Rediscovering the classics with Quorn

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I have to say that I had never really been tempted by Quorn. I know friends and family members who have used it for weight loss (Quorn has significantly less fat and fewer calories than meat) but even that never really tempted me.

However, when Quorn contacted me to review a few products, and to no doubt change my mind and a the minds of a few others, I accepted the challenge.

I was sent minced meat, chicken pieces and herb sausages and knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. So, armed with a few more ingredients (and the ever so helpful Quorn recipe site) I made my signature Chilli con Carne (or without the carne if we are being accurate!), a chicken noodle soup and the sausages went well with my eggs and spinach the next morning.

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I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The chilli tasted pretty similar to my regular chilli – and had much fewer calories! The chicken pieces held up pretty well in the soup, although they were a bit soggy when I tried to heat up the leftover soup later on, but maybe this was to be expected. Taste-wise, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the same. I imagine that a chicken stir fry may have faired better in the test.

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The sausages did taste like meat and had a very herby flavour. Even my boyfriend, a meat-loving South African, admitted that they were ‘quite good’. This was huge. I have an intense love of sausages, which can be detrimental to my waistline, so I may have to try these out on the barbecue now that the weather is picking up!

Overall, I was very impressed with Quorn. I don’t think that I am going veggie any time soon, but if I ever have veggie friends over, I’ll definitely consider only making the Quorn version. I think that should count as a ‘win’ in Quorn’s books!

Thank you to Quorn UK for sending over the samples.

Borobudur Temple, Indonesia

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Although I travel all over the world for my job, I often never have time to see anything in the places that I visit. So on this current trip to Indonesia, it’s nice to get the time to do a little bit of sightseeing on an afternoon off. On Saturday, we visited Borobudur Temple, about an hour’s drive from our hotel in Yogyakarta. An undeniable cultural masterpiece, the temple was built around the 8th century and is the biggest Buddhist place of worship in the world, attracting thousands of pilgrims every year. The structure is built entirely of stone with an anti-earthquake design, in that they used no cement when building it so that stones can move without causing damage to the temple. It has been damaged and abandoned many times since it was first built, but is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most beautiful that I have been to. There’s no surprise that it is Indonesia’s number one ‘tourist attraction’. 

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It is recommended to go at sunrise for some of the most stunning views in the world, however due to the weather not looking promising, we opted to go towards the end of the day, which was still a breathtaking experience. Entry cost $20 (about £14) per person for a non-resident, which was pretty pricey compared to everything else in Indonesia, but we sucked it up anyway. We also paid for a guide (RP 75,000 – around £4/$6) which was very useful as he taught us many things about buddhism, as well as about Indonesian culture. There are many stories explaining the teaching of buddhism around the temple – around 5km of stone carvings to be exact, each one representing a belief or tradition. It was interesting to learn more about a place I had previously known very little of.

Fun weekend.

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Hiking in the Drakensberg, South Africa

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There are few places in this world where you can completely switch off and enjoy the simple things around you. After months (ok, years…) of being digitally connected and constantly attached to something electronic, I put on my hiking boots and headed up a mountain. There’s nothing more satisfying than sitting on a rock at the very top with a 2hour climb behind you. And you can’t tweet from up there.

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We took the Sunset Trail from our hotel, Champagne Castle, and trekked up a steep and grassy path to the top of the nearest mountain. It was amazing to be out in the sunshine, in nature and taking in some of the most stunning views that I have ever seen. The area is kind of old fashioned and classic, but you can’t date the views. They are spectacular.

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We got totally lost and ended up hiking for 6 hours, but it was all good fun in the end. I loved being out and about. And thank God you can drink the water in the waterfalls!

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Paradis Plage Yoga, Surf and Spa Resort, Agadir, Morocco

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Memories of one of the greatest hotels I have ever stayed in. Who else loves Morocco?! It’s the perfect place to spend a few days – only 4 hours on a plane from London. These photos are from February 2013.

Review: Kebelo Advantage Hair System

Just before Christmas, my hairdresser told me to come back in January because she had a present for me. She also told me to clear three hours for it. So, on the first Friday of January whilst I was still off work and in need of a new year, mid-winter pick-me-up, I headed off to go and see her. The gift was a deep conditioning treatment.  The Kebelo Advantage System promises 100 days of frizz-free, easy-to-manage, healthy, shiny, smooth hair with a tagline that states ‘Weatherproof your Hair’. Ummmm, yes please! Sign me up!

Kebelo system hair treatment

Why did we need three hours? Well, here we go:

1. Deep cleansing shampoo.
2. Comb through and apply treatment in sections wearing gloves.
3. Blow dry treatment into hair.
4. Seal with straighteners: 11 times per section for coloured hair, 12 for normal hair.
5. 5 mins: Cool blow dry to finish off.
6. 5 mins: Rinse out using warm water.
7. Revitalising shampoo.
8. Revitalising conditioner.
9. Simple blow dry.

We saw the results instantly. I had smoother, straighter, frizz-free hair. And she also assured me that if I don’t blow dry my hair straight, then I will have smooth frizz-free curls. So rest assured my curly-haired friends, this isn’t a straightening treatment!

Kebelo revitalising range

To help keep your treatment working. There is a little follow up. You need to use the revitalising shampoo and conditioner every time you wash your hair, plus a hair mask to be used every two weeks. The bottle says once a week but I am told that keeping up with the shampoo is more important. Once your products run out, you can just use organic products to maintain the treatment.

Kebelo advantage system deep conditioning

A month or so later (not to mention, many plane journeys and hot/cold weather settings) and my hair has more defined curls, much less frizz (even when working in Kenya!) and feels so much softer. I had been finding the shampoo hard to work into a lather and so was told by my hairdresser to wash twice to get it to really lather up, which works a treat.

Kebelo hair results

I thoroughly recommend this treatment. It’s made my hair stronger, which in turn is helping it to get longer. What a bonus.

Thank you so much to Elena at Central Cuts!

What’s your favourite weather-proofing treatment? Have you tried Kebelo yet?

Road-tripping across South Africa

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Fresh from my work trip to Kenya, I headed to Johannesburg where I met my boyfriend for just over two weeks of fun in the sun in his home country of South Africa. First up was a trip to the Drakensberg mountains, where I spent some time getting to know some of his family and enjoying the fresh outdoors, whilst we hid from his father in order to surprise him for his 60th birthday in Cape Town.

To get to the Drakensberg from Johannesburg, it’s a 410km drive – perfect for catching up and enjoying the sights of the open road. The scenery was vast and pretty empty. We passed through small towns that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. It was quite literally a breath of fresh air. It took about 5 hours to get there. And, obviously, we had had to stop on the way for some biltong snacks and a little bit later, some original Nando’s. Warning: It’s much yummier and MUCH spicier than the UK version (…cheaper too!)

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I love road trips. It’s fun to chat and sightsee and take photos along the way. Feet up on the dashboard, sun blazing and music blaring, it’s one of the best things in the world.

Where was your last road trip?

Training gets Personal

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Ah gosh, I hate being such a cliche in January, but I have started working out with a personal trainer. Although, let me set this record straight: the sessions were a gift for Christmas (from my boyfriend who also bought me new makeup although I’m choosing to ignore the subliminal messages…). I also, in an effort to make sure that I did not start on 1st January, booked my first session for 30th December- see?! I’m not a cliche at all!

Anyway, I knew it was going to be hard. I knew I was going to ache. And I did. My cardio abilities shocked/ impressed me, meaning all of my running over the past few months must have paid off as I’m fitter than I realised! But I’d forgotten what it’s like to ache for days after a workout! This happens almost every time I go.

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The sessions consisted of a variety of circuits with Chris, who set up Gym Crib a few years ago when he was offered the chance to have his own gym space in a building where many of his clients work. The ‘crib’, as it is affectionately known to many, is in Highgate Studios in Kentish Town, London. What I like about my sessions is that no two sessions are ever the same and the focus is always on my posture and the correct stance to get the most out of a move as possible. I’m addicted.

You can find out more about Gym Crib here.

What are your fitness goals for 2014?

Nutrition: The Secret to Eternal Youth

Just before Christmas and the onslaught of the silly season (read: overindulging season) I was invited to attend a Sunday afternoon healthy cooking class at The Underground Cookery School in East London. Open only to lifestyle bloggers and organised by simplyhealth, the event was designed to show people how to eat well, both nutritionally and deliciously. I couldn’t have been more excited. It was the perfect way to spend a cold Sunday lunchtime in December.

Before we got into the cooking class, we had an enlightening nutrition talk from Kate Cook (yes, the name was meant to be!). You may know Kate from television (she worked on ‘The Truth about Beauty‘ with Martine McCutcheon) or from one of her six books that she writes from her Harley Street practice, The Nutrition Coach. Her book ‘The Feel Good Factory’  is already on my Amazon wish list.

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Kate talked animatedly about how the secret to eternal youth is actually found in nutrition and not in a pill or the latest ‘superfood’ craze. It seems kale alone will not make you young and slim for life. She spoke about the Japanese community, where the average life expectancy is a staggering 81.5 and the one glaringly obvious difference between their lifestyle and ours is nutrition. You don’t see the average Londoner including seaweed in their daily diet. Maybe we should. And not just in our next spicy tuna roll. However, there is no need to be militant about nutrition and health. The Japanese have a balance and so should we.

Here are Kate’s ‘7 Secrets to Eternal Youth’

1. Digestion and Fibre: This is so important! 80% of your energy comes from your gut. If it isn’t working properly, neither will you! Do not ignore any problems with your digestion.
2. Stress and its Impact: Cortisol is the stress hormone. It’s good to have for fight or flight mode but too much stops your gut from working properly. Stay calm and so will your digestion.
3. Antioxidants: Nature is our own larder. It protects us, we need to embrace herbs and spices as well as vegetables.
4. Water: Our bodies need alkaline not acid. Water counteracts the acidity in the body. Make sure you sip throughout the day, as opposed to glugging. You can drink too much though!
5. Detoxification: We have enzymes in the body that help us to detoxify naturally. This can be genetic, but don’t worry about following a detox diet. Your body knows how to do it already  – especially if you look after it most of the time.
6. Essential fats: We need fat in the brain. FYI, olive oil (omega 9) is not an essential fat. We are talking about nuts, avocado etc.
7. Balancing blood sugar: This is the foundation of your nutrition. It is so important to balance/control your blood sugar. Did you know that there are 9tsps of sugar in Lucozade drink? Probably. Did you know that there is the same in a smoothie?! A healthy smoothie can still create a sugar drop. You get an insulin rush after sugar intake and your blood sugar crashes as a result. Then you feel need to snack and have coffee etc to find some energy. If you avoid high sugar intake, you will avoid these insulin rushes and crashes.

How can you control your sugar intake?

With the Glycaemic Index (GI). Low GI foods make your body work harder to absorb them, which prevents the rush of insulin and the sugar is absorbed slowly, avoiding the crash. Examples of low GI foods are fibrous, textured foods like oatcakes and lentils. Sweet-tasting foods and light and fluffy things, such as rice cakes and ‘low calorie’ foods have a high burn rate and are not good for you. Make your body work harder with protein and natural goodness. The secret is the protein. Always eat breakfast and always have it with protein (eggs and salmon, not white cereal). Eat your fruit and fibre – don’t drink it from a juicer! You will not only gain short term benefits by eating this way (healthy skin and hair) but blood sugar levels also contribute to your health, many diseases can be traced back to poor control of the blood sugar, not just diabetes. Weight loss is also an obvious benefit. If your blood sugar is not balanced, then you will not sleep well and your middle will hold on to that imbalance. This is why they say that sleep affects diet and weight loss. Control your sugar intake and everything else will slot into place.

We have the power to change our destiny. You hold the key to your own future.

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Kate’s final piece of advice however was this: ‘Don’t ever let a nutritionist lead the menu. It will be disgusting. Let the cook do it!

To find out more about Kate, visit The Nutrition Coach London.
You can buy The “Feel Good Factory” on Healthy Living: Life-boosting, Stress-beating, Age-busting Ways to Total Health by Kate Cook here.

Stay tuned to part 2 of this write-up where I tell you all about the delicious food we cooked after Kate’s talk!

Another World in Rwanda

Just before Christmas, I went on a semi-last-minute, semi-well-planned trip to Rwanda. Last minute, in that we booked our flights the day before after a small hold up at customs with the wheelchairs we were donating to the country with Walkabout Foundation, but well-planned in that everything else was set up to go.

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One of the most exciting things about working for an international charity is the travel. I get to go to some of the most exciting places and see some of the most amazing sights, most of which you would never see as a normal tourist. You meet the real people of the villages and you give them something that changes their lives forever. That’s truly seeing the real world – you could go to a five star resort with a great pool anywhere. You wouldn’t meet kids like this there either.

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We visited Kigali, Rwinkwavu, Kirehe and Butaro over the course of a week. Rwanda is a very rich and green landscape, the whole country is made up of people working the land. However, one of the things that struck me the most is that people are still cultivating the earth by hand, and the occasional hoe. The parents of the disabled children that I met work long hours picking and weeding one small area of land. With the entire world using machines, and before that animals, there must surely be a way to help and educate Rwanda so that they are able to be more efficient with their agriculture.

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Rwanda was a place that struck me in more ways than one. Some parts of the trip were very hard – and very emotional – but that only serves to help you realise what a difference you can make in a world so far removed from your own. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to Rwanda in my life, but I do know that I’ll never forget it.

Happy 2014!

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Happy New Year! What are your New Year’s resolutions?

I don’t really make them, as I stress myself out when I don’t keep them! However, I do always like the idea of using the new year as a fresh start. I’m going to be continuing to focus on my own health and happiness, fix my finances and find more time to write.

How do you see 2014 panning out for you?