Wine issue 3 – unusual regions

We all tend to be aware of the big wine producers, I mean even if you don’t give that much thought to where your vino comes from, if you found yourself on Pointless you would know that to say France, Italy or Australia would get you a pretty high score, right?

OK, so how about those countries that might get you a lower score, and more importantly are the wines worth trying?

Well, within Europe there are the slightly less obvious countries like Austria and Romania who produce some lovely stuff, although Romania make some sweeter reds (not pudding wines, just sweeter red wines) that aren’t to my taste personally. But how about Moldova? They’ve been making wine there for centuries but it’s never been on the mainstream list. Or at the other end of the spectrum, both weather and wine history-wise, Denmark has fairly recently come onto the wine scene. I’ll admit I have never tried a Danish wine, however, and I’m not sure how well you’d fare trying to get some from your local Tesco, but you might get a nice low score on Pointless!

And further afield? Well one of the very nicest wines I’ve ever tasted was from Canada. There’s an area in British Columbia which has a very similar micro climate to the Alsace region in France, and their ice wines are phenomenal. In Japan a third of the wine consumed is locally made. But interestingly (or not, depending on your view point) only a quarter of that is from grapes grown in Japan.

On the list of wine producing countries by quantity for 2014 (I can’t find a more recent one), Italy produces the most, only just ahead of Spain and then France. You might be surprised to discover Australia is 8th on the list, producing less than a quarter of Italy’s total – certainly if you look in any UK supermarket you’d be forgiven for believing the Aussies churned out a lot more!

And at the bottom of the list? Here’s your Pointless answer: Reunion. Yup, that little island in the Indian Ocean. Still a French territory, so I suspect that might explain a bit of it.

What wines have you tried from unusual places? I’d love to know in the comments.

New year – new you? NO!

This time of year there’s all this “new year, new you” stuff being bandied about, as though the old you was a bit rubbish and the only way to survive the new year is to change your entire self. And how long will it take for you to “fail” at that? I’ll give it a couple of days, maybe a week. Who you are is who you are, you don’t need to become a new you!

However, there may be some changes you want to make, and the start of a new year can feel like a good time to address old habits and start creating some new ones. Gym memberships always go sky high in January, but I’m not sure how many of those people actually continue going. Slimming clubs make a small fortune in January from people buying into the idea that by watching their syns or their points they will somehow ditch all their old habits and become some new slinky creature, who is no longer affected by past troubles.

My issue with the gyms and the slimming clubs is that neither addresses why the person hasn’t made the changes before. Why they want to make a change. What success looks like. What has got in the way before. What are the current barriers. I mean, with all the will in the world, someone who works full time and has small children can pay a gym membership until they are blue in the face, but they still won’t have more time in the day, so ultimately they’ll stop going. Someone who comfort eats when life is stressful or work is tough won’t stop doing that just because their points are adding up.

In both instances we need to look at what is behind the habit that the person wants to change. Look at what little switches they can make to alter old habits – for good. Not put a one size fits all solution onto them, but actually…. LISTEN. Yep, I know, imagine that. A conversation about what is holding someone back, and working out what will encourage them forwards.

This is how I like to work. I like to be my clients’ biggest supporter, their confidante, the person who accepts that life happens and setbacks come along, but who is still there throughout and indeed after. I am by no means a counsellor or life coach, but as someone with plenty of experience of being unfit and overweight, I have probably felt how many of  my clients feel. I get it.

So, if in 2018 you want to address some habits that have been holding you back or that are getting you down, I would love to support you through that. If you think that just because it’s a new year suddenly everything will change, in a flash of glitter, then I can’t promise anything!

Give me a shout. Let’s Skype and see how I can help…

A few lunch suggestions

With many clients, we talk about how food can work with us rather than against us. I love really simple yet effective lunch ideas, so here are a few of them:

 

Easy Humous

Ingredients: 1 can chick peas, 1 tub cream cheese, 1 teaspoon tahini

Method: blend together

Serve as: dip for carrot sticks, sandwich filling, wrap filling

 

Easy fish pate

Ingredients: 2 smoked mackerel fillets (or hot smoked salmon), 1 tub cream cheese, 1 dessert spoon drained capers

Method: blend together

Serve as: spread on Melba toasts or oat cakes, dip for sliced cucumber, wrap filling, sandwich filling

 

Quick salmon pasta

Ingredients: pasta, courgette, smoked salmon, crème fraiche

Method: while the pasta is boiling, fry the sliced courgette until it is lightly browned on both sides. Drain the pasta. Mix the pasta, chopped smoked salmon and crème fraiche into the courgettes and quickly warm through

Serve as: main dish

 

Chorizo spinach mix

Ingredients: chorizo, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, spinach, mozzarella

Method: fry the sliced chorizo, when it’s cooked add the halved cherry tomatoes and pine nuts, after a minute, stir through the spinach until it wilts, make dents in the mix and divide the mozzarella into them. Serve when the mozzarella has gone gooey

Serve as: main dish

 

Chilli, garlic and prawn linguine

Ingredients: 1 bird eye chilli, 1 clove garlic, raw prawns, 1 dessert spoon olive oil, linguine

Method: while the linguine is cooking, lightly fry the chopped chilli, and add the finely chopped garlic. Before either browns, add the prawns and mix the cooked pasta through

Serve as: main dish

 

Simple salmon

Ingredients: salmon fillet, bag of stir fry veg, lime juice, soy sauce

Method: put the salmon fillet in tin foil with some lime juice and soy sauce, make the foil into a parcel around the salmon and cook in the oven for about 15 mins. In the man time, heat some oil in a pan and stir fry the veg. As it’s nearly done (takes about 5 mins in total to stir fry, usually) add some lemon juice and soy sauce. Serve the veg with the salmon fillet on top

Serve as: main dish

 

Avocado and salmon open sandwich

Ingredients: hot smoked salmon, avocado, sour dough bread, rocket

Method: toast the bread, mash the avocado and spread it onto the toast, sprinkle hot smoked salmon and rocket on top. If you’re feeling really indulgent, add a poached egg.

Serve as: main dish

 

Pesto

Ingredients: basil, pine nuts, roasted garlic, olive oil, cheese (ideally parmesan)

Method: blend all the ingredients together to taste

Serve as: a pasta sauce, a topping on salmon fillet, an alternative to butter in a mozzarella and tomato sandwich, a drizzle on a salad.

 

If you’d like help with your food ideas, please do contact me.

 

 

Wine issue 2 – Northern Rhone

I’ll start by telling you this is my MOST FAVOURITE wine area ever. Seriously, if (when?) I were to win the lottery I would invest in so much of the beautiful wine from this region, alongside some top Champagnes, but I’ll come onto those in another post!

The Rhone Valley can be looked at in two parts – North and South. There are a few bits and pieces in the middle, including the very yummy Clairette de Die, but let’s not get distracted. From the South Rhone you get such lovelies as Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape, but again, that’s for another post.

The North Rhone is almost entirely planted to the Syrah grape. Syrah was long believed to have originated in the Iranian town of Shiraz, but in the late 90s a study in California found it to be the offspring of two other French grape varieties (Duereza and Mondeuse Blanche). Syrah is the name the grape goes under in France, and the Old World; while it is called Shiraz elsewhere.

So, when I win the lottery, what will I buy? Hermitage. Just so much Hermitage. This wine is all grown in a small area on the hill above the town of Tain l’Hermitage. It is made primarily from Syrah, but is permitted to also contain up to 15% of a mix of Roussanne and Marsanne (both white grapes). It is a wine that just blows your senses away, from the initial smell, through to the final end taste. And yes, I am straying into wine reverie and remembering tasting notes I have written over the years.

Just as a little aside, let me run through how to taste a wine properly:

Look – the first thing to do is to look at it in the glass. You can see if it’s past it by one quick look, so you can end up writing off a wine just from the first pour, if it’s been sitting in a wine rack a bit too long. Yep, if you pour a red wine and it comes out brick red, it’s probably past it. Back to my North Rhone wines, they should be a beautiful dark red, going to clear at the very edge of the wine.

Smell – next up you smell the wine. Put your nose right into the glass and get a good whiff (there’s a reason tasting samples are small, it’s so you don’t end up with a wet nose at this point!). With a Hermitage (and, for the purposes of generalisation, all the North Rhone red wines) you’ll find amazing smells of tobacco, pine, leather, smoke. Honestly, it’s just so beautiful.

Taste – at this point the aim is NOT to glug it, it’s to taste it. So take a small sip and hold it in the middle of your mouth, then breathe through it. Adding air will allow the wine to reach all your taste receptors and give you so many more flavours than you might have expected. Your Hermitage will give you flavours of blackberries, violet, spices.

If I were at a formal tasting, I would be jotting down these characteristics on every wine I taste. These big formal trade tastings that used to be a part of my life were a funny mix of older men in tweed and some of the younger wine merchants, all wandering around tasting in the order they choose, scribbling reminders so that when they get back to the office they know which to order and which to avoid. I used to find that people were very protective of their own notes, a bit like when, at primary school, you’d hide your work so the person next to you couldn’t copy!

Back to the real world, what does a North Rhone wine go well with? Well the immediate answer is lamb. Honestly, if there is a food-pairing made in heaven it’s Syrah and lamb. Early in my wine days I remember going for dinner with Dad, and we had a Crozes-Hermitage (from the same place, albeit a larger area and the next tier down of grape quality, so a bit more affordable) with a lamb dish. It was my first realisation of quite how much wine and food can compliment each other. If I tell you this was in 2000, so 17 years ago, you’ll understand what a big eye opener that meal was. There are a few other meals along the way that I’m sure I’ll refer to in these posts, that have given me the “aha” moment about different regions and food pairings. Dad has been present at many of them!

OK, so maybe you’ve never really explored the North Rhone as a region, maybe you’ve never really thought about smelling and tasting your wine, maybe you’ve stuck to the red with meat, white with fish (I’ll challenge that at some point, don’t worry) rule. This weekend, go and try a North Rhone wine. Be open minded when you smell it and jot down everything you can smell. Don’t think when you first taste it and note everything you can taste. I can only hope you’ll enjoy it a fraction of how much I do.

And to save you standing staring blankly in the red wine aisle here are some great wines to try (to suit various budgets, see why I need that lottery win now?):

Crozes Hermitage, Cave de Tain; Sainsburys£8.50 a bottle

Crozes Hermitage “Petite Ruche” 2015, M.Chapoutier; Majestic Wine£18.99 a bottle

Cornas, Jean Luc Columbo, Terres Brulees; Waitrose Wine Cellars£34.99 a bottle

Hermitage, Jean-Louis Chave, Rouge 2011; Yapp Wines£199 a bottle

 

 

Happiness

I have been trying to write this post for a few days now, and it keeps feeling a bit trite, as though in talking about happiness I am playing down the seriousness of mental health issues that so many people face. However, having heard that yet another friend is suffering with depression, I am determined to get this out there.

For far too long it has been taboo to talk about depression, anxiety, and so on. Stress has become a synonym for “far too busy being important” in too many people’s parlance, when actually stress need not have anything to do with work. Depression is an awful, dark place that I wouldn’t wish on anyone; along with anxiety it isn’t something the sufferer can “snap out of”, and yet all too often I hear people are advised that by acquaintances, even friends.

Personally I have always considered myself a happy person. I am very lucky in this regard. But I have had several periods of low mood, and more recently of intangible stress – it manifested itself as broken sleep, constant worry, disinterest in things that usually cheer me, getting slower and slower in my training, no energy, and many other things. I say intangible because it wasn’t associated directly to my job, my home life, money, whatever; but it caused me to worry irrationally about all those things.

OK, this is all a bit bleak, you’re meant to be talking about happiness, Emily!!

Knowing that my default setting is happy, I now make a conscious effort to notice things that make me smile, that lift my mood, that make me feel better. Today, for example, it’s the colour of the autumn leaves and it’s the toasted teacakes we had for breakfast (haven’t had any in years, desperately NEEDED them today!).

This ties in with the idea of mindfulness, being present, living in the moment. All these things help us to find the simple happiness in life, as they take us away from the stresses and worries that otherwise can engulf us.

Often people suffering with low mood, and worse, are told (helpfully!) that exercise will help. While this is undoubtedly true – exercising releases endorphins which lift mood – telling someone who is depressed that getting out there and running will magically make them feel better is like telling someone who is overweight that if they “just lose some weight” they’ll get healthier. We all know these things in our conscious mind, but illness or our subconscious can be so much stronger than just knowing the facts.

So, how do we find happiness? In doing little things: small bits of movement, small acts of kindness, small changes of food to be healthier; and building up to doing these things more. I’m not suggesting I have a cure for depression, but I do believe everyone can find a moment or two of happiness in their day.

In all my work with my clients I try to keep clear in my mind the trilogy of kindness, happiness and playfulness. When we speak on Skype, we look at how adding exercise will make someone happier, how it can become an act of self-kindness, and how being playful can fulfil that. If that sounds like your sort of way to get more active, do have a look at my Jumpstart plans. There is no taboo around mental health with me.

Kindness

On a lovely dog walk with a friend recently we were talking about what I wanted to achieve with my Jumpstart programme. The overwhelming thing was kindness.

By this I don’t mean going and giving all your worldly goods to charity, or taking a steaming pot of  stew to an elderly neighbour, although those are great things to do. What I mean is kindness to yourself.

Huh?

All too often we think of everyone else’s needs before our own. Got children? You put them before you. Got a partner? Their needs are pretty high up. Friends? Yep, you’ll rush to help them out. Animals? They need to be cared for. You? Sorry, who? ME? I don’t have time to be kind to me!!

OK, let’s put this another way around: if you never make time to be kind to number one, you’ll run out of steam to help everyone else. So rather than saying “I don’t have time to be kind to me”, let’s try “how can I make time for me?” I’m thinking maybe 10 minutes. How about you grab 10 minutes before the chaos of the day and do some yoga stretches? Or take 10 minutes at lunchtime and walk around the block? Or include the family – take 10 minutes before dinner and all dance like loons around the living room.

Kindness, in this context, is about giving yourself the time to keep having the energy for everyone else.

If you’re struggling with how to find the time, or what to do to fit little bits of activity in, why not join our Community over on facebook. Lots of hints and tips on how to get a bit more active and ultimately be kind to yourself, and all while surrounded by lovely kind people.

Wine Friday issue 1 – Prosecco.

I asked a business group I’m in on Facebook whether they felt it was appropriate for someone promoting moving more and getting active to blog about wine. The answer was a resounding yes. I used to be a wine merchant, have various wine qualifications, and love a glass of good wine in the evening, so why not share the love?

So the plan is that I will talk about a wine region, a grape variety, a method of wine-making, something oenological (love that word) on the first Friday of each month. Sound good?

I thought I’d start with Prosecco. It’s just so popular at the moment, and much more affordable than many other sparkling wines. OK, so we all know it as the lovely light bubbly wine we can grab for £7 a bottle in the supermarket, but how much more is there to know?

Region: Prosecco is named after the village it originated from, and can now be produced in nine provinces in northern Italy.

Grapes: It is primarily made from the Glera grape (formerly known as Prosecco), but up to 15% of the total can come from another 8 different varietals, including Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio.

Why isn’t it as expensive as Champagne? Well, now here’s the thing. It’s all about how it gets its bubbles. There are 2 ways of making wine fizzy – secondary fermentation (after the first fermentation which makes the wine alcoholic, a 2nd lot of yeast is added and the fermentation of this makes the bubbles – simplistic explanation, but it’ll do!) or CO2 injection (think soda stream).

The latter is only used in really cheapy wines (that’s why Lambrini girls have so much fun…), with the former being used in pretty much all sparkling wines from the most expensive Champagnes down to the cheapest of Proseccos. HOWEVER, the difference between the Champagne method (methode classique) and the Prosecco method (Charmat-Martinotti) is that in Prosecco the secondary fermentation takes place in large stainless steel tanks, and the wine is bottled already fizzy. Champagne has its secondary fermentation in the bottle, but I’m not going to elaborate on that now – Champagne will be for my December wine post!

In short, then, Prosecco manages to be lighter in taste than other sparkling wines because of the grape varieties used, lighter in age because it needs to be drunk young due to the way it’s made, and lighter in price because of the tank method of secondary fermentation.

Don’t know about anyone else, but having given this all this thought I know what I’ll be supping while I watch Strictly this weekend.

Cin cin!

 

Success stories

Being terribly British, I’m not one to sing my own praises. However, as my clients’ biggest supporter I am desperate to sing their praises and share their successes. While I may have shoved these clients in the right direction, only they have ultimately made the changes in their life. That’s pretty cool, right? I am privileged enough to be involved in big changes. Wow.

I am genuinely honoured when people choose to start their fitness journey with me. I’m touched beyond belief when someone who has always considered the exercise world to be out of their reach trusts me enough to make the little changes I suggest. I could do a happy dance every single time someone does something they had always believed was beyond their reach, something “other people” do.

Give us some examples then, Emily…

Client A – she sidled up to me at a networking event about 6 months ago and quietly said “I think I need your help”. We started working together a few weeks later, when the time was right for her. At that point she was battling various health issues and had to allow 45 minutes to walk to work partly to give her time to catch her breath, partly because her knees were so sore. After only a couple of months of us doing a 30 minute session a week and her then doing shorter sets while dinner was cooking (with an emphasis on building leg strength so her knees were supported), and with some small switches in her food, she had a medical follow up which showed she had lost 7% body fat. Wow.

Fast forward another 3 months and we ran together for the first time. I think she had expected we’d do maybe 1km, or that after a couple of minutes she’d be crawling on the floor gasping for breath. Nope. 3.5km in half an hour. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Oh, and that walk to work – now takes 7 (SEVEN) minutes.

Client B – she has always felt exercise was for those fit people. She never felt it could possibly be enjoyable. It was some sort of torture people did, and the effort of even getting to a gym or other fitness gathering point was tiring enough to mean the class she might have set out to take part in would be off the cards by the time she arrived. In an early Skype conversation she mentioned her husband has a stationary bike “he goes on there for an hour at a time, you’ll never get me on there”. I suggested it might be a good warm up. For 3 minutes, before doing some other exercises at home. Maybe while listening to a podcast.

A couple of months later, and after a pause when life, family, cake, got in the way, we got back to speaking regularly and establishing where we were with the stationary bike. 2 mins was enough, with a short at home session after it. We’re building back up. What she didn’t notice was that the other day when we spoke on Skype she answered downstairs and so had to walk up 2 flights of stairs to get to her office, where we always speak. No being out of puff; she kept chatting to me the whole way up the stairs.

Client C – she has wanted to make some changes, to get more active, to work with her body again. We started out with some at home exercises, including doing some sessions together over Skype, so she stayed accountable. Then, a couple of months ago, she decided it was time to face her fear (phobia, fear belittles it) of swimming. Working with a life coach friend, Debi, she addressed the phobia, and then she gave me the great honour of being the person she wanted in the water with her when she first took a dip.

 

I am passionate about helping people get started. I can’t put into words how amazing it feels to hear and see these wonderful women discover that actually they CAN.

It may be odd to say, but I don’t want to work with people who are already going to the gym. For me, there’s no fun in that. There are lots of people who do that. But being trusted with someone’s first foray into getting more active? For me, that’s just awesome.

Loo vs exercise!

I saw an article yesterday saying that the average Brit spends more time on the loo than they do exercising. (You can read the full article here)

OK, the headline is pretty powerful, but actually the facts are scary. Apparently the majority of us spend double the time on the loo than we do exercising.

I’m just going to give this a little consideration. Double the time on the loo than exercising.

Nope, saying it again isn’t making it any less shocking.

Right. How do we change this? Well, we start multitasking (not while on the loo – I’m not encouraging Zumba at the same time, or anything like that, don’t worry!!). We can do exercise while cooking. We can add in some activity while brushing our teeth. There are so many ways to fit more time being active into even the busiest of lives.

I am a firm believer that little changes equal big results. If I ask a client to do an hour of exercise everyday, she’ll most likely fail after a week. That’s not a harsh indictment of my clients, it’s a realistic view that someone who is currently inactive won’t do an hour a day. It’s too big. It’s daunting. It’s terrifying. It doesn’t get done. Failure occurs.

So what do my clients do? They start with what is achievable. With what will bring about success. If that’s 5 minutes a day for the first week, and it gets completed, then it’s a win. We can move onto 10 minutes in week two. 10 minutes a day, 6 days a week is suddenly an hour of exercise. For someone who was previously inactive. Awesome.

Now according to the article about the loo, we spend 3 hours (and 9 minutes, but I’ll over look the 9 mins for now) on it a week. Well, working on my building activity levels theory that’s 30 mins a day, 6 days a week. In the mantra of little changes equalling big results, and in the mindset of wanting to bring about success not failure, I would rather my client completes her 30 minutes in whatever way works for her – that might be a brisk walk to work in the morning (10 mins), a 10 minute dash to the shops at lunchtime and then 10 minutes of exercises she can do while getting dinner ready in the evening. Voila, 30 minutes a day on work days and we’ll work out what is fun exercise for the weekend. It might be a longer walk. It might be roller skating. It doesn’t matter – by this point she only needs 30 more minutes and she’s beaten the stats in the article. Winning!

In my head there’s a really good punchline here about movement being about more than bowels, but I’ll erm leave that there!

Seriously, though, if you or someone you know fits the bill for this, please put them in touch with me. I’d love to have a Skype chat with them to see how we can fit more activity into their everyday life, and get them away from being a statistic.

Willpower

Of late I have found myself having quite a lot of conversations in which the topic of willpower has come up. It’s got me thinking about the wider implications of the word.

There is a widely held belief (or certainly it’s portrayed in the language we use) that things fall into “good” and “bad” or “naughty”. Take food, for example: I regularly have people confessing to all the “bad” or “naughty” food they have eaten recently, as though in telling me they’ll somehow absolve themselves. Or maybe I’m expected to berate them and be pious about the fact I never eat anything “naughty”. This conversation inevitably leads to the confessor reaching their own conclusion that they have no willpower and therefore they’re a failure.

Here’s the thing. I don’t ever eat anything “naughty”. I enjoy salads, I enjoy pizzas, I enjoy wine, I enjoy chocolate. I don’t like coffee or tea. I don’t like pineapple. The difference is in my labelling of these things. Over the years I have learnt that my internal language is the only thing that helps or hinders me. If I tell myself I have no willpower because I eat chocolate, I will eat more chocolate, feel guilty, feel a failure, eat more chocolate. And repeat. If I tell myself I can have some chocolate, I will eat the amount I want AND THEN STOP. Because I have permission to eat all of it.

The same goes with exercise. I don’t have any willpower for exercising. I go for a run because I enjoy running. But (unless I’m training for a specific event, and need to cover a specific distance) I am allowed to turn around at the top of the road. If when I get to the top of the road I want to carry on, then that’s what I’ll do.

Am I rambling? The point I’m making is that the word willpower needs to go in the should box. It’s an external pressure “oh well I should do some exercise, because, you know, society thinks I should” vs “I want to do some exercise because I want to be more active”. External pressures inevitably lead to guilt because we can’t ever meet the expectations of this external someone who is applying the pressure. And so we believe we have no willpower. And so we feel guilty. And so we have some more chocolate and do no exercise. Cos, well, we have no willpower, right?

My biggest piece of advice for having willpower is to stop requiring willpower. Reword your inner monologue. Get rid of ALL SHOULDS. Replace the ones you like with WILL, and get rid of the ones you don’t want in your life.

I should go for a run = I won’t go and then I’ll feel guilty and tell myself I have no willpower.

I will go for a run = I will run because I have chosen to, and I didn’t need willpower.

Everytime you catch a should creeping in, ask yourself if the sentence is right with will in place of should. If it isn’t, don’t do it. There’s no guilt, it just wasn’t right for you right now.

Permission granted to say no when things aren’t for you and to feel zero guilt for it.