Tourchi Batata – Tunisian Spicy Potato Salad



A delicious and spicy potato salad with a hint of cumin and lemon.

Preparation Time-20 minutes
Cooking time- 20 minutes
Serves- 2

Ingredients:

4 medium sized potatoes
1 tablespoon Harissa paste
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin powder
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

1. Boil the potatoes and when they have cooled  slightly peel them.
2. Dice the potatoes into 1 inch pieces and keep aside.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan , when it warms up add the harissa, cumin and salt. Sauté for a minute or two for the spices to release flavour.Add the lemon juice and stir it in.
4. Add the diced potatoes and toss to coat the potatoes with the spice mixture.
5. Transfer to a serving dish.

Serve warm or cold.

Rosecoco (borlotti) beans curry

rosecoco

Rosecoco Beans (also called borlotti beans) are normally found in their dried form.  Their deep pink colour skin is flecked with beige and brown spots. They need to be soaked overnight and cooked until soft. Once cooked, they look very similar to peanuts.  Cooking them in a pressure cooker saves time.  If you are in a hurry, you can get these pre boiled in cans in some supermarkets.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups of boiled Rosecoco (or borlotti) beans (note that this is the cooked/boiled amount.  you will need only one cup which when soaked will double).
  • 1 cup fresh tomatoes/canned tomato or passata (I used a mixture of fresh tomatoes and passata)
  • 2 tsbls oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 small sticks of cinnamon
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbls jaggery
  • 1-2 fresh green chillies
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  •  small bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 tbls lemon juice
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic

Method:

1.  Once the rosecoco beans have boiled in plenty of water- drain and  rinse out the water as it will be discoloured.  Allow them to cool.

 

2.  Heat the oil and add in the mustard, cinnamon and cloves.  As soon as they stop popping, add the tomatoes.  If you are using fresh tomatoes, make sure that you remove the outer skin.  To do this, make a slit in the tomatoes and cook them for a couple of minutes in boiling water.  This will loosen the skin. Immerse the cooked tomatoes in cold water and peel off the skin.  Then chop the tomatoes into small pieces. Once they are added to the oil, stir them and cook until soft. Now add all the spices – salt, turmeric, chili powder, jaggery, lemon juice, half the coriander, ginger, garlic and green chillies.  Add half a cup of water.

3.  Once it is simmering, add the boiled rosecoco beans and stir. If your gravy feels too thick you can add some water.  If the gravy feels too watery, you can add blend a teaspoon of chick pea flour (besan) with the gravy in a cup and add it to the curry.  This will thicken the gravy.

4.  Garnish the curry with coriander or fresh green chillies.  Serve this hot with any rice.  We cooked saffron rice. rosecoco

 

How do you cook your Rosecoco or borlotti  beans? Do share your recipes.

Treat Your Neck With Respect

turkey neck

With all the advertising campaigns going on about how to keep the skin on your face youthful, the most recognisable thing I have noticed with all the beauty hype is that there is little mention of the neck and yes the décolletage area (chest) is classed as the body but in “beauty therapy terms” the neck and chest are to be treated in the same way as your face.

If you’re in your early twenties or thirties you may think this article has nothing to do with you yet…. but it does, you need to take action before the skin around your neck and chest starts to show signs of ageing!

Remember the saying “prevention is better than the cure”. Well this is definitely the case when it comes to caring for your skin and keeping it young – especially in the neck and décolletage area.

Stress, smoking and sun damage all contribute to a skin that has nothing to do with the D.O.B on your birth certificate. The neck is one of the first places to show premature ageing as well as the chest. Skin is so much thinner in these areas, so a little TLC will go a long way.

How many times do you see a mature woman with – dare I say it “a turkey neck” or a crêpey chest trying to cover up with a scarf. Do you want this to be you in years to come?

With spring around the corner and lower neck lines starting to appear in the shops, we should all start to think about looking after this part of our body you will be so thankful in later years that you did.

Here’s how…

1. Collagen is the most important structure of the skin this keeps skin young, to keep it restored eat plenty of antioxidant foods such as fruit and veg.

2. Drink plenty of water throughout the day- water plump’s up the skin cells, giving it a more youthful look.

3. Cleanse your neck with a hydrating cleanser.

4. Use a mild exfoliator around neck and décolletage area.

5. Use a hydrating face mask to both areas.

6. Boost circulation around neck and chest area by splashing with cold water

7. Apply a rich hydrating/firming neck cream in both areas (if you’d sooner – after five minutes dab of the excess moisture with soft tissue). In the day time using a moisturiser with a sun block will be beneficial – never let the neck dry out, especially if exposed to the sun

8. Avoid spraying perfume directly onto the neck and chest area- as this is drying to the skin and over time will cause it to become crêpey.

9. With the top of your hand you can gently slap the underside of your neck 10 times, this will firm it.

10. Try reading a Carol Maggio facercise book. It will have neck exercises in it.

Come on all you ladies out there, start treating your neck with respect! If you ever run out of cream, don’t forget that there is always good old fashion Vaseline, so there really is no excuse for letting your neck and skin get old before it’s time.

Image reproduced from youbeauty.com

I Have Decided – Have You?

Have you ever heard someone say: “Oh, I will quit on Monday! That’s it, I truly had enough on this junk! Let the weekend go buy and then I will quit” or “From January I will change, I will go on a diet and get myself down at the gym” or “That’s it, from tomorrow I will stop drinking at night”?

Seriously, think about all the people who made these kinds of statements and see if you can recall any of them who actually acted on that statement. Chances are that if you have caught anybody say anything similar to the above, none of what wad said has ever come to reality. The person who said “Oh, I would so like to lose some weight” whilst eating a pizza, is still overweight and the person who said that cigarettes will no longer control his life whilst blowing the smoke out, still coughs in the morning while he looks for the lighter.

This is down to one simple but very significant fact: none of the above statements constitute a decision; none of them is structured as a decision nor is it meant as one. They are simply verbalization of preferences, verbalization of what these people would like to have happen in their lives, they would like life to just give them those things but they are not willing to do anything about it.

A true decision is always, with no exception, accompanied by an action; immediately. That means that one must do the most that one can do the moment the decision has been made. This concept represents the most effective way to start, and consequently complete, anything and seems very simple. In some ways in fact, it is simple although, maybe because of its simplicity, many people fail to apply it and thus fail to reach their goals whether that is quitting smoking, losing weight, getting a new job, making money etcetera.

The power of decisions is responsible for the success of people like Thomas Edison who decided that “every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward” and, straight away, carried on seeking the right way. Edison decided that he will keep on trying until he found the right way and he did carry on until he did. Henry Ford who decided that he wanted an 8 cylinder engine mounted in one piece and invested time and money persuading his employees, who declared the project to be impossible, to find a way. Ford decided that he wanted such engine and took action right away. Silvester Stallone decided that he would have been Rocky and even when the 2000 agencies he went to refused him 3 times each, he still persisted. His wife left him, he had no money to eat, he had to sell his dog because he was no longer able to look after him and still, when the one of the agencies he went to, decided to offer him $60,000.00 for the script as long as he gave up on the desire of wanting to play Rocky, he refused and walked away with nothing. He refused and he persisted until the agency accepted with the condition that Stallone would have only received nominal pay and a cut of the profits because they would not believe that a guy who, at least to them, did not look good, did not sound good and simply did not have the right presence to be an actor, could drive Rocky to be a successful movie. They were right: Rocky was not a good movie; Rocky turned out to be a legacy!

Of course, persistence, drive, motivation, ambition, vision and desire all played key roles in the monumental achievements of Edison, Ford and Stallone and others like them, but it all started from a true decision; a decision to accept nothing less, nothing different from the dream they have carefully designed, not even the smallest compromise.

All these amazing outcomes above were once ideas, like the ones that many of us have, like the ones that remain in one’s mind and eventually become regrets. Unless we take these ideas and turned them into Decision and the one and only way known to turn ideas into Decisions is to take action; not tomorrow, not in one hour but right now. This is, symbolically as well as practically, the equivalent of giving the big wheel the first push; it makes the second spin almost inevitable.

“A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” – Anthony Robbins

Image reproduced from http://www.lesca.ca

Give me an F!

What is it about men and the F Word? And by that I mean Feelings. Why are we unable to get an emotion out of a guy? Is it something they are born with, or something they learn over Xbox and packets of pork scratchings. Trying to get an emotion out of a guy is like trying to muffin top yourself into those size 6 jeans. As long as you wear a long top, some heels and large accessories nobody will know that the button mark has now indented itself onto your belly button.

It’s the same with blokes, if they don’t talk about it its not really there. If a guy has a problem then it’s a case of doing everything they possibly can not to deal with it. They’ll go for a drink, wash the car or play Xbox. They seem to have no problem with bottling those demons about work, friends or relationships up. It’s us girls that’s that want to wrench it out of them, like a teenager with too much ache. Pick, pick, pick we go until all the venom is out of you.

Half the time the problem is not even with you and it lies with us. If us girls have a problem we like to talk it through with our girlfriends, get a 2nd, 3rd, 4th opinion from the barmaid after one too many chardonnays. We need to seek advice from our nearest and dearest and that includes you boys too. Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes an emotional wreck of a girlfriend; boohooing because Billy Mitchell ‘just can’t catch a break’. Or because your best mate said those jeans are in fact too tight for you. Nevertheless we girls need a little TLC from our boyfriends sometimes.

When we are seen to be slumped in the other room watching re runs of How I Met Your Mother, necking a large glass of vino; know that popping your head around the bedroom door with a “You ok babe?” and walking off is never going to suffice. Ignoring us will only anger us and we will be forced to plot ways to hurt your Xbox in our dreams. To be ignored is like being dragged past Kurt Geiger in a hurry because “you don’t need another pair of shoes”. It’s because we think that you don’t care, when deep (deep) down we know you do. We don’t need a rendition of A Midsummer Nights Dream (complete with feather hat and quill)… trust me we have no delusions of grandeur here. Just for you to listen, smile, nod along and put your arm around us and tell us it’s ok.

Boys would rather run into the arms of the public house than see us girls upset, not because you don’t care but because you don’t know how to handle us. Having an emotional conversation with your girlfriend is about as appealing as sitting through the opera. Long winded, tearful and sometimes high pitched.

We are simple creatures really… honest. We don’t bite but we may cry a bit. Just don’t mention our muffin top!

Alzheimer’s: Darkening Corners of Once Bright Minds

November 26th 1901 saw the German psychiatrist and neuropathologist, Alois Alzheimer, historically cement his observations of the first woman to ever be diagnosed with the condition, Auguste Deter, 51 years old.  ‘She sits on the bed with a helpless expression… she looked as if she didn’t understand the question… she seems trying to remember… her spontaneous speech is full of paraphrasic derailments and perseverations’.

Over a century later, the disease’s namesake holds strong.

Alois Alzheimer

Dr Alois Alzheimer

With an estimated 650,000 people in the UK suffering from dementia, set to rise to 1 million by 2021, an ageing population and consideration of how the disease causes once bright minds, to see glints of memories passed consumed into oblivion; the recent rise in research funding towards this field, could not have come sooner.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, with a range of effects, from the characteristic loss of memory to the disintegration of reasoning skills. The root causes remain obscure, however it seems evident that the brain experiences atrophy – a process whereby the brain itself wastes away in accordance with the degeneration of neurons. Spreading over time, this degeneration will affect many areas, such as the hippocampus whose function is linked to memory, and grey matter, involved in the processing of thoughts. On November 4th, 1904, Alois Alzheimer spoke of this ‘unusual disease of the cerebral cortex’. In reference to the post-mortem pathological examination of 55 year old Auguste Deter, he revealed that ‘in the centre of an otherwise almost normal (neuron) cell there stands out one or several fibrils due to their characteristic thickness and peculiar impregnability’; in fact studies have gone on to show an abnormal amount of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brains of affected patients. The unusual ‘thickness’ and ‘impregnability’ Alois described is therefore likely to be a reflection of the protein and fibres building up in the brain, this correlates with a lower efficiency of the transmission of messages, and the eventual destruction of these cells.

‘All in all we have to face a peculiar disease process which has been verified recently in large numbers.’

Alzheimers womanWhile promises of a brave new world, in which disease has been annihilated, never rests far from the consciousness of numerous scientists, the people need to know how to actively impact their own health. While they battle through obstacles in pursuit for the final solution, remember that all knowledge is power and the following aims to outline risk factors; the A.l.z.h.e.i.m.e.r.s of Alzheimer’s disease:

Age – is the greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease. After reaching 65 the risk doubles every 5 years and nearly half the people over 85 have Alzheimer’s. It is apparent that increasing age means increasingly increasing disease susceptibility and understanding the exact reasons for this could not only be of paramount importance to curing Alzheimer’s, but also numerous other age-onset diseases.

Lifestyle – it goes without saying that the decisions we make in everyday life, have a significant impact on our long term health. Stoptober has arrived, so why not take the opportunity to kick those butts out for good – see https://stoptober.smokefree.nhs.uk/ for further information. Controlling high blood pressure/ blood glucose if you have diabetes, reducing cholesterol level, maintaining a healthy weight with regular exercise and a healthy balanced diet – all of these will work towards lowering your risk for this destructive disease. Whilst the market continues to floods with ‘miracle drugs’ claiming a number of arguably beneficial effects, remember to always consult with a practitioner.

Z..umba! – This fun dancercise may be a good way to begin increasing your exercise intake, especially if the thought of a room, full of daunting equipment sends a chill down your spine.

Heart Disease – a number of lifestyle factors and conditions associated with vascular disease and stroke can raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, these include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and smoking.

Early detection – In addition to the above suggestions, make sure you take full advantage of regular health checks as you get older. In England, Wales and N.Ireland, only 44% of people with dementia are thought to have received a formal diagnosis.

Inheritance – Genetic factors are known to play a role in the development of some forms of Alzheimer’s disease, as it can be seen to run in the family – one form is a single gene disorder. Three genes have been identified (the strongest being apolipoprotein e4 (APOE e4), it is important to note that they only account for less than 5% of cases and most genetic mechanisms for the disease in families if largely unknown. In additions the early a person experiences symptoms, the stronger the genetic influence on it’s development e.g. symptoms appearing in the 40’s or 50’s. However, having a family member suffer from the disease, does not necessarily put others at risk for various reasons – namely, they may have not had the defective gene/s passed on. If you are concerned about inheritance, consult your doctor who may be able to refer you for genetics counselling and advice.

Mild cognitive impairment – People who suffer from MCI encounter symptoms of cognitive decline and memory difficulties. These symptoms are not strong enough for a dementia diagnosis, however they are more severe than would be expected for their given age – this increases the risk of developing dementia later in life, however delaying or even preventing the progression all together is still possible.

Education – Studies have shown that a chronic engagement in mentally stimulating activities may be associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disesase – including higher levels of formal education, activities such as playing a musical instrument and maintaining a stimulating occupation. In this way, the brain may be developing more connections between neurons.

Relax – Studies have also shown an association between socially stimulating activities and a reduced risk of developing the conditions. Enjoying an active life, packed with personal hobbies and interests may also act in the favour of prevention or slower progression.

Sex – Alzheimer’s disease has a higher prevalence in women (67%) than men (44%).

How Strongly Do You Wish to Succeed in Martial Arts?

When you see a person who is active and among the top performers within your school or club have you ever asked your self what took that person to be where he/ she is now?  We surely cannot assume that anybody was born capable of punching, kicking or performing any other martial art move in a seamlessly fashion: these are acquired, learnt skills.

I tend to think that many qualities all have an input to the final performance of a martial artist but I am willing to develop and discuss in this post the top ones:

  • Talent
  • Physical fitness that can be split essentially in:
    • Agility
    • Strength
    • Speed
    • Flexibility
    • Coordination
  • Observation skills
  • Mental flexibility
  • Wish to succeed

Let me now see these and briefly expand on them:

Talent

I define somebody talented when she walks into the training room for the first time and she naturally performs anything shown in a relatively easy and natural way.  Talent can be natural or built on previous experiences, non necessarily in martial arts: e.g. dancers and gymnast can naturally perform many martial arts moves.  Talent opens up doors and a number of possibilities to the performer.  Doing things is easy for her so she tend to quickly get to a decent level and often moving on to the next challenge without seeking excellence in its current shape or form.  While I am not stating that talented people do not stick around, in my experience they get easily bored and need continuous new challenges.  I have seen a relatively high number of talented people to get to some level of proficiency in martial arts but a much greater number dropping off within a few years.

Physical fitness

Regardless the martial art you practice there will be some physical fitness involved and being fit or developing a certain level of fitness will help your performance.  In my experience most people will develop over time the level of fitness for their required or expected performance, regardless of their initial fitness level (exceptions do apply).  This is to say that people naturally or initially fit will have an edge or a small advantage over the less fit ones but this will not affect most people in the long run.

Observation skills

I define observation skills when somebody can see a technique performed by another person and she can quickly understand and replicate it without need of deep explanation of the single movements involved.  I consider observation skills a great tool for the martial artist to improve her own performance and gradually absorb other people skills without constant assistance of an instructor or coach.  In my experience the person good in observation skills will be careful in how different people perform the same technique and find her own way to master it.

Mental flexibility

I define mental flexibility the skill of being adaptable in your approach to learn and perform a technique or a combination.  In general there are physical, mechanical and safety rules about performing techniques but often there isn’t a right or wrong about using that or the other technique.  While physical flexibility can be a great skill for certain martial arts, mental flexibility is great for all of them because it allows adapting to what works and what doesn’t.

Wish to succeed

A person with a strong wish to succeed will fuel her enthusiasm to perform.  The wish to succeed will ensure this person will:

  • train regularly and often: this will have the most immediate effect of increasing the number of hours of training per month or year; her mind will get more and more involved with the training becoming a second nature.  Let’s try to remember that the mind and the subconscious are what we mostly train when learning and performing a martial art: muscles and bones simply move in the direction and with the speed and intensity that the mind dictates.  The secondary effect of this is that instructors and senior students will see this person around more than others and default to her more and more of their attention.  This will help this person to get slightly better than other and keep an advantage over other, less committed people.
  • train with the most challenging people in the room trying to be as good or better then them
  • Participate to seminars and other external activities organized by her school or club – visit events organized by others

I will conclude this post by simply stating the following: at whatever point your martial training started or will start your wish to succeed will be the most valuable component and likely the quality that will be pivotal in your success in martial arts.  Other qualities, even the ones I did not mention here will all matter but just as long as your wish to succeed is there.

Spicy Buckwheat Pancakes

 

I used Orgran Buckwheat Pancake mix to make some spicy pancakes.  Buckwheat is not a grain but a fruit seed and part of the rhubarb family of plants.  This link  gives you more information about Buckwheat.

Ingredients for 5 pancakes:
 
½ cup buckwheat pancake mix
1 small onion -grated
1 fresh green chilly chopped into small pieces
small bunch of freshly chopped coriander
small piece of grated ginger
2 gloves of garlic minced using a garlic press
½ tsp. salt
pinch of turmeric
2-3 tbls oil
1.  Transfer the pancake mix into a mixing bowl.  Add the onions, ginger, garlic, green chillies, coriander, salt, turmeric to the pancake mix.

2. Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to the mixture and mix it all using a spoon.

3.  Add half a cup of water to the mixture and stir.

4. This water should be enough but if you feel that the mixture is thick and you can a couple of tablespoons of water.

5. Grease and heat a non stick frying pan with oil.  Rub off the excess oil using a kitchen paper.  Pour in a small ladle of the pancake mix and using a tablespoon, spread it into a circle.

6. Once the little air bubbles start to appear, it should be easy to turn the pancake over.  If the pancakes feel dry, you can add a couple of drops of oil to allow them to brown.

7.  Cook until golden brown on both sides. Finish making all the pancakes in the same manner. I didn’t need to add much oil to the pancakes and they cooked fine and tasted great too.

8.  Serve them hot with your favourite sauce.

Skincare: The Ten Commandments

1. Thou shalt not go to bed with the night before’s make-up on

OK, I admit there has been occasion where I have broken this one, but not very often I might add, and that’s because I fully appreciate the importance of letting my skin breath overnight (after all this is the time when it repairs itself). Plus, nobody wants mucky foundation stains all over their pillowcase, do they? Exactly.

2. Thou shalt take a skin-loving supplement

My particular favourite is Selenium which is rich in antioxidants and works miracles on fine lines. So powerful is selenium that if ever my lines are looking a little more pronounced I switch from my regular multi-vitamin to a selenium (with vitamins A,C & E) supplement and after a couple months it is literally like you’ve turned back the hands of time! Wonderful stuff.

3. Honour thy skincare routine      

This should involve cleansing and moisturizing as a minimum, but you can also try serums, face masks and treatments designed specifically for your skin type. Whatever you decide to do though, do it regularly. Your skin will thank you for it.

4. Thou shalt not squeeze spots

Squeezing a spot can leave a scar; it is much better to leave it be than take the risk. If you have a big event coming up and need to speed up the process you could always try a (small) dab of toothpaste on the little blighter to dry it out.

5. Thou shalt not tolerate dry, flaky lips

Gently buff flaky lips with an old toothbrush before saturating them with a creamy lip balm. Eh voilà – kissable, super-soft lips are yours.

6. Thou shalt have eight hours sleep every night     

Or failing that you can always cover up any tell-tale signs of a late night with a good foundation. Many modern formulas have built in skin goodies such as serums and vitamins for a flawless face which is 100% guilt free.

7. Thou shalt keep hydrated

It’s difficult to drink as much water as our bodies would like us to consume, but flavoured teas and well diluted cordial are good substitutes if you find it a struggle to get your eight glasses in.

8. Thou shalt keep squeaky clean

I used to wonder why I got blackheads until I read an article that said you should cleanse your skin until your cleansing pads come away clean. It seems obvious but I’d never thought to do this before (I wrongly assumed one pad would be fine) and now I hardly ever get blackheads. Result.

9. Thou shalt not rub your eyes

Because broken off eyelashes and premature crow’s feet are not a good look.

10. And on the seventh day, they rested   

We all need a day off every now and again and our skin is no exception. If you have a day of household chores lined up how about foregoing the foundation and letting it breathe a little, remember… healthy skin is happy skin!

Image reproduced from beautyeditor.ca

Hook Kick: 5 Good Reasons to Hit with the Ball of the Foot

Different schools and styles of martial arts teach the hook kick (also called reversed round kick) in different ways. Main differences manifest essentially in the way the movement originates, how the kicking leg is moving during the kick and what part of the foot hits the target that can be the hill or the sole/ball of the foot.

When I teach how to perform a hook kick, I first clarify that to maximise performance the leg should follow a whipping movement to ensure maximum acceleration of the foot toward the target.

I also suggest to always hit with the ball of the foot. Here are for 3 good reasons both physiological and in terms of pure performance for doing that rather than the (side of the) hill, keeping the foot at 90° to the ankle:

  1. better reach: having the foot extended it increases your range by nearly the full length of your foot ensuring you will hit, from the same position, targets that would not be reachable if you bend your foot.
  2. stronger impact: if the angular speed of the leg moving is constant having a longer weapon (by the length of the foot) increases the speed of the foot itself, build up a higher momentum and delivers a stronger kick..
  3. safer for you: the Achilles’ tendon is a weak point and if you squash it against a skull it will hurt your foot to the point you might not be able of walking for some time. Even if the impact is not straight on the Achilles’ tendon it can still hit the many nerves that are exposed both on the internal and external part of the hill, moving toward the ankle. The ball of the foot is very well padded and can bear much stronger impact than the edge of the hill.
  4. improve flexibility: with the full fully extended the natual flexibility of the leg is highly helped; to the contrary trying to extend a leg while the tibial (shin) muscles are tensed in order to keep the ankle at 90° will have some groups of muscles that are fighting against the direction of your kick getting the muscles behind the leg less prone to extend
  5. faster: if all muscles involved in the movement are pushing in the same direction and the others are simply relaxed the overall speed will be improved.

In terms of pure power the hook kick is not to be considered at the top of the scale where round kick and other forward kicks can develop much stronger impact. Things change when spinning backward where the whole spinning momentum adds up to the actual mechanical movement of the kick itself.

Picture: Curtesy and Copyright @ Duncan Grisby 2006

Time for a Wardrobe Audit?

A clear wardrobe equals a clear mind. A messy wardrobe makes you lose visibility of what you actually own, causing you to buy more of what you have and reaching for favourite items that are on high rotation. And then getting stuck in a style rut!

When looking at a wardrobe, gaining clarity is everything. An effective wardrobe should reflect who you are currently – not you five or ten years ago. So many wardrobes I see contain items which are: shapeless, dated or just simply unflattering. And the fact that we only wear 20% of our wardrobe means we as a nation who are holding ourselves back massively from getting a wardrobe we do actually wear and even more importantly LOVE to wear!

Here are some startling facts to consider:-

– British women hoard clothes worth £285 that they will never wear but refuse to throw out the equivalent of 22 outfits each, according to research

– More than half, 54 per cent said guilt over wasting money made them keep the clothes while 41 per cent were planning to lose weight. And Impulse buys are being blamed by 45 per cent of shoppers for their bulging wardrobe.

– Jeans are a significant problem, with 88 percent owning at least one pair they would never wear, while 22 per cent hoard up to six pairs of shoes and 95 per cent of tops will never be worn.

– Men hoard 19 items worth on average £248, according to the poll of 1,200 adults for the shopping channel QVC.

Getting a wardrobe that works for you is just amazing and gives you a new lease of life. If you feel you could do with getting the wardrobe you have always wanted but didn’t think you could get. And want to know where the key gaps are in your wardrobe and where you should be investing your money wisely, then contact Personal Stylist, Katie Bowen via: www.styko-stylist.co.uk or mobile: 07855 754487.

The Importance of Speed in Martial Arts

In order to be a good martial artist you must aim at excelling in a number of different skills and having at the same time:

  • Strength
  • Agility
  • Coordination
  • Reflexes
  • Balance
  • Endurance
  • Speed

The last but definitely not least one in the list, speed, is to be considered of extreme importance because it affects most of your performance when practicing any martial art and the techniques you are performing in a combat situation. Certain applications of internal martial arts that are practiced for healing, meditation and relaxation purposes are usually performed really slowly and obviously have not connection with the content of this post.

Speed affects the kinetic energy you produce by a quadratic factor: if you double your speed the kinetic energy grows by 4.  Therefore if you are interested in increasing the damage produced by your punches or kicks you should train for increased speed.  Higher speed can come from higher physical fitness by also by learning how to best coordinating all muscles involved in a technique so they all push with precise timing in a well coordinated direction.

By increasing your speed you are not only ensuring that you can hit your target faster and producing more damage; the technique arrives to its destination in a shorter time therefore it’s ready to go back to its original position much faster, making it ready for the next strike.

Being able to perform a technique or combination at a high speed will allow you to surprise even a very well prepared and skilled opponent.  If you could move one arm or leg 10 or 20 times faster that the average martial artist you would not need very complicated combinations and attacking from many different angles; you could just attack your opponent with that single strike and score, every time.

Training for speed should be a mental as well as physical exercise; muscles are trained to become stronger and therefore release more power but, at the same time, speed should be thought as the main goal when training for it.  For instance keeping your muscles relaxed while training and program yourself to tense just the right ones that are involved in a specific movement will offer maximum efficiency for the muscles involved and minimum dissipation of energy in unnecessary movements.

A training scheme I suggest when coaching somebody with the intent of improving their speed is usually represented by the following list of activities:

  • Relax physically and mentally
  • Think and see the movement you are about to perform
  • Concentrate just on the muscles strictly involved in the movement
  • Consciously relax the remain part of the body
  • Try to tense the muscles in the most explosive movement you can possibly imagine
  • Repeat a few times until it becomes second nature

I am a big fan of speed and, while it can be a function of your fitness, speed can be trained and deliver amazing results.  When can you start?

What is Considered Cheating?

The definition of infidelity (according to Wikipedia) Infidelity (colloquially known as cheating, adultery, or having an affair) most commonly refers to a breach of an expectation of sexual and or emotional exclusivity expressed or implied in an intimate relationship.

So the definition states that to cheat is to have an affair whether it be emotional or sexual within an intimate relationship.  I agree with that definition that to cheat is to become involved in an intimate relationship.  I also agree that this can be classed as sexual or emotional.  We all know what sexual infidelity is; making out with the local playboy after one too many Jagerbombs.  However what constitutes as emotional infidelity.  Is it being in love with someone, a little flirting with a work colleague or few flirty texts to a friend of yours?

We all know that a full on rendezvous back to his place is classed as cheating well unless you people are in open relationships (that’s another article).  Also that full blown affairs of the heart are normally classed as a big no no.  Sleeping with another man or woman who isn’t your partner is the ultimate in cheating behaviour.  We’ve all been drunk and in situations we’d rather forget with people we’d rather of never met!  Going out with the girls and getting so drunk that you claim you didn’t know what you were doing is one way of looking at kissing someone you shouldn’t have.  You did something that you shouldn’t do and most probably feel really bad for it.  Snogging someone is one thing, but is a kiss on the lips the same as kissing someone with tongues? A kiss on the lips can either be a quick peck or it can be long and lingering and can be just as damaging to your relationship as the proverbial peck.  I think many people would justify a kiss with no tongues as it’s not intimate right?  I kiss my mum and my best friend on the lips, I don’t use my tongues so surely its not cheating?  I think it all boils down to how you feel afterwards, if there is a pang of guilt attacking your heart then it is probably something you should speak to your partner about.

What about girls kissing girls?  Is that still cheating?  Or a bit of fun that your boyfriend wouldn’t mind being involved with, (and possibly sorry that he actually missed it).  Not very long ago I was chatting to a girl in a club and she clearly took my compliments about her tattoos as an opening to come and checkout what I’d had for breakfast because she full on lunged at me and kissed me.  I was in total shock, that’s not to say I didn’t kiss her back!  It was fun but not something I had initiated and would probably never initiate.  But afterwards I felt so guilty I had to tell my boyfriend as soon as I got in that night and then again the next day to make sure he had remembered!  Luckily he was fine with it and just thought it was funny, but I’m sure we would be having a very different conversation if it was a drum and bass wannabe shoving his tongue down my throat!

What about texting and flirting with people?  Is this classed as cheating?  Flirting is one thing, laughing a bit too much at some guys jokes and flicking your hair at every pun (intended).  Some people are just born flirts and flirt with everyone they know and claim they don’t know there doing it (hmm).  Flirting is one thing but exchanging numbers with someone (other than your boyfriend) is another thing.  Sexting is something that everyone is all too familiar of, especially those kids off of TOWIE, it’s all they every do is sent flirty texts to each other’s boyfriends and girlfriends, then consequently spend days rowing about it for days afterwards.  It’s a sneaky way of cheating really as nothing physical goes on, nobody is kissing or making out outside cheeky chicken.  However it is flirty, sexy and can be worse than kissing someone in my eyes.  These are premeditated sexy messages to another person who isn’t your boyfriend or girlfriend.  I think I would rather have my boyfriend kiss another girl drunkenly that get involved in sexting.  At least the kiss is over and done with and he can feel guilty about it for weeks afterwards.  Texting or even calling another person in secret can be just as damaging as the physical infidelity.

Everyone’s perceptions of cheating are going to be different, depending on the type of relationship you have, or what kind of relationship you are in.  However if you are cheating then you probably shouldn’t be in the relationship at all.  If you haven’t told your partner about you kiss, text etc, then it’s probably classed as cheating.  If you feel guilty about it then you probably shouldn’t be doing it at all….so step away from the instant message.

Images reproduced from twirlit.com and articlesabout men

Want to pull off a jumpsuit? Look great with these four tips!

Jumpsuits are a great way to stand out from the crowd while looking confident. However, many women avoid wearing them because they (mistakenly) believe they don’t have the right body type. With jumpsuits coming in many colors and styles, there is something perfect for women of all shapes and sizes. It’s just a matter of choosing the right style and accessories. Here are a few tips to get you started. 

Tip #1: Choose a solid color 

While patterns can be fun, not everyone feels comfortable wearing them from head to toe. On the contrary, dark, solid colors suit almost everyone. Whether you are looking for regular, plus-sized, or petite jumpsuits, it’s hard to go wrong with black or navy blue. 

Tip #2: Pair with a short jacket

Winter is coming, and the wrong jacket can throw off your whole look. For a flattering outfit that lengthens your legs while shortening your torso, pair your jumpsuit with a cropped blazer or cardigan.  

Tip #3: Accessorize! 

The right accessories can help you showcase your waist and legs – and even make you look taller! In her blog, fashion writer Gabrielle Aruda shows off how simple accessories can make a huge difference. Women looking for style inspiration can try the following:

  • Long necklaces
  • Waist-syncing belt
  • Pointed heels
  • Crossbody bags

Tip #4: Be Confident!

No matter how you choose to style your jumpsuit, the most important thing is that you feel confident at the end of the night. Even if you don’t fall in love with them, jumpsuits are still a fun alternative to dresses and suits and great for sparking creativity! 

Opposites Attract

Struck by the way his dark mocha skin complimented her porcelain complexion,
Her conservative image creatively disturbed by his sinuous dreadlocks and loose-fitting jeans,
Struck by their contagious smiles, magnetised by their togetherness,
I come to a halt, caught myself staring and wondered.

beyonce-jay-zMost of us can summon up a time when we have sighted a couple and stopped in amazement due to the randomness of their pairing. Whilst the little angel perched on your shoulder might have invoked a smile; that mischievous devil probably challenged you to do a double take to satisfy either your inquisitiveness, or sheer ignorance. The celebrity world is beleaguered with examples of what the world may consider to be inequitable couples, ranging from Dita Von Teese and Marilyn Manson, to Beyonce and Jay Z. Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley shocked the world with their partnership, whilst Paula Abdul aptly used her song to emphasise the fact that ‘opposites attract.’ The success of any such partnership is testament to the fact that whilst outwardly they may appear incompatible, there is clearly a secret ingredient, spiritual connection, or trait that they both share to make their relationship work.

Ticking the Perfect Box

We all have a surreptitious idealistic checklist of the characteristics that we would like in a partner; whether it be smouldering eyes, the innate ability to communicate, or an incredible sense of humour. Most dream of the ‘butterfly-in-the belly moment’ when they meet that individual with whom they share mutual physical attraction, core values and an undeniable connection on a spiritual level. However, whilst we seem humanly programmed to flock towards those who share similarities, often enough it is the qualities we do not possess that provide the magnetism. But what keeps you together when you are poles apart?

Opening the Pandora box

We may be conditioned to live by the rules of compatibility, but even the media throws unexpected curveballs when the popular school boy falls for his geeky counterpart, or an unpredictable casual relationship turns into more. The reason to take the leap into the unknown varies for each individual and their situation. Some may take the plunge simply out of curiosity, whilst for others, (despite that fact that the physical attraction has always existed), the fear of disapproval or rejection has prevented them from pursuing the object of their desire.

Opposite characteristics may fuel initial attraction, but it is debateable as to whether they can provide the solid grounding needed for a long term relationship. Magnetism to someone different can contribute to the chemistry, invoke fascination and introduce one to a whole new perspective.  The unanticipated arrival of a tactile and spontaneous partner can fill a new relationship with allure and enthralment to the organised individual who lives by routine. The highly-strung person may seek solace in the passive individual and the party girl may hang up her high heels to spend a quiet evening with her more reserved counterpart. However, it can also increase the likelihood of a tumultuous relationship, if you have two different people who are pulled in two different directions.

Weighing up the scales

This scenario is even addressed in literature by authors such as Shakespeare with his witty characters Benedict and Beatrice, notwithstanding the notorious rollercoaster that brought Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele together in E.L James’s saucy novel ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ However, in reality, what do you do when your opinions and values differ so much that you cannot even agree on your choice of a TV programme, let alone decide on what religion your child should follow? It is easy to lose sight of the reasons you fell in love with your partner, as they might later become the very things that infuriate and frustrate you. For instance, whilst you may initially have found his respectful and cherished relationship with his mother endearing, the fact that he is a classic ‘mummy’s boy’ may be the source of many arguments.

The Secret Ingredient?

In order to ensure longevity in any relationship, it is important to communicate and learn to compromise. When you are different, it is important to be open to possibilities, focus on surmounting difficulties together and refrain from trying to change the other person. Counsellors, psychotherapist and psychologist all have their theories of what constitutes the perfect relationship, but as every individual is unique, it is impossible to provide one set recipe to success. Accept that you are attracted to your partner for their flaws, as well as their attributes and that you are with that person through personal choice. They say familiarity breeds contempt, but life would be extremely mundane if everyone dated themselves, so with that in mind embrace the unknown and celebrate your differences.

 “Our greatest strength as a human race is our ability to acknowledge our differences, our greatest weakness is our failure to embrace them” (Judith Henderson)

Image reproduced from behindthetalent.com

The Dilemma Between Technique and Toughness in Fighting Sports

We define combat sport a sport application or expression of a martial art where we set and impose rules to limit and control the amount of damage that can be inflicted to the opponent.

Ranging from contactless Karate tournament, via Boxing and all the way to MMA fighting sports usually assign points to each technique that scores and in many cases contemplate the eventuality of one of the opponent being knocked out (KO) or giving up the fight before the end and accepting defeat.

I am a strong fan of good technique and properly applied guard at all times: high quality technique will be more efficient in terms of using your energy as well as minimising your change of running out of it.  The guard will ensure you won’t be hit as often or as hard, reducing the chances for a KO from your opponent as well as minimising the points scored on you.  Most people I am teaching to are buying into this concept and accept that good technique must be there as a foundation to build on the remaining attributes of a winner.  A minority of others, being naturally aggressive and perhaps with a higher pain threshold, they assume they can just get in the ring let the opponent coming forward and aiming at knocking them down before the end of the fight.

From my point of view this is a strategy that is meant to be short lived and not guaranteeing a long career for a winner.  Here are my reasons for it:

  • Knocking somebody down, in a fight where both opponent are well trained and fit sports fighter is a small chance of hitting the right spot at the right time: it doesn’t happen often, particularly if your opponent has proper technique and guard;
  • Regardless how tough you are is just going to be time before you meet somebody tougher, somebody who has higher pain threshold, more adrenaline in their body and don’t go down as you expect;
  • If you are just aiming at the KO strike without a point based strategy two things can happen: you don’t succeed at your KO and the opponent wins because scoring more points or you become victim of your own strategy and get hit hard where it really hurts and get knocked down yourself;
  • Repeated hard strikes in the head cause long term disabilities and injuries so even if it doesn’t hurt now it will cause problems later.

Muhammad Ali was the first boxer that demonstrated that a fight could be won by playing by the rules, not looking for a fast KO but keep scoring on the opponent throughout the fight.  That doesn’t mean being a lower quality fighter but simply someone who is there to win, repeatedly, aiming at the top title.  Another demonstration of what I am stating here was the recent boxing fight of David Haye v Nikolai Valuev: the quality of the show was somehow not there as it can be seen in these videos.  Haye kept moving backward and away from his massive opponent Valuev but as he kept scoring with many, many points at the body, he won the world title.  That was a very well managed fight played strategically from beginning to end with the victory in mind.

I would like to conclude with a simple clarification: good technique is not just meant to look good, it’s meant to be very powerful, fast efficient and effective for the person using it.  At the same time when training for sport fighting you should always bear in mind what the rules are and understanding how you can win by scoring more points.  If the KO is allowed in your discipline and you can finish the fight before it may be a bonus but a good fighter is more likely to win more often than a tough one.

Is Ageing A Disease?

ageingWith mice being genetically engineered to live 26% longer than average, age-incidence of a broad spectrum of age-related disease being reduced in the lab and dietary restriction significantly increasing lifespan across species, research seeking treatment for ageing is in action. Telomere modification, free radical level reduction and human growth hormone replacement, all dawn as promising avenues, which may not only decelerate, but may one day reverse the changes associated with ageing. Whilst, current knowledge of the biology of ageing remains too incomplete to assess whether interventions, such as the above, will one day extend average and maximum lifespan, one must the core question: Is ageing even a disease?

Diseases should be cured, it is accepted that this includes age-related diseases. From cancer to neurodegenerative diseases, age is the major risk factor for the majority of these serious illnesses. Treating each individual disease, has a relatively small effect on life expectancy, compared to tackling the process of ageing itself was treated. The definition of disease is historically ambiguous and sensitive to cultural perspectives, homosexuality used to be thought of as a mental illness and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease was only defined as a pathology in 1977. Disease is regarded clinically as the state in which the limits of the normal have been transgressed, health is considered in terms of the absence of disease and expected level of function, at a given gender and age. As ageing is universal, it would seem it is natural, but this does not alter the reality that ageing is a deterioration of normal function. If chronological devices exist, all bodies that exist can be said to age relative to the measurements provided by this, in this way physicians are interested in a set of biological changes over time, such as a higher frequency of cells with chromosomal aberrations in the elderly to decreased melanin formation and white hairs (Hayflick 1974), these changes are universal and inevitable. However, universality and inevitability do not disproof ageing as a disease, rather a special type of disease which everyone inevitably endures.

As one ages, a number of pathologies are gained, to include loss of homeostasis and molecular damage accumulation, which result in the same outcome as severe disease states – death. The perspective of modern biogerontology concludes there is little to distinguish ageing from  a disease state, yet there is a reluctance to view ageing itself as a disease. These unremarkable natural processes in the aged, are confidently viewed as disease where they occur in the young, for example consider the premature ageing disease, progeria. Weismann (1891) argued that ageing and debilitation must be seen as the organism’s new mutational and adaptive responses to fluctuating environments, so ageing benefits the population by removing the superannuated and allowing evolutionary change to take place, which implies ageing to be a very natural part of life. Paradoxically, the evolutionary theory of ageing (ageing being a consequence of a reduction in the force of selection against mutations with deleterious effects later in life, leads to accumulation within population alleles with deleterious effects) potentially illustrates ageing as a lethal genetic disease, with no purpose in terms of fitness. It has been put forward, that evolutionary selection rarely act on entire species or population, rather on individuals and their phenotypic traits which may confer an advantage in certain environments, increasing the likelihood of passing on genes. In this way it is more likely that ageing can be seen as a lethal genetic disease, rather than an evolutionary process under selection. So should ageing be redefined? It seems appropriate, furthermore, a clinical redefinition of ageing as a disease state may lead to added benefits, such as proper safety and efficiency testing of anti-ageing treatments.

Obvious personal, social, economic and environmental problems spring to mind when considering life extension, although a similar change occurred since ancient times (e.g. compare Ancient Assyrians Hebrews and Romans to Syrians, israelis greeks and italians today there has been an increase from 35 to 75 years) and human nature has been able to cope, granted this is no proof that it will be able to do it again given a much greater scale of change. Nevertheless, this does not hold as a compelling argument against the research; with a clever enough government, policies can be put in place when the time comes.

Image reproduced from scmnewused.blogspot.com

Sports & Homeopathy

Using homeopathy in professional sports? Why would they do that?

The sports calendars are now around the clock. Some professional footballers have very little opportunity to rest and repair from an injury While medical drugs have their place, most players would try and stay away from them for the following reasons:

– some painkillers or other medications can make you test positive to doping.
– taking painkillers regularly is not a long-term option. Many players have reported that drugs’ injections have triggered recurrent injuries and even wrecked their careers.
– painkillers are toxic and one of the most leading cause of acute poisoning: for example, Paracetamol toxicity is the foremost cause of acute liver failure in the Western world and liver failure death in the UK.

While this topic rarely makes the news, it is important to understand that professional sportsmen and women had to develop techniques that did not rely on chemical drugs, and this includes homeopathy.

So who uses homeopathy in sports?

A few sports team in the UK have embraced homeopathy. Nelsons, a provider of homeopathic products in the UK will support several English Olympics Teams, such as the women’s beach volleyball. Also, it is claimed that half of Premier League clubs are customers of Welleda, another provider of Homeopathic products.

Doctor Jean-Marcel Ferret, doctor to the French soccer team that won one World Cup and one European Cup has this to say about homeopathy: “I am a doctor that uses homeopathy and not a homeopath. When using homeopathy directly on the soccer field, I find that the results are almost immediate”.

And finally, the Germans teams are also of course big fans as this articles shows – and who would not trust Germans in terms of efficient ways to treat injuries?

Simple advice that you can follow when you play sports

To reduce the risk of injury, there are 3 golden rules:

– stretch as much and as often as you can, and especially every morning when you wake up – cats and children do that first thing, and adults should do as well!
– drink plenty of water on a regular basis and follow a diet specific to your genetic & metabolic type. Please contact me if you want more information.
– whatever your level, follow a practice plan that will keep you away from injury. It can also be good to have a personal trainer. If you are unsure, contact me.

Finally, if injury hits, have a homeopathic first-aid kit. Arnica 30C is a good homeopathic remedy for any kind of injury, and the first to take whatever happens as it will trigger a healing process. Rhus Tox and Ruta are very helpful for muscular and tendon sprains. I recommend people to have some in their cabinet, and take a few pills whenever needed. No side-effects, safe for childen and you will still test negative in anti-doping tests.

However, since discovering the German Traumeel Cream, I now do not bother and suggest people to just use Traumeel. It has all the necessary homeopathic remedies and nourishing nutrients to generate healing at muscular and skin levels… it event helps people with bruise and mosquito bites. Heel’s Traumeel Cream is made by a German pharmaceutical company specialising in homeopathic products, and their product is by far the best on the market. I have seen competitive players coming back to routine training after just a few days of a bad injury, and a lot of customers in my practice now swear by it. Please contact me if you want more information. For any serious injury, it is better to consult a health practitioner.

Images reproduced from homeopathictreatmentonline.com and acuneeds.com

Silk Please

I thought I’d try to show you a dinner suit that we’ve just made. The reason is that everyone who’s looking for a dinner suit asks me what style I prefer. I can describe it easy enough but people always want a picture. So before I put this in the box I took a couple of snaps.

silk1Here at English Cut we try to give you the most honest insight as possible about about the world of bespoke Savile Row tailoring. Therefore we write the in’s and out’s of this craft as it is. When we take photographs we don’t stage them or pay a professional photographer to tale beautiful photographs of our clothes. This can sometimes be a problem because with my limited resources and time a picture of a dinner suit never really shows up any more than a black silhouette.

Alas, if you can forgive my slightly slanted pics you can see that my favourite style is a one button peak lapel with straight jetted pockets (God knows why but some people make them with flaps:() This is matched with a dress waistcoat with rolls or in other words a type of shawl collar. It’s actually quite silly that I complain that it’s hard to capture the details of a dinner suit on film because that is exactly what I try to create with such a garment. It’s not about details, in fact they should be as unobtrusive as possible. It is about the silhouette and a clean dark finish. I always try to squeeze as much shape as possible out of a dinner suit. I try to discourage use of pockets all together. As they say “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”

silk2The picture above is also quite interesting because if you look closely the you can see that the silk facings are slightly lifted off the body. This because we use pure silk facings which you shape and steam very lightly. As they’re worn they settle and fall into the coat with a beautiful look. Again, another example of how you need to wear and let settle down any hand made Savile Row suit. The silk we use would retail (if our suppliers would sell you it) for about £110-20 per meter. Now there are some naughty people that don’t use silk but instead something that looks and dare I say it feels almost identical. The alternative has many attractions in that you can tailor it very easily and it’s very easy to press. Also it retails for about £20.00 per meter which makes it a very attractive alternative. Its proper name is polyester bonded facing. Hmmm,,, it looks as good and a lot easier to look after but do you really want polyester as part of your wardrobe?

Making Sense of Grocery-store Eggs

Grocery stores have lots of different kinds of eggs. All
come from chickens, but some are labeled “all natural”, others
“organic”, and still others “free-range”. Some are even “organic
free range”. So what are the differences and which are best? All
Natural: This term is generally meaningless. This is what the
conventional egg industry calls its eggs in order to make them
sound healthy and wholesome when they really aren’t. It is almost
the same as having no designation at all on the label. “All
Natural” is code for “We have nothing good to say about our eggs
because they come from hens that spend their whole lives in the
dark in crowded cages eating nothing but chemical-laced grain.”
Unless you are suffering from actual starvation, these eggs are
best left alone.

Free-Range: Hmmm. What does this mean? Sounds like chickens living
wild, roaming out on the range, free. This is a joke. Nothing could
be less true. While “free range” eggs are certainly better than
”all natural” eggs, they are not what they sound like. “Free range”
usually means “Our chickens are not confined in cages, but they
spend their entire lives in a huge chicken house the size of a
football field crowded wall-to-wall with tens of thousands of their
feathery friends with little room to move.” There is nothing “free”
or “rangey” about the lives of these birds. Their situation is
better than that of chickens stuck in tiny cages, but their living
conditions are still unhealthy and unnatural. Cage Free: This term
means the same thing as “free range”.

Organic: This is
a good thing. In the conventional system, non-organic eggs almost
always come from chickens that are fed a meal of
genetically-modified corn or soybean that had been sprayed with
pesticides and herbicides and that is now laced with various
antibiotics and other harmful chemicals. “Organic” eggs, on the
other hand, come from chickens that are fed grain that is at least
not genetically modified, that lacks antibiotics, and that has not
been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. The eggs of such
chickens are healthier as a result because they lack residues of
such chemicals. In addition, organic eggs are required to come from
chickens that are cage-free and have “outdoor access.” In reality,
however, such access usually consists of only a teeny-tiny door on
the side of a monstrous chicken house, which the birds hardly know
exists, which they have little chance of reaching, and which leads
merely to a small cement porch with no grass. Vegetarian Diet: Many
eggs have labels that brag that the chickens were fed a “vegetarian
diet”. Whoopee!! Although it is good that their feed does not
contain animal bi-products, a vegetarian diet is not a healthy diet
for a chicken, which is a carnivore. In addition to grain and
forage, chickens naturally eat and derive protein from bugs, grubs,
larvae, worms, and even small rodents. Without access to such
foods, their eggs will be far less nutritious. Pastured: “Pastured
eggs” are the antithesis of eggs produced in the conventional
system–whether “all natural” or “free range”. It is what you want
if you are looking for maximum nutrition and sustainable
production. These eggs are rarely found in grocery stores, and you
usually have to go directly to a farm to buy them. Unlike “all
natural” and “free range” eggs, pastured eggs are exactly as they
sound–they are from chickens raised on pasture. Because they are
raised on pasture, they have access to grass, and lots of it. They
also have access to bugs, grubs, larvae, and worms, delicious bits
that chickens always relish. Because these chickens have ample
access to foods found in their natural diet and they are able to
exhibit their natural behavior, their eggs are A LOT more
nutritious than conventionally produced eggs–organic or not–as
exhibited by their darker-colored yolks. Pastured eggs can be
”organic”, but often they are not. One reason is that the
organically raised animals require a controlled environment in
order to guarantee that the animals receive nothing but organic
feed. Pasture is outside, therefore, it is often not a controlled
environment. Unless the entire farm is certified organic, it is
difficult to claim that the chickens eat only organic food. A
second reason is that farmers who raise animals on pasture often
want to avoid the substantial costs of getting an organic
certification, and they and their customers already know that their
pastured eggs are just as good without it. Eggs from pasture raised
chickens are always the best by far, especially when they are from
a farmer that you know and trust. Nothing can substitute for a
personal relationship between consumer and farmer. With that, I
would rank eggs as follows, with the 1 being the best:

  1. Pastured
  2. Organic
  3. Free-range or cage-free
  4. All
    natural

Now, I think it’s time to make an
omelet. Photo source: http://www.bujaboutique.com

Spaghetti with Chicken and Peppers

As I said in a previous post I am in Dubai for two months and am currently sitting in my very spacious hotel room/apartment. I have a big bedroom with en suite bathroom, the lounge/diner is twice the size than my own in London, as is the kitchen in fact I think it’s about four times bigger. The BIG problems with the kitchen is, it’s seriously lacking in everything. I have two electric hobs that quickly throw out a lot of heat, but I have only one saucepan, one frying pan and a kettle that takes ages to boil. In fact it’s quicker for me to call room service for hot water than to wait for the kettle. But we adapt and make changes to the way we do things and work with what we have. I also have no oven, but it looks like my microwave can be used as a grill, but have yet to “play” with it. As a microwave it is slow but it works.

chicken-and-pepper-pasta

Being someone who loves to cook it’s going to be interesting creating food with such little equipment. This is the first dish that I have attempted to cook since I’ve been here. I used chicken thighs, as they have more flavour than chicken breasts and they don’t dry out whilst cooking. It was fun de-boning them with a small serrated knife, but I managed and didn’t cut myself. It wasn’t the best recipe and it’s won’t set the world alight, but it was a healthy and light dish that could become a typical meal whilst I’m in here as it was very quick and easy.

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed, de-boned and roughly chopped
  • 2 peppers, de seeded and sliced
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to season

Place the oil into a pan and turn on the hob. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the chicken and cook until all the outside edge of the chicken is white about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the peppers and mix into the chicken mixture. Add the tinned tomatoes, dried thyme and season

Cook for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is done. Serve with pasta or rice.

Seesaw Your Way to Super Fast Fat Loss

Fiona Kirk_Fat in the City_HeaderYou may have tried one or two (or more) ‘low carb’ diets and if you have, you likely saw a good few pounds gratifyingly drop off in reasonably quick time. However, one of the most common complaints I hear from dieters is that after a while, cravings for bread, pasta, potatoes and pastries start to invade and they start dreaming of hot buttered toast and Krispy Kreme doughnuts!

I decided the time had come to see if I could devise a nutritious and delicious fat loss plan that satisfies our hard-wired desire for the comfort of starchy foods whilst at the same time accelerating fat loss. Much research and copious hours of recipe testing have gone into this project but I am rather pleased with the result! Take a minute to have a quick look at my gallery to see visuals of some of the dishes involved.

The diet focuses on what I call my ‘seesaw strategy’ where you have 3 days with no starch other than the small amounts provided by fruits and vegetables followed by a day where a little starch is included in the form of oats, potatoes, rice etc. The reason this strategy works is because studies show that when we know that some of our ‘favourites’ are not totally off limits, cravings (the dieters nemesis) are greatly reduced and after a short time, can disappear altogether.

Another important aspect of the diet is the recommendation to have a really good feed at each meal to keep hunger at bay and negate the need for ‘between meal’ snacks and leave 5 hours between meals to allow the fat burning hormone, glucagon to work its magic and encourage stored fat to be released from those ‘way too comfortable’ fat cells on hips, bums and bellies, provide energy and in the process, shrink on a daily basis!

There are however, a couple of snack options that I do endorse and one of them is chocolate. Far from being the enemy to fat loss, a little dark chocolate each day encourages a few very helpful actions. The ‘reward’ chemical, dopamine and the ‘happy and relaxed’ chemical, serotonin are released, magnesium levels which help to calm the nervous system are increased and last but not least, we don’t feel deprived and miserable which makes super fast fat loss a breeze!

The ‘seesaw strategy’ can be followed for as little as 4 days if time is tight and an event or holiday is looming or for as long as you wish without fear of going hungry or running short on essential nutrients and the need to obsessively count every calorie or step on the scales every morning doesn’t feature (super busy people simply don’t have time!)

Since the publication of the 2 Weeks in the Super Fast Lane diet in eBook format through Kindle (RRP £2.99) at the end of last month, I have already received a great many very encouraging emails from dieters across the globe. Here’s just one from a reader in Singapore: “8 days in, hooked on the Parsley Soup on no starch days and the Crispy Topped Baked Fish on starch days, savouring my daily chocolate moments and I wore a skirt to work today that I haven’t been able to get past my hips in months!”

To find out more about the diet, click here to have a ‘Look Inside’ the book, head to my website, join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Massor Lentils and Sweetcorn Daal

Did you remember the recent hose pipe ban in the United Kingdom? It was rather strange that our country faced one of the driest periods on record. So the government issued a ban that effected almost 20 million people, introducing fines of up to £1000 if used. The government urged householders to be “smarter about how we use water”.

However, after some praying we were blessed with quite a rainy period lifting the ban and that made me so happy. However, the rain also brought a traffic chaos and I did not leave the house to go shopping much. We didn’t have any Indian vegetables in the house and my daughter seemed to be rather delighted.

So I thought I would soak some lentils and cook them for dinner. Then at the same time I saw that in my freezer we had two open bags of sweet corn and I thought I could make corn curry, too. But then contemplating again I didn’t want to prepare two dishes at the same time. So why not use lentils and sweet corn in the same dish? Here is the recipe I came up with:

You will need:

  • 1 bowl whole Masoor (I used green Masoor) you can use red kidney beans too
  • 1 bowl sweetcorn (I used frozen but tinned should work equally well)
  • 2-3 tbp green chillies, ginger and garlic crushed
  • 2-3 tbp roasted peanuts powder (optional)
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, crushed
  • few fresh curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp kasoori methi (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp dhana jeera powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbp oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds

Method:

Rinse Masoor 2-3 times, soak for an hour and pressure cook with 2-3 cups of water. I cook mine on a medium heat with 6-7 whistles or until soft.

Grind chillies, garlic and ginger in a grinder with tomatoes. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan, add mustard seeds, and then add curry leaves and kasoori methi, fry for few seconds and add tomato pulp with garlic and ginger paste. Lower the heat, add red chilli ,tumeric, garam masala, dhana jeera powder and salt. Cook masala until oil is appears on the side of the pan.

Now add frozen sweetcorn and peanut powder. Let everything cook for 3-4 minutes. Add boiled Masoor and mix very well. Add 1/2 – 1 cups of water. Cook everything for 10-12 minutes and stir in between. Add a little water if massor dal is too thick. Then cook for another 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat. This dish is now ready to serve with hot roti and mixed salad.

Trick or Treat?

Halloween is my favourite time of year and always has been.  The thing with Halloween is why us girls love it so much because, let’s be honest it’s the one day of the year we can dress up in next to nothing and have nobody pass judgement on us.  It’s not even about dressing up to scare people anymore; it’s more a case of snaring people come the 31st.  I think what attracts us to the whole dressing up idea is that we can be an alter ego for the night.  We put on a false façade and pretend to be someone else for the next 8 hours.

It can give us a sense of empowerment I think when we dress up.  We can hide behind our real self for the night or take on our new found persona.  I think being dressed up and chatting up guys is such a great combination.  It’s a definite conversation starter and you can get in character a bit with the outfit you have taken on.  If you have a great outfit on, men want to come and talk to you and women well wish they had chosen that outfit for themselves.  It’s a win, win!

The fun thing about meeting guys in costume is that you can’t always be too sure what they look like underneath if they’re wearing a mask or lots of war paint.  So it’s a great time for personalities to shine through!  Its exhilarating to not quite know what they look like or who they might really be under the outfit.  If you find yourself getting into character for Halloween then I find it can be a real confidence booster when talking to your prospective dates for that evening.

When I met my boyfriend I’d organised a Halloween party at my house.  Of course there were boys there who were Uncle Fester, ghosts and Donnie Darko’s for the night but the girls went for a more imaginative look.  We had pirates, an Amy Winehouse look alike and then me, a Moulin Rouge impersonator.  I was going for sultry and leggy for the evening.  I was single and looking to embark on a more lewd outfit the course of play.  I thought that hot pants, fishnets, a corset complete with feather headdress and long gloves would do the trick, as I attempted to woo my prospective boy for the evening.

A few hours in and a few vodkas in I began to have second thoughts.  It’s not something I would attempt again, because what with the 5inch heels and giant hair feathers I was about 10 feet tall, unable to cruise under doors without the aid of Miss Winehouse to help me.  I looked like a drunken old drag queen by the end of the night!  I was just glad I was in the safety of my own home and not in some club, having to drag myself home minus a glove and feathers at 3am.

Gone are the days of ugly pointy nosed witches and scary looking ghosts, it’s all about sexy pirates and cheerleaders to fantasise about.  However, I did don a Mummy outfit last year.  Head to toe in bandages and white face paint with black eye rims and a bloody face.  Complete with actual first aid bag.  Not sexy, not seductive and not sultry.   Just bandages unravelling come 1am and birds nest hair where my makeshift ‘mummy’ headband had come loose.  However the first aid bag was a real talking point and I proceeded to put on my best ‘dead’ pose when I was trying to avoid drunken ghouls.

However my first attempt at a Halloween ensemble did not scare my prospective man (too much).  Even when he did have to peel feathers out of my hair come the early hours.  I’m told I am the best looking drag queen this side of Kemp Town.  We have made it through 4 happy Halloween’s together complete with Mummy outfits and all, I just haven’t broken the feathers out since.

Images reproduced from data.whicdn.com and vampires.com

Birthday Expectations

Today is my birthday but what is it about a birthday that brings out the diva in us girls? It’s all about me, me, me for 24 hours, the world is mine and I shall do with it whatever I choose (or tell you to do). It’s like our inner Veruca Salt (the dreadful spoilt one in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) has finally found a voice for one day of the year. Daddy I want a pony and I want it now! Replace daddy with ‘baby’ and pony with the word ‘Louboutins’ and you have your very own rendition of super sweet sixteen in the middle of your twenties.

I’m a big birthday girl myself, love my birthday and I love celebrating other peoples especially my boyfriends. I love to spoil him, take my time choosing the prefect gift and take him somewhere fancy for the night and get dressed up. Plus drinking in the middle of the day is expected on birthdays, (anyone’s birthday I find).


Of course we want a little bit of pampering and to be spoilt for the day from our loved ones (it’s the only day of the year that you can’t shout at us or tell us no). OK so we know the Louboutins aren’t coming (sign) but we have a day of fun to look forward to right? Maybe a nice lunch or a bit of sight-seeing or shopping, followed by a martini at happy hour. Well not for a dear friend of mine who shall remain nameless for today. Her boyfriend did the exact opposite to her, with a big build up to the day and how excited she was going to be on her birthday. He told her that he had a fabulous day planned and that she was going to love what she’d done for her. So you can imagine the thoughts swimming round in her head. Oh a puppy maybe, a new car, or a trip to London shopping with unlimited access to the platinum, topped off with a trip to Gordon Ramsey’s. How exciting. So they get up and travel up to London all going swimmingly so far yes this could be Oxford Street and a boozy lunch in store, wonderful. Realising they had not got off at Oxford Street, wonders what they could be doing. Slowly, slowly more and more signs for London Zoo appear. OK that’s fine it must be past the zoo whatever where doing? Surely her boyfriend cannot be taking her to London Zoo for her 30th birthday. Surprise! Well that could be a deal breaker for some people, especially when she gets home to a surprise party to find that there is no actual present from her man to be opened at the end of the night. Just a bit of left over zoo food and a guide map.

The fact that there was some thought put into the day is very sweet, but sometimes things can be built up too much from you man and you wish they hadn’t said a word. We love a guy who puts imagination into the day, If thoughts gone into it then we play along and tell you that we love it. However on the other hand some men think it is acceptable to do nothing on their girlfriend’s special day. Another girl I know has been with her partner for many years and every year it’s the same thing. No present, she’s booking the restaurant herself and normally paying for it too. Now there’s a birthday treat you’d rather not get excited for.

Personally I found that going to Las Vegas stopped all of that birthday expectations build up! I was in Vegas seeing a show and having a fancy dinner with my man. I had a wonderful day because I was in Vegas baby! I refused to celebrate my 30th birthday in England, I decided this would be depressing enough as it is without visiting the local hang outs and someone being sick on my shoes come midnight. I advise anyone who has a birthday coming up and does not have faith in their partner to do the right thing, then to book a holiday immediately! He won’t have to put as much effort into it as you will already be happy enough to be on holiday and the chances are you won’t be expecting too much either. Just stay away from the local zoos.

Nut Brittle


Ingredients:

Mixed Nuts (Almonds, Pistachios, Cashew nuts) – 1 Cup
Poppy Seeds / Khus Khus – 2 tbsp
Cardamoms – 4 -5
Sugar – 1 Cup
Ghee Clarified Butter ( ghee)- 1 tbsp

Method:

1. Slice all mixed nuts. Powder the Cardamom seeds.
2. In a heavy bottomed pan, add ghee and sugar. On low heat melt the sugar.
3. When the sugar is melted and caramelized to a light brown color add the sliced mixed nuts, Khus Khus, and powdered cardamoms. Mix till nuts are coated well with the caramelized sugar.
4. Pour this mixture onto the back of a thali/ greased plate or on a rolling board.
5. Using the back side (flat side) of a cup, flatten the mixture like a thick chapatti or disc. You can use a rolling pin to roll the mixture. This has to be done very quickly as the mixture begins to harden as soon as it is removed from heat.
6. Before mixture begins to set score lines where you want to break the varo as this will make it easier to get uniform size pieces when set as Varo will break on the scored lines .
7. Leave the rolled Varo to set for some time.

Break into pieces and store in air tight containers