Sunday, 21 February 2016

Liquid Lunch Anyone?

According to the Urban Dictionary, a Liquid Lunch is "a lunch break comprised entirely of alcoholic beverages and no food"... well not this one!

Au-contraire, not only is this liquid lunch alcohol free, it's nutritious, refreshing and tastes way way better than it looks, honest.

Feeling a little sluggish and under the weather, skin looking a tad dull, and with my 50th birthday now less than two years away, I decided it was perhaps time to make a few small changes to my lifestyle.  It could be said I'm partial to a little over indulgence, and can all too easily adopt the "what the hell, life's too short" attitude when it suits. Not that there's anything wrong with enjoying a drop of Merlot, tucking into a favourite chocolate bar, or sinking into the settee instead of taking some exercise (in fact I often enjoy all three at the same time)... and yes therein lies the problem!  Not that I don't buy into the idea that life is absolutely for enjoying, but I also acknowledge the importance of looking after myself - now more than ever. So, time to moderate my all too regular over-indulgence, and get a grip! 

For me, the need to change my habits wasn't anything to do with weight loss, but everything to do with feeling a little healthier and a whole lot 'cleaner' on the inside.  So far (touch wood), I've managed to get through life without too many ailments, and I've not had to work too hard to keep off the extra pounds.  However, I figure at the ripe old age of forty eight (apparently a time of life when everything can start to go rapidly downhill), I can't take this state of affairs for granted any longer... an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as they say.

Now, having recently made just a few small tweaks to my lifestyle, I'm already feeling the benefits. Just a few months on, I'm feeling fitter, have more energy, my skin's looking better than it has in a long time and, as an added bonus, my clothes are fitting much more comfortably.

So what have I changed?  Well, for a start I needed to significantly reduce my alcohol intake.  I love sipping on a glass of vino to unwind, and would think nothing of pouring myself a glass or two most nights. Now, having taken stock of the situation, this treat is restricted to weekends only. Another positive change has been my hubby and I taking up a fun, energetic and very sociable form of exercise, Swing Dance. Not only are we having a great time learning this new skill together, but we've made some lovely friends and it's working wonders on my fitness levels and muscle tone (more about this in another post).

And so, onto the most recent tweak in lifestyle, my luscious green liquid lunch which I've been enjoying at least four times a week. Now I know green smoothies have become very popular recently and with very good reason. Yes, I can understand why some may find the look totally off putting, after all who could deny this concoction looks like something from the bottom of your garden pond. However just one serving of this latest lunch fad probably contains more goodness than I was previously consuming over the course of a week. What's more, it's refreshing, quick and easy to make,  and actually tastes really great. Of course if you find you need something more substantial for lunch, this smoothie would make an equally great breakfast, just add a spoonful of porridge oats and/or a drizzle of honey... deelish!

So, how to make it?  You'll need:

Blender - doesn't have to be anything fancy,  mine's only a very cheap and simple one. 
Curly Kale (v large handful) - one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! Really pack as much of this into your smoothie as possible -  it's oh so good for you. Don't worry if you're not a huge fan, you'll barely taste it (same applies to the spinach and cucumber). 
Baby Spinach (v large handful) - good source of fibre, vitamins A/C, calcium and iron.
Cucumber (as much as you can fit in) - low in calories and rich in a number of nutrients.
Banana x 1 - low in saturated fat, no cholesterol, source of fibre.
Grapes x 4-6 - very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, good source of vitamins C/K.
Small cup of cold tap water.
Juice of half a lime or lemon.

Like a bit of spice? Then add one of the following:
Teaspoon of ground Cinnamon - good for balancing blood sugar levels.
Small pinch of  Cayenne Pepper - known to help boost metabolism. Go very steady with this until you've found the perfect amount for you... it really packs a punch!
Thin, thumb sized slice of fresh Ginger - helps aid digestion, ease nausea - also helps fight flu and the common cold.
For a bit of change you could use a small unpeeled apple or pear, kiwi fruit (skin removed), or any variety of frozen fruit (mango and pineapple are delicious). Keep the fruit to a minimum though, in order to avoid overdoing the natural sugar content. 

It's an absolute must for me to enjoy this smoothie super chilled. If you don't have time to wait for that, add some crushed ice before blending. 

Then, quite simply, slam it all in the blender and give it a good blast... voila!

I guess I should finish by saying something along the lines of this liquid lunch is to be enjoyed as part of a well balanced diet... so there you are. I should probably also say that on the days I have my smoothie for lunch, I do also have a regular breakfast and dinner.  This particular tweak to my lifestyle was about increasing my intake of the nutrients and goodness found in it's ingredients, not about dieting!


Sunday, 14 February 2016

Our Valentversary!

So what does this day of love and romance mean to you?

Maybe it’s all about the flowers (the price of which would buy you the whole florists shop any other time of year), or could it be the romantic intimate table for two in the usually dead but tonight full-to-bursting restaurant, where you can choose from a ‘special’ (and triple the usual price) Valentine’s menu. Perhaps a fancy box of champagne truffles would be the key to your heart (even more-so if accompanied by a chilled bottle of the bubbly stuff itself). It could be that none of the above fit your idea of romance, and in fact you’re more of a good Rom-Com DVD (if there’s such a thing), take-out pizza, few beers, and a cuddle on the sofa kind of gal!

Well, for me and my Valentine, this day of love and romance has an extra special meaning... it’s also our Wedding Anniversary!  And no, we’re not a pair of incurable old romantics, just the day we'd decided upon (mainly due to work commitments) was the first Saturday of the February school half term holidays - which that particular year just happened to be Valentine’s Day!

And what a fantastic Valentine's Day it was! This was marriage number two for both of us, and we wanted to keep things fairly low key, but obviously still very special.  So, we decided that our nuptials would have more the feel of a celebratory evening out than a ‘wedding’.  I didn’t want an ivory ‘gown’, wedding cars, or bridesmaids, and Neil didn’t want a stag do in Amsterdam (well at least that’s what he told me!) or even a best man to get him organised. I didn’t want to ‘surprise’ Neil on the day so, completely breaking with tradition, he came wedding dress shopping with me – he was the one I wanted to please, I wasn't too bothered really what anyone else thought. I didn’t want to be escorted down an aisle or ‘given-away’, and we didn’t want a guest list as long as your arm, consisting mainly of long-lost family members we'd never even met.

So, after not too much deliberation, we decided on a guest list of just 24, and our venue was a gorgeous little country house hotel on the outskirts of Leeds. The ceremony itself took place in the hotel Library, a beautifully intimate room, with a roaring fire and red carpet laid out especially for the occasion!  Being a pair of fairly modest souls, we didn’t really want to make a grand entrance and so, we gathered with our guests before the ceremony to enjoy a celebratory glass of fizz.  Then, when the time arrived, we casually sauntered into the Library, together with our guests (still sipping our champagne), to the velvety tones of Nat ‘King’ Cole's ‘Let there be Love’.

Once the serious stuff was done, we made our way into the hotel restaurant (exclusively ours for the evening), for our delicious reception meal.  The table was beautifully decorated ‘Valentine style’ with a scattering of red rose petals, love-heart confetti, Valentine’s trivia and lots and lots of twinkling tea-lights... perfect!

Bellies full, feeling happy and relaxed, and having made our way through more than a glass or two of the old fizzy stuff, some of us (in fact most of us), let our hair down and had a bit of a boogie before our wonderful day sadly came to an end.

That’s all seven years ago now (I’d forgotten just how blonde I was! - should I go back there? uugh, no I don't think so!), and obviously we’re never going to top such a fabulous Valentine’s Day. As you fellow married folk will know, the honeymoon period doesn’t last forever.  We were under no illusions though, and knew only too well that our relationship would have its ups and downs (and believe me, it has!) But here we are, still together, still enjoying the good times and working together through any not so good times... and, most importantly, we're still very much in love.

So, this Valentine’s Day, once the champagne has run dry, when the red roses are starting to wilt, and when the credits roll on the Rom-Com DVD remember this (one of the readings from our very, very special Valentine’s Day wedding) ...

Sooner or later we begin to understand that love is more than verses on Valentines, and romance in the movies.  We begin to know that love is here and now, real and true.  Love is the creator of our favourite memories and the foundation of our fondest dreams.

Have a very 'love'ly day!