Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Hating hunger

Usually I'm a light-hearted and upbeat bird but today I'm getting a bit political. Recently I popped into my local Sainsbury's and on my way out a stand caught my eye. It for was a local foodbank who were collecting food donations. Unfortunately I had finished my shop and needed to be elsewhere so I didn't have time to go back to buy something to donate. Instead I asked for a flyer so I could find where to donate after my next food shop.

I was shocked. The flyer informed me that 1 in 5 people are living below the poverty line in the UK and some families are unable to buy food. Redundancy, divorce, delays in receiving benefits and low incomes are contributing to people in our country going hungry. Even worse I live in Cheshire which on the whole is pretty affluent and known for being a place where footballers and WAGS inhabit so the fact that this was happening in my county shocked me even more. When we think of food poverty and hunger we tend to think of Africa, Live Aid and Bob Geldof rather than it being an issue in our own communities.

I felt pretty crap - there's me worrying whether I'd eaten my five a day and drank enough water while there are families locally unable to feed themselves and their kids. It also made me think of all of this guilt put on us regarding cooking and shopping; air miles, buying organic, shopping locally. Well this can only be a concern if you're lucky enough to afford your weekly shop. I've been on the dole following redundancy and quite frankly, it's crap and probably one of the most rubbish periods in my life and then I couldn't give a toss whether my chicken was organic - it was food. Every penny counts and the cost of stamps to send off application forms seemed to take up a fair chunk of my budget but it was my priority so I could get a job. The housing benefit didn't even touch the sides and thankfully I was with my partner at the time who was working as otherwise I wouldn't have been able to pay my rent. It was a scary time and I can't even imagine what it's like once kids are in the mix.

How is food poverty an issue in this country? It's crazy! Yet according to the fab organisation Love Food Hate Waste  we throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink waste which costs us £12 billion pounds per year to dispose of let alone the damage to the environment. I'm sure £12 billion would be welcome to those families in need and they'd be living off bloody caviar and champagne if we could distribute that in food terms. I'm baffled and angry.

The day after my discovery I was having a bowl of soup in a local cafe while reading this flyer in depth (the guilt was growing by the minute - I'm lucky enough to treat myself to a lunch out!) when a lovely lady introduced herself to me as the North West co-ordinator for the Trussell Trust who are the charity that run the foodbank initiative. She'd seen me reading the flyer and thought she'd say hello. She told me some horror stories such as one family having such a lack of food and equipment they were trying to heat water via the radiator.

Reasons why people can't afford food aren't for us to judge. One story from the Trussell Trust talks about a woman who's partner left her and the delay in administration to apply for benefits meant that she was unable to feed her and her son. Factor in the soaring cost of food, increase in heating bills (especially in this freezing weather) and imagine it being a toss up of keeping your child warm or feeding them. A hideous situation.

No-one should go hungry and with most political issues it's tough to know where to start and wonder how on earth can we contribute to make a change. In this case, it's really easy for us to help. Foodbanks welcome food donations and provide food parcels for families in need. Often it's just short term until they can get back on their feet. It's difficult to ask people for money given the current climate but if that's not an option then I'm sure you have a tin in the back of the cupboard which could be getting near it's sell by date to donate or even just pick up one or two extra items while doing your local foodshop. Perhaps you could ask colleagues at work to bring one thing in each and donate a parcel. If you click here a map will show you where your nearest foodbank is.

Of course this isn't the solution long term. I feel this needs to be a wider public health issue and taken to a higher level but in the meantime let's not let our neighbours go hungry.


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Love The Skin You're In

It is really difficult to write this post without coming across as a complete sickophant. I'm just so excited to feature an interview with my favourite blogger.  It was roughly this time last year that I discovered the fabulous Betty Bee. I purchased my first copy of Vintage Life magazine and read a wonderful craft article she had written and decided to check out her blog. It was one of those wonderful lazy Sundays when all you want to do is curl up and read so after reading a couple of posts I was hooked and read practically all of the archived posts too. Yes I read for a long time (who needs books??) I was cocooned in Betty's world checking out her gorgeous outfits, getting vital make-up tips, finding out what it's like to be self employed running Vintage inspired businesses (yes that is in the plural) and hearing what this sassy lady had to say about the world.
Introducing the fabulous Betty Bee
Betty describes herself as a plus size hottie, writer and make-up artist . She's written her first book "The Handmade Wedding" and co designed a cool Invasion of the Killer Curves t shirt with her husband Mr Bee (yes I do own one they're awesome). She also runs the Vintage Pamper Box collaborating with her photographer husband and best mate Lilly Von Pink  providing Vintage makeovers photo shoots. The VPP also did my lovely pics featured on my blog last year. She has many other talents so have a look at her blog to find out more.
Betty's Killer Curves tee
Since that lazy Sunday  I've followed Betty's blog religiously and look forward to each new post. I love discovering women who inspire me and live life on their own terms and Betty does both and then some. I have particularly found her views on body shape the most inspiring for me personally. She's probably the first woman I've encountered over a size 14 who works it to the max style wise and doesn't feel the need to lose 2 stone. She's a real advocate for encouraging women to look good whatever size they may be and to give wearing all black the middle finger, embrace colour and glamour and celebrate your curves.

As my blog is food related I've also touched on issues such as health and weight given that they're so strongly connected and wanted to hear more on Betty's views on this. This lady talks a lot of sense so enjoy.

Hi Betty! Thanks for popping over and allow me to hand you a piece of virtual Vivi cake and cuppa while we chat. Milk and sugar?

VV: In one blog you mention that you spent “many years of being worryingly obsessed with your shape and size” which I’m sure many women can relate to. Could you tell us more about that and what was it that made you decide to ditch the diets?

BB: As a fairly slim child and teen I found it very hard to accept as my body became curvier in my mid to late twenties. I have tried every diet known to woman and yo-yoed from a size 14 to a size 26 over the years. For a long time I believed my life would be better and I would be more successful/happy/popular if I were slimmer and was very embarrassed by my size. Sudenly in my early thirties something clicked and I became angry at how horrible I was being to myself.
I hate people who are judgemental to others based on appearance and there I was doing the exact same thing to myself. I decided to afford the acceptance and kindness I gave to others to myself and I have honestly never looked back. I’m now a size 16/18 and have never been happier.

I'd be happy too if I looked this hot!
VV: I’m high fiving you girl! I love your body confidence and that you embrace your fabulous curves. I know many a woman (including myself in the past) who struggle to love their bodies and achieve body acceptance. How did you get there?

BB:  I realised that despite being  a big fatty (although albeit a rather glamorous one) I have landed a handsome husband, a successful career and had a problem free pregnancy (resulting in a beautiful child)  so realised maybe I should stop swallowing all the media bullshit and give myself a break. I’ve never looked back and actually like what I see in the mirror. Turning off the negative running  commentary which had become almost like a toxic friend did take some doing. I’m glad that bitch has gone now!

VV: Me too thank heavens you kicked her to the curb! You say that self acceptance doesn’t mean you’re an advocate for poor health and that people are surprised that you exercise. Do you think that people feel that plus size equates to a lack of interest in health?

BB: Yes and sometimes that true. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m a one woman training machine but I do exercise, I don’t feast on chips every night and I’m fairly active. I know myself when I need to get off my arse and get the Davina DVD out.

If I’m out of breath running up the  stairs or my clothes are getting too tight I chill out on the more calorific stuff and get my exercise thang on but the difference is I don’t do this to be "slim" ( that ship sailed a very long time ago) I do it so I live a long healthy life. I’m rarely ill, my blood pressure is fine and I look ten years younger than I am and if you believe the position taken by the medical profession and media alike I’m a freak, but I don’t believe that’s so. I think for every large person out there who is in danger of stroking out there are people like me who seem to live normal healthy lives with none of the problems we are told we absolutely will have. Newsflash not all fatties are created the same.
I WANT this dress
VV: Go Betty! You’ve mentioned that being self employed means that you ensure that you look after your health – no sick pay for starters! What do you to keep yourself healthy?

BB: I go to the gym to do cardio and also do a Davina DVD (she is a mean mama)  I also walk to get my daughter to and from school so I make sure my pudgy little heart gets pumping for at least 20-30 minutes a day. Sometimes I just lie on the sofa and watch Greys anatomy-keeping it real here I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow.

VV:Thank God! You always look hot lady. How did you discover your style?

BB: It’s evolved over the years. I always loved the 1920's styling of Louise Brooks a 1920's silent movie actress and the full on glamour of 1950's icons like Liz Taylor and Vivien Leigh. I found the styles and cut of 1950's clothes flattered my figure far more than current fashions  and just found my groove. I Iove clothes and am a bit of a retro tart with a dash of 50's, 60's and even 80's influences all being part of my style.

VV: You’ve done a bit of modelling too, how fantastic! How did that come about and were you nervous or embrace with it open arms?

BB: The modelling came about by accident and was a result of my blog. I was asked to review clothes by companies who when they saw pictures of me in their clothes decided they would like me to do more for them. As a five foot nothing size 16/18 forty something the idea of anyone using me to model still tickles my pickle but as long as I’ve got my big hair and lashes on I’m happy to pout on camera and wave the flag for other women who are perhaps not the norm in terms of shape. I wasn’t nervous as the first set of pictures were done by my husband who is  a very well known photographer so I knew I was in good hands.

She's a model and she's looking good
VV: Now let’s get down to it food wise. Who whips up the meals in Betty Bee Towers?

BB: It's split entirely fifty/fifty between me and Mr Bee

VV: Do you both have a signature dish?

BB: Ooh let me think. I do a mean red beans and rice but Mr Bee's fajhitas take some beating.

VV: My mouth is watering now Ms Bee! God forbid you were on death row, what would your last meal be?

BB: Mushroom risotto from Jamie’s Italian-its just delicious.

VV: I’m crass I love his burgers. Fantasy dinner party – who would you invite (dead or alive?)

Elizabeth Taylor
Barbra Streisand
Russell Brand
Motly Crue

Mozza and Babs could duet whilst the Crue played backing band and peed in the plant pots. Russell would make us laugh and Liz would let me wear her diamonds. Yes I have thought about this before.

VV: You so have! Loving the fusion of punk rock, high glamour and comedy – a prefect mix. So what’s the best piece of advice anyone has given you?

BB: My dad told me never to leave my records on the  floor. Wise words indeed.

VV: Wise words indeed! Lastly, what’s in the pipeline for you in 2013?

BB: More blogging, hopefully lots more make up artist work with the Vintage pamperbox and I'm starting  a new book which is very exciting. I also want to decorate my kitchen bright pink.

Isn't she awesome? Now take her advice; make your hair big, pout and go out there and work it like a screen goddess whatever size you are. And if you're still not convinced then check out Betty Bee's Big Fat Mantra and you will be.


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Highs and Lows of Dry January

Day 1 - Wednesday 2nd January
Well its time the first time that I've ever decided to give up alcohol (well I only really drink wine) for a whole  month. Deprivation brings me out in a rash so I tend to resolve to keep alcohol for weekends only and even then sometimes fail by indulging in a midweek tipple when the working week feels tough. But I'm looking forward to having more energy and glowing skin a la Dita Von Teese.

Feeling positive I had a nice brisk walk then headed for the gym. I had a lovely refreshing swim and went into the steam rooms to sweat our the last drips of rioja from the pub the night before. It felt fantastic and I felt excited about being dry. But as the day went on it was bizarre how I fluctuated between feeling so positive then to a bit miffed and bereft of my vin rouge. Would I be able able to enjoy restaurant meals the same? What about my Friday night relax, feet up and the unwind feeling from the grape?

Later that evening Mr V and I had a heart warming beef goulash and I felt slightly upset that Dry January had been implemented as a glass of red would have set it off a treat but really as the meal went on that was forgotten.

Perhaps the thought of wine is more alluring than actually drinking it?

Day 2 - Thursday 3rd January
I was hoping that I would wake up highly refreshed as part of DJ but I had a really bad sleep. However it was an exciting day for me as my first piece of writing and recipe was to be featured in Vintage Life magazine. I just wanted to celebrate and I felt slightly miffed that there would be no real toast as a marker of an occasion. So I bought fresh scallops and prawns to cook a celebration meal instead.
My piece in Vintage Life mag - so proud!

This came with a side dish - I eat you know!

The meal was lovely but the chinking of glasses filled with diet coke didn't have the same ring and felt pretty damp squib like. But just for that moment  - it soon passed. The evening sans vino didn't leave me flat. In fact I was really productive  I made a soup, packed my gym bag for the next day, painted my toenails and read some of my book. Had vino been involved I would have just sat chatting clutching a glass. First challenge overcome. Hurrah!

Day 3 - Friday 4th January
Again I didn't feel refreshed waking up, what's going on here? So Friday is usually a Vivi favourite when cooking is more relaxed and it's feet up time with a glass of red. Not tonight. In order to change the habit I had to change the environment by heading to the gym (in full makeup and Victory Roll of course). Hand on heart I didn't fancy it and had to find another way to make it a pleasure. I told myself I was going to get me some pride. That felt pretty nice. The spinning class didn't and the only thing that got me thought was imagining I was the curvaceous burlesque star Immodesty Blaize training for my next show! Afterwards I had a steam room stint and slapped on a face mask feeling fabulous with my pride at an all time high. Had I chilled at home I think it would have been a real challenge for me and definitely needed to do something different and avoid my usual routine for now.
My thai stir fry was the perfect dish to end the week

Day 4 - Saturday 5th January
My alarm went off at 7am so that I could get up ready for my 8.15am spin class. I turned it off and went back to sleep as I felt shattered which was weird as I've got up on many a Saturday morning post Friday night wine drinks and headed to the gym with zest (kind of) yet here I was alcohol free and going back to sleep. Humph.

I met a friend for lunch and he said my skin looked great so I felt as though the benefits of Dry J were finally making their debut. Whether it was the effects of the face mask or sobriety I took the compliment nonetheless.

If Friday had an element of challenge then jeepers Saturday felt like SAS training. Too tired for the gym I relaxed on the settee with my book and felt cravings for the grape. I missed my vin rouge. Saturday night seemed to lack pazazz without it. And that made me feel ashamed really. But for me le vin punctuates le weekend. Chores done, tasks complete then curtains closed allowing one to shut off the world and listen to the glug of the grape hitting the glass. I go to Twitter for support. Yes, others are feeling it too. As a vintage lover of old school divas, glamazons and the theatrical, sweeping around with a glass in hand feels decadent which is maybe the part I feel missing. So I put on a Burlesque documentary that I'd recorded to fill that void and remind myself that those tassle twirling foxes ain't looking that hot by pouring alcohol down their throats. So I poured a glass of cranberry juice on the rocks instead and allowed the cravings to evaporate.
Not the same as the grape but lovely nonetheless

Day 5 - Sunday 6th January
Heavens! I actually woke up feeling refreshed after a gorgeous sleep. Thank God! So on my to do list was the weekly shop (WS). As much as I love food I see the WS as a mundane chore. So much so I recently ditched it and took the "as and when" approach to my food shopping as that's more fun. This bohemian way didn't help matters as having no food in the pantry constantly is irritating. I've backtracked. Now usually I go to le supermarche in the manner of a petulant child with bottom lip stuck out as obviously I prefer spending my time doing more fun things. But this time I just went and got it done no issues (especially when I discovered the funky graffiti aubergine). Totally urban. So is this due to having more energy for mundane tasks by doing DJ or just recognition I really need to be more organised?

I ended the day with a spin class and cooked a lovely healthy version of chicken korma. There aren't any pictures of it though. I was too hungry.

Day 6 - Monday 7th January
Another morning of waking up and feeling fresh - loving this lark! I had treated myself to some Elemis products which arrived that morning (BUZZING!) from the half price sale so after my spin class I hit the steam rooms then relaxed with a magazine while my new face mask sunk in. Yes of course I looked a good 5 years younger. Face masks + Dry January = youth. Well that's what I'm telling myself for now. Feeling good I'm almost at the end of week one. Today it's not felt like a challenge at all.

*Feeling fabulous post face mask
Day 7 - Tuesday 8th January
Bugger. Today it feels like a challenge. Back to work blues fused with sheer monotony and boring tasks. I feel lethargic as a result and moody and all I want is a glass of red wine. Even my brisk walk with my pooch didn't help the way it normally does. I didn't want to go to the gym as I had evening tasks to sort so maybe that would have helped me. I did some blogging and planning for that as writing and that lifted me somewhat. As the night went on it got slightly easier but I just wish it wasn't a challenge at all. Well enough of of this negativity. It bores me.I have done 7 whole English days which is mighty fine by me. Another 24 to go - wish me luck!

Vivi. x

*photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/saintmarche/6887435734/">Christina Saint Marche</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

NY Eve Goose & Dry January

I admit this blog's title seems a little strange but bear with me. Just I have 2 items on the agenda to discuss!

Well I hope you all had a wonderful New Year's Eve whether it was a quiet one or party heaven. I like to stay in on NY, get all cosy and cook. I set my hair in rollers, made it big, shoved in a fake flower and roasted goose in the oven. We had this last year and it was so delicious. Feeling a bit fed up of the usual roast potatoes and veg, I gave the beautiful bird an Eastern vibe. My Jamie magazine featured goose rubbed with 5 spice and stuffed with clementine, ginger and rosemary. The house smelled incredible while it was cooking and wish I could have captured it in an airwick!
Juicy Goosey!

I put some goose in a Thai green curry and some shredded in hoi sin sauce both served with fragrant jasmine rice and lovely veggies such as shiitake mushrooms, beansprouts, greens and carrot cooked with chilli, garlic and ginger. My fave herb coriander was sprinkled over everything and let me tell you it was succulent and delicious. I'm just sad there's none left.

Wish there was more
So with it being January and in my last blog post I discussed resolutions and goals, I wanted to share with you another additional goal I decided to undertake last night. As previously mentioned in the health aspect of my life, an ongoing commitment is to keep my weight and body healthy. Alcohol is part and parcel of this so it didn't get a special shoutout. However today it does.

Last night Mr V and I had a romantic stroll to our local country pub for a couple of early evening drinks. It was lovely and after a couple of glasses of rioja we strolled back home again. I was thinking that those 2 glasses of wine were delicious but I'd be knocking the vino on the head for a while as part of my health commitment. So once home, I had a little browse on Twitter. One tweet by Nutrition Rocks mentioned something called Dry January. Intrigued I looked into it since it felt timely given what I'd been thinking.

Dry January is part of an awareness campaign by Alcohol Concern to encourage us to have a break from the booze for the month of January. It's not suggesting we're all alcoholics by the way! For me, I know that a couple of glasses midweek after a hard day can feel like a real comfort yet the day after I feel haggard and that is so not what want to be. I want Dita Von Teese flawless skin from a vanity point of view and enough energy to get through the day let alone hit the gym. So as a lover of a challenge I've signed up and I'll donate some cash saved from going out or drinking in to the charity. I'm all about the long term commitment to goals rather than one off's so I'm not backtracking but in this case if I was going to cut down why not just give it up for a month and support the cause?

And I'll find it tough as I adore a robust red with my meals and a cheeky Sunday afternoon vino with my roast. I'd rather have a glass of red over a bar of chocolate any day! However the benefits will be worth it and unfortunately I've witnessed in my family the destructive and heartbreaking effects alcohol can have and I'm keen to support Alcohol Concern with their campaign. So I'm raising my glass of iced water to you all for the New Year! Anyone fancy joining me?
Love Vivi.x