Feeling Crafty? Check Out These Fun Easter Craft Projects.

Feeling Crafty - Check out these Fun Easter Craft Projects.  Tulip image (c) Victor Hanacek of Pic Jumbo.

This Easter many of us will be confined to our homes so here are some awesome Easter crafts to work on. I particularly love the knitted daffodils! They will definitely cheer up the gloomiest day and that Easter bunny with his floppy ears is so adorable.

Confession time: I’ve never tried blowing eggs then decorating them, but I’m fired up to give it a go this year. I really love the idea of an Easter Tree with pretty hand-painted eggs hanging from the branches.

Below, I’ve gathered some gorgeous projects from around the web sourced from some beautiful websites, so if nothing else you may find some wonderful websites to bookmark.

Yarnspirations

This is a wool retailer’s website but has lots of free knitting patterns including these gorgeous baby bootees. Have you ever seen anything quite so cute?

Click here for the pattern

I also loved this gorgeous bunny scarf. You can get the instructions from Yarnspirations

Handy Little Me

Another gorgeous craft blog packed with beautiful images and inspiration for projects including this cute floppy-eared bunny.

You can get the pattern here.

Peanut Blossom

I found this tutorial on this beautiful lifestyle/family blog. Doesn’t this Easter Tree just look so cheerful? It’s also super easy to make. The kids will love getting involved with this one.

What I love about this project is that you could really let your creative juices flow and maybe incorporate some gorgeous Easter paper crafts, paper blossoms and ribbons.

Click here to go to the tutorial

Wallflower Kitchen

As the name of this website would suggest, this is a foodie website with lots of delicious recipes and some mouthwatering images.

But I also found this Easter Tree tutorial which I’d love to try. But I’m going to have to adapt it slightly as there are no cherry blossoms here, unfortunately, but I can’t wait to try and make some of the glue and cornflour Easter decorations. They look super simple to make and great fun to decorate. Get the instructions here

Laughing Hens

If you’re into knitting or crochet you’ll love this website full of beautiful yarns. And if you’re just learning check out their “How To” section for some helpful tutorials.

I love these knitted daffodils. I don’t think they should just be an Easter decoration. I’d have them on display all year round. You can download the pattern for free from Laughing Hen’s website HERE

Easy Peasy and Fun



Let the kids have fun with this cute paper project and make a cheeky rabbit bookmark.

Click here for the tutorial

One Little Project

This project is a lot easier than it looks. These colourful hyacinths would brighten up a room at any time of the year.

Get the tutorial HERE

Some other blog posts you may enjoy

image by Arno Smit - Unsplash

9 Super Helpful Tips To Lift Your Travel Photos From Umm to Awesome!

I was given my first camera when I was ten. My first shots were a little boring, acres of flat white sky and little else, but over the years I’ve improved and I’m still improving! Although I’ve never had any formal training, I read tons of information and follow great blogs. See below for my “go to” photography websites. 

I’m also fortunate enough to be able to travel quite regularly, so I usually return from my trips with more photos than I know what to do with…little extra tip, if you want to keep your family and friends, just select your best shots to show them. DON’T subject them to a three hour run-through of every photo you took on your trip!

But to ensure that you bring home some really memorable photos, here are my top tips.

1) If something captures your attention then take several shots.

This is a tip from one of my photography gurus, Scott Kelby. If something catches your interest enough for you to want to photograph it take lots of shots. Don’t just take one shot and move on. You can always delete the ones that didn’t work out but you may not get the opportunity to take the photo again.

We were touring New Zealand in a campervan a few years ago and stopped for the night at a campsite near a beautiful lake. While strolling near the lake at dusk, this rather dilapidated jetty caught my eye. Here are some of the photos I took that evening (trust me I have quite a few more!)

2) Tourists crowding your shot? Don’t worry, people can give a photo life and energy.

My partner, Peter, will wait for hours until everyone has moved out of his shot but I am not so patient. I make people part of the shot but don’t you think they give these images life and energy?

3) Use frames to help with your image composition

Frames are great devices to help with your composition. Look for natural frames like a doorway or the boughs of a tree. Another good trick is to buy or make a simple cardboard frame and hold it in front of you. Move it around until you find a view that you really love.

4) Pay attention to smaller details

Often when travelling, people are too keen to include as much as they can in their shot and often the small details, that really set the scene, get lost. So train yourself to be observant. Search out the small details and make them the feature of your shot.

5) Don’t put your camera away just because it’s raining.

Rainy day? Don’t panic you can get some gorgeous photos when it’s wet (but be careful not to let your camera get wet.)  Rain often softens the light especially if it’s a misty rain. Puddles cast interesting reflections and umbrellas can provide colour contrast to an otherwise gloomy shot.

The raincoats and umbrellas of these tourists in Paris provide a bright contrast to the otherwise gloomy day.

6) Chose a theme if you’re stuck for ideas.

Not sure what shots to take? Pick a theme. For example interesting doors, hanging signs, shop fronts (one of my favourites) or select a different colour theme for the day and make that colour the focus of your shot. When you get home you can combine them into a poster size print.

7) Invest in a digital single lens reflex camera.

Many people are happy with the photos they take with their mobile phones. I get amazing photos with mine and, best of all, I always have my phone with me. But, if you want to step your photography up a notch, you should consider getting a DSLR camera. There are many affordable “entry level” DSLRs cameras which have simple auto settings you can use until you’re comfortable enough to start experimenting. But a word of warning, take the time to read the manual and PRACTISE before your trip.

Once you’re comfortable with the camera try taking it off auto mode and experiment. I have pinned lots of useful cheat sheets and infographics in the “Learn Photography” section of my Photography board on Pinterest. (Click here to view.)

8) Shoot in RAW format.

If you have a digital SLR then consider shooting in RAW format but be warned, the file size will be huge so make sure you’ve got a large capacity storage card. I use a 32 gig card and I back up my images to my laptop and/or a portable hard drive every evening.

The reason why the RAW file is so much larger than a JPG file is because a RAW file is uncompressed. It contains all the information that reaches the camera’s sensor. This is an advantage because it gives you so much more creative flexibility, but the downside is that the image will probably look quite dull and flat when it comes out of the camera. You will need some post processing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop, to bring out the highlights, shadows, darks and lights.

You can see what I mean in the image below. The left hand side of the image is how it came out of the camera. It looks kind of dull and flat, rather blergh, doesn’t it? In the “after” section on the right I’ve brought out the shadows and the contrast in Lightroom and the image has come to life.

 

9) Last word, and most importantly…

This is an important tip and one that I have to remind myself of constantly. Don’t miss life because you’re always stuck behind a camera. You often see tourists in a beautiful spot but they have their back to the scene while they take a selfie. Once they have taken their photo they move onto the next place on their list and repeat. It makes me wonder how much they’re really seeing and experiencing. It’s important to spend some time just soaking up the atmosphere of wherever you are. So once in a while put the camera away or, better still, leave it behind and just enjoy the moment.

Some of my favourite photography websites

Here are links to my favourite photography websites packed with helpful advice to help you (and me) lift our photography skills.

Digital Photography School

Light Stalking

Scott Kelby – as previously mentioned he’s one of my top gurus when it comes to photography

Kelby One is another Scott Kelby website for online learning about photography. This site is mainly for paid up members but I can highly recommend his webcasts which are free to view (but you do have to set up an account first). It is well worth it, though, for the quality of the content he provides. I particularly like his blind photo critiques. You can learn a lot by some of the comments he makes about other people’s images.

Still with Scott Kelby, if you want some inspiration, check out his beautiful travel portfolio. The images are just stunning. Oh to be able to create something so amazing *sigh*.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like this:

5 Inspirational Bullet Journal Websites

Here are my 5 favourite websites for learning and improving my bullet journal skills. I’ve tried to avoid sites with tons of annoying ads popping up everywhere as I really get irritated by those sites. I know bloggers have to make a crust but really, do they need so many ads?

Bulletjournal.com

Naturally I should start with the bullet journal creator, Ryder Carroll’s website.  Here’s the best place to start your bullet journal journey. Watch the video and learn how it’s meant to be done. Then you can take what parts would be useful to you and leave the rest.

Little Coffee Fox

Kayla, the founder of Little Coffee Fox has created a beautiful website packed with inspiration, tutorials, information about supplies. It’s still my “go to” place for all things bullet journally!

Teal Notes

This isn’t just a bullet journal website but it’s packed with inspiring bullet journal content such as printables, tutorials and ideas for spreads. There’s also lots of inspiration to help you make your bullet journal pretty. Teal Notes is a bright, colourful website…one where you’ll end up spending hours soaking it all in.

Side Real Life

Again this is not just a bullet journal website. Sidereal Life is a lifestyle website with lots of other things besides bullet journals. The are lots of great ideas for bullet journallers such as how to incorporate quotes into your bullet journals, how to time block and how to spice up your headers.

Hannah Emily Lane

I like this website because it’s so creative and pretty! Hannah is a 23 year old blogger from the UK. Apart from her bullet journal posts, she has travel articles, and lifestyle articles. But I loved the post where she takes us through her bullet journal.

Have you found any great bullet journal websites? I’d love to hear from you in the comments if so!

Bullet Journalling for Beginners

You may have heard the term bullet journal thrown around (or “bujo” for short) and wondered what it is. Or perhaps you have a vague idea of what it is and think it could be something you’d like to try but you’ve no idea how to get started. Either way, this blog post is written with you in mind.

I have to confess I’m a relative late-comer to this phenomenon. A workmate mentioned bullet journalling to me a couple of years ago and advised me to check out Instagram where there were tons of inspiring posts on the topic. I did and was captivated. It felt like the perfect organisational system for me. I’ve always been a list maker and a notebook keeper, in fact my shelves are crammed with old notebooks

I began my bullet journal at the beginning of 2018. Now I have a journal packed with thoughts, ideas, doodles, sketches, dreams and daily tasks, events and achievements. I get immense joy in flipping through the pages from time to time. So I thought I would share some guidelines to help get you started.

2019 at a glance

The creator of the bullet journal

I have a confession. I’ve only recently found out that someone actually invented the bullet journal, and not that long ago, either! I didn’t really give it much thought before but I imagined it was something that had just kind of evolved on its own!

The creator of the bullet journal was a digital product designer called Ryder Carroll. He created it to help him focus, stay organized and productive. So, your first step on your bullet journal journey will be to check out his website https://bulletjournal.com/

Ryder has tons of information to get you going. You’ll learn the use of symbols and all about bullet journal terminology such as collections, signifiers, future logs and nesting. But don’t worry, once you’ve learned the system, you can decide what parts you want to use.

Inspiration

Instagram and Pinterest is a fantastic resource for inspiration so I would encourage you to check out some posts. However, bear in mind designers and artists create many of these posts. If you’re not artistic you’ll quickly grow disillusioned if you expect your bullet journal to look as amazing. Here are some random examples using the hashtag #bulletjournal

Supplies

You don’t have to spend a fortune on supplies. At a bare minimum you need a notepad and a pen but it would be worthwhile having a think about the type of notebook that will work best for you. Do you want a journal you can carry around with you during the day or do you work from home in which case it will mainly live on your desk? Do you want to be able to draw or paint in your journal or will you just write in it?

Last year I bought a very cheap A5 size (half letter) artists visual notebook with 120 pages of 110 gsm (about 30 1b) weight like these:


It worked well for most water-based pens and markers. Ink-based pens bled through to the other side (but that would happen with most notebooks).  My only problem with this notebook is that I ran out of pages in October.
I then continued with a Moleskine soft-backed journal with plain pages. The paper was much thinner so most pens bled through, which wasn’t ideal, but I liked the size and the feel of this notebook.
Most avid bullet journallers recommend the Leuchtturm1917 bullet journal which comes with a healthy price tag which may not suit all budgets. However, they have dotted lines and numbered pages which many people find useful.

For 2019 I’m using a simple A5 ring binder and cutting pages to fit. That way I can experiment with different papers as the mood takes me. It also means I can trash a page if I really hate it. I spruced it up by covering it with a beautiful, handmade paper I found in a local art supplies shop, then sealed the surface with Modge Podge.

Your Bullet Journal Content

So what do you include in a bullet journal? I would say at the barest minimum you need your weekly/monthly pages plus an index, which means you should number each page. After that you can really plan it any way you like. I personally like to have a week on two sides so I divide my page into four sections which leaves one section blank each week for either a weekly goals list, or some artwork or a doodles, whatever I feel like. As I’m using a ring binder I add washi tape to one edge for extra strength when I punch the holes.

Page Divider detail – created with simple ruled lines using a Tombow brush pen and a gold gel pen

As you can see, you don’t need to be artistic if you want to include pictures to your journal. You can make pretty patterns by just scribbling and colouring in the scribbles like this:

Future Log

This is where you list all the events you have planned in the future. So, say you have a trip planned in several months time, you can list it here and then transfer it to your monthly and/or weekly log when you’ve created them. You can also use the future log for recording friends and family birthdays and other events.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. You just need the month as a header and some space to add events as they arise.

Daily Habits Tracker

Last year, later in the year (and I wish I’d started earlier!) I created a daily habits tracker page. First, I decided what habits I wanted to track, then I divided a page into columns and rows, with a column for each habit, plus one for the day and added a row for each day. It was a great way to see if I was on target with my goals and also for forming good habits. I generally just mark each space with a tick or a cross as applicable, but other bullet journallers like to colour in the space. It’s all down to what you prefer. Experiment with different methods on different months.

This is what my February tracker looked like at the beginning of the month but at this stage I hadn’t decided what the last column would be, which is why it’s blank. I’ve since decided to track my water intake to make a habit of drinking at least two litres of water each day.

The list of habits will be relevant to you personally but it could include things like:

  • Meditation
  • Reading
  • Practising Art/piano/golf/tennis (or any other hobby/skill  you want to improve)
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Drinking water

You don’t have to track the same habits each month.

Sandwiched between the weekly spreads are other pages (which Ryder Carroll calls “Collections”) showing, for example, a list of the movies I’ve seen that year, or the books I’ve read or ideas for blog posts. Provided they have a page number and you note them in the index they’ll be easy to find later.

It’s all down to you. In fact, there is no right or wrong way to do a bullet journal. It’s about what works for you. Yes, it’s an organizational device, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun too!

Find out which websites have helped me the most here.

A Kick In The Guts Or Emotional Punch?

When I first started writing I would often receive comments from editors saying my work lacked “emotional punch”. It took me a long time to figure out exactly what they meant. The emotional punch they were talking of is when a writer makes the reader feel something (other than irritation or annoyance at the crass plotting or stupid characters!).Read More

Banish The Winter Chills With This Nutrient-Packed Cauliflower and Sweet-Potato Soup

Here in Perth, where I live, we’re heading towards summer which usually means searing dry heat and trips to the beach to cool off, however the weather’s not going to stop me making this wholesome, yet very yummy soup for a nutritious, quick meal. Packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre, the cauliflower is an amazingly versatile vegetable. It can be roasted, steamed, fried or baked and yet it’s relatively low in calories.

This super-easy, yet totally delicious soup teams cauliflower with sweet potato and, if you are somewhere wintery, it’ll prove just the recipe to banish those winter chills.

Served with fresh crusty bread it’s perfect for a light supper or a lunch. It also freezes well. I freeze in individual portions and pull one out in the evenings when I don’t feel like cooking.

  • Ready in 30 minutes
  • 8 generous portions

Ingredients

    • 1 cauliflower – washed and broken into florets
    • 1 litre of chicken stock
    • 400 grams sweet potato washed and chopped into chunks (I leave the peel on for added fibre but you can peel if you prefer)
    • 100 grams (approx) of natural yoghurt
    • 1 medium onion cut into quarters
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Milk to thin the soup if required

Preparation

    1. Put all the vegetables into a large pan and cover with the chicken stock.
    1. Bring to the boil then simmer gently until  the vegetables are soft.
    1. Once the vegetables are cooked, turn off the heat and blend the vegetables until smooth either with a stick blender or with a potato masher. Don’t panic if there are any small lumps as they will add texture of the soup.
  1. Now it’s time to do some tasting. This mixture can be a little on the sweet side so if you prefer a tangier flavour you can add natural yoghurt. Start by adding a tablespoon and blending it into the purée, then taste and add more if required. If you prefer the richer, sweeter taste you can add milk or cream instead of the yoghurt. The secret is to add yoghurt or milk gradually. Remember you can always add more but you can’t take it out!
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Tips

  • This is quite a thick soup so add a little milk if you want to thin it down.
  • Reheat, if necessary, on a low heat. Don’t let it boil or the yoghurt or cream will curdle. 
  • Serve with fresh crusty bread.
  • This soup can be freezed.
Incorporating a daily yoga practice into your life will bring you untold benefits. Check out these awesome websites for tutorials and yoga workouts. #yogaclasses #onlineyoga #bodybalance

5 Super-Informative Yoga Websites

Incorporating a daily yoga practice into your life will bring you untold benefits, however, often when I try to convince others of this, I get comments like: “oh it’s too slow for me” or “you don’t get a good workout with yoga”. Yes, yoga isn’t meant to be fast and energetic but trust me, a yoga session can work muscles you never knew you had (but you’ll be well acquainted with them the next day!).
Getting started with yoga is easy as you don’t need a lot of equipment or space. There are masses of You Tube videos, books and websites devoted to yoga.

Below I’ve highlighted my 5 favourites yoga websites, but it’s also beneficial to attend a live class and learn the correct way to do the poses and, just as importantly, the correct way to breathe (haha you thought you knew how to breathe, didn’t you?).

Image of woman doing her daily yoga practice in front of a tropical sunset

Photo by Jared Rice – Unsplash

For many years I attended yoga classes in the local scouts’ hall near my home. I can’t enthuse enough about the benefits of those classes. Sometimes the weather outside would be wet, windy and cold, but inside it was always peaceful and calm, the perfect remedy after a busy day spent hunched over a computer.

At first I didn’t think the small movements would make a difference but, the day after my first session, I was amazed to discover a few sore muscles. Best of all, within a month or two, the back pain and excruciating sciatica I’d been experiencing following an injury, reduced and I was able to stop the strong anti-inflammatory drugs I’d been prescribed.

For more yoga benefits check out this article

If you’re considering yoga I strongly urge you to give it a go. The web has many subscription websites where, for a monthly payment, you can access  their classes. This may be a good way to get further practice but here are my 5 favourite websites with plenty of free content to get you going. Most of them have video sequences you can follow.

1. Yoga Health

The classes I attended, in the local scout’s hall, were given by Yoga Health. Sadly Uma, the brilliant instructor, moved to Queensland – the other side of Australia to me but a replacement teacher came in and the lessons continued in much the same format.

On their website you’ll find detailed instructions for a number of poses including the one in the video link below which is an amazing shoulder release for people, like me, who work at the computer for long periods. The website also has yoga sessions you can download and the great thing (in my opinion) about these are that the movements are explained verbally so you don’t have to keep peering at a book or a screen to find out what to do. It makes the whole experience smoother and more relaxing.

They’ve also just added a series of online yoga classes for people who are stuck at home.

We have been doing this for 30 years.
We teach what may be the most gentle but effective yoga yet developed.
We have trained over 150 teachers across Australia.

 

2. Daily Cup of Yoga

Next up is Daily Cup of Yoga. This website is chock-a-block full of  interesting articles about the benefits of yoga and meditation as well as wellness in general. It began as a personal journey but developed into something more.  I particularly enjoyed the blog post about finding your inner joy.For your daily yoga practice visit Daily Cup of Yoga's websiteTips, tools & wisdom on yoga, fitness & technology

Source: Daily Cup of Yoga

2. Yoga Journal

Yoga Journal has a range of yoga-related articles on their website such as a sequence to help you navigate tough emotions, a yoga playlist, a “get started” guide to meditation.

Definitely a site you’re guaranteed to want to bookmark!

The ultimate destination for yoga pose how-tos, practice videos, meditation tricks, healthy lifestyle tips and more.

Source: Yoga Journal

4. Yoga Gypsy

Sadly this blog is no longer updated but there’s still loads of information on here so it’s well worth a look. Check out the poses and sequences page.

Image from Yoga Gypsy's website

5. Yoga with Adriene

Check out Adriene's website for your daily yoga practice

As well as checking out Adriene’s website I also recommend you subscribe to her You Tube channel. She has tons of videos to help you incorporate yoga into your daily life, no matter where you are or how much time you have to spare. Check out the video in the link below. You can even do this short routine at the office in your normal work clothes!

 

I hope you’re now a convert to the benefits of yoga! If you enjoyed this website you may also like this one:

Check out these five Yoga websites for tutorials and online classes

5 Amazing & Romantic Flashmob Marriage Proposals

I don’t want to give too much away but my short read – The Family Plan (which you can get for FREE as a thank you for signing up to my newsletter here) features a flash-mob proposal. I had so much fun researching this part of the book!

The truth is I’m totally fascinated by flash mobs and often get caught into a time-suck watching them on You Tube.  So here are my five favourite flash-mob proposals.

Make sure you have your speakers turned up. Sit back and enjoy…

1) Dirty Dancing on the South Bank

If you loved the movie “Dirty Dancing” then you’ll love this beautifully choreagraphed dance routine on London’s South Bank one beautiful summer’s day. It ends with a very romantic proposal for an unsuspecting woman.

2) The Shoe’s on the Other Foot

In this next sequence the organiser of this Flash Mob gets the surprise of her life when she discovers she’s actually the target.

Wasn’t her reaction priceless? She obviously never suspected a thing! In this one the dancers looked like professionals to this untrained eye …Bruno Mars’ song is clearly a favourite for flash-mob proposals!

3) A Quiet Drink With Friends?

Katie is just out for a quiet drink with her friends totally unaware she’s about to get the surprise of her life! It made me wonder how all the family and friends involved managed to keep it such a secret!

4) Campus Capella

This proposal couldn’t get more public. This couple are pulled from the audience when they volunteer to come up on stage to assist in a Campus Capella performance. But the woman is about to discover that her man has hidden talents.

5. London Serenade

This last proposal comes from London’s Oxford Street. The future bride looks an introverted type and a tad awkward but it still brought a cheesy grin to my face. Even so, I can’t help wondering if she would have preferred a more private proposal.

So what do you think? Would you like to be proposed in this way or would you prefer something more low-key and private?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – A Gem!

  1. I don’t go to the movies very often but yesterday I saw a beautiful film. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (this links to the entry in the Internet Data Base). Featuring a few familiar faces from “Downton Abbey”, Lily James, Jessica Brown Findlay, Matthew Goode and Penelope Wilton, alongside Michiel Huisman, Tom Courtney and Katherine Parkinson.

It is about Juliet, a successful novelist looking for her next story. Traumatised by the events of the war when she lost her parents, she struggles to find a focus in her life despite being courted by a wealthy American who seems to adore her. Then she gets a mysterious letter from a farmer in Guernsey. He found her name and address in a book that had been passed to the Literary Society he belongs to. He enjoyed it so much he asks her if she can advise him where he can find more books by the same author.  He explains a little about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and why it has such a curious name.

Juliet and the farmer exchange a few letters and the seed of an idea starts to germinate in her mind. She will write about these people in Guernsey. She gets on a boat and goes to meet them.

And so her adventure begins.

I must admit, having spent quite a lot of time in Guernsey, I struggled to recognise any of the scenery in the film. It was only later I discovered the film had mainly been shot in Devon and Cornwall. But I learnt some new things about Guernsey, such as how the people almost starved under the German occupation, how their children were mainly evacuated before the Germans arrived and how harsh the Islanders’ lives were during the occupation of their Island. From the comments I’ve read about this film, I understand the story paints a pretty accurate picture of life there at the time.

Many of the critics panned it for being overly sentimental and too long but I felt the time slipped by quickly. Michiel Huisman, who some will recognise from “Game of Thrones” is very easy on the eye,  and for a romance writer, the ending doesn’t disappoint.

Now I must read the book.

Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of StudioCanal

Aching body? Try Yoga

Yoga wasn’t a part of my life until the day I accidentally stepped on the dog’s plastic water bowl, skidded along the floor and ended up on the ground in agony. A visit to the doctor and a CT scan later, I found out I had a bulging disc (what used to be called a “slipped disc”) which was pressing against my sciatic nerve, hence the agony.

The doctor thought only surgery would fix it but, being rather a coward when it comes to having sharp instruments near my spine, I thought I’d check my other options first. I started a morning routine of gentle yoga stretches specifically for the lower back and the piriformis muscle. It did the trick because within a month or two I could ditch the strong anti-inflammatory drugs I’d been prescribed.

That was back in 2004 and I haven’t had a problem since. I’m not saying yoga is the answer for everyone but it worked for me.

Yoga’s Range of Benefits

But yoga has a range of other benefits as detailed in the infographic below, courtesy of the Huffington Post, on how yoga can transform your body.


yoga infographic

Yoga is generally suitable for all ages, but if you have a medical condition talk to your doctor before embarking on a yoga regime.

Have you tried yoga? If so, I’d love to know what benefits you found. Feel free to add your comments below.

Afternoon Tea at Betty’s in Yorkshire

Betty's Tearooms in Yorkshire have become an institution. I was fortunate enough to have tea at their York teashop. I wasn't disappointed
Betty's Tearooms in Yorkshire have become an institution. I was fortunate enough to have tea at their York teashop. I wasn't disappointed
Betty's Tearooms in Yorkshire have become an institution. I was fortunate enough to have tea at their York teashop. I wasn't disappointed

There is something quintessentially British about afternoon tea, especially in a quaint British tearoom. So a visit to Yorkshire has to include an hour or two in Betty’s sipping beautiful Assam tea from bone china cups with saucers and eating delicious dainty cakes.

Tea and a delicious lemon cake with a dollop of cream

Tea in bone china cups and a delicious lemon cake with a dollop of cream. Afternoon tea at Betty’s in Yorkshire, England

The ironic thing is that the founder of Betty’s wasn’t British and wasn’t called Betty.

A mountain of macarons

A mountain of pastel-shaded macarons on display at Betty’s in Yorkshire

The founder of Betty’s was a Swiss man called Frederick Belmont who opened his first tea room in Harrogate in 1919. Now there are 6 “Bettys” in Yorkshire. The one I visited was down a narrow cobbled street in York under the shadows of York Minster. The tea rooms are on the first floor in a higgledy-piggledy warren of low-ceilinged, creaking-floored rooms.

Cakes at Betty's, Yorkshire

Delicate little cakes covered in melt-in-the-mouth fondant icing at Betty’s Yorkshire

Downstairs on the ground floor is the shop where you can buy all sorts of goodies such as teas, biscuits & cakes.

image

image

It’s not certain who the “Betty”, the tearooms were named after, was. Some think it could have been the late Queen mother. Or it could have been a homage to a young girl called Betty who died of tuberculosis. Her father was a doctor who’s practice later became the site for was the first Betty’s tearoom.

For further information see Betty’s website: http://www.bettys.co.uk

10 Quite interesting facts about London

Samuel Johnson, the 18th century English writer, once wrote “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life”. He may have been onto something there. I always find London has an exciting vibe that just fills me with energy. Plus there’s so much to see and do, whether you’re into cultural pursuits or pleasurable.

To celebrate this amazing City, I’ve gathered ten fun facts you may not know about London.

1) Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children’s hospital located in Bloomsbury in London, owns the copyright for Peter Pan and receives royalties every time the play is performed. This has brought in considerable funding to the hospital.Peter Pan

2) Aldgate Tube Station was the site of a large mass grave  built in 1665 for the victims of the Plague. In fact there are several such pits scattered around London.

3) More than half of London’s Underground system is actually over ground.

4) There is a pet cemetery in Hyde Park.
Hyde Park's Pet Cemetery (c) Pedro Cambra - Flickr Creative Commons

5) The giant Christmas tree erected in Trafalgar Square each Christmas is a gift from the people of Oslo, Norway, in gratitude for the assistance given them by the British people during World War.

The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree (c) Laura Bittner - Flickr Creative Commons6) The statue of George Washington in Trafalgar Square rests on soil imported from the USA as, after the American Revolutionary War, George Washington claimed he would never set foot on English soil again.

George Washington’s Statue in Trafalgar Square (c) Ham – Creative Commons

7) The Times New Roman typeface was originally commissioned by the Times newspaper in London in 1931 after receiving criticism that their newspaper was difficult to read.

A_logo_for_The_Times_(early_19th-century)

8) The River Thames has 21 tributaries spread through London some of which are hidden underground.

9) American chat show host, Jerry Springer, was born in Highgate Tube station when his mother was taking shelter during an air raid in World War 2.

10) There’s a 1.5 acre roof garden open to the public above the old Kerry and Toms buildings in Kensington High Street. Until 2012 the Kensington Roof Gardens were the largest in Europe. They feature a Spanish garden inspired by the gardens of the Alhambra in Southern Spain, a Tudor garden and an English woodland garden. There’s even a pond with flamingos.

  1. Roof top garden, Kensington, London
Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world. Here are some fun facts about this vibrant modern city.

Discover Perth – 7 Fun Facts

I love travelling, as you will soon realise if you visit this site regularly. I love airports, hotel rooms, little sachets of shampoo, mini bars…I even love aeroplane meals… weird, huh? But I am also lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the world. Perth, Western Australia. 

However, Perth is a place that many people know very little about. I can recall showing someone from Canada photos of Perth and it surprised them to learn we actually had high-rise buildings! Perth may be a small city, but it’s modern.

Here are the 7 fun facts about Perth (and Western Australia).

1) Perth is the most remote city in the world. Just to clarify that, before you all email me to tell me it’s not true, I’m talking about other cities with a population of over 100,000. The nearest place with that criteria is Adelaide, which is 2,100 km (1,305 miles) away.

Fremantle Markets

2) The longest jetty in the world, at 1.8 kms, is in Busselton, Western Australia which is a couple of hours drive south of Perth.

3) Western Australia’s most venomous spider, the Redback, is a relation of the Black Widow spider of North America. The Redback likes to hide under window sills, eaves of houses. You can usually tell they’re around by their webs which are usually very messy and strong. Their bite, whilst it can be painful, is rarely fatal unless the victim is elderly, infirm or a child.

4) Western Australia is the 2nd largest State in the World.

Kangaroo Paw

5) Perth has the world’s largest inner-city park. Again, before you all write in to correct me here, I’m talking INNER CITY park. Perched on the top of a hill, Kings Park has some amazing views over the City and the Swan River.

The treetop walk in King’s Park
View of Swan River and Perth from Kings Park

6) Western Australia is HUGE!! Western Australia’s land area is 2.646 million sq. km whereas the land area of Texas is 678,000 sq. km. If Western Australia was a country it would be in the top 10 largest in the world.

7) Perth is Australia’s sunniest capital city.

6 Fun Facts about Wedding Cakes

As I have a shockingly sweet tooth, cake comes very high up on my list of favourite foods. I particularly love a rich fruit cake with marzipan and royal icing.

So to me, a cake makes the perfect celebration food but now cakes seem to becoming more like works of art than food items and none more than wedding cakes. Instead of a traditional, white-tiered wedding cake some couples are choosing cakes in black, red and even multi-coloured cakes or individual cupcakes instead of one big cake.

This gorgeous creation was by Elegant Cheese Cakes


Fun Fact 1

White wedding cakes became popular in 19th century when Queen Victoria had a white wedding cake to go with her white wedding dress. Until then, silver had been the popular dress colour for royal brides.

Her cake consisted of a single tier approximately 9 feet (3 metres) around the base and stacked with figurines of up to a foot (30 cms) high, of Britannia and the Royal couple dressed in the clothes of Ancient Greece.

Fun Fact 2

The trend of tiering wedding cakes, was reputedly inspired by Christopher Wren’s spire at St Bride’s Church in London.

Fun Fact 3

Going further back in history there is evidence that the tradition of the wedding cake dates back to Roman times. Then, wedding cakes were more like a type of bread made from wheat flour, salt and water (no sugar or other sweet ingredients). And, instead of the groom handing the bride a piece to eat, he would crumble it over her head. This was meant to ensure the couple would be blessed with lots of children.

Fun Fact 4

Further on in history people would pile little cakes up high and the idea was the bride and groom would try and kiss over the cakes. If they succeeded it was a sign that the marriage would be prosperous. This is reputed to be the origins of the Croquembouche, a French cake often used at weddings.

Fun Fact 5

The most expensive piece of wedding cake ever sold was a slice of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s wedding cake. It was auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York in 1998 and sold for $29,900. Seeing as the Windsors married in 1937 the cake would have been over sixty years old when it was sold. Definitely a keeper rather than an eater!

Fun Fact 6

The biggest wedding cake ever made was made by the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, USA in 2004. Weighing 6.8 tonnes it took 57 chefs and had seven tiers.

So simple, elaborate, traditional or wacky…there are no limits when it comes to the choice of wedding cake.

This movie-themed wedding cake is from Amazing Cakes

An amazing cake with a top tier that seems to be floating! This is from Peboryon in the U.K.

Discovering Vindolanda in the Rain

I’d never been to Hadrian’s Wall. So when, during an autumnal visit to Northumberland in England, I was given the opportunity to join a party planning a gentle stroll around a section of Hadrian’s Wall I eagerly accepted.

The day dawned windy and wet and our party of thirteen dwindled down to five. The rest opted to spend the morning sitting in front of a warm fire with the Sunday papers.

I had no idea what to expect and half-thought (hoped) there’d be somewhere we could park with far-reaching views where we could sit and look at Hadrian’s Wall from the warmth and dry of our mini-bus. Silly me!  To see Hadrian’s Wall, walking has to take place. The five of us therefore had a quick vote and decided we’d first go to the Roman remains at Vindolanda, the nearby site of a Roman fort.

Vindolanda - Roman Fort in Northumberland UK

Vindolanda – Roman Fort in Northumberland UK

I’m not sure why we thought this plan would keep us any drier. By this time the rain was falling sideways and the Roman excavations were not under cover. “I’ll try and do most of the talking inside in the entry display area” our guide told us helpfully. I suppose she wasn’t too keen to get drenched either.

She told us that the work there was carried out by volunteers, and had begun just over 40 years ago. At that time it was thought that two successive Roman forts had been built on the site but as they years went by, they discovered about nine forts had been demolished and rebuilt. The painstakingly slow work will probably take another hundred years to complete

Vindolanda Roman Fort - Northumberland UK (copyright D Bennetto)

Vindolanda Roman Fort – Northumberland UK

Talk over, it was time to pull on the raincoats, seize our umbrellas and head out to view the excavations close up. First stop was down the paths towards the remains of the village where the camp followers would have lived just outside the fort.

The camp followers comprised of the soldiers’ relatives, merchants, craftsmen, slaves and priests. The soldiers were generally well paid and in silver, so most armies would attract a number of civilians who, once the soldiers had set up a permanent base, would settle themselves close by.

The rainy walk continued to the bath house on one side of the excavations.

The Bath House at Vindolanda - Roman Fort in Northumberland UK

The Bath House at Vindolanda

These were quite social places and probably used by civilians too. Our guide told us that Roman soldiers didn’t use soap but oil and steam to sweat all the dirt out of their pores. Afterwards she showed us an instrument which looked like a wooden hook called a strigil  which the soldiers would use to scrape the oil, sweat and dirt off themselves into a special receptacle.  After I’d recovered from the yuck factor I learnt that there are places in the world today where oil baths are so popular they’re even considered a draw-card.

Strigil - Roman Republic and Empire made

Roman Strigil (Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Standing there gazing out over the remains of the fort it was hard to get my head around the fact that these ruins were originally buildings constructed between 1,600 and 1,900 years ago. What was life like back then? What would it have looked like?

Check out this YouTube video to get an idea.

Vindolanda is located at Bardon Mill, Hexham NE47 7JN

For more information visit the official website http://www.vindolanda.com/