News & Articles

5 Ways To Pep Up a Salad

 

It’s officially salad season, but that doesn’t have to mean the limp leaves of lettuce with forlorn slices of tomato and cucumber of the past.

Before getting on to how to spice up your bowl of greens, let’s look at the benefits of salad chomping.

Buff Up

Salads are full of nutrients and low calorie, so a great way of eating high volumes of food to fill you up on a diet. And salads are colourful and inspiring, providing a satisfying and pleasurable eating experience, unlike many ‘diet’ foods. Throw in some lean proteins like prawns or chicken and grains like bulgur or millet and you’ve got a nutritionally balanced and really filling meal.

Get a Nutrition Hit

Salads are a powerful way of eating well and getting a variety of nutrients in a fast and tasty way. Vegetables provide us with natural energy, with fibre, antioxidants and other nutrients that we need and they help to keep our stomachs happy and healthy.

Eat Water

You're supposed to drink eight glasses of water per day which is pretty daunting. But you don't have to drink all that water. Roughly 20% of our daily H2O intake comes from solid foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

Beat The Bloat

Most of us don’t respond very well to processed bread, many people suffer bulging uncomfortable belly afterwards, so a lip-smacking salad can be a great excuse to ditch stomach bloating sarnies for lunch.

Be Inspired

The worship of roast cauliflower, avocado and char-grilled broccoli is no longer a trend, nor just the preferred choice of the health fanatics. We’ve learnt in the last ten years from the likes of Ottolenghi and Deliciously Ella, that vegetables have unlimited potential. Wake up your tastebuds, vegetables and fruit, nuts and grains, can be brought to life with some love, imagination and a fantastic salad dressing.


And here’s 5 easy ways to sass up your salad

Veg Love

A few roasted veg can create a sophisticated and divine salad worthy of lunch guests. All you have to do is cube some veg like sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots, beets or whatever you’ve got lying around, drizzle with oil, season with some dried herbs, chilli flakes, salt and pepper and roast in the oven at Gas mark 6 for about 30-40mins. Serve cold.

Herbilicious

You’d be amazed how chopping up fresh herbs can transform a salad. Just be experimental. Got some spare basil, mint and parsley? Chop it up and throw it in. Don’t be afraid of overkill or blending the ‘wrong’ herbs. All fresh herbs just work well with green leaves.

 

Get Fruity

There’s no reason that fruits have to remain relegated to dessert. Fruit adds freshness and texture, not to mention vitamins, minerals and flavour. Here are a few combinations to try: Blue cheese and pear, watermelon and feta, strawberries and spinach, avocado, pineapple and watercress, blackberry and goats cheese. Open up your salad world!

Dress it up

Making salad dressing from scratch is nearly as fast and easy as shaking up a supermarket bottle of the stuff and the taste is so much better than even the most "gourmet" versions you’d buy. There’s so many to choose from, but if you want to go super simple just cover your leaves with a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and season with some salt and pepper.

Go Nuts

The benefits of adding nuts to your salad go beyond just adding flavour and texture. Think nutrition. You can sneak some of the most nutritious nuts and seeds into a salad to make the salad taste better, and reap all the nutritional rewards. Try almonds, walnuts or toasted pecans/ pine nuts for starters, although go wild, anything goes.

 

Written by Mike Pye

Photos courtesy of Katya Willems

 

Change Your Life By Meditating For Ten Minutes a Day

 

Meditation isn’t something that you have to do for hours on end to reap the benefits. Just ten minutes a day will make a difference.

At the end of the article, we’ll give you a meditation practice to follow that really will last just ten minutes and it’s super simple. But let’s look at why meditating is so brilliant before you commit.

Get a handle on your stress levels

Studies have shown it actually rewires your brain so that the neural pathways responsible for fear and anxious thoughts are weakened. Feeling overwhelmed by a busy week? Meditation can help you stay calm and centred during challenging situations, and to relax after the storm has passed.

Be healthier

Practising meditation is one of the easiest ways to improve your overall health. Studies have shown it can turn on genes that protect you from pain, high blood pressure and infertility, among other benefits. Meditation has also been shown to boost your immune system, increasing your chances of staying well.

More shut eye

Taking the time to meditate can help you let go of those circling thoughts that keep you from drifting off at night. You’re also more likely to have deeper, more refreshing sleep, so you’ll wake up feeling energised.

Be Smarter

It has been linked to better focus, concentration and attention to detail. Studies have shown that it can reconfigure your brain to strengthen the parts associated with attention and sensory processing.

Tap into your creative genius

Partaking in meditation can help awaken the creative parts of your brain (yep, even you non-creative types). Research has revealed that meditation can enhance your ability to come up with creative ideas.

Become nicer

This is one of the most amazing benefits of meditation – it can make you kinder and open your heart. Studies have shown that people who meditate regularly are more empathetic and compassionate towards other people. What a beautiful gift to the world.

Be more beautiful

Meditation is scientifically proven to help to eliminate skin problems like acne and eczema, and if you want to be sexy you need to be full of energy and zest for life. Meditation is proven to improve your energy levels and to make you live more in the moment, thereby giving the magnetic attractiveness that comes with it.

So you’re going to be hotter, cleverer, nicer, healthier, calmer. What’s not to like? And here’s how you go about it in just ten minutes a day:

The Practise

To prepare:

1) Find a comfortable chair and sit down, keeping a straight back.
2) Make sure you’ll be left undisturbed (switch off your mobile).
3) Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Check in:

1) Take five deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and gently close your eyes.
2) Focus on the physical sensation of the body on the chair and the feet on the floor.
3) Scan down through the body and notice which parts feel comfortable and relaxed, and which parts feel uncomfortable and tense.
4) Notice how you’re feeling – what sort of mood you’re in right now?

Focus:

1) Notice where you feel the rising and falling sensation of the breath most strongly.
2) Notice how each breath feels, the rhythm of it – whether it’s long or short, deep or shallow, rough or smooth.
3) Gently count the breaths as you focus on the rising and falling sensation - one with the rise and two with the fall, upwards to a count of 10.
4) Repeat this cycle between five and 10 times, or for as long as you have time available.

Wind down:

1) Let go of any focus at all, allowing the mind to be as busy or as still as it wants to be for 20 seconds.
2) Bring the mind back to the sensation of the body on the chair and the feet on the floor.
3) Gently open your eyes and stand up when you feel ready.

 

The Best Places to Eat Cake in the UK

 

 

It is a very sensible idea to combine travel and cake. What’s the point of going on a mini break or a day trip if food isn’t factored into the equation? So do you pick the place because of the food, or pick the place, then the food?

Well here’s nine of the very best venues to eat cake in the UK, perhaps it will give you a little holiday inspiration at the same time.

1. Forge Bakehouse Sheffield

In the last few years, Forge Bakehouse has developed a reputation as one of Sheffield’s finest bakeries with fresh, wholesome bread and delicious sweet treats. Cake-wise, you can expect to find rhubarb Danish pastries, custard tarts, raspberry morning buns, chai Brulee tarts, macarons and pistachio and rose doughnuts. Are you drooling yet?

2. Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms, York and Harrogate, Northallerton and Ilkley

Betty’s is an institution, opening nearly 100 years ago in 1919. People will travel across the country to experience an exquisite Betty’s afternoon tea in beautiful art deco surroundings. There are six Bettys Café Tea Rooms to explore in Harrogate, York, Northallerton and Ilkley, where you can enjoy handmade bread, cakes and chocolates from their own Craft Bakery, the finest teas and coffees and delicious freshly prepared Swiss-Yorkshire savoury specialities.

3. Wolfhouse Kitchen Altrincham Market, Manchester

This wonderful bakery originated in Silverdale, Lancashire where it’s still going strong. The Manchester branch opened two years ago in the very trendy New York-esque Altrincham indoor market, they serve an amazing array of cinnamon buns, doughnuts, citron tarts and many other cakes that will make your eyes pop.

 4. Baltic Bakehouse Liverpool

Listed as one of the 20 Best Bakeries in the UK in 2016 by the Telegraph, this new food outlet excels in artisanal baking. Along with classics like almond Bakewell and custard tart, they do more quirky offerings including peanut-butter and brittle doughnuts, lemon curd doughnuts and crack pie - a kind of gooey, toffee custard filling on a crunchy biscuit base with a hint of vanilla sea salt.

5. Miss Vs Vintage High Teas

Utterly Cornish and extremely addictive - Miss V’s Vintage High Teas serve the lightest fluffiest cream tea scones as well as homemade cakes. Miss V’s tea hut is based above the glorious St Just in Roseland Church, which John Betjeman declared the most beautiful setting in England.

6. Ottolenghi, Islington

Ottolenghi in Islington is delightfully minimalist and stylish, with lovely long communal tables, although if you like your privacy there are a handful of tables for two. Platters of salads and vibrant cakes greet you on arrival. Some of the incredible sweet treats on offer include plum crumble muffins, baked chocolate and walnut tart, blackcurrant friands and white chocolate cheesecake tart with raspberry compote.

 

  

7. Chesters By The River, Ambleside

Chesters is found at Skelwith Bridge, at the edge of Langdale valley, right in the middle of The Lakes. Surrounded by fells and a short walk from a waterfall, the landscape alone is well worth a visit. The cafe serves lunch, drinks and legendary home-made cakes. The cakes will knock your socks off - think old fashioned and chunky staples like a ginger loaf, double lemon cake, tiffin and carrot cake.

8. Cuckoos Bakery, Edinburgh

Cuckoos is an award winning bakery and cupcakery just north of the New Town. Red velvet, strawberries and cream, black bottom, sticky toffee pudding are some of the favourite cupcakes on the menu. Cuckoo's also prides itself in its ethics: ingredients are locally sourced, unsold cakes are donated to homeless charities and all packaging materials are recycled. Bravo Cuckoo!

 9. Outsider Tart, Chiswick

A couple of professional guys moved from New York to live and work in London - but struggled to find good, wholesome cupcakes, sweet pies and fresh tarts. Outsiders as they both are, they committed to rectifying the situation by turning a favourite hobby into an award-winning business. Expect to find the very best whoopie pies, American cookies and fabulous brownies.

 

Written by Mike Pye

Photos courtesy of Katya Willems

A guide for growing vegetables all year long

Growing your own veggies is a great way to know exactly what is going into the food that ends up on your plate. By planting, feeding and monitoring your crops you can ensure that you get the healthiest product possible. However, a common stumbling block for would-be growers is timing – when should I plant this vegetable? When should I harvest another? Here we offer some key tips and advice on home growing.

January
The start of the year can be very frustrating for vegetable growers. January is generally very cold in the UK with plenty of frost and not much sunlight which can make it difficult to sow or plant anything. Well, at least outdoors anyway.  While you have some success with peas, shallots or garlic, you’ll struggle with anything else. Indoors you can use a heated propagator or LED grow lights to start growing tomatoes and aubergines, however it’s a lot of effort to save yourself a bit of time. Instead, you could just use January to put together a plan of what you will grow throughout the year and add it to your calendar.

February
February is notoriously unpredictable and a mild end or vicious cold snap could scupper your growing plans this month. If you’re keen to get started then you can begin chitting potatoes ready for planting in a cool room that get a little sunlight, but not too much.  You can also start planting parsnip seeds now but if the ground is still cold then you might have more success in March time.  Now is also a good time to start planting cabbages, turnips, spinach and onions and also to remove any dead leaves and plant matter covering up your beds.  

March
March is when you can really start to get going with your garden or allotment growing.  You can start planting turnips, radish, lettuce, leeks, Brussels sprouts, peas, broad beans and beetroot. You can also begin planting the potatoes that you’ve been chitting.  Be mindful of the weather though as it can still be bitterly cold.

April
By this point of the year, the weather should be on the turn with some fairly mild weather arriving.  Now is the time to get busy.  You can start sowing beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kale, leeks, lettuce, peas, radish, rocket and spinach.  You might also be able to plant some celery, cucumbers and tomatoes under the cover of a greenhouse.  

May
Your soil should be beginning to warm up in May and most of the cold should have gone.  But, it’s likely that the cold days will still be outnumbering the warm ones until the very end of the month.  May is a good time to start sowing the following vegetables: French beans, runner beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflowers, kale, lettuce, peas, rocket, radishes and spring onions. Under the cover of a greenhouse you can start sowing courgettes, marrows, pumpkins and squash.  While you can now begin moving Brussels sprouts, cabbages, celery and leeks outside to finish growing, you should keep peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse.

June
With all the sunshine that comes with June your vegetables have plenty of opportunity to soak up nutrients. However, it’s important as you move through the summer months to make sure your plants are being watered as well. Here are some vegetables which you can sow in June - for some it’s the last chance for a while. They include beetroot, carrots, cauliflowers, courgettes, French beans, runner beans, peas, squash, Swedes and turnips. You can also move broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbages out from the greenhouse.

July
Although you certainly can’t count on the weather in the UK, July does tend to be the driest month of the year.  If you do experience a dry spell in June then be sure to give your crops plenty of water and make sure your greenhouse is properly ventilated.  July can prove a pain for pests too so try and keep on top of weeds and utilise pest control (nets, sprays, repellents, etc) where you can.  While the bulk of sowing is usually over by July you can still plant beetroot, cabbage, carrots, French beans, lettuce and peas.

August
Another hot month, August is all about continued maintenance as your vegetables soak up the sunshine. Water your crops regularly, stay on top of your pest control duties and if you’re looking for something to sow then consider cabbage, radishes or spinach. You can also move any cabbages or cauliflowers that you planted earlier in the year outdoors to complete their cycle.

September
September ushers in the end of the summer which means cooler weather and lots of harvesting on the horizon.  You should find that the majority of your crops should be ready to harvest in September – October time including artichokes, beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflowers, courgettes, kale, leeks, lettuce, marrows, onions, pumpkins, radishes, spinach, spring onion and turnips.  So, get ready to enjoy the fruits of your labour!

October
Like September, October is when you’ll begin to see the majority of your crops come to maturity. Any crops which aren’t ready to be harvested will need to be protected from the elements as there can be downpours and plenty of wind throughout October.  Once you’ve harvested up the lion’s share of your veg you should use the spare time you have to dig over the old plots to keep it fertile.

November
With winter well on its way it’s time to prepare for the elements.  Frost, rain and snow puts an end to most of your crops but you can use the time you have to continue digging over old plots. This promotes nutrients and stops your soil from becoming hard and impacted. If you do have any leftover produce in the ground like carrots or Brussels’ sprouts then they may be ready for harvest but generally most of your plot will be empty by now.

December
Stepping out the house is unlikely to be high on your agenda in December with all the planning for the holidays and miserable weather.  This makes December a good time to plan out when you will grow your crops the following year and most importantly put your orders in for your seeds – perhaps shopping around for good deals or new varieties that you’re yet to try out.  It’s also a good opportunity to repair any of your tools ahead of sowing season.

Do you enjoy gardening? Do you have any special tips on growing your own veg or creating a garden sanctuary? Tweet us @TimeForYouGroup and let us know, or alternatively visit us at https://timeforyou.cleaning/uk/ for more tips and advice.

How to create beautiful hanging baskets

Whether planted for summer or winter interest, hanging baskets provide valuable colour at eye level. Choose vibrant bedding plants for a short-term show or herbs, shrubs and evergreens for a long-lasting display.

Choosing a basket
Hanging baskets are all about being creative. Beyond just selecting vibrant and eye-catching plants you also have the option to customize in other ways such as choosing an unusual basket material. Commonly wire baskets or solid plastic hanging baskets are used but if you want a more earthy and homemade feel then you could opt for a woven wicker basket – or even a kitchen colander.  Baskets come in different sizes, normally 12-18 inches wide. You should be careful not to purchase a basket which is either too big or too small, as you don’t want to under fill or over stuff it.

Choosing a liner
Next you’ll need to choose a liner for your hanging basket.  There are a few different options here.  Our favourite liner is a natural one – moss. You can collect moss from outdoors, or purchase it from a home garden centre in bags. Moss is an organic material which not only soaks up and holds moisture really well but also looks more natural than other liners. If you don’t want to use moss for any reason then you could consider purchasing a pre-made liner, or a re-constituted peat liner.

Choosing your plants
As a rule of thumb, in 12-14 inch baskets you can aim for 3-5 plants and in a 16 or 18 inch basket you can use 5-7 plants.  When choosing your plants you should aim for a central plant which adds some volume, some trailing plants which will hang over the sides and some infill plants to cover any sparse sections.  Many people will choose to only fill their baskets with overhanging flowers, which is fine if your basket is displayed up in a high place but if you want to have your basket a little lower, perhaps on a display or on the floor, then you need to add some volume with a centre piece.  Some of the most popular plants for hanging baskets include Pansies, Geraniums, Fuchsias, Yuccas, Viola Ochre, Mini Cyclamen, Busy Lizzies and Begonia.

Putting your basket together
Now comes the fun part. To get started you need to add your moss (or other lining). Try and aim to cover the insides with about ½ inch thickness and then fill up to the halfway point of the basket with plenty of compost. The moss will help to hold in that extra bit of moisture during the dry spells and the compost will act as nutritious bedding for your plants.  In today’s gardening market there are all manner of different powders, gels and tablets to help your plants. One commonly recommended option for hanging baskets is that of water storage crystals which slowly release moisture with time. However, a cheap alternative is to cut up a car sponge and mix the segments in with your compost. This will do the job just as well as storage crystals.

Now you will want to begin adding your plants to the basket. Start from the centre with your centre piece plant and add it to the middle of the basket. Next add your trailers at 12 o’ clock, 3 o’ clock, 6 o’ clock and 9 o’ clock.  Next add your infill plants to cover any areas where compost is showing.  Make sure they are all firmly placed and don’t be afraid to be a bit rough prodding, pulling and poking to make sure everything is stable.  To make sure your basket is set up for success you should add some slow release fertiliser which will gradually release nutrients to keep the roots and flowers growing strong and healthy.  Finally, find somewhere that will get plenty of sunshine, pop the chain on your basket, carefully hang it up and enjoy!

Do you enjoy gardening? Do you have any special tips on crafting hanging baskets or creating a garden sanctuary? Tweet us @TimeForYouGroup and let us know, or alternatively visit us at https://timeforyou.cleaning/uk/ for more tips and advice.

Tips for growing a green lawn

There’s nothing better than lying on a lush green garden lawn in the summer months - a green space for you, your children and even your cats and dogs to relax on. But how exactly do you go about creating a lush green lawn and how do you avoid the dreaded brown patches and lumps that we so often see?

No one lawn is the same
Every garden is different and the soil composition in your garden may require you to treat it in a very particular way. The best way to determine the right diet for your lawn is to perform a soil PH test which will tell you how acidic or alkaline it really is. This will then help you to know whether to purchase lime which can raise the PH or split pea sulphur which can lower the PH.  Soils with a high clay content can benefit from organic matter like sand and gypsum.

Feed your lawn
Just like me and you, your lawn gets very hungry when it hasn’t eaten for a while. By using natural organic fertilisers you can give your soil and grass all the nutrients it needs to be strong, healthy and resistant to diseases. You can pick up organic fertiliser from any good garden retailer.

Sharpen your blades
When was the last time you sharpened the blades on your mower?  If you can’t remember then that’s a good sign that it needs doing. Dull blades can scuff and tear up your lawn and leave it susceptible to diseases which can ruin it. So remove your blades and then use an angle grinder or file it until it’s noticeably sharper.  Of course it may be worth seeking out an expert to help you with this if you’ve never done it before.

Leave grass clippings where they are
Another good tip for topping up your garden nutrients is to leave grass clippings where they are instead of raking them away. Cuttings help to keep out weeds and acts as a booster for your organic fertiliser.

Water heavily but not too often
The roots of grass seed only grows as deep as it needs to. So if you frequently water your garden lawn the roots stay quite shallow in the ground. The solution is to water less frequently, but twice as much. So water your lawn and then come back 1-2 hours later and give it another spray.

Dealing with patches
If you’ve started to see brown patches in your lawn then you need to act quickly. Grass turns brown when it is struggling to get enough nutrients i.e. food and water. There are a few different reasons why this might be happening. It could be caused by a heat wave with little rain fall in which case you should water it yourself or it might be that there are weeds zapping away all your lawn’s food, in which case you should reach for your gardening gloves and begin raking them up.

Do you enjoy gardening? Do you have any special tips on growing a lawn or creating a garden sanctuary? Tweet us @TimeForYouGroup and let us know, or alternatively visit us at https://timeforyou.cleaning/uk/ for more tips and advice.

The Easiest Vegetables to Grow With or Without a Garden

 

At last, early morning greets us with daylight; it’s spring! And with the new, hotter season comes an exciting opportunity. Have you ever fantasized about growing your own vegetables? Perhaps you always wanted to, but thanks to zero garden space, planting greens remains a pipe dream.

But what if I told you that growing certain vegetables is possible without a garden? Better yet, what if I told you it’s easy?
With the right tools, enough light, and a little spare time, you can enjoy the satisfaction of planting, nurturing and harvesting your own tasty vegetables without a garden.

Here are the easiest edible greens to grow that’ll add a punch of fresh flavours to your meals:

Lettuce

Growing lettuce comes with two perks: it can take just four weeks to grow, and it can be harvested repeatedly. You can choose from a range of seeds: Merlot, Red Oakleaf, Deer Tongue, Salad Bowl, and more. Pick a south-facing window for your prized growing spot. If the chances of sunlight are slim, it’s worth investing in a lamp to bring more heat on the scene (placing your lighting two inches above your shallow pots will work a treat). Lettuces are polite because they’ll tell you when they’re thirsty. Water them when they’re dry, watch them grow, and harvest your lettuce for the perfect salad.

Spring Onions

Spring onions are simple and fast to grow because they don’t need to be nurtured from seed. Technically, you’re regrowing them. Grab a bunch and cut them down. Tie them together with a rubber band or string, and add them to a spacious glass with water. The only rule of this gardening thumb is to change the water every day. You should notice some growth within a couple of sunrises. By week four, your flavourful spring onions will be ready to pick.

Cherry Tomatoes

A staple in many dishes; tomatoes are as valuable as they are rich and earthy. Certain types can also be grown without a garden, like cherry tomatoes. All you need is a large hanging basket (16 inches would be golden), some moss liner and standard potting soil. Plant your tomatoes around the edge and add some slow-release fertiliser. Water your hanging basket every day, and in a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to enjoy your prized, juicy red jewels.

Chillies

Looking to add a touch of homegrown fire to your cuisine? Chillies are super easy to grow. You just need seeds, a few small containers, fertilised soil (mixed with compost) and a green finger. Each seed needs to go half an inch below the surface of the soil in individual containers. Top tip: add a little sand into your soil for improved drainage. Make sure you plan your chilli planting session around the seasons; after six weeks of indoor growth, your chillies will need to be moved outside (a patio with sunlight will do!). Ensure it’s warm enough for them to begin the last leg of their growth.

Baby Carrots

Carrots are easy to grow but if you’re low on garden space (or have no space at all), baby carrots are a better option. Like chillies, all they need is heat and a pot with some loose, sandy soil. Plant your seeds about a quarter inch below the surface. When the leaves grow 2 inches tall, trim the seedlings (this gives the carrots enough room to grow underground). Your carrots will be ready add to your dishes within fifty-five days; a short time to wait for organic vegetables as delicious at these.

Microgreens

Perhaps the most difficult part of growing microgreens is choosing which microgreen to go. You can pick from an array of leafy greens, from kale to watercress. Help your seeds grow by planting them in a small container. Using disposable plates at the bottom of the containers will make it easier to lift them out when the plants are ready for harvesting. You don’t need to bury the seeds; scatter them on top of some moistened potting soil and add some more over the top. Avoid watering your microgreens; instead, use a mister to gently moisturise them. Your woody greens can be picked as early as twenty-five days after planting.

Becoming an expert grower of greens without a garden has never been simpler.

When I was small, I would feast on my Grandad’s home grown vegetables. There’s nothing better than picking food from a plant and letting your taste buds experience the true meaning of ‘fresh food’.

And now you can experience this too, without a garden.

To get you 100% prepared, I’ll leave you with a few of my favourite tips for growing these delicious vegetables:

● Watering with chamomile tea will help fight off fungus.
● Pick a breezy area for planting to keep mould at bay.
● Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature in the growing area
● Invest in a cool mist humidifier to can stop indoor heating drying the surrounding air

 

 

 

How to Start a Digital Detox

Last week a friend told me he’d ditched all things digital. I asked him what impact this had on his day-to-day life. He said, “My head is clearer… I have more time to spend on what’s important to me.”

I became acutely aware of how much time I spend on my phone. Whether I’m travelling, having lunch, or spending a night in with friends, my mobile is guaranteed to make an appearance. Because of this, my head isn’t clear; it’s clouded with a constant awareness of my presence online and the desire to be involved in the virtual lives of others.

The fear of isolation hooks us in; we are afraid of being disconnected from what we believe is important. But is it really necessary to spend hours on Instagram, to check the news six times a day, and to talk to people as often as we do online?

Let’s find out. Learn how to manage a digital detox without failing after the first hurdle using these intelligent and unintimidating first steps.

1. Start your detox slowly

Have you ever tried to give up sugar? Wine? Something that’s tricky to live without? It’s hard. The urge to rid yourself of something that has a negative impact on your life can be powerful. So, you confidently go cold turkey because you want to. And that desire should make it easy. Right?

Wrong. Take away something you enjoy (or are addicted to) all at once and you’re inviting withdrawal symptoms. The bigger your urges are to reconnect online, the more distant your reasons will get for starting the ban in the first place. Make it easier: start slowly. Pick a time where being online is off limits, or uninstall an app you use regularly. Get used to being online less and less, and give yourself time to decide if a digital detox is right for you.

2. Tell the people important to you

Going virtually incognito can also be worrying for people who care about you. Tell your family, friends, and colleagues what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how they can contact you. Be careful not to alienate yourself. Depending on how much time you talk to people online, cutting off all online communication will whittle down the hours you spend socialising.

Make up for this by engaging with people in other ways. Arrange meetups, write letters, or organise phone calls with friends and family far away. Yes, it’s more long-winded than typing a message on WhatsApp or Facebook. But because you're making time for someone (and time is valuable), you discover which relationships are meaningful to you.

3. Switch off your devices after work

I get it. Disappearing from the online hemisphere can be detrimental job wise, especially if a lot of client interaction and company processes take place online. But do you need to be enveloped in an online bubble after work?

Prepare by giving your clients and colleagues an emergency contact number: like your home phone. Then switch off your mobile after stepping through your front door, and enjoy some down time in the real world.

4. Keep a diary

It might feel like another trial but keeping a record of the way you feel during a digital detox is very useful. You can decipher how being offline affects your mood, your productivity, or your feelings towards other people.

Understanding how your detox affects your mood lets you work out what you should try next. Remember: your detox doesn’t have to follow a set of rules. Identify what works best for you, and develop a clear and powerful strategy to achieve success.

5. Be more present in reality

Let’s say you’re eating a meal. Instead of 'Facebooking' with one hand and eating with the other, concentrate on enjoying your food. How does it taste? Are you relaxed after a hard day’s work? Are you eating with anyone else? How does being with them make you feel? Savour the details that make you happy. Ask yourself: would I have missed that if I was on my phone?

6. Rely on other sources of news

You might be concerned that leaving the digital world makes you ignorant to personal or worldly affairs. There’s sense in that; nowadays, important news is instantly accessible online. But there are plenty of other ways to seek out this information.

Engage in stories with others, listen to their reactions and ask questions. Read a newspaper you trust as a reliable source of information. Do this for a week, and access how much you missed out on. Bonus: in an age of ‘post-truth’, you benefit from waiting for a full story. Get reliable, well-reported information, as opposed to ‘breaking news’ click bait online.

Your Challenge

It’s time to put theory into practice. Pick a date and choose a strategy (or several) from the tips discussed. Become accountable by setting daily targets. Don’t forget to be conscious about the way you feel throughout the detoxing process. It’s the only way you’ll know if it’s working for you.

Here are some extra tips that'll help you turn your digital detox into a lifestyle:

1. Don’t let you mobile screen be the first thing you see in a morning
2. Only respond to emails and texts at specific times of the day
3. Find a new hobby to fill your spare time
4. Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock
5. Buy a watch
6. Switch your phone to aeroplane mode at night
7.Use an offline device to take pictures

How much time have you saved living in an offline world? What worked for you and what didn’t? We’d love to hear about it.

Madrid’s Top 8 Unforgettable Experiences

 

Spain is famous for its white sandy beaches and Mediterranean azure blue sea. But inside Madrid, Spain’s capital city, you can truly experience the country’s richly vibrant history and culture, in addition to some extraordinary sights.

From architecturally gorgeous landmarks, lush green parks, and museums unrivalled in scale, Madrid is an ideal destination for anyone wanting the dabble in a mixture of adventures for a city break. Here are eight of the most unforgettable experiences this remarkable city has to offer.

1. Indulge in Gran Via’s shops and nightclubs

In the heart of Madrid lies Gran Via. Saunter along this street during daylight and marvel at the dramatic and ornate 20th-century architecture. You’ll find buildings honoured with styles from the Vienna Secession, Plateresque, and Art Deco (to name a few). Do you have a passion for shopping? Go wild in Gran Via’s huge array of upscale shops. Stay until sundown, and witness the height of Madrid’s nightlife along ‘the street that never sleeps’.

2. Spend the day outdoors in Casa De Campo

It’s easy to picture Madrid as the bustling hub of Spain. But after a short ride on a gondola from Parque del Oeste (at the west end of Madrid), you can find acres of tranquil space. Casa De Campo is big; five times bigger than New York’s Central Park to be exact.

It’s the perfect place to escape from the noise and crowds of the city. Spend the day walking and cycling around the once royal hunting estate. Spot wild deer, rabbits, and birds native to Spain. Explore every corner of the park, and stumble across examples of Spain’s natural beauty: red soil and remarkable rugged pine trees native to the land.

3. Have a naughty breakfast at San Ginés Chocolaterie

Indulge in a mouth-watering breakfast at San Ginés Chocolaterie. Take advantage of a moment where having chocolate and deep-fried batter for breakfast is okay. Because chocolate and churros in on the menu at San Ginés Chocolaterie.

It’s the local’s favourite, so if they aren’t being judged, why should you? Better yet, this chocolate haven is open twenty-four hours a day. It can get very busy, but the crowds are worth your patience for such a delectable eating experience.

4. Experience Mercado de San Miguel’s supreme culinary offerings

Mercado de San Miguel is stunningly beautiful. It’s an archaic space, where natural light pours in from the glass walls. Hundreds of markets can be found here, where you can experience fresh and authentic smells of the Spanish cuisine. If you’re a foodie, you’ll be in heaven; stalls offer culinary delights from fresh fruit and vegetables, cold meats and seafood, to chocolates, frozen yoghurts, and casks of sangria.


5. Soak in the Spanish culture at Plaza Mayor

A trip to Plaza Mayor could put a dent in your holiday funds but it’s worth it. Grab a table at one of the many bars or restaurants and revel in the electrifying atmosphere (with a free tapas dish to boot!). Plaza Mayor attracts all kinds of entertainment, such as live music and talented street performers. And it’s difficult not to look up at the grand 17th century, three-story buildings surrounding the rectangular square, with over two hundred and seven balconies facing the plaza; it makes for an unforgettable sight.

6. Visit Museo del Prado, one of the world's largest art galleries

The term ‘minimalist’ has never (and will never) enter the walls of Museo del Prado. The gallery is home to over nine thousand artworks painted by some of the most famous artists in the world. The work of display was chosen by Spain’s 16th- and 17th-century monarchs, giving you an eye-opening look into Spain’s rich history and culture; a once in a lifetime experience for history and art enthusiasts. Because of its popularity, queues are guaranteed, so book in advance to skip a long wait.

7. Teatro de la Zarzuela

Entering the Teatro de la Zarzulela is like stepping back in time. Picture a Spanish theatre in the nineteenth century. Instead of sound equipment, live performers and singers take center stage, using the surroundings only to resonate the music and their voices. All of this can be witnessed in the present day. Teatro de la Zarzuela has stuck to its historical roots; each performance echo's the Spain of old, from the costumes and acoustic music instruments to the stunning, traditional backdrops. You may not be able to speak Spanish, but you’ll understand the language of musical mastery during your visit to Teatro de la Zarzuela.

8. Be enchanted by Palacio De Cristal’s beauty

If it was possible to step inside a rainbow, visiting Madrid’s Palacio De Cristal would be a similar experience. Ornate glass walls and ceilings create patterns of incandescent light inside this magnificent crystal palace. It has been home to exotic plants and renowned art for over a century, creating an air of fairytale decadence. Outside, you can enjoy picture perfect views from the surrounding lush park, and sit by Buen Retiro’s stunning lake just outside the palace.

Have you booked your flights yet?

If you have, I wouldn’t blame you. Madrid has so many ‘must see’ experiences, it’s stressful just thinking about all the things you want to do and see. Thankfully, these experiences aren’t going anywhere. So go ahead and put Spain’s glorious city on your holiday bucket list. And don’t forget to tell us all about it when you finally get to visit! Or perhaps you have already visited Madrid? If you have, we’d love to hear all about it.

 

 

8 Breathtaking Walks in Britain

There are many landscapes around the world that astonish with dramatic natural beauty. A natural Britain, on the other hand, is regarded as quaint and unimposing. But it is partly because of this that makes its scenery so breathtaking.

Britain’s landscape is unique; we celebrate it for being gentle, charming and unthreatening. There are rolling green hills, majestic coastlines, historic landmarks and scalable mountain tops. There are crystal clear rivers and treasured waterfalls concealed by woodland brimming with wildlife.

Britain’s landscape offers a wealth of tranquil beauty in spectacular variations. And it’s yours to explore and enjoy, with the right map (and walking boots!). Discover the most remarkable and breath-taking walks this island has to offer.

1. St David’s Head Peninsula, Pembrokeshire

It’s places like St David’s Head that make the British coastline such an enchanting place to explore. Pembrokeshire is known for its staggering beauty and the trail along St David’s head, which hugs the welsh coast, highlights this beautifully.

It’s an easy walk for most of the way, but careful footing is needed where the trail kisses the cliff edge. Brave the unnerving terrain and you’re rewarded with some unforgettable views: secluded beaches untouched, mysterious coves, and (if you’re lucky) porpoises and seals lazing along the golden shores.

2. Stanage Edge, Peak District

Since the 19th century, Stanage Edge’s four miles of gritstone cliff has attracted climbers, eager to scale one of the Peak District’s steepest slopes. It’s easy to see why the Edge is so popular. Starting your walk from the village of Hathersage, you’re provided with miles of striking rugged moorland. The trail is littered with remnants of the past: weathered millstones and crumbling ruins add to a historic intrigue. Watching climbers scale the jagged Edge also makes for a captivating sight.

3. Aysgarth Woods and Waterfalls

Nestled deep within Wensleydale, this trail offers remarkable beauty. It’s an easy route, and it won’t take you long to reach Aysgarth’s hidden jewel. Within the woods, where you can find birds such as treecreepers, chiffchaffs and warbles, hides a picture-perfect waterfall. The route is well maintained and suitable for young children. There’s also Castle Bolton nearby to explore, and if you’re lucky, you could spot Roe deer wandering around the countryside.

4. Tryfan, Snowdonia

Anyone madly in love with mountains will be in awe with Tryfan. With its pointed edges and deep crags, Snowdonia’s mountain is frequented by experienced hikers scrambling up the north ridge to see the iconic Adam and Eve rocks. If you’d prefer a more gentle walk, Tryfan offers various routes that allow you to soak in the views of Snowdonia’s rolling hills and stunning valleys; arguably some of the best views you will find in Britain.

5. Old Harry Rocks, Dorset

If you forget to bring a camera to Old Harry Rocks, you’ll regret it. From Studland Bay, this Dorset coastal walk snakes along the golden coast. At times, you’re forced to walk close to the chalk cliff edge, so good footwear is a must. Once you reach the famous rocks, you can see breath-taking views of Poole and Bournemouth. The trail is filled with wildflowers and butterflies in the hotter seasons and is equally captivating on a moody and misty winter’s day.

6. Malham Cove, North Yorkshire

Malham Cove will set your imagination alight; it is truly unique. From the village of Malham, meander your way across stunning farmland towards this special landmark. Once you arrive, your eyes will be glued to a rare view. Malham Cove is a mighty limestone formation, shaped like an amphitheatre enveloping the land below. Reach the path above, and stand where Harry Potter, the Deathly Hallows was filmed, on rare limestone patterned rocks.

7. Blencathra, The Lake District

Endure the precarious trek to Blencathra’s summit to bask in some of the Lake District’s most astounding views. Prepare for the changeable weather; this hill is exposed to the elements and the climate can change from clear to wet and rainy in minutes. If you’re an inexperienced hiker, there are plenty of guides happy to offer you valuable information on the best routes to take. Complete the trek once, and Blencathra’s stunning scenery will lure you back in no time at all.

8. Lizard Peninsula Coast, Cornwall

On a beautiful summer’s day, the most southerly point in Cornwall will make you feel like you’re abroad. With azure blue waters on one side and land with rare flora and fauna on the other, a day spent walking along the Lizard Peninsula Coast will instantly transport you into holiday mode. The coastal vista is breathtaking, with secluded fishing villages scattered across the land. The weather here can be unpredictable, however, so set out with a raincoat and sturdy walking boots to be on the safe side.

Embark on a breathtaking journey

It’s easy to overlook Britain in favour of traversing across distant lands. But in doing so, you’re missing out on unforgettable hiking experiences. So pick a beautiful day, and make it your goal to explore some of Britain's most breathtaking walks.