RESCUE ARE OUR FAVOURITE BREED – A DOG IS FOR LIFE

RESCUE ARE OUR FAVOURITE BREED – A DOG IS FOR LIFE

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

If you are reflecting on buying a family dog or puppy this Christmas, before you go down the road of expensive designer breeds, please consider a ‘Rescue’.

If you are not familiar with your local Animal Rescue Centre, you will be welcomed with open arms, and not just by the owners.  Nine times out of ten a dog will adopt you.  It is a magical phenomenon I have witnessed over and over, with friends and neighbours who have taken in rescue dogs who have then become part of their family.

Take Taffy for instance, who looked a bit like Tramp in the famous Disney film.

A very good friend Jan rescued him from a fate worse than death when he was tethered for several months on a farm, and almost given up for dead by the cruel owner who had discarded him.  Taffy had a bad foot infection which had not been treated, due to neglect, and Jan spent days nursing him back to good health with the help of the Blue Cross, the Animal Charity, as she was on a limited budget.  Taffy became her soul mate for many years, and they both really did live Happily Ever After.

A very good friend who is happily well-heeled was introduced to rescues over ten years ago, and has adopted several dogs ever since.  Lizzie is fortunate enough to be able to transform an entire room and conservatory area for her five rescues, of all shapes and sizes as their own domain, whilst allowing them to surround her and her husband in their living room in the evening.

Lizzie is convinced that since adopting rescue dogs, her depression has decreased ten-fold, and has written articles and appeared on numerous radio programmes, championing the ‘Rescue’ breed, and how rescuing and owning a dog can support and even cure a big part of mental health issues.

Visiting an Animal Rescue Centre will open your eyes to so many wonderful dogs and you will also be creating such value with these poor discarded and often abused animals.  There is bound to be one near you, just check it out and go along.  You will know immediately when you clap eyes on your new family member, and it is strongly believed that they will too.

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IT’S A WRAP – BE CREATIVE THIS CHRISTMAS FOR THE SAKE OF OUR PLANET

IT’S A WRAP – BE CREATIVE THIS CHRISTMAS FOR THE SAKE OF OUR PLANET

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

When I told my young daughter that we were using brown wrapping paper this Christmas, it was as if I had told her there was no such thing as Santa.  So I immediately came up with a rescue plan, as only Mums can, for both my daughter and the rest of the Planet.

It may encourage you to know there can also be a good money save here too as Staples are selling brown paper at only £1.67 per roll, so that is a good place to start.  There are numerous ways to decorate brown paper without causing any harm environmentally.   Plain and natural string can be purchased from places like www.notonthehighstreet.com & https://www.staples.co.uk and then you are ready to go.

Cut outs from magazines are perfect for decorating the gifts.  You can then glue images onto the paper with sustainable glue obtained from any store or purchased online.    I picked a perfect flower and some vibrant images from some old copies of journals I had stored throughout the year, and alternatively you can download images from the Internet in black and white and just colour them in.

It may sound strange, but newspapers are also a cool way to wrap presents, and can again be decorated by add-ons like black and white bows or even old jewellery to stick on.  You can find odd bits of vintage pieces in charity shops to tie or glue onto the wrapping, especially if you enjoy a good ‘find’ and will be appreciated by friends who enjoy receiving gifts with a bit of creative flair and care.

Pressed flowers or leaves also look great, and you have time to prepare them for Christmas if you start now.  There are still some wild flowers and fabulous brown leaves around, so dry them out and place them in the middle of the biggest book you possess, and bring them out to add to your present wrap a few days before 25 December.  Holly is also very pretty on pressies and you can acquire stems nearer to the big day.

You may just want to keep it simple and paint images onto the plain wrapping paper, and there is nothing wrong with that.   You don’t have to be a Picasso to achieve a great effect, just some vibrant colours and even the most child-like attempt will not go unappreciated by your loved ones.  In fact your kids or grandkids could have a field day splashing paint on the present wrapping.

So hopefully I have inspired you a little into the art of sustainable creative wrapping, and still managed to add a little sparkle to the big day.   As you know we are always open to ideas, and if you can come up with some good alternatives for decorating brown paper, please let us know.

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“GIVE A GIRL THE RIGHT SHOES, AND SHE CAN CONQUER THE WORLD” – MARILYN MONROE

“GIVE A GIRL THE RIGHT SHOES, AND SHE CAN CONQUER THE WORLD” – MARILYN MONROE

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

‘GIVE A GIRL THE RIGHT SHOES, AND SHE CAN CONQUER THE WORLD’ – MARILYN MONROE

This famous quote is one of our favourites, and if you consider how shoes have played such a huge part in fairy tales, movies and novels, it is certainly true.

‘One shoe can change your life’ says Cinderella, and we all know why.  But more modern heroines have experienced the power of shoes.

‘I still have my feet on the ground, I just have better shoes’ Oprah Winfrey

‘Shoes must have very high heels and platforms to put women’s beauty on a pedestal’  Vivienne Westwood

‘How can you live the high life, if you do not wear the high heels’ Sonia Rykiel

So with this in mind, let’s talk shoe shopping this season, here are some of the best buys to suit your style.

For both style and comfort – V by Very Dixie studded mid heel point court shoe £35.00

If you fancy a little bit of ‘Strictly’ this season – Freed Nancy Ballroom and Latin shoe – £62.50

Elegant and sassy – perfect for parties and flaunting the new outfit – but practise at home first as these are killer heels – Moda in Pelle Llari Rose Gold Metallic Lizard effect Leather – £129.95

If you are going for classic and comfort and need a slightly wider fitting,  this is a shoe that will never date, this M and S wide fit stiletto heel platform court shoe is perfect and at only £25.00.

If you want a really ‘cool’ image and are still rocking those DMs, then you will find these stylish boots irresistible – All Saints Dayna Boots – £148.00

 

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More Adventures of the Road – The Netherlands

More Adventures of the Road – The Netherlands

Reading Time: 7 minutes

 

One of the most remarkable things that we experienced in the Netherlands was, in our entire time driving around the country, that the Dutch know how to drive. I don’t mean they know how to steer. I mean they understand the logical courtesy rules of the road. Maybe better than any other country we’ve visited (and that’s a lot!). In nearly a month, we only heard three people honk their horns, and all were deserved. We also only heard one group of motorcycles revving their overly loud engines, and it felt out of place (and was likely tourists, if I’m being honest). Drivers understood how to use lanes! This may seem like it’s no big deal, but it was huge. They would use the left lane for overtaking only, then return to the right lane to continue driving, leaving the passing lane empty. Traffic was never too congested, probably because of all the bicycles on the road. I’ve never seen such orderly roundabouts. I didn’t fear for my life in the car like I do in Bulgaria, London, Israel, Taiwan and even parts of America. I normally make my husband drive everywhere. Here, I was fine behind the wheel.

People, in general, are courteous in The Netherlands, yet rarely feel fake. Customer service is good, and of a high standard. I loved watching all the cyclists on their daily commutes, riding by with bemused smiles on their faces. I called it their “Mona Lisa” smiles. Especially on sunny days, which we experienced a lot. The entire country is manicured and well looked after, with gorgeous flowers, green grass and healthy, happy animals. I’ve never seen such happy cows grazing (or dozing!) on the sides of roads! The farm animals and zoo animals all had bright eyes, full of life. It was invigorating to see nature and man live in such harmony.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is common there, from their cycling to their food, and down to their desire to live with minimal environmental impact. Everyone recycled. It was not uncommon to see houses with solar panels on the rooftops, no matter what economic class the neighborhood was in.

Now, be aware of a few things you should know. The Dutch don’t use credit cards like a lot of other places do, especially America. In fact, outside of touristy areas, it was very difficult (nearly impossible) to find a place that would take a credit card, regardless of whether it was Visa, MasterCard or American Express. They take their Dutch bank issued debit cards, or cash. We even encountered some places that didn’t even take cash – only the local debit cards! So do beware of that. I suppose for the Dutch people, this is a good thing, as it means they are not swimming in debt like many others are. But for the traveler who wants to go off the beaten path, it does make for quite a challenge.

Also, be aware that the cyclists rule the road. I’m not sure who legally has the right of way, but the cyclists take it, over automobiles and pedestrians, both. That was a bit frustrating when pushing a toddler around, but we quickly got used to it and learned how to assert our pedestrian rights when necessary. Another thing to watch out for is that trams pull up quickly at their stops, often without any curbs or “shoulders” (and normally silently). For foreigners, it can be shocking. Some other European countries have a similar system, but this was the first that made me feel like I had to really be paying attention or risk getting hit. In fact, I think every American I know has almost gotten hit by a tram their first time in Amsterdam. I’m honestly surprised we don’t read about American tourist tram accidents more often. Watch for that.

On top of all this, as an American, my mind was blown more than once by the realization that so much of what we think of as American is actually Dutch. I think of America as having its roots more in England than anywhere else, and I didn’t really think of the fact that the Dutch were in the States first. I knew that New York was once New Amsterdam, but I didn’t realize that Harlem, Brooklyn, Bushwick, the Bronx, Bowery, Gramercy Park, Wall Street, and so many other places were named after places in The Netherlands (as well as the concept of sitting on a stoop, which is a New York staple!). It never occurred to me that our beloved Hollandaise sauce on delicious eggs benedict actually originated as a Dutch sauce (duh – HOLLAND-aise!). I had more than a few instances where I stopped in my tracks and said, “wait a minute – this came from here?!” A few examples: bowling, pancakes, cookies, ice skating, compact discs, cassette tapes, WiFi, Bluetooth, the atlas, telescopes, microscopes… and orange carrots. Yes. You read that last one right. In fact, they’re orange as a nod to King William III, aka William of Orange, who was a key player in getting the Netherlands their independence. I guess we should be glad he wasn’t William of Dark Brown With Weird Mustard Colored Spots.

All in all, we had a tremendous time visiting this under-appreciated gem. We can’t wait for our next visit.

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BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH – BECAUSE YOU’RE WORTH IT

BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH – BECAUSE YOU’RE WORTH IT

Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

We have been reading a lot about the importance of getting checked out for early signs of breast cancer, and there has been immense coverage on television, which is commendable.  But very little coverage on the scariest part, which is the wait after the mammogram to be given the results.

So I would like to talk about that openly, and you the old saying ‘if you look fear in the face’, and in this case I would urge you to do the same.

As someone who has breast cancer in the family, I had been putting off having a mammogram, which I do know was not my best decision, but apparently a very common one.

Several friends urged me to go year after year, saying that they would come with me, and we could make a day of it afterwards either shopping or going to the local cinema.  But I just couldn’t face it.    I couldn’t even bring myself to say it to my nearest and dearest, but the mammogram itself didn’t scare me – but the wait for the results did.

Why I didn’t seek counselling or at least talk to someone about it I have no idea, but over ten years passed until I plucked up the courage to go.  It was a random letter from the local Healthcare Breast Screening Unit with an appointment was the offer I couldn’t refuse.

I went for the Mammogram alone, and the practitioner asked me the obvious question and when I told her it was just over ten years, she said she would put me down as having my first one, as the film would have been destroyed after ten years.  She also advised me that I may be called back for an ultrasound as they would have nothing to compare it to.

I then received a letter to say I had been recalled.  I was naturally panicked, but read the letter carefully and apparently 4 in 100 women are recalled and only 1 in 4 are diagnosed, so the odds are 75% in favour of a good outcome.  Did that make me feel better, perhaps a little, but I still went to those dark places until the day for the ultrasound arrived.

My very closest friend offered to come with me and I agreed this time.  I needed a friend as it was a bit like going back for a second interview for a job, but this time I didn’t want to be selected.

The ultrasound was uneventful and they had spotted an area of concern, but couldn’t diagnose until they had done a biopsy.  This was then done and was uncomfortable but not painful, and I was then told there would be another short wait.

In the meantime, I prepared myself for the worst, and spoke to girlfriends and family members who had been through breast cancer and discovered that even if I were to be diagnosed, the chances of survival were extremely high.  Also, the progress of the treatments in the past few years had made everything a lot easier and with incredible results.

This was probably the most anxious time, waiting for the result, but fortunately for me it was in my favour, and I resolved to have annual mammograms, although they offer them every three years.

I am telling my story because the fear of the outcome is almost scarier than the diagnosis itself, good or bad.  But as someone who had avoided being checked for so long – I could have avoided putting myself through such angst by a simple test and living with the short discomfort of waiting for the result.

I also wanted to share it even though it wasn’t a walk in the park, so that those of you who share my concerns about waiting for the results, and haven’t had a check for years, if I can do it so can you.

So I am urging all of you ladies out there who are sweeping it under the carpet.  Please take advantage of all the wonderful support we have today, and whatever the outcome you can do this, and chances are it will be a routine check with a positive result.

For help, advice and support check out https://www.macmillan.org.uk/
And look out for one of the macmillan coffee mornings near you
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