FitFriday XXIV, FatFriday XI. Back to weights.

Seeing as I’m back, here are the updates. I have been pushing the weights more lately and doing my best not to avoid them. I have been weeding the garden, digging food-plant beds and filling the hedge with branches. I have been working on yoga daily. My diet has become more of an “as and when” cravings matter and less of a “set meals” matter, due to time and general low appetite. Almost entirely eliminating dairy after several trials. The hope is no dairy, but beating yourself up over every mistake is just ED all over again. Weight stable at 70kg, even though I’ve reduced my body-fat to where it was when I was at 60kg and stretch marks are showing correspondingly again. Lifting creeping up too, which is always a good sign. Thus: some muscle has gone on lately. Skin health very good and attractive, other than in the areas I can’t fill with muscle (armpits, belly button, etc) where the obese-skin still lingers and annoys me. Hair less happy now the damp weather’s going. I have generally been good and only once or twice gave in to lethargy or laziness and had a break or a lie-in.

With the text-wall over, my plans for the next few weeks are:

-continue abstaining from dairy as much as possible

-keep caffeine levels down again

-eat more at dinner to compensate for small or absent breakfasts and lunches

-eat more meat for better post-workout recovery

-do more walking

-increase weights every couple of sessions

Hopefully I can stick to it. :)

How To… declutter paper.

We’ve already looked at speedy and efficient decluttering and how to declutter your wardrobe. Next we’re looking at one of our worst clutter areas: paper. Maybe you’re a student and going through last year’s work. Or you’ve accumulated a pile of bills and don’t know what to do with them. Or you’ve been away for a while and the mail pile has just piled up and up.

Well, as a private tutor I accumulate a lot of random paperwork and need to regularly go through it. Here is the fastest and most efficient way I have found of sorting paper.

1: Pile it all together.

If it’s a complete mess, just go round the house and empty all your piles of paper together. Most people have at least three, so here are the common piles of unsorted paper.

-Homework.

-Work sheets.

-Mail.

-Coupons and vouchers.

-Magazines and newspapers.

-Past bills, receipts, etc.

-Essential documents.

-Fun things, like motivational posters.

If your paper stores are generally organized, work through them one by one. But if you’re finding your post with your past bills and magazines and receipts in your briefcase, you may as well empty them into one pile to work through.

2: First sort. Bin or check.

The first time we go through our paper, we need to just ask if we want to bin or keep it. Plenty of things can be thrown away immediately. Anything that won’t be put in the bin or the recycling goes into another pile.

3: Second sort. Store, use.

The second time we go through our paper, we decide whether the paper needs something done, like a bill that needs paying or a magazine you want to clip things from, or just needs to be stored like payslips or important documents.

4: Third sort. Folders.

Take your store pile and assign a folder for every category of paper. Use the categories above, or even break them down, such as bills into water, gas, electric and tax, or homework by class. As you sort them, arrange them by date, with the oldest at the back. Make sure to add the newest at the very front of the folder each time.

5: Go through.

Once a year, go through your folders and get rid of anything you no longer need. Bills older than five years can easily be thrown away, though you may not keep bills older than one or two. Either way, it should be a simple matter of taking the papers nearest the back and recycling, shredding or burning them. If not, it’s time to sort again.

6: Keep out.

Make sure your folders are easily visible and usable, otherwise you start creating more paper piles. When you are sorting something, make sure you get whatever it is done and then put the paper away.

And that is how I declutter my papers. It does take a while, but it’s absolutely worth it and at least it gives you an excuse to procrastinate, watch TV, take a call and drink coffee for a couple of hours.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What does your paper drawer look like? Is it driving you crazy, like it used to drive me crazy? How do you keep on top of paper clutter?

WWW. Spring Lamb, Nutty Bread, Ice-Cream.

Apologies for not being around as much! Due to exam-panic among GCSE students, I’ve been very busy so non-scheduled posts and comments sat on the back burner for a while.

I have now scheduled Wednesday and Friday afternoons as blog time, for working on the Wok, FitFriday, processing comments and working out next week’s posts.

This week, making the most of the good weather, the best meals were a light lamb stir-fry with fresh spring veggies, some nutty bread I made for Jon to have burgers in and apple and rhubarb ice-cream! Bonus recipe: Summer Fruit Punch.

Recipe 1. Apple and Rhubarb Ice-Cream.

Ice Cream-Apple And Rhubarb, Peach, Elderberry

Ingredients:

(Makes 1L.)

-500ml double cream

-1 large cooking apple

-1 small sweet apple

-2 cups rhubarb stems

-2 cups sugar

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-large pot and spoon

-heat-resistant and freezer-safe mold

Apple and Rhubarb Ice Cream Recipe2

Recipe:

1: Finely chop the apple flesh, removing the core and stem.

2: Peel the rhubarb.

3: Finely chop the rhubarb, careful to remove the leaves and, where no leaf is visible, the top of the stem.

4: Place in a pot without water at a low heat until they secrete fluid. Turn the heat up to medium.

5: Once the fruit is soft and losing shape, add the sugar. Stir continually from now.

Apple and Rhubarb Ice Cream Recipe

6: Cook until the fruit is a paste like applesauce.

7: Pour the mix into the mold. Add the cream and stir until combined. Freeze.

Recipe 2. Nutty Burger Buns.

Walnut Burger Bun Recipe

Ingredients:

(Makes 4.)

-300g flour and raising agents

-1 cup sunflower seeds, flax seeds and walnuts

-warm water

-1tsp salt

-1tsp pepper

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and spoon

-baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the dry ingredients well.

2: Slowly incorporate the water until the mix feels a bit too dry. Look for a single mass with some flour falling off and slight crustiness.

3: Work the dough until it feels smooth and elastic.

4: Form 4 flat, 1″ high discs. Leave to rise on the baking tray.

5: Bake at 140C until they bounce back when you poke them.

6: Turn upside down to cool.

Recipe 3. Spring Lamb Stir-Fry.

Spring Lamb Stir-Fry Recipe

Ingredients:

(Serves 3-5.)

-500g lamb mince

-2 cups cauliflower leaves

-1 yellow or red bell pepper

-400g bean sprouts

-200g cannelini beans

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-frying pan or wok and spatula

Recipe:

1: Pan-fry the lamb until browned. Its own fat should suffice.

2: Chop the peppers and leaves. Add, alongside the bean sprouts.

3: When the leaves start to wilt, add the beans and heat through.

Recipe 4. Summer Fruit Punch.

Ingredients:

-double shot of gin or brandy

-frozen fruit (do not defrost)

-lemonade

Recipe:

1: Place everything in the glass. The lemonade and alcohol will bring out the berry taste and the frozen berries will chill the drink.

2: Enjoy.

And those are our favourite recipes of the week!

What’s been cooking at your place?

10 Things That Are Aging Us.

There is no denying that in the West we are in increasingly poor health. And whilst we often focus on weight issues, thyroid problems and diabetes, we are also acutely aware that some thirty year olds look like fifty year olds and some forty year olds have the skin, spines or bladder of an eighty year old. And when Granma is more sprightly than Mummy, we’ve got to ask why, as well as how we can avoid it.

Because respecting the aging process is one thing, but premature aging is another.

1: Chronic stress.

This is arguably the greatest source of premature aging. Chronic stress is when we are not briefly highly stressed (such as if we are almost hit by a car) or a tiny bit stressed for a couple of days (such as if a child is ill). Chronic stress is when we are moderately stressed most of the time. And, as you can see in the faces of people with Anxiety Disorder(s), it doesn’t do you much good. When you’re stressed you develop deep, anxious expression marks, paler skin, wider pores and a general drained look to your face.

This is because when you’re stressed your body is pumped full of cortisol and adrenaline, which force the glucose and, subsequently, the moisture out of as many bodily tissues as they can, trying to give you an energy boost to help you escape the source of stress.

Except we are in a state of continual, moderately high stress, both mental and physical. And we can’t really avoid most of it. Anxiety over relationships, harsh work deadlines, unpleasant working environments, caffeine, alcohol and drug abuse, all these things cause your body to become stressed. And we rarely truly get away from them.

2: Too much sugar.

Now, I will never take back that there is no such thing as a bad food. But all foods, nutrients and micronutrients have a limit that, when exceeded, causes problems. And sugar is one of them. People who consume too much sugar often experience a tightening of the skin, caused by water retention, which eventually leads to either oily or dry skin. It also greatly overworks the liver, pancreas, kidneys, thyroid and many other glands and organs to a lesser extent.

This is because a very high blood sugar content is actually poisonous to your body. But if we didn’t absorb all the sugar we ate, we would hardly have a few teaspoons in our systems at any given point. Therefore, our body absorbs all the sugar, burns what it needs and uses insulin, produced by cells in the pancreas, to store the excess. The first storage location is the liver, being the only organ that can process fructose and one of the most efficient places for accumulating fat quickly. If your blood sugar stays too high your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin for it any more and sends what amounts to a distress signal to the rest of the body, which encourages it to treat sugar as a waste product and dispose of it in the kidneys. If there’s still too much sugar after that, you enter hyperglycemia and die.

This process is perfectly natural, but when you push your entire system to its limits like that, day in, day out, eventually the organs have trouble fulfilling their other functions, such as producing digestive enzymes, hormones, regulating blood pressure and filtering byproducts out of the blood. And when you eat as much sugar as we do in the West, our organs and glands are continually overworked, to a point where their other functions are inhibited, which accelerates aging.

3: No loadbearing.

This is a big one just for how badly the younger generations are getting hit by it. Loadbearing activity basically means any activity where your body is compressed by weight. It ranges from standing up (the weight of your body) to weightlifting (the weight of the metal) and in all its forms it’s observed in tribal societies worldwide. This sort of activity actively compresses the bones and is known to help prevent osteoporosis.

The reasons for this are still a little vague and guess-work-ish, but the two current theories are that it encourages remineralization of the bones and discourages demineralization. Mineralization is where minerals, such as calcium, carbon and phosphor, are added into something, such as your bones. Your bones are continually losing and gaining minerals, just like your muscles are continually losing and gaining protein. Loadbearing helps prevent osteoporosis firstly because your body prioritizes what you need. Just as lifting weights tells your body it needs more muscle fibres, loadbearing tells your body it needs denser bones. Loadbearing prevents osteoporosis secondly because something denser is harder to break down. When your bones are dense with minerals and compact in the right places, chances of your body being able to strip the bone right down in the case of an emergency (such as a pregnancy mineral deficiency) are far lower.

What was the last time you picked up something heavy? What was the last time you carried something heavy? Until very recently, even in urban areas people would carry heavy shopping bags, children, move furniture and heavy machinery with relative ease. In wilder societies people carry children, baskets of food, entire tents and whole animals all the time. To boot, they spend more time on their feet with some sort of weight in their hands, on their backs or above their heads.

4: Too few micronutrients.

Another problem with our diet is that we’re massively undereating micronutrients. That’s vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other trace elements. The effect of this is most obvious when the people who, based on dietary guidelines, overeat these nutrients are the people who age the slowest and look the healthiest. Technically, we all need to eat more zinc, selenium, magnesium, manganese, phosphor, calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, creatine, Omega 3, etc than we are even recommended. The recommended daily amount should actually be seen as the minimum level for many micronutrients.

But we aren’t even getting that. A good test measure is to look at how many bitter and sour foods you eat. You see, many of the most essential, most underconsumed micronutrients taste awfully bitter or sour. And many of the less bitter and sour foods have been specifically bred to taste like that. Which is why lemons and kumquats have higher vitamin C than tangerines. Or dandelions and spinach have more micronutrients than iceberg lettuce.

To boot, how many people even eat tangerines or iceberg lettuce daily? How much of your diet do they represent? In reality, we should on a daily basis consume various greens, some fruit (sweet or non-sweet) and some root vegetables and on a weekly basis consume various types of offal, seafood, nuts and seeds.

5: Too little sleep.

Not sleeping enough ages and degrades your brain. Or at least that’s the effect. Your short term memory becomes hazy, your long term memory has the odd gap, your focus is poor and your interpersonal skills become worn.

This happens because most brain repair happens in your sleep. Your brain is continually breaking and regrowing neural connections. These connections form pathways, which is how information is pieced together to form memories, concepts and learned behavioural patterns. When these pathways break down, your brain regrows them as needed, which is how an unused language becomes “rusty” and a new skill is formed. All the information is there, after all, our brain’s capacity for storage is theoretically limitless, it’s just we need to connect the right bits of information together.

When you don’t sleep enough, or deeply enough, these pathways don’t grow or grow back as quickly. Therefore, you commit less to memory, learn more slowly and start forgetting things that you had already memorized. This is made worse when stress is added to the mix, as memory loss creates stressful situations, poor sleep creates physical stress and being stressed makes sleep harder and lighter, creating a loop. Your body, when stressed, needs far more hours of sleep because the sleep is so light, but due to missing deadlines, forgotten work and stressful interpersonal relationships we want to stay up later and mend what stress broke.

In the West we often don’t go to bed until our brains are about to give out, force ourselves to get up with annoying sounds and caffeine (stressors) and overwork ourselves over the day, only to use stimulating and stressing foods and imagery to keep ourselves up all night to “unwind”.

6: Overeating.

Just as too much of one specific food can make you unwell and too much sugar can age you noticeably, too much food in general, or too many calories, also has an aging effect. We’re all familiar with the effects of overeating when you don’t lose the weight, but regular overeats matched with regular starve or fast days can be just as bad. People who regularly overeat are suffering the burdens of excess sugar, but also the burden of excess fat, protein and waste products.

This means their organs are being overworked, needing to produce more enzymes and hormones, their stomach is stretched, their kidneys are filtering slowly. This can eventually result in a state of being continually slightly run down. The same way if you have a massive holiday binge you start feeling groggy and look fatigued and sick the next day, repeatedly overeating starts to cause lethargy and eventually creates a slightly ashy colour under your skin, some skin sag and oiliness to the cheeks and nose. This is because your organs are not getting a rest, your body is having a hard time getting rid of all byproducts through the kidneys so it starts getting rid of them through other means and a lot of your energy is being invested into digestion.

Per capita, Americans eat around 3700kcal/day, England and the rest of the world are not far behind. We are pushing our bodies to their limit daily.

7: Sitting still.

This ties into loadbearing, but is also important for muscle density and health. Think of the legs of someone who has never walked since childhood. The muscles are all thin and, even when the person is a healthy weight, their legs look like they’re all bones with a little skin and fat on top. This is because muscles you don’t use aren’t maintained. Your body digests them. This is in part when you need more protein or calories and aren’t eating enough, but in part it happens daily to muscle you aren’t using. Muscle is very calorifically expensive and, as far as your body is concerned, why regrow muscle when you aren’t using it?

Nowhere in the world do humans sit still, day in, day out, except in the West. The actual shape and support of our furniture aside, we have to agree it’s pretty comfortable. We can sit in one position for hours and only feel any harm when we stand up and notice a cramp. But this isn’t natural. Even though humans worldwide are naturally lazy, humans outside the West are very different to humans inside it. They sit less often, and get up frequently. When they sit they are not as comfortable as we are, so they move about, fidget, stand up, lie down, squat or stretch. All these minor movements, complete with bursts of intense activity and occasional long treks, lead to better muscle tone. This muscle tone stretches loose skin and shapes fatty tissue, giving men and women alike a more youthful, healthy appearance.

But here in the West it isn’t uncommon to get out of bed, walk downstairs, sit down for breakfast, walk to the car, drive to work, walk to our desk, sit down all day except to pick up our lunch, come home and sit down on the sofa with dinner, only getting up to go to bed. We probably spend well over 95% of our time (around 23 hours) sat down or lying down, without much fidgeting and rarely getting up. As such, our muscles are weak, small and undefined, giving our bodies the shapelessness of muscle wastage usually only seen in the very ill and very elderly.

8: Too little fluid.

Water is a pretty important part of our bodies. And whilst water retention caused by excess sugar can pump your body up, giving it a pudgy, wobbly appearance, plenty of water flushing through the system is actually good for you. For starters it helps the kidneys flush out dangerous byproducts and can help stop them from overworking. Secondarily, some water under your skin will fill out stretch marks, expression marks and wrinkles and encouraging clearer, lighter sweat helps avoid congested pores, leading to fewer spots or blackheads.

But we don’t drink much fluid that isn’t laden with sugar or other substances that slow its digestion and cancel our its beneficial properties. We also eat very little raw food, one of the healthiest sources of fluid besides water, sometimes healthier. Raw fruits and vegetables and even raw meat are heavy with water which is often lost when we cook things. And the main method of cooking foods to retain moisture (stewing) has become increasingly unpopular, with our main choices, instead, being frying, baking or boiling, all of which, unless you drink the water from boiling, extract and boil off the fluids in your food.

9: Low volume heart and lungs.

Another side effect of our inactive lifestyles is that our heart and lungs are not used very much and not pushed to the max more than a couple of times a year. This is good in one sense: just like our other organs, our heart and lungs can be overworked by being pushed to the max daily and are better off resting and doing low level activity most of the time. But, just as with our muscles and bones, when we use them too little, they start to atrophy. This means that your heart, like any muscle, starts losing muscle fibres and becomes weak, which is the reason for sudden death in underweight people; and your lungs don’t stretch and properly fill up, leading to shallow breathing, which is what causes hyperventilating people to sometimes faint.

When your heart is built properly, it can take and move a healthy volume of blood with every pump and won’t start to degrade until old age. When you fill your lungs enough with every breath, they take in plenty of oxygen and stay healthy and won’t suffer weakness until old age. However when we underuse them both, we end up with degraded heart and lungs similar to what we see in much older people.

And we don’t really exercise our hearts and lungs. A marathon a day would be excessive for them, but some form of moderate activity for a couple of hours once a day, such as brisk walking, some bodyweight activities or some gardening, plus intense activity once or twice a week, such as 30-60min jogging, weightlifting or climbing, will help your heart and lungs fill their natural capacity. Our problems are further compounded by our bad posture and stillness. When you don’t move as much blood can pool at the lowest points of your body, causing chilblains, inflammation, cramps and varicose veins and your heartrate takes a while to pick up when you stand, causing dizziness, nausea and even panic attacks. When you sit crouched over you are cramping your organs, particularly your lungs, leading to poor breathing that is hard to correct without retraining yourself.

10: Too little fish.

This one may seem a little odd to some of you, but pescetarians live the longest, are the least prone to obesity and disease and are the healthiest in their old age of any group of people based on diet. The Okinawans, the Icelandic, the Sardinians and the Ikarians all live longer than the rest of the world, the Okinawans being notable for the old age of their women and the Icelandic for the oldest men in the world. They are all fitter and healthier, with lower rates of mental illness, heart disease, stroke and the general ailments of old age than anywhere else in the world.

Fish provides various forms of natural salts and minerals, a healthy balance of Omegas 3, 6 and 9, as well as some of the micronutrients that, as mentioned, we don’t eat enough of, like zinc, magnesium and selenium. It’s not surprising, therefore, that adding fish into your diet, swapping meat for fish or swapping dairy for fish makes you look younger and live longer than otherwise. Of course, you could seek out all these elements as supplements, but the benefits of whole fish and other seafood are undeniable.

However, again, we don’t really eat fish. And the main fish we eat are the lean, flavourless kinds that have been overcooked or fried in vegetable oil, if not deep fried. Seeing as Omega oils are a type of fat and micronutrients often have a strong taste, it’s not really surprising that what little fish we eat provides us no benefit whatsoever.

And those are the ten reasons that, as a population, we are aging prematurely. Between our low levels of activity, bland, highly calorific, highly artificial diets, stressed out bodies and low fluid intake, it isn’t really all that shocking that we’re starting to look and feel older at a much younger age. And that’s before you look at heavy drinkers and smokers, who age even more rapidly than their more moderate or abstinent peers.

What are your bad habits? Based on this, what can you do to age as nature intended? What are your tricks for avoiding these ten bad Western habits? Feel free to share in the comments!

TTFN and Happy… Fishing?

True Dichotomies.

In an age of “just so”, tiptoeing around subjects and euphemism, all dichotomies (that is, either-or choices) are presumed to be false. And we women are especially guilty of labeling all dichotomies as fake and all choices as being multiple option. Which makes sense, seeing as in most cases, there isn’t a dichotomy. You don’t have to be obese or a twig, a scientist or a mother. There are nuances, variables and middle grounds to real life. And, again, in humans’ minds, there are rarely two absolutes. Again, our ideologies, interests and opinions are nuanced, metered, situational. So, seeing as our minds are nuanced and the real world is nuanced, it is easy to conclude that there are no actual dichotomies whatsoever, let alone real ones that have impact.

Which is why we often have trouble understanding men.

You see, men may, for example, scale prospective partners based on attractiveness. You’re 8/10 for body, 6/10 for face, 10/10 (subjectively) for domestic skills, 7/10 for compatibility, etc. But at the end of the day, they add it up and either like you or don’t. Basically, you go from a 8, 6, 10, 7 out of 10, to a 31/40, to a 10/10, or a “yes”. Men have nuances, just like women. They aren’t cavemen whose only answers are “yes” and “no” and we don’t want to return to that stereotype. But men seem less likely to hedge all their bets and less likely to react in a nuanced manner than women are. They add up all the nuances and make a calculated decision. Regardless of whether you think it’s biological, cultural or a bit of both, women are more likely to hesitate and hedge bets and men are more likely to weigh the odds and create a dichotomy.

I could pad this out with tens of non-specific examples of male dichotomies in action, but really, when it is that simple, it’s just that simple… and when it isn’t, like all human behaviour it’s far too complicated and nuanced to explain however much I write.

So I leave you ladies with this.

Most of the time, a man either likes you or doesn’t like you, fancies you or doesn’t fancy you, hates you or doesn’t hate you, respects you or doesn’t respect you, cares about you or doesn’t care about you, wants to avoid you or doesn’t. The main middle ground seems to be indifference. It’s a bit like when he’s deciding to buy an item. Most of the time he will either immediately know he wants it and get it, or find doubt and talk himself out of it. Most men aren’t quite as hesitant to decide as we are, aren’t quite so worried about betting on every horse as we are, aren’t so incapable of reconciling conflicting ideas as we are. They can still see the nuances in life, but they try and work out which way the nuances lean. They still want to feel secure, but they feel more secure making a decision and sticking to it than staying undecided or open minded.

It may come across as bluntness, stubbornness, simplicity or pride, but in reality it’s a highly effective way of going through life. And if it works, don’t bash it.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

How To… freshen up.

So we’ve looked at our handbag contents and the basics we want to have to freshen ourselves up a little. But freshening up properly is also an art. Immaculate makeup makes messy or dirty hair stand out. Or smeared makeup can ruin a look completely. So what shall we keep on us to make sure we’re properly freshened up? And how do we go through the steps?

1: Your kit.

Depending on how long you’re out, you’ll want more or less. You can keep all of these on you at all times, but it isn’t necessary to go beyond the essential. For 0-3h: lips, eyes, comb, baby wipes, hair spray. For 3-7h add: makeup bag, hairbrush, aftershave, deodorant, nail kit, mouthwash. For 7h+ add: razor, tweezers, dry shampoo, baby oil, chewy toothbrush. For busy, sweaty or intense jobs, regardless of hours: lips, eyes, dry shampoo, hairbands, baby wipes, aftershave, deodorant.

2: 0-3h. Polish up.

If you’ve been running around a lot, been working for a few hours or just not quite feeling the love, this is what you’re going to do.

Wipe your armpits, neck and chest.

Touch up your lips, eyeliner and concealer.

Fix your hair.

3: 3-7h. Fixing up.

You’ve been on your feet a lot, maybe spilt coffee on your trousers, had to run from one office to another, had lunch or a snack and had an itch on your face that smeared your makeup a little. This process sounds like a lot, but is very quick and leaves you looking 9am-fresh.

Wipe your face down first, then your armpits, neck, chest and crotch. Then, pat armpits and inner thighs with a baby wipe moistened with aftershave, to kill any bacterial overload.

Make sure your nails are clean and not damaged.

Wash your mouth out.

Reapply your makeup.

Reapply deodorant and fix your hair.

4: 7h+. Sorting out.

So the work day is over or almost over and you haven’t had a chance to fix up, maybe not even to polish up! And to boot, there isn’t much time to tidy up, let alone to have a shower. You want to feel better, look nice for when you’re home or going on a date or meeting some more important clients and you have your freshening kit on the ready.

First of all, start chewing on your chewy toothbrush.

Now wipe down your face, armpits, neck, chest, crotch, hands and feet.

Pat every fold and crevice with an aftershave moistened baby wipe.

Use baby oil on dry feet and hands.

Check and fix up your nails.

Brush your hair and apply dry shampoo.

Reapply your makeup.

Reapply deodorant.

Brush out the dry shampoo.

Spit out the toothbrush and rinse your mouth.

5: Job specific.

If your job is very messy, sweaty or active, then here are some hints to help keep you fresh.

-First of all, if you’re not already doing it: dress for your job. Heavy makeup for a primary school teacher not only looks odd to parents, but will be ruined within hours. Think practical.

-Wipe down sweat every morning, use the aftershave trick and once it’s dry, apply 48h deodorant. This cleans you from night sweat, kills bacteria and locks in future sweat and smell.

-Keep spare hairbands, nail polish and a small sewing kit on hand. If you’re likely to break something once a week, keep spares just in case.

-Keep some good quality, skin-safe fabric cleaner at work. You never know when coffee, permanent marker, ketchup or oil may strike!

And that is how to freshen up.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

How do you freshen up? What is your job like? Do you have any helpful hints to share, or any tricks you’ve picked up over the years? Would love to hear them!

7 Handbag Essentials for the Recent Acquirer of a Handbag.

I am only just getting used to using handbags. You see, when I was younger in Spain, they were just fashion accessories. A girl had her satchel or backpack for school that also housed all her essentials and could be emptied out into a messy pile on the bed to reuse for girlscouts, going to a friend’s house or a picnic. Handbags were often put in backpacks or carried alongside your main bag. Sometimes they would complete an outfit on their own, but they were still tiny and had little to nothing in them. Being one of the “unfashionable” girls I, of course, had to be contrary and ignore them entirely, favouring the punk look of a tatty, drawn on, stickered backpack that I dragged with me everywhere. After all, if handbags were impractical accessories, I’d darn well not ever own one.

Another breed entirely was the “mummy handbag”. Always medium to large in size and still with T.A.R.D.I.S. properties that made us fairly certain there was everything down to a spare kitchen sink in there. They were often messy inside and, because they were big and not particularly decorative, few girls aspired to owning one. But whether we were tiny handbag connoisseurs or the rebel wild kids, we would hold a certain awe and respect for mummy handbags.

Coming to England, I discovered that mummy handbags are less for mums and more for everyone. They came in many attractive shapes and sizes. Ten year old girls even went to school with handbags instead of backpacks if they were lucky and the dress code allowed. A completely different culture.

Nevertheless, I was reluctant to adopt this alien behaviour. From age sixteen to age eighteen I clung onto my backpacks for school, work, shopping, everything. From age eighteen I adopted satchels and laptop carriers for uni and a huge rucksack for shopping and traveling. When Jon and I moved in together I stuck to an amorphous, heavy bag affectionately known as the “potato sack” for errands and my well worn, well loved leather satchel for work. I was handbag-phobic.

However I did somehow manage to accumulate some. Five, to be precise. A tiny leather one my grandmother owned. A fake leather purse of a similar size. A black and white handbag for going to fancy places. A tattier grey fabric one with fake leather features. And a suede patchwork one with a gazillion pockets. And somehow, their presence corrupted me. I found myself looking at my outfit for the day and wondering whether it was ruined by the giant rucksack I was carrying. And it often was. Because giant rucksacks, contrary to prior belief, do not go with everything.

But I’ve got very used to my giant rucksacks and all their practicalities. So, in the spirit of becoming more feminine, not ruining my look with a giant rucksack, actually putting my handbags to some use and keeping them as a practical item rather than an accessory, I worked out how to get started growing my very own organic mummy handbag. Now, be warned, these are merely the seedlings for your mummy handbag. They may seem like only a few things, but they will gradually grow and expand and fill the entire bag, causing the T.A.R.D.I.S. effect. This will happen naturally, without encouragement and often without your noticing until you start finding forks and small galaxies in there. Regular cutting back of your mummy handbag is required to keep it in good health.

1. The beauty kit.

If we’re talking about handbags as not just a bag to drop things in, but a feminine alternative to rucksacks and plastic bags, then we can’t neglect our beauty. After all, a nice outfit with a nice bag and messy hair and makeup looks as out of place as the same outfit with good hair and makeup and a giant rucksack.

So something to keep around is a beauty kit for light topups. What you’ll keep in it will of course vary based on what you wear. But as the trick of a mummy handbag is to have everything you might need ready to grab, the best idea is to keep a spare of every item you wear regularly and the sorts of things you might wear. Seeing as my makeup bag is very small and my handbag preference is medium, I can often just drop my makeup bag into my handbag, but you will need to keep smaller amounts of spares for smaller bags of if you use many different products.

Suggestions:

-Top ups for lips, eyes and concealer.

-Baby wipes.

-Small nail kit with scissors, file and clippers.

-Hairbrush or comb and dry shampoo can.

2. The first aid kit.

An essential to making the mummy handbag seem like magic. A well-stocked tiny first aid kit, prepared for all sorts of minor accidents and some major ones. A lot of the beauty kit can be reused here: wipes, cotton balls, clean nail scissors, etc. But the first aid kit needs to be kept separate and prepared for all sorts of common problems.

Imagine you’re not just trying to be ready for yourself, but for your friends or any passing stranger who may ask for a plaster or a throat soother.

Suggestions:

-Plasters of various shapes and sizes.

-Antiseptic.

-Cough pills/sweets/mints.

-Pads for blistered or corned feet.

-Sanitary products.

-Mild painkillers.

-Bandaging and sterile needle set.

3. The pens and paper.

In theory you should only ever need your phone for taking notes and writing down contact details. In reality, your phone relies on an often very limited battery, your notes can be lost at the touch of a button and not everywhere has pens and paper, even when they probably should.

To be prepared for everything you need a small assortment of pens and paper, preferably in a tiny folder or binder that fits neatly away into a single compartment of your handbag.

Suggestions:

-Four pens: two in black and two coloured.

-A reporter’s notepad.

-Post-it notes.

-An address book.

4. The charger supply.

Everyone needs chargers. We have phones, kindles, notebook computers and all sorts that we carry around with us. And we are mysteriously bad at remembering to charge all of them, all of the time. Even someone who’s normally quite good at remembering can have a bad day. So you need a supply of chargers.

Your options are two.

1:

-A multicharger.

-A smaller laptop charger.

-A power pack.

2:

-A USB plug. This is basically like any plug you us, except where the wire is meant to come out, there’s a USB port.

-Assorted USB chargers. These come in 2″ versions, so they don’t have to be full wires.

5. The wallet.

Everyone needs a good wallet. Even if it’s in the card compartment of your bag and not an actual, separate wallet. A good wallet contains various sources of real money, not many credit cards (to discourage overuse), any sources of discounts, any necessary ID, etc.

This is basically going to be everything you need if you are shopping, just stop somewhere and want something, need to show ID for any reason or want to donate your change.

Suggestions:

-A coin purse.

-Around £20 in notes and large coins.

-Debit cards.

-A credit card.

-Gift cards.

-Reward scheme cards.

-In-date coupons and vouchers organized by date.

-ID cards.

6. The “just in” case.

Yes, that was a terrible pun. This is a small case, bag, purse or section of your handbag that you use for emergency items. Pretty much anything you often find yourself looking for or lacking when you need it. What they are depends on who you are, who you’re often with and what you’re doing.

My bag:

-A tightly folded large carrier bag for shopping.

-Candy for students I may encounter.

-Matches.

-A Nakd bar for hunger.

7. The entertainment centre.

For when you or whoever you’re with are unexpectedly bored. These are things to fill the spare minutes at work, to keep you busy waiting for the bus or to keep your kids quiet in the back of the car.

Your entertainment centre needs to have a variety of forms of entertainment for everyone you may need to distract. I largely need just to distract myself, but you may need to consider your partner, children or friends. Good ideas are travel games you can fold away and move or arts and crafts.

My bag:

-Current sewing project.

-Small artists pad and charcoal.

-Travel chequers.

-Headphones for my phone.

And those are my suggestions for starting your own all-eventualities-covered mummy handbag.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What is in your handbag? Why do you carry certain things? What situations do you like to be covered for?