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Caroline James Interviews ‘The World’s Sexiest Chef’ Jean Christophe Novelli

 Caroline James visits the Novelli Academy and talks to the legendary chef/proprietor, Jean Christophe Novelli Jean Christophe, it is...

Bookshelf Reviews

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Bookshelf Reviews – with Jo Hurst

  Learning to Love by Sheryl Browne Exploring the Fragility of Love, Life, and Relationsh...

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In Search of a Happy Ending

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My daughter is neglecting her kids

Q. My daughter was recently divorced from her husband of 12 years who often travels on business. They were high school sweethearts and mar...

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Yes! A walking holiday! Tokyo.

Where Are We Going Tomorrow?

If you’ve been on an organised walking holiday with, say, Ramblers or HF (Holiday Fellowship) you may know that this question is answered e...

Where Are We Going Tomorrow?

Miriam's header final (1024x296) If you’ve been on an organised walking holiday with, say, Ramblers or HF (Holiday Fellowship) you may know that this question is answered each evening. With HF you get a choice between up to three graded walks, based not just on distance but also the ascent involved. Obviously, climbing uphill can make a walk more strenuous and seem much longer than if it were on the flat. Generally speaking, the more demanding walks, up hill and down dale, on coastal and hilly terrain, offer the best scenery, but the extra effort and stamina required need to be taken into account.

On an Italian coastal walk - you cannot get here by car!

On an Italian coastal walk – you cannot get here by car!

A sylvan paradise in Crete.

A sylvan paradise in Crete.

Floribunda in a remote Sicilian spot!

Floribunda in a remote Sicilian spot!

I do enjoy walking, but left to my own devices I would probably never have chosen to go on a walking holiday in the very first place. It seemed a rather masochistic kind of activity – lovely when it stops! I am not a naturally sporty person; not competitive but rather a seeker of comfort and rather risk averse! However, my husband is keen on striding out, usually to reach the highest available point in a big-sky landscape, away from the crowds. Why then would he encourage me to go on a holiday that means tagging along with a group of strangers?

Preparing to set off for the day - plenty to look at!

Preparing to set off for the day – plenty to look at!

There are pros and cons of walking with others. The cons are: you do as you are told, more or less. The leader chooses the route and it would be frowned upon to suggest any alternatives to his or her tried and tested plan. Moreover, you may not get those moments of golden silence, enabling you to commune with nature and relish the solitary state. However, these slight downsides are vastly outweighed by the positives: Your leader gets you safely round in the expected time, stress free, without you having to walk with your head buried in a map. You do not get lost and you are given colourful details about flora, fauna, geology, history and so on. Sometimes a local guide joins the group for insider information of a specialist nature such as local produce, rare orchids or fungi.

Someone's small courtyard with spectacular views all around. Italy.

Someone’s small courtyard with spectacular views all around. Italy.

Convenient breaks do come up for snacks and drinks and to enable you to rest your weary bones for a few minutes, or take some photos. In fact, if you decide to stop briefly for whatever reason, it is possible to catch up and the last person usually keeps an eye out and would be aware that you are somewhere behind the group. Also, someone will always help you out if you need a blister plaster or sunscreen and have left it behind!

One big advantage of being in a group is that you can dodge around between the walkers and chat, which does help the miles or kilometres to pass by and those inevitable aches and cramps to be less noticeable. You soon learn where they all come from, what their children are up to and what other walking holidays they have enjoyed, or not. Beyond that, topics of conversation can embrace all manner of things; that rather depends on you.

The formula is a real winner! Exercise; fresh air; fabulous scenery often only accessible on foot; being in a sociable group; British fare or foreign cuisine and perhaps a glass or two of wine, followed by the sleep of the just. You do not feel the slightest twinge of guilt about satisfying a hearty appetite after all that healthy exercise! Sometimes a kind of entertainment such as a quiz or a talk is put on in the evening, but such things are optional. Nobody can make you!! In fact even the walks are optional. You could choose to perhaps walk just on alternate days, but in reality people rarely do.

One day I opted not to walk and fell in love with Chania, Crete

One day I opted not to walk and fell in love with Chania, Crete

A choppy seascape - Chania on my day off!

A choppy seascape – Chania on my day off!

We have found now that to go on holiday and not walk seems sadly lacking. Reclining on a sunbed round a pool; browsing gift shops and markets; visiting museums; sightseeing trips and stopping for lunch at a tempting restaurant and the other stuff of holidays is fine for maybe a day or two, but then our eyes are drawn to the horizon and a feeling of wanting to spread our wings comes over us.

A walk on our own in the Lake District

A walk on our own in the Lake District

Having said all that, there are times when you just need to relax and I must say after my year of ‘battling with cancer’ I may opt for a lazy holiday first of all in 2015 and work my way up from there!

Yes! A walking holiday! Tokyo.

Yes! A walking holiday! Tokyo.

Miriam’s Ramblings

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Off the beaten track …

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Buckle up and keep your camera ready! The drive to the medieval village of Tourrettes Sur Loup is breathtaking. Only 14 kilometres from the Côte d’Azur (25 km from Nice), it’s easy to reach and might be combined with a visit to St. Paul de Vence. Much smaller than St. Paul and far less touristy, it’s a place we like to take visitors. If you approach from the west, the moment you come around the last corner takes my breath away every time.

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See what I mean? I can’t tell you the number of photos I’ve taken of this view. Different times of day, changing seasons, sunny, cloudy, any excuse makes it simply irresistible to my shutter.

Established in the 11th C, the natural setting created the fortification of the town.This medieval village has preserved its historic authenticity. When we first stopped there, it felt like almost like a secret place. One begins to discover it only after passing through the gateway towers guarding both sides of the central square. I am always intrigued by how these villages came to exist and have withstood the test of time  … it boggles my mind. The 12th C church is built on the site of a Roman temple. Simple in its beauty, it is not to be missed!

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The village isn’t overloaded with shops (click here for a complete list and the town’s official site  in French, but you can figure it out) and their products are truly artisanal. Le Bois D’Olivier is our favourite with beautiful olive wood products produced by hand5.IMG_8136 since the 1950s by the Dubosq family (father and now son). Simply walking into their shop is a buzz! I love the warm shades and textures of olive wood. I haven’t seen better prices or finer work anywhere. Trust me, I’ve looked at a lot of olive wood! There is something about the colour and grain of it that really speaks to me.

7.IMG_8787Tourrettes Sur Loup has been famous for the cultivation of violets since the 1880s and the theme of violets is evident throughout the village. The entire area was an important supplier of flowers to the perfume makers of Grasse for centuries and the “Victoria” violet, known for its delicate fragrance, is still grown on the surrounding terraced lands. The locally well-known Fête de Violettes is celebrated every March to mark the end of the growing season and to celebrate the beginning of spring.

This was the first place I became aware of Glace Violette ~ violet ice cream! Its flavour was as delicate as its scent and very refreshing!

Artists and craftspeople have been attracted here for centuries and, more recently, film-makers have discovered the beauty and mystique of the village and surrounding hills and valleys.

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Further along La Grande Rue you will find Poterie La Bergerie‘s 2.IMG_5528unique cave-like atelier where delicate ceramics are crafted and hand-painted with violet motifs. You can watch their original creations crafted right on the spot and place an order for something special just for you.

Atmosphere, history, and the possibility of fascinating stories breathe from the stones of the streets, the structures, and walls as you stroll through Tourrettes. Time stands still in these narrow allées. Amble, pause, wander and wonder. There is no need to rush.

It’s no surprise that somewhere within its close confines, there is without a doubt a square to play boules. Outside the gates, squeezed in between the parking lot and the street, there is still room for a bench and a game. C’est necessaire!

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At the bottom of the village and through this archway enjoy a panoramic view right down to the coast. Walk a few steps further to discover a stunning Roman aqueduct. Wear the proper shoes, as hiking trails abound!

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As you can see, opportunities abound to spend a day here with your camera. There are friendly bistros to pause for an espresso, a cold beer or whatever your beverage of choice may be. It’s possible to have a quick snack or to settle in and enjoy some fine French cuisine.

When I’ve filled my camera chip … and that often takes a while …  we sometimes stay for a delicious meal at La Médiéval, 1.IMG_5504where the friendly owner fills a glass of rosé like I’ve never seen before. Check to make sure the restaurant is open before you go.

We visit Tourrettes Sur Loup at least twice every summer and frequently more than that. It’s a destination where we love to bring friends so they can feel the ambiance of an ancient village without the crush of crowds. I’m not saying it doesn’t get busy but, if you pick your day wisely, you may be as fortunate as we have been. Let me know!

I’ve attached a video below that gives you a bit of a tour through the village and also pays homage to the Dubosq family working their magic with the olive wood.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5a53qUXlv2M

Where do you like to travel best? Are you as fond of exploring new, non-touristy places as we are?  I would love to hear about some place off the beaten track that you have discovered!

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ~ Film Review

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Blockbuster sequels are always a bit of a risk, I imagine. The worrying questions being, will it make big box office? Will it enthral and capture audience’s imagination as much as the original? Apes

Who could ever forget one of the most iconic shots in film history, the Statue of Liberty, geological shifts leaving it half buried in the sand, one of the few surviving icons of pre-Apocalyptic human society?

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As with its predecessor, 2011′s ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ had a lot to live up to. So did it deliver? In my eyes, yes, despite one or two criticisms about there being no resolution.

Briefly, the story picks up as the ALZ-113 virus has all but wiped out the human race. The few humans that remain are struggling to survive. The apes, however, have thrived and continue to evolve, living reasonably peacefully in the forests under their benevolent…ish leader, Caesar (played hugely satisfyingly by Andy Serkis).

The remnants of what was once San Francisco is colonised by a group of humans, but fuel supplies are running low. They are eking out their existence on a day-to-day basis. An alternate power source needs to be found. A dam, located in ape territory, could be just the source required to regenerate power supply to the city. When a group of humans sets forth, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), to repair the dam, conflict inevitably ensues, and despite the efforts of Caesar and Malcolm to resolve the issues, thereby creating a peaceful co-existence, ignorance and mistrust abounds, the conflict escalates and an interspecies war is inevitable.

The premise and narrative structure are simple: good versus bad, reminding us of the often arrogance of the human race, its deeply entrenched belief in its superiority and intolerance to those we see as a sub-species. The parallels to current world conflicts are obvious. Perhaps this is why an unrealistic resolution would simply not have washed with the audience.

On an aesthetic level, right from the opening scene, a close up of Caesar’s eyes, the performances of the actors and stuntmen is quite brilliant. There was only the odd moment when I remembered there were actors behind the ape costume. They were terrifyingly real (though one can’t help but recall with fondness Roddy McDowall in the 1968 Planet of the Apes, who looked, well, like Roddy McDowell).

The CGI, as to be expected from a high budget movie, was state of the art. Quite superb.

So would I recommend it? Yes. The essence of the film is the exploration of the human race, its selfishness; its vulnerabilities. Nostalgia for Roddy and the original Planet of the Apes aside, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is touching and thought-provoking. It gets the thumbs-up from me.

Director
Matt Reeves

Writers
Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa

Stars
Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell

Genre
Action, Drama, Sci-fi

Certificate
12 A

 

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Bookshelf Reviews – with Jo Hurst

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Somebody to LoveLearning to Love by Sheryl Browne

Exploring the Fragility of Love, Life, and Relationships
Widower, Dr David Adams, has recently moved to the village – where no one knows him, ergo there’s no fuel for neighbourhood gossip – to start afresh with his ten-year-old son, if only he can get to a place where his son wants to speak to him. Angry and withdrawn, Jake blames his dad for the death of his mother, and David doesn’t know how to reach him. Andrea Kelly has too many balls in the air. With three children and a “nuts” mother to care for, her fiancé can’t fathom why she wants to throw something else into the mix and change her career. Surely she already has too much on her plate? Because her plates are skew-whiff and her balls are dropping off all over the place, Andrea points out. She needs to make changes. Still her fiancé, who has a hidden agenda, is dead-set against it.
When Andrea’s house  mysteriously burns to the ground and Andrea and her entourage are forced to move in with the enigmatic Dr Adams, however, the village drums soon start beating, fuel aplenty when it turns out someone does know him – the woman carrying his baby.

My Review:
The book flows along nicely as you get to know both Andrea and David, with added bits of their children along the way. There is a colourful array of other characters; Sally and Eve are the main ones that stand out. It became obvious that they had fallen in love with each other even if they couldn’t see it and both wanted to ‘do the right thing’.
The character I liked was Andrea’s mother Dee, partly because she was portrayed as being a bit dotty, when actually she wasn’t that bad. She was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but she had quite a few periods of lucidity, even if at times it didn’t sound as though she had. I loved Andrea’s two eldest kids, they were typical teenagers but they did show that she had brought them up to be nice kids deep down.

Reaching for the Stars by Janice Horton

Scottish celebrity chef Finn McDuff is media stalked and disillusioned after winning his third star and losing his third wife. He decides he’s had enough of all the food campaigns, the TV cookery shows, the constant frenzy surrounding his private life and, after giving up all his accolades and closing down his restaurant, he disappears. With the enfant terrible of the kitchen missing, two rival newspapers, having lost their media meal ticket, compete against each other to whip up further public curiosity in the missing chef. Love him or hate him, everyone is out looking for Chef McDuff. Who will find him first and whose side will you be on…?

My Review:
Finn McDuff seems to have the world at his feet. He has just achieved his ambition of 3 Golden Stars for his restaurant. His world comes crashing down around him when his wife decides to leave him. Janice gives you a clue to the corruption that was once the press over here. This is done in a way that makes you despise the press for their intrusion into celebrities’ lives. As for Chef McDuff I couldn’t help but like him, if not the typical book boyfriend, there was something sad about his story and I found myself warming to him and feeling sorry for his plight. Ross, I really wanted to come unstuck and I laughed at the way he eventually did, a totally ingenious way of doing it, by Janice. In short the book was totally different from what I expected and would recommend it. It was a journey for so many of the characters that I found myself wanting to work out, with a great supporting cast.

SYTYACC cover jpeg high resSo You Think You’re a Celebrity Chef by Caroline James

Mix together…
A tough-cookie media agent who’s clawed her way to the top, and a con-man who wants to open a cookery school.
Add in a washed-up celebrity chef whose career needs re-building…
Flavour with…
An aging rock star fresh from rehab, and a Sloane Ranger food writer who gets her own TV show…
Bring to the boil:
At a Gourmet Food Festival, in Ireland, where anything goes!
When media agent Hilary Hargreaves travels to Ireland to look at a campaign for a new cookery school, she meets a blast from her past – the romantic but feckless chef Mickey Lloyd, who is hell-bent on resurrecting his flagging career. Her tough demeanour is rocked as it becomes apparent Mickey’s intentions involve more than a stint behind a stove in his quest to pursue her. But as plans for the school gain momentum, she realises that she’s developing more than a passing interest in reformed alcoholic Long Tom Hendry, who owns the crumbling old mansion where the school will be homed. Hilary has many ingredients to juggle with her demanding client list – which looks set to boil over if she doesn’t keep control. From London’s bustling Soho, to Southern Ireland and the sunny shores of the Caribbean, has Hilary got too much on her plate and is she really prepared to risk it all for love?

My Review:
I saw a quote by @shazjera (fictionaddictionbooktours) that this was AbFab meets Masterchef, Shaz was certainly right about that. Caroline introduced us to a whole host of charming funny characters that have each a part to play in this story. The main character, Hilary, is a media agent for lots of well-known celebrity chefs. At first you think Hilary is an utter bitch, until you get into her character and find out a lot more about her.  Caroline does this in a fun, revealing way. The book is set around her agency and subsequent trip to Ireland. From Caroline’s writing you can see she has a great deal of knowledge in this area. She made this story fun and a great read.

Orion's GiftOrion’s Gift by Anneli Purchase

While camping in the exotic landscape of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Kevin and Sylvia, both on the run from abusive relationships, meet and fall in love.
Two things stand in the way of their happiness.
One—the secrets they keep from each other.
Two—their abusers hunting them down.
Will fear drive them apart or will passion and trust surmount the violence and hostility they have endured?

My Review:
Kevin and Sylvia meet in Mexico, having escaped partners that neither were happy with, but this wouldn’t be a book if love ran so smooth… As their budding romance is building, they are then faced with the people that made their life hell. Can they survive against the odds and make their romance last? I liked how the chapters switched between the characters and loved seeing things from each point of view. It takes you to a different location and is very descriptive.

Angels Among Us seriesForever – Angels Amongst Us by Linn B Halton

Ceri isn’t meant to fall in love, as she is here for one purpose only. Alex is supposed to cross her path briefly and give her the confidence to move on and fulfill her destiny. It’s meant to be a turning point for them both—but in opposite directions. Ethan Morris, a well-respected medium, gave Alex a warning after receiving a message for him from the other side. Ceri receives her own warning when it’s made very plain to her that she is responsible for her own actions and will have to put right anything she changes in error. Alex begs Ceri to meet with Ethan, but she refuses to believe what he has to say and manages to convince Alex that he could be wrong. Psychic medium Mark Kessler becomes Ceri’s spiritual mentor. Her confidence begins to grow as she gains an awareness of her work on both planes of existence, something that can only be granted to an angel. As Ceri and Alex cling to their relationship things begin to unravel and, at their engagement party, Alex’s past catches up with him. At the same time Ceri faces the stark reality that fate cannot be cheated.

My Review:
The book follows them both switching between Ceri and Alex as they try to move on and make the best of the situation. You really feel for both of them with Linn’s words. Alex’s emails were so sad and my heart went out to him. Add that to the fact they both try to move on with different partners this gives you a “will they, won’t they” situation that keeps you gripped. Ceri’s brother is back and doing his best to support Alex through his misery. Ceri’s best friend Sheena is finally finding happiness. I loved the book and can see how Linn could write two endings. I won’t give away the ending as it would spoil the book for anyone else. Go along and buy the series.

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My daughter is neglecting her kids

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Q. My daughter was recently divorced from her husband of 12 years who often travels on business. They were high school sweethearts and married young. He is a good man, but they just didn’t get along anymore. They have two children, 10 and 7, who I’m very worried about. I see them cry and act out when they are with me. It’s not just a divorce that the kids have to deal with, which is hard enough, but to make matters worse, my 35-year-old daughter seems to have reverted into a selfish child. At first she dated like a 16-year-old would, then she met a man who made things worse. He is very controlling and a negative influence on her. The kids (who sense they are unwelcome in his presence) do not like him, and neither do I or my husband. There is something very cold and unfeeling about him. I can’t figure out what she sees in him (nobody can), but he has a Svengali-like spell over her. It is causing her to be extremely selfish, neglect her children, and think the world revolves around her. She expects me to drop everything and babysit whenever she wants so she can gallivant around with this man and take romantic vacations with him. Of course I love the kids too much to turn her down, and am concerned who they’d be left with if I did. On top of everything else, she shows me no respect, gratefulness, or common courtesy and seems to think she’s entitled to everything I do for her and the children. When she was sick in the hospital recently, I was the one taking care of everyone, while her boyfriend never even came to visit her. I’ve tried to get her to seek help, but she refuses to talk to a therapist. Do you have any ideas on how I can better handle the situation?

A. I’ve noticed that many people who get married very young and then later get divorced, have a tendency to regress for a while and revert into another “childhood” of sorts, whereas people who marry at an older age are often more content with their partner because they have already sowed their oats and experienced several romantic relationships. You didn’t say how long she has been divorced, so I don’t know if you can chalk this up to such a phenomenon, but it’s an important point to keep in mind.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much room for children when one is “gallivanting” around on dates and romantic vacations, and I’m sure it is very hard on them to have a mother who is doing just that, especially when their father is often out of town. Pat yourself on the back for being such a doting and caring Grandma. You are putting the children first, which is something your daughter has not chosen to do. It’s unfortunate she has picked a man who separates her from her kids instead of sometimes including them as part of the package. It’s also quite distressing that she doesn’t think there is anything wrong with her behavior and therefore has no desire to seek help, but there is nothing you can do about that fact. Learning to deal with things that are out of your control is very difficult, but it is a necessary life lesson. Better to focus on what is in your control. As I see it, there are two things that fit the bill, and here are my suggestions.

1. Tell your daughter you cannot watch the kids whenever she wants to leave them. She is clearly taking advantage of you and it’s your right to put your foot down and let her know that you have a life, too. However, if you are worried they may not be left with a suitable babysitter, I can totally understand why you choose to be there for them. When you babysit, put a positive spin on it. Use that time with them as bonus time. Plan fun activities to do with them. Not only will they grow up knowing just how much you love them, but your home will be the safe and stable port in the storm.

2. I also think you should sit your daughter down at a time when neither of you are in a rush, both of you are calm, and no one else is around. Then approach the problem in a constructive way. That means a civil, respectful, and non-emotional discussion of what’s on your mind and what is worrying you. This is not the time to insult her boyfriend, reprimand her, or raise your voice. Approach her from a place of love. Let her know how her children are feeling, as they may not be acting that way around her. Appeal to her sense of motherhood without pointing out her deficiencies. If there’s hope for changing her ways, that discussion may be a good start. If not, then hopefully with some time she will see her boyfriend (who may just be her “transitional” man) in a realistic light and realize that not only would he be a poor stepfather, but he’d make a lousy husband, too. Good luck!

Read more advice from Bonnie HERE

If you would like Bonnie to offer some advice on your personal relationship issue, contact her at

loveahappyending.com@gmail.com

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Trying something new … with Janice Ross!

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Amazing Montana

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Years ago, I drove through prairie landscapes and thought how boring they were. Listening to comments from people who have done similar drives, I know I’m not alone in my ignorance. But we were all so wrong! What looks at first glance like boring prairie is actually teeming with life. Let’s take a closer look at one such place I drove through last fall—eastern Montana.

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Far from boring, it has beautiful scenery and dramatic weather changes. With plenty of hefty winds, storm clouds can move in abruptly. These deer sense a change coming.

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On the way to Montana, next to the groomed part of a campsite at the edge of desert dotted with scruffy, prickly plants, a sign warns, “Rattlesnake Area.” The coyote catches the early morning sunshine and watches the campers from a safe distance. Perhaps his rattlesnake dinner is still digesting. I spoke to a fellow camper of my worries about the coyotes having to travel in snake country, but he told me the coyotes are adept at killing the rattlers, as long as they bide their time. At night the temperatures sink to near freezing in October. That is when the snakes are vulnerable. Their cold-blooded bodies become slow and sluggish—easy pickings for the coyotes.

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What a land of plenty the U.S. is. Wild turkeys strut on the banks of the Missouri River. My first thought was, “No need to go to Safeway for turkey dinner.”  Unfortunately, there are strict  limitations on shooting them.

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“Like a bird on a wire,” the sharp-tailed grouse (prairie chicken) teeters as the breeze sways the line. He doesn’t realize that his very life hangs in the balance with the hunter and his photographer wife standing below him, both wanting a shot.

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Pronghorns graze like cattle on the range. Being a West Coaster, I believed that these antelopes lived only in exotic places. I was surprised to see them in Alberta a few years ago, and pleased to see my old friends again playing “Home, Home on the Range” in Montana, too.

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Startled mule deer don’t know which way to go. The road was a rough four-wheel-drive dirt track which we followed in the futile hope that it would connect to another main road. It had probably been a while since these mule deer had seen a vehicle in the hills they were homesteading, hence the shocked look on their faces and their readiness to flee in two different directions.

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American Paint horses look tempting to ride. They are skitterish though, and I would probably end up on the ground. I don’t think these horses get ridden much at all, but they have a nostalgic Wild West look about them.

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As I sat in the truck parked beside a Russian olive tree, a robin flew in for a rest. I don’t think he expected a person to be in the cab of the truck, just three feet away, but as long as I mimicked the stalking movements of a blue heron, while reaching for my camera, he stayed long enough to pose for this photo. Pheasants also like to spend time in the Russian olive trees, not posing for photos, but eating the fruits of these trees when snow covers their usual food sources on the ground.

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Who would have thought this vast expanse of flat land could hold so much life? So next time you’re passing through this Cowboy Country, “keep your eyes peeled,” and see what you’ve been missing.

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Money Matters no. 3 – Upcycling, Recycling and Reinvention!

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A Day in the Life of…a Health Care Assistant!

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A Day in the Life of…a Health Care Assistant

Meet Kate Hopkins. Married mum of two daughters and a furry baby - a greyhound called Lenny!

Kate

Kate works as a Health Care Assistant but what does that really entail?

Kate: When I arrive at work the very first thing I do is turn on the computer. Whilst that’s warming up (really – it does take a while!) I re-stock the doctors’ rooms with supplies of gloves, needles, swabs and other such things.

Then it’s back to my room to begin the first hour of clinic, usually phlebotomy; I get called a vampire most days!

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The rest of my morning consists of wound dressings, healthy heart checks, injections and lifestyle advice. I also order medical supplies for the surgery.

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What is the best bit about your job?

Kate: The best bit for me is the people. I have such great patients, really interesting people who tell me funny, sad, or sometimes amazing things. I’m glad to say that the people I work with are all my friends. We make a good team.

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And the worst bits?

Kate: Dealing with the smells and products that a poorly human body can produce!

heartKate checks for healthy hearts!

Was being a Health Care Assistant always your career plan?

Kate: At school I was best at English and History – I was all set to be a teacher or a journalist. How things can change! But I’m happy they have.

Which celebrity would you like to see doing your job?

Kate: Hugh Jackman. hugh

I can’t imagine that he’d be squeamish and he seems kind. I’ve LOVE to bump into him in the staffroom!

Thanks, Kate!

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Visit her website at http://www.mandybaggot.com/

Latest release: Made in Nashville – http://smarturl.it/buymadeinnashville

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Caroline James Interviews ‘The World’s Sexiest Chef’ Jean Christophe Novelli

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 Caroline James visits the Novelli Academy and talks to the legendary chef/proprietor,

Jean Christophe Novelli

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Jean Christophe, it is such a great pleasure to meet you today. Can you tell me, when did you first decide that you wanted to become a chef?

I decided from a very young age that I could make money cooking for people. When I was at school, we had a summer fair and I was last to choose what I could do, so I decided to cook crepes. I ended up having the best stall and sold out within a very short time. I realised then that I could make money out of this. I was probably about 13 at the time.

You’ve been described as ‘The world’s sexiest chef’ by the New York Times, and voted as one of the ‘Top 50 Beautiful Men’ in a Sky viewer’s poll. Is it true that you make women swoon with the flick of your whisk?

Well, maybe in my younger years (laughing). Now, I try to impress people JC holding bowlwith my flavours and passion for cooking. It’s interesting, my Novelli Academy is 10 years old this year and when I first started, the place used to be filled with women and now we have about 70% men visiting us, which says a lot. Men are realising the power of cooking to impress others!

What brought you to the UK and why did you adopt it as home?

Elie de Rothschild, whom I was working with in Paris, suggested that I should expand my horizons and visit the UK. Once here, I realised the opportunities were immense and that the English were hungry for my style of cooking. I haven’t looked back since that time.

Who do you most admire in the cookery world and why?

I don’t have one particular person that I admire in the cookery world, I admire all chefs and cooks who can pass their passion onto others and if the food they produce is making people happier, what more can you say?

Who was your strongest influence in your culinary life?

As I have always said, my mother, Monique, is my biggest influence in my culinary life. Having watched her from a very young age, I instantly feel at home in any kitchen. The smells, the tasting, and seeing the results that she produced are memories that will live with me forever.

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What has been your most valuable life experience?

Believe it or not, the most valuable experience in my life has been losing (having owned them) a few restaurants due to bad advice and surrounding myself with the wrong people. I have now learnt to be in control of my own destiny and trust only the people in my close vicinity. Those being my fiancée Michelle, my close friends, and my team at Novelli Academy, whom I know I can trust with my life. Having control of my own finances and knowing exactly what is going in and out of my account is very important but also helps me to keep focused on my business.

I used to live in Cumbria and notice that you have strong connections to Whitehaven and their annual festival. Why is that?

Cumbria is probably one of the most beautiful counties of Britain. It has fresh clean air and the stunning landscape is just perfect. I find the people very welcoming and hospitable, especially having made some very good friends through my friends Gerard and Dianne Richardson who live in Whitehaven. I like to meet people there during the wonderful festival and I’m demonstrating again this year, taking the cook (and friend), Rosemary Shrager with me.

Many of the visitors to Loveahapppending Lifestyle Magazine love romance stories. Are you a romantic at heart and what has been your most romantic gesture to date?

Chef AcademyI guess I am a romantic at heart. I recently asked Michelle to marry me in a castle on top of a mountain in the Austrian Alps. Luckily she said yes and so she will really feel like a princess. I can’t wait!

I love the easy-to-follow recipes and tips in your new book, Simply Novelli, what was your inspiration behind this book?

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Simply Novelli was written very quickly. From writing the first recipe to the end of the photo shoot was only 6 weeks! I wanted to explain to people in simple terms how French cooking can be made for everyday use and not just for special occasions. So many people confuse fine dining with normal meals and I wanted to show people this wasn’t necessary. Obviously there are still special occasions, where fine dining is nice, but I wanted to acknowledge the changing times these days of busy working lives and families who don’t have time to take four hours and more to prepare a meal.

I hope that everyone who has bought the book agrees. I always welcome comments on my Twitter and Facebook sites whether good or bad because you can always learn from the thoughts of other people.

The recipes look so simple to prepare in Simply Novelli – is every day French food really so easy?

What you have to remember is that French food (classics) have evolved over centuries and have changed as the produce has become available to the masses but it essentially derives from peasant food and yes it can be made easier to cook. In this age of the supermarket, produce is available all year round, and from all over the world so the opportunities have increased too.

What’s your favourite recipe in the book?

My favourite has got to be the Coq au Vin avec Chocolat. This combines the flavours of the original dish with my twist of using chocolate and vanilla as spices, just as they were meant to be centuries ago. The flavours are immense and as you will see no salt is used in either this dish or anywhere else in the book. I try to cook healthily, with reduced saturated fats and little or no salts, replacing them with sugars, spices and herbs. Try it – I’m sure you’ll agree that it works!

Do you follow a fitness routine or watch your diet?

I’m very careful of what I eat and yes I would class myself as fit. I train daily and have a gym in my barn and definitely watch what my family and I eat. No salts and low fats, which is reflected in my book. Recently, I was given the chance to ride a bike around the London Olympic Velodrome against Eddie the Eagle for Sport Relief and I trained so hard for this. I take these challenges very seriously, otherwise why compete? Since then, several other projects have emerged involving sports, which I am hoping will materialise as I love this type of challenge.

You’ve been awarded Restaurant of the Year on numerous occasions – are there any more restaurants planned?

No restaurants planned at the moment. Having learnt from my past, running a restaurant takes a lot of time and commitment and having a young family, I feel that I need to be around to help Michelle with the boys. Years ago when I was involved in restaurants my daughter Christina hardly saw me, which I always regret and don’t want to make the same mistake again, although it hasn’t hurt her career and she is now a hugely successful musician, singer and dance DJ, performing around the world in front of thousands of people.

jc photo 4Your cookery school, the Novelli Academy has been deservedly voted, ‘One of the Top Ten in the World’ by The Independent. Are there any plans to extend your cookery school abroad. If so, where and why?

I’m looking to expand the school further and having spent a lot of time in the Middle East recently we are actively looking for partners to help develop this idea. There are such incredible opportunities in places like Abu Dhabi and Dubai and the local Emirates are such keen cooks; many of the men too. I think the restaurant market there seems to be flooded, but having researched a little into that area I think an extension to my Novelli Academy would fit in perfectly.

You are so passionate about the Novelli Academy - why?

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The Novelli Academy gives me the chance to be close to the people who I am really trying to impress and it gives me the chance to pass on my passion directly to my visitors. Seeing the reaction to my cooking in their faces, especially in their eyes, is very rewarding. It is based in my house, so every event is like welcoming people into my home and everyone sits in my kitchen – where I cook food for my family every day. Although it is near to Luton, when the sun shines you could be anywhere in the French countryside!

You demonstrate all over the world. What’s been your favourite show or event?

I enjoy demonstrating all over the world and it’s impossible to have a favourite place. It can be in front of a crowd of maybe 100 people in Portsmouth’s Gun Wharf Key  (as recently happened) to 25,000 people in the centre of Dubai. As long as people are enjoying what they see, smell, and taste, then I have done my job.

Jean Christophe may I thank you profusely for your time and the delicious recipe. We wish you luck with Simply Novelli and I’m sure our visitors will be racing to get their copies. I for one can highly recommend it!

Caroline thanks so much for giving me this opportunity and I hope you all enjoy reading and trying some of the dishes from Simply Novelli and remember: Enjoy entertaining your friends and family with your food…

Simply Novelli is available online and in all good book shops.

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Further information available by clicking below:

Novelli Academy

Jean Christophe Novelli on Facebook

Jean Christophe Novelli on Twitter

www.jeanchristophenovelli.com

 

RECIPE

Jean Christophe Novelli – Tarte Tatin with Caramel

Created by the Tatin sisters in Sologne in the 19th Century when, in a daze, Stephanie Tatin forgot to put pastry into the pan. Noticing her forgetfulness, she decided to add the pastry over the apples and bake the pie and this is the result. Hunters have since enjoyed this pie, which became known as the ‘Tarte Tatin’.

JC Tarte Tatin

Serves: 4

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

 

Ingredients:

5 apples, peeled and halved just before using

100 g butter

200 g sugar

1 star anise

1/2 vanilla pod (halved lengthways)

6 cardamom pods

1 large pack ready-made puff pastry

JC apples in panMethod:

Preheat oven to 180c (fan), 200c (non-fan) or gas mark 6

Using a large oven-proof frying pan, gently melt the butter on a medium heat with the star anise, vanilla pod, and cardamom pods. Add the sugar and gently colour everything until pale yellow in colour.

Peel & slice the apples in half and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place neatly, face down into the pan and set aside.

Roll out the pastry into a circle, approx 28 cm in diameter and 1/2 cm thick. Carefully place the pastry over the entire pan, pressing the pastry all around the apples to form a tight seal. The apples at the edge of the pan can be lifted slightly and the pastry tucked underneath. This will avoid steaming the pastry as opposed to baking it.

Put the pan on a low heat. After a couple of minutes, lift the pan, place your hand over the pastry and, holding it tight, pour off the excess liquid. Repeat this process twice before placing the pan into the oven for approx 25 – 30 minutes. After this time, remove from the oven and leave to rest for five minutes.

To Serve:

Position a lightly oiled plate, which is larger than the pan, over the pan and turn out the tatin being careful not to spill the caramel that may still be hot. Serve with good quality, real vanilla ice cream.

This delicious recipe is from Simply Novelli

Photography by Tim Green Photography

 

Find out more about Caroline:

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Twitter Account: @CarolineJames12
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Foster Kids’ Responsibility and Parents’ Sanity This Summer!

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Hanging out in Porch-ville this summer? Even if you’re not, it’s a great time to get organized. If you’re a parent, it’s also a great time to combine kids’ recall capability with a sense of responsibility. Here are some ideas for getting kids of all ages involved:

Organize This

When things get out of control, whether the toy in question is a building block, a beading kit, or soccer balls, it’s usually because kids aren’t sure where things go.

Tips

  • Buy a label maker. We did this last year and it’s cut down on a lot of confusion about what toys go where. For kids that aren’t of reading age, buy del-laminating sheets and insert pictures of the type of toy you want in a specific bucket or other organizational product. Attach with velcro.
  • Make kids a part of the process. “Where do you think this should go? Okay put all your blocks, books, whatever there.” Involving them gives kids of any age ownership of the change. Involving them, at any age, will increase your chances of success.
  • Reward kids for sticking to the plan. If the kids stick to it and keep things neat, reward them with stickers, books, small toys, etc.

photo credit: JeremyOK via photopin cc

photo credit: JeremyOK via photopin cc

Read On

Books are a big deal in my house. We love our books. However, this also means that we tend to become book hoarders. This is a great time to swap out books on your kids’ shelves for new ones.

Tips

  • Make kids a part of the process. “Do you think you’ll still want to read this book, tonight? What books should we give away?”
  • Donate what you don’t need. Your local library will be happy to take any books in good condition off of your hands. Get kids involved by having them wipe hardback books with a damp cloth to prepare for donation. You can even follow the donation approach by giving away clothing or other unused items.
  • Book check out anyone? Take them to the library with you. Get them a library card and let them pick out their own books. It will help kids develop their sense of responsibility and involvement in the community.

Take Care

photo credit: Meer via photopin cc

photo credit: Meer via photopin cc

It’s not uncommon for kids, even teenagers, to think things “magically happen” around the house. Well, it’s time to dispel that myth! This is also a great opportunity to dispel gender stereotypes, but having all family members participate. Clean up, focus on once-forgotten household projects, and cultivate a garden—whatever you choose!

Tips

  • Pass the dishrag. Get a bucket with some environmentally safe soap and have kids wash down your kitchen cabinets, your porch railing, your garage…whatever. Be sure to supervise the kids at all times and get in there with them! Take care of your home and be proud in it, no matter where you live.
  • Make kids a part of the process. Are you starting to sense a trend, here? True, involving kids in final decisions isn’t always feasible, but when you can, do it. “Is there anything else we should clean? What have we missed?”
  • Reward kids for sticking to the plan. Reward them with popsicles, iTunes music, or small toys. We have dance parties at home! The neighbors love us, trust me. I try to avoid rewarding kids with food-popsicles are my only exception.

So there you have it! Some ideas that might help your kids grow into responsible adults. Plus, there’s the added benefit of calming kids and parents down. Giving kids activities that increase their contributions to the household also tire them out. So, win-win! Make way for an organized rest of 2014!

Follow Stephanie Keyes: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Tumblr / Google+

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Bookshelf Reviews – with JB Johnson

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The Restaurant @ The Mill
by Linn B Halton
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

therestaurantnew.inddA business opportunity suddenly presents itself to Hilary in the form of the very shy but very talented chef Ben. Together, the couple buy an old mill and renovate it to become a popular restaurant set in idyllic countryside. The Restaurant @ The Mill soon becomes a local meeting place. It’s a retreat for some, a meeting place for others and somewhere that many find friendship. The mill soon brings together a unique group of people each with their own story to tell. As if this wasn’t enough to make such a place special, there is a resident ghost looking in on the patrons’ personal struggles. Will the Mill change Hilary and Ben’s life too?

My Review: “I love books such as The Restaurant @ The Mill as they weave the individual stories of groups of people together in such a way that each becomes connected somehow by a common theme. The story is told through the personal accounts of the group of six couples and the reader is given a history behind their story and follows them on their journey. Some are searching for love, some are battling personal demons and others are merely searching for direction. Ben and Hilary have secrets and buried heartbreak and soon find that The Mill changes them too. This book is extremely well written and flows at a steady pace. The characters are interesting and the reader soon has an interest in what is going on for them. Many have problems that we can all relate too, thus making their stories believable. The reader becomes invested in the outcome for each character and I found myself wishing for a particular outcome for each. This is a lovely book to curl up with. I highly recommend it.”

The Star Child
By Stephanie Keyes.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

The-Star-Child_final_Kellen St. James is a 17-year-old loner. He always has been. He has a poor, unloving relationship with his father and desperately misses his deceased mother. He feels all alone in the world but feels he doesn’t need anyone. After graduating he makes the decision to move to Ireland after he has been left his grandmother’s house in her will. Since he was a small child, Ireland has been a special place for him and the place where he first met the mysterious Calienta. He has dreamed about her every night of his life since then but who is she? Upon his return to Ireland, Kellen finds himself part of an age old Celtic prophecy and Calienta reappears in his life. Together the pair must battle faeries and gods in an attempt to save the world and fulfill the prophecy that will map out Kellen’s future. A future that includes Calienta.

My Review: “This was a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Being from Northern Ireland I have visited some of the places described in the book. I adore Celtic folklore and Stephanie Keyes has clearly done her research for this book. The story moves along at a pretty fast pace, which I liked. It also explores the intense feelings around first love, loss, loneliness, broken relationships and grief, all experiences which many teens may encounter at some point in their lives. However, rather than feeling sorry for himself, Kellen uses these life experiences to become a stronger, more independent person. He is mature beyond his years. Many young people might have used the sadness in their lives to follow a different path. But, not Kellen. Stephanie Keyes has created some wonderful characters in this book and a wonderful world of fantasy. There are lots of adventures and challenges in this story which lead the reader into a magical world.”

Shannons Law
By Emma Calin
Genre: Steamy Romance

shannons lawShannon Aguerri is a tough inner city cop who has been transferred to a local village and is now the village bobby. Shannon is unlike anything the villagers have ever seen and they are unsure of what to think of her at first. She soon becomes a part of village life. Yes, some of her methods are unconventional and she might be a bit gobby, but Shannon soon falls into her role – and into the arms of an Earl! A very sexy Earl! And she falls hard. Throw into the mix a dead girl, drugs and possibly human trafficking AND a rival for the Earl’s affections and Shannon soon begins to wonder if she is out of her depth.

My Review: “Shannon’s law is fast paced from start to finish. Shannon is a strong-willed female character and takes no nonsense from anyone. She is tough but fair and I liked that side of her. We get to see her vulnerable side where the Earl is concerned and she is unsure of her place in his world. At the heart of the book is a love story between two very different people who society would not expect to be together. There are some very, very, racy sex scenes in the book which are quite explicit and had me heading for a cold shower! An enjoyable read.”

How do You Voodoo?
By Janice Horton
Genre: Romantic Comedy Novella

How Do You Voodoo CoverLoveless fashion model Nola Nichols thinks being beautiful is a curse; that is until she is cursed and her looks begin to fade just a week before the most important photo shoot of her career. In her attempts to get uncursed she finds herself taking part in a rather unconventional funeral, involved in a voodoo ritual, reveals one or two unrests in her own past and falls madly in love with a doctor. Erm, that would be a witch doctor, right…? How Do You Voodoo? is the first novella in Janice Horton’s Voodoo Romance Series. The second and third books in this series are ‘Voodoo Wedding’ and ‘Voodoo Child’.

My Review: “Nola is a top model. She has everything going for her but unfortunately beauty on the outside does not equate to beauty on the inside and Nola’s priorities are slightly skewed. However, on a flight back from Barbados, Nola’s life is about to take on a staggering transformation thanks to a mambo or voodoo priestess she has inadvertently upset. Can Nola really break the curse and get her life back on track? There’s everything at stake here, including a top modelling job. But as Nola soon begins to realise, she has forgotten what the really important things in life are and what her humble beginnings were. Meeting Louis soon changes her thinking but is it enough to fix her life in time? This was such a fun read but with a serious message throughout. Nola’s lessons throughout the book are lessons for the reader too. The story has just the right sprinkling of romance and humour that doesn’t detract from the underlying message.”

Learning to Love
By Sheryl Browne
Genre: Romantic Comedy

learning to loveDoctor David Adams has moved into the quiet village of Hibberton with his young son. Dr Adams appears to be a deep and moody character beneath his sexy good looks. He has moved opposite Andrea Kelly who isn’t that keen on the good doctor. She’s worried about his son, who appears less than happy in the company of his father. Andrea herself however doesn’t have an ideal home situation either. She is juggling a teaching career, caring for her family, which includes her mother, and a less than supportive man! Andrea wants to find some time for herself and that means a career change. However, that’s not going to be an easy dream to achieve. Circumstances conspire to make life as difficult as possible for Andrea and she and her family find themselves having to rely on Doctor Adams when their house burns down. Is the dishy doctor all he seems?

My Review: “Yet again Sheryl Browne has penned another hit book. The characters in the book are all so likable, particularly Andrea’s mum whom I just loved! Some of her one-liners had me laughing out loud and the dynamics within Andrea’s family are hugely entertaining. The family dynamics and the interaction between characters make this such a good story. It’s a book about love, fear and trust. It’s about making that leap and taking a chance on another person when you are so afraid of a broken heart. Andrea is a strong character who is doing what lots of women do and try to multi-task to superhuman levels! This book contains that magic mix of ingredients for a good rom-com – fun, laughter, romance, love, passion and that feel-good factor! I couldn’t help but swoon after the hunky doctor and some parts of the book left my pulse racing just a little! This book will have you smiling, grinning big soppy grins, going all mushy, gasping and laughing your socks off.”

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Kim Nash says … Welcome to the Maldives!

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Maldives 2 (1) When the only way off the airport island is by sea-plane or boat, you know you are seriously in the middle of nowhere. Well, not actually the middle of nowhere, but specifically in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Where the water is both turquoise yet transparent, where the sand is soft, white and powdery. Where the only sound is the lapping of the gentle waves on the shore and swishing leaves of the palm trees. Oh, and the clink of ice in your gin and tonic!

Welcome to the Maldives. The word “Maldives” means “The islands (dives) of Malé”.

In total, there are around 1190 of these stunning islands of which 200 are inhabited, and 105 are resort islands and these are otherwise known as the “no news no shoes” islands. Not much matters there apart from when happy hour is so you can watch  one of the most glorious sunsets you could ever imagine seeing.

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Some people think that there’s not much to do on islands that you can walk around in less than half an hour. But you can lose yourself for hours on end, snorkeling with vibrantly coloured tropical fish such as parrotfish, snappers, jacks and sweetlips, or for those that are even more adventurous, you can try deep sea diving around caves, caverns, and coral reefs. If you’re lucky, you’ll swim with and experience tuna, trevallies, unicornfish, snappers, triggerfish, eagle rays, manta rays and groupers as well as plenty of varieties of sharks. The Maldives is one of the most sought after dive areas of the world along with the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea.

Maldivian waters are home to 1100 species of fish, 5 species of sea turtles, 21 species of whales and dolphins, 187 species of corals, 400 species of molluscs, and 83 species of echinoderms. Many crustacean species are there as well: 120 copepod and 15 amphipod, as well as over 145 crab and 48 shrimp species, so now perhaps you can understand why diving is such a popular activity.

There are also well over 100 species of birds which can be found, including parakeets and parrots. Fruit bats fly around freely too, but are not at all harmful.

Or, if water sports are your thing, there are organised surf cruises or even energetic water sports such as jet-skiing, wind-surfing, waterskiing, kitesurfing, kayaking or parasailing. Or you might choose to just chill out and sunbathe or spend time in one of the many spas. March,  the hottest month of the year, sees temperatures ranging from an average temperature of 29°C (84°F) and the coldest is January at a chilly (yeah right!) 27°C (81°F), with the most daily sunshine hours at 10 in February. September is the wettest month of the year with an average of 243 mm of rain. The best month to swim in the sea is  April when the average sea temperature is 30°C (86°F). Certainly acceptable, don’t you think!

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Male, is the capital and most populated island of the Maldives and the central harbour and port is located there. It’s well worth a visit to Male which will seem a world apart from the tiny tourist islands.

There is a wide variety of tourist islands to choose from, some incredible places with spas and water bungalows and private beaches. That decision we’ll leave to you, but if you are looking for a holiday in an incredibly stunning location, at least now you know a little more about the beauty that you will find in the Maldives.

Kim Nash is also a Lifestyle book reviewer. You can find her at:

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http://kimthebookworm.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Twitter: @KimTheBookworm

A Recipe for Bratwursts

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Once upon a time I liked children.

These days I think that I would stick Jack’s beanstalk down his precocious selfish thieving throat and vote for the Giant Independence Party. Here is the question. Have we created a society of utter brats? Is it permissible to suggest such a thing? Are there social workers strapping on their armoured sandals to storm my door for raising the issue?

Of course, my own brats were perfect. They were grateful for their daily bowls of gruel which I dispensed once they had completed their wood chopping and house cleaning duties. Yet, over the past couple of years I have encountered a range of younger children. Let me select the top five sausages from my string of bratwursts.

* Bratwurst One Star: Male aged five years. Comes to my home regularly. Runs about uncontrollably and refuses to accept any instruction. Punches older sister in face, no concept of table manners and has to be prompted for please and thank-yous. Has taken to carrying a tablet computer. He is generally regarded as charming and spirited. Mother does not wish to crush his creativity. He will converse and discuss issues. Responds to being told to be quiet. Basically a straightforward naughty boy who needs to know that hitting others can incur reaction…..

**Bratwurst Two Stars: Male aged ten years. Visited my home with middle/upper class mother. Immediately began opening drawers and cupboards demanding that mother stop her fatuous conversation with me and hand out food items he had spotted. She obliged indulgently. For the rest of her stay the little dear demanded food and more food. Unwilling to converse sensibly. The monster was significantly overweight and grizzled until piggy-backed over the course of a mile walk. Mother had new macho partner who was keen to impress. He suffered a seizure a short while later. I believe there is currently a vacancy.

It's your fault for having me! (photo courtesy Daily Telegraph)

“It’s your fault for having me!” (photo courtesy Daily Telegraph)

***Bratwurst Three Stars: Male aged eight years. Came for lunch with his family. Refused to take place at table. Father informed me I was being too old-fashioned and formal in expecting him to sit for family meals. Child ran through house out of back door into garden and back through front door in an endless circuit throughout meal. Parents tempted him with menu choices as he ran past. Items snatched or rejected without acknowledgement. After the meal I pretended to be a nice lady and asked the lad what he liked to do. He did not answer. ( His father explained this as an independent policy decision). His mother said he wanted to be a singer. I grasped the chance to ask him what music he liked. The boy immediately went into a wailing tantrum because his mother had given information about him. They left soon after. No invitation or Christmas cards from parents since…….

****Bratwurst Four Stars: Female aged eleven years. Visits about twice a year. Enters house, refuses to say hello. These days has tablet computer which accompanies her constantly and serves as a place mat at meal times. Refuses to stop video game during meal. Whispers her endless requests for food and entertainment to parents. Has to receive menu options but refuses dish when served. Selects from several boxes of cereals, pours on milk and then demands alternative dish. Places hands over parents mouths if they are engaged in conversations she does not wish. Tantrums if parent wishes to continue conversation with adult. A grossly overweight child she demands a diet of sweets and specifies the required brand. Has been a talentless beginner with her flute for several years. Produces instrument at meals both in the house and in restaurants. Parents request silence while she performs her tuneless repertoire.

Do parents really think like these little monsters?

Do parents really think we should put up with these little monsters?

*****Bratwurst Five Stars: Male aged eight years. Arrived at my home with parents. Gave me a look of angry contempt and pushed past me into my house. Went to kitchen and saw packets of crisps in cupboard. Selected Ketchup flavour and complained to mother that I didn’t really stock his preferred brand. Found beach tennis set in garage without permission and decided to play squash against my kitchen windows. Threw tantrum when asked to stop. Decided to climb internal wall of house using central heating pipe as a step. An overweight child, he demanded food more or less constantly. Parents believed he suffers from anger management issues prompted by hunger. Cakes, crisps, and sweets are carried at all times to placate tantrums. Half an hour before going to restaurant demanded food. Mother gave two bags of crisps and a banana. In restaurant demanded large pizza. Told mother he could not wait for food. Threw tantrum and banged head on table shouting “I won’t wait. I want food now!” Mother asked me to order him a special starter for immediate consumption. I refused. On arrival the pizza was eaten by hand with much fun stretching mozzarella strings between arms held above his head. In the end he ate about half of it. This child essentially refused to acknowledge me and had no concept of please or thank you. Ate with fingers and smeared hands on walls. Regarded all my possessions as his. Opened drawers and cupboards at will. Mother informed me that one had to be patient and understanding in dealing with him. He gains my five-star rating because the entire lives of his parents revolve around his satisfaction. They live in fear of his tantrums. No activity or game can take place without his consent. Mother considered having another child. Consultation process with brat carried out and permission was denied.

The sad thing is I actually believe I am completely isolated and out of step with society by expressing my dismay at this kind of behaviour. I should be embracing and celebrating the liberation of children from the constraints of discipline and subservience. I should be rejoicing in the opportunities that parents now have to build consensual problem-solving relationships with their children. Oooh – I can sound quite educated, modern and up myself, can’t I.

What I really think is that these brats are some of the least happy people I have ever met. Only their parents are less happy. They have bought into some false ideal of creating wonderful successful children who will love them and whom the whole world will admire. The truth is that in a peer group of self-centered tyrants, no one will be capable of offering genuine friendship or be prepared to acknowledge all that beauty, genius, and superiority their parents have developed in them. My guess is that these weary parents know it’s all gone wrong and need thick-skinned old crows like me to say what they cannot and dare not.

Finally let me say that I have only dealt with five close encounters of the brat kind in this feature. During the period I have had seven experiences. Two sisters aged ten and eight have also come into my orbit. They were sensible, well behaved, and happy. As far as I could tell their parents had never read any kind of child guidance book. They too were sensible and happy.

My Little Angels

My own Little Angels

So what is the situation? Has a middle class generation fallen for the king’s new clothes story? Is the king naked and smeared in bratwurst? Have we said No to No and thereby Yes to the tyranny of those who need our guidance most?

 

Emma Calin was born in London in 1962. She currently lives part of the year in the UK and spends the rest in France.  She has been writing since childhood and has won numerous local, national, and international prizes for poetry and short stories.

Emma enjoys writing love stories firmly rooted in social realism.  She blogs about the contrasts in life on both sides of the English Channel, which she likes to explore on her tandem whenever weather and fitness coincide. She is a Lifestyle Contributor on Loveahappyending Lifestyle.

She defines herself as woman eternally pedalling between Peckham and Pigalle, in search of passion and enduring romance.

Emmas books 2014 1.5M

For books by Emma Calin: Amazon USA  Amazon UK
Emma Calin Blog: http://www.emmacalin.blogspot.com 
Emma Calin Website: http://www.emmacalin.com
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Twitter:@Emma Calin
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The Film Fatales tackle a double feature: Words and Pictures and The Fault in Our Stars

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(c) Latitude Productions

(c) Latitude Productions

Words and Pictures.
2013. 111 minutes.
Starring Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche,
Bruce Davison,
Valerie Tian
, and Amy Brenneman.

An art instructor and an English teacher form a rivalry that ends up with a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important. (IMDb)

elizabeth: I have to say that when I saw the trailer of Words and Pictures I got all giddy. A movie for adults, starring adults, and telling a story about adults. Who would have thought it was possible? No car chases, no Tom Cruise trying to be an actor, nothing blowing up, no men in tights, and just the right number of obscenities carefully placed into the dialogue. I nearly fainted. But I have been fooled before – sucked into thinking this could be a movie that tells a story about two people who have not seen their twenties for a couple of decades. (Hmm…now that I write that.) No, I am here to say that this movie was a joy to watch. I was happy to see two imperfect souls up on the screen who made me believe again and that some of us are not dead…yet.

What is more important: words or pictures? As a writer and an artist, this whole notion appealed to me. How the students prepared their creative arguments made me long to be part of the debate. But I already knew my answer. I liked how this movie was about love (what a concept) – love of the printed word, the brush strokes that bring a vision to life, and the love story of a man and a woman.

Nicole: Well, I won’t be accused of being the only romantic sap in this duo any longer. No way. No how. I hate to do it, but I agree with you. I sat thoroughly engrossed by this film, enjoying it like a really wonderful symposium given by learned and cultured artists who had wisdom to impart. I felt a kinship with these characters, mainly with Clive Owen’s Jack Marcus, because he is a man of words, but also with Juliette Binoche’s Dina Delsanto, because she spoke to the artist who lies deep within me and strives to reach the surface. I came away feeling inspired…awakened…and wanting more.

elizabeth: I think English teacher Jack and art instructor Dina made for great sparring partners on the screen. Both came in with something huge that was blocking their happiness and it wasn’t the other that was going to make it all better. I related so much to Delsanto’s condition, since it reminded me of my own, and she was definitely the sympathetic one. She was a fighter and then there was Owens’ Jack, who could be so powerful and passionate in his delivery of his words that I did not want him to stop. He is quite easy on the eyes, too. But at other times I was a little disappointed when it seemed he was reading off a teleprompter. Or was his inner demon killing him slowly? Acting or the bottle? I am not sure.

Nicole: I think those moments you’re referring to were in direct correlation to his alcohol dependency issues. And, I suppose the fact that Jack is an alcoholic is a bit of a cliché – so many famous writers suffer the same lot. The other cliché, Jack and Dina hate each other—but end up falling hard for one another, is anything but original. But, hey, it’s a well-used cliché for a reason. Audiences love a passionate couple who overcome their initial disgust for one another to find love. (Calling Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcy…)

elizabeth: All in all, this was a very enjoyable 111 minutes. I would love to see more movies like this. It is nice to see ourselves up there and not wearing sensible shoes, being coiffed to death, or killed off in the first scene. I don’t know who those people are. We are strong vital people who are still sexy and can teach a thing or two about living fully.

Nicole: Amen!

 

(c) Temple Hill Entertainment

(c) Temple Hill Entertainment

The Fault in Our Stars.
Rated PG-13. 125 minutes.
Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort,
Willem Defoe, and Laura Dern.

Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. [IMDb]

Nicole: Elizabeth can attest that for about 80% of this movie I was a slobbering mess and a distinct displeasure to be seated next to. After all, I knew this would happen; I couldn’t make it through the trailer without bawling like a maniac. I was miserable afterward, too; unable to shake the emotions and my eyes were puffy for a solid day and a half. That being said, I want to stress that this is a terrific movie, filled with wonderful performances, which should be seen. Just have plenty of tissues on hand…and chocolate. You’ll need lots of chocolate.

elizabeth: I have to say that I wanted to see this movie, but had reservations since it is about two teens and I wondered if the people involved could make a movie about two teens relevant to all who come to sit in the dark for over two hours. They did. The storyline is just miserable. It makes you think about how unfair life is. But then you witness the love of life that Hazel (Woodley) and Gus (Elgort) have and you realize this is life. It is not always fair, but we are here for only a blink of the eye, so what would you do if you knew that life could end before the next sunrise? Most people live like they have time to do everything – thus the stupid bucket list came to life. Don’t make a damn list. Just do it. For the record, I did tear up a little. But I get it – this is life. Life sucks sometimes. Who says we get 80-plus years? Plus, I had to keep an eye on Nicole. I was afraid I was going to have to call for backup.

Nicole: Backup would have been nice; I needed to be mopped up off the floor. For the record: Hazel has cancer. Hazel is terminal stage 4. And, her odds are anything but good. This is not the feel-good movie of the year. Things in Hazel’s emotional life improve dramatically when she meets Gus, who despite losing his leg to the cancer, retains a thoroughly infectious positive outlook on life. Gus, who is in remission, shows Hazel how to grab the most out of life with what little time they’re given…and thus they fall in love so sweetly that it will melt your heart. I will leave it there, because if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you should let this movie happen to you. It should make you angry. It should make you sad. It should make you think. It should make you re-evaluate life. And, it should make you count your blessings. There’s no telling the amount of emotion you’ll feel watching this movie – but you will be made better for having seen it. OK? OK.

elizabeth: Besides all the messages that run through this movie, it is well-written and well-acted. Kudos to author John Green for such a tender storyline that really did come to life thanks to all who took a chance and starred in this movie. I was so impressed with Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. Two young actors who really brought home the message of the movie. I just hope that they continue to get scripts like this. I am begging them to not appear in Porkys #48. Bring tissues? Yes. But also know that this is a celebration of life. As Auntie Mame once declared: “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” I believe Hazel and Gus would concur.

Brought to you by: Film Fatales

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DISLIKE JOURNALING? I DID TOO … UNTIL …

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Keeping a journal is as much a part of many people’s day as getting up in the morning. It’s known to be cathartic, rewarding, and a motivating strategy to help work through whatever issues might be on your mind.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” ~ William Wordsworth

I admire people who are committed to journaling for whatever the purpose in their life. For some, there may be a specific goal they wish to achieve; one that may not always be easy or pleasant. For others, the incentive may be to reflect, to preserve memories, or to savor the pure pleasure of written expression.

For whatever reason, written journaling has simply never worked for me. At least, not since I had my little blue-leather diary with the intriguing gold lock and key when I was eight years old. I stored my deep thoughts away … whatever they were at that age … until I lost the key.

There have been times on certain travels when I’ve been motivated to keep a book of notes about favorite restaurants, unique places visited or experiences with people who came along. A camera has always been my constant companion.

Obviously, all of the photographs I was taking were journals in themselves and I was happy with that. I’ve been chronicling my life in this manner since I received my first Kodak Brownie camera on my sixth birthday and even more so after I became a young adult and began to travel, raise a family, and live life … as we do.

Then came digital photography … ohhh là là!1.IMG_2348

Taking photos became easier and more convenient, allowing creativity and experimentation to flourish.

Then came cellphones with cameras … ohhh là là, even more.

In spite of my initial abhorrence of the concept of this ubiquitous appendage, I gradually succumbed. The ability to be always in touch for the needs of ageing parents and increasing number of grandchildren, made me a convert.

After a while I became aware that I was taking different kinds of shots with my phone. I still used my trusty Canon SLR for special occasions or traveling, but the photos I was taking with my phone were in a category of their own.

canstockphoto17712799Then I had what might be called one of those “Eureka!” moments.

I decided to open a separate album within my photo library and call it my Gratitude Journal. For some reason, choosing just one or two images every few days that expressed my gratefulness about life became an extremely meaningful exercise.

I want to share this possibility with you.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 There are times when I photograph items I want to retain because they hold good memories. However, I know they are: (a) simply going to get lost within a vast collection of treasures, or (b)  meaningful visuals that can only be captured as photos. For example: tickets to the theatre, or concerts, or sporting events; a special greeting card; a wine label; a puddle with a child’s feet in it; a great menu; a snowfall or a rainbow; a delicious dessert; a beautiful flower; airline boarding pass; train tickets, or street signs. You get my drift, I’m sure.

 “Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot” ~Hausa Proverb

So true! The shots I put in this gratitude album are not the ones of family and friends and vacations or celebrations (they go into the standard albums that are treasured and enjoyed), but rather unique and distinctive images that give me pleasure to remember with thanks. Of course, from time to time there will be a person, known or unknown included. It’s the thought that counts.

Is photography a hobby or interest of yours? If so, you might want to consider beginning a journal using some of your shots. Even if you don’t consider yourself a photographer, you may be surprised at how you respond to this. With computer software these days and the incredible quality of photos taken with smartphones, it’s easy to find images that appeal to you to capture digitally and store.

Needless to say, if you want to have even more fun with your Gratitude Photo Journal … there’s an APP for that! I discovered the Happy Tapper Gratitude Journal ($.99 on iTunes) app on iTunes and have had a lot of fun adding a few words of text when I upload my chosen photo. Another similar app is Gratitude 365 ($1.99 on iTunes).

Not to be confused with the latter, is the site for the inspiring 365 Grateful – A Photography Project. There you will find a heartwarming video about one person’s experience with this concept of photo journaling and how the idea captured the imagination of many. You may want to join in yourself!

Although these apps encourage you to enter a photo daily, don’t feel you need to do that. Make an entry when the urge strikes or the image is irresistible. Use your journal in a way that works for you and brings you satisfaction.

It’s not as if I didn’t have an attitude of gratitude before, or wasn’t counting my blessings, because I’ve always lived my life in that frame of mind. Keeping this kind of journal has simply enhanced those thoughts, and brings great pleasure and frequently laughter, as I sift through the images from time to time.

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Expressing your feelings of thankfulness through these visuals is a great way to interest your children or grandchildren to do the same. I’ve found the responses from our family to be extremely positive, as the variety and quirkiness of images causes people to think outside the box as to what makes their life satisfying.

Have fun. Be selective. Be you. Give thanks.

 

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Good manners for all occasions – great advice for writers!

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Is my boyfriend a cad?

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Q. I’m 24 and have been seeing a man I really like for the last few months. I met him at a singles’ party. He’s 27, good looking, smart, and I have a good time when I’m with him. I assumed because he went to this party that he was looking for a relationship, but there’s a problem. He isn’t very reliable. He’s canceled dates last minute, forgotten to call me when he says he will, and doesn’t always ask me out on weekends. My friends say that he’s probably seeing other women, but we’ve already been intimate and I really didn’t think he was the type to sleep around. I’m not sure what the best way to handle this is, but I’m tired of waiting by the phone and not knowing if or when I’ll have plans with him. I’m not comfortable with confrontation, so what do you think is the best way to find out whether he’s playing the field or if he’s just not the responsible type? Should I be checking his phone texts when he showers, like my friend suggested? Or follow him to see where he goes when he cancels on me? I would hate to have to do either. Would love your advice on this.

 

A. You bring up a slew of concerns so I’ll address each one independently.

1. Just because you attend a singles’ party, doesn’t mean you are serious about finding a relationship. He could have gone for countless other reasons. Some people use those parties as merely another conduit for meeting people or socializing.

2. I know it’s not easy to find a man you really enjoy being with, but that’s not an excuse to accept bad behavior from him. Canceling dates last minute, leaving you hanging by the phone, and not making weekend plans with you are not the signs of a thoughtful man who wants a steady, solid, and honest relationship. These are the signs of an immature and selfish man who hasn’t learned the proper way to treat people.

3. If you want to know where someone is coming from (i.e. if he’s dating others), you cannot be afraid of confrontation. Confrontation doesn’t have to be dramatic. It can be as simple as asking the important questions—and that should be done before you become sexually involved. You cannot just assume that he’s being monogamous unless he tells you he is, and plans to be, while you are together. That said, since you are already sleeping with him, you have the right to know if he’s engaging in sex with others. The way to find out is NOT to snoop in his personal things or to stalk him. The way to find out is to ASK him. If you have a strong sense that he’s lying to you, then it’s time to say good-bye.

4. If you find out he’s not seeing others and may just be spending time with friends or family, there is still a rather large problem: his inconsiderate nature. If you don’t demand that men treat you with respect and thoughtfulness, you could easily end up with a cad who throws crumbs to you when it suits him. Is that really what you want in a partner? I doubt it. If I were you I’d ditch this guy like yesterday’s rubbish and move on knowing that I didn’t settle for less than I deserve or let someone else define my self-worth. If you’re not ready to give him up, then I strongly suggest you have that important conversation and share your feelings and concerns with him. If he truly cares about you, there’s always a chance he may learn the error of his ways and make some drastic, positive changes. If he doesn’t, then you have your answers loud and clear.

Read more advice from Bonnie HERE

If you would like Bonnie to offer some advice on your personal relationship issue, contact her at

loveahappyending.com@gmail.com

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