We have just harvested our potatoes from the planter bags we started in April. We left harvesting for a month once they were ready and decided to move them out when there was a risk of frost.
We had a reasonable crop – we love to eat our own grown veg and Desiree potatoes are popular with the family.
We did nothing other than use fresh compost from B&Q and kept them from drying out, so regular checking and watering was a must.
Our bags were 14 litre and gave us a lot of potatoes but nothing like the T&M crop – 80 tubers in one 8 litre bag!
Details of how it was achieved
The method, hit upon during technical trials at the Thompson & Morgan seed and plant specialist’s Ipswich HQ, opens up potato growing to everyone – even those without a garden. The small but durable bags will sit happily by the front door or on a deep window ledge.
More than 80 tubers were harvested from just one of these bags, nearly treble the number harvested from each tuber in the larger sacks. The results came from Thompson & Morgan’s new Potato Jazzy – an exclusive new generation first early bred for maximum yield and flavour, but the impressive results don’t stop there.
Amateur growers tested the method this summer, too, when T&M horticultural director, Paul Hansord, challenged his local gardening club to a grow-off: three tubers of Maris Peer and three 8 litre bags – biggest harvest wins. “As with our technical trials, the club results were hard to believe. If I hadn’t cut the top growth from the winning entry and emptied out the crop myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. It was like the tubers were trying to burst out of the bags.” said Paul.
Gwynneth Hogger took the winner’s cup for producing an astounding 17.5lb of quality potatoes – a trophy well deserved!
Getting the most from the 8 litre potato growing bags is easy:
• Mix Chempak® Potato fertiliser with your compost before planting
• Set one tuber per bag and do not compact the compost
• Fill the bag with compost in one go – no need to top up
• Water evenly and do not allow to dry out
• Try auto irrigation to prevent over or under watering
Beat your neighbours to the first potatoes of the season – Harvest 12wks after planting!
Try the 8 litre potato growing bags, beat Gwynneth’s 17.5lb harvest across three bags, and win £100 of T&M vouchers. Send a photo of you and your 2015 harvest to: firstname.lastname@example.org – winners will be notified in July next year. Good luck!
For the widest selection of tuber varieties and the 8 litre bags (20 for £9.99) visit www.thompson-morgan.com or call 0844 573 1818 for your free copy of the 2015 Kitchen Gardener’s Catalogue.
You can imagine at In Balance we are planning on doing the same and have put in our order right away for bags and Jazzy the potato variety and of course make sure we get the bag of the Chempak® potato fertiliser!
Val Reynolds, Editor
These gifts are good to give any time – they are our absolute favourites – they might just appeal. We make no apology for the gardening flavour … we dedicated gardeners just have to pass on details of products that work for us.
Plant Theatre The Dobies catalogue is full of goodies for the gardener, and we really like the Plant Theatre they sell. We have put our new collection of streptocarpus cuttings in our Plant Theatre, although traditionally used to show off auriculas.
Our plant theatre is on the floor of the conservatory at the moment but will be erected on the wall as soon as possible to keep the plants away from draughts. Essentially woodland plants streptocarpus don’t like a lot of direct sunlight preferring to be kept lightly moist, bordering on dry. If you are interested have a look on the internet, there is a vast choice. You can buy cuttings on eBay as well. Some are absolutely beautiful and unusual.
If you know someone with hanging baskets who gets weary with lifting heavy watering cans, getting water up their arms, puddles of water on the ground, our feeling is they would welcome a HiLo device. It allows you to lower the basket to a workable level for pruning, deadheading and watering. Then pulled up – carefully – to the height you want it. An essential item for any dedicated hanging basket fan. At the moment Dobies have a 3 for the price of 2 offer you might like to take up.
Know someone who is a keen ‘Grow your Own’ gardener? The Allotment Almanac provides a month by month entry to remind you, and look forward to, what could be done in your vegetable plot, big or small. A fascinating and infomative read written by Terry Walton, gardening guru of BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show. A pleasant read and good guide for both experienced and novice gardeners alike.
Know someone who is intrigued by the effect of the moon on plants and their development? Gardening and Planting by the Moon 2014: Higher Yields in Vegetables and Flowers is out now and a fascinating read written by Nick Kollerstrom. Here we learn the rhythms of the moon affect both crops and livestock. The gardeners at RHS Wisley have proved the benefits of the lunar effect under controlled research conditions. Increased yields of 20% – 30% are routinely touted. You won’t have to get up in the middle of the night to sow your carrots! Country folk know that planning their work in harmony with the rhythms of the moon produces better crops. It’s that easy. They get higher yields and better flavour in vegetables. Flowers produce stronger displays and heightened colour. This guide computes everything you need to know about the daily influence of the moon and the planets in the garden. With its full 15-month daily calendar, it creates an essential timetable for the year ahMead and a fine means of self-discipline for keen gardeners. More information on http://www.plantingbythemoon.co.uk
We absolutely love the aromas from AromaWorks. Can’t say enough good things about them, from the candles to reed diffusers, body oil to bath oil, room mists and essential oils.
We find it difficult to say which is our favourite but must note the mix of May Change and Sandalwood of the Nurture Room Mist is fabulous, and the aroma mix of Serenity is out of this world. The scent lasts for ages, it is highly concentrated, 100% pure but not overpowering. Even when we put have them away for a week or so we can still detect a feint scent for days.
These scents are well worth the money and the only room scent products we give as gifts, they are that good. See more details on AromaWorks.
Know a fan of Tolkein books? Then a series of epic stories that inspired Tolkein to write the Lord of the Rings has been published by Penguin.
The five titles of the Legends from The Ancient North are:
- The Elder Eddo
- The Saga of the Volsungs
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddles
Each title is priced at £6.99. eBooks are £4.
A pair of secateurs is very useful when pottering around the garden . However we have found a very useful pair of multi purpose scissors designed by Fiskars with so many features that makes it an essential item to carry around as well with you as well, indoors and out. They are brightly coloured so less chance of losing them. I always tie a long red ribbon on secateurs which works for me.
Here’s a list of what the Cuts+More it is designed to cope with:
- High-quality blades for trimming, pruning, opening packages
- Power notch to cut light rope
- Wire cutter for cutting light wire without damaging the blades
- Twine cutter to cut twine cleanly and quickly
- Pointed awl tip for piercing small holes in cardboard, plastic, matting
- Titanium-coated, take-apart knife for cutting sheets of polythene, cardboard and sheeting
- Cover includes an integrated ceramic sharpener and tape cutter
- Bottle opener for a well-earned drink in the shed at the end of the day!
We love ours! Why not treat yourself and/or give a pair to a dedicated garden potterer? Available from B&Q and independent home and garden stores.
Apple peeler/corer/slicer – its appearance does give the impression it is an instrument of torture! In fact it makes a job that can turn into torture into a breeze. And the results are so worthwhile and easy to produce I’m surprised it has taken us so long to find it!
When I lived in France Apple Flan was a regular and delicious treat. However that was in the days when we all had time to sit round a table to peel, core and slice apple ready for the tart to go in the oven and didn’t mind having brown stained fingers.
With this apple peeler everything is done in a trice.
Here are my Eleven Easy steps:
- Wash cooking apples – it’s amazing how much dirt is removed in this one step.
- Wipe dry, roughly.
- Push onto the prongs
- Turn handle
- Watch the peel just fall down – straight into the compost bin!
- Remove the peeled and cored apple
- Cut in half
- Lay straight onto pre-cooked pastry in the flan dish (some people put in a non stick cake tin liner to make sure the baking beans are all removed.
- At this point some people put a layer of apple puree before adding the apple slices – this makes it all rather gorgeous!
- Brush the apple slices with lemon juice – you could put them under the gril to brown them a little before brushing on a thin apricot jam syrup
- Serve with beaten Light Philadelphia, or 0% fat greek yogurt. Yum!
Phew! That’s so easy! And quick! And looks so impressive!
Widely available on the web, where we bought ours.
We found several recipes on one website http://www.joyofbaking.com/FrenchAppleTart.html that you could adapt to suit.
One aspect of a kitchen sink is the space the draining board takes up, permanently, and the fact is we find it is not an easy space to use for anything else.
When we had a kitchen installed recently we asked for just a sink bowl and bought a Joseph Joseph flip side draining board – available in grey or white. This can be put away once finished with, leaving a clean, flat surface to use for other work which looks so much nicer. Ideal for two, but not very practical for a family.
Know someone who is worried about draughts and high energy costs? This is just one item we have found that really made a difference to the temperature in our hallway. It’s the EcoFlap. Fitted on the inside of the letter box it stops the draughts getting to your radiator thermostat.
We’ve just moved house and our new letterbox did leak air, seeped rain, rattled, snapped, and crumpled our mail! We quickly installed another Ecoflap – inexpensive, easy to install and effective. Can’t praise this enough!
Know someone who always has cold feet? We have tried three different products. The Carnation Silversocks made with pure silver fibre are said to relieve the pain of diabetes, chilblains, epidermolysis bullosa and circulation disorders, we like the idea of the anti bacteria element. They were rather too tight round the ankles for us, however would be fine for those with thinner legs.
Workforce socks fit the bill for when we are in and out of the cold, it doesn’t matter whether we are using boots or shoes in cold weather, they are comfortable and warm with a really comfy sole – a hit with husband!
Then we came across goats’ woollen socks – they are wonderful! By far the most popular in our house. The socks come in long, medium and short. Plus topless, ideal for anyone who doesn’t like a mark on their leg or who might have circulation problems. Available from Wiggly Wigglers whose reviews are excellent, so it’s not just us who love ’em! Here is one: “These socks are quite simply the warmest socks that I have ever worn. They wash and dry well, and do not shrink. They also make great bedsocks!!! The weather outside is doing its worst (this is eastern Scotland after all!) but my feet are warm and toasty!” Grown by Goats … for Toasty Toes … See more reviews and full details here.
David Austin roses Whoever you give a rose to will be reminded of you for years to come. We love David Austin roses and have given so many as gifts over the years and never fail to find an excuse to give another! Our favourites are the ramblers and this year we have planted Creme de la Creme, a beautifully scented climber on the pergola. We have planted a white wisteria to complement it and between these two plants we are anticipating pleasant rests in the sun.
Compiled by Val Reynolds, Christopher Johns, Liz Lovell, Rose Monro
We’ll write something about the most successful presents we have given and received this Christmas. You might like to contribute!
Parmigiano Reggiano And Pumpkin Soup
It’s Pumpkin time! We love that wonderful orange flesh in pies, cakes and soups. We found this Parmigiano Reggiano and pumpkin soup recipe – always a great winter warmer and a great starter for a Halloween celebration.
It’s really easy to make – just combine fried onion, pumpkin, vegetable stock and Parmigiano Reggiano rind and cook until tender. Add grated Parmigiano Reggiano to the vegetables, remove the rind and blend the mixture until smooth.
To serve, sprinkle the soup with fresh parsley, top with French bread with melted Parmigiano Reggiano and season.
Full recipe is included below.
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, known as ‘Parmesan’, is one of the world’s oldest and richest cheeses, still produced today as it was nine centuries ago. Totally natural, it’s the only cheese with a minimum maturation time of 12 months, although its best at 24 months. Did you know it takes 16 litres of milk to produce one kilogram of cheese! It’s easy to digest and is high in calcium.
Parmigiano Reggiano is a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) product. PDOs are defined and protected by European Union law in order to defend the reputation of regional foods. This mark ensures that Parmigiano Reggiano can only be produced in designated areas of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna to the west of the Reno River and Mantua to the east of the Po River.
For more information on Parmigiano Reggiano at www.parmigianoreggiano.com.
Parmigiano Reggiano and Pumpkin Soup
150g (6oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, with rind
25g (1oz) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium pumpkin (or butternut squash), peeled, deseeded and chopped into chunks
900ml (1½ pt) hot vegetable stock
150ml (¼ pt) milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season
4-6 slices French bread
Fresh parsley or thyme, chopped to garnish
Reserve the rind from the Parmigiano Reggiano and cut it into chunks, then finely grate
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, and gently fry the onion until softened
Add the pumpkin, vegetable stock and Parmigiano Reggiano rind and cook gently for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender
Remove the rind from the saucepan, transferring the soup to a blender and add the grated cheese, reserving 25g (1oz) for garnishing. Blend the soup, until smooth. Return it to the saucepan and add the milk. Stir thoroughly and reheat until piping hot
Toast the slices of French bread, sprinkle the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano on top and grill until melted. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each portion with one piece of French toast
To serve, sprinkle with fresh parsley or thyme and season with black pepper
Penny, our resident cook, says: You could try other cheese of course, low fat cheddar is excellent. We make this soup for six and then freeze a couple of portions ready to reheat. It makes a really comforting snack on a very cold day. We wouldn’t go on a long, bracing walk without a flask of this soup. A welcome, wonderful warmer. Can’t say enough about it!
Information provided by The Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano Photography: Steve Lee Recipe and Food Styling: Sue Ashworth
Val Reynolds, Editor
I would guess most women have thought about having a beauty enhancementat some time in their lives. Certainly when my throat started to look a bit turkey like it occurred to me. But the idea of something going wrong has kept me from venturing into that land of uncertainty.
However, with people like Katherine Whitehorn advocating it and most celebrities looking unnaturally young, I do occasionally yearn to join them.
Then there are the naysayers – it will make you look stretched, your mouth will look odd, your eyes will go awry, all kinds of warnings. Did you watch Last Chance Salon? The unbearable results of procedures that went wrong are miraculously righted by experts in the field.
A second series is in the making and the search for suitable disastrous case studies is on.
Have you had disastrous plastic surgery or a beauty treatment you need help fixing for free? Maverick TV are making “Last Chance Salon” with world renowned experts in beauty for the face, hair or body and we can help you put it right. Has your plastic surgery left you physically and emotionally scarred? Do you have a terrible trout pout or bodged botox? Or did a trip to the hairdressers leave you with the hairstyle from hell? Maybe it’s a DIY beauty fix which has left you unhappy and wishing you’d gone to the professionals? Our world renowned cosmetic surgeon, award winning hairdresser and skin doctor to the stars are waiting to hear from you. This is one beauty appointment you can’t afford to miss.
Email email@example.com or call 0121 224 8439 for a confidential and no obligation informal chat.
Val Reynolds, Editor
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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.