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Where Are My Keys?? Part 2

Welcome to Where Are My Keys Part 2.  Following on from Part 1, this week you will find more Really Useful tips to help improve our memory or at least not forget so many things.  Testing out different techniques you will be able to see which ones work best for you.

Exercise To Improve Memory

Exercise seems to play such an important part in every aspect of our general health and well being including keeping our brain and memory is great shape. Our brains need a never ending supply of oxygen, glucose and nutrients and this supply is delivered by blood. The circulation of blood through the brain also removes, toxins, waste products.  Exercise increases our circulation bringing more of the needed elements and removing more of the unwanted ones.

Exercise increases the number of brain cells in the hippocampus (the memory area of our brain). However, this does not necessarily mean having to sweat it out in a gym 5 times a week. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for healthy brain.

How often have you heard people say “I’m going for a walk to clear my head” or words to that effect. Walking does clear the mind, it takes us away from distractions, allows the mind to slow down, sort through the jumble of daily life that is usually whirling around in it. Just two hours of walking per week can increase the size of your hippocampus by up to 2%.

“Walk the dog every day, even if you don’t have one!”

Walk the dog every day, even if you don't have one! Click To Tweet


Tai Chi is an ancient martial art that involves learning controlled breathing combined with slow, precise and graceful movements that flow together to form a graceful dance.   It is low impact and you can take part at any fitness level and at any age. It is considered to be “Meditation in Motion” helping to promote inner calmness, improved balance, muscle control and circulation.

A key factor is it’s brain boosting powers.  Practising Tai Chi can increase the size of the hippocampus (the memory area of our brain) as shown in numerous studies around the world including this one.

Tai Chi can help boost your brain function Click To Tweet

You can take part in Tai Chi anywhere, it’s such a versatile activity.  You can do it alone, in a group, in a class, outdoors and indoors and there is no equipment necessary. Wear comfortable cloths, flat shoes, take a deep breath and make a start.

This is an excellent video on the Ten beginner Tai Chi moves to get you started!


If you are looking for something more sweat inducing than walking or Tai Chi you could try HIIT (high intensity interval training).  The variety of challenges your brain faces participating in this form of exercise keeps your brain healthy. You can learn all about HIIT here. I wouldn’t throw yourself into this form of exercise without fully researching how it can work for you and your current fitness levels.

Techniques for Remembering

  • Chunking – An especially good technique for remembering numbers, groups of 3 or 4 works very well. For example if you need to remember a mobile phone number such as 17653395080. (I made that up! Don’t call it!) Break it up into 3 pieces – 1765 then 3395 then 080.
  • Say it out loud – Repeat a name, instruction, address, dates or task out loud but several times not just once.
  • Write it down – “the pen is mightier than the keyboard” there are studies to show that using a pen and paper is a better way to remember things
  • Mnemonics – I am sure, like me, you all used this technique at school.  I remember learning the Colours of the Rainbow (Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain) and the fate of the wives of Henry 8th (Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived).  Try making up and learning your own to assist with remembering with things such as a short shopping list.  The optimum number of words you can realistically use this technique for is around 7 – 9.


Mindfulness Training

We all have times during the day when our mind wanders from the task in hand, we lose concentration, forget where we are up to or forget what we should be doing even if that task is at another point in the day.  Mindfulness training has been proven to improve our memory capacity.

Mindfulness training teaches us how to stop, relax, clear our thoughts, concentrate on the now, become aware of what your current thoughts are and how you are feeling.  Breathing techniques and yoga can be included as part of the training. This is an interesting beginners guide to Mindfulness Training and it’s origins.  I am looking for an online course on this, I’ll keep you posted!

There are lots of books on Tai Chi in this weeks little shop.

So, now I am off out for a coffee, but, Where are my keys??




Where Are My Keys? Part 1

Where are my keys? Where is my phone? Where are my glasses? Every day, how many times do you ask yourself these questions or questions very similar? Memory, or lack of it, seems to be something we all suffer from on a daily basis.  I very often walk into a room and wonder why on earth I am there. I must have gone there for something but by the time I get there – no – it’s gone. Do you come back to the carpark and wonder where on earth you left the car? I do, constantly.  Two very recent events known as ‘where on earth is the car’  and ‘uh oh, left my phone in the recently returned rental car’, have just happened to me.  I had already driven 10 miles when I realised I had left my phone.  I ‘lost’ the car when it happened to be pouring with rain, I had no jacket and I was wandering around a huge carpark thinking, it must be here somewhere!  It didn’t help that it was a rental car and I couldn’t really remember what it looked like.


This is sooooooo me!

There must be a solution.  There must be a way I can improve my memory skills. We have all heard of ‘brain training’ and similar programmes so I decided that improving my memory skills is now on my agenda for the next few months.

Within our brain the hippocampus is the very small place where memory function takes place. It is not a muscle. It is an organisational tool. A tool we must work at to keep in good working order. To improve our memory we must look at how we organise information and make changes and improvements. We have three stages of memory –

  1. Encoding – we learn something
  2. Consolidating – we fix it into our long term memory
  3. Retrieval – we call it up when required

There are many ways to improve your memory and this week will focus on key areas that you can very easily implement immediately into your daily life

Eat & Sleep Your Way To Improved Memory!

These are essentials to our overall health and play an important role in keeping our memory in good working order.

  • Vitamins C, B, & K all assist in brain function
  • Vitamin E, particularly from avocado, lowers the risk of brain degenerating disease such as Alzheimers.
  • The superfood Blueberries provide us with anthocyanin,  these are linked to improved memory
  • Rosemary has been associated with memory power since Shakespeare wrote “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance” It is packed full of antioxidants that reduce the levels of free radicals that damage cells in our brains.
  • Tomatoes give us Lycopene to protect against brain cell degeneration
  • A glass of red wine provides us with Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant
  • Dehydration causes memory loss and keeping hydrated by drinking water is important for good memory function
  • Exercise that involves hand eye coordination is the best type for keeping your brain healthy
  • Good sleep is important as while you are asleep your brain repairs and improves ……. connections.  Here are two articles on tips on how to improve your sleep and create good sleep conditions


Organise The Chaos!

Our brains are not particularly meant to multi task.  Have you found that you cannot read and hold a conversation at the same time.  I cannot read and listen to music on earphones at the same time, my brain just will not do it.  The same applies to our daily routines.  If your life and home are chaotic you are not giving your memory the opportunity to perform at it’s best. Make a plan to organise any areas of daily life that are chaotic. Once your daily routines are planned and organised you will find that your memory improves dramatically.

  • Use a planner
  • Make lists, lists and more lists
  • Prepare a daily chores list
  • Keep your desk/workarea tidy
  • Prepare and keep to a cleaning/tidying schedule to keep your home well organised
  • Delegate
Once your daily routines are planned and organised you will find that your memory improves dramatically. Click To Tweet

Keeping your life, work space and home environment will help keep your memory working well

Laughter Is The Best Medicine!

You can improve your memory by laughing! Laughter uses lots of different areas of your brain unlike other emotions which use only specific areas. Laughing at jokes and anticipating the punch lines works areas of the brain used for learning new skills.

You can improve your memory by laughing! Laughter uses lots of different areas of your brain unlike other emotions which use only specific areas. Click To Tweet

Making a conscious effort to bring laughter into your daily routine will help boost brain function and improve memory.  You can combine this with another important element, socialisation.  We are, by nature, social animals.  We are not meant to be alone or in isolation. Memory “In one recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, for example, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline.” Bring laughter into your daily routine –

  • Watch funny shows on TV or You Tube
  • Read funny books
  • Spend time with children and pets, they are always good for a laugh!
  • Roll down a grassy hill
  • Dance in front of a mirror, laughter guaranteed!
  • Reminisce over fun events
  • Keep jokes and funny pictures on your computer or phone as screen savers
  • Throw peanuts into your friends mouth
  • Force it! Just make yourself laugh
  • Take selfies with your friends (like my friend Annie & I did) guaranteed laughter! And you can look at them time and time again and laugh again and again!

people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline Click To Tweet Memory

Take a look here to find some funny little things to make you smile! Liz is an author and she creates lots of funny little images too!

“When we’re kids we do things just because they’re fun and they feed our creative spirit. The magic is in the doing not the results. Laugh heartily at your drawing that makes a man’s head look like a pumpkin. Crack up till you are totally and completely off-key. It’s still fun and it frees you.” ~ Suzanne Dosal Gray

Next time I will share with you more detailed tips and tricks that you can work on to help improve your memory.


PS! Brain improving books feature here this week!


Fruit Infused Water

Refreshing Fruity Goodness!

In the continuing quest to reduce the amount of sugar I consume and whilst looking for something yummy to drink (apart from Prosecco!) I am now loving fruit infused water also known as Spa Water.  Plain water will suddenly become really boring once you start to make your own cocktails using fresh herbs and fruits.  We already know that it is so important to keep our bodies properly hydrated but keeping them hydrated without resorting to soda, caffeine or sugar laden juices is sometimes a challenge! Not any more.

Plain water will suddenly become really boring once you start to make your own cocktails using fresh herbs and fruits. Click To Tweet

With summer approaching, bringing an array of lovely fruit, it’s an excellent time to experiment with your favourite flavour combinations. One of the reasons I love these fruit infused water recipes is that you can use sparkling water to make them even more tasty plus this means my water hating hubby is also a convert. Fruit Infused Water

Is It Healthy?

The recipe list is seemingly endless and there are combinations that have definite health benefits and these are the ones I am working my way through. You can use any combination that suits your tastes.

Metabolism Boosting & Fat Burning

Lemon, Tangerine, Green Tea, Cucumber, Mango, Mint & Ginger


Raspberry, Lemon, Blackberry, Blueberry, Pomegranate, Apple, Cranberry  & Cinnamon sticks


Strawberry, Pineapple & Sage, lemon & Lavender

Aids Digestion

Kiwi, Lemon, Lime, Cucumber, Pear, Ginger, Mint &  Cloves


Grapefruit, Kiwi, Strawberry, Pomegranates  Tangerine, Green Tea & Mint

Fruit Infused Water, So Easy To Make!

You can use as much or as little fruit and herbs as you wish. It’s all down to your own preference. It’s that easy! Fruit, herbs and mineral water – done! Here are my top tips to create the perfect flavours.

  • The longer you leave citrus fruit to infuse the more bitter your water will be so experiment leaving it in for different time periods to achieve the balance of flavour you like best.
  • You can leave the fruit to infuse for between 4 – 8 hours.  Taste it after each hour to decide your preferred flavour level.
  • Fruit infused water will keep fresh in the fridge for 3 days.
  • Flavours are released faster at room temperature.  Infuse your fruit for an hour at room temperature before you refrigerate it.
  • Remove the rind of citrus fruits particularly if they are not organic. You don’t want chemicals and pesticides in your healthy water! Thoroughly wash and brush other fruits.
  • Use room temperature or cold water to infuse your fruit.  Hot or boiling water will destroy the valuable vitamins and enzymes that fruit contain.
  • Keep your fruit water in the fridge for 3 days and if it has been unrefrigerated for more than 4 hours do not use it.  Like any fresh food it will deteriorate if left unrefridgerated.
  • For an eco friendly drinking straw try these glass ones .
  • Use fizzy/sparkling water as an alternative to still/natural water.
  • Remove the fruits when the flavour reaches your preferred taste.  The longer you leave it in the stronger the flavour will become.
Fruit flavours are released faster at room temperature. Infuse your fruit for an hour at room temperature before you refrigerate it. Click To Tweet

My Current Favourites

We have two flavours that we are loving at the moment.  Strawberry, Kiwi & Mint with sparkling water and Watermelon, Pineapple & Lemon using still water.

Fruit Infused Water

All the ingredients to get started

Fruit Infused Water

The fruit and mint chopped and ready to put in the jar

Fruit Infused Water

All the ingredients for the next batch

Fruit Infused Water

All chopped and read for the jug. Still water for this one.

Fruit Infused Water

Two Fruit Infused Waters steeping for 1 hour out of the fridge

If you enjoy making these fruit infused waters you can buy special jars and bottles turning you into a complete professional. These are great for taking your fruit infused water out and about with you.  Available in fun colours and many sizes, they are available here!

Have fun experimenting with different recipes and why not share your fruit infused water recipes with us in the comments box below.  Your water need never be boring again!



fruit and vegetables
Healthiness, LifeStyle

Fruit And Vegetables! Are You In or Out??

How am I going to make this even remotely interesting! Fruit and vegetables are not exactly amusing especially when, like me, you are not their biggest fan.  Fruit, yes, I love fruit, but veggies I can take or leave and mostly would like to leave! The reason behind taking an interest in the health and well being of my fruit and vegetables stems from a big concern of mine – food waste! I hate food waste.  I hate waste full stop but food waste drives me crazy.  My mission is to throw away the absolute minimum amount of food. I have just returned from a two week trip to visit The Offspring in Thailand.  On my return my bowl of kiwi fruit and lemons were an overripe liquid mess as The Hubby hadn’t touched them. In my quest to learn from this, a re-think on fruit and veggie storage at Really Useful HQ is in order.

  • In the UK the food waste amounts to around 7 million tonnes per year and the bulk of this is fresh produce
  • One third of all the world food production is wasted each year – around 1 trillion tonnes (just how many 0’s is that?)
  • In the USA food waste is around 35% of the total supply.
  • This is a really interesting article of food waste by National Geographic 


fruit and vegetables


Fruits Produce Gas! No, Really? Yep!

Some fruits emit ethylene gas. Well who knew!!  Ethylene is a natural plant hormone that assists with ripening.  Storing fruits that emit ethylene next to non ethylene producing fruit and vegetables will cause them to deteriorate fast.

Fruits that produce Ethylene are –

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Figs
  • Pears
  • Honeydew and Canteloupe Melon
  • Unripe bananas
  • Tomatos
  • Plums
A wounded fruit will ripen faster as the wound triggers Ethylene production. Check your fruit for damage before you buy it to ensure you get maximum shelf life from your supplies. Click To Tweet

To Refrigerate or Not To Refrigerate?

I have been in the habit of throwing all the fruit and vegetables into the chiller drawer at the bottom on the fridge.  This is not the way! Oops, I have been doing it all wrong all this time! There is a bit of science involved and with just a few simple changes your fruit and vegetables will keep fresher for longer reducing your food waste.  By storing your fresh food the right way not only will it stay fresher longer but you’ll preserve their great flavours too. Think; fridge cold, tasteless tomatoes, yuk!

Out of the fridge, unwashed & in a bag (moisture from washing encourages bacteria. Wash when ready to use) –

  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Lettuces
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Potatoes
  • Onions

fruit and vegetables

Out of the Fridge –

  • Aubergine
  • Watermelon
  • Basil
  • Peppers
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Limes
  • Tomatoes

fruit and vegetables

In the Fridge –

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Green Beans
  • Sprouts
  • Leeks
  • Grapes
  • Courgettes
  • Cherries
  • Herbs (except Basil)
  • Apples
  • Strawberries

fruit and vegetables

Fruit And Vegetables Tips And Tricks

  • Keep Kiwi out of the fridge until they are ripe, then refrigerate them
  • To keep bananas fresh for longer, break up the bunch and wrap cling film around the stem of each one and once they are at your preferred ripeness keep them in the fridge to stop the ripening process
  • Some fruit and vegetables produce odour and others absorb it. Keeping an open box of baking soda in your fridge will absorb moisture and odours. Replace this every few months
  • Keep mushrooms in a paper bag to prolong their freshness
  • Have your fridge temperature set at the optimum temperature, -4 c or 40 f
Removing the tops off beets, carrots and radishes increases their shelf life Click To Tweet
fruit and vegetables

A fold away banana hook – what a great idea!

If you have any tips and tricks on how you store your fruit and veggies to keep them fresh and tasty for longer why not share them with us all.  In case you are need something to do with all your fruit that you are now storing and keeping fresh for longer why not try one of the fruit infuser water bottles from my Shopping Time page.  Watch this space for a blog all about these coming very soon!


Healthiness, LifeStyle

Tea Part 1 – 10 Terrific Teas

From my last blog, Chamomile got me thinking more about tea. How much do we know about the health benefits of drinking tea. Can we include our typical builders tea here not just herbal type? Yes, we can! It turns out that Teas are some kind of wonder drink that we should all be drinking every day, numerous times each day in fact.

I like tea, all kinds of tea. I do struggle with a builders brew unless the tea bag has been just waved over the hot water so it is weak. Mint, Earl Grey & Chamomile are my favourites.  I can drink it without sugar, a major achievement for me, something I have not quite yet managed to conquer with coffee.


I think I must find the pattern and knit some of these!

First, A Potted Tea History

(Hahaha! See what i did there!)

In England we became tea drinkers thanks to a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza.  Catherine married Charles II in the seventeenth century. As a child in Portugal, Catherine had always drunk tea. She preferred it to the Ale the English drank at that time.  Tea was very expensive. Once the fashion had become established it became the preserve of the wealthiest in society.

The East India trading company was the first major importers to England. Teas was imported via the trading port of what was Bombay, now Mumbai. In the eighteenth century the government removed tea-taxes. More was smuggled into the country than was legally imported. Removing the taxes made tea become less expensive. As such the trend for tea drinking spread to the middle and working classes.

Cafes and coffee shops became established during the nineteenth century. These places served non-alcoholic drinks making them places suitable for ladies to attend alone. It is from these cafes and coffee shops that the fashion for afternoon tea evolved.


This is such a pretty tea pot!

Ten Top Teas

The list of herbal teas and their relevant properties is long, too long to list them all one by one.  The ten here are some of the most popular and all packed full of goodness.  I have condensed some into groups that have the same or similar properties otherwise we will be here all week!

Black, Green & Oolong

  • Lower the risk of high blood pressure
  • 2 -3 cups per day can lower the risk of a stroke
  • All three contain caffeine which increases metabolism
  • Long term regular drinking of these can lower fasting blood sugar levels thus lowering the risk of diabetes

Lemon Balm, Mint & Ginger

  • All three will aid the digestive system
  • Calming and aids sleep.
  • Powerful anti-inflammatory properties can ease aches and pains quickly
  • They calm stomach acid production and help ease motion sickness or queasiness
  • Soothe sore throats and ease coughs
  • Promote healthy blood vessels so improving circulation
Lemon Balm, Mint & Ginger Tea are perfect for a healthy happy digestive system! Click To Tweet

Fresh Ginger


  • Cinnamon helps to lower cholesterol
  • It has anti bacterial and anti fungal properties
  • Contains powerful antioxidants
  • Improves circulation
  • It is an anti-inflammatory


  • This is a red tea from South Africa that is low in tannins and totally caffeine free
  • It is an antioxidant
  • Can improve liver function significantly
  • It can relieve insomnia with it’s calming properties
  • Lower stress levels
  • Packed with minerals such as zinc, copper, magnesium, iron and calcium helping to keep bones and teeth healthy

Red Rooibos from South Africa


  • Caffeine free
  • Keeps digestive system healthy and stimulates the liver
  • A natural diuretic it will help to reduce water retention
  • Dandelion is packed full of vitamins and minerals
  • An Anti inflammatory
  • Anti-rheumatic properties
Dandelion tea is caffeine free, packed full of vitamins and minerals and will keep your liver in great working order Click To Tweet



  • A powerful aid to digestion
  • Fennel contains creosol and alpha-pinene that eases coughs and bronchial irritations
  • It is very calming and promotes mental clarity
  • It can help balance hormone levels during menopause

Here is my little collection! Fresh mint is not easy to find here so bags it is. Tregothnan is from a Plantation of in Cornwall.

Now I think it must be time to put on the kettle, maybe there will be a biscuit involved too!


Part 2 of this series will be my next blog and be all things Afternoon Tea related!

Healthy immune system

6 Things Your Immune System Will Love You For!

How are you feeling? I am hoping that you and your immune system are all fighting fit and well? Here in the Northern Hemisphere it is winter.  That brings us cold, rain, wind, snow, ice, you name it, mother nature will be throwing at us this time of the year.

Keeping our immune systems in good shape to fight the battle against infections etc that are ever present at this time of year is important.  It’s actually easier than you think.  Trying to do this with supplements is just a non starter for me.  I have the memory span of a gold fish (no offence intended to gold fish here!).  I have tried and failed many times at taking supplements but I just forget so its a non starter for me.

A healthy and balanced diet will do it though.  Who am I kidding, the self confessed eater of cake for breakfast here! Well, no, I really do try and eat as healthy a diet as possible so the occasional sugar fest for breakfast is not going to kill me.  If you just make sure your diet contains lots of these 6 healthy ingredients your immune system will be in tip top shape.

If you just make sure your diet contains lots of these 6 healthy ingredients your immune system will be in tip top shape. Click To Tweet

6 Things Your Immune System Needs Now

1.  Glutathione

A powerful and important antioxidant formed from cysteine.  It comes from Whey. The liquid on the top of your yoghurt is pure whey so stir it back in! Add whey protein to your morning smoothie.  Broccoli is a great source of this nutrient. It is used in every system within your body but especially the immune system.  Think of it as an assistant to Vitamins C & E, keeping them working well.

2. Calcitrol

Healthy Immune System

This is vitamin D.  We can get all the vitamin D we need from our diet and top it up with sunlight.  Vitamin D is formed in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Even in the darker days of winter just 15 minutes a day is all we need.  Make sure you do not get burnt in strong sunlight though. Incorporating these foods into your diet will keep your vitamin D levels healthy –

  • Oily Fish
  • Eggs
  • Breakfast cereals (watch for those hidden sugars here!)
  • Cold Liver Oil

3. Lycopene

This is a natural chemical pigment that gives fruit and vegetables their red colour. It is a powerful antioxidant that actually chases down those bad free radicals eliminating them and is found to stimulate the immune system.

  • Tomato
  • Watermelon
  • Red Peppers
  • Pink Grapefruit
  • Guava
  • Papaya

Our bodies absorb Lycopene better from heat treated food.  Tomato based pasta sauce, home made ketchup are a great source of lycopene.  Click the picture to find a delicious recipe using red peppers and cherry tomatoes.

Healthy Immune systems

4. Macrophage

This is made in your bone marrow.  It’s a white blood cell that roams around your body battling with bacterial and viruses, it requires beta-glucans to get it going. Get your beta-glucans from high fibre foods.  The best place to find them is from steel cut oats.

Healthy Immune system

You could use steel cut oats instead of porridge oats in this recipe for homemade energy bars by Delia Smith.  I tried it and although my food photography and general ‘making food look good’ skills are so terrible that I can’t show you my finished results,  I can tell you that they are delicious!

5. Folate

This is Vitamin B9 and found in dark leafy vegetables,  Folate assists the repair of DNA, speeds up cell growth and assists to produce healthy red blood cells, all these are helpful in keeping our immune systems strong.

  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Turnips
  • Beetroot
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Soybeans
  • Beef liver
  • Whole grains
  • Kidney beans
  • Salmon
  • Avocado

Healthy Immune System

This recipe for spinach and salmon with strawberry salsa is from Jeannettes Healthy Living, one of my go to places for lovely healthy dishes.

Folate assists the repair of DNA, speeds up cell growth and assists to produce healthy red blood cells, all these are helpful in keeping our immune systems strong. Click To Tweet

6 Polyphenols

Another powerful antioxidant that helps your immune system by reducing inflammation.  One of the best sources is tea, any type of tea but especially Chamomile. I am a not the biggest tea drinker but I do like natural teas and this Organic Chamomile Blossom Tea is one of my favourites.

Healthy Immune System

This lovely picture of chamomile tea has inspired my to go and make myself a cup.  Take care of your immune system and we’ll get through the winter in great shape.  On my Shopping Time page this week you will find lots of lovely healthy teas to choose from.


Natural Lip Balm
Healthiness, LifeStyle

Lip Smackingly Natural!

I am a self confessed lip balm, lipstick, lip gloss, lip treatment addict! I can’t really explain why, but it’s maybe that there is no need for fancy techniques, fancy equipment, hours of you tube videos to try and create the right look. I just need lipstick, a flick of mascara, maybe a wave with a bronzer if I am feeling energetic and thats about it. I can be ready for anything in a flash!  I also hate to have dry chapped lips and as I have a tendency towards dry skin it’s important for me to keep my lips hydrated and soft.  Your lips are an area where the first signs of ageing can appear.  Dry and chapped lips are so uncomfortable so I do use lots of lip products.

I now look for lip products that are as natural as possible. Paraban free is always at the top of my list particularly for lip balm. I use lip balm all day every day so I choose the most natural but it also must be effective.

Paraban free is always at the top of my list particularly for lip balm Click To Tweet
Natural Lip Balm

EOS Evolution of Smooth Lip Balm

First, Lets Talk Parabens

What Are They??

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Paraben as

‘Any of a group of compounds used as preservatives in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products and in the food industry’

There is no direct evidence that shows the Parabens are toxic although they can cause allergic reactions to skin, such as contact dermatitis (my issue!) and rosacea. The FDA in the USA studies linking parabens to breast cancer are a work in progress. There is concern that parabens have an estrogen mimicking properties and again there is research currently underway on the effects of this. At present these studies are inconclusive but I think I will try to avoid them if possible plus they do give me contact dermatitis on my hands.

You can recognise a paraben ingredient in products from these terms. Often you will just see the E number or the first part of the word without the paraben bit. All products that contain parabens must have it listed.

  • methylparaben (E number E218)
  • ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216)
  • butylparaben
  • heptylparaben (E209)
  • Benzylparaben
  • Pentylparaben

Products that may contain parabens include:

  • Make Up
  • All types of Moisturisers – including lip balms
  • Hair Care Products
  • Shaving Products
  • Toothpaste
  • Parabens can be used as a food additive


The EU banned the use of the following based on a report by The Independent Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS)

  • Isopropylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Phenylparaben
  • Benzylparaben
  • Pentylparaben

Natural Lip Balms

Autumn is upon us and it’s time to protect our skin against mother natures autumnal breezes and temperatures. One of my biggest skincare issues for this time of year is lip protection. I get dry chapped lips soooo easily and trying to keep them hydrated and soft is one of my biggest challenges. I also want to do this in as natural way as possible. I apply lip balm constantly and if it’s on your lips it basically gets eaten! I have been on a quest to find paraben free lip balms. Ha! Not as easy as one might think but they are out there so I have complied a little list for you.

Natural lip balm

My little but growing collection of paraben free lip balm

  • Tropic Skincare – Available online only. click HERE
  • Rescue
  • Burts Bees
  • EOS Evolution of Smooth
  • Aveene
  • Lanolips
  • Yes, To carrots
  • Cowshed
  • Aveda
  • Dr Hauschka
  • Origins
  • First Aid Beauty
  • I am natural
  • Trish McEvoy
Amazing for use on your lips, nails, cuticles, elbows and heels! @tropicskincare Next on my list! Click To Tweet
Natural Lip Balm

Tropic Lip Love is going on my list!

My personal favourite from the ones I have tried so far is Lanolips. I find it very long lasting and very hydrating, has no particular taste.  Although if you intend to put on lipstick either over it or later on then apply it sparingly.

My personal favourite from the ones I have tried so far is Lanolips. Click To Tweet

I love the concept of the EOS little dome balls but I find application difficult.  It’s not easy to apply it precisely on your lips because of its shape. You have to rub it on your lips a lot to feel any benefit. The selection of colours and flavours is really cute but I am not convinced about their effectiveness.

I like the Avene lip balm stick. This one has SPF protection, is soft and moisturising but it doesn’t last very long.

The rescue balm is an excellent choice. It is very hydrating and long lasting.  It’s texture is very smooth and although there is a slight taste to it, its not overpowering. The pot is quite small so a lip brush may come in handy for this one.

The Cath Kitson lip balm is not available now but they do have alternatives but I cannot find out if these are paraben free or not at the moment.  The one I have is a natural one. It’s really effective but

I know a lot of people do not like to use lip products that you need to apply with your finger.  Many of the natural lip balms I have seen do come in a tube or a pot so a small retractable lip brush is going to serve you well.

Natural Lip Balm

A very stylish retractable lip brush to slip into your handbag to use with your natural lip balm

Try out a paraben free and natural lip balm for yourself and see how they can work for you.  In my little Amazon Shop this week there is a selection of paraben free products and if you click through to the main sites you can find lots more there! If you know any that we can add to the list why not share it.



Sugar Part 2

How To Quit Sugar Or At least Cut Down!

Its time for Part 2 in the sugar series.  How to quit or at least cut down. I am working on the cut down principle myself.  A life without cake is just unimaginable! I want to know how much sugar I am eating and where it is coming from, hence the work in Part 1 on finding out where our sugar intake comes from. If you want to quit sugar right here and now, do it! Just stop eating it. Cold turkey! Throw out everything in your cupboards that contains it.  Check and control everything you eat, simply avoid all refined sugars from now on.  Unless you give up fruit then natural sugar will be hard to avoid.   It is possible to do it.  Make sure you let everyone  around you know that you are on this mission so they can support you through what could be a bumpy few days. This is not for me though.  I love sweet things so I am just going to take control of my sugar intake.

Sugar Can Aggravate These Conditions

  • Acid Refulx
  • Irritable Bowl Syndrome
  • Fatigue
  • Migraine
  • Anxiety
  • Joint pain
  • Glycation – loss of skin elasticity and plumpness.  This is the scary one for all of us who are trying to keep our skin looking good.  A book, Eat Pretty by Jolene Hart is featured on the Love To Read spot this week.  Beauty from the inside out.

“If there is too much sugar in the body, protein molecules can cross-link with sugar molecules.1 Once this cross-linking process has occurred, the new sugar proteins are called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). The human body does not recognize AGEs as normal, and will produce antibodies that cause inflammation in the skin. Once formed, AGEs tend to gravitate toward dermal collagen and elastin. As people age, proteins in the body can become damaged through the introduction of AGEs—one of the key factors in aging of the skin. The more sugar you eat, whether processed or natural, the more AGEs are produced. When the body is overwhelmed with AGEs, collagen becomes compromised. Effects of the glycation process at the cellular level of the skin’s structure may result in wrinkling, loss of elasticity, stiffness, accelerated aging and compromised barrier function. You can read lots more on this subject here

What Do You Eat??

Keeping a food diary for a week or two is the first step to conquering sugar.  You will be able work out when your body starts to crave sugar and how you react to that.  You will become aware if it is a sugar craving or if you are eating sugar out of a habit.  For example, a biscuit or chocolate with your morning coffee whether you are hungry or not.  You will become aware of any lifestyle triggers that cause you to crave sugar.

  • What you eat and drink during a day and at what times
  • Note the sugar content from the labels of packaged food including drinks
  • Times of the day when you get a sugar craving.  Such as mid morning or late afternoon, what you do to satisfy it then how long before you crave another sugar hit
  • How well you sleep during your diary week
  • Note any emotional or stressful events that occur during your diary week and whether you react to these by eating and what you eat! Such as a bad day at the office so you treat yourself to a muffin on the way home
  • When or if you have skipped any meals.

Here is a Really Useful Food Diary you can download, print and use.

How To Keep Sugar Cravings Away

How To Quit Sugar

Protein Rich Healthy Foods

  • Eat a protein rich diet
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water regularly during the day
  • Keep your probiotic levels up.  Foods high in probiotics are Asparagus, banana, garlic, natural yogurt and honey.
  • Eat more healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil, oak smoked salmon, mackerel, olive oil, hummus and sweet potato, eggs and nut butters
  • Don’t skip meals. Low blood sugar levels increases sugar cravings
  • Eat low GI option foods such as brown bread, brown pasta and brown rice, spelt pasta (“The Glycaemic Index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrate containing foods based on the overall effect on blood glucose levels. Slowly absorbed foods have a low GI rating, while foods that are more quickly absorbed have a higher rating”)
  • Don’t shop while you are hungry or tired
  • Get plenty of regular exercise
  • Get plenty vitamin D from Salmon, mackerel and trout, beef liver and egg yolks or from 15-20 minutes out in the sunshine each day (could be a little tricky in some places!)
  • Eat a Chromium rich diet. Broccoli, green beans and bananas are rich in chromium which is good for balancing blood sugar levels
Eat a Chromium rich diet. Broccoli, green beans and bananas are rich in chromium which is good for balancing blood sugar levels Click To Tweet
How To Quit Sugar

Healthy Seeds To Add To Your Diet

If you do get desperate for something sweet try a piece of dark chocolate with a very high cocoa content. 85% cocoa is perfect.  I have only found a 70% option so far in my local supermarket but I am on the hunt for a brand with a higher content whilst also checking the sugar content per 100gms. I am looking into Hotel Chocolat, unfortunately I cannot find their sugar content at present but they do have some products claiming to be 100% cocoa with no ‘no added sugar’ – I will report on this when I can get my hands on some! A very small amount of natural, not refined, honey on a little spelt wheat cracker is also a tasty sweet snack. A Really Useful little test to check honey quality is to drop a spoonful in water, if it dissolves it’s refined. If it sinks to the bottom its natural!


Local natural honey and the lowest sugar content dark chocolate I can find – 10gms/100gms

A little word on artificial sweeteners, NO! A blog post on those bad boys coming later! Be kind to yourself and be positive. If you think it's hard, it will be! Click To Tweet Don’t berate yourself if you fall off the wagon. Just get back on knowing you are doing your best and are on the right track to get control over your sugar intake to keep yourself as healthy as you possibly can.  Let me know if you have tried to cut down on your sugar intake and how you did it.



Have You Found The Sugar??

Welcome to another 2 part series.  I am finding there are lots of things that simply cannot be squeezed into 1 week.

I am trying to cut down my intake of sugar. Ugh! Hello, my breakfast of choice is cake, how is this even going to be possible? It’s going to be possible by knowing exactly where my sugar intake is coming from.  I started looking for it. Yikes, it’s everywhere! This week I am going to help you find it and then next week I will show you how to cut down or even quit altogether if you are brave enough!

Where is my sugar intake coming from. I started looking for it. Yikes, it's everywhere! Click To Tweet

I think this quote from Dr Michael Mosley says all we need to know about the dangers of sugars.  Now we just need to find them! Those pesky sweetnesses are hiding everywhere and just where you would least expect them. Bread (and I love bread!), in particular Hovis I am looking at you here!

“If we consume more sugar than we need, our liver converts the excess into fat. Some of this fat is stored around the body.
This is why repeatedly eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and even obesity, leading to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.
Tooth decay is also more likely, as bacteria in our mouths feast on the sugary foods we eat and produce acids that dissolve our tooth enamel.”   Dr Michael Mosley

To Begin, A Few Sugary Snippets

  • The general chemical symbol for the sugar family is CnH2nOn. n can be 3-7 depending on the type.  For example glucose is C6H12O6
  • It is a soluble carbohydrate
  • It is extremely flammable near naked flames
  • The word sugar comes from the Arabic word Sukkar and probably came to England via Italian merchants
  • India was the first country to produce sugar crystals
  • In the 15th century Venice was the chief refining  and distribution centre for Europe
  • The first sugar cane grown in the New Worlds came via Christopher Colombus who received some plants as a gift from Beatriz de Bobadilla y Ossorio from the island of La Gomera, The Canary Islands, with whom it is rumoured he was romantically involved
  • Until the late 19th century it was bought in loaves and had to be cut using sugar nips
  • In the UK there was a sugar tax until 1874 when Primister Gladstone abolished it making it more affordable

Traditional Sugar Nips

Now That Sugar Is Very Affordable Where Is It Hiding???

It ‘hides’ in our food, particularly processed food and in various guises. We need to recognise what sugar actually is on the long long list of ingredients on food labels.

Look for ingredients ending in ‘ose’  as these will be a form of sugar.  If you see any of the following words – it means sugar!


If Any Of These Appear On An Ingredients List – Its Sugar!

If you like to check your food labels, as a guide, 15gms/100gms and above is a very high sugar content whereas 5gms/100gms and below is considered low.  A level teaspoon of sugar is approximately 4gm and contains 16 calories.

I used the Ocado Online Supermarket to source the information in the list below. I found their website really clear and concise.  I cannot possibly bore you with every product by every brand. But believe me I have spent hours looking at ingredients and nutritional values of hundreds of products.  Some of the products  have lower than the 5gms/100gms sugar levels. Even though some of the values are low its still added sugar hiding in an unexpected place. It is worthwhile checking the label on different varieties of the same product.  Pasta Sauce, Baked Beans and Peanut Butter are good examples of this.

It is worthwhile checking the label on different varieties of the same product for sugar content. Pasta Sauce, Baked Beans and Peanut Butter are good examples of this. Click To Tweet

Processed Foods are likely to be ‘hiding’ added sugar content so it is up to us to know where to look for them.

Salad Dressing –

Mary Berry Salad Dressing – 2nd on the list of ingredients – 26.1gms/100gms

Pasta Sauce –

Lloyd Grossman Tomato & Basil Sauce – 5th on the list – 4.8gms/100gms

Jamie Oliver Tomato & Basil Sauce – 8th on the list – 3.3gms/100gms

Waitrose Tomato & Basil Sauce – 11th on the long list – 6.oogms/100gms

Dolmio Bolognese Chunky Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce – 7th on the list – 6.5gms/100gms

White Bread, Brown Bread & Wholewheat Bread –

Hovis Good Inside Wholemeal – 3rd on the list – 4,2gms/100gms

Hovis Soft White Rolls 6 per pack – 8th on the list – 3.6gms/100gms

Baked Beans –

Heinz Beans originals – 4th on the list – 5gms/100gms

Waitrose Essentials – 4th on the list  – 4gms/100gms

Breakfast Cereal & Cereal Bars –

Kellogs Special K Original – 3rd on the list – 15gms/100gms

Jordan’s Apple & Cranberry Frusli Bars – 3rd on the list – 34.7gms/100gms

Peanut Butter –

Waitrose Essentials Smooth Peanut Butter – 2nd on the list – 5.1gms/100gms

Waitrose Essentials Wholenut Peanut Butter – no added sugar* – 3.1gms/100gms

Flavoured Water, Fizzy Drinks, Fruit Juice, Energy Drinks & Smoothies, Low Calorie Varieties of Drinks –

Volvic Touch of Fruit Cherry – 2nd on the list – 5gms/100gms

Yoghurts including Fat Free Varieties

Rachels Organic Low Fat Raspberry Yogurt –  2nd on the list – 14.9gms/100gms

Dried Fruit, Packaged Fruit & Canned Fruit –

Waitrose Whole American Cranberries – 2nd on the list – 65gms/100gms

Crazy Jack Organic Dried Apricots – No added sugar* – 60gms/100gms

Crispbreads and Crackers –

Ryvita Fruit Crunch Crispbread – 2nd on the list – 19.6gms/100gms

* – high sugar levels, but it’s not added sugar

Alcohol – Do we call that a processed food? Hmmmm! Anyway it must be mentioned. Levels of sugar in alcohol vary widely.  Baileys Irish Cream contains five teaspoons per 100ml. Wine has approximately (depending on the brand) half a teaspoon per 175ml. Drier varieties of wine will have less than half a teaspoon. Bulmers Original cider, contained 20.5gms of sugar, or five teaspoons, in a 568ml bottle.

There are, of course sugars that are natural.  Yet, consumed in large quantities these can be just as damaging as refined sugars.  Maple syrup (yummy!) and honey (not so keen myself!) contain the same amount of calories as sugar. On the plus side both contain many many beneficial antioxidants. Use only the natural varieties and use them sparingly. Natural fruit contains fructose which is a sugar. Fruit varieties are now grown specifically for their sweetness.  Apple varieties Jazz, Pink Lady and Fiji are created specifically to appeal to our love of sweetness.  The advantage of natural sugar in fruit is that it contains fibre.  This  type of fruit fibre slows down the absorption of sugar thus reducing the high/low sugar cycles in our bloodstream.


Natural Honey. The Livestrong Website is a good resource for all things healthy living related.

A great way forward is to avoid processed food. Yet eating more homemade food using natural ingredients is not always a practical option.  By being aware and conscious of where those sugars are we can start to take control of sugar.

Start to take control this week. Next week I will share with you how to cut your sugar intake down or give up altogether.  Plus there is no need to deprive ourselves of the sweet treats we all love!








PS.  I came across this very interesting book whilst working on all things sugary!



Zzzzzzzzzzz’ Operation Sleep Part 2

Welcome to Operation Sleep – Part 2.  The second in the Operation Sleep series.  In part 1 I shared with you things we can do before we go to bed that can help improve our sleep. Now we have made it into our bedroom let me share with you some really usefulness on how to create a great sleep environment which can contribute to a good nights sleep.


How about a glamorous sleep mask just like Audrey!

Creating A Sleep Friendly Environment

  • The ideal bedroom temperature is cooler than you might imagine; 18c or 65f is thought to be the best.
  • Have a well ventilated room
  • Have your bedroom as dark as possible
  • Eliminate as much external noise as possible.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom (like that is ever going to happen for Audrey and in our house too!) but pets in the bedroom can be a night time disturbance to your sleep.  We have just experienced that this past week.  Pepe, THE sleepiest dog ever had 3 really restless nights that we put down to our room being too hot.  Our solution to leave the air conditioning on all night worked and now we are back to nice undisturbed nights.
  • Soft gentle or ambient music for those of us who do not like total silence. However, this could be breaking our screen curfew as most of us have our music via our technology.  If this is the case, turn the screen brightness down as far as it will go. If you use a handheld device, place the device upside down or somewhere away from your vision to minimise the light from it. Remember from Part 1 – Blue light from technology is a stimulant. Tunin internet station is a great place to discover lots of chill out and relaxing sounds
  • A gentle room fragrance from a diffuser or a room spray using essential oils will help create a sleep friendly room.  Use oils such as Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Sandalwood, Bergamot, Vetiver, Roman Chamomile, Marjoram & Cedarwood.
  • Personally I stay away from candles indoors.  I am terrified of falling asleep with them still lit and burning the house down!   However, if you do choose to fragrance your bedroom with candles choose the same essential oil fragrances as you would for a room diffuser.
The ideal bedroom temperature is cooler than you might imagine; 18c or 65f is thought to be the best Click To Tweet



Aromatherapy Associates Is Lovely For Creating A Relaxing Fragrance In Your Bedroom You Can Find Aromatherapy Associates On The Shopping Time Page This Week


How Comfortable Is Your Bed?


sleepHow did you choose your mattress?  We chose ours without a great deal of thought to be honest.  We just knew we wanted something not too soft and something the right size for our bedroom. Our bedroom can take a king size bed but not a super king and as there is always 3 of us (Pepe the dog, before you jump to conclusions!) a standard double would be a little too crowded.  However, there are many factors we should consider before buying a mattress and many different ways to choose.  A really good idea is to think about how you sleep and choose one most appropriate for you

  • Side Sleeper – choose an inner sprung, pressure relief surface mattress. Add a memory foam topper for extra pressure relief.
  • Back Sleeper – Choose a mattress with surface support but some give
  • Front Sleeper – Choose a dense innersprung air filled mattress or a latex one
  • Sleep Hot –
  • Partners who sleep very differently or one or the other is restless – Choose two single mattresses but use bedding that matches your beds overall size.  In our experience this is one of the very best options for the best nights sleep.
  • Allergy Sufferer – Choose a foam or latex option and use an allergy mattress protector

A mattress is going to be with you for up to 7 years and beyond (although a replacement approximately every 7 years is always recommended) so it is an important investment to your overall quality of life.  Getting out of bed every day for 7 years aching or having had a bad nights sleep because your bed is not comfortable is not a pretty thought. Take time to go to a specialist bed store, use the expert advise that will be available.

Do You Have The Right Pillows?

When it comes to pillows the choice is mind numbing, especially for me.  What size? What Filling? What density? What covering?  I have lost count of the number of pillows I have tried and to be honest I am not there yet with the perfect one, it’s still a work in progress for me.  The one I am using is a feather filled and medium density. My current pillow has definitely improved my morning neck ache tremendously but I still feel I can do better.  On a recent bedding shopping trip for our UK bed I was totally confused by the huge choice of pillows at the store but the assistants really knew their thing and guided me to what I believe is a great choice for us. My advise on pillows is definitely to shop at a speciality store where staff can assist you with quality information.  This is a good comprehensive guide to all things pillowy by bedding experts The White Company. The surround pillow is sounding very tempting to me.


I Love A Huge Stack Of Pillows On My Bed

Your choice of pillow is based on personal comfort but your choice can be a vital to the health of your neck and upper back. Sleeping on the wrong pillow can cause poor sleep and a number of health complaints such as headaches, neck strain, upper back pain & allergic reactions. Click To Tweet

Finally this week, if you are looking for an update to your bedroom see whats currently on the Dreaming Of page. Why not let me know if you have any more tips on creating the best environment for a good nights sleep!

Sweet Dreams and….