walter Mosley. Absolutely fantastic. So good that when I woke up in the middle of the night I continued to listen which sent me to sleep, eventually. The next problem to be solved was extraneous noise – the noise in the gym makes it difficult to hear all the recording, low notes especially so I looked for headphones to cut all that out.
Here are some of the books I found on the Naxos Spoken Word List:
- Classic American Short Stories (unabridged)
More Classic American Short Stories (unabridged)
Great Ghost Stories (unabridged)
Sadly there are no recordings of Somerset Maughan’s work, maybe in the near future, I think he is one of the most entertaining short story writers I have ever read.
Audio books are a really good ‘listen’ rather than printed versions, that help pass away that tedious time on the treadmill or other mechanical device in the gym when there is nothing to do but think about your problems, last night’s tv viewing and trying to avoid listening/watching some of the mindless stuff on the gym screens.
To help you choose a recording you can listen to short excerpts on the Naxos Spoken Word List before you buy. All the recordings are available on iTunes.
Peaches Lonsdale Contributing author
We received this email update from the authors of The Serotonin Power Diet blog and thought it worth passing on.
Often it is not the pain that comes after exercise that prevents us maintaining or regaining fitness; it is chronic pain we feel before we start to move. Seemingly every joint and bone and muscle is capable of causing sufficient discomfort and often actual pain presents an almost insurmountable obstacle to physical activity.
Denying that we are no longer as physically fit as we once were also prevents us from exercising. We simply don’t want to find out that we can no longer run as fast, bike as far or ski as fast we did in the past. We are like someone who is gaining weight but refuses to get on the scale. Do I want to bike up that steep hill to see if I can still do it? I am not sure. Better to go a mile out of the way to avoid it.
But just as we don’t need a scale to tell us we are gaining weight (trying to fit into a pair of pants that no longer fit is sufficient evidence), we also don’t need to bike up a hill or run a mile to know that our fitness is decreasing. When running up the stairs is just a distant memory, when your arms are too weak to put your suitcase in the overhead compartment of the plane or when getting up from the chair is a struggle, you know that you are certainly no longer fit.
Start now to do something about it. Focus on one or two physical activities that you can do within your fitness and time limitations. Stair climbing, walking quickly a short distance, carrying or lifting moderately heavy objects like a grocery bag, balancing on one foot, or getting up from a chair without using your hands (and grunting) all count. Track changes in your fitness just as you might track weight loss. Can you climb one flight of stairs with any change in your breathing? Can you stand on one foot for the length of a television ad? Are you able to get up from a low chair or stool easily? Do you need help in putting away heavy groceries on high shelves?
Already in relatively good physical shape? Then push yourself to get stronger. In the book Alice Through the Looking Glass, there is the following line: “Now… It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” Sometimes, indeed often, we are satisfied with doing a little less exercise or strength training or balancing regimens than we should. We say, “Oh, I did enough today. I don’t want to push myself.” But unless we to do slightly more today than we did last week, we may not, “stay in the same place,” as it were. Instead, we may start losing small but real amounts of endurance and strength.
Don’t give up. Don’t allow breaks in your routine to become permanent. Don’t be frustrated if progress in running faster or lifting heavier weights is slower than when you were 20 years younger. Give your body short breaks while you are exercising. For example, walk quickly for five minutes and slowly for one minute. Climb one or two flights of stairs and then wait until your breathing returns to normal before doing it again.
Will you achieve the effortless endurance, balance and cardiovascular output of a young teen? No. Neither will your hair be as thick as it was then. But you will be pushing back the inevitable decline with aging.
Turn what presents itself as a struggle it into a positive opportunity that allows for you the time to stop and smell the roses, all in the name of life-affirming self care.