Wear your poppy with pride!

This Sunday marks 100 years since the end of the first world war.  It is hard for me to really imagine what it was like to live all those years ago, but one thing is for sure, every day, I am grateful for the sacrifice that was made back then.

The war began on 28 July 1914.

I remember when the Falklands War started on 2 April 1982. Argentina invaded the Falkland islands over who should own it.  It only lasted 74 days.  I was 13 at the time.  I had only really known about war from our history lessons and what I had read.  I remember feeling a bit scared of what it would mean.  Would my dad have to go off and fight?  Would our house get destroyed?   Everything was going through my head.  Thankfully for us, this war didn’t really impact on us day by day.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for WW1.  Back on that awful day in 1914, the lives of millions of people changed overnight and forever.

The war started because Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnan wife Sophie of Austria was assassinated.   Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the throne of Austria and Hungary. The assassination was planned by a Serbian terrorist group, called The Black Hand.  The man who shot Franz Ferdinand and his wife was a Bosnian revolutionary named Gavrilo Princip.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914, it triggered a chain of events that resulted in World War 1.  After the assassination, Austria-Hungary threatened war on Serbia. They set out some very high demands that Serbia must meet. Germany sided by Austria-Hungary, while Russia sided with the Serbians. At this point, Europe was at the brink of going to war.

One month after the assassination, on July 28 1914 ,Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia with the backing of Germany. Germany then declared war on Russia on August 1, and on France on August 3.

On August 4 1914, the German troops marched on France and the route they took went through Belgium. Since Britain had agreed to maintain the neutrality of Belgium, they immediately declared war on Germany.

British and Germany forces first fought at the Battle of Mons in Belgium. This was the first of many battles between Britain and Germany on the Western Front and is when World War 1 started for Britain.

There were 2 sides to the war.  The Triple Ententes (Allied Forces) which was us here in Britain, France, Ireland and Russia.  The other side was known as Central Powers which was Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Many of the countries involved in the first World War had problems with each other before the war, but when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed,  Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.  Germany declared war on Russia and France not long after.  This followed more and more countries joining in the fight.

The United States didn’t get involved at first, but after a British passenger ship was sunk by a German submarine, killing 128 Americans, pressure from American citizens caused the US government to get involved.   The President at that time, Woodrow Wilson, wanted to avoid a bloody war, but the Germans declared that they would sink any ship that came to Britain.  Woodrow, had no option, but to enter the war to help Europe restore peace

In total 32 countries became involved in the war, including China, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Japan, Montenegro, Liberia, Romania and Portugal.

Over 65 million soldiers went to war.  Over 8 million of them never returning.  Another 21 million were injured.  Those that did return, must have seen and heard some horrific things in their time.  They would never come home the same person as they left!

Conscription

Britain soon realised that they couldn’t continue fighting with just the current voluntary recruits.

You may remember from your history books, Lord Kitchener’s campaign – promoted by his famous “Your Country Needs You” poster.  It was quite successful.  Many men were proud of their country and wanted to fight for it.  Over one million men had enlisted by January 1915.  But this was not enough.  We had already had many casualties.  More men were needed.

The government decided it had no choice.  It had to increase the numbers of soldiers.  The only way to do this was through conscription – compulsory active service.  Parliament was divided but they knew that the French army were suffering, they had no choice.

In January 1916 the Military Service Act was passed. This forced conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, but exempted the anyone deemed medically unfit, clergymen, teachers and certain classes of industrial worker.

Men who refused to fight on moral grounds (Conscientious objectors), were also exempt, but were given civilian jobs or non-fighting roles at the front.

A second Act passed in May 1916 extended conscription to married men.

Conscription was not applied to Ireland because of the 1916 Easter Rising however many Irishmen volunteered to fight.

Some boys even lied about their age, to be able to fight for King and Country.  The youngest British soldier was in fact only 12.    Sidney Lewis was one of 250,000 underage soldiers.   Sadly for some, it wasn’t always to have the privilege to fight for King and Country.  For some it was to escape their lives.  How desperate must they have been to feel this was their only option.

You can imagine, this was not popular with some people.  In April 1916, there were demonstrations in Trafalgar Square.  Many men initially didn’t go when they were called up.  In the first year though 1.1 million had enlisted.

The age limit was increased in 1918 to 51.  Even though the war ended in 1918, conscription continued until  1920.  In total, conscription increased the army by 2.4 million.

Can you imagine your father or brother coming home one day, and getting their paper to go to war?  They would have heard what was going on.  They knew that they were possibly going to their death.  As a wife or mother, watching your husband and sons leave, never knowing if they would return.  I’m emotional just thinking about it now.

They could of course write to each other.  In fact over 12 million letters were sent during the war.  Many men were away for many years.  Missing out on seeing their children grow up.  The letters and photos they were sent must have been so precious to them.

Thankfully for Britain, 9 out of 10 soldiers returned.  Sadly, when you know how many died, the same can’t be said for other countries.

Why did the War end?

Britain had blocked all the ports in Germany with its Naval boats.  Germans were starving as supplies couldn’t come through, and their economy was collapsing.  Protestors started asking for the war to end.  Pressure was falling on them.  Something had to change.

The emperor at the time, Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to step down on 9 November 2018.  2 days later, the leaders of both sides met at Compiegne in France.  Here they signed the peace armistice.

Although we celebrate the end of the war on 11 November at 11 am, when it was signed and the fighting stopped, the war didn’t officially end until 28 June 2019.  This was exactly 5 years after Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

It took 6 months to negotiate the peace treaty before the Treaty of Versailles was finalised.  In this, Germany had to accept full responsibility for starting the war.  They had to surrender their territories and colonies as well as reduce the size of its armies.

Why do we wear a poppy?

We wear a poppy to remember those who have given their lives in battle.  It is said that the poppy was the first flower that grew on the battlefields after World War I ended. It is said that the red of the poppy, is from the blood that filled battlefields.

In the spring of 1915,  after losing his friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was so inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battlefields, he decided to write a poem – ‘In Flanders Fields’. This poem is now famous. Read it and see what you think.  It really captures the feeling, don’t you think?

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

 

From then on, the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance.

How should you wear it?  It varies, whoever you speak to!  Some say men should wear it on the left, and women on the right, like you would a badge or brooch. The Queen wears hers on the left, so maybe not! There are also many people who say that the leaf should point to 11 o’clock.   Whatever the correct way of wearing it is, the important thing is that we do wear it and know why!

You may not know those men who went off and fought for us, but if you dig around in your family history enough, you will find someone in your family that was effected.  Even if you don’t, those brave men fought so you could have the life you have today.

There have been many more wars since this one.  Many more have died because of War,  The poppy is to remember them all.

A couple of years ago I bought my husband a very special poppy from the British Legion.  It was made out of a bullet shell that had been found in the fields in France from the Somme.  With it came a certificate to commemorate a soldier who died.  We don’t know him.  It doesn’t matter.  He still died for us.

My husband wears it every year with pride.

We shall remember

From July to November 2004,  the Tower of London with covered in 888,246 ceramic poppies.  They were created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper.  They were to remember the first full day of  Britain’s involvement in WW1.  Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was an emotional tribute to all that fought.  My hubby and I both bought one each so we can always look at them and remember.

As in many towns and cities, Warwick too have a display in the main church of St Mary’s.  All the poppies are hand knitted or crochet.  Its amazing how many hours have gone into this.  Some have been sent from countries across the world.  My hubby, stepdaughter and I went for a visit to see it recently.  A church seems the perfect place for it.   If you get a chance, please go and visit this or any other display.

At 11 am on Sunday their will be a 2 minute silence to remember all the fallen soldiers.  What ever you are doing at that time, stop!  Take 2 minutes out of your life to remember!  I always shed a tear.  Writing this blog has raised the same emotion!

Don’t let those brave men and women have died in vain.  Keep them alive in our hearts.  All of them!

Advertisements

Invasion of the Wasp

In all my life, I have never seen as many wasps as I have the last week!

It didn’t matter where I went in the house, there was a wasp.  They were in the bathrooms, lounge, kitchen, my study, hubby’s study, our ensuite etc.  It was driving me bonkers!

The one night, I popped to the loo.  Normally I don’t put the light on, but for some reason that night I did.  Phew!  Thank god I did!  There on the seat was another wasp!  Can you imagine what could have happened!  I dare not think of it!

I then saw one walking along my hubby’s study floor!

I now ensure I don’t walk anywhere in the dark!

In one day, I killed 13 wasps, and they still kept coming!

Did you know wasps only live on average 17 days.  17 days!  Can you believe that they can cause so much damage in such a short time!  The queen 12 months!

I was so bewildered by the volume of wasps, I sent a message out to my neighbours via our Facebook page!  The response back made sense! One of my neighbours had seen a swarm of them going to my roof!  So there is the expected culprit!

The question now is, is there a nest in my loft?  If there is, how are they getting into the house?  We don’t use the loft, so the door is never open?

I was recommended to close all the vents in my windows, which I quickly did!  It still didn’t stop the buggers?

This time of year, they are very sleepy.  Its great for getting rid of them as you can pick them up easily, but I worry my dogs might go for them and get stung.  My old dog Ember got stung by one once.  He had a terrible reaction and his face blew up like a football.  I’d hate that to happen to Fido and Lola!

So I’ve been researching what to do.  My brother said he had one in his loft last week.  He waited for a cold morning and got it out himself!  I was a bit worried at first, so googled it!  I now have a plan of action!

I’m going to send hubby up into the loft at the weekend – well you don’t think i’m stupid enough to do it, do you?  Oh no! Armed with a torch, he can check out whether we do have a nest or not!  If we do, I have some Nippon Wasp Nest Destroyer Foam from Amazon.  You apparently spray the nest and leave it for 24 hours.

https://amzn.to/2D3Qh70

As the weather gets cold, most of the wasps die off.   However the queen usually goes into hibernation, but not until she has mated.  In the spring she will then lay her eggs and the nest becomes active again! Its important that the nest and queen are destroyed.  She sometimes dies from starvation as there are no wasps left to feed her, but I’m not taking any chances.  She has to die, so the foam it is!

The nests are amazing constructions, and in some ways, it will be a shame to destroy it but needs must!

Wasp Nest.jpg

After 24 hours the wasps should be dead. We will put a black bag into a bucket and, using something sharp, cut the nest off where it is fixed.  It will drop into the black bag.  We have to ensure it doesn’t drop too far and burst the nest.  We will then secure the bag and bin it!

It all sounds so easy!  Eek.  I’m dreading it, but it has to be done!

To prevent them from returning, I’ve bought 2 decoy nests!  Wasps won’t build a nest near another one.  The wasp sees the decoy, and decides to go somewhere else!  Well that is the theory so I’m going to try it.

https://amzn.to/2zxxWM8

I will let you know how it goes!

Wish me luck!

 

Fireworks stress out pets and animals

So this weekend will see many parts of the country, including mine, celebrating bonfire night!  I love fireworks, however for me, I now have to consider the welfare of my dogs during this time.

Animals have acute hearing, loud bangs can cause them pain in their ears.  There hearing is a lot more sensitive to sounds than us humans.

Fido is 4 years old, and has always been very sensitive to noises, so this time of year is even more stressful for him.  Lola sees him stressed, and feels the need to bark too!

This week is also the start of Diwali celebrations. Diwali is the five-day festival of lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. The festival, which coincides with the Hindu New Year, celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.  It is celebrated also with fireworks.

This Tuesday was the start of the first firework display by us.  Fido was extremely stressed, pacing around, barking, crying and hiding.  It was a horrible couple of hours to watch and hear.  Even after they had stopped he couldn’t relax, because for pets, they don’t know if its going to start up again or not!

To help, we give both our dogs calming tablets, and are doing so right through to the middle of next week.  This doesn’t stop them getting stressed, but I hope in some way it does help them be a little calmer.  You can get them from your local vets or online.  I buy Magicalm from Healthspan, which I have shown to my vet to confirm it is safe for my dogs.  If you are giving them calming tablets, make sure you check the dosage, and follow the instructions carefully.  The link is here.

https://www.healthspan.co.uk/products/magicalm?sc_camp=A637DAE161C94D44A8EAF04FF8CA3979&gclid=CjwKCAjw6-_eBRBXEiwA-5zHaX00I4MnLUvay9jC2o8alTR4OQZaxL4uOYBWfrJjfgvvCJw_lspaJxoC3C0QAvD_BwE#/?pack%20size=60

So what else do we do to help them?  We make sure there are plenty of TV’s and radios on loudly around the house to block the noise out.  Curtains and blinds are closed.  I never shout at them as this stresses them out more.  Instead, I cuddle them, and stroke them, using soothing sounds.  They are even allowed to lie on the sofa with me for added comfort.

Fido likes sleeping under my hubby’s desk in his study.   Lola under the chaise lounge.   It is not uncommon for dogs to hide during times of stress.   I leave them both there, if that is where they have gone, as for them, this is their safe place.

Dogs will also potentially become destructive at this time.  Again, don’t get cross with them, it is their coping mechanism.

I make sure the dogs are walked well before the darkness falls.  That way, I can eliminate any possibility of them being outdoors when a firework goes off.  I never allow them in the garden until I know the fireworks are well and truly finished.  This might mean they have a little accident, but it’s a small price to pay.

If you are out when displays start, get your dog home as soon as possible.  Dogs will try and run and hide.  Never walk them this time of year without a lead. They are likely to dash off, and could potentially be hit by a car or become lost.  As soon as the first sound is heard, get them home to safety.

Other Animals

It isn’t just dogs that are effected by fireworks.  Cats, rabbits, birds and even wildlife.  More animals are killed on the roads this time of year, due to fireworks and they run around in panic.

If you have a cat, do the same as with my dogs.  As they are a law unto themselves, you may need to bring them in a lot earlier.  Make sure the catflap is closed or blocked, so they can’t get back out!

Small Pets

If your pets are in hutches/cages in the garden, bring them indoors.  If not into the house, the garage.  Make sure they have extra bedding and cover the hutch/cage.

If you can’t bring them in, cover them with think blankets or old duvets to block out some of the sound.  Obviously, make sure they can still breath!

Make sure you check on them later.

Wildlife

You may think there isn’t a lot you can do to protect wildlife this time of year, and in some ways that is true.

Sadly, many types of animals will be hit by cars, trying to flee fireworks, especially deer.  These can also cause damage to vehicles.

If you have bird baths or feeders in your garden, take them down early afternoon.  This will prevent them coming out of the safety of their nests or trees.  If you can’t remove them, cover them up.

After fireworks

We will all have seen fireworks lying on the ground after a display.  When it is safe to do so, make sure you discard of them.  The firework will still contain dangerous toxins, which if eaten by animals, could kill them.

I don’t want to spoil everyone’s fun.  As I said, I love fireworks, but with a bit of planning, we can make it relaxing for both humans and animals alike.

If you see an injured animal, please contact your local vet or RSPCA on  0300 1234 999

The Great British Bake Off

So last night saw the winner of the 9th series  of Great British Bake Off (GBBO) crowned the king/queen of baking!

I’ve been a fan of GBBO ever since its first series.  The mixture of great baking challenges, creative cooking, individual personalities and of course, last but by nowhere near least, Paul Hollywood.

Paul Hollywood is the absolute ‘god’ of baking for me.  It helps of course that he has the most gorgeous blue eyes, cheeky grin, and is my celebrity crush!

I know there has been a lot of bad press about him over the years in his personal life, and yes he may be a ladies man, but a girl can still have those crushes.

The crush aside, I do also admire him as a baker.    He had a good start in life, with his own father having a bakery.  He then moved on to be head baker in a few hotels around the world.  One of those countries was Cyprus, where a friend of mine met him a few times, in a local bar.  I am not jealous of that at all!! Much!

His TV career includes The Generation Game, The Heaven and Earth Show, This Morning and other one with one of my admired men – The Alan Titchmarsh Show.  Yes I know, some people find that weird, but have you read his books?  If you had, you would see him very differently!

In 2010, Paul’s career really climbed, when he was chosen as a judge, along with Mary Berry, on GBBO.

He has produced many cook books of which, I think I have all of them!  It really motivates you to be in the kitchen when you can see his face staring back at you!

His books include Paul Hollywood’s Breads, Pies and Puds, British Baking, How to Bake and Weekender Baker.  I think my most used is the book on breads.  Sadly, since I moved, my kitchen work surface isn’t as big as it used to be, so I find making bread more of a challenge!  I have plans in my kitchen though to sort that out one day!  I just need to boost my savings first!

For the first 7 series, Mary Berry worked alongside Paul as a judge, with Mel and Sue as the presenters, on BBC.  In 2017, it was moved to Channel 4.  Sadly Mary decided to remain with the BBC, so a new judge was needed.  They worked so well together, I was worried it wouldn’t be the same.  Mel and Sue also decided to leave the show, so it seemed the whole dynamics was changing!

Some people I know didn’t want to watch it on Channel 4, as they felt it wouldn’t be the same, plus it now had adverts included.  I was always going to be watching it, just to get my PH fix!

So in 2017, the new series started, with Prue Leith as Paul’s side kick.  Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding were to present along with them.

I have to admit now, I loved the connection with Prue and Paul from the beginning, but I struggled with Sandi and Noel.  I can’t quite tell you why, but it took a couple of episodes for me to warm to them.  Now I have,  I love them both.

I do have a silent jealousy of those contestants on the show.  I would love to give it a go, but I know I’m nowhere near good enough!

Some of the creations they come up with are absolutely amazing.

If you have never watched it, each episode is made up of 3 challenges.  Each challenge tests the competitors baking skills.

Signature Bake

This tests their creativity, and gives them a chance to show off their individual personalities.    They know in advance what they are baking, so have the chance to practice it as many times as they can, at home.

Technical Challenge

This is the most difficult challenge I think.  The competitors are given a very basic recipe to follow, usually without baking times, temperatures,  etc, along with some ingredients.  They are given the name of the finished product, but most of them will not even know what it is supposed to look like!

The end product is then blind tasted by Paul and Prue, ranking them in order based on taste and how they look compared to what they should look like!

Showstopper Challenge

This is the final challenge of the round. This is where the competitors can really show off their skills, producing a show stopper to wow the judges, and us at home!

It has to not only look good, but taste good too!

All these challenges are carried out in a huge tent!  It is filmed in the summer months.  The temperature in the temp must reach huge heights, withl all the lights, camera equipment, ovens etc.  In some of the challenges, you will see the impact of the heat on their creations, especially when they are working with chocolate.

After the 3 challenges have been completed, the judges will pick a ‘Star Baker’ for that week.  This is the person who has impressed the most over the 3 challenges.  You receive a ‘Star Baker’ apron and the respect of the other bakers.  There is then sadly someone that has to leave the competition.

This continues week on week, until only 3 are left, to go into the final!

This years final had a bit of a twist!  For the technical challenge, they were taken out of the tent, to where an open fire was waiting for each of them.  Their challenge was to make 6 equal sized Pitta breads with 3 dips!  You have to love Paul’s creativity.  I think the viewers were as surprised as the finalists.

It’s true to say, that all 3 struggled with it, but I admire they way they just got in with it.

If you have never watched the show, I recommend you do!  If you have a love of baking, or even just eating, you will love it.  Or if you are like me, just for the weekly fix of Paul Hollywood!

Paul has inspired me to bake for many years.  I love making his breads and coming up with cake ideas for friends and family.  Here are just a few of my creations of the last few years.

This was for my nieces 4th birthday party.  She wanted butterflies on her cake so this was what I came up with.

My dads 70th birthday.  He is great at making and fixing things.  I felt this reflected him well.

A friends 60th.  The jockey was based on the birthday boy.  He doesn’t ride but loves horse raising and works for a trainer, so I based the horse and jockey on the actual racing colours and one of his horses.

A surprise 50th birthday for another friend.  The man and women are meant to be the birthday boy and his wife!  Thank fully they are still speaking to me.  If you look behind the 3rd photo, you might see a familiar face!!

img_2526

This was one of the first cakes I made, to take to my neighbours for a party to celebrate the final of the Rugby World  Cup.

img_0452

And my last cake, was for my mums 70th birthday meal.

I do love baking and creating.  I’m not fantastic at it, but its fun having a go.  Pininterest is a great place for ideas.  You can keep it as simple or as complicated at you like.

You just need a good cake recipe, a good imagination and a bit of time.

Watching GBBO inspires me to get back into the kitchen.  I hope it does for you too!

Halloween

So how many of you think Halloween came from America?  Well you would be excused if you did.  America embraced the celebration of Halloween long before we did here in the UK.

The name Halloween comes from the name All Hallows Eve.

What you may not know, is that Halloween first came about from the Celts.  So effectively, it originates from Northern Ireland, Northern France and here in the UK.  In fact Ireland has a bank holiday around this time.   The Celtic festival of Samhain was the start of what you know today.  It is thought that people would light bonfires and wear costumes to keep away ghosts.

31st October marked the end of summer and the harvest.  As we all know too well, we now move into dark and very cold winter nights.  In days gone by, and probably a bit today, it was expected that more people would die during this time.  Mostly from the cold,  I would imagine.

All Saints day which falls on 1 November was designated by Pope Gregory III to honour saints. It was also said to be the start of the new year.

The Celts believed the night before the new year, the boundary between the living and the dead became blurred.  It is thought that on Hallows Eve, or Samhain as it was then, ghosts of the dead, came back to earth.

They were said to damage crops and cause mayhem.  The Celts felt that this made it easier for Druids (Celtic priests) to make predictions on the future.  In those days, people relied on these predictions to help them through the long winters.

To celebrate this time, Druids built big bonfires, where crops and animals were burnt as a sacrifice.  The Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins, which is probably where the dressing up comes from today.

Women even thought that by doing tricks with yarn, tossing apple skins over their shoulder or throwing nuts into a fire, they would find out who their potential husband were.

When Rome conquered the Celts, they combined their own festivals with that of Samhain.

Feralia was toward the end of October where the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead.  Together with celebration for Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees they were combined with Samhain.  Pomona was represented by an apple, and it is thought that the tradition of apple bobbing came from this.

So with its origins in Europe, how did it get so big in America?  The simple answer is, from migrates from Ireland, many thought to have gone there around the time of the Potato famine.

It was in America, that the traditions of today of trick or treating came about.  They would go from house to house collecting money or food.

By the 1800’s, some of the superstitions and religion had started to disappear from the celebrations.   By the twentieth century it became what is it today.

The pumpkin became part our tradition from a couple of different old Irish tales.  The first was that the Celts carved faces into vegetables, placed a light inside them of a candle or piece of coal, to light the way to their homes for the good spirits.  In those days it was mostly turnips and squash.

The second is about a man called Stringy Jack.  It is said that in the 18th Century, Jack tried to pull a fast one on the devil.  Jack was a drunk.  He asked the devil to go for a drink with him.  When the bill came he had no money to pay for it, so he persuaded the devil to turn himself into a six pence coin.  The devil did so, but instead of paying the bill, Jack put the coin in his pocket and left.

The devil remained until one day he felt guilty for what he did.  He said to the devil that he would let him out if he promised to leave him alone for a period of time which varies depending on which story you read.  The devil agreed.  When the time was up he went after Jack.
Jack convinced the devil to go up a tree to get him an apple before going with him to Hell.

As he was climbing, Jack carved a cross in the tree, trapping the devil again.

Once again Jack’s conscious got the better of him.  He agreed to let the devil down if he promised never to come for him again.  The devil agreed.

When Jack dies, St Peter refused him at the gates of heaven because of his behaviour.  The problem was that Jack had made an agreement with the devil, which meant he couldn’t go to hell either!

Eventually Jack was given a lump of hot coal by the devil to light his way through purgatory.   Jack was said to have carried the coal inside a hollowed out turnip.

Irish families would place a turnip in their windows to stop Jack and other ghosts coming in.  The scary faces were to frighten away anyone trying.

When Halloween arrived in America, immigrants decided pumpkins, which were plentiful there, were a better option for this tradition.  They soon became know there as jack-o-lanterns.

Now you know where it came from – Happy Halloween!

When the clocks go back!

So this weekend sees the clocks going back!   That means one thing for me!  Shorter days!

It’s not my favourite time of year.  Ok, the sunny autumn days are beautiful.  The red and gold tones of the leaves against a clear blue sky, are a photographers dream.   None of this takes away the fact that I am now going to be leaving home in the dark, and coming home in the dark!

The temperature is dropping, so more layers, hats and gloves are coming out of the wardrobe!

The route I take for my dogs, when I am on my own, now has to change, as I don’t feel comfortable going down the alley in the dark!

The other big thing that changes, is my food!  Those light salads no longer do it for me!  I might get away with them for lunch after the gym, but after a walk in the cold or wet with the dogs, I’m going to be craving hot, stodgy food and snacks.  These are my danger zones for weight loss.

If I plan, I can actually have all my favourite foods without gaining the pounds.  So what do I go for?

Breakfast

Overnight oats are still a firm favourite.  I enjoy them all seasons, as they are filling and tasty.

If I’m looking for something hot, it has to be an omelette, topped with baked beans.  For work, I will do it in a mug the night before and just warm it up in the microwave when I’m in the office.  This is my recipe.

https://slimminginspirations4u.godaddysites.com/recipes-1/f/mugomelette

If you are at home, then you can easily make it in your omelette maker, or in a non stick frying pan.  See how I make mine.

Lunch

Again the omelettes are a great choice, but if you have had them for breakfast, you will want something a little bit different!

Pasta is a very quick and easy dish to make, and you can make a few portions up at a time, and leave in fridge.

For my basic recipe, I will just cook wholemeal pasta, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, chopped peppers, mushrooms and onion.

I will then separate that into separate air tight containers.  Rather than having the exact same every day for 3 or 4 days, I vary what I then add to it.  Some days it will be chopped ham, another boiled eggs, another tuna or mixed beans!  Top off with a bit of grated cheese just before you microwave it and you have a hot, healthy lunch.  Don’t worry if you don’t have a microwave as it is delicious cold too!

Have you ever melted Dairylee Light triangles into pasta with mushrooms?  Delicious and so so quick and easy.  Add a bit of ham for extra protein!

Rice salads can be done just the same.

Don’t forget last nights left overs warmed up too!  Perfect the next day, and I think some meals such as lasagne and curry taste better the next day!

Jacket potatoes with baked beans, chilli or dairylee triangles are a good hearty lunch.  Bake them in over the night before with your evening meal, then reheat the next day!

Dinner

My slow cooker is my absolute best friend during the whole year, but this time of year, it is even more valuable.  You can literally throw anything into it, put it on low before you go to work, and then you walk in to a ready dinner.

Mexican chicken is a real favourite.  You can make it as hot and spicy as you like, or mild for the kids.

Lemon chicken is perfect for week days and weekends.  Imagine walking in after a nice autumn Sunday afternoon walk to the smell of this dish.  Just add potatoes and veg and you have a perfect Sunday dinner!

https://slimminginspirations4u.godaddysites.com/recipes-1/f/lemon-chicken

Don’t forget the family favourite – Lasagne.  This is perfect to bulk cook, divide into containers and freeze.  You can then take it out when you are in a rush.  Its also good to take to work for your lunch!

Keeping it Healthy

It is so easy during the winter months to hit the chips!  Don’t get me wrong, if you want to lose weight, you can still enjoy a trip to the chip shop, but it must be factored in.  Normal fish and chips from the chippie for 220g serving is around 14 syns, 100g is only 6.5 syns.  If you take the batter off, the fish becomes free!  Even if you don’t take the batter off, with 15 syns a day you can still have them!  And don’t forget that mushy peas are free food too!

One of the great things about this time of year, is the increased number of vegetables on offer!  Pumpkin, sprouts, parsnips and many many more root vegetables.  You can make great tasty meals quickly and easily.

If you chop a selection of root vegetables up and place in a slow cooker, with a tin of tomatoes or passata, add a few herbs and spices, you have a great base for soups, casseroles and sauces.

If I have vegetables coming to the end of their life, this is a perfect way to use them up!  Its perfect to freeze too!  I can then defrost it and add any left over cooked meat from the night before, to make a quick and easy meal.

Tinned of mixed beans with tinned tomatoes, chilli powder and less than 5% beef mince, in the slow cooker is quick and easy.  Serve with rice or over jacket potatoes!  Yummy.

Winter can be a really great time to experiment in the kitchen.  Don’t be afraid to play around.  I’m always making up different recipes from left overs, or whatever is in the fridge.

I even do this when friends come to dinner.  This was quick, easy and perfect for a light lunch this time of year or as a starter, as I used it.

For other ideas and recipes, visit my website http://www.slimminginspirations4u.com or my Youtube channel.

The Curse of Strictly!

Ok, is it me, or is this curse just a modern way of covering up 2 people whose relationships are in trouble, spend time with someone else, then act on it?

You may say I’m looking at it all too simply, but lets look at the facts!

I used to do a lot of Salsa dancing.  I loved it.  I even went on Salsa holidays, which were not holidays in the sense you know it.  From the time you woke up to early evening, it was Salsa/Latin classes.  A quick dinner, shower and change before we headed off to a club for the evening, to yes, you guessed it, dance Salsa until the early hours of the morning.

I suppose the main difference for me, was that you danced with a variety of men during the week.  The whole point was to dance with as many different people, of different levels, to improve your dancing.

When I met my husband, I stopped dancing.  Not because he asked me to.  He was happy for me to continue, as he knew how much I loved it.  It was because I didn’t feel comfortable going out each weekend, dancing very intimately with other men.  I don’t mean intimately in a sexual way, but Salsa/Latin dances, do require you to be very close to your partner.  Especially my favourite dance – the Batchata!

If my hubby had come with me, it would have been different, but if anyone knows him, even watching it, would be his worst nightmare!

So going back to the curse!

These celebrities are spending around 7 hours a day, for around 4 months with each other!  Of course they are going to get close.  Who wouldn’t?  But is it a curse that will kill their relationships?  I don’t believe so!

Lets look at who has been allegedly struck by the curse in the past:-

Kevin Clifton & Louis Rednap (2016)
Georgia May Foote & Giovanni Pernice(2015)
Ben Cohen & Kristina Rihanoff (2013)
Rachel Riley & Pasha Kovalev (2013)
Matt Di Angelo & Flavia Cacace (2010)
Joe Calzaghe & Kristina Rihanoff (2009
Natasha Kaplinsky & Brendan Cole (2004)

Strictly 2018 is no different with Seann Walsh and his dance partner Katya Jones taking the spotlight for more than their dancing, and more recently, and probably not so high profile, it is said that Joe Sugg and Dianne Buswell are now intimate.

So it is the curse of strictly?

In my opinion no!

There are more couples out there dancing the same hours, with the same intimacy, who don’t go on to have affairs or relationships.

Anton De Beke has been there from the beginning.  I’ve danced with him outside of the show, and believe me, he has massive charisma.  A firm bum and is not bad looking!  So why has he not been struck down with the curse?

Why have others not been either?

For me its simple!  They are in a good strong relationship or good place in their lives.  Ok, in Anton’s defence, some of his earlier dance partners were certainly not his or anyones type! But with beauties like Ruth Langsford, he could have been tempted, but he wasn’t, and neither was she!

I firmly believe, it isn’t a curse.  Its 2 people, who do have an attraction. It may be infatuation, brought on by the time they are spending together, but they would only act on it, if they had cracks in their own relationships.

If either of them were in solid relationships, this ‘curse’ wouldn’t happen.

The sad thing is, that due to the heavy schedule, instead of trying to fix their own relationships, they embark on these affairs.  Why they think they are going to get away with it, heaven knows.  Cameras are going to follow them everywhere!

I would rather they had a honest conversation with their partners before entering the show.  If either have doubts, and they think they have something to save, they shouldn’t go into it.

No amount of money can replace a good relationship!

You might not get the call from Strictly, but before embarking on a 1 night stand, or an affair, ask yourself why you are doing it?   Is it worth losing what you have?

If the relationship is truly over, end it.  Don’t have the affair and hurt others by along he way.

There is no curse, just bad choices!