Catch a fallen star…..

Oh wow, how excited was I today!  For the first time I saw a shooting star!  It was amazing!

My husband was with me.  He was quite surprised that I had never seen one before, but in the UK, I am not sure how often you can see them?

I was driving to work as normal, when there in front of me I saw this stream of light.  I was gutted I was driving, as I would have loved to have kept searching the sky to see more.

Why do you never have your video on when it happens ?

When I saw it, that song from my childhood came flooding back to me – Catch a fallen star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day!  In reality though, you are never going to do that or are you?  As children, we dream of catching that fallen star!

What you may not know, is that a shooting star isn’t actually that! It  is a common name for the visible part of small dust or rocks from space, as it travels through the Earths atmosphere while burning up, which gives it the commonly known name of a shooting star. If it is large enough, the meteoroid will fall to sea or onto the ground, and be considered a meteorite. So in fact, the song may not be far wrong.  If on the rare occasion you pick up a meteorite, you could put it in your pocket. Although, you are probably going to have more luck in winning the lottery!

Shooting stars are also known as fallen stars, which is where the song comes from.  As they send streaks of light across the night sky before burning out into the darkness, it is said to possess a bit of magic, bringing good luck for anyone who sees one!

I was always told that if I saw a shooting star I should make a wish!  And I certainly did that  today!

It may have taken me nearly 50 years to see one, but I am so glad I did.  It certainly was a magical sight to see.  I hope I don’t have to wait another 50 years to see one.

I’ve since looked online, and there are many websites that allow you to look up timetables of when the next meteor shower may be and where!

I can see a bit of star gazing coming on me thinks!

Happy star gazing!

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Thinking about those less fortunate!

Last week I got a text from a delivery company to say the wine I’d ordered from Slimline Wine was being delivered ! I was so excited ! As I left work I had a smile on my face.

As I started my walk to the train station, I passed my first homeless person!

I see many homeless everyday on my walk to and from the train station.  It is so sad to see so many of them.  Mostly men, but sometimes women too.

It goes through my mind every time I see them, why are they here?  Some, I know have mental health problems, other have fallen on hard times.  But what is the story for the others.

I’m going home to a lovely warm house, food on the table (well when I cook it there will be), and my latest wine order!  When did these people last have that?

As the temperature drops, I can’t believe they would choose this to a home indoors ? Who would, so why are they here?

I do try to support them as much as I can.  The odd £1 here, a sandwich or cup of tea there.  I do try to avoid giving money, as I know some would use it for drugs or alcohol, but not all.  If I am popping into a shop and I see one of them outside, I will add something extra to my shopping, to give them.

As I pass them each day, I wonder how many of them feel invisible?  How many people have walked past them that day and not even acknowledged them?

On this particular day, I’m rushing home to get my train.  Suddenly, I stop myself in my tracks.  I know, on my journey home, I am going to see some people who won’t have that luxury of a bottle of nice wine tonight.  They probably won’t even have a bed.  I feel very selfish.  I turn around and head to the local Tesco shop by where I work.

Inside I look around.  There are still a good amount of sandwiches available.  I decide to pick out a few packs.

On the way to the station, as I pass a homeless person I offer them a sandwich.  The first ones got a choice.  You can’t imagine the excitement of the first man, when he saw the tuna sandwich.  It made me feel so humble.

As I continued my journey, I passed out sandwiches.  As I reached the station I still had 1 pack left.  I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  Then I saw a pile in a door way which obviously belonged to a homeless person.  I gently placed the last sandwich down on an old sleeping back.  It should be a nice surprise for when they return.

I appreciate that not everyone is able to do what I did.  I certainly couldn’t afford to do it every day.  There are far too many homeless people around to make an impact on my own.  What is important though, is that we do what we can.  It doesn’t have to cost us anything.  A simple hello or smile is free.

We might not realise it, but that simple acknowledgement could mean everything for that person.

I also try and give them items of warm clothing, hats and gloves.  Rather than put in a charity bags, I like to know I’m making a direct difference to someone.

If you are trying to lose weight and have chocolate or biscuits you don’t want, why not pass it on to them?  They would appreciate anything.  Everyone I have spoken to, or helped has been so grateful and polite.

A couple of years ago I got to know a lovely young man and his dog, who were homeless. He never wanted money, but was always so grateful for a cup of tea or something to eat.

He was partially blind. He couldn’t get a job because he didn’t have an address !

One day, someone decided to set up a ‘Just Giving’ page for him. The aim was to get enough money together to get him a little place to live. People donated as much as they could afford . Others provided donations such as old plates etc. The smallest of donation all added up.

Very soon he was off the streets and safe!

Unfortunately, not everyone on the street is so lucky .

So the next time you see someone who is homeless, don’t put your head down and ignore them.  Say hello.  Give them a smile.

The small things in life can make a huge difference.

Costa……It certainly does!

I’ve recently had to spend time at my local hospital for various reasons, thankfully none to do with me directly.

I have been amazed and so disappointed in the food options available to visitors!

This is an NHS hospital. We hear so much about how much obesity is costing them, yet their choices for healthy eating are where ?

Now, before I go into my full rant, I have to say, they do have a cafe there. The food on offer may be very good. Unfortunately, I am unable to confirm that as every time I’ve been there, it is closed.

I’m not talking late at night. No! I’ve been there after 3 pm! At this time your food choices are vending machines and Costa!

I avoid vending machines straight off as there is too much temptation. So that leaves Costa.

My heading to the blog says it all! Not only is it very expensive, but it is also not great for the health conscious!

On my last trip, I went to get my dad a sandwich. He had just had a procedure so hadn’t eaten since breakfast!

My dads in his early 70’s and likes what I would call ‘normal’ sandwiches! Not your wraps or panini!

So first of all, I’m battling through what is on the shelf. There are many different types of wraps, sandwiches and rolls etc. All with very different fillings. I eventually find a cheese and ham sandwich. That is the only thing on the whole display that isn’t some creative filling.

Now, come on Costa! £3.95 for a boring ham and cheese sandwich! Really! It didn’t even have any lettuce on it !

This is an NHS hospital. Do they really think that everyone who goes there can afford to spend that on something so basic ?

Of course I bought it for Dad, but I did feel very ripped off!

Then it was time to look for Mum and I! Mum had said she had had some lunch, but for various reasons, I’d not eaten since breakfast. I knew I wouldn’t be home until after 8 pm, so needed something !

I’m very open to most things. The only thing for me is that it has to be healthy . So now I’m checking calories and fat content.

Again, for an NHS location, the healthy options are extremely limited. Well I say limited, but if you are on Slimming World, they don’t exist !

Let me show you what I mean ! Below are some of their low calorie options which they advertise:-

Fruit & Oat Biscuit – 7 Syns
Ginger Biscuit – 8 Syns
Egg Salad Sandwich – 17 Syns
Ham & Egg Sandwich – 19.5 Syns
Salmon Salad Sandwich (with cream cheese) – 18.5 Syns
Roast Chicken Salad Sandwich – 20 Syns

Did that surprise you?

I ended up finding a Mediterranean chicken roll, which was the best of a bad lot. I shared it with Mum to help reduce the syns further !

What happened to salad bowls or pots of fruit? Even protein pots with boiled eggs would have been great!  They do say they offer them on the Slimming World site, but I didn’t find 1 of them in cafe when I was in there.  If they had, I think I would have preferred one of the following options:

Chicken Salad – 6 Syns
Tuna Nicoise Salad – 4.5 Syns
Green Feta & Sun Dried Tomato Salad – 10 Syns
Fruit Salad – Free

If I had gone to another hospital locally, I would have had a choice of Subway, M&S, their cafe, or even a fruit and veg stand !

Why doesn’t the NHS have a policy that there has to be healthy affordable foods on offer to visitors to their hospitals. It doesn’t have you be all salads, but it should give people a choice!

Costa have a captive audience at this hospital, so can also charge what they like ! There isn’t anywhere else in the direct vicinity you could go to. By the time you have bought a drink and sandwich, you won’t get much change out of £10. And that’s a takeaway ! Never mind the extra inches on the waistline!

Whilst that’s ok for some, what about pensioners, or people of low incomes. It’s bad enough paying the large Parking charges. For some a trip to hospital is now  a very expensive experience!

It’s not always possible to pack a picnic before you go, like I did the first trip I took there!

So come on NHS. Think about what is being offered next time you tender for  a franchise!

McDonalds low calorie options – how they really look on Slimming World

Recently, I have had cause to go into McDonalds, and I have to say, I have been quite disappointed.

I don’t have take away such as this very often, unless I am on the road, and I can now see why.

I hate being late for anything, so when I am travelling, I tend to give myself plenty of time.   Recently, McDonalds has been the closest place for me to kill time or grab some lunch.  

On my last 2 visits, it was early in the morning.  I went in wanting a drink only.  I don’t like milk or coffee.  I tend to drink peppermint or green tea.  I looked at the menu and was so disappointed to see the options available to someone who doesn’t drink coffee.   

If you drink coffee you can have 8 options.  Mind you, I am glad I don’t drink coffee when you see some of the syns!

Flat White – 4.5 Syns
Millionaire’s Latte – 12 Syns
Toffee Latte  – 9 Syns
Black Coffee – Free
White Coffee – 4.5 Syns
Latte – 7 Syns
Cappuccino – 4.5 Syns
Double Espresso – Free if black

If you don’t drink coffee you can have:

Tea
Hot Chocolate 

Now, if you are on Slimming World, the hot chocolate is 8.5 syns.  As you can only have 15 in a day, that is more than half your syns gone on just a drink!

I was so disappointed, I wrote to them asking why they can’t offer other options for non coffee drinkers.  How difficult would it be for them to offer green or herbal teas as an option?  They have said they are sending my email to the correct department, lets wait and see.

Then I move on to the food options!

McDonalds are very proud that they are now offering lower calorie options, but if you are on Slimming World, what does that mean to you? Let’s have a look!

Breakfast

McDonalds have breakfast bundles, which they boast are under 400 calories.  Ok, one of my favourite go to breakfasts is porridge, or baked/overnight oats.  McDonalds has porridge on its menu!  Yey!  They also have Bagels and the egg and cheese McMuffin, all coming in for under 400 calories!  Actually,don’t get excited. Here is a selection of their best breakfast options:-

Oats So Simple with Apple & Cherry (per pot) – 11 Syns
Oats So Simple (per pot) – 9 Syns
Egg and Cheese McMuffin – 15 Syns
Bagel, not topping – 10.5 Syns
Bacon & Egg snack wrap with Brown Sauce – 14 Syns
Egg & Cheese Snack Wrap with Brown Sauce – 13 Syns
Egg & Cheese Snack Wrap with Ketchup – 12.5 Syns

So, when you have only 15 syns a day, you could almost eat those, with your first meal of the day!

What about their new under 600 calorie daytime menu then? Well, you will be equally surprised:

The Garlic Mayo Chicken One Grilled Wrap – 17.5 Syns
The Sweet Chilli Chicken One – Grilled Wrap – 17 Syns
Grilled Chicken & Bacon Salad – No Dressing – 1.5 Syns
6 Chicken Nuggets – 8.5 Syns
Fillet O Fish – 16.5 Syns
Crispy Chicken & Bacon Salad – No Dressing – 8 Syns
Chicken Legend with BBQ Sauce – 24 Syns
Spicy Vegetable Deluxe – 20.5 Syns

If like me, you will probably be quite shocked.  If you throw in a portion of chips (8.5 syns for small, 12 for medium and 17 for large), you could really be putting your weight loss at risk!

I’ve had quite a few of their salads over the last couple of years.  They are not my first choice, however, when I’m on the road, this is sometimes the only option available.  They are not filling, but do fill a gap until I can get something else to eat.  I have diet coke with it as that is free too.  I would however love to be able to have a green tea!

So next time you are looking to buy something from a takeway such as McDonalds, don’t just look at their calories.  Check out the syns on Slimming Worlds App.  Without knowing it, you could be damaging your weight loss journey.

McDonalds, if you are reading this, please please think about your lower calorie options.  Are they really a healthy option?




Did Black Friday put you in the red?

Yesterday was the annual Black Friday, but what is Black Friday?  It comes from America, and is the informal name for the Friday following Thanksgiving Day.  It is celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November. 

Black Friday, since 1952, is said to be the beginning of American’s Christmas shopping season.   As has happened over here, they too have experienced horror stories of people fighting each other for those bargains.  People have been known to queue up all night, in the hope to get that great deal.

So is Black Friday really what we all hope it will be?

I have to say, I don’t buy into all the hype!  At lot of stores have great deals all year round now. There probably is the odd deal going, but I honestly don’t believe that we will all go shopping on that one day of the year, and make great savings!

Firstly, how many of you yesterday went shopping just because it was Black Friday?  I would probably say, quite a few.  I work in the centre of Birmingham.  You could really see the increase of people on the streets, as I fought to make my way to the station last night.

Secondly, how many people bought things they didn’t plan to buy?  Again, probably quite a few!  This group of people are the ones who will think they have had a fabulous deal, but in actual fact they haven’t!

The reason I say this, is that they have actually spent money they were not planning on spending, on something they probably didn’t need.  For example, say you are one of those people who has gone shopping just because they think they could get a bargain.  They go into a shop and see this massive sign saying that a TV was £500 yesterday, but today its £300.  You have to buy it.  I mean, that is a bargain and in their head, they are saving £200.  Stop and think about that again!

In actual fact, they have just spent £300 they were not planning to spend, so in fact they haven’t saved money, the exact opposite.

The same goes for smaller items.  Just because something has been reduced, doesn’t make it a bargain.

Next time you go shopping, and you spot those big signs, telling you of a bargain, stop and think.  Ask yourself, do you want it? Do you need it?  If it wasn’t on offer, would you even have looked at it?  If the answer is no, then step away!

Supermarkets have been doing this for many years.  Have you noticed when you walk in the door, there in front of you are ‘todays offers’!   How many times have you bought biscuits because they were on offer, or buy 1 get 1 free?

Would you have bought them if they were not on offer?  If not, you didn’t get a great deal did you?  What has happened, is that you have spent more money than you planned to.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great bargains out there.  If you are genuinely looking to buy something, and it has been discounted, go for it.  I know I did get a bargain myself yesterday.  Not because I was caught in the hype.  It was something I have been wanting to buy for a few weeks.  I had a discount voucher which was running out yesterday, so I just looked on the off chance that it might be reduced.  Bonus it was, so I bought it.

I can honestly say, I did get a bargain, as I would have bought it anyway.

Black Friday now seems to last for a good week, so you have plenty of temptations to test you. How will you do? We all love a bargain, just as long as it really was one!  

Enjoy your shopping but just remember not to get carried away!

Do you like to give or receive gifts?

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With Christmas only just over a month away, many of you like me, may have already started your Christmas shopping.  Some of you will be running around on Christmas Eve, still shopping for ideas.

With the exception of my food shopping, I have completed mine!  I start almost as soon as New Years Day has passed!  Yes, it might be early for some, but there are many reasons why I do it early.

1).  I really can’t stand shopping in crowded shops, queuing at checkouts, or finding parking spaces!

2). I like to make sure I have everyone’s present early, so if for any reason I’ve forgotten someone, I still have time to buy it! (not that that actually happens!)

3).  I can get it all wrapped and under the tree from the beginning of December, so it looks more festive under the tree.

4). December is such a busy time, to have to make sure I have time to shop, something else would have to give!  That would be too much pressure!

5).  By buying presents over the months, I can ensure I spread the cost.

6). I can buy presents when on offer, so I can either save more, or buy more for someone.

There are also downsides though!

1).  I forget what I have bought, and duplicate presents.

2).  You have to store them somewhere.

3).  You see more things you like for someone, so you end up buying them more presents!

I absolutely love shopping for others.  I make a list of who I have to buy for.  During the year, I make notes of what they like doing, sizes, dreams etc.  I then try and match the presents so they mean something to them.

I’m not a fan of giving money to people, as I don’t feel that there is any thought gone into it.  Also, if they are like me, it is so easy to just spend it on something like food shopping, just because its in your purse.

I will however buy a voucher for a specific shop, if I know they really like to buy things like music.

Children are great to buy for.  I know I always spend a lot more on my nieces than I plan to every year.  I always buy them something they have asked for, then lots of other things I have seen throughout the year that I think they might need, or enjoy.

Older family members are more difficult as they tend to have everything.  By buying early, I have time to think about what they might need, more than a last minute rushed buy.

Even Fido and Lola get presents.  I will still hide them from them, so its a surprise to them too!

Its not only Christmas that I like buying things for people.  I’m a very generous person by nature, and will treat people to things throughout the year.  I am not however good at telling people what I would like or being treated.

I dread every year that question!  ‘What would you like Maria’!  That could be Christmas or my birthday.  I really hate giving people ideas.  I don’t like imposing a set cost onto them.  I don’t want them to have to go out of their way to get something, and also, I love surprises.

My hubby is terrible.  I can say it on here as he knows how I feel.  Every year he asks, and every year, I ask him to surprise me!   He never does.  I have to tell him exactly what I want.  Many times, I have even bought it and he has given me the money back.  It takes the joy out of receiving presents for me.

We are all different.  He likes to know what he is having.  He doesn’t like surprises as I do.

So how do I get around this?  I put together a list of things as I think of them.  Amazon is great.  You can easily set up a ‘Wish List’.  You can select items at varying price levels.  This can be emailed to family and friends if they ask the dreaded question.  They can choose off there or not.  You don’t know.  If they buy something else, it really doesn’t matter.

On Christmas Day, hopefully there will be a surprise under the tree.  That’s the excitement and pleasure of receiving gifts.

For me, it isn’t the amount of money someone has spent on me, it is the thought that has gone into the gift.

I know many people find Christmas stressful.  The cost of presents has gone up year on year.  What children ask for these days, compared to most of us at that age, has significantly changed.  Instead of asking people for specific things, maybe ask them for a list?  Think out of the box and buy something thoughtful.

Don’t feel pressured to spend money you don’t have.  It is the thought that counts.  If you have really thought about the present, and you know it is something that they will use or like, the price tag doesn’t matter.   And if the person receiving it doesn’t agree, then ask yourself why you are still buying for them.

If money is tight, try making your presents.  It could be homemade fudge, toffee, biscuits or cakes to knitted jumpers, scarves and hats.

Happy shopping!

 

Dairy- why it’s good for us!

This week Slimming World announced that it was going to be increasing its Healthy Extra A (HEA) portions.

For those not on Slimming World, HEA is a diary product, such as milk or cheese.  Currently, you can only have 1 portion a day.  This will also depend on what you are having, as to how much of it you can have.  For example, you could have 30 g of full fat cheese, or 175 ml of full fat milk each day, but not both.

Under the new changes, we will be able to have 2 portions of HEA per day.

We all know that dairy products are a good source of calcium.  This is particularly important for women and children.

A single glass of milk can contain a third of your recommended intake of calcium each day.

Calcium is needed in young children to help their bones grow strong.  In adults, there are conflicting reports on the benefits.  Human’s are the only adults that drink milk in adulthood.

Dairy products are supposed to help increase your metabolism due to them containing calcium and protein, however there is a warning here!  Most dairy products contain high levels of fat, so if you eat too many full fat dairy products, you could increase your weight.  Aim for fat free or low fat alternatives.

Calcium is needed to build strong bones in childhood and adolescence and helps maintain bone strength in adults, to prevent osteoporosis. Although 50 per cent of the adult skeleton is formed during the teenage years, but its not only children and teenagers who need calcium. We lose it from our bodies every day, so it needs to be replaced on a daily basis. Milk and dairy products are the main sources of calcium in the British diet although later on, I will explain that it isn’t the only way of getting it.

Teeth need calcium too.  Did you know, cheese can be particularly good for teeth when eaten after a meal, as the calcium and protein it contains helps to neutralise acids in the mouth.  My dentist told me to eat it after things like grapes, tomatoes, fizzy drinks etc.  Again, you need to be careful how much you eat as you could add the calories up very quickly!

Dairy products are also said to reduce blood pressure, risk of colon cancer, heart disease and strokes.

I have to admit, I am absolutely rubbish at making sure I eat food rich in calcium.  I had a dairy intolerance many years ago.   It developed after a failed pregnancy.  For 10 years, I suffered terribly if I ate anything with dairy in it!  Thankfully its reversed itself, however it will flare up if I eat it in any volumes.

I no longer can eat things like butter or cream, and struggle with milk.  Cheese and yoghurts are really the only things dairy I now have, and in moderation.

Some people become Lactose intolerant.  This is completely different from dairy free!

The main carbohydrate in dairy is lactose, a milk sugar composed of the two simple sugars, glucose and galactose.

As an infant, your body produced a digestive enzyme called lactase, which broke down lactose from your mother’s milk. However, many people lose the ability to break down lactose in adulthood. This is known as lactose intolerance.  About 75% of the worlds population is reported to suffer from it.  Although that said, it is rare in North America, Europe and Australia, but very common in Africa, Asia and South America.

People who are lactose intolerant have digestive symptoms when they consume dairy products. This includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and related symptoms.

Good Sources of Calcium

You don’t have to drink a pint of milk a day to get your allowance of calcium.  There are so many other food items that will do the job as well.  So how can you get your recommended daily allowance?

  • Milk and milk productsMilk, yoghurt, cheese and buttermilk. One cup of milk, a 200 g tub of yoghurt or 200 ml of calcium-fortified soy milk provides around 300 mg calcium. Calcium-fortified milks can provide larger amounts of calcium in a smaller volume of milk – ranging from 280 mg to 400 mg per 200 ml milk.
  • Leafy green vegetablesBroccoli, bok choy, Chinese cabbage and spinach. One cup of cooked spinach contains 100 mg, although only five per cent of this may be absorbed. This is due to the high concentration of oxalate, a compound in spinach that reduces calcium absorption. By contrast, one cup of cooked broccoli contains about 45 mg of calcium, but the absorption from broccoli is much higher at around 50–60 per cent.
  • Soy and tofuTofu (depending on type) or tempeh and calcium fortified soy drinks
  • FishSardines and salmon (with bones).   Even canned salmon!  Half a cup of  contains 402 mg of calcium
  • Nuts and seedsBrazil nuts (milk chocolate coated ones don’t add to it!), almonds and sesame seed paste (tahini).  Fifteen almonds contain about 40 mg of calcium.
  • Calcium-fortified foods
    This include breakfast cereals (watch out for sugar content though),  fruit juices and bread.  One cup of calcium-fortified breakfast cereal (40 g) contains up to 200 mg of calcium. ½ cup of calcium-fortified orange juice (100 ml) contains up to 80 mg of calcium, and two slices of bread (30 g) provides 200 mg of calcium.

How much calcium you need varies too.  According to the Better Health Channel the following is the RDI:-

Babies 0–6 months approx. 210 mg (if breastfed)

approx. 350 mg (if formula fed)

Babies 7–12 months 270 mg
Children 1–3 years 500 mg
Children 4–8 years 700 mg
Children 9–11 years 1,000 mg
Adolescents 12–18 years (including pregnant and breastfeeding young women) 1,300 mg
Women 19–50 (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) 1,000 mg
Women 51–70 1,300 mg
Men 19–70 1,000 mg
Adults over 70 1,300 mg

As with everything, its all about variety and moderation.

If you eat a well balanced diet you should be absolutely fine!