Saturday, 27 December 2014

The health benefits of an Epsom salt bath

With the cold weather setting in and the stress of Christmas, you'll be forgiven if you have a few aches and pains in your muscles. Along with regularly using my foam roller (I blogged about my love of this recently) I also try to treat my aches to a a very vigorous deep tissue massage (I went to Achilles in Fulham FYI, which is great). Jerry, my masseuse therapist, always suggests that I have a long soak in an epsom salt bath.

epsom salts don't bubble so add a little bubble bath!

I have heard about this before (thanks to my dad actually) but I didn’t realise how many health benefits there were from epsom salts. I must admit too, after a long soak I felt so much better, my aches and pains practically gone!


my tub of Epsom salts


Firstly though, what re Epsom salts?
Epsom salt is not actually a salt but a naturally occurring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulphate.

Here are some of the health benefits of using Epsom salts...

Health benefit one: restore magnesium levels
Magnesium actually plays an important role in the body including reducing inflammation, helping to prevent artery hardening and helping muscles and nerve functions. Most of us do not have high enough magnesium levels and as the body easily absorbs magnesium through the skin, an Epsom salt bath is an easy way to boost your levels.


Health benefit two: eases stress and relaxes the body
We all know stress is bad for us and I am guessing it is something you would welcome into your life like you would a swarm of wasps at a picnic. Stress drains the body of magnesium and increases levels of adrenaline. The magnesium in Epsom salts help to produce serotonin, a mood-enhancing chemical within the brain, helping to produce a feeling of calm and relaxation. When dissolved in warm water, the Epsom salt is absorbed through the skin and replenishes the level of magnesium in the body.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Four Corners cafe, Lower Marsh, Waterloo London

The other day at work, me and my friend grabbed a bite to eat on our lunch break, popping over to the Four Corners Cafe in Lower Marsh, Waterloo. I have been there a few times but haven't got round to sharing it on my blog. It is such a cute little place though, I want to share it with you as it is worth a lunch if you are in the area. 

the four corners cafe, lower marsh 
friendly staff serve your needs


Serving decent sandwiches, soups and tempting cakes, this is a great place to grab a quick bite to eat. It also has that vibe where you could happily sit all day with your laptop, working away, ploughing through tea. And you'd be there a while as it has the largest loose tea selection!

mozzarella and rocket 
serrano and cheddar 



I love the concept of the cafe, which as the name suggests, has a focus on world travel. From the decor to the merchandise, you'll feel at home if you like to travel. They even have lonely planet guides on the side for you to browse whilst you dine. 


travel inspired decor 



plan your next trip with your cake! 


We opted for the ciabatta style sandwiches - I went for mozzarella, rocket and pesto and Georgina went for serrano ham and cheddar. I was trying to be good that day so skipped the cake, but they did look good! 


soya hot chocolate for me 


slurping on my hot chocolate 

Unlike other cafes, Four Corners sells wine and beer, which is a nice touch I think! My favourite though is their tea and coffee infused spirits, such as their earl grey gin and tonic (which I have confirmation from my dad that this is pretty good).

X x X 

Monday, 22 December 2014

A long weekend in Budapest with the girls - part two: eating, drinking and what to know

Read part one here


Eating 

The choice of food in Budapest is brilliant, from local Hungarian food to Japanese sushi bars, there will be something for everyone. And the prices are so reasonable, especially if you are coming from London. 


view of chain bridge 

I must admit, I went to Budapest thinking that I wouldn't enjoy the food, mainly because I ignorantly thought it would be all watery stews and plain potatoes, but I loved it. Admittedly it ain't IBS friendly with the rich sauces and red meats but we didn't have a bad meal when we were there. I went for the Hungarian option as much as possible, trying Goulash, their steaks and a paprika sausage dish which I really enjoyed (even though I didn't think I would).


Friday, 19 December 2014

Christopher's restaurant Covent Garden, London

Last week I took my dad for a treat of a meal to celebrate a new promotion. Seeing as my dad now lives in Cambodia and is forever moaning saying that there aren’t enough nice restaurants in the area, I knew he’d be wowed by my choice of restaurant – Christopher's in Covent Garden.


our feast! 

Christopher's Covert Garden


He’d mentioned before that they have a fabulous bar downstairs, serving the best martinis, although he had never eaten there, and he was right. Accidentally arriving 25 minutes before our booking, I had no other choice than to prop up the bar and order  myself a martini. 


My choice? The Earl Grey Mar-tea-ni. Get it? A tasty blend of Earl Grey infused gin, Earl Grey tea syrup, fresh lemon juice and orange bitters. 


Earl Grey Mar-tea-ni and a classic Martini 

When my dad arrived we ordered some particularly strong dirty martinis and headed upstairs to the restaurant. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I was impressed by the place!!! Elegant and classic, this was a lovely setting to celebrate.


tuck in! 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

How to make the perfect roast potatoes

Seeing as it is nearly Christmas, I thought I would share with you a blog post on how to make the perfect roasties. It is an important part of any Christmas dinner and no one likes a bad roast potato. 

Not crispy enough, too squidgy in the middle or lacking in flavour are all no-nos. They need to be golden and crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle! 


delicious

my dad enjoying the roast potatoes 
(and a bottle of vino) 

It is actually really easy to make the perfect roast potato and I have it nailed! They got the seal of approval from my dad so they must be good! 

What you need:
1 kg of potatoes (I used Maris Piper)
sea salt
olive oil (about 100ml)  
garlic (optional)
dried rosemary 

2 tbsp of flour 


fluffy and soft in the middle 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Elizabeth Arden hydrating face mask: review

This is something I blogged about a year ago (on the 20th November if anyone is asking) but I love this product so much I want to share it with you again. I first bought this face mask because the wintery weather was wreaking havoc on my skin at the moment. My face was feeling permanently tight and dry.


I am in love with this product

Doing what I always do when I need to find an answer to my problems, I went to Google. I simply typed in "hydrating face masks" and one of the answers returned was this Elizabeth Arden's hydrating mask. But it has been the best find ever! I've just bought a new tube of it and using it religiously twice a week. 


Friday, 12 December 2014

Easy to make, healthy tzatziki - perfect side dip for any meal!

I do love a good healthy meal, and chicken and salad is always a winner in that respect. But after a while, it can sometimes get a bit, well, boring.

But when you start “jazzing” up your salad with fancy dressings, croutons, flat breads etc, you start taking the health and goodness out.

So with that in mind, when my latest boring chicken and salad, low fat, low carb dinner needed something to make it a little tastier, I welcomed some tzatziki!!!

homemade, delicious and light!

I love tzatziki but its often quite high in fat, salt, additives and all the other nasties when you buy it. So why not make your own?! 
Here's how...

Monday, 8 December 2014

Sticking to a healthy diet this Christmas season...

With Christmas less than 3 weeks away I can really feel this season’s festivities kicking in now. With work Christmas parties, drinks with old friends and more mulled wine and mince pies that you can shake a stick of tinsel at, it’s no wonder that most of say that we find it hard to eat healthy. Generally I am a really healthy person and try to eat as “clean” as possible without being extreme and still enjoying the cakes and cocktails in life.

I stumbled across this article from one of my favourite health websites – popsugar – so want to share with you that today! It is about eating clean but I think that these can easily be incorporated now to help reduce some of the unhealthy habits  of the Christmas season and I am hoping it will help me stick to the healthy way of life! I have added some of my own tips too (time will tell if I listen to my own advice!)

picture from http://kilimattjaro.com/


Stop With Processed Food
One of the easiest ways to get started is to replace processed grub with natural, minimally processed ingredients. Not only are these options more nutritious, their flavors are also more satisfying. The occasional indulgence is absolutely necessary, but cleaning up your daily diet is one of the best moves you can make to ensure consistent weight loss. Opt for natural whole foods with ingredients you can pronounce!

Thinking about Christmas season… stick to this season’s whole foods, like turkey and roasted chestnuts over processed party foods like sausage rolls.


Eat More Produce
If you're not sure how to snack, always pick up some produce; fresh fruit and veggies will fill you up in a healthy way, and the fibre will keep you fuller, longer. Just like we've got to retrain our taste buds to stop with the salt and sugar, you'll find that your body will beg for produce once you start eating it consistently. These are the cravings we welcome with open arms.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The trigger point foam muscle roller

If you are a fan of exercise, then you'll know the importance of a good post workout stretch to sooth your muscles and aid recovery. You may also have heard the importance of massages, or heard how professional football teams are treated to a post game rub down. But it you're not on £150,000 a year then you might not be able to afford a massage after every workout like they do! Fear not though, invest in this...


my Trigger Point roller 


... a Trigger Point grid foam roller! 



This hard, hollow tube is specifically designed to mimic a deep tissue massage, to help work out the knots and niggles in your muscles after a good sweat on. My sport of choice is kick boxing, and after an hour and half of and trying not to get hit, you can feel it in your muscles! A role on this after always sorts me right out! 

the grid design 

The Boy first introduced this to me a few months ago and I haven't looked back since! I love it. Well, it is a kind of love hate relationship though as it bloody hurts when you use it! 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Find Christmas that bit too stressful – here are my top tips on how to deal with it...

Find Christmas that bit too stressful – here are my top tips on how to deal with it...

As we have officially started eating the chocolates out of our advent calenders (I say officially because no doubt there will be some of you that will have had a cheeky few before the 1st), I think it is officially ok to start getting excited about Christmas!!!

As we steadily creep into December, many of us are well and truly into the Christmas spirit.


Christmas is meant to be the time of year when there is laughter and joy filling our houses, we gleefully smile to strangers and our generosity and good will is in abundance. We might even fancy partaking in a spot of carolling. Who am I kidding! Christmas can be a dam right headache! 

Clashing family members, juggling party invites and Christmas do’s, buying presents for people with fussy taste (and you know it will then go on to be half price as of Boxing Day just to rub salt into the wound!)... you’re forgiven if you’re not in the mood to shout love and joy, but in the mood to tell people where to shove it! 

The build up to the 25th is pretty manic but it is also the actual day that can tread a bit fat boot on festive tidings.

According to an article in The Telegraph (2012), the average family first rows at just 10.13am!!!  From your mum moaning at your for setting the table the "correct" way, accusing your sister of nicking all the good chocolates from the celebration tin and debating the rules to charades. 

I could go on but I won’t. What I will do though, is share with you my top tips that will stop you from pulling your hair out, relax and actually enjoy the Christmas season. 

picture from http://www.acstechnologies.com/



Don’t overdo it
Firstly, don’t overdo it. Either learn to say no or learn how to leave a party early (even just an hour earlier will help you in getting more shut eye). In that way you’ll stop yourself from burning out before Christmas even starts! Everyone’s diaries are back to back during this time of the year so perhaps schedule some of your parties and Christmas do’s in January.


Plan ahead
Having a plan written down automatically makes me feel 10 times calmer as I can clearly see what needs to be done and when. I have already written down what I will be cooking and serving on Christmas day and nearer the time, I will even write down a hour by hour of what needs to be cooked and when to ensure I can enjoy myself and not be a slave to the Christmas dinner. Might sound OTT but it saves me the drama on the day!
Plan as much as you possible can – even plan what you are going to wear to what party to ensure you don’t have any last minute stresses.

Monday, 1 December 2014

A long weekend in Budapest with the girls - part one: the sights and tourist bits

I must admit Budapest hasn't ever been on the must have travel list but having spent three nights there a few weeks ago, I absolutely love the place (we've even penned it as a hen do destination for when another one of us bites the dust). With a long weekend ear marked, we did look into going to Cardiff but when it was actually cheaper the go abroad to Eastern Europe Budapest won hands down (sorry Cardiff).

Budapest is the capital of Hungary, and split in to two sides of the Danube river into Buda and Pest. Most of the things to see and do are based in Castle Hill and in Central Pest. Budapest is a fairly small city so it is pretty easy to navigate and you can see the main attractions over a weekend quite. 


they had the skinniest trams! 


We arrived Thursday night and had three full days there. Whilst this was enough time to comfortably see most things, I could have spent another night there easily. It is just a great little city! There is such a relaxed vibe to the place, we took it pretty easy and took our time wandering around - moving from coffee shop to restaurant, soaking in the atmosphere, people watching and keeping warm from the November chill with a cup of mulled wine. 



first mulled wine of the trip 





The tourist stuff 

There is so much culture and history to the city, it is perfect for culture vultures (it is filled with museums, statues, galleries and churches) and is such a pretty city with the neo-gothic architecture. You must remember to look up and see the beautiful buildings. The cathedrals in particular are worth a look - they look like they have stepped out of a Disney film! 


The hop on- hop off bus and river cruise 


For an easy way to see the city, we went for the classic touristy hop on-hop off bus. It cost about 30 euros and this gets you access to the river cruise, two days of the bus and entry into one of the spas (from a choice of 4). The bus takes you around the main sights of Budapest, including the Castle District, Hero's Square and Andrassy Avenue. It is an easy way to see the main sights, familiarise yourself with the city and as a mode of transport.


Shot from the river cruise 

Friday, 28 November 2014

How to avoid a cold this winter (like I have since 2006)!

(I first published this in December 2013 but these tips are re-posted by popular interest!) 


I run the risk of jinxing myself by saying this, but I haven’t had a cold since “fresher’s flu” in 2006. 

I simply don’t ever get ill like that. They offered the flu jab for free at work the other day which I refused as I don’t see I need it. “Impossible” were the cries from my colleague, they thought it ridiculous that I simply haven’t ever really had a cold. But it’s true so I want to share with you my ways to avoid a cold…

I think it generally boils down to being healthy overall, doing the obvious stuff like eating your five a day, getting enough sleep and exercising well. So the first few tips might sound too simple, but they’ll set your body up to be fighting fit. Once you feel the first symptoms coming on, that is your cue to up the dose of healthiness to avoid it taking hold of you!

picture from sporeflections.wordpress


  • Eat your five a day and in particular “immune boosting” foods like spinach, berries, broccoli and garlic (see the end of the blog for more foods).

stock up on your five a day 


  • Drink plenty of water. This isn’t just good for overall health but if you have got the start of a virus, it will help to flush it out.
  • If you need a little helping hand, take some multivitamins! I take a simple A-Z and one for energy releasing.  
  • Try to avoid sugar (as much as humanly possible with all these mince pies and choccies laying around) – I read somewhere that sugar can break down your healthy cells, not what you want at this time of the year.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

NYC part 2 - things to see and food/drink

cont from part one...

The sights (cont)


One of the four main attractions that me and Becky saw was the Brooklyn Bridge. Built in 1883, it was the first steel wire suspension bridge constructed... a total of 1,825 m long and 84 m high. The bridge connects the boroughs of Manhattan (where we were staying) and Brooklyn. Walking across it is a great way to see the skyline of Manhattan. Look carefully too and you'll see the statue of liberty (from a distance)! Although a busy bridge, I didn't get a sense of being rushed across it, so take your time and get great photos. 




Looking through The Brooklyn Bridge 


The Brooklyn side




Eating and Drinking


For me, when you are on holiday, you need to get stuck in to the culture and sample the food. Admittedly American cuisine isn't something of a rarity here but I had a whole long list of foods that I wanted to try whilst in New York...



Grimaldi's 


On the list to eat HAD to be pizza (for Becky, she made this quite clear within 10 minutes of landing) so when we were in Brooklyn, we headed to Grimaldi's, famous for its use of coal fire ovens rather that the usual wood fire ovens, (and the only pizzeria in NYC to be allowed to use one!) 



soda and a slice 

A slice of their pizza and a soda (I would have had a cider but this was a no-booze restaurant) and I felt like I was definitely in New York. If you can't make it to a pizza restaurant (or of you can yet you still want more as us fatties did), there are plenty of pizzerias lining the streets of New York including $1 slice places. Don't turn your nose up at the price, it is seriously good pizza! And New Yorkers do seem to like their slices - we saw plenty of people walking the sidewalks (that is a pavement to you and me) chomping on a delicious cheesey triangle of pizza!  



Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Nivea Q10 firming body oil: review

The older I am getting, the more I am thinking about beating the signs of ageing. But not just my face. My body too! Whilst you don’t quite get the same wrinkles on your limbs at the same rate as you seem to on your face, I am well aware that skin does also lose its firmness. So I have started using body lotions that offer firming benefits as well as moisturising properties.


Nivea Q10


My favourite one so far is the Q10 firming body oil from Nivea.


With coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and avocado oil, it nourishes and firms skin to firm and soften. We’ll have to trust the science here as only time will tell if it is keeping my skin from sagging!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Homemade low-carb spaghetti bolognese – with courgette ‘spaghetti’

 Who doesn’t love a spaghetti Bolognese??? It is perfect for this time of the year when the nights are colder and our bellies need warming meals. However if you’re on a low carb diet, looking to ditch a couple hundred calories or simply wanting a meal where you can up your veg intake, then you swap your usual spaghetti pasta for “zoodles”. Aka courgette noodles. 


low carb spagetti bolognese 

Why "zoodles"? Because across the pond, our cousins call the courgette a “zucchini” and zucchini + noodles = zoodles!


zooooodles 


The great thing about zoodles is that it offers the great same base for your Bolognese (you can even do the twisty fork thing to gather them up) and they offer an extra potion to your five a day and each 100g comes in at only 17 calories! I tried this recipe the other day and I am converted to the zoodles. I’m thinking about what else I can add my zoodles too (perhaps a strifry?).

the twisty fork and spoon way to eat spagetti 

And it couldn’t be simpler to make – all you need is a spiralizer. I bought my one for about £7 off the internet. Just google “spiralizer” and you’ll find loads of options. Mine is a simple hand held device – pop in the courgette and twist. The blades will produce a fine strip of courgette.



so simple to work! 


Sunday, 9 November 2014

Green winter-warmer soup – less than 100 calories!

If you are looking for a warming meal than look no further than the humble soup. Soups are the perfect winter meal as they are hot, nutritious and can be made in bulk and stored in the freezer for another day.


hot and tasty 


What’s more, pack in a load of veggies and you’ll top up your nutrients with every slurp!

This green winter soup does look a little like murky pond water, I agree but it is such an easy soup to make, full of health benefits and is only 100 calories per serving!!! What you waiting for? Start making!

less than 100 calories a bowl...get stuck in 


Ingredients
1 large white onion, peeled and sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 large courgettes, chopped
A massive handful of kale
A handful of spinach
4 cups of vegetable stock
Seasoning to taste


Makes 4 servings

Friday, 7 November 2014

Delicious gluten free pancakes (with coconut flour)

I have blogged about my love for pancakes before but if you are trying to skip the sugar, carbs and gluten, they are not always the best choice for a weekend breakfast or brunch. So I have been scouring the web for inspiration.


delicious coconut flour pancakes! 


This tried and tested recipe is absolutely scrumptious and packed with fibre and protein. Plus they are so easy to make! If you are unsure of coconut flour, it is a great substitute for the regular white stuff but healthy! I bought mine from my local Holland and Barrett but you can get it in most health food stores.


I've been using this coconut flour 



You will need:

2-3 tbsp of nut butter (I used cashew)
½ cup egg whites
½ cup of vanilla protein powder
2 tbsp coconut flour
½ tsp of baking powder
½ - 1 cup of almond milk (depending how thick you want them)

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

NYC part 1 - things to see and getting around


Last week I was lucky enough to set off from Heathrow with my good friend Becky, bound for the bright lights of New York. I last went to New York when I was about 15, and whilst I had an amazing time, I knew going back as an adult would take my love for New York to another level.

Central Park 


Our flight got us n for around midday on Tuesday and our flight home was early doors Sunday, so we had a lot to pack in a short-ish amount on time. I could have stayed at least another few days – there is just so much to see and do in the city.  There is also so much to take in – being a people watcher, I am just as content, sitting with a coffee or a glass of wine, watching the world go by!

Getting around
Unlike my dad who tour-guided us around when I was 15, I do not have a natural sense of direction or a map in built in to my head. However with a grid system of streets and avenues, it is actually pretty easy to get around (so long as you can count). Street go horizontal and avenues go vertical BTW.  


navigating the subway 


The thing we struggled with a little more is the subway – unlike the London underground, the lines are not all interconnected in the same way so plan your route before you start your journey. The stops are also a lot further apart then in London. We got even more confused when some of the stops are numbers (eg 23rd street) but then some are names (eg City Hall). Having said that, once you are used to it, with each journey only costing $2.50 it is a cheap way to get around. You can also purchase a 7 day unlimited travel card for $30 (just don’t lose it on day 2 like Becky did). Why not download a city app (like hopstop) and check where you are going with the hotel's wifi?

Failing that then there are a plethora of yellow taxi cabs that aren’t extortionate- just stick your hand out and whistle one down!  


The sights
Having been to New York before, and wanting a holiday that meant I could chill out a little more than usual, I didn’t feel the need to see every tourist sight. On my to do list was Central Park, the Rockefeller Center, Brooklyn Bridge and the Staten Island Ferry...

Central Park 

Central Park
One of my favourite parks ever, this is a huge area of 3.41 km²  stretching over 50 streets.



me (left) and Becky 

Monday, 3 November 2014

The "validation facial" at Lush Spa

For my birthday last year (a whole 13 months ago!) the Boy treated me to three spa treatments at the Lush Spa on Kings Road in Chelsea - the sound bath, a tailor made massage (read the blog about that here) and a validation facial. If like me, you didn't realise that the Lush cosmetics company also did spas, then look into it! They are so amazing and nothing like other beauty spa treatments you might have tried before! 

ready for my facial!


The year has gone so quick and I still hadn't made it back for the facial, but with a trip to New York coming up, I felt that last week was as good as any time to have it.

spa treatment room 

Having had two gorgeous treatments there already I knew I was in for a treat and I was right. If I could some up the treatment from start to finish, it would be "wonderful".

Lush seem to employ the happiest, friendliest and most relaxed staff and just talking to my softly spoken therapist made me feel ten levels calmer.

my skin was in need of a facemask! 

Asking about my skin needs, he took me through the shop, giving me the chance to play with the products, smelling them and touching them, to see what ones I would like to use in the treatment. Plopped on to a round slate, by the end it looked like an artist's palate! Let's hope it can make my skin a work of art!

the beauty products I chose 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Sweet potato and roasted pepper veggie burgers

Back in September I made some totally moorish sweet pototo, chickpea and quinoa burgers (see the recipe here). And I  a not just being a big headed foodie here, my friend Frenchy loved these so much, she tried out the recipe too! So I've been experimenting recently with other flavour combos, and I love this one for sweet potato and yellow roasted peppers (although red or orange would work but not green). It is like a healthy comfort food dish!
Delish! 


sweet potato and yellow pepper veggie burgers 


When I came to blog about this though, I must admit, I did get it a bit wrong. I used haricot beans instead of the usual chickpeas. I woud like to say it is because I am creative, forward thinking and experimental. In fact I just picked the wrong can off the shelf in the supermarket. But it actually works just as well! The consistency was a little softer as the haricot bean is less “dense” than chickpeas, but they tasted great! And are actually surprisingly filling (I guess that is thanks to the protein).


these veggie burgers have "bite"


So what do you need to make these tasty burgers?


1 large sweet potato
¼ cup quinoa
3 peppers (any colour but green will work)
1 can chickpeas or haricot beans
1 handful of fresh parsley
2 tsp ground cumin 
1 tsp turmeric*
3 tbsp of flour (try to use gluten free)
Squeeze of lemon juice
Seasoning


haricot beans - just naked little baked beans