News & Articles

Having Your Cake And Eating It: 3 Delicious Healthy Cake Recipes

Make no mistake, these cakes might be virtuous, but miraculously the healthy ingredients (including spelt flour, nuts, dried fruit, even vegetables) elevate the flavours, giving a complex, sophisticated taste to the baked treats. I think you’ll find the three recipes below to be rich and indulgent and deeply satisfying. And once you get a taste for healthy cakes, you’ll be hooked!

Healthy Millionaire’s Shortbread (recipe inspired by Alessandra Peters)

Ingredients

For the base

100g ground almonds

75g arrowroot

30g coconut flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

85 ml honey

85 ml coconut oil (melted)

For the caramel

12 large medjool dates, pitted

3 tbsp peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

4 tbsp hot water

Chocolate topping

150g dark chocolate broken into small chunks

1 tsp coconut oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 160C and line a 20x20 baking tray with baking paper and grease lightly.

Put all the shortbread base ingredients into a bowl and mix until smooth. Press the dough into the baking tray and cook for 15 mins. Let the base cool.

Put all the caramel ingredients in a food processor and blend until they clump together. Press the caramel onto the cooled base. 

Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a bowl over a simmering pan of hot water. Stir together and pour over the date caramel.

Put the tray in the fridge until the chocolate has set (about 20 minutes).

Use a knife to slice it into 12 squares.

Carrot Crumble Cake (recipe inspired by Amber Rose)


Ingredients

255g wholemeal spelt flour, sifted

1½  tsp allspice

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Large pinch of salt

180g carrots, grated

225g runny honey

60g unsalted butter, melted and cooled for ten mins

225g Greek-style natural yoghurt

1 large free-range egg

40g almonds

40g sultanas

For the crumble

45g white spelt flour, sifted

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

30g unsalted butter, cubed

Pinch of salt

3 tbsp roughly chopped pumpkin seeds

Method

Preheat the oven at 180C. Grease and line a 22cm springform cake tin with baking paper.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and then add the grated carrots. In another bowl, mix the honey, butter, yoghurt and egg. Beat with electric mixer until combined and then fold this wet mixture into the dry mixture. Pour into the lined cake tin and smooth the top with a knife.

For the crumble, put the flour and sugar in a bowl and rub in the cold butter until the mixture is like breadcrumbs. Add the chopped up pumpkins seeds and salt and the sprinkle on the cake mix. Put in the oven and bake for 35-40 mins.

Remove from oven, test with a skewer (if it comes out clear it’s cooked) and leave to cool for ten minutes before putting it onto wire rack.

Coconut, Carrot And Banana Cupcakes With a Cream Cheese Topping (recipe inspired by David Frenkiel & Luise Vindahl)



Ingredients

80g unsalted butter

4 tbsp honey

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground allspice

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

60g spelt flour

50g dessicated coconut

200g grated carrots

1 large ripe banana

4 egg whites

Icing

200g cream cheese

3 tbsp maple syrup

Juice of half a lemon

A handful of hazelnuts roughly chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a muffin tray with 12 cupcake cases.

Gently melt the butter in saucepan, add the honey and the spices and stir together. Set aside for ten minutes. Put the almonds in a bowl and add the spelt flour, coconut and baking powder.

Put the grated carrots and banana in a food processor and blend until the banana is mixed in with the carrots. Add to the dry ingredients and stir well.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold in the cake mixture and add the spiced butter and stir until smooth. Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for 25-30 mins until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing, whisk the cream cheese, maple syrup and lemon juice in a bowl. When the muffins are cool, spoon on the icing and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Photos courtesy of Katya Willems at katyascakehole.com

 

 

 

 

Five Mini Break Destinations For Foodies

Some people think food is great. Others worship earth’s edibles. We call these people foodies. The first thing they think of when they wake up is tucking into something tasty. They probably even plan their days specifically around meals.

If this sounds like you, and travelling also ticks another box, I have a treat for you. Feed that wonderful obsession of yours by discovering five magnificent mini breaks that will satisfy your taste bud’s aspirations in glorious ways.

Even if you’re not a foodie, your appetite for travel and food will grow from reading this list. You have been warned.

1. Burgundy, France

France is the epitome of sophisticated wining and dining. Food plays a huge cultural role, used as a cornerstone of social gatherings, dinners here can often feature up to six courses. And if you want to experience French cuisine at its finest, Burgundy should be your first point of call.

Epoisses, a cheese distinguished by it’s nutty and citrus flavours, is sourced from the region's distinctive cream-coloured Charolais cows; a local delicacy not to be missed. Burgundy is also famed for its succulent beef bourguignon. You can enjoy this famous dish in the city’s many stylish restaurants. For exceptional French gastronomy, you may want to visit Relais Bernard Loiseau: a Michelin three-star restaurant named after its celebrity owner. You won’t regret a single mouthful from their menu.

2. Zurich, Switzerland

A spectacularly beautiful country, Switzerland is notorious for its otherworldly landscapes, with storybook towns surrounded by snowy peaked mountains and crystal clear lakes. Add heavenly confectionery into the mix and things get really special. Switzerland is the epicentre for Lindt chocolate... and it’s magic. The way the outer casing melts to reveal a cool and delicate fondant centre is a marvel we can’t explain.

What we can tell you is that Zurich is a chocolate lover’s paradise. It’s a city teeming with enough chocolateries to put you in a permanent sugar stupor. But if you’re more inclined to savoury delicacies, tuck into Switzerland's most famous dish, Zürcher Geschnetzeltes. It’s a creamy medley of earthy mushrooms, sauteed veal, and crispy potato rosti; pure gluttonous heaven.

3. New York, America

New York has earned its right to be in the top five places to visit on almost everyone’s list. And while it’s cosmopolitan attractions are what make the city so magnetising, the food on offer here is also a hot topic.

New York is a fast-food mecca combining cultures from around the world. If Mexican cuisine is your passion, chow down on some grilled corn layered in mayonnaise and Cotija cheese. Or pick up a fried chicken sandwich served on a buttermilk biscuit. Weirder, you say? Finish on a sweet note with Schmackary’s maple bacon cookies… yes, bacon cookies (only in America, right?).

4. Naples, Italy

If you spell Naples backward, it won’t say pizza... but it definitely should. Travel to Italy’s bustling city and be hypnotised by the smell of freshly stone baked pizzas around every street corner. And you don’t have to empty your pockets for a first-rate meal. Even the best pizzerias, such as La Pizzeria Sorbillo owned by Gino Sorbillo, offer this iconic meal at reasonable prices.

Simplicity, not sophistication, is the secret ingredient to the city's gastronomy; Naples prides itself on using fresh ingredients from the region (you won’t ever find pineapple on your pizza here). Choose to stay here for a mini break and spend your time adventuring up Mount Vesuvius and exploring the ancient city of Pompeii. Finish your day with the tastiest pizza you’ll probably ever eat.

5. Northern Ireland, Belfast

Encompassed by rough seas and wild landscapes, it’s easy to see from where Northern Ireland sources the hearty, fresh food that puts a smile on many a traveller’s face. And the best place to sample such divine dishes? Belfast. This dynamic, vibrantly cultural city is full of restaurants offering succulent seafood, meat cooked to perfection, hand-picked fruit and organic vegetables.

Choose to dine here and experience menus inspired by the land. Feast on Mountain Lamb and lobster at the Michelin-starred Ox. Or head over to Deanes (owned by top chef Michael Deane) for a tender fillet of Fermanagh beef with braised ox cheek, complemented with triple cooked chips and bordelaise sauce. And don’t forget to leave without trying the famous Ulster Fry, best sampled at a local B&B where home cooking is a given.

Eat, travel, and be merry

Turn your mini break into a food filled weekend away, experimenting with both classic and modern dishes that’ll make your holiday a talking point for weeks. Here are the destinations we discussed, and the fare these holiday hotspots are famed for:

  • Burgandy, France - Wine, Beef, Cheese
  • Zurich, Switzerland - Chocolate, Veal
  • America, New York - Fast Food (the good kind)
  • Naples, Italy - Pizza
  • Northern Ireland - Ulster Fry, Seafood, Mountain Lamb

 

5 Tips For Decluttering Your Home From Tidying Expert Marie Kondo

 

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organising and decluttering professional and her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has sold over five million copies worldwide. So popular is her method that ‘to kondo’ has even become a verb.

So what’s so ‘life changing’ about her process?

Her book breaks down her two-pronged approach to tidying:

First, put your hands on every single item you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and throw it away.

Second, now only your most joy-sparking belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to pick up and then put back. Only then, Kondo says, will you have reached the holy grail of housekeeping, and never have to tidy again.

The book is well worth a read, but here are five of the best tips from the book:

Tip 1: Tackle Categories, Not Rooms

Kondo’s first rule is to tidy by category: deal with every single one of your shoes at once, for example, otherwise they’ll continue to appear in other rooms, and you’ll never control the clutter. She advises beginning with clothing, since it’s the least emotionally charged of one’s possessions (books are next, old photographs left until last).

Tip 2: Focus not on what to bin, but on what to keep

When doing a big clear out, most of us focus on what we’re going to throw away. Kondo’s approach is the opposite, she says we should look instead at what we’re going to keep. It is overwhelming to part with sentimental items, especially those attached to parents, children or cherished friends. By first identifying which items are true treasures, it’s much easier to say goodbye to the rest.

Tip 3: Fold, Don’t Hang

Once you’ve sorted out the things to discard, you can decide where the remaining things should go. And in the case of clothes, rather than hanging in a wardrobe, Kondo thinks a lot of our clothing would be better off (or as she’d say, happier) folded in drawers using Marie Kondo’s special folding technique.

Kondo’s vertical folding technique makes everything easy to find and hard to mess up (you don’t have to turn a whole pile of t-shirts upside down every time you want something at the bottom). Folded this way, clothing looks almost like origami, lining your drawers in neat rows.

To keep these little folded packages standing perkily in the drawer, Kondo suggests using shoeboxes as drawer dividers. A smaller box is perfect for knickers and pants, a deep one can go on a bottom drawer for jumpers or jeans.

Tip 4: Fall in Love with Your Wardrobe

This is why people become so obsessed with the Marie Kondo method. Once you’ve cleared away the clutter and put things away, your dresses and skirts - the good stuff, is finally visible. There’s actually room between pieces, so you no longer have to fight to see your clothes. All of which means you get a hit of excitement just opening your wardrobe, whether you’re getting ready in the morning or planning a party outfit.

Tip 5: Streamline Your Photos

Tidying your photos should be the final stage in your journey to clear the sentimental clutter in your home, says Kondo. She recommends that you collect all the photos you have around the house and lay all the photos on the floor according to the year or period in which they were taken. Let go of any that are similar and if you have several photos from the same day, choose the best one. And negatives? Just get rid of them. Another smart rule is to only keep pictures in which you, or your loved one, is looking good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Reason a Staycation is Better Than a Holiday Abroad

Are you ready to pack your suitcase? To leave all the everyday stresses and ties behind, if only for a little while. We all need a holiday from time to time to unwind and rejuvenate.

But what you might not realise is that going overseas isn’t necessary to achieve the perfect holiday. Not when we can indulge in adventure, relaxation and natural beauty much closer to home.

I’m going to share with you all the reasons why a staycation should be your first choice when you’re in need of a break. Discover the benefits of holidaying on your home turf and get excited for all the incredible experiences you can enjoy.

1. Say Goodbye to Airport Stress

Avoid airports and all the anxiety that accompanies flying overseas by staying closer to home. You won’t miss your heart skipping a beat when you think you’ve forgotten your passport (or if you suddenly realise it’s not in date). Nor will you long for that sinking feeling when your flight is delayed or when you're running late.

And let's face it. Who loves airport security? Fitting all your liquids into a tiny zipper bag can be a huge pain. Not to mention unpacking all of your electronics with a queue of holiday makers sending daggers to your back. Take a vacation that doesn’t require long hours at an airport and eliminate these stresses that accompany flying.  

2. Make it a dog-cation

The last thing you want to feel when you’re about to embark on a well-deserved holiday is guilt. But, if you have a dog, watching those big sad eyes follow you as you leave can be like a knife to the heart. Instead, choose to take your four-legged friend with you and be treated to fluffy faces full of joy and tail wagging happiness.

What’s more, dogs love exploring new places. Stay somewhere with beautiful hikes and have your pooch join you as a mega-happy walking companion. It’s a perfect bonding opportunity, and you’ll feel great waking up to their happiness every day of your holiday.

3. Open your eyes to beauty closer to home

It’s easy to be swept away by the idea of Mediterranean coastlines and tropical paradises. But it’s important to remember that English, Scottish and Welsh landscapes harbor storybook rapture begging to be explored.

From rolling green hills to towering mountains. Secret coves with turquoise waters to long stretches of white sandy beaches. Castles brimming with history to ancient ruins from forgotten times. Our homeland has it all and is yours to discover if you’re ready to become a local explorer.

4. Treat your taste buds

Fish and Chips. Roast dinners. English breakfasts. Pizza and pasta dishes. Tapas and Greek banquets. Street food and barbecues. Feeling hungry now? Same.The good news: all of these mouthwatering meals from around the world can be found (pretty much) anywhere in the UK (unless you’re fifty miles from the nearest town, then a pre-shop at your nearest supermarket might be a smart move).

In short, you could spend lots of money traveling abroad to taste delectable dishes. Or you could save your pennies (to spend on more food, of course) and holiday at home, with an array of mouth-watering choices rarely far from your front door.

Top tip: Use sites like Tripadvisor for restaurant reviews to separate the not-so-great eateries from the culinary delights.

5. Huge choice of hotels

When picking the perfect pillow to rest your head on during a staycation, you have a plethora of options, from the luxurious to the weird and wacky. A great example of the latter: overlooking the British channel in the City of Newport, you could be barbecuing from the roof of a lighthouse above your hotel room.

Or if you like the outdoors but camping isn’t really your thing, you might be tempted by Holycombe’s very own treehouse hotel. You might not find Tarzan and his entourage, but you will discover a deluxe double bed furnished with Moroccan fabrics and a log fire to warm your toes in the chill of the night.

6. Relax in familiarity

There’s no question: holidaying abroad can be a thrilling adventure. But even the most experienced travelers can be flustered by the unknown. Not speaking the native tongue, knowing which road will take you where having to deal in foreign currency and being thrust into a new culture; all of these aspects to traveling overseas can make it difficult to relax.

Instead, you could be comforted by familiarity. A staycation rarely features unpleasant surprises because you know what to expect and what to avoid. And if you’re in a situation where your destination isn’t what you hoped it would be, you can feel easy that you aren’t stranded thousands of miles away.

Should you stay or should you go?

Are you currently pondering your next holiday? Or perhaps you’re raring to get something concrete in the diary sooner rather than later. Use what you’ve learned here to consider a staycation over taking a break abroad. 

The health benefits of house plants

You might have admired a house plant before as an attractive addition to an indoor space. But have you ever looked at one and thought, I’m so glad this plant is here to make me healthier.

Perhaps not. But you should! And we’re going to learn why. Discover the mind blowing health benefits of bringing a little bit of nature into your home.

1. They clean your air

We see it a lot in sci-fi movies: spaceships often have a sealed off greenhouse in zero gravity as an oxygen back up plan. Of course, we don’t need to produce our own oxygen seeing that we’re not in space… But dismissing the effect a house plant can have on the air in our homes would be a mistake.

Plants can reduce carbon dioxide levels and certain pollutants such as benzene and nitrogen dioxide, purifying the air you breathe. According to a study on the health benefits of controlling carbon emissions in China by Richard F. Garbaccio, minimising these pollutants can result in “reduced premature mortality, fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, and other health effects.” Neat, right?

Here are the best plants for removing indoor pollutants:

1. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
2. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
3. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
4. Bamboo Palm (Bambuseae)
5. Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)

2. They deter illness

Speaking of preventing sickness, a plant’s ability to produce moisture as part of its photosynthetic and respiratory process can result in further health improvements. To compensate when the air is dry, extra moisture is drawn from our mucus membranes. This can result in cracked sinuses which is as bad as it sounds. Nosebleeds, scratchy throats and other illnesses owing to your body's decreased ability to trap and filter viruses is a genuine risk, as highlighted by the Bayer Advanced studies at the Agricultural University of Norway.

Having that extra humidity might be unwanted in the summer months. But in winter, adopting a house plant to produce moisture can be a godsend when it comes fighting bothersome ailments. No more nasal sprays or lemsips; pick up a potted friend instead.

3. They help you focus

Findings from the Royal College of Agriculture in Cirencester revealed that students had 70% greater attentiveness when plants were part of their study environment. While the reasons behind this result require more research, it wouldn’t do you harm to test it out in your own home.

Perhaps you’re learning a new skill that requires a lot of focus. Or maybe you need a tranquil space to tune into your creativity. Having plants in your study might just give you an extra boost in concentration to increase the rate you learn.

4. They create a feeling of well-being

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. So it’s important to ensure that your personal space is as welcoming and relaxing as possible. Having house plants is a great way to inject beauty and colour into your home. This might make you feel happy when you’re around those leafy greens and beautiful flowers.

Moreover, since many of us associate nature with peace and tranquillity, adding greenery to your decor might emulate this feeling too. This could be especially effective when you experience the daily hustle and bustle of built up areas like cities and towns. Say you lived in a flat without a garden. Plants can give you that slice of nature most humans crave but can’t always be near to.

5. They give you a sense of fulfilment

When you bring a seedling into you home, the act of nurturing your new plant can bring you a comforting sense of responsibility. Similar to having a pet, taking care of it and watching it grow into adulthood is a satisfying experience.

It’s a reminder that you were in control of its well being, you cared for it properly, and now it has bloomed into the beautiful specimen it was always meant to be. That’s an accomplishment and a half and having that as a daily memento every time you step through your front door can give you a great sense of fulfilment.

Time to pop down to your local greenhouse?

As we have discovered, houseplants can do amazing things for your physical and mental health. The idea that a potted plant can:

● Clean your air
● Prevent nasty ailments
● Enhance your mood
● Clear up brain fog
● Make you feel accomplished

… is incredible, to say the least!

Is your home already filled with plants? Do they impact the way you feel? Or perhaps you have none at all and now feel like you should. To help you make a decision on which is the right plant for you, here are ten beautiful potted greens that can thrive indoors:

1. Orchids (Orchidaceae)
2. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)
3. Guiana Chestnut (Pachira aquatica)
4. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
5. Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
6. Silver Dollar Plant (Xerosicyos danguyi)
7. Jade plant (Crassula ovata)
8. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
9. Chinese Water Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
10. Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)

How to create a geometric feature wall

 

You have a fresh blank wall (or soon to be blank) and you’re thinking, How can I turn this into something special?

A geometric design might just be your perfect solution. An eye-catching focal point, it can be crafted to your taste, whether you’re looking to inject bright and bold colours into your decor or grey tones to an already colourful room. And while it might look like a professional hand is needed to create those perfect lines, the opposite is true.

All it takes to create this unique wall art is seven simple steps to wow your friends and family.

Here’s what you’ll need:

● A step ladder
● A roll of Frogtape
● Two or three contrasting emulsion paints
● A small roller and tray
● A fine paintbrush

 

Step 1

Prepare your wall by filling in any holes and gaps with filler. Sand down until smooth.

Then draw your plan on a piece of paper and stick it to your wall. It’s much easier to create your pattern if you have a physical reference to always go back to.

Step 2

To create an outline of your design, mark your points with a pencil and use a ruler to link your points with ultra straight lines. Try not to create lines that are difficult to remove; use a light hand when drawing with a pencil.

Step 3

Place Frogtape along your outline to mask the wall. And if you’ve recently painted, pick a delicate tape to reduce the risk of ruining all that hard work.

Step 4

Take a rubber and gently remove all traces of pencil so your lines won’t show through your final design.

Step 5

Time for the fun part! Carefully pour paint into a tray and layer your roller with your chosen colour. Avoid drippage by removing excess paint.

Using a steady hand, move the roller over the masking tape, right up to the edge of your outline. This will give your geometric design crisp lines once you remove the Frog tape.

Top Tip!

Remove the risk of going over the edge of your design by using a small brush on tight corners where the Frogtape meets.

Step 6

Leave your paint to dry for at least two hours. Then apply a new coat to make sure your colours appear bright and bold.

If you’re creating overlapping or adjacent shapes, wait 24 hours for your paint to completely dry and then place tape over your chosen area.

The finish line

The finale is very satisfying. Slowly pull off your tape to reveal your sharp and professionally looking geometric design. All that’s left to do is admire your artistic mastery (and clean up…).

Ready to connect with your creative side?

The beauty of designing a geometric wall is that, by following these easy steps, the finished piece will look perfectly crafted. What’s more, you get to choose the colours, the size and the angles of your project to make it entirely individual to you.

My final word? Observe the prominent colours used in your current decor. Then decide on your shades and hues to create the perfect colour scheme.

7 reasons everyone should try rock climbing

You might have noticed that rock climbing is hugely popular right now. Everyone seems to be doing it, right? But why? Can crawling up a cliff edge or an indoor climbing wall really be that fun?

In truth, this unique activity is so much more than that. And I’m going to share with you exactly why. Moreover, for those of you who have already tried it but stopped for whatever reason: discover all the brilliant things you might have forgotten and get yourself back on that wall.

1. You get to spend time outdoors

Granted, you may need to refine your climbing skills in a bouldering centre (an indoor facility) under trained supervision. But once you’re feeling confident enough, there are plenty of outdoor locations that offer unforgettable climbing experiences.

For beginners, Stanage Edge is a great place to start. It boasts over one thousand different climbs, from easy to challenging. And the views across the peak district make a stunning backdrop for your new hobby. Build up your skills and Land’s End could be your next climb to conquer. Enjoy the thrill of ascending a cliff edge with ferocious waves beneath you; a wild ride for the fearless.

2. Your body won’t hate you

Spinning, CrossFit, circuit training, running… all excellent ways to keep fit. But these intense workouts can leave you sweaty, gasping for air and with some wicked-bad muscle burn. Some of you might enjoy this feeling; a sign that you’ve had a great fitness session.

Others could see it as a punishment. For you, rock climbing is a great alternative. While you might feel sore in your arms afterwards, you won’t feel breathless or in pain during the exercise. Just try to do some stretches before and after so you don’t feel too achy the next day.

3. It’s a full body workout

You might not feel like you’re doing much exercise when you’re climbing... but the opposite is true. When you climb, you use a lot of muscles. You pull yourself to the next handhold with your arms and push with your legs. You also maintain balance using your feet and torso.

All of these areas get a lot of attention during a session, increasing your strength, endurance and flexibility. And because you might be drawn to it as a hobby (rather than just an exercise) you can get a full body workout doing something you really enjoy, not endure.

4. You’ll meet great people

Whether you choose to climb indoors or outdoors, you’re unlikely to ever be doing it on your own. Bouldering centres are usually filled with adventure seekers and athletes alike, especially at the weekends. And if it’s a beautiful day and you want to try your luck outdoors, chances are lots of other climbers will too.

It’s a fantastic way to meet like-minded, friendly and outgoing people. You could even join a group on Meetup.com if your main intention is to make new friends. And what you’ll experience is a wealth of support in the people you meet; individuals who will want to help you reach your goals and see you improve.

5. It’s like playing a game

Perhaps you’re a Sudoku pro or like to play video games in your spare time. The reasons you like these activities will be very similar to why you’d enjoy climbing. Scaling rocks requires problem-solving techniques to progress. Every time you move towards your next handhold you have to strategise your advance.

The top of the route is always the end game, motivating you to conquer it so you can move onto the next course. You’ll also find this incentive to be a major talking point among your fellow climbers, as you support each other in meeting personal targets.

6. It’s a great metaphor for life

But sometimes reaching that next foothold is tough. It may even be out of reach. Climbing is an activity where getting stuck or falling is a given if you want to progress. Which, you could say, is a little bit like life.

We feel disheartened and angry when we take a wrong step. But once those feelings have passed, most of us strive to learn and improve from the errors we make. This activity demands the same level of humility, providing an exceptional opportunity for you to build up your resilience towards day-to-day mishaps; a valuable skill to have both on and off the wall.

7. There are no requirements

You can be short or tall. Experienced or young. It doesn’t matter. As long as you have a base level of fitness, you’ll have no trouble adjusting to the demands of your new hobby. Of course, having long arms and legs can help… but it is by no means a necessity. The only restriction you may find is if you’re adverse to heights.

This isn’t usually a problem if you’re in a harness. But sometimes all there is between you and the ground is a spongy floor (bouldering centres are mostly harness-free). You could tackle this by picking a place that uses a rope pulling system. But honestly, once you’ve fallen a few times and get used to the feeling, your fear will most likely disappear.

You’ll be scaling Mt. Everest in no time

Hopefully by now if you thought rock climbing wasn’t for you, what we’ve discussed here has had an impact on your opinion. But if you’re still not sure, just try it! Remember, this activity is:

● A thrill when you’re outdoors
● Easy to take to
● A great way to challenge yourself physically and mentally
● A great social activity
● A undemanding but powerful exercise

What do you think? Are you ready to give it a try? If you do, we’d love to hear about your experience, so please share below!

 

 

 

Video: How to Make Gorgeous Granola

 

Be Wowed by Hidden Belgium

 

 

Belgium. A country that is especially beautiful in the sun, and astoundingly delicious any time of the year, thanks to its best-in-the-world beer, waffles and chocolate (according to, well, everyone).

But what really sets Belgium apart is its unique culture. It’s a country that prides itself on good quality living, as the French do, possesses excellent working ethics, like the Germans, and understands the subtleties of dry humour, like the English.

It’s a liberal, multicultural, and a historically rich beacon of Europe, offering some incredibly rare experiences if you look close enough. Here are some of the best off-the-grid highlights that are well worth a visit in conjunction with Belgium’s holiday hotspots, to see another side of this beautiful country away from the tourist throngs.

The Blue Forest (The Hallerbos) - Brussels, Halle

As if it were picked out of a fairy tale book, the Blue Forest is an enchanting, serene space nestled twenty kilometres away from Brussels, just outside of Halle. Explore the forest in spring (late April), and be captivated by a dreamlike carpet of bluebells blanketing the woodland floor. Beech trees are the keepers of the forest, and their emerald green leaves contrast spectacularly with the bluebells; the Hallerbos is a photographer and nature lover’s dream, and well worth travelling further afield to see.

Royal Greenhouses of Laeken - Brussels

Built between 1884 and 1996, the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken embody King Leopold’s lavish tastes, influenced by his travels in central Africa. Situated within the Royal estate’s ground, the exquisite glass dome shelters the rare beauty of the Congo: stunning tropical plants native to the area, such as the richly coloured azaleas and geraniums. This sight harbours bittersweet thoughts, that such beauty is linked to King Leopold’s grim exploitation of the native people of the Congo during his reign. But there’s no doubt of its historical intrigue. If you plan to visit, the greenhouse is open for just two weeks per year in late April and early May.

Caves of Remouchamps - Remouchamps

Visit this natural marvel that was once used as a shelter during World War II and 8,000 years ago by Palaeolithic hunters. Walk along a mysterious path encompassed by stalactites and stalagmites, towards a ‘grand Cathedral’ deep within the caves. A boat ride begins from here, leading up to the main event. These caves are home to the longest subterranean river in the world and are open to visitors who can float along the waters to admire the Remouchamps caves’ rare beauty. You may also be able to spot the local bats, and if you look carefully into the river, you could see Niphargus: blind, translucent shrimp illuminating the water’s surface.

Gravensteen - Ghent, Belgium

Gravensteed is an enchanting castle with a bleak past that will stir the darker side of your human curiosity. In the middle ages, the castle was a tomb of torture and injustice, made so by Count Philip of Alsace. Recognised for its use of atrocities, in the 19th century, a pledge emerged to take the castle down. However, a preservation group stepped in to save what you can see today: an albeit historically gruesome but hugely important part of Belgium's history, and one of the most spectacular castles standing today.

Coudenberg Palace - Uptown Brussels

Sadly, the Coudenberg Palace had no such support and was ripped down in 1731. What remains of this grand Palace that seated Counts, Dukes, Archdukes, Kings, Emperors and Governors is an archaeological maze of vestiges and buried foundations. Go beneath its modern replacement, the Palace Royal, and transport yourself into the 11th century, exploring Coudenberg’s complex cellars hiding underground. The floor you can walk along once belonged to Rue Isabelle, an entire street that was vaulted in the 18th century. The basements inside are the streets remnants, a bizarre concept that’s fun to get your head around!

Dinant - Namure

On your first visit to Dinant, you’ll be perplexed at how this picturesque municipality is rarely discussed as a highlight of Belgium. Discover a stunning (small but suitably so) town which sits on the edge of the River Meuse. The contrast between the red and white ornate buildings, reflecting against the blue, sparkling river is a sight to behold. And there’s a huge amount of things to do and see, from strolling along the river by foot or by cruise, exploring Dinant’s striking gothic architecture at the Collegiale Notre Dame de Dinant, learning about the beer-making process (because Belgium) at Maison Leffe, or taking the perfect holiday shot at the incredible Rocher Bayard.


Comic Strip Route


Explore the city of Brussels, and you may discover a very colourful secret. Splashed against the city's historic buildings are over fifty masterfully painted comic murals; a nod to the rich history of Franco-Belgian comics within Belgium. Tours provide the perfect opportunity to understand how the Franco-Belgian comic movement has influenced Brussels, and insight into how the unique artform is continuing to flourish, unlike in other Western countries. Comic fans and lovers of art will be talking about the experience for days, especially after seeing some notable characters, from Asterix and Tintin to Assassin XIII


Which secret will you choose to uncover?


Whether you’re looking to enjoy Belgium’s underground beauty, its picturesque towns, the hidden marvels of its capital city, or the fairy tale landscapes concealed by ancient forests; this country has is all, and more.
Have you been to Belgium before? We’d love to hear about it, and better yet, share your own secrets and help us add to the list.

 

 

Tidy Home, Tidy Mind - The Psychological Impact of Cleanliness

Love or hate cleaning, there’s little doubt of its positive effect on the aesthetics of your home. But how does cleanliness impact the way you feel? (Tired is not the answer I’m looking for!)

Let’s explore how a spotless home and the act of making it so can alter our state of mind. Can being untidy be bad for you? How much does purging our mess help us? Maybe, in the process of asking these questions, we’ll feel more motivated about spending precious downtime with a soapy sponge rather than a tv remote.

I’ll get the bin liners and rubber gloves out, just in case...

Clean yourself into Zen

There’s nothing better than getting into bed when your sheets have been freshly washed. It relaxes you because it’s a job you no longer need to do. And you feel calm because your bed is hygienic, eliminating that worry of being dirty.

And when you apply this to your home as a whole, the effect is the same. If you try to relax when your house is a mess, you might find it difficult to switch off because there’s work to be done. Of course, people will be emotionally affected by their mess in different ways. But it makes sense that by keeping on top of your chores, you remove that aforementioned stress, putting you in a tranquil mood to enjoy resting at home.

Boost your productivity

As I write these words, I’m looking at the mess around my desk that has accumulated from a day’s work: pens, empty glasses of water, paper and notebooks filling in the blank spaces. I feel disorganised, and I know that if I try to search for a detail in all this chaos, it’s going to take some time.

Having an uncluttered home, by default, makes you more productive. You’re spending less time thinking, “where did I put x, y and z”, giving you the focus and minutes to do something else. It’s important to make sure you are organised as well as tidy, though. If you tidy up and put things in a new location that’s difficult to remember, you’re just creating a new problem.

Embrace minimalism

Speaking of forgetting where things are, you can also eliminate this time-consuming task by adopting a minimalist mindset. It’s not easy if your possessions carry sentimental value, or if you like to have rooms filled with attractive things. But it might be worth pursuing for the emotional benefits.

Think about it: if you have less material objects in your home, you wouldn't concern yourself with polishing all those extra vases and ornaments; things you don’t really need. It’s five or ten tasks you don’t have to think about. Your brain would love that clarity. It would take you half the time to wind down, to enjoy being at home, or to direct your mind towards something more creative.

Improve your mood

I used to think that people were being dramatic when they said: “Being untidy makes me unhappy.” But when I really think about it, being messy can make you sad, because it has the power to exasperate a negative emotion that might already be there.

Say you came home feeling grumpy. A messy home is unwelcoming and demoralising; emotions that will make you feel worse, not better. And then there’s the anxiety caused by the situation of your home, and being too busy or too tired to tackle it, especially if you care about what visitors might think, (because who doesn’t?)

So, cleanliness can absolutely make you happy. If you prefer order over chaos, coming home to a spotless, personal space can cheer you up on a bad day. And it can help us feel proud, rather than worried when we think about what others might say.

Feel a sense of accomplishment

There’s no doubt about it, maintaining a spotless home is hard work. It requires a lot of elbow grease and a legitimate amount of mental effort (wait… did I use that cloth to wipe the bathroom or that cloth?) And it takes time. Doing a simple task like hoovering can take 30 minutes or more. And then there’s ironing, which can often take a whole season of Netflix to get through (or is that just me?).

All that time, energy and effort… when you see that manifesting into a spruced up space, it gives you a great sense of pride and accomplishment. And the reward of being able to enjoy it, makes that feat so much sweeter.

Ready to get stuck in?

If having a tidy home can truly make you feel calmer, productive, happy and accomplished, then it’s the cheapest therapy around. It’s also evident that, whilst cleaning takes time, it generates it too, giving us more mental space to do activities that contribute to our happiness.

What do you think? Are you already a domestic pro? Or is there room for improvement? I haven’t always liked tackling mess, but over the years my commitment (and enjoyment) to daily chores has increased substantially. I think a lot of that is down to understanding the benefits of all that hard labour, and knowing how to make it fun. Speaking of which, I’ll leave you with some bonus tips to make your sprucing sessions a little more enjoyable. Give them a try, and good luck!

● Listen to music (and sing!)
● Listen to a podcast or the radio
● Rearrange your furniture
● Have a clear out
● Scrub away with a friend
● Wear a Fitbit and see how many calories you burn
● Buy brand new cleaning utensils
● Do it on a sunny day with the windows and doors open
● Plan your reward(s)!