That Man’s a Women! Writing as a Man

I was watching Netflix and came across The Wife, I seemed to remember it had been nominated for a Bafta so thought it was worth seeing. This film is about the wife of a successful writer, played by the wonderful Glenn Close, who’s husband is awarded a Nobel Prize for literature. The plot then goes back decades to when they first met and you start to see their life together unravelling and a secret they have kept is discovered by an annoying journalist. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but it shows the male-dominated publishing world and how badly women writers were treated at the time.

This got me thinking about woman writers in the past and how many had written under a male pseudonym to publish their work. Even Agatha Christe one of the worlds top- selling authors considered writing as Martyn Waites or Mostyn Gray, luckily, she changed her mind. I recently read the autobiography of the Bronte Sisters who started writing short stories as Currer, Ellis and Acton. When asked about this, Charlotte Bronte stated that;

We didn’t want to declare ourselves as women, because at the time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what was called feminine. We had a vague impression that authoresses were looked on with prejudice”

George Sands otherwise known as Amantine Lucile Dupin, one of the 19th centuries most prolific writers was also one of the most controversial, appearing in Parisian society wearing men’s clothing and smoking. I think in the main to prove a point.

Woman writers who had achieved success under their own names, often still wrote under a male non de plumes, if they wanted to produce non-romantic novels. Louisa May Alcott, the writer of the children’s classic Little Women, wrote gothic thrillers as A M Barnard.

George Elliot otherwise, Mary Ann Evans, was a leading Victorian novelist who wrote Middlemarch, which was regarded as one on the greatest books of the time. She wrote politicly astute social history of the time and felt that a male alias would prevent female stereotyping. A common thought amongst many famous female writers.

Of course, today we are living in enlightened times, so this should not need to still happen? However, when Joanne Rowling’s was publishing her first Harry Potter Book, her publisher’s felt that a young, male target audience would prefer to read a book by a male author. So, she became the ambiguous J K Rowling.

Women’s books continue to be reviewed by other woman in the main, whilst woman critics review books by both sexes. Surely there is a market for both male and women writers, it feels archaic that double standards still exist.

I finish with a quote from a male writer, as I would hate to be accused of prejudice myself.

Male writers obsess about establishing a reputation whilst ignoring the importance of just writing something good!



Set the Mood with Fragrance

I love fragrance having a selection of scents I wear for different occasions, work, holidays, evenings out and even days off. I would never wear my every-day scent for a special occasion, brides often have a new fragrance to get married in for this reason. Having a daily spritz of perfume is a really good start to my day! Perfume is for wearing all the time in my view.

Do not underestimate the power of fragrance. Scents are often described in the same way as someone’s personality; delicate, bold, soft, confident. In many ways’ fragrance enforces or helps to give the wearer these qualities and more.

Some scents uplift, some promote calm and some raise your confidence level. A scent can help to empower when confidence and reassurance are needed most: a job interview or first date or special occasion. Earthy scents like Oud and Patchouli can be sexy and bold, some like Cedarwood are more subtle. Rose is feminine and calming, dealing with matters of the heart and attracting love. Jasmine is the essential oil of love and seduction and as anti-depressant raises the senses. Herby scents like Vetiver and Rosemary are grounding, giving focus and helping with emotional stress. Neroli enhances confidence and has a feel-good factor, so it is hardly surprising that these notes are used in many popular perfumes. At the start of the 20th century woman’s scents were soft and delicate like Lily of the Valley; it was the suffragettes who wanted a more masculine fragrance and didn’t want to smell of flowers as they wanted to be taken more seriously by men. In 1919, the House of Caron invented Tabac Blond, a woody scent which was to be the first feminist fragrance as well as changing the perfume industry.

As I said in my last post 75% of how you feel is triggered by smell. The sense of smell is processed in the limbic system which is the primary seat of all memories, emotions and gut reactions. Which helps to explain why we react so strongly to scent.

It is a powerful tool to enhance and entice those around you, as well as motivating yourself. A memorable fragrance can be a personal statement. Fashions and trends do affect scents although many of the best perfumes, in my opinion at least, do transcend trends and are ageless in appeal. At the current time there is a shift towards minimal and optimistic fragrances, a need for calm in an uncertain world but also an increased awareness of well-being. Lighter version of popular fragrances like Opium and Chanel no 5 have been introduced. Very few women or men want to wear overpowering heavy scent. Some perfume houses like Tom Ford formulate bold, rich scents but these do not take your breath away, there is subtly with the strength, a bit like someone with great wealth who provokes confidence and power in a silent way.

Some modern fragrances are more like medicinal tinctures, with herbal qualities giving a sense of emotional and physical good health. The surprising popularity of the niche perfume house of Escentic Molecules shows the move away from traditional perfumery. Geza Scohen produces aroma-molecules that do not exist in nature. This is art meeting chemistry, very much about the mood of the wearer as these perfumes bond with receptors in the olfactory system. They smell different on each person.

It could be said at the current time when we are confined to our homes and have to stay 6 feet away from others why bother to use a perfume, well I would say why not for yourself. Is there anyone more important?

perfume 4-COLLAGE

Scent Yourself Happy

I love scents, I don’t think they are for special occasions they are for everyday usage!

Research has shown that smelling citrus for 10 minutes can boost your mood for up to ½ hour. A quick spritz of perfume can transform how you feel for the day. Most days I spray myself with Frangipani and Grapefruit, an artisan perfume from The Bathhouse, which uplifts and energises me for the day ahead. Its quite a summery fragrance but I wear it in winter to remind me of summer days.  Now 75% of how we feel is trigged by smell so can we use scent to feel happier? Well, the perfume industry spends a small fortune on advertising the facts that wearing their perfume will transform your life. Some like Clinique actually call their perfume Happy, there are now Happy Peace and Happy lily of the Beach perfumes, I guess for different types of happiness, these have a mix of Grapefruit, lemon, Jasmine and Bergamot. (All known for their uplifting and anti-depressant qualities) Joe Malone, has a best-selling Lime, Basil and Mandarin scent, which combines Mandarin which is soothing and restful with Lime which is vibrant and uplifting with herby Basil. So perhaps there is something in this theory after all.

Aromachology- is the study of how smell effects behaviours. Scientists tell us that nerve endings in the nose send messages to the brain. When developing a new fragrance, Shiseido used this research for their scent Rising Sun this is a blend of Coconut, citrus and Ylang-Ylang notes carefully chosen to energize. Neom, who use essential oils and aromatherapy in their products have a new range of natural perfumes to make you feel good, using grapefruit, jasmine, rosemary and vetiver to boost your mood and energy.

Fresher citrus, herby and aquatic notes will give emotions of well-being and perfumes with more top notes than base notes are generally more uplifting. (Base notes are usually spicy) Sea air is charged with negative hydrogen ions which balance serotonin, the feel-good hormone which stabilizes moods, and gives a feeling of happiness. I find walking along the seashore and smelling the sea breeze really relaxing, I think that’s one of the things that people look forward to going on holiday for, in absence of actually smelling the sea air an aquatic scent would be a great boost for the moment.

I hope you are going to treat yourself to a scent you can spritz daily, this is very much about self-care rather than a luxury for occasional use. Companies that favour natural ingredients are better for your skin and health than brands that are chemically formulated.

Have fun exploring and hopefully scent yourself happy!

happy 2-COLLAGE

perfume 1perfume 3


Chelsea Flower Show

For the first time since World War 11 the Chelsea Flower Show in London has been cancelled. However, due to the wonders of technology a virtual version will be shown on BBC2 next week, so many of us can sign of breath of relief. The Chelsea Flower show comes in for a fair bit of criticism in that it is elitist and highbrow and caters only for a snobbish Middle England minority and that it has no place in the modern world. Well, there is no bad language, anti-social behaviour or nudity and so far has resisted the temptation to be dumped down to the level of Celebrity TV to raise it’s viewing figures. For many this is a week of  pure escapism to view stunning gardens, beautiful flowers and listen to Monty Don. There have been gardens for Veterans, Windrush and Mental Health in the past. Creating a garden is making a sanctuary, it has health benefits, is a way of been out in the fresh air and keeping fit. The creative rewards are rich too and gardening is a great healer. ( In lieu of a garden, window boxes are great fun)

I have attached some lovely images from The Chelsea garden show 2019.


chelsea garden 6chelseachelsea 5chelsea 1chelsea 3chelsea 2chelsea 6chelsea 4

Great British Menu 2020- Children’s Literature

I watch the great British menu every year its always a highlight of my year, the imaginative cooking and wonderful props get better each year. This year children’s literature was celebrated it was a worthy cause and the theme lent itself to some expectational cooking! All the dishes produced for the banquet were based on children’s books, many classics were used such as The Railway Children, the Secret Garden, Willy Wonka, Wind in the Willows and of course modern classics like Harry Potter.

When I think about childhood memories, I do think of certain foods and books and in many ways, these are linked together. Food is expressed in children’s literature often in a special way: An English tea or Birthday party, a picnic, learning to bake, Easter egg hunting, Christmas dinner, a trip out to the sweetshop or to buy ice cream. As a child, I remember going to the sweet shop once a week with my pocket money and sitting in the park with my Grandmother with peas still in their pods in a brown paper bag, I still love popping peas. I often think of these times with much fondness.

Reading is one of greatest pleasure, I have been an avid reader since childhood and believe all children should be encouraged to read from an early age, as it sparks their imagination. So, it’s great to see a TV show promoting something so worthwhile and often over-looked.

The banquet was held for writers, teachers and children, many of whom are book critics or writers themselves. The meal started with a Harry Potter mini bouche complete with a Hogwarts train, followed by a Narnia inspired starter displayed in a wardrobe, then, a fish dish, inspired by Phillip Pullmans Witches of the Northern Light complete with cauldron, potions and spell books, the main dish was Mr MacGregors garden, from Beatrix Potter, with regional food from the Yorkshire Dales and vegetables buried in plant pots in edible soil, a pre-dessert of Lime Green Granita so vibrant it looked radioactive followed by an edible book of rice paper, my  favourite dessert of the season. I loved eating rice paper as a child as it often decorated the top of fairy cakes.

This is still available on BBC player and the whole series is worth seeing as it is really inspirational, imaginative and great fun.

In the UK we have so many talented young chefs who have elevated cooking to an art form. I can’t wait to see how next years Great British Menu can trump this one!

book 1

Kitchen Gardening

I think many thinks have come full circle.  (Before Isolation that is!) My great-uncle grew vegetables on his freeholding and  delivered these from house to house in a small van, does this sound familiar? Many of the top and emerging chefs talk about eating in season and quite a few have started growing their own vegetables and herbs, some even have farms. Not many of us are fortunate enough to have a Kitchen Garden (a separate area for growing plants) unless you have a huge garden, but allotments have become hugely popular and small portable greenhouses are readily available and affordable and fit in small gardens.

On my travels in Spain, I looked after a couple of Kitchen Gardens and it was very rewarding, we grew: tomatoes, peppers, leeks, onions, melons and strawberries and had Mint and Lemon Verbena planted in the garden and then added Basil, Chives and Thyme in large pots on the patio. These can be grown on a window sill if you have enough light coming in. The feeling of picking vegetables then cooking and serving them is very special, the freshness and flavour far better than anything in a supermarket.

Gardening is seen as a great way to relieve stress and also get some exercise, but I also think its more than that, we have lost touch with so many things in the modern world, where our food comes from, what is seasonal.  (polytunnels have a lot to answer for) There is something very grounding, no punt intended, about digging into soil and starting to understand and appreciate the miracle that is nature.

I don’t know if you follow astrology but some of the qualities of earth signs are; Nurturing, seeking to draw things together in order to bring harmony and stability, well-balanced, planning for the future. Its almost a description of a gardener planting food that will feed people for years to come.

I don’t currently have an area to garden at home, but hope in the future I do, so for now I will have to just keep watching Gardens World and keep dreaming!


Lockdown Diet

A bit of an Oxymoron this one. (Two words that don’t go together) Prior to lockdown I had a change of diet, I have had a knee injury for a while and been unable to exercise so had put on some extra weight. I decided I needed to make some improvements to my diet and hopefully lose a stone in weight.

As soon as I even mention the work diet, I suddenly start feeling hungry. Fad diets don’t work and can even be dangerous if too extreme, so I stopped eating sweets, biscuits and cakes and reduced down my bread and dairy (No cheese or cream) consumption. I started making salads for work with lots of Kale and stopped eating processed food, I also ate less fruit. (Even natural sugar should be restricted) It took a couple of weeks to notice a difference, but I did lose weight and started to have lots more energy.

All was going well, until the Lockdown was announced, I managed to go shopping and get in some essentials like Quinoa and greens I could freeze, just in case. As I live with a family member who can’t leave the house for health reasons I can’t either. Having started educating myself to eating in a different and healthy way, here was the challenge to continue doing so under my current restrictions.

I thought that by spending time at home it would be far easier than been out and about and seeing lots of temptation, dear me how wrong was that. Without an everyday routine it is far too easy to focus your day around eating, as it’s the one essential thing that you do plan. It is too easy to eat between meals and been less active than usual adds an extra problem as you are not burning off the calories.

As I mentioned in my last post Breakfast is the most important meal of my day, it is tempting to skip breakfast, but I try to make this more of a ritual as I have more time on my hands. Its very hard not to snack so I have been making smoothies, although some of the goodness is removed from the fruit this way, it’s also a great way of supercharging with seeds, greens and spices as well as eating lots of fruit and vegetables. These can be filling and it’s fun to play with different flavour combinations (only one a day should be consumed). I regard them as my daily treat. Peanut butter, cacao nibs and coconut add some extra sweetness, if like me you are struggling without chocolate.

Drinking too much tea and coffee is also a problem, so I stocked up on Mint and Ginger herbal teas, two of my favourites, I am less likely to need a biscuit than with my usual Earl Grey tea. I have started drinking hot water with lemon, particularly in the morning and at night and staying hydrated with water throughout the day is important. You often eat when you are thirsty.

I must mention we all enjoy an occasional drink and without having to get up early to go to work it could become tempting to drink more than usual, however this is not a great path to pursue as it is important right now to stay as healthy as we can. There may be some health benefits to an occasional glass of red wine but drinking a bottle or two a day is detrimental to your health and your waistline. Some UK charities have serious concerns about the increase in alcoholism. Supermarkets have been unable to deliver food essentials but are still sending out wine, spirits and beer orders, which seems downright irresponsible.

Eating small meals at regular times and drinking water throughout the day and restricting snacking, (a small amount of fruit, seeds or nuts not biscuits) and cutting down on sugar and salt hopefully will help to maintain a sensible weight. I have been trying out lots of new recipes with pulses and plant- based meals and these  freeze well.  Quite a few chefs are giving advice on YouTube and Instagram for quick, easy and wholesome meals so its never been a better time to improve your culinary skills and even become healthy.

At least time spend in food prepartion stops you from eating all the time!

Eating During Stressful Times

Having a varied diet and eating nutrient rich food is important at all times but during stressful times this becomes vital. When we are under pressure, eating often becomes an afterthought as we reach for junk food or a quick fix like crisps, often eating quickly at our desks or even worse on the way to the next meeting. Eating slowly, even grazing, simple easily digressed foods like salads and cooked fresh vegetables in small portions would be much better for you. These can still be delicious but work with the body not fight it.

I am not a chef or a nutritionist, but have taken advice from both, most of what I know, I have learnt from getting it wrong. Any extreme diets should only ever be taken under medical or trained supervision. However, I can offer a few small tips, which have worked for me and my friends.

We often crave the wrong foods (I know I do) like high calorie cakes and snacks high in sugar and salt. But these highly processed foods are not recognized by the body so cannot be broken down which leads to digestive complaints and food intolerances as well as weight gain. Caffeine is addictive we all know that, but it also is dehydrating so the more of it you drink the more dehydrated you become. Staying well hydrated with water or swapping out a couple of your usual tea and coffees with herbal drinks will make a difference. If your intake of caffeine is high reduce gradually rather that stopping overnight unless you were advised to do so, because you can get terrible headaches and even nausea if you stop abruptly.

Stress in the body can be due to nutritional deficiencies so a poor diet could make you more stressed. When digestion is poor you miss out on vital nutrients and become malnourished. Digestion needs energy and when your energy is focused elsewhere food can only be partially digressed, allowing toxins to build up and cause bowel problems like IBS and constipation.

Eating better will not take away the stress but having a diet that makes you feel better from the inside out and gives you energy is a great tool for combatting the stress in your life and cooking in itself is stress- relieving and enjoyable. Making your own meals can be cheaper and processed foods contain hidden sugar and salts. By batch cooking you can fill your freezer and fridge with healthier meals that can be reheated when needed.

There are some great books and online websites to help you find recipes to follow: I like Michael Mosley, Deliciously Ella, Joe Wicks, Grizzi Erskine and the BBC good food guide but there are plenty more to explore.

I have been a vegetarian on and off since I was a teenager, so I do know that there are some positives and negatives to following this diet and whether to eat meat or animal products is a personal choice. However, when the body is stressed, meat, particularly red meat, can become very hard to digest so reducing the amount of meat or swapping some meals with a high protein source like Quinoa (this deserves its own post) or trying a plant- based meal can nourish the body and assist in healing.

One of the most important meals of the day is breakfast and taking time to enjoy this time is very important. Slow releasing Carbohydrates, with a small amount of protein and some healthy fat will keep you full for longer and less likely to crave biscuits or sweets mid-morning. I tend to start my day with Porridge, oats or Quinoa with either chia seeds, flax seeds, goji berries, kiwi, blueberries, banana, apple, sunflower seeds, coconut, dates, prunes, Greek yoghurt and honey. I try different combinations to supercharge my morning. Eggs can also be a great start to the day.

Home- made soups are perfect for lunch and adding pulses like Lentils, Pearl Barley or Butter Beans give extra protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates. In warmer weather Hummus is very easy to make and has many variations just add carrot sticks, celery, an apple and oatcakes. A light evening meal like grilled chicken or fish with salad or vegetables not taken to late in the evening finishes off the day. ( Eating late at night can cause problems with digestion and stop you from sleeping)

I remember meeting a nutritionist several years ago who recommended eating only boiled brown rice and a small amount of steamed vegetables as a suitable diet and thought at the time it was hardly an encouragement to eat healthier food as it sounded very unapealling. Today we see a colourful array of varied ingredients which make up tasty food that we love to eat and our body’s love too.

I will post some of favourites for you!

health 5-COLLAGE



There is Nothing Quite Like A Good Book

I have read since I was a child, my most memorable present was a full set of classic children’s books. I have always encouraged my nieces and nephews to read from an early age. What would constitute a good book would be entirely personal. I would say not been able to put a book down, without finishing reading, or looking forward to been able to start reading again. Books fulfil different roles: entertainment, education, escapism, relaxation and even maintaining health. The NHS have joined forces with Libraries to promote reading for health because of the huge importance to mental health. I am a great believer in Libraries and the wonderful service that they give, enabling everyone to be able to read even without the available finance to buy books and we all should support them as much as we can.

In our busy life’s taking time to read can seem like a luxury many of us just don’t have but taking even a short amount of time, in your lunch hour or journey home from work, to read is beneficial, so much more than posting on social media or updating your status. Kindle books can be a good way to read when you can’t have a book to hand and companies like Book Bub will send you links to free Kindle books on Amazon. Libby is the online lending library which can be used through phones and androids and is free to use, you just need a current library card.

At the moment we have more time than ever and what a great use of our time to read, but beware when you start this can become addictive. But there are far worse things than to be addicted to the written word.

I do hope you do get chance to try reading. I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book, if you are entertained and your attention is held then that’s great. Personally, I read lots of different types of books: Historical Fiction, Murder Mysteries, Classics, Travel inspired, Autobiographies, Spiritual, Self-care and Chick Lit. Some books teach me, some help me to live a more fulfilled life, some make me laugh, some make me cry, some take me to brave new worlds and some inspire.  There are so many books its difficult to know what to read, the website Goodreads is a great resource for readers giving lots of book choices, reviews and even the chance to win free books.

Like most avid readers I always have a big pile of books I want to read, and it’s a dream come true to make my way through them.

Happy days indeed!

iPiccy-collage books

DIY Home Spa

Now more than ever we need to look after ourselves. Many people, often women, feel guilty about spending time relaxing and pampering its seen as self-indulgent and a bit unnecessary. But I really don’t think that’s true! We all work hard and need some TLC, even in Lockdown an hour or so pampering would make a huge difference to your health and happiness.

I work for a wonderful Artisan company who make bath and body products and often need to try out products for home as part of my role, but even before this, I have always seen how important it is to put aside some time to have a leisurely bath, using body creams or a face mask. There are many health benefits to dry brushing and regular massage. Taking some quiet time can be a meditation tool and help to clear the mind easing mental stress. I am a great fan of Dead Sea Salts, a soak in the bath does wonders for back pain and sore muscles. If you don’t have a bath, use these in a large bowl, as a footbath. Our poor feet work hard on our behalf and deserve looking after. If you want to just do one pampering thing to affect your whole body massage your feet.

If you have very dry skin, massage oil into your skin and soak in a bath, the warm water allows to the oil to penetrate your skin much more than putting oil on to your skin after bathing. I often burn essential oils and are a great believer in the benefits of these in bath and body products. Using products that are free of parabens and harmful chemicals are also important, although these can cost a little more usually, they last longer and really benefit the skin.

Having healthy, moisturized, glowing skin not only looks good it feels great too.

Its easy to make a DIY Spa, some candles, fluffy towels, bath and body products, peace and quiet (or relaxing music) even a glass of wine. Organize everything ahead of time and clear away any clutter like children’s toys. So you can just lay back, relax and enjoy.

spa day