Saturday, 30 March 2013

Champagne and Chocolate!!!

Last week, my son and daughter took my husband and myself to a chocolate and champagne workshop in Holborn.  This was our present for our  respective birthdays in September and November of last year.  Why wait so long?  Well who says that old people have a lot of time on their hands?  We certainly don't!  Trying to find free dates in our diary proved to be nearly impossible.

When this workshop was first mooted we were a little sceptical.  We did think maybe this wasn't our sort of thing and didn't know what to expect.........................still as they were paying...... :-)

We met Ben and Alex at Holborn tube station. It was a perishingly cold evening and we made our way through the backstreets of Holborn until we came across  another couple of other would be chocolatiers loitering outside an unlikely venue for this event. So strength in numbers we were let in to a lobby and asked to wait until the others arrived.

In total there were eventually  20+ people, variety of ages and personalities.  Some displayed the usual signs of being chocoholics   ( oooh, ahhhh, wow chocolate) and others like me just eager for the champagne!  We were escorted to the bowels of the building into a room with white painted brick walls.  Three tables were laid out with bits and pieces of chocolate and glassware.  We were greeted by an attractive, articulate chocolatier who gave us a talk on good and poor chocolate and their properties while we mixed our own chocolate martinis.  With this heady start we were given demonstrations of making truffles and fudge with various combinations of tastes and textures. Edible decorations were used to enhance the choccies and reflect artistic talent!

An added dimension was introduced that there would be a competition for the most effective display of chocolates. So fuelled with generous provision of champagne the now suddenly highly competitive bunch of people got to work creating their masterpieces.  Lots of fun and laughter and lots of very creative products.

At the end of the 3 hour workshop (which passed so quickly), a winner was declared and presented with a bag of chocolate goodies.  The rest of us packaged up our efforts ready for the homeward journey.

I don't think I will ever forget the overwhelming smell of chocolate
which had permeated our clothing!

We said our goodbyes and then the door opened and released our flushed faces to the elements again and we all happily made our way home.

It does show that an old dog can learn new tricks.....................and can enjoy them too!!!

Friday, 29 March 2013

The Face You Deserve!

  1.     "Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; life shapes the face you have at thirty; but at fifty, you get the face you deserve." ...

         Coco Chanel

    When I was a young girl many of my school friends went on holidays abroad. Spain was the favourite destination.  Unfortunately ...or maybe not as will be explained - my parents couldn't afford to take my brother and myself to hotter climes. 

    I was always quite envious of the tans   which appeared after the summer break.     Later in life I now realise that our parents did us a favour as we did not experience the degree of sun exposure that our contemporaries had and hence our skins have benefitted from a protection we didn't know we were getting!

    We now realise that too much sun bathing can be detrimental to our skin and increase the ageing process and more importantly there is the high risk of skin cancer.  

    So it is so important to make sure you limit sunbathing and wear sun protection.  My husband and I, for many years, tried to make sure we stayed in the shade as much as possible only to find, in my husbands case, that he had a vitamin D deficiency so we had taken this precaution to the extreme.  So now we have come to realise that it is about balance and a little sunbathing with protection can be beneficial.

    However on our holiday, many had thrown caution to the wind.  They took every opportunity to roast their bodies and to become seriously burnt. 

    "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun"
    Noel Coward

    There's no doubt that a tan does enhance a persons look for a short period of time. People tend to look well, summer clothes take on a whole different dimension.  However the consequences of this abuse are dire.  Those who have done this year after year now have skin with resemble old leather.  Many are proud to display the great expanses of flesh - crepey chests, age spots and lined faces. What is even more puzzling is that these same people would attend seminars on the latest creams to help to attain younger looking skin.

    In the main we all do what we can to remain youthful but eventually nature takes its course. If you are blessed with "good" genes, and avoid excessive sunbathing, weight gain, smoking and drinking you can hope to slow down the ageing process.

    I also believe that using creams and moisturisers on a regular basis provide a barrier to the elements and everyone has their favourites which work for them.

    You don't have to spend a fortune on these potions some are really inexpensive.My mother, who had a wonderful complexion,  was a great believer in using creams - particularly  Nivea and I have followed in her footsteps. I use pots and pots of it for cleansing, moisturising and as a body lotion. I think the last time I bought a large tub it was on offer in Sainsburys for approximately £3.50

    There are other creams I use with which I can't afford to be so liberal.  These tend to be ones by Estee Lauder.  I buy on line and have the benefit of free delivery (if you buy a certain amount) and also free samples.  My husband complains that when he opens the bathroom cabinet hundreds of these samples fall out - he is given to exaggeration :)

    These modern creams do seem to have properties which make skin feel smoother and firmer and provide a healthy glow or at least that is my experience..............

    What works in your experience? Any other suggestions to keep younger looking skin?

    Please feel free to comment below or


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Weighty Issues!

I mentioned yesterday the extremes of eating and the medical conditions some had developed.  There were many others who seemed to realise that they needed to take some radical action.  This may have been as a result of seeing some of the even bigger people on board or listening to the lectures on healthy living provided by the Spa staff who were emphasising the importance of diet and exercise.

The gym was very well attended and also the "boot camp", pilates and yoga classes.  Others did the "mile a day"walk on the promenade deck - again organised by the trainers to encourage people to do this in a group to support and motivate each other.

One of my hobbies is sketching and enjoy drawing people. Here are 3 people with different responses to the obesity problem.

                           Here is a lady who did a daily promenade walk!

.........and here is a chap who sadly couldn't resist a pint or two regardless of the hour!

....and here is a lady who did very little most of the time!

We are stacking up problems for ourselves in older age.  It is never too late to do something about unhealthy behaviour.  Intellectually we know this however, for some, emotionally,  seem to find it very hard to grasp the mettle. I am sure none of us want to give up the active lives we lead and want to continue as long as possible being mobile and healthy...........................surround yourselves with people who will encourage you without providing too much pressure and draw up a plan!!  This is where mutual support groups like Weightwatchers and Slimming World excel.  So to the action plan .............. 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Holiday Hits and Misses- Growing passengers (3)

As we get older we are supposed to benefit from all our knowledge and experience and hence become so much wiser.

This assumption was really tested on holiday.

With so much information about obesity and sun protection you would have thought that the people on board would be mindful of this.  However a significant number of passengers had thrown caution to the wind.  Approximately 50% were significantly overweight and about 20% seriously obese.

I know many of us struggle to maintain a healthy weight and it is even harder when on holiday. However what I am referring to here is a whole different ball game.

When you go on a cruise, there is so much food available all the time.  You can choose to eat formally and informally.  We tended to go for the buffet meals for breakfast and lunch and formal for dinner.  It is in the buffet that the real excess takes place and you can't help but observe the greed and gluttony.
Some seemed to have no control at all.  Instead of getting a normal portion and then returning for more some decide to heap their plates to avoid having to make a possible return trip.

One person at breakfast had a pile of eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, mushrooms and hash browns and then noticed that the speciality that day was gammon and so this unfortunate piece of meat was selected and balanced on the top of the mountain of food.  This was accompanied with toast, bread buns and a couple of muffins.

This was not an unusual occurrence. Others over indulgenced with cereals - 3 packets poured into a bowl with a second to house the overspill.  On top of this loads of fruit and berries and then finally 3 pots of yoghurt. A cooked breakfast would follow this.

These same people complained about their ailments which included shortness of breath, lack of mobility, aching joints, indigestion, swollen ankles, diabetes, hip and joint replacements. Many opted for buggies even if they could walk.  Exercise didn't feature in their daily plan. When one person found that there was a buggy free she was over the moon - it saved walking!

The topics of conversation over dinner would often include observations of excess that day. A bone of contention often mentioned was the priority given to large people when everyone else had to take their turn.  Delays were caused on coaches going on excursions as people struggled to squeeze into seats. There was a humorous moment which many of us had witnessed when an obese woman in a buggy spied a free table in the bar. What followed could only be described as a "Little Britain"moment.  She leapt out of the buggy to claim her prize. We had all assumed she was disabled and couldn't walk.

There must be many reasons why intelligent people are eating themselves to death however one thing is clear the NHS hasn't got a prayer! How can it cope with all the problems associated with over eating to this extent?  How can it cope providing all the mobility apparatus?

This morning on the TV paper review an article was mentioned outlining the problem we have with obese children.  With parents and grandparents setting such a poor example there doesn't seem much point in the proposed banning of fizzy drinks. Its like putting a sticking plaster over an open wound

I don't have the solution to this but it is clear that the problem is growing and something has to be done. Maybe not going on a holiday where the temptations are so great would be a start.

More in next Post on the sun worshippers!

Nagasaki Peace Garden - American Monument
Nagasaki - Ground Zero

Great Wall of China

Papua New Guinea - active volcano!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Holiday Hits and Misses - costs! (2)

As I mentioned cruising holidays are not a cheap option no matter how they are advertised in the press. Cabin costs depend on where it is in the ship, if it is an internal or external, whether it has a balcony, whether you opt for one of the even more expensive mini suites or full suite with your own butler!
Brisbane - Koala

Additionally there is the cost of the bar bill for alcoholic drinks and for soft drinks (not provided in dispensers) and for wine with evening meals.  For a couple on a  3 week holiday it is not unusual for this to amount to £1000+

There is also a daily charge per person to cover tips for the really hard working cabin steward and the waiters on your evening table.

When you visit places where you have never been before most people choose to join organised excursions rather than doing their own thing. The cost depends on whether the trips are half day or full day. You can sometimes also opt for "off piste" excursions which can last several days and involve visiting places not on the usual itinerary or  involve specialist interest activities and then rejoin the ship at the next port..  Costs per person vary from approx £70 to about £200. The "off piste" activities can be hundreds if not thousands of pounds.
Brisbane - Emu

Visas in some countries can be quite punitive e.g. China charges £250 per head, others much less - Japan is approximately £38 per head.
So the costs mount up. There were 1800 passengers on board of which a third were going round the world and then the rest of us who were completing just a "leg" of the cruise. Some of the round the worlders talked about the number of times they had completed this long cruise. Many had already booked their next holiday.  One couple in their 50s told us that they had been on 5 cruises in 5 months.

I must say that even with the most expensive extras available on the cruise,  they were not short of takers.

Which brings me back to the question I posed on the last post - how can people afford this? This question is even more poignant today having watched the Budget and listened to the talk of hard times particularly for "ordinary" people and how badly austerity measures were affecting them. . It certainly wasn't evident on the ship.  Many having thrown caution to the wind. Clearly people have their priorities and they must be quite creative when it comes to managing their own budgets.

Although my husband and I enjoyed our holiday we are always say we couldn't spend any longer than the 3.5 weeks - we don't have the stamina and......we couldn't afford the time or extra costs including.... the bar bill :)

More holiday talk on next post......

Brisbane Kangaroo

Monday, 18 March 2013

Never say never!

A couple of years ago I won a spa day in a raffle.  Most people would be thrilled but I am afraid I was underwhelmed – I have never seen the point of having things done which you could easily have at home …. and for a fraction of the cost!  Anyway I had a mud wrap which was novel!  I am sure many of you reading this may have experienced this treatment - being covered in slime but it was new to me.  I was then wrapped in “bacofoil “.  The beauty therapist then told me to relax for 20 minutes and enjoy.  She lit soothing candles around me and departed.  As I lay there I wanted to laugh this seemed so absurd and …….relax?  I kept thinking about things I needed to do and how much more productive I could be doing something else.  Anyway after showering I must admit that my skin did feel smooth and silky. 

My husband collected me and said I looked as if I had flu!  I am afraid I have always been like this – even if we are on holiday on the beach I find it quite difficult to switch off.

However this is not to say that I don’t appreciate that some treatments are really beneficial.  Not long after the mud experience a friend recommended a  laser rejuvenating facial she had had which had certainly tightened up her face  and she did look younger. So I thought I would have a go.  Certainly not cheap but I found it did make a difference.  The face is thoroughly cleansed and then a lubricating lotion applied.  The laser wand is then gently moved over the face.  You feel a slight pinging sensation but certainly I didn’t find it uncomfortable. The session lasted an hour and cost £100.  It was recommended that you have several sessions with approx. 4 weeks interval in between.  I got the impression this is something that probably has to continue longer term and even though very happy with the results could not make such a financial commitment.

I subsequently found that there is a home laser device which you can use at home.  I am again quite skeptical about the claims made with any product and so did my own research.  The comments  and feedback I found were really favourable .  This laser rejuvenating laser claimed to help with firming up the face, helping to diminish fine lines and help with discoloration which sadly comes with age.   It is made by Tria and at £450 is not cheap but when you consider the cost of beauty treatments it makes it seem quite reasonable.

You can buy this direct from tria or from other outlets such as Amazon and can probably find an offer if you try.
 Here is the website:

My husband also uses it and has found it has lightened  his age spots – so everyone happy J
This has worked for us but we all have different experiences and reactions so you have to explore what works for you.  By the way I also find I can use the laser while I am on the phone, reading a book, on my iPad  - you know women and multi tasking !!

Has anyone else tried this or something similar and would like to share what they have experienced?

Holiday hits and misses! (1)

Just got back from a 3 and a half weeks holiday on a cruise.  I know cruising isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but this opinion tends to be aired by those who haven’t had the experience.  A long time ago someone said to me and to my husband that once you have tried it you are smitten.  This certainly has proved to be the case.  There is nothing to compare to driving down to Southampton  - handing over your car keys and being shown to your cabin – luggage miraculously appears and then you are then someone else’s responsibility!  The floating hotel takes over and all the cares of our everyday routine are taken away.

This is not a cheap option – you do have to take into account not only the initial cost of the holiday but all the extras which I will refer to later.  My husband and I have saved and prepared for this stage in our lives  but we are always staggered by the number of people on board who have sailed regularly on very expensive around the world trips often not bothering to set their feet on the ground on some of the ports of call as they have” been there done it” several times! I am not talking necessarily about wealthy people – there is a complete spectrum – we keep saying how can they do it?! There are those who are clearly wealthy and money is no object and then there are those who are “comfortable “ but cautious; others who openly talk about selling council houses and enjoying the proceeds and then more worryingly are those who provocatively declare that they are “on benefits”!  I am not sure as to the true status of people on board but I would be fascinated to find out!
This time the holiday was not so relaxed as sadly when you want to explore  the further extremities of the world you do need to fly and then join the cruise . We flew to Sydney via Hong Kong before visiting other parts of Australia, on to Papua New Guinea, then Japan and China before reaching Hong Kong and then the flight back to the UK.

Some say that cruises are for older people and I must admit that the majority of those on board fell into the 50+ category . However there are some cruises  which cater for families and the younger ones. You just have to make sure that your choice of provider and ship reflect your needs. So more later....

Sydney Bridge
I intend to post some highlights of my holiday and also some senior moments and experiences which may stimulate a response or debate!
Sydney Opera House from ship