The Diet “Experts” – Are They Having a Laugh?

Fiona Kirk_Fat in the City_Header

Move aside veganism, there are a few new kids on the block in 2013 and boy do these ‘diet gurus’ know how to charge for their pearls of wisdom!

I have to confess that I do keep an eagle eye on the New York Bestsellers list – any writer that tells you they don’t want to see their book featured is either lying or has a very well-paid job doing something else and doesn’t need to depend on book sales to pay the bills!

When it comes to diet books, it is impossible to keep up and my sympathy goes out to all those who have no sooner got to grips with one particular diet before another one hits the headlines. What do you do? Bin the one you are currently working with in favour of the new one that now promises faster fat loss or stick to your guns? It’s a dilemma!

Personally, I am all in favour of quick fix diets (oops, I can hear my contemporaries groaning, loudly!) Why? Because, research continues to reveal that when we see results in the early stages we are motivated to keep going – it’s not rocket science! Yes, there are some diets out there which are a bit crazy and restrictive and if we stick with them for longer than the prescribed time we are likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies which then see our metabolism slowing down to a snails pace to keep us thriving BUT in all the years I have been working in the fat loss game I have rarely come across anyone who say “I am looking for a diet that results in slow and steady weight loss”. Of course, this is the healthier route but let’s get real – we are all in a rush!

I digress. Back to the current crop of diets that seem to be keeping my diets off the New York Bestsellers list – hard not to get grumpy but I won’t wallow in that place! 2012 was all about ‘going vegan‘ and almost every time I stepped on stage to discuss diets, dieting, fat loss and the rest there were questions from the floor about the perceived success of such diets which I happily addressed but usually with the warning that a complete change to your whole way of shopping, cooking and eating can be a mighty big hill to climb (and it’s rare that the rest of the family embrace such change which makes life tricky to say the least).

This month (new year, new you and all that) it’s portion control, meal spacing, whole foods (what, again?), more gluten-free stuff AND intermittent fasting. Not so long ago, everything to do with fasting was slammed, principally because most of us lead very busy lives, require lots of energy which we get from food and if we don’t get it, we get tired, miserable, irritable and ultimately sick. We lose weight but at what cost? Fasting has been part and parcel of many faiths over many centuries but it is not something that should be undertaken without expert guidance. Intermittent fasting, however is something quite different and if managed properly results in fast and lasting fat loss for many but there is nothing new about it, despite what the media might have you believe.

Anyone who has read any of my books or articles knows I have been a fan of intermittent fasting for years. Where the confusion possibly lies is that it has gained a new name (oh, the power of marketing). It used to be called ‘calorie cycling’ or ‘zig-zag dieting’ and professional athletes and natural bodybuilders have been employing the principles successfully before competition for years.  Animal studies indicating the health benefits of this type of diet started appearing in the 1970’s and 80s, human studies followed when I was studying nutritional therapy back in the 1990’s and if I remember rightly, I first started scribbling about it around 2000. But hey ho, it’s way too easy to get cynical! As mentioned, the scaremongers don’t like it much, their argument being that it encourages disordered eating patterns and you can’t expect to nourish your body properly on a daily basis when you adopt a pattern where you seriously restrict calories for two or three days a week – what rubbish! If you stick with seriously low calorie diets for days/weeks on end of course your body will start to struggle BUT if your diet is currently a bit of a road accident and you are carrying excess flab it will say a mighty big ‘thank you’ if you give it a break every few days and allow it to focus on badgering your fat stores into giving up their energy stores and shrinking in the process – trust me, it is not news!

Before I go, I need to get back to my first point and have a quick rant about how much some of the ‘experts’ are charging for their pearls of wisdom. The number one bestseller as I write, by that scary military guy who belittles every contestant on TV progs like Celebrity Fat Club, Ian K Smith wants to relieve you of $25 of your hard-earned cash to ‘lose 2 sizes and 4 inches in 6 weeks’ and that Wheat Belly fellow, William Davis M.D is charging  the same to help you ‘find your path back to health’. I have read both books (I really do read every diet book that hits the shelves) and I applaud a lot of what they say but come on, don’t hit those who desperately want/need to lose weight where it hurts – their wallets!

So, what’s my advice for January 2013 and the route to a new ‘leaner, meaner you’? Employ a degree of skepticism, don’t believe everything you read, email me through my website, if you want a pretty unbiased view of any diet you are thinking of embarking on – oh and make soup a major part of your day (sorry, a blatant push of my Soup Can Make You Thin diet)!

Don’t Let Poor Sleep Ruin Your Life

Sleep is such an important subject for health, because repair for the body and the mind occur primarily during sleep. Because of this, long-term sleep issues can make physical and emotional issues worse. They can also contribute in an increase in irritability, fatigue and low performance. For example, statistics show that people who are short of sleep are more likely to suffer from an accident in the workplace.

Let’s go straight into the subject by clarifying what is a healthy sleep. Individual requirements for sleep actually vary widely, from as few as 4 hours to 9 hours of sleep every night. It can be OK to sleep as little as 4 hours if this is complemented by a nap during the day (to accommodate work schedules or through customs).

What manages sleep in the body?

Medically, sleeping patterns are considered to be driven by the hormonal system: the levels of the cortisone hormones in the blood tend to rise just before waking up, and fall before going to bed. In parallel, the pineal gland secretes the melatonin hormone when it gets dark around us. Melatonin is indeed sometimes referred to as the “sleep hormone”. However, as in general for health, it is not as simple as that: many people can sleep in full light, or during daytime, and with practice most people can achieve “power naps” (a 15/20 minute sleep).

Sleep issues are actually not a disease but a symptom that can have many causes. Insomnia is defined as a partial or full lack of sleep during the night. It is the most critical sleep problem.

Disturbed sleep, excessive perspiration, difficulty to get to sleep or a feeling of being un-refreshed and tired when getting out of bed, are however equally damaging on the long run, and can also lead to problems.

How can I manage my sleep naturally?

Lifestyle has a big part to play in poor sleep patterns, and simple steps can have huge effects. The main approach is to be as relaxed as possible when going to bed. Follow this simple advice:

1. Do not to watch any TV, computers or play video-games one to 2 hours before going to bed. These are big exciters for our brain, and will definitely disturb the levels of cortisone and melatonin just before sleep. Try and replace this with a relaxing or a social activity.

2. Ensure that your diet is low in refined carbohydrate, soft drinks, coffee or tea. You may have sleep issues because of what you eat: foods that keep your brain active are likely to disrupt your hormonal system.

3. If you think that you are sensitive to electromagnetic frequencies (WiFi, mobile phones, DECT phones), then try and not use them one hour before sleep, at night put the DECT phones on their bases and switch off your WiFi and mobile phone. See if it improves over 2 weeks. Electromagnetic Field Sensitivity is not really accepted by the conventional medical sector in France and in the UK but it has been recognised by the World Health Organisation in 2005, and is also recognised among other countries in Germany, Russia and Switzerland. Its main symptoms are headache, insomnia and minor edemas. This can be improved with holistic approaches.

4. Also, strong spices or artificial additives like glutamate (MSG) have been linked to sleep issues. So if you suspect this to be an issue, try and stay off them for a couple of weeks to see if it makes a difference. – Drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day. Many people are not good at spotting that their body is not hydrated. A poorly hydrated body is usually under stress, and this can lead to anxiety and sleep issues.

5. Practice some form of relaxation or meditation to train your mind to “calm down”.

6. Finally, herbal tea like chamomile, passiflora, valerian or hops can help you find sleep. However, especially for valerian and hops, I have seen people being sensitive to these herbs.

Click here for more tips on a healthy lifestyle and nutritional advice for the nervous system, that will both help sleep in the long run.

What happens if the issue is so deep that the above advice does not help?

Since starting about 7 years ago, I have been seeing many people with sleep issues in my practice. This is definitely a 21st Century issue!

"sleep", "insomnia"The most common cause is emotional (anxiety, depression or linked to a trauma). Homeopathy can help a lot here. Finding a remedy fitting the cause and the symptoms can bring amazing results. If you feel you know the cause, get a first-aid kit and see if you can find the relevant remedy (feel free to contact me for guidance).

The second type of issue is linked to a disturbance to the hormonal system/brain’s built-in clock. This is common after taking some conventional medications, or a long period of poor lifestyle. It can also be linked to a medical condition, like sleep apnoea, nasal polyps Alzheimer’s or even a stroke. In these cases, a consultation is required.

The other big cause is related to life patterns, such as for air pilots/air hostesses or after having to tend a dying relative or a young child. If the issue does not go by itself after a change of lifestyle or diet, then a consultation can help.

What happens if I am taking medications to sleep, and I want to stop?

If you have been a long term user of conventional sleep medications, and find you cannot stop them, then it is because the actual cause of the sleep issues has not been addressed. In most cases, it is best to consult Your health practitioner will have to first help you with any underlying issue impacting sleep and then work in cooperation with your GP so that the latter can reduce your medications slowly and gently.

We hope that your found this article helpful. Please share your experiences or advice on sleep issues by leaving a comment below.

Have a good month and a restful sleep!

Images reproduced from &

Mirrors, Shakers and Manhattans

It’s been quiet on the invite side. I would put this down to the busy holiday season. Saying that I’ve still been invited to a couple of shindigs this week.

The week started with a couple of drinks at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone. I usually frequent the Mirror Bar with the charming Bar Manager Salvatore. I have taken many a friend here to impress, to date or even to meet new friends!

Mirror Bar at Landmark Hotel

The bar is very small but adequate.  The list includes classics such as Negroni’s, Manhattans, Martini’s and of course Salvatore will prepare a bespoke cocktail to your needs and desires at the time. I usually swear by the Landmark martini with a lemon twist which never fails to deliver. If you prefer something a little sweeter this can be accommodated with a fruit twist or maybe a passionfruit martini (another favourite) I also like to be offered bar snacks and there is always a decent selection of nuts/crackers/snacky bits.

The sushi platter is also excellent: a plate of salmon and tuna sashimi rolled beautifully, chicken satay and delicious tapas.

Salvatore also offers cocktail masterclasses which need to be booked in advance. They are for a complete beginner and usually include background to cocktails, theory and actual practise. These are becoming very popular for alternative birthday bashes, hen do’s or just generally for something different. You can almost pretend you are an expert mixologist.

Mixologist at Shaker & Company

My other favourite place in town is a wonderful bar called Shaker & Company just off the Euston Road. This is in the style of a speakeasy/Saloon bar and these bars are becoming increasingly popular. The Nightjar is another example of a speakeasy (Old Street roundabout).  Shaker & Company was originally a training school for bartenders and has reared some well known cocktail shakers and makers in the industry.  It continues with the bar school but also has the bar and what a fine bar it is. Just downstairs is a small function room which has been known to host “pop ups” such as Four Roses Bourbon, Ketel One featuring an Amsterdam exhibition and more to come.

The drinks are excellent with all the modern classics again but specialities are whiskies and bourbons. Ask the bartenders for recommendations as they know their stuff and take a nice group of friends.

I was invited to an event hosted by a quirky whisky company called Monkey Shoulder.  Cool name too.  It is part of a monthly event whereby you have a different theme each month such as Manhattan followed by Old Fashioned, Whiskey Punch and others.   This week featured “Manhattan” and featured cardboard cutouts of Manhattan strangely enough  with a makeshift Statue of Liberty as you entered, cardboard cutout taxis to wear (yes very unusual)   As we entered a Monkey signed us in…

We were then given a handful of American dollars to spend at the four bars that were dotted around the room. Once at the bar we were given a brief description of the whisky, cocktails such as a Manhattan – the one with the maraschino twist was delicious and option to even double up for more cocktails with a “banker” who was walking around.

I am quite a whisky fan so this was most enjoyable.  After sampling a few of the cocktails it was then time for the Monkey Shoulder organisers to usher us out of the warehouse by being chased out by their monkey King Kong and they did this with an extinguisher and out we were again.  This event will be running monthly in secret locations so have a look at the website for Monkey Shoulder.

Images reproduced from, and Alexandra Abrahams

What to Know About Legal Weed in Maine

Whether you are a new Maine resident, a long-time Mainer who is just getting into cannabis, or someone just exploring New England on vacation, it’s good to learn about Maine’s cannabis laws. Maine is one of a handful of states that allows both medical and recreational use of marijuana. Take a quick look through our explainer to find out what you need to know about legal weed in Maine.

Does Maine have medical cannabis?

Yes. Maine has been a medical marijuana state since 1999. Ballot Question 2, also known as the Maine Medical Marijuana for Specific Illnesses, passed that year to give people with serious health conditions access. The 2009 Maine Medical Marijuana Act expanded access and also decriminalized possession of up to 2.5 ounces of flower.

There are no qualifying conditions for getting medical cannabis in Maine. If you and your physician agree that you need it, you can get a card.

Maine also has reciprocal agreements with other medical cannabis states. This means that if you have a medical cannabis card in your home state, you can purchase weed in Maine for medical purposes.

What about adult use?

In 2016, Maine voters passed An Act to Legalize Marijuana, which allows adults 21 or older to possess, consume, and cultivate cannabis for personal use. Under the law, residents and visitors can purchase marijuana in licensed dispensaries. As with any regulated substance, there are a few caveats to be aware of:

  • you have to be 21 or over to buy or possess marijuana in the state.
  • consumption, whether it’s edibles, flower, or vapes, is not legal in public. This includes resorts, music venues, restaurants, and public places like sidewalks and parks.
  • you can be charged with an OUI if you consume marijuana then get behind the wheel.
  • you cannot cross state lines with cannabis.
  • you cannot bring it into federal property like a national park. These are under federal jurisdiction.
  • Maine has possession limits. Recreational users can have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 5 grams of concentrate.

As long as you are aware of the limitations, you can relax and enjoy adult use marijuana in the state of Maine.

Where can I buy cannabis in Maine?

While it is legal to grow up to three mature and 12 immature cannabis plants in Maine, there are restrictions on where it can be legally bought and sold. People can and are prosecuted for black market trade of cannabis. To stay on the right side of the law (and to know what you’re getting) purchase cannabis only from licensed dispensaries in Maine

What to know before you go.

You will need a photo ID that confirms that you are over the age of 21 to enter an adult use dispensary in Maine. You can use ID from any state, as long as it is legal and up to date.

Before you visit a Maine dispensary, double check to see that dispensary’s policies. Some are cash only, others accept debit and credit cards.

The rules are pretty accommodating. Take a bit of time to acquaint yourself, then enjoy what the state has to offer.

7 Tips for Saving on Shipping Costs

Is your business ready for the holiday shopping season? To make sure you are prepared for the busying season, you’ll need to organize shipping.

Why Shipping Is An Important Consideration in 2021

2021’s Christmas period is going to look a lot different to both 2020 and 2019’s seasons. While 2019 felt fairly normal, 2020 was the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, and 2021 is set to be very busy with a lot of COVID-19 restrictions still in place across the world.

While the impact will be most strongly felt in North America, it will also affect Europe and Asia.

A lot of freight shipping routes will be disrupted, which impacts your ability to get stock into your warehouse. This year more than any before, you need to plan ahead on how you are going to get all your stock out of your warehouses and into people’s Christmas lists on time.

Below are some tips on how to save on shipping costs.

Shop Around For Less Expensive Shipping Services

If you have a website, do not hesitate to check the websites of competitors who may provide less expensive shipping rates than those offered by your current shipping carrier.

You can compare freight shipping rates, freight shipping quotes, and delivery dates to see which website allows you to ship your item faster and still save money.

Do Your Research

It’s important to know the different freight shipping carriers, including their rates and timetables, so you can be strategic in choosing which carrier is best for you and your business.

Get a Quote for Shipping

The best way to determine which shipping carrier is best for your particular needs is to obtain a quote from a number of carriers for one shipping rate. Then you can compare the cost of various carriers before selecting which company has the lowest rate.

Be sure that each shipping carrier understands your business and your product so they will be able to provide you with the most competitive shipping rates.

Know What You’re Shipping

Knowing the weight of what you’re sending, as well as its dimensions, will help determine the cheapest way to ship it based on those criteria rather than other factors like shape or content.

If you do not know the weight and dimensions, be sure to measure them carefully to avoid paying shipping fees that are much higher than what was quoted.

Send Storage Boxes with Your Products

If you are sending out fragile or easily damaged products, consider sending the products in sturdy storage boxes rather than packaging products individually.

Boxes will provide extra protection for your fragile items. A small box may be cheaper to ship than an item packaged individually, especially if your merchandise is lightweight.

Avoid Oversized and Overweight Shipping

Shipping items that are oversized or overweight will cost you significantly more to ship. You can save money by using oversize boxes that still fit within the weight limits of the shipping carrier.

Use Reusable Packaging

Using reusable packagings like bubble mailers or boxes will reduce the need for new materials and cut down on shipping costs by making sure that it stays within its weight limit through reusability.

Paneer and mixed vegetables stir fry


Lately, I have been using paneer in a lot of curries.  This recipe is slightly different from my usual curries as the curry is dry and can be used to eat on its own, or inside a wrap like a sandwich.

Ingredients for 3-4 servings:

  • 2 cups of cubed paneer
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables (I used cauliflower, broccolli, carrots, peas)
  • 2-3 tbls Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbls dhana jeeru ( a mixture of coriander and cumin powder)
  • 2 tbls juice of fresh lemon or lime


  1.  Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds.  Once the seeds go dark, add the paneer and stir it so that the oil coats the paneer. Lightly cook it stirring gently to avoid breaking the paneer cubes. Just allow them to brown ever so lightly.


2. Now all the prepared vegetables to the paneer and sprinkle the salt, turmeric, chili powder and dhana jeeru.  Mix it well and allow to cook on a low heat with the lid on. If the curry feels too dry, add half a cup of boiling water to it.



3.  Once the vegetables soften, add the lemon juice, take the wok off the heat and leave it covered for 5 minutes- to allow all the vegetables to continue  cooking in their steam.


4.  The curry is ready to serve with chappatis or rice.  We like to have this as a filling for tortilla wraps.


How to Catch Wild Pigs

I recently came across the following story about how to catch wild pigs that serves as a commentary on the state of freedom in modern America.

A chemistry professor at a large college had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab the Professor noticed one young man (exchange student) who kept rubbing his back, and stretching as if his back hurt. The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country’s government and install a new communist government.

In the midst of his story he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked, ‘Do you know how to catch wild pigs?’ The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said this was no joke. ‘You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again.

You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. The pigs, who are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat; you slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught.

Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity. The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening to America. The government keeps pushing us toward socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare, medicine, drugs, etc. while we continually lose our freedoms—just a little at a time.

This story is illustrates how freedom can be taken little by little without the victims even realizing it and in a way that leads the victims to even consent to their freedom being taken.

Focusing on the issue of food freedom, Americans today have nearly lost their ability to feed themselves. Absent fast food, grocery store chains, and media pronouncements about what to eat and the latest health “discovery”, most people would lack either a source of food or knowledge of what foods to eat. In this way, Americans today are like the corralled wild pigs in the story. They retain the appearance of freedom because they are are free to drive to the grocery store. But their freedom is only a facade because they lack the means and knowledge to truly obtain food for themselves. They are dependent on the industrial food system to provide them with their food selection and information about what to eat.

Only by struggling to retain the traditions of centuries past that governed the selection and preparation of foods, and only by struggling to support local and diverse food sources, can we break through the fences that now confine us and exercise the food freedom that is justly ours.

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

Common River: Connecting Communities

Common River

Common River

Deep in the Ethiopian Rift Valley, inside a bamboo hut, the air is cool and sweet. Fresh beans snap and whistle in the heat of the fire, sending out rich plumes of coffee-scented smoke. The process is peaceful, methodical. The mortar grinds the beans and water boils. Soon, from the elegant black coffee pot, lush chocolaty coffee spills into cups. Welcome to Common River, Aleta Wondo.

The collaboration of Tsegaye Bekele and Donna Sillan, Common River is a multi-faceted project that improves the lives of Aleta Wondo’s inhabitants. This once stable range has been hit hard by the falling price of coffee and the impacts of global warming. The wide range of projects reflects the diversity of Aleta Wondo’s volunteers and participants. From education to agriculture to cultural exchange, this is a place where futures are secured.

Aleto Wondo

Aleto Wondo

The school on the Common River site provides the young inhabitants to one of the most vital tools for a happy and successful life: an education. Four classrooms hold children of all ages: polite, eager to learn, attentive and dedicated, this is a teacher’s dream. A large field extends the learning space into the Ethiopian sunshine. Art, music, and sports complete a well-rounded education. Volunteers visit from all over the world, sharing their skills. The school lunch programme keeps the young learners at their best. Fresh milk from the school’s cows and produce from the fields ensures a healthy, balanced meal. The classrooms are picturesque, including a brightly painted traditional Sidama hut. When the bell rings for home time, the school doesn’t rest. Trickling from the village and fields, all bright skirts and happy laughter, come the women. The Common River Female Literacy programme is a wonder. It is said that to educate a woman is to educate a family and here educated women are formed. For two years, they return to school, receiving the basic education so many of us take for granted. When class is finished, they will go back to being mothers and wives with the dinner to cook and the children to put to bed, but for a few hours a day, they are something they thought they might never be- a pupil with their hand and head held high.

Ethiopia is well known as the birthplace of coffee. Common River and the coffee growers of Aleta Wondo have worked together to produce a single-origin coffee that is available worldwide. As small-scale producers, the amount of coffee produced each year is limited. Profits return directly to the community and it makes a wonderful – and socially conscious- souvenir. Less portable, but no less amazing, is the traditional bamboo huts that dot the sight. The locally based collective can make and design bespoke bamboo huts. Fragrantly cool, sustainable and beautiful; it’s a pity these won’t fit in a suitcase home!

School at Common River

School at Common River

Common River’s projects also include a new irrigation system, bring water to more members of the community than ever before. Having easy access to water will mean fewer trips to the communal springs. Their sanitation centres improve the health of community members, as does their provision of medical checkups, nutrition classes and first aid training. Annually, medical volunteers visit and provide care and information to the townspeople. Other projects include a bio-diversity garden that supports and showcases the area’s rich bio-diversity, rain catchment and wells, reforestation and improvement to local infrastructure.

Common River welcomes guests and volunteers to visit and assist with their range of projects. Tours, school groups, and volunteer placements are all available. Coffee can also be purchased via their website. Visit their website at to find out how you can experience this wonderful place or enjoy a taste from the comfort of your own living room.

Irritating Things About Hotels

angry hotel roomThe weather at home has been diabolical. You’ve saved hard all year for your two weeks of sun, sea and sand, you want to chill and relax, but how likely is this? I suspect most of us think flying is the most difficult, stressful part of our holiday, but what about the hotel you’ve so carefully chosen? How likely is it to raise your blood pressure?

Having recently spent three months travelling, many of the places I stayed in failed to get the basics right. Here is my personal list of irritations.

The welcome – you arrive at your hotel reception hot, sticky and tired only to be faced with so many simultaneous issues even the most proficient multi-tasker is challenged. The form you need to complete requires your passport to be retrieved from the bottom of your bag, you’re asked to produce a credit card for extras whilst trying to listen to the fast patter about meal times and location of the pool. If you’re lucky, you’ll be juggling a cold flannel and welcome drink.

Lighting – why is there always a sequence for switching on and off the huge number of lights? If you don’t suss it quickly, you end up recreating the sound and light show at Egypt’s Karnak temple every night before you go to bed. There’s always one light bulb that doesn’t work and lighting levels are generally insufficient for reading anything but a large print book.

The safe key – having got to your room, you find the safe and a sign saying, “key available at reception for a deposit”. So, you traipse all the way back to reception when you’re invariably in the room furthest away. One safe I encountered required my fingerprint to open it, or not as was generally the case.

The safe location – why is the safe always in the most difficult location at the bottom of a dark wardrobe requiring you to get on hands and knees to open it?

Wi-fi – once everything is safely stowed, you try to connect your lap-top but realise you need a password, which after looking at the information sheet, is “available from reception”. Why don’t hotels automatically provide safe keys and passwords without being prompted? And why is it, that the more expensive the hotel, the more they charge for wi-fi?

Double rooms for one – when you’ve paid for a double room, which usually means that two people will spend the night in it, why is there only one chair even when there’s ample space? And why only one suitcase rack – how many couples travel with one suitcase between them?

Bathrooms – a constant source of irritation. I cannot count the number of times when I’ve started the week with three face-flannels only to find they disappear one by one. My towels will be replaced, but not my flannels. When I hang up my towels to be kind to the environment by saying I’ll use them again, why do they ignore me and replace them anyway? And having being let down so many times, one of my “must pack” items is a universal sink plug.

The loo – I appear to be very unlucky, as invariably during a week-long holiday, my partner end up with his hand in the cistern to either stop the constant dribble of water or get the thing flushing properly.

Well, having got that off my chest and feeling much better, what about your thoughts on the most irritating things about hotels? It could be something general (I’ve not even mentioned ‘the lift’, ‘fixed coat hangers’ and ‘towel sculptures’), or a splendid one-off irritating experience.  The winner might even win a one night stay at my least favourite hotel at their own expense.

Image reproduced from

There is No Such Things as Completely Safe Food

The goal of government regulation in the area of food and agriculture, at least according to rhetoric, is to ensure that food is safe.  Complete safety is the stated top priority.  But is such a goal possible?

Yes, but only by severely compromising nutrition.

All of nature is mixture of things that are both beneficial and harmful to the human body, and this includes food.  Beneficial elements of food include things like healthy bacteria, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, proteins, fatty acids, and some carbohydrates.  Harmful elements of food obviously include harmful bacteria and pollutants.  All food possibly contains elements that are both helpful and harmful to our health.  Current means to render food safe, such as pasteurization, ultra-pasteurization, irradiation, and even simple cooking, do not distinguish between the good and any bad elements.  Any attempt to guarantee safety by destroying any possible elements of food that are unhealthy will inevitably also destroy much, if not all, of that part of food that is beneficial.

There is risk in all worthwhile activities, even getting out of bed in the morning.  Without risk, there is no reward.  Eating nutritious food is no different.  In order to obtain nutrition, one must be willing to accept some degree of risk of contamination.  Conversely, in order to obtain complete sterility and lack of contamination, he must sacrifice nutrition.  There is no other alternative.

Those who make the proper decision to accept some risk of contamination should nevertheless minimize such risk by ensuring that their food is produced in a way that protects against contamination.  The good news is that nature itself provides several layers of such protection, and methods of raising food that mimic nature will provide similar protections.  First and foremost, animals raised in their natural environment and on their natural diet will avoid much of the contamination that plagues our modern food system.  For example, cows evolved to eat grass, not grain.  Feeding cows grain and forcing them to spend their lives wallowing in mud and feces, as the meat industry does, causes harmful E. coli bacteria to accumulate in the cow’s gut, and such bacteria often finds its way into the milk and meat.  Raising cows on pasture, by contrast, is consistent with how cows would live in nature, and this practice minimizes the proliferation of harmful bacteria in the cow.  Grass-fed cows are healthy and free of contamination, and so is their milk and meat.

Furthermore, healthy animal products like milk, when raw, contain beneficial bacteria that will assist to destroy harmful bacteria within them.  Pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized and irradiated foods, in addition to having lost much of their nutrition, have also lost the ability to destroy any bacteria that may subsequently contaminate them.

Finally, naturally produced food that has avoided the sterlizing techniques like pasteurization and irradiation retains the entire wealth of health-giving nutrients with which nature has provided it.  People who consume such nutrient-dense foods are much better equipped to defend themselves against contaminants because their healthier diets ensure a much stronger immune system.  And, for those with a strong immune system, any minimal pathogenic bacteria that may still exist in their food will almost certainly not harm them but, rather, will actually benefit them by serving to exercise and further strengthen their immune system.

Consuming only conventionally “safe” food–that is, food that has been subject to pasteurization, irradiation, overcooking, and other sterilizing techniques–may indeed eliminate one’s exposure to food contamination.  However, such practice will likely also cause numerous health problems of varying degrees, including a weakened immune system, resulting from a lack of proper nutrition.

In this sense, “safe” food is actually very dangerous.

Image reproduced from

High Protein Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was making some basic recipe chocolate chip cookies with oats and my son comes in the kitchen and said “Can you put some of my protein powder  in the cookies?”  Just to explain the protein powder is a supplement people  generally consume immediately before and after exercising and my son is really into his sports and exercise.   Well I am always open to new ideas so I took up his challenge and made these cookies which I think should be called high protein chocolate chip cookies.   I still followed the basic cookie recipe so the results will be good even without the addition of the protein powder.

Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients for 20 medium sized cookies

125g salted butter at room temperature
90g brown sugar
1 organic egg
90g self raising flour
100g choc chips
20g rolled oats
100g protein shake powder

Method :

1. Using a coffee grinder – grind the oats for 2-3 spins.

2. In a food processor, mix the butter and sugar until creamy.

3. Add the egg and mix again.

4. Add the self raising flour, oats, protein powder and chocolate chips and mix well.

5. Remove the dough and shape it into a roll; wrap it in foil and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes.

6. After 30 minutes, heat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and prepare the baking tray by lining it with greaseproof paper.

7. Remove the cookie dough and cut into slices 1 cm thick.

8. Slightly shape them round and put them on the baking tray.

9. If you have a fan oven – cook for only 6 minutes. Convention oven will take 10 minutes. I suggest that you keep checking so that the cookies don’t burn.

10. The cookies turned out lovely and soft and had a creamy taste because of the protein powder added to the cookies.

11. Enjoy them with a glass of cold milk like we did.

Tip: You can make the cookie dough in advance and keep it in the freezer for a few weeks.

Key People in a Tailoring Business

These are the key people in a tailoring business:

Sales People
They are normally not directly involved with the suit’s making, but usually have a first class knowledge of cloths and trimmings, and also are very aware of the business, the styles and details. This, of course, helps the customer pick the correct styles and fabrics for the right occasions. In some businesses with a CMT service (Cut, Make & Trim), a salesman will take basic measurements which are then sent to a factory for manufacture. This is not true “bespoke”, but depending on the sales person’s experience, this can produce a relatively good fitting suit for the money.

The Cutter
That’s me. OK, at English Cut I’m the salesman as well, which is the norm for a smaller outfit. As I’m sure you’re aware I’m more the architect of the suit. I take the measurements, I draft the pattern, I cut the cloth, then I send it off to the tailors for the sewing.

The Trimmer
These are the people who take the cut pieces of fabric and match them up with the canvas, linings and silk etc, so the suit can actually be made. And yes, that’s my job too. Again, it’s usually a full-time job only in the larger houses.

The Tailor
These are the people who actually sew your suit together. If I am the architect, then these are the actual builders. They usually specialize: making coats, trousers or waistcoats, and some only make dressware. But like me with other roles, tailors adapt their skills. Many of the tailors will turn their hand to making anything- except for trousers, which are usually left to the specialist trouser makers.

These are usually ladies who have perfected the art of hand buttonholes, felling the linings and all the hand-sewing needed to finish a coat and trousers. The nickname for them in the trade is “Kippers”. This is not because they suffer from the smell of smoked fish, but that they usually worked in pairs. This is so they could more easily fend off the flirtatious advances of cutters. We cutters do have a rather undeserved reputation for that, I might add.

Pat Gormley, a well-known & respected tailor

Pat Gormley, a well-known & respected tailor

Tailors and cutters always argue in the pub over who’s  most important, but we both know that we’re as dependent on each other as “needle and thread”. It’s true the cutter will usually get all the praise for a beautiful job, but he gets to feel the full wrath if it goes wrong- something the tailors are normally spared. To decide which suits you best you’ve got to decide which you prefer: the highs and lows of a cutter’s life, or the tailor’s more constant, steady flow of making beautiful clothes.

Ladies are often asking me what opportunities there are for them in the business. Quite simply, they can and do the same as men, often a lot better. However the only real restriction which I’ve seen is that I’ve never known any ladies do the actual measuring of customers.

They’ll often get the measurements from a colleague, then go cut a suit as well as anyone, hidden in the back of the shop. But sadly many of the customers don’t feel comfortable having the 4” brass end of a tape measure thrust up between their legs by a lady.

Tailoring is just a lot more personal than most industries, with the customer and the product always far more important than any money to be made.

As far as mastering cutting and tailoring, there’s no easy answer. Even if you’re brilliant, you’ve got to be humble and patient for a good few years – a quality that’s getting rarer than hen’s teeth these days.

However if you do have the right stuff for it, you’ll never starve, and you’ll never dread going to work in the morning. Can’t say fairer than that.

To read the unabridged version of this article, click here.

Image reproduced from

Walk Innovation – Step 3

Recently, Adam Shaw reported on Step 2 of Walk Innovation. Now he talks about Step 3: Intent. Watch his video here.

Now that you are committed to DOING this programme and you know to ground yourself regularly, we will now talk about intent.

In everything you do in your life your intent will determine your outcome. If you intend to find fault – you will. If you intend to improve your life – you will. If you intend to love – you will.

As non-positive intent yields non-positive outcomes we will only ever be focusing on POSITIVE intent

Being aware of your intent at any given moment is the fastest way to move towards positive outcomes more often.

Intend for what you want – or you will get what you don’t want.

Have fun walking now that your intent is positive.

Read more on Walk Innovation here.

Crispy Puris


I have recently started teaching at an evening class one evening a week.  At the start of  my cookery classes we have a short quiz  where I introduce either a new spice or a new dish to the class.   For my first ever cookery class I took a sample of my home made farsi pooris for everyone to try and guess the ingredients in the puri.  I wanted to make them realise that by using just a few everyday ingredients one could produce  a tasty snack. Everyone loved the farsi pooris and said that they had never eaten anything like them before. Farsi puris have been a snack in my home for ever so I was surprised that they had never tasted them.  Everyone wanted to learn how to make them so we made them last week.  You can see everyone’s attempt here.  One thing I learned from this class is to make sure that your recipe ingredients and methods are very specific and one should not assume that everyone knows a spice or a cooking method.  E.g my ingredients asked for half a teaspoon of cumin and the whole class brought cumin powder!!  Thankfully, I had plenty of cumin seeds to share with my class.    This made me realise  that something that I thought everyone would know was wrong.  I have now changed my recipe to mention cumin seeds.

Ingredients to make 25 puris depending on the size:

  • 200 gms Plain white flour
  • 70 gram salted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 litre any cooking oil
  • 1 cup warm water


1.    Sieve the flour.

2.    Warm the butter for a couple of minutes -until it looks runny -almost like oil.

3.    Make a dip in the flour and pour in the butter.

4.    Sprinkle on the coarse black pepper and salt.

5.    Roast the cumin seeds slightly on a griddle.  Once you get the lovely cumin aroma, transfer the cumin on to a work top.  Using a rolling pin, roll over the cumin.  This will release the lovely cumin flavours and your puris will have the lovely flavour when you add this mixture to the dough. Continue rolling over the cumin seeds until some of the cumin is crushed a bit.

6. Add the ground cumin seeds to the flour.

7. Using warm water bind the dough. Add the water with caution as you may not need the full cup. The dough should not be too loose as this will make it very difficult to roll out the puris.

8. Now divide the dough into approximately 25 small balls and make them into flattened balls.


9. Roll out the Farsi puri (not too thin) and prick them either with a fork or a knife. Save the puris on a plate or tray.



10. Deep fry the puris in sunflower oil . When you put the puris in oil, wait for them to float up and then keep turning them gently until they are a light golden colour.

11. Remove the Farsi puri onto a kitchen paper. Once the Farsi puris cool, they can be stored in a biscuit tin.

Vegetarian pancakes/omelette


Savoury Pancakes or Gujarati Pudlas made with vegetables and chickpea flour are made from Chickpea flour, vegetables, spice and herbs and look like a pancake, uttapam or a spanish omelette. Savoury Pancakes or Gujarati Pudlas made with vegetables and chickpea flour dish is very popular in most Gujarati homes. It’s one of those quick dishes you can make and enjoy when you are in a hurry. Simple Pudlas can be cooked with minimum ingredients but I like to add some vegetables to mine to make the meal a bit more filling and it’s one way of getting the children to eat their vegetables.


• 2 cups Chick pea flour
• 2 tbls plain flour
• 1 small potato or sweet potato
• 1 onion
• Small carrot
• 1-2 fresh green chillies 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp coriander and cumin powder (often called dhana jeeru)
• handful of fresh coriander
• half a cup sunflower oil for frying
• pinch of soda bicarbonate


1. Sieve the chick pea flour and plain flour on a mixing bowl.

2. Add the grated sweet potatoes, onions, grated carrots, chillies, coriander and the dry spices (including soda bicarbonate) to the flour. Take one cup of warm water and mix to form a batter which should be runny similar to what an egg omelette mixture would look like. You may need to add more water if the mixture looks thick.

3. Grease a non stick frying pan and spread the mixture on the frying pan. Allow it cook until it turns golden brown on one side and cook the second side. Try and use minimum amount of oil.


4. Serve hot with Bombay aloo and coconut chutney.


Cheesie vegetables and pasta with bechamel sauce in yorkshire pudding

IMG_7316Today’s recipe for the cheesy vegetable bake came about by chatting to my younger son who had eaten something similar at a friends place.  The dish turned out to be so delicious that I almost forgot to take pictures of it after we  served it.


  • 3 cups mixed vegetables (I used carrots, peppers, peas, green beans and sweetcorn)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2-3 cloves of grated/blended garlic
  • 1 cup of mini bow tie  pasta
  • 1 tbls oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 cups grated cheese ( you will need some to add to the sauce and some to add to the vegetables as a topping.
  • 2  giant  frozen yorkshire pudding 
  • 2-3 tsps of oregano

For the bechamel  sauce

    • 3 cups of milk
    • 1 tbls butter
    • 2 tbls plain white flour
    • dash of nutmeg powder


1. Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds.  Once the seeds go dark, add the frozen vegetables and add the salt, pepper and garlic.  Stir fry and allow these to cook until they get soft.


2. Boil the mini bow tie pasta in lots of water and once soft, drain out the water using  a sieve and keep aside.

3.  Add the mini pasta to the vegetables and mix.  Allow to cool whilst you make the bechamel sauce (white sauce)

4. To make the sauce-  Heat the butter and once it melts, add the white flour to form a roux. Allow this to cook until you get a lovely fragrance and it looks like it’s starting to bubble.  Add the milk to it slowly to avoid lumps.  Keep stirring until it gets to a lovely thickness.  Add a couple of scoops of the grated cheese to it and the dash of nutmeg.   Pour the sauce over the vegetables and season it with extra pepper and oregano.


5. Transfer the mixture to the giant yorkshire puddings.  (These are sold in most supermarkets but please note that the ready made ones have eggs in them) and top it with cheese and some pepper and oregano. 


6.  Transfer the  giant Yorkshire pudding into a medium oven (180 degrees C or 350 degrees F or Gas mark 4 for 10-15 minutes. 


7.  Serve this hot when ready.  As mentioned, I forgot to take a good picture of the dish being served.  For those of you who like their food spicy, you can green chilies to the vegetables or have it with a hot chili sauce or chutney.


Date and Tamarind Chutney


This chutney is often referred to as the sweet chutney or Imbli/Ambli Chutney. It’s made using dates which are sweet and tamarind which is sharp and sour so I would say that this is a sweet and sour chutney. No Indian snack is complete without this chutney and the green coriander and chillies chutney.

Ingredients for 2-3 cups of chutney:

12-14 fresh dates – washed and de-seeded and chopped
1-2 teaspoons of tamarind concentrate (you can use fresh tamarind or prepared tamarind blocks too. If using fresh tamarind, use only 3-4 pods of tamarind or just a inch square block of tamarind)
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp chilly powder
1 tsp ground cumin and coriander mixture
¼ inch of ginger
1 fresh green chilly – chopped in 4 pieces
1-2 tbls jaggery (or brown sugar)


1. Mix the chopped dates, tamarind and all the spices apart from jaggery into a deep microwave safe bowl and add 1 cup of water to the mixture. Cook on high for 3 minutes. Stir the mixture and feel to see if the dates (and is using fresh tamarind) have softened. Give it a further 2-3 minutes to allow the dates and tamarind to soften.


2. Strain the mixture. If using fresh tamarind, you may find that it needs a lot more straining and you may have to add ½ cup of boiling water to the mixture to enable you to strain well.


3. Add the jaggery/brown sugar and cook for 2 minutes or until the jaggery or sugar have blended in. You may have to cook it for a minute or 2 longer  if you had to add water during the straining process.


4. The chutney should not be as thick as tomato sauce but more like a dipping sauce kind of thickness. Taste the chutney and add ingredients to make the chutney to your taste.

5. Keep the chutney in the fridge to cool and serve with any Indian snacks.


6. The chutney can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.

Sultry Smokey Summer with Versace Eyes

Bringing high fashion fierceness to your sexy summer self!

versacess13This Summer we have seen stunning makeup trends on the runway from pop colours on eyes and lips to back to basics bare looks.

Chanel and Dior were amongst some of the designers who sported beaming bold beautiful eyes. Every window looks better dressed with glorious curtains, so I’m going to tell you how to dress the windows to your soul with easy to do techniques!

Using a Versace SS13 look as a template and Urban Decay NAKED palette as a colour referral guide here is how to recreate it:

Start with prepping your eyelid with an eye primer (Urban Decay Eye Primer Potion), use your ring finger to work the product all over the eyelid area to the browbone. Also carefully apply the smallest amount of primer underneath the bottom lashes.

Eye Primer

Eye Primer Potion

Take an eyeshadow brush take a base colour (close to your skin colour) and apply all over eyelid. [The colour ‘naked’ 3rd in the palette].

With a small flat shadow brush take a light brown pigment and apply over the eyelid. [The colour ‘buck’ 5th in the palette].

Take your eyeshadow brush and apply a gold metallic colour on the middle of your lids . [The colour ‘half baked’ 6th in the palette].

Using another eyeshadow brush take a black pigment and place it on the outer corner of the lids. [The colour ‘creep’ 11th in the palette].

Take a fluffy brush and using a dark brown shadow go over the black blending the colours into each other softly and create a mid arch in the crease. [The colour ‘hustle’ 10th in the palette].


Urban Decay Naked Pallette

With the same dark brown [‘hustle’],use an eyeshadow brush and put this just before the inner corners of the eyes (so the brown should now be on both ends of the gold). Take the fluffy brush and blend all areas where the colours bleed into each other so it looks flawless.

To create the bolder brighter look, take a light gold/ivory colour and place on the inner corners of the eyes and also on the brow bone using your brow shape as a guideline to highlight. [The colour ‘virgin’ 1st in the palette].

Take a brown eye pencil and holding your outer eye taut, line the upper lash line.

With a small flat eyeshadow brush take a brown pigment eyeshadow [‘hustle’] and work this along your lower lash line.

Follow with a black liquid or gel eyeliner on top, bottom or both depending on your eye shape and the eye shape you desire.

Finish your look with a pair of false lashes to give you an instant glamourous high fashion look. Don’t forget to use a coat of mascara to help your lashes blend in with the falsies!

Smoulder with your bolder brighter eye enhancing, eye catching eye makeup this summer.

Images reproduced from, and

Fiery Apple Chutney

Right now the British apple season is in full swing! From early August until May next year keeping the doctor away defines us as ‘British’! British apples have started making appearances in farmers’ markets and farmers’ shops. If you are lucky, you might have an apple tree within walking distance or in your own garden, the branches soon to be sighing with more fruit than you could possibly eat. So how do you deal with seasonal glut? Apart from eating those juicy apples you can peel them, bake them or make chutney, crumble, pie, jelly and jam to name but a few options.

I am not lucky enough to have an apple tree in my garden, but fortunately enough I have Apple trees close to me, and thus I can have as many as I want. A few days back I picked some apples, but they were a bit too sour to eat as a whole, but good enough make chutney!

I had an idea of making this chutney, after I saw Raw Mango Chutney (the best chutney from her kitchen) from Nivedita’s Kitchen. She is lucky enough to have a mango tree in her garden, which makes me a little bit envious.  Of course I’ve made raw mango chutney numerous times, but this time I thought of using apples instead of raw mangos. The ingredients and the methods are similar. Chutney can be eaten with thali or many other snacks.

You will need:

  • 3-4 small green apples
  • a little oil to roast
  • 1 tbp urad daal
  • 1 tbp channa daal
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 cup of desiccated coconut
  • 1 tbp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp dry coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp methi seeds
  • half of a fresh ginger
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 2-3 dry red chillies
  • salt to taste
  • 2-3 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tbp lemon juice
  • 2 tbp jaggery, sugar or dark muscavado sugar
  • 1 tbp oil
  • pinch of hing (asafoetida)


Heat  the oil in a heavy bottom pan. Roast all the ingredients. Meanwhile wash and peel and cut the apples, add lemon juice to prevent them from getting brown. Once you get a nice roasted aroma, add apples and fry for less than one minute.Turn of the heat. Once  the mixture is cooled, add the remaining ingredients and grind everything into a coarse paste by adding little water. The fiery chutney is ready to serve!

I served mine with thin crackers for starters and spread some on my sandwiches.

Homesteading is Possible for Most People

Since becoming interested in nutrition and the overwhelming effect of politics upon it, I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that the only way to obtain nutritious food is to either (1) buy it from a small farm or (2) grow it yourself.

The first option is becoming more and more difficult. Large agribusiness and governments at all levels have colluded to ensure that operating a small farm is unnecessarily difficult by imposing across the board on all agricultural enterprises onerous fees, regulations, and prohibitions. Such measures are a minor cost of business for large corporations, however, they are often prohibitive for small farms or those just starting out in farming. While some small farms persevere and survive amid this unfavorable legal climate, more and more often they cannot.

Fortunately, there is the second option–grow the food yourself.

The practice of growing most or all of one’s food at home is known as “homesteading”. Surprisingly, this option is realistic for most people. All that’s needed is a little land, a few pieces of equipment, and the willingness to learn.

The biggest concern people seem to have is land. People believe that, unless one has at least several acres, one cannot begin to grow most of their own food. This belief isn’t true. Obviously, the more land one has, the more he can do with it. But even with just a little land, if the land is used wisely and is managed well, one can do A LOT. For example, on a plot of land the size of 1/20 of an acre, which is an average backyard, a small family can grow several kinds of crops and keep several chickens, a few rabbits, and a bee hive. This alone will provide the family with most or all of its vegetables, meat, and eggs, and will also provide honey and a means of pollination. With a little more room, that family can add a couple goats for milk and additional meat. With some more room, the chickens and goats can graze on grass rather than rely exclusively on store-bought feed. With even more room, you can do even more.

The point is to recognize that, certainly, one can do more with several acres than he can with a small backyard. But one should also recognize that, even with a small backyard, he can do a hell of lot! And so why not take advantage. Instead of wasting one’s land by growing useless grass that never gets eaten and has to be mowed every week, why not use that space to grow food.

Backyard chickens.

Doing so in any degree will not only result in a healthier diet for you and your family, it will also substantially reduce your grocery store bill, it will provide meaningful exercise for your muscles and your immune system, it will get you out in the sun, and it will provide an extremely valuable educational activity for your children. It will also send a strong message to the agribusiness community that you opt out of their system of manufactured, nutrient-depleted, and chemicalized food. Maybe if the conventional system receives enough such messages, it will change.

Finally, having an independent source of food provides food security for yourself and the local community. The conventional system is not secure because it can easily collapse upon the occurrence of any number of catastrophes, including draught, rampant crop disease, oil price spikes, political revolution, etc. Local food systems are much less vulnerable to such crises because they are smaller and more spread out. Only a local source of food provides any measure of assurance that food will be available during a time of crisis. No source of food is more local than your backyard.

When assessing what one can do on a certain piece of land, it is necessary to be mindful of local laws and regulations that may prohibit raising certain animals in city limits or other locations. But don’t let that stop you entirely. The whole point is to do what you can.

And usually, you can do a lot more than you think.

Photo by Leah Zerbe,

Tao of Jeet Kune Do

I have been toying with the idea of writing book reviews for a long time.  Have an extensive library of martial arts and Eastern philosophy books that cover a broad range of subjects.  I hope that what I am going to write about each of them will be enough to inspire some readers to read them, as well as writing some comments about what they think.

When reading a martial art book it is important to have a clear idea of what the main goal for the reading the book is: in my case I never intended to learn a martial art or a style but more to understand the main concepts and philosophy behind it.

The book

Many of us consider Bruce Lee a legend that left a great legacy and inspired entire generations to start and keep training martial arts.  For me this is a precious book that I keep handy and go back to read on a regular basis.  It is obviously not a novel with a story but more a collection of notes and ideas: small paragraphs and some time single sentenced that describe a strong and deep concept and make you think for a long time.  Although the cover sheet states “Tao of Jeet Kune Do – by Bruce Lee” the book was put together by Gilbert L. Johnson and Linda Lee (Bruce Lee’s widow) based on Lee’s original notes.


I see this book as a journal for Bruce Lee himself when he was thinking and refining the concepts behind JKD and how he felt this should have developed.  Tao has a strong meaning and multiple interpretations: it is written in Chinese with the same character that is used to write Do in Japanese and it has the same meaning: The Way.  This is to describe an approach that is not meant to teach a strict methodology to do this or that.

Each chapter describes a different aspect of the concepts behind JKD: Preliminaries,Qualities, Tools, Preparations, Mobility, Attack, Circle with Circumference and it’s just a name. In some parts of the book entire pages are full of hand written notes from Lee himself, in other cases there are drawing that are probably copied by other books at the time: I say this because the drawing style is consistent for some of the simple stylized pictures where an entire person or a limb is represented with a few lines.

JKD maintains and improves many aspects of Wing Chun that is the first martial art that Lee ever practiced when he was still in Hong Kong.  Bruce Lee probably wanted to improve what he considered the weak aspects of Wing Chun but, instead of simply adding the missing techniques, he saw an opportunity for a much greater picture, not limited by traditions, cultures, styles or country boundaries.  He wanted to define a new concept that many different people, with different backgrounds, could embrace and grow with it.

What I like of this book

Apart from the definitions of this and that technique Lee explores numerous details of the mental aspect of training: what you should think, the attitude you should have and how each of these should be prepared.  While he was against rehearsed techniques and combinations because fighting should spark naturally, from the martial artist experience and based on the opponents moves, he covers in details how each aspect of training should be practiced.  Considering that disciplines like coaching and motivation, the knowledge of sport science and sport psychology were hardly available at the time Lee was surely a great precursor of these concepts.  I also find fascinating the amount of wisdom contained in this book, considering that Lee was in his late twenties when he wrote most of the notes.


I would suggest reading this book to anybody that is interested in martial arts, from beginners to top ranked black belts.  Don’t expect to learn JKD by reading it but be prepared to a bit of thinking because each chapter will add some wisdom to your knowledge of martial arts.

If you are interesting in buying this book, or other interesting ones, please have a look at our book store that contain a little collection of the books I read so far.

Start The Samba Early

Having just watched England comfortably beat Moldova 5-0 in the first qualifying match for the World cup finals in Brazil 2014 its time to Que the hopes and expectations, the dare to dream and mutter the words “we could win the World cup”. There is only one problem with this? I said this for the World cups in South Africa, Germany, Japan and South Korea and probably France in 1998. So why should this qualifying and World cup be any different? Or will it be the usual that we qualify scrape through to the quarter finals and eventually get knocked out on penalties (and probably to the Germans).

Well the facts speak for themselves. At this very moment in time England lie third in the Fifa World rankings, The highest we have ever reached since Fifa rankings began. We have an English manager in Roy Hodgson, The only English manager who has taken over the national team with actual international managerial experience, and yet to be beaten in 90 minutes of play as England manager. England also have a balance in the team with experience and youth. The old guard of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole who were once described as “past it” in the middle of last season by some media critics went on to show that they still have a lot to offer by winning the Champions league with Chelsea. This experience can offer a lot to the new talent braking through into the team with Tom Cleverley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain making a claim to be in the starting eleven and none more so then their performance in Moldova. Having both started the game due to squad injuries they knew this could be their chance to show the manager what they had to offer in a competitive match and they did exactly that from kick off. The pace of Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wing and attacking threat of Cleverley playing just behind Jermaine Defoe was more then enough to spring a new life into the the England style of play. This was backed up Frank Lampard a real professional in the centre of the park who had this to say after the game. “They’re are brilliant, of course they’re are good enough.’ he told ITV1 “Tom is a pleasure to play with and with him being such a young age, he’s going to be right in the middle of the team for years to come.” He also had this to say on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain “Alex was brilliant. He lit up the first half and it’s great to see players like that coming through.”

As we all know Moldova are not the power house in international football and being ranked only 141 in the world behind St Vincent and the Grenadines actually puts things into perspective. As the qualifying period continues we will be playing a harder standard of football, with the likes of Poland and Ukraine in our group but as you can only beat what is in front of you and the England team did exactly that. With the ground only having a 10.500 capacity and the pitch not exactly being up to the Wembley standard the stage was set for a shock upset. With that in mind England had the perfect start when they were awarded a penalty after only three minutes for a handball which Frank Lampard converted to settle down the enthusiastic home crowd. Then on 29 minutes Lampard got his and England’s second and with Defoe adding a third just minutes later it was safe to say the game was won by half time. With James Milner and a very deflected free kick form Everton’s Leighton Baines adding to the scoreline in the second half, it was certainly a great start to kick off the group stages. So we now look towards the game Tuesday night at home against Ukraine which i will be attending and which i have no doubt will be a sterner test for England, the objectives will still be the same. With an expectant 90.000 England fans at Wembley and Roy Hodgson still being judged on every match if the squad can put on another impressive and attacking performance and with a clean sheet then there is no reason why England cant stay top of group H before the next round of games take place.

Im not saying we will win every group game and that every performance will be top draw. This is England we don’t do things the easy way, but if we can build up a winning mentality and qualify comfortably for the finals in Brazil then it will certainly give us an edge as the team come up against the best in world football. Of course if England do these things and do get through the group easily then the pressure will be on England to transfer those performances and win the World cup. That is a stigma that is attached to every England team weather it is the World Cup or European Championships, but this is because we are an expectant sporting nation with football being our national sport with world class English players and in truth 1966 was too long ago. So lets just say the England world cup winning wagon is setting off and i am first on board and there is plenty of room if you want to jump on board and join me.

Photo courtesy of

Vegetarian Cottage Pie


This cottage pie is made using Quorn Mince. Quorn is the brand name for a range of meat-free ingredients and meals sold here in UK.  Quorn products are  versatile and quick to cook. The mycoprotein used to produce Quorn is extracted from a fungus, Fusarium venenatum, which is grown in large fermentation vats.

Quorn produces both a cooking ingredients and a range of ready meals. It is sold as an alternative to meat and vegetarians love the taste.   The only downside is that the binding agent for Quorn is egg and  vegetarians who do not eat eggs will not be able to eat their products.  Please checkout for more information.

I used Quorn Mince and mixed vegetables to make my cottage pie.

 Ingredients for 2 -3 servings:

For the topping

5 -6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced largely
1 tablespoon butter
2 tbsp milk
2 or 3 cups of grated cheese
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste

For the Filling

175 g of  Quorn mince
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cloves of  finely grated garlic
1 small Onion
1 cup mixed vegetables – I used peas, corn and carrots
half a can of chopped tinned tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 small vegetarian stock cube or 1 tbsp vegetarian bouillon powder


1. Preheat the oven to 190°C, Gas Mark 5

2.  Using just enough water to cover the potatoes,  cook the potatoes until tender,  soft  and mashable.

3. Meanwhile heat the oil in a saucepan and add the Quorn Mince. Add the salt and pepper and cook the Quorn mince at a medium heat until the mince  starts to slightly brown.

4.  Add the garlic , onions and the mixed vegetables.

5. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, half a cup of water with the Oxo cube/ boullon powder  and allow this to cook very gently on medium heat – stirring all the time, until the mixture has thickened.  The Quorn mince  will absorb all the flavours from the tomatoes and garlic.

6. Transfer the cooked mixture to an  oven-proof dish.

7.  Mash the potatoes with the milk and butter until smooth, season to taste with the salt,  pepper and oregano.

8.   For the topping:  Cover the Quorn mixture with a layer of grated Cheese.

9.  Next cover the cheese layer with the mashed potatoes

10.   If you are feeling adventurous, you can use a piping bag  to decorate the top of the cottage pie.

11.  Cook in the centre of the Oven at 190 degrees Centigrade for 20 minutes.


12.  Serve hot with a variety of vegetables such as  parsnips or Green beans.


Powerful Strikes: My Top 5 Martial Arts Punches

Martial artists and sport fighters with some level of experience are aware that some punches or kicks are stronger than others; some people just accept that as a fact, some of us try to understand the reasons behind by studying the human anatomy, how the body works and how biomechanics actually apply to these techniques.

If the first step in this process will help you understand why things work in a certain way the natural evolution from there will be to better train the muscles involved in the movement and improve your performance.

Although different people will achieve different results when striking with various punches I will list below my 5 top favourite martial arts punches (e.g. not limiting ourselves to IBA boxing strikes):

The Jab

I think of the jab as an amazing technique; when well trained it can be super fast, ideal to strike the opponent at both medium (abdomen, chest) and high level (face).  In boxing (as much as in kickboxing) the Jab is very much the bread and butter of the fight, mostly used to strike often the opponent in order to check and maintain the distance and as a preparation for other more powerful, but often slower and more energy demanding, techniques.  The Jab should always travel on a straight line, directly from your guard toward its target and then being withdrawn immediately to go back ready for the next strike.  The total number of muscles involved in the jab is relatively small: mostly the triceps, with small contribution from deltoid, pectoral and trapezium.  Extra power can be added with a well timed little step forward while some people add an extra torsion on their core to involve a few more muscles; I generally don’t as I find it time consuming and less easy to follow up.

The Hook

It is the most powerful punch I can throw, with either hand or from either stance, reason being the high number of strong muscle groups involved in the motion: the bicep, the deltoid, pectoral, some of the abdominals, good part of the core and, if well performed, the calf, quadriceps and the hip area. Although all hooks hits the target sideways in a circular motion, from a mechanical and geometrical point of view the hook performed with the leading (front) hand is totally different from the hook performed with the rear (back) hand.  In the first case the only way of delivering power is to perform a counter turn that while shifting weight on the rear leg builds up momentum to be transferred to the arm and the fist.  When striking with the rear leg it’s important to push from the rear leg, starting from the ball of the rear foot, twisting the hips forward in synch with the arm moving forward in the strike.

The Cross

The Cross shares the simplicity offered by a straight trajectory similarly to the jab, but it develops more power for two main reasons: it travels for a long distance therefore it builds up more momentum, delivering more damage; it involves, on top of all muscles involved in the jab, the hip torsion (core, gluteus) and the push from the rear leg as previously described in the hook from the rear hand. Adding a little step even if moving just a few millimetres it can help to add a substantial amount of extra power.

The Back Fist

The Back Fist punch (as in the picture above) is a typical martial arts punch that derives from traditional styles like karate and kung fu; it was never part of the IBA boxing repertoire but, funny enough in the UK it is being progressively removed from various light and full contact kickboxing rules.  The Back Fist is not a particularly powerful punch as it involves just triceps and the shoulder muscles; at the same it is very fast and annoying because it hits people on the side of the face or some times on the nose.  Very popular in semi contact kickboxing it’s an ideal technique to be used while fighting in side stance and combined with side, round and hook kicks with the front leg.

The Spinning Back Fist

The Back Fist is the only punch that makes sense when performed while spinning back; while maintaining the limitations of being by its own nature a weak punch the spinning movement, if well performed and timed, can deliver an unexpected amount of power.  The spinning should always being performed in a way that the eyes (e.g. your vision) hit the target before the punch, in short, look at what you are striking.  The Spinning Back Fist was acceptable within kickboxing rules until a few years ago but it’s now been abolished in every style for its apparent lack of control and the amount of damage it can deliver when properly performed.

Jodie Marsh – Beauty or Beast?

Standing by Jodie Marsh in matching black bikinis waiting to go on stage is rather intimidating to say the least, with her heavily bronzed tan and lights, Jodie’s body was a far cry from the Page 3 look we are accustomed to seeing in the pages of glossy magazines, but is it a step too far for the price of fame? Where does one draw the line of beauty?

No stranger to fame Jodie has spent 10 years in the public eye and appeared in numerous lads magazines and TV programs, even marrying for attention, but this was different, this time she sculpted her body with heavy weights, an intense and grueling cardio regime and a super strict clean diet of high protein, low complex carbohydrates and good fats for several months, culmination in a few final days where carbohydrates are eaten and water is depleted from the body, resulting in a muscular defined body that earned her fifth place and a trophy at the Natural Physique Association (NPA) Mike Willaims Classic and Pro-Am Bodybuilding  Championships.

Many may say her new body is less attractive than before and rather off putting, but few have seen the hard work and dedication it takes, the weeks of dieting, restricting yourself to certain foods, abstaining form drinking, changing your workouts to keep your body guessing, the early morning cardio sessions, the dehydration the night before, this is no easy way to gain the publics attention.

Surely a muscular toned body displays signs of strength, power, virility and health, and with the shift from size zero models isn’t a healthier look more attractive? Should we really be criticizing her for eating carefully albeit extreme, and for training hard?

With the Olympics looming even non sport related companies such as insurance companies are using athletes and sports models to promote their products, implying that an athletic look is in fact appealing.

As obesity rises in the world and in particular theUK, the latest Health Survey forEnglanddata shows us that nearly 1 in 4 adults, and over 1 in 10 children aged 2-10, are obese. So perhaps instead of sitting on the sofa complaining about someone who has altered their body dramatically, reduced their body fat from 25% to 10% and increased their lean muscle – which is hard enough for a man with a healthy amount of testosterone to do, let alone a vegetarian woman over 30 to do, we should be commending her.

After all, what better role model is there to young anorexically inclined girls who are influenced by celebrity magazines and bombarded with usual pictures of skinny gaunt celebrities, than someone who has changed their life for the better and has the confidence to stand in front of a panel of Pro bodybuilder judges against a number of other elite athletes, to be criticized, scrutinized and pulled apart.

And who’s to say that muscles on a woman are unattractive? Woman often join a gym or hire a trainer because they want to be “more toned” so they take up running or spinning or some other form of cardio, but what they really mean is they want to build a little muscle and lose some body fat as Jodie has done. Most will avoid the “mens” area of the gym, the free weights section, in favor of the recumbent bikes and the stepper or cross trainer, but what Jodie has realized is that it’s the weight training that makes you more toned and sexy without becoming butch or resembling Arnold Schwarzenegger in a dress.

To slate Jodie for the clothes she used to wear on a night out in her hometown Essex, or the TV appearances she made or the men she dated is one thing, but to criticize someone for changing their life, taking a stand and creating a body that they are entirely happy with is unfair. Few women can say they are a 100% happy with their figure, most have some body part they would like to alter or improve, their belly, bingo wings, flabby thighs or less than pert behind, Jodie however has meticulously crafted her body using hard work and sheer determination, if that does not inspire people than what does…

Jodie Marsh: Bodybuilder premieres on DMAX in  January 2012.

Image reproduced from Heat Magazine

Drunken Holiday Flings… Not A Good Look!

Having recently returned from a week in Portugal I noticed how full of Brits and Irish people it was.  I can’t say that this was what I was expecting, I never really choose to go abroad to be surrounded by people from my home town.  Nevertheless I was with my man and no amount of build me up buttercup was going to put a dampener on my hols.  There was a lovely little square in the centre dubbed ‘The Old Town’ which was full of cute little fish restaurants along the seafront and some not so cute British looking bars.  There were however a lot of young families and couple frequenting these places (and the odd stag do which we tried to avoid of course).


One day we decided to check out ‘The Strip’ in a different part of town.  Not to be confused with the Las Vegas Strip and everything glorious it has to hold there.  This strip however was a debauchery of loud English stag and hen do’s, followed by even louder northern lasses looking for a “good time”.  I use the word good loosely as who knows how good anything is after 8 Jagerbombs and 12 double vodka and cokes.

Neon lights and the promise of 2-4-1 jelly shots at happy hour engulf these randy holiday makers.  What makes for a sexy 3am finish?  An abundance of alcohol and a Bon Jovi track to boot.  ‘Yes we really are halfway there’.  Brummie girls followed by young Irish men fill the streets of the Portugal strip tonight.

What makes these holiday makers sleep with whatever is on offer at that time at night? Girls in bikinis, guys with six packs all smelling of Hawaiian Tropic in the midday sun is just the beginning of Temptation Island for that week.  Drinking in the heat equipped with half naked testosterone roaming the sand dunes is enough to make many people turn on their backs.  Some of these girls and guys may not dream of partaking in such tom-foolery  back on home turf.  Men and women who have come on these single sex holidays.  You know the ones ‘Whores on tour’ or ‘Stags to Shag’.  They suddenly forget all about their relationships back home and the rules of relationship norms.  I.e. no sexy cuddles on the beach or on frolicking under clothes on the dance floor (because that still counts you know).  Partners are forgotten back home for some of these amorous holidaymakers and the next 7 days are a free for all apparently.   It’s a no holds barred 2 for the price of 1 action.

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The thrill of being in a different country, a hot Irish accent and endless fishbowl cocktails is all too tempting for some happy campers.   Sleeping with a stranger on holiday is seen as more acceptable than sleeping with someone from your local apparently.  It’s totally acceptable and more often than not encouraged.  ‘Oh you’re on holiday, have some fun’ or ‘what happens on the strip, stays in the strip’.  Until pictures get posted on Facebook that is.  It can become like a huge challenge for people out there to sleep with as many people as possible in the time they have.  Sun worshippers getting as drunk as humanly possible and putting the evening’s actions down to ‘maybe my drink got spiked’ and acute memory loss it would seem.

The more notches in the sand the better, especially for the girls it can seem.  However try this one nighter action back at home and you take the name fishbowl to a whole other level.