Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Turning a Low into a High

We all have down days, bad weeks; for some, even a succession of unfortunate events which can contribute to an awful month. "That's life," the eternal optimist might say, "pick yourself and move on." But it's not always that easy is it?

Who knows what is around the corner, what life will throw at you tomorrow and how it will make you feel. You could wake up feeling on top of the world but go to bed wondering where it all went wrong. You may have reached this point in this post thinking 'This isn't very uplifting is it?!' but the purpose of this piece is to highlight the need to keep a sense of reality of what each day can bring and how to maintain a positive mindset to combat even the most challenging of times.

It is not about travelling around in a bubble of noncommittal but about how to face issues head-on in real-terms which in the long-term can be much more proactive and effective. It helps us to deal with situations that we may not want to face and builds life skills on how we can tackle these with minimal impact to ourselves.

This post is not about how to find the solution for any problems which may arise in your life, but how to implement a few simple tips to use as building blocks to start you on your journey - look them as four pillars to boost your morale and lift your mood to higher place;

1. Be Realistic
Keep the situation in real-time. Be aware of your own thoughts and stay calm to ensure that you make the best decision which is not based on emotion but on clear thinking and clarity. Accept that some things happen which are out of our control and that life doesn't always present situations which are how we want them to be.

2. Don't Shift the Blame
People who can't accept difficult circumstances and find it hard to make concise, sensible decisions, have a nasty habit of blaming other people for their problems. By failing to take responsibility for your actions you cannot possibly begin to make a true judgement of how to deal with an unwelcome situation.

3. Don't Over Think 
When you pull an issue apart into a thousand pieces it can seem almost impossible to find a solution. You can begin to judge everything and everyone and it becomes a thankless task trying to sift through  the multitude of surfacing negative thoughts in the hope of trying to find a chink of positivity which can assist with a usually easy remedy.

4. Don't Make Comparisons 
We all do it - comparing ourselves with others seems to be second nature; especially with the rise in popularity of social media and networking. But in the long-run, it really won't do you any favours and can build frustration and in some cases resentment. There will always be someone prettier, smarter, younger and more successful than you but they will never be you - create your own story and your own success in life.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Spring Herbs

Well I must say that today has truly felt like a spring day. The sun hasn't stopped shining and there hasn't been a drop of rain all day - somewhat of a novelty after the very wet bank holiday weekend! Definitely a garden day; the perfect opportunity to pot a few more herbs to use in my cooking.

Herbs are not a revelation for many of us but they are an integral part of many of my dishes - when used fresh they add extra depth and perfume to food and are a great way to experiment with new flavours.

Starting your own kitchen garden is probably one of the most easy things to do; even if you are limited on space it is still super simple. I use basic terracotta pots, each individually labelled in a sunny but sheltered spot on the stone steps by the front door. I grow what I know I will use; mainly classic herbs such as rosemary, basil, sage and coriander; but occasionally I do like to mix-it up a bit by planting new less available herbs to try in dishes.

This year I've planted 'borage'; the leaves have a cucumber-like taste and are apparently lovely in salads; and the bright blue edible flowers have a sweet honey taste which can be used to decorate desserts and cocktails (and who needs an excuse to sample a pretty cocktail?!).

The draw for me is the satisfaction of eating something which I have grown myself instead of buying it from the supermarket. Herbs are so easy (and cheap!) to grow and flourish for the majority of the year. You don't even have to buy new pots; old tins, tea caddies, jars and ceramic dishes all work as lovely new homes for most herbs. - fabric is so pretty for indoor growing!

So take advantage of the nice weather, get outdoors and try planting something new; something that you can use in your cooking, in your dishes, something where you can say 'I grew that' and most importantly something which tastes great!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Hello March!!

Hello March! Where is this year going?!
Today is officially the first day of Spring and although the weather may not be living up to my seasonal expectations, my outlook and attitude definitely is!

Spring is probably my favourite season. It signifies a new start, life, growth and renewal. It's a great time of the year to let go of all of those negative thoughts which have been weighing heavy on your mind and look forward to a positive start.

Now is a great time to embark on something that you've been putting off - that big wardrobe clear out, decorating a tired looking room, searching for new job or starting a new health and fitness regime... and I choose the latter.

The last few months have been tough to say the least and it would seem that I needed Mother Nature to present a moment to bring myself forward and open my eyes to something new.
I always need a point to work from - my rules are - never start a new regime on a Monday (too many expectations and such a cliche!), know what your goals are and what you want to achieve and be realistic.

I am striving to step up my commitment to healthy eating, to throw in a lot more 'extra' exercise and to add a much needed hefty pinch of self belief. As healthy, wholesome food is my thing it's a good point to work from; I have my weak moments and my cravings like most, but nothing makes me feel better than knowing I've cooked something from scratch with fresh ingredients - I know what's gone into it, I know that there's no nasty additives and hidden surprises such as a whole heap of salt or sugar.

Good food is the definitely the key - it doesn't just feed your body but also your mind and soul as well. The planning, the preparation and the action of cooking are all as important as each other and as equally therapeutic. A healthy mind and a healthy body should stand me in good stead.

It's time to move forward and there's no time like the present! xxx

Monday, 22 February 2016

Monday Motivation

Life has a funny habit of presenting the unexpected. Many days are a challenge to see how well you can cope and others are a gift to reward you for passing the latest test. But no matter how we navigate our way through the pitfalls and openly embrace and welcome the happy moments; you never know how you are going to deal with these scenarios until they arise.

You may surprise yourself with your resilience and tenacity or you may feel the need to readdress and build on your lack of strength and courage. Keep focused, move forward and stay positive. Remember; positive thoughts encourage positive actions! x

Friday, 23 October 2015

Friday Focus: Art as Expression: On the Outside Looking In

Last night I watched an amazing documentary about little known street photographer, Vivian Maier. The intriguing thread which ran through this remarkable woman's story was that someone else had created the dialogue after piecing together the mystery of who Vivian Maier actually was. During her lifetime, keen street photographer, Vivian created an immense catalogue of work during her life which lay undiscovered in a storage locker until 2007 after being auctioned off for non payment of rent on a small studio apartment. 

She had decided that even though she had been capable of producing some of the most astonishing images of urban America, that she did not wish to share these with the world. After her death in 2009, her work was brought to light by the buyer who was amazed by what he saw...

Vivian's Story

Born in New York City in 1926; Vivian's family were of french heritage and it was in France that she would return to at a young age and spend most of her youth. She returned back to the US in 1951 and would spend the rest of her professional life as a live-in nanny, and her personal life indulging in her passion of street photography. Nobody ever saw her work while she was alive; many of the families who she lived with over the course of her stay with them, say that they never saw her without her Rolleiflex camera hanging around her neck.

Vivian lived in New York until 1956 and then moved to the suburbs of Chicago where she continued with her employment with various families; all of the time recording anything and everything that she thought was of interest - she had a fascination with people, places and newspaper stories; some of which she reenacted by visiting the places which she had read about and taking photos - as if reliving the event in someway; regardless of how macarbe.

As the years passed, as she continued to move on, her rolls of undeveloped printed work began to collect. It was around this time that Vivian switched to colour photography; her colour photos being more abstract than her previous work; replacing people and places with found objects, newspapers and graffiti. In the 1980s due to financial stress, lack of stability and by not having the means to process any of the photographs that she was taking; she began to stockpile her rolls of film.

Eventually during the 1990s, dealing with homelessness and then being helped to rent a small studio apartment she had no option than to place her belongings and work into storage. Without any means, one of the storage lockers containing a immense hoard of negatives which she had stashed throughout her lifetime, was sold off in 2007 due to non payment of rent to various buyers including local realtor, John Maloof.

Vivian Maier sadly died in 2009 and it wasn't until this time that John Maloof actually began to sift through the nondescript boxes that he had purchased from a downtown Chicago auction house. The amazing, captivating images of urban America during the second half of the 20th Century that he discovered astonished him - and so her story began...

For a more in depth look at Vivian's life and work visit www.vivianmaier.com

Thursday, 22 October 2015

What's the deal with Organic?

Organic. Organic farming and locally grown produce. Instead of synthetic pesticides or fertilisers, organic farmers rely on biological diversity in the field to naturally reduce habitat for pest organisms. Organic farmers also purposefully maintain and replenish the fertility of the soil. 

Now going organic isn't new. Whether it relates to food or skincare it seems that whichever we apply this to; organic is seen by many as the most relevant choice that we can make to support and promote ecological balance and sustainability . But how much do you know about the organic industry? And does it really matter?

There is no doubt that organic agriculture and principles make the world a better place. Agriculture is one of the most basic practices of humankind - no matter what walk of life we tread, which path we choose to take; we all need to nourish ourselves - and these principles are the roots from which organic agriculture can grow and develop. Alongside the principles of history, culture and community values, these principles apply to the basic building blocks of how people tend the soil (healthy soils produce healthy crops), the water, the plants and the animals in order to produce, prepare and distribute food and other goods. They place emphasis on the way that people interact with living landscapes, how they relate to one another and how they will ultimately shape the legacy of future generations. It is undoubtedly a wonderful outlook - a positive, sustainable way forward but what makes a food 'organic'?

Organic food is food which has been produced using environmentally and animal friendly farming methods on organic farms. When it comes to food, to be labelled as organic, at least 95% of the ingredients must derive from organically produced plants or animals. Some ingredients however, are not available organically so therefore up to 5% of ingredients from a list of approved non-organic ingredients are allowed.  Non-foodstuffs such as salt, water and a restricted number of additives and processing aids are allowed. 

But organic food is so expensive! It all boils down to the old adage 'time is money'. Organic farms are typically smaller than conventional farms and due to their production methods of refraining from using chemicals and growth hormones, crops take longer to produce. Even so, for many people, realistically, it isn't always possible to buy everything organic unless the prices were considerably lower. A great way to introduce organic into your diet without feeling the pinch is to choose a variety of products which are easy to access and relatively cheap to buy. Organic dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, butter and cheese (full fat without the guilt!!) are produced by cows who are free to roam organic pastures; choose organic beef (cows which are not pumped full of hormones and antibiotics); choose organic eggs and chicken over products which are produced by GM fed chickens, and choose organic fruits and vegetables which would otherwise have the highest pesticide residue such as pears, apples, grapes, carrots, sweet potatoes, lettuce and cucumber. See the full pesticide report here. Local farmers markets are a good source of organic fruit and vegetables and also home delivered veg boxes from suppliers such as Abel & Cole are a great option.

All in all organic is the way forward. It may be expensive but it is a healthier and morally a better path to introduce and implement into our lives and diets. No matter how little we get involved, every organic purchase will help and support the organic industry and in a world where sustainable and ecological changes need to be addressed that can only be a good thing.