Monday, 28 April 2014

Moving on from mistakes

There is much talk among my friends and relatives of the dreaded 'mid-life crisis' and ageing, and most of it isn't that positive!! Although it's hard to define what really constitutes being middle aged (I'm going with 45+, since I expect to still be around when I'm in my nineties), none of us can escape the fact that our age directly affects not just our physical but also our emotional health. And I think women in particular struggle as they get older, as society celebrates youth as a female beauty attribute and tends to sideline 'mature' women (read this recent news story here, where broadcaster Michael Buerk says (female) newsreaders shouldn't complain when TV bosses 'prune the raspberries to make way for new growth' - you are dead to me Michael).

mid-life crisis
Pinterest always has just the right image...

Take Johhny Depp for example, who is 50 (yes 50) years old. He recently dumped Vanessa Paradis, his partner of 14 years and the mother of his two kids, for the 28-year-old (yes 28) Amber Heard. Is that the sort of thing a 50 year old woman could get away with? Even if she was an A-lister? I'm not convinced. I mean who really bought the Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher relationship? When his Hollywood career took off, so did he...and with someone his own age (you are dead to me Ashton).

So, if you're not going to run off with someone who is half your age - what should you be doing as you reach middle age? I think it can be a really positive time to try things you always held back on, reassess what's important to you and re-write all the bits of your life that didn't exactly go to plan. It's a good time to visit a life coach, sign yourself up for a major sporting event and consider a new qualification or career. You've probably got far more time, money and conviction to help you make the most out of this period of your life than you ever did when you were younger.

The future
What's in your future? Photo courtesy of stockimages/

For some it might be the time to go a little wild - maybe get a tattoo - while for others (again like Johnny Depp who seems to be a little impulsive on the romance front and famously had his 'Winona Forever' tattoo edited to just 'Wino forever') it might be just the time to look for laser tattoo removal at a sk:n clinic. Getting rid of an ex's name - or an image that felt right decades ago (remember the whole 'Barb Wire' trend? Even Pammy is lasering that off now) but just doesn't suit you anymore can actually be relatively easy and pain free. Laser removal seems to be the best option if you want to avoid scarring and get effective results and sk:n has 40 state-of-the-art clinics nationwide to book a no-obligation consultation in.

mid-life crisis
Don't waste any more time, get your skin problems sorted

In fact the sk:n clinics offer a range of treatments that you might be considering, including therapies for acne scars and rosacea, laser hair removal, mole removal and dealing with thread veins. If you are thinking about a skin treatment or have a skin condition that you're not happy about, the sk:n website has loads of informative articles you can read too (covering everything from home made acne masks to Kim Kardashian's pre-wedding surgery). This really is a great time to fix a problem that might have been on your mind for years. The whole mid-life thing does have that now or never feel to it!

So what will you do to turn your potential mid-life crisis into a mid-life triumph? Buy a flash new car with a personalised plate? Write a novel? Go back to education? Raise funds for charity? Let me know (I'm looking for ideas!!) in the comment box below...

Thanks for reading

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Feelgood Football

If you’re anything like me, you’ve begun to look around the garden and realise all the things you forgot to do last Autumn. Like tidy-up, in any way at all at the end of summer. Not only did our garden end up a water-logged mess during the floods, but the dreadful weather hit before we had time to really get to grips with what professionals call ‘putting the garden to bed’. So, instead of Spring heralding a time to pull back the covers on the weed-free veg patch and rush out to embrace the new season, it was a time to stand around and stare in horror at the task before us.

Alongside the collection of raggedy plants and fat slugs, soggy pots and devastated soil lay an equally sad selection of toys – toys that had been out in all weathers, getting broken, dirty and in the case of our beloved Dora ball, deflated. Which is why it was rather nice to let the kids open a box containing a One World Futbol, a nearly indestructible ball that never needs a pump and never goes flat — even when punctured multiple times. This is the sort of ball we need in our (messy and ultimately careless) lives!


Indestructible - and currently undergoing rigorous testing in my garden

Tim Jahnigen invented the One World Futbol after watching TV news footage showing young Darfur refugees playing with a makeshift ball made out of rubbish (yes rubbish). Such indestructible spirits deserve better he thought, and so decided to create a ball that could withstand the harsh conditions often faced by those living in refugee camps, disaster areas and other disadvantaged communities. His close, personal friend Sting (like wow!) stumped up the cash to get the project up and running (the name is taken from the “One World (Not Three)” song) - and the rest is history! Now the One World Futbol has now reached more than 160 countries (that’s a lot of happy kids – including mine!).

Watch the video & learn more!

And here's how it works! For each One World Futbol you buy, the One World Futbol Project gives a second one to a community in need, in places like refugee camps, war zones, disaster areas and inner cities. Your kids (and you - you know you want one!) get a decent ball that can withstand the rigours of childhood - and some far less fortunate kids get one too - giving you the kind of warm glow that even a typical British Summer can't ruin!

I kinda feel like shouting 'GOOOOAAAALLLLLL!!' now - fancy joining in?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Can I go green with wheatgrass?

Google wheatgrass and you will be amazed. It’s one of the nutritionally complete foods that gets to wear a superhero cape and mask – with advocates claiming it can help with everything from improving energy levels, weight loss, combatting coughs and colds and clearing skin conditions (like rosacea).

Wheatgrass contains over ninety minerals, including high concentrations of potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium – plus nineteen amino acids. The sheer amount of vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll and enzymes wheatgrass contains feed your cells and work to detox your body. And better still, well for me anyway, a tiny bit of powder packs the same nutritional punch as a whole load of green leafy veg (not a fan of the green leafy veg despite the goodness it contains!!).
The answer to my prayers!

So, armed with some ‘Geko Organic Wheatgrass Powder’, I set about curating some recipes using this bionic supplement (see my Pinterest board here, lots of wheatgrass info, ideas and recipes) in an attempt to up my greens quota. These are two recipes I’ve tried so far:

Wheatgrass smoothie 

This easy-peasy recipe makes a thick, VERY filling smoothie (you could have it instead of breakfast) – but you need a juicer and a blender.

healthy lifestyle


A handful of spinach
2 peeled limes (the original recipes uses just one, but I prefer to really taste the lime)
1 apple
2 carrots
1/2 avocado
1 tbs wheatgrass powder
Chia seeds (I had some so popped them on top!)


Juice the spinach, limes, apple and carrots.
Pour the juice in the blender and add the rest of the ingredients.
Blend for about 20 seconds and you’re done!

Green banana bread

(adapted from a similar recipe on Superfoods and Supershakes)

This. Was. Gorgeous. It only lasted two days in our house and the kids and adults were fighting over it! This recipe proved to be very moist and better than other similar ones I’d tried in the past. I used strawberries because it’s what I had to hand, but it would also taste great with blueberries or chopped pears (whatever you need to use up!) – and maybe even grated apple or carrot. I also think you could add more wheatgrass powder.

healthy recipes


225g wholemeal plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp wheatgrass powder
110g caster sugar
1 egg
80ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas mashed
65g flaked almonds
A handful of ripe strawberries


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade and oil and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
Gently mix the flour, baking powder, wheatgrass powder, cinnamon, sugar and a pinch of salt together in a large bowl (dry ingredients).
In a separate bowl or jug, combine the egg, oil and vanilla extract (wet ingredients).
Mash the banana in another bowl.
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and then gently fold in the mashed bananas.
Add the nuts and berries.
Pour into your loaf tin, use a spatula to level it out and bake for 50 minutes.
Try to let it cool down before you start eating it!!

Do you think these recipes would be something you'd try? Let me know in the comment box below. I'd also love to hear what you think of supplements like this superfood. Don't be shy...

Thanks for reading

Monday, 14 April 2014

Running for charity – a commitment with massive rewards

It’s one of the best-known and best-loved sports events in the country, and about 36,000 runners lined up at the start line of The Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 13th April. Around 650,000 spectators cheered them on and yet more watched the action via TV broadcasts in 196 countries around the world.

Alongside the world’s elite runners, which this year included our very own Mo Farah running his marathon debut, the celebrities and the politicians, were everyday people – some running the course for the first time, some running to set a personal best, and still more taking part because they have a special reason to be there.

Running for Tommy's

For many, gaining a place at The London Marathon is a lifelong ambition. Competition for places is strong as entries work on a ballot system. Those that apply via the public ballot have a one in seven chance of a place. But many runners also look for a golden or silver bond entry - guaranteed places held by charities. And for those runners with a charity place, training, fundraising and running the London Marathon will prove to be a life-defining experience.

More than just running

Tommy’s, which funds research into stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage and provides pre-natal information, is one of the charities that offer London Marathon places. Diana Stenning is a Community Fundraiser for Tommy’s and agrees that completing an event such as the London Marathon to raise money for a cause close to their heart proves to be immensely rewarding. For many completing these events it is an emotional journey – as they come to terms with the loss of a baby by raising funds for more research for example – and meet others taking part for the same very personal reasons. Other key events Tommy’s offers places in include The Royal Parks Half Marathon, The Bupa 10k, The Bupa Great North Run and The Prudential Ride London.

Charity race
It's a win/win situation!

In her role, Diana works closely alongside her fundraising participants – and will remain in constant contact and offer continual support. She can provide fundraising materials and ideas (those running for Tommy’s in the London Marathon are asked to raise £2k) and will put you in touch with others running the same event, particularly if they are local to you. The bond formed with the charity and fellow competitors is so strong that around 25 per cent of those taking part in the London Marathon for the charity will be repeat runners.

How to raise money

Diana finds the physical side of training can divert some runner’s attention, but she is there to keep the fundraising on track too. She sets targets so that no one falls behind in their sponsorship and beings to worry. Her ‘quick win’ tips for fundraising include supermarket and train station collections, which have no cost outlay – shake that tin in fancy dress she suggests and you’ll be surprised just how much you can raise. She also advises using your wider network of friends, work and family – suggesting raffles and coffee mornings. If you have children, why not organise a mini-marathon, a cake sale or a non-uniform day at their school (Tommy’s is happy to split the money raised). And don’t forget the power of social media – set up a blog to keep your fans updated with your progress. 
London Marathon
Tommy's staff man a cheering station along the route

Tommy’s also provide practical advice for their fundraisers via a tie-up with The Octopus Clinic in London. The clinic offers free physiotherapy and nutritional advice to those in the Tommy’s teams. Diana warns runners not to over train, although in case of serious injury (and problems reaching fundraising targets) runners can defer their place for a year, and someone on the reserve list will run in their place.

Support from start to finish - and then some

On the big day itself, Tommy’s continues its support during and after the event. The charity operates four cheering stations at The London Marathon to motivate runners, and uses professional cheerleaders along the route too. After the race there’s a celebratory party – thankfully just a few minutes from the finish line – with complimentary massages, food, kids entertainment and other goodies to enjoy. 

Meanwhile at the After Party....

If you want to achieve something out of the ordinary with your fitness goals, and would like to raise funds for a cause with special meaning to you, a charity place in a major event such as The London Marathon could be your greatest achievement yet. There’s no doubt that the training, completing the event itself and raising a substantial amount of money can be hard – but the result is something that you will treasure even more than that finishers medal.

If you want to raise money for Tommy’s and run the 2015 London Marathon for the charity, you can apply online here

Have you ever taken part in a sporting event for charity? Is it something you have considered. Please share your opinions and stories in the comment box below.

Thank you for reading

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Pets keep you perky

Imagine having a friend that’s always pleased to see you – and doesn’t ask any difficult questions (like how come you’ve got a curry for tea, but I just have dry food, like EVERY day?). This friend is also a born optimist and always ready for a cuddle or a chat and maybe even an endorphin-boosting walk (the last two options don’t work for a goldfish). Yes, pets can give you a health boost like no other, and here’s why…

Your most loyal companion 

As any pet owner will tell you, seeing their pet gives them instant lift. Their love and devotion is unconditional – and does not rely on you looking or feeling a certain way. An animal companion can make even the worst of times bearable, bringing routine and meaning into the most chaotic of lives. And having a pet can also improve your social life – as you meet and mix with other owners and often seem more approachable when you are with a pet – preventing loneliness and isolation. In fact, pets are so widely recognized as a form of therapy that schemes bringing together animals and people of all ages and from all walks of life operate in hospitals, and social care and rehabilitation settings across the world.

The best personal trainer you’ll ever have

Having pets that need outdoor exercise such as dogs and horses, or keeping animals that require some regular physical activity – like chickens for example – means a life less sedentary. Since walking your dog or mucking out your horse or chooks isn’t optional, regular and often daily workouts become the norm. If you’re the type that would lose interest in a gym or an aerobics class, but would never let their pet suffer, this is the regime that will keep you moving and permanently motivated – even when its raining! 

And probably as a by-product of taking more exercise, it’s been shown dog owners in particular have lower blood pressure and healthier hearts than those that don’t have a pooch. Stress is also less likely to negatively affect a person with a pet – stroking your furry or feathered friend can be a great way to relax.

Immune boosting buddy

Research has shown that children brought up around animals are less likely to get allergies and asthma. Studies have also shown that children that grow up in homes with pets benefit immensely – with fewer colds and ear infections during their first year than those living in a pet-free environment. This stronger immune system is probably a result of earlier exposure to a wider variety of bacteria – the type you get when you play fetch with your dogs soggy tennis ball for example – and also a by-product of being more active and happier generally – a side-effect that works equally well for the young and young-at-heart! Just remember to wash your hands before meals!!!

Ask an expert

If you are thinking of getting a pet however, you must consider what that animal will need in terms of home environment and care. Research the type of pets you are interested in carefully – considering how the pet will suit your lifestyle now – and in the future. Consider a range of animals and breeds. A puppy left alone for long periods of time during the day will not be happy, it will bark and upset your neighbours, it will destroy your skirting boards and slippers. A cat meanwhile might happily pass its days without you on a sunny windowsill, slipping in and out of a cat flap as it pleases. Ask other pet owners, speak to a local vet and check out great free online resources like Your Pet.

Do you agree? Has your pet made you happier and healthier? Or are you considering a pet and want to know more? Let me know in the comment box below.

Thank you for reading

Vanessa. X

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Top 5 Fitness Facts About: Milk

Look in your fridge (not too hard though, you might get the urge to clean the shelves and nobody wants that – least of all me). In there you probably have one of the most under appreciated health products on the market. It’s cheap and easy to get hold of, but to be honest we take it a bit for granted and it’s kind of gone out of fashion. Maybe you like it in a latte, maybe you put it in a panna cotta but it’s time to up the ante – because good old milk deserves a comeback! Here’s five reasons you should pull out the pint and put it firmly back on the menu…

   Milky tash is optional 
(Image courtesy of Ambro/

1. Milk is ‘nutritionally complete’ 

And what exactly does that mean? Well, basically, milk contains a whole range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. To get all these in just one product is pretty amazing – we’re talking biggies like protein and calcium as well as Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K and essential minerals such as iodine and zinc. Yes, all that in one glass! Accordingly food professionals describe it as ‘nutrient rich’ relative to its energy content. Because of the range of nutrients it contains, milk is considered beneficial for healthy bones and teeth, important in maintaining a healthy metabolism and rate of body growth (because of its iodine content) and a good source of Vitamin B12, which keeps your nerve and red blood cells in tip top shape. Wow.

I just need to photoshop in a superhero cape...
(Image courtesy of Naypong/

2. Skimmed milk vs whole – it’s not that simple!

This is a controversial area – just Google it if you don’t believe me! While some ‘experts’ (remember just being on the Internet doesn’t make you one) describe whole milk as a high fat product (in fact whole milk is standardised to a minimum fat content of 3.5%) there’s an increasing argument that milk that has had the majority of the naturally-occurring fat taken away is less satisfying (and so people simply eat more of other foods to compensate for that loss!). It’s also worth remembering that while semi-skimmed is less than 2% fat and skimmed is as little as 0.1%, there’s actually not that much difference between these low-fat varieties and whole milk in percentage points. And let’s face it, we don’t have a rising obesity problem because everyone is guzzling whole milk 24/7 – the junk food, sat fats in crisps, cakes and biscuits and sedentary lifestyles are more of a problem (but not quite so easy to give up...)!

3. You might not be ‘allergic’ 

Some people might find that diary products cause digestive problems and think that they could be ‘lactose intolerant’ – and so avoid milk altogether – missing out on the all the goodies it contains. But, as ever, things aren’t that simple. It turns out, in true Orwellian style, some cows are more equal than others! It’s like this; cows' milk contains protein of which there are two types - known as A1 and A2. Originally all cows had just the A2 protein but over the years A1 has become the dominant one in European and UK herds (remember we used to have Jersey cows dotted over our fields, but now it’s the picture book black and white Friesians?). A1 protein digests differently to A2 protein and has been linked to tummy troubles, meaning that, in some cases, people may be reacting to the A1 protein, rather than lactose or other general milk proteins. The ‘go to’ product for these people is a2 milk – which you can find on the shelves of supermarkets right next to the regular milk. And if you really want to know if you are lactose intolerant you need to see your doctor!

Don't get upset - try a2 milk 

4. Milk is a great post-workout drink 

Forget sugary and artificial ‘sports drinks’ – fitness freaks everywhere are turning to milk after pounding the pavements and muscle-making gym routines. Milk offers a classic combo of carbs, proteins, water and electrolytes (plus all those nutrients I was banging on about earlier) that you need to recover, repair and rebuild your body after sport and exercise. Plus it’s cheap and quick – and isn’t full of crazy chemicals and fake sugar. There’s even a ‘Team Milk’ led by sports legend Denise Lewis backing the white stuff!

5. Raw milk is a ‘thing’ 

Alongside a growing trend for ‘raw food’, unpasteurised – or ‘raw’ milk is now available. There was even an Organic Raw Milk vending machine in Selfridges Food Hall at one point. But again this is a controversial area (who knew milk could be so contentious!)! In the past, the pasteurisation process sterilised milk to avoid contamination by tuberculosis and brucellocis (diseases the cows themselves had at that time) and against bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter introduced via a far less regulated milking process. But some people feel the very high temperatures used to destroy bacteria also damages the natural structures of the proteins in the milk, making them harder to digest. and raw milk advocates believe it also offers natural state cholesterol that the body can metabolise and use and ‘good bacteria’ to help the gut. If you fancy giving it a try, the Food Standards Agency checks all raw milk and oversees hygiene standards in England, allowing milk producers that meet the required standards to sell raw milk.

So, think outside the carton and try and add some more milk to your diet – particularly if you’re regularly working out. If you don’t fancy it straight make a smoothie, a fish pie or a rice pudding to give your menu a nutritional boost. And let me know how you get on, in the comment box below.

Thank you for reading

Vanessa. x

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