Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rabbit, rabbit

It’s easy to jump to the wrong conclusion when you write about food and drink as well as family life. Today’s in-box contained an email with the header: Rabbit Awareness Week 10 – 18 May.

Having recently received an alert for watercress week, I opened the email expecting be told about the health benefits of eating rabbit or given recipes for rabbit terrine or pate. 

Instead I read:
It’s Rabbit Awareness Week, from the 10 - 18 May. One million households in the UK own a rabbit, so the RSPCA is encouraging the nation to take the opportunity to learn more about one of the UK’s most popular pets!’


Tuesday, April 22, 2014


It’s three hundred years since George I ascended the throne and ushered in a new age. I’ve always liked the Georgians – maybe because they were a lot like us.

As the Daily Mail  put it:
 Think binge-drinking is a modern phenomenon? Think again.
Georgian Britain was pretty much drunk from dawn to dusk - and for several hours afterwards.
 In fact, many aspects of modern life, from shopping to a rampant hunger for celebrity gossip, have their roots in Georgian Britain. The shopping mall was a Georgian invention, plus furniture catalogues, women’s magazines and a devotion to interior decoration

Be that as it may, there’s a lot of Georgian-related stuff going on this year and over Easter we visited the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace to see the The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy 1714 – 1760.

The exhibition runs until the autumn, so do go – and use the free audio guide to get the most out of the experience.

We exited via the gift shop and were rather amused by all the Buck House branded bling. I was also amused – having decided to buy a tin of biscuits – that they were on a ‘buy-one-get-one-free offer’. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chocolate is for life ... not just for Easter

It’s nearly Easter – so here are 4 chocolate-related items that may be of interest all year round.

1. Eye Bar
This comes under the category of  ‘what will they think of next’! The EyeBar is a dark chocolate bar enriched with zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins C and E and copper – said to be essential for eye health.

The blurb says that many people find taking tablets and capsules uncomfortable and can have trouble digesting them, so the chocolate bar is a more enjoyable way of getting the vitamins and minerals that can help protect your eyesight as you get older.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are delicious - and the bars are teeny -  but they do taste quite chocolatey and are much nicer than swallowing a pill.
Price:  £20 for a box of 30 individually wrapped bars, available at opticians and independent pharmacies.

2. Choc Shot
Billed as the ultimate dieting cheat, Choc Shot is ‘liquid chocolate that has only 14 calories a teaspoon’ and is (they say) recommended by Weightwatchers and Slimming World.

I like it because it is nut free (so my nut allergy grandchild can have some squeezed on her icecream) but it is also gluten free, soya free, wheat free, dairy free, and egg free, which means it ticks plenty of boxes.

If you’re wondering what’s actually in it, the label says: Sweet Freedom (natural fruit extracts: applea, grapes and carob), water, cocoa, rapeseend oil, natural chocolate flavour. Not a lot of actual chocolate, then and I can’t say I’d give up the real deal for this. But then I’m not dieting, even though I probably should be.
Price: £3.59 for a 320g bottle from leading retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons.

3. Easter Egg Weigh Up
According to weightlossresources we Brits spend a £4 billion a year on chocolate. This averages out at £65 per person and 53,000 extra calories – enough to help us gain 15lb in a year.

They’ve come up with a guide to buying Easter eggs and some helpful tips to stop you overdosing on crème eggs, truffles and the like. For example they suggest keeping chocolate out of sight in the back of the fridge. 'It will not only stop you constantly nibbling on it and chilled chocolate will last longer in your mouth!’

4. Chocolate Paella (yes, really)
From the restaurant chain La Tasca comes this idea which is either brilliant or appalling – I can’t make my mind up.

If you try it, let me know. Happy Easter

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

When things don't feel at all rosy

Luckily rosacea is something that I have no personal experience of - members of my family seem to have been given psoriasis and eczema in the dermatological lucky dip of life! 

However, I do understand how distressing it is to have to live with a skin condition of any kind, let alone one that is characterised by persistent redness or flushing on the face and neck.

Indeed, recent research shows that more than four out of 10 people with rosacea have received rude comments and stares due to the condition  and almost as many have refused or cancelled social engagements because they were embarrassed about the way they looked. 
Now a new website, Rosacea Uncovered, has been launched by Dermalex, a company that makes skincare treatments. 

Obviously Dermalex have a vested interest in getting visitors to this website, but I’ve checked it out and it looks full of helpful advice and information. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Are you sitting comfortably?

Nice feature in the Times today testing out the desk treadmill, although it wasn’t deemed a success. 

The desk treadmill was devised by obesity expert Professor Joe Levine who led a study which showed lean people burn about 350 extra calories a day through involuntary movements such as pacing around the desk or walking to the photocopier. He also found that fat people tend to be much less fidgety than thin people and spend more time just sitting still.

Now I can’t imagine anything worse than having to walk on a treadmill while conducting a phone interview and simultaneously taking notes. Even typing up notes while treadmilling would, I suspect, be beyond me. But a chair that wobbles as I work – now you’re talking.

Let me introduce the Back App. It’s a ‘saddle’ seated chair without a back rest and moves around to various degrees via a ball at the base. The movement varies from ‘slight’ through to ‘dynamic’.

The chair – especially in the red version – looks like a cross between something you’d see in a Star Trek film or a Shoreditch bar. I was given a less dramatic black one to try out. 

At first it felt rather odd to be more upright than usual, with my feet on the footplate. Yet within minutes I was totally used to sitting this way – and enjoying the wobble effect.

The Back App was invented by a Norwegian who’d had severe back problems: it basically improves sitting posture and strengthens the core muscles to help support the spine. But the wobble effect not only prevents stiffness from sitting too still, it gives you a low level core workout at the same time.

I loved it. I wobbled when talking, thinking, typing. And the wobble effect also reminded me to get off my butt from time to time – instead of spending hours just sitting in front of a screen.

I only tested it for a week but Mike Dilke, the UK distributor of the chair, produced some interesting stats from a Scandinavian study which showed that more than three out of four users reported a significant positive health benefit from sitting on Back App, with 26 per cent saying their back had become stronger.

Sadly, he couldn’t prove that wobbling around the BackApp would help fight the flab – but I’d pick this chair over a treadmill any day. I was sorry to have to give it back.