A romantic room with a view

This gorgeous, romantic bolthole in the English Lake District has been converted so beautifully that it’s hard to believe it was once used as a coach house.

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Subtly blending into the landscape, it’s a secret luxury escape beneath a creamy vaulted ceiling. With spa treatments in the cabin and a snug mezzanine to hide in, there’s no need to step outside…

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You can admire the view over Coniston Water while curled up with your lover this Valentine’s weekend (yes, it’s still available!), or take a romantic walk through the eight acres of grounds.

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I’d check in myself, if I wasn’t already at the races at Ascot…

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£495 for 2 nights (sleeps 2) (13/14/15 February, including handmade chocolates, wine and welcome pack), www.sawdays.co.uk / 01824 520008

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The delightful Deliciously Ella

She’s a food blogging sensation whose adventures in healthy, healing eating have attracted millions of loyal followers online, now 23-year-old Ella Woodward has released a cookbook, Deliciously Ella – a bible for living and eating well, it might just change your life

I can spot Ella Woodward’s London flat even without knowing the house number – it’s the one with the Ocado van parked outside. But unlike your average 23-year-old’s grocery shop, a delivery of healthy, wholesome natural ingredients and supplements has just arrived. You won’t find any processed foods, nor meat, dairy, gluten, refined sugar and caffeine Ella’s airy all-white and grey kitchen with a huge marble island in the centre.

That’s because she’s part of a growing tribe of health-conscious new hipsters who are changing the way we eat, along with the Hemsley sisters, raw food pioneer Tanya Maher and alkaline-eating enthusiast Natasha Corrett. This isn’t about dieting to lose weight, it’s about changing your diet for maximum health – and the one thing all these women have in common, Ella included, is that they are flipping gorgeous. Ella’s long, tousled hair shines like a glossy L’Oreal ad, her skin glows and she positively bounces with energy –but not in a wired way. And naturally, she’s long-limbed and super-slim.

But none of those happy side-effects are what got her into her radical change of diet, nor a love of cooking. “I was the biggest Haribo and sugar-monster before,” she confesses “In my first year at St Andrews uni I practically lived off Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream, fizzy pick ‘n’ mix, and chocolate.” She didn’t eat any fruit and vegetables.

In 2011 and half-way through her art history degree everything changed. Ella became incredibly ill and could barely get out of bed, let alone walk. She was eventually diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome and despite medication she was bed-ridden 70 per cent of the time – it was the best the conventional medicine could offer. “It was really quite depressing, but one day I thought ‘I can’t live the rest of my life like this, I’ll be living with my parents for ever unless I do something.” That’s when she started Googling for alternative ways to heal her condition. She stumbled across the book Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr, a Stage Four cancer patient who completely overhauled her diet and ten years later is still alive and more well than ever.

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“It changed my life overnight. I told my parents that I was going to give up sugar, diary, gluten, meat and anything processed and start a wholefoods, plant-based diet. They laughed at me because it sounded so ridiculous, but I was determined to take control of my situation. The first two months were so dull, I think I ate the same thing – brown rice pasta and sauce, and mashed avocado on buckwheat toast – but I realised that I felt a little better.”

That was the motivation Ella needed to continue her journey of discovery and start searching for more ingredients and recipes, teaching herself to cook along the way – and also to start a blog to keep track of her progress.

“I never expected anyone to read it, I didn’t’ even show it to anyone for the first two months. But then after six months I had 100,000 hits.”
As Ella’s confidence with her cooking and recipes grew, so did her fan-base. “In the second six months, the blog had 900,000 hits – it was incredible, and quite surreal,” she says smiling with genuine astonishment.

And once she realised she could still have the sweet treats, her diet became more manageable and fun – the sweet potato and maple syrup brownies are still by far the most popular recipe on her site.

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Without realising it Ella had tapped into a new food movement of people searching for a cleaner way to eat, that offers more energy – and the possibility of healing various ailments.

I ask who she looked to for inspiration with her natural, plant-based recipes. “To be honest there wasn’t really anyone else out there – I love what some other bloggers are doing like Hemsley and Hemsley but there weren’t any traditional chefs cooking this kind of food.”

“What about Ottolenghi?” I say, the nation’s leading vegetarian cookbook writer. “Honestly, I hadn’t heard of him,” she replies. “But when I found his recipes they were all quite complicated with long lists of ingredients, and I couldn’t cook, so I wanted to make things that are quick and easy and that don’t require too many ingredients or too much washing up.”

Her current favourite recipe? “Black and kidney bean chilli, I love it and it’s so comforting –I knew I had to put it in my book.”

And what about those sugar cravings? “Now I’ll make a big batch of energy balls with dates, nuts, coconut oil, raw cacao and hemp protein powder, and snack on those – they’re completely delicious and so sweet, they’re awesome. I look at Haribos now and think it’s kind of weird that I was every so addicted to them.”

Her enthusiasm and beauty – she’s the best advert for clean-living I’ve ever seen – are certainly infectious. That afternoon I find myself in the supermarket and then the health-food shop buying buckwheat, brown rice flour, coconut oil and spirulina to name just a few of the dizzying list of new ingredients needed for her recipes (I even had to resort to Amazon to get the raw cacao powder). It’s worth it though. One week, and 22 date balls later, I haven’t eaten a single chocolate or cake!

black bean curry  

BLACK AND KIDNEY BEAN CHILLI

This is one of the simplest and most nourishing recipes in the book. It only takes 10 minutes to put together and it’s wonderfully filling and comforting. It’s one of my go-to meals all winter. It’s a great dish to make if you’re feeding lots of people too as it’s no more complicated to make for twelve then it is for two. It requires almost no chopping, so you won’t be in the kitchen for hours!

Serves 4

2 carrots, grated
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
600g passata
50g tomato purée
2 x 400g tins black beans
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans
1 jalapeño pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon chilli flakes (add more if you like it extra spicy) brown rice, to serve
salt and pepper

Place the carrot and garlic into a large saucepan.

Add the passata, tomato purée, both the beans, jalapeño pepper and the chilli flakes to the saucepan along with some salt and pepper, to taste.

Cook the chilli for about 10 minutes, stirring it well, until it’s lovely and warm and everything’s nicely mixed together.

Pour the chilli over brown rice and enjoy.

Top tip

Make extra batches of this and freeze them as it makes a delicious, filling meal when you don’t have time to prepare anything.

Recipe extracted from Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward, to be published on 29th January by Yellow Kite, £20 © Ella Woodward 2015

brownies Sweet Potato Brownies

These brownies have consistently been the most popular recipe on my blog. They’ve had more than double the amount of hits than the next most popular recipe and I’ve seen thousands of my readers’ photographs of them on Instagram! There’s a good reason for all this love, though – the brownies are divine. I know it sounds strange to put vegetables into sweet dishes, but sweet potatoes taste more like dessert anyway and they create the gooiest consistency!Makes 1 cake (12 slices)

Makes 10–12 brownies

2 medium-large sweet potatoes (600g)
14 Medjool dates, pitted
⅔ mug ground almonds (80g)
½ mug buckwheat or brown rice flour (100g)
4 tablespoons raw cacao powder
3 tablespoons maple syrup
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan 160°C).

Peel the sweet potatoes. Cut them into chunks and place into a steamer for about 20 minutes, until they become really soft.

Once they are perfectly soft and beginning to fall apart, remove them and add them to a food processor with the pitted dates. Blend until a smooth, creamy mix forms.

Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl, before mixing in the sweet potato and date combination. Stir well.

Place the mix into a lined baking dish and cook for about 20–30 minutes, until you can pierce the brownie cake with a fork and bring it out dry.

Remove the tray and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. This is really important, as the brownies need this time to stick together!

Top tip

If you don’t have any raw cacao powder, then you can use conventional cocoa powder, but you’ll need to at least double the quantity.

Recipe extracted from Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward, to be published on 29th January by Yellow Kite, £20 © Ella Woodward 2015

ALISON TYLER

This article appeared in Metro on 27 January 2015

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10 of the best welly weekends

Grab your Barbour jacket, pull on your Hunter boots and get outdoors for a bracing winter walk – and you can reward yourself with amazing grub and a gorgeous room for the night at the end of it

There’s nothing more exhilarating on a frosty, clear winter’s day than a country walk over fields and hills, and given you can burn up to 400 calories an hour on a good hike, it’s little wonder the likes of Jessica Biel, Matthew Mcconaughey and Reece Witherspoon are fans. Aside from the amazing views, fresh air and vitamin D, our favourite walks include a welcoming inn at the end, with a roaring fire and delicious dinner. So pack your wellies, kids and dog, and make a weekend of it, as we’ve found the best places to enjoy a rural, rambling escape.

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The Milk House, Sissinghurst

This rustic-chic pub and restaurant with rooms is brilliantly located just across the fields from Sissinghurst Castle in Kent (it’s a pleasing 30-minute ramble away). Welly boots and dogs are practically uniform at this timber-framed building. All exposed beams and open fireplaces, there’s a lounge-y bar with comfy leather sofas and a more formal 9though still relaxed) dining room with a menu that sources 80 per cent of its produce from within a 20-mile radius. The four bedrooms are a tribute to Farrow and Ball and the local theme continue with a range of bath products from Kent, too.

Doubles from £90, www.themilkhouse.co.uk

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Woolley Grange, Wiltshire

This homely small manor hotel welcomes families and dogs – if you haven’t brought your boots, you can borrow one of the many pairs lined up in the entrance hall. And if you haven’t brought your dog, you can even borrow the resident King Charles Spaniel puppy Rex and take him for a stroll around the grounds or over the fields down (or down the lane if you’re pushing a buggy) to Bradford on Avon, or head even further a-field to Ilford Manor which is surrounded by hanging woodlands and then walk back along the river.
Rooms at Woolley are eclectic and homely, combining antique furniture with modern design, while the relaxed lounges are the perfect place to warm up with a hot chocolate after a long walk.

Doubles from £120, www.woolleygrangehotel.co.uk

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The Lord Crewe Arms, County Durham

With properly hearty, country food – think shins, hocks, and shanks of meat – Simon Hick’s modern British menu is as robust and humble as this 12th-century former Abbots Priory. Delightfully understated, but in a very stylish way, this pub with 12 bedrooms is warm and welcoming – grab an armchair in the enormous inglenook and settle in with the weekend papers and a pint of Lord Crewe Brew before heading out to the hills. The pub sits at one of the highest points on the North Pennine Hills and is surrounded by heather-clad walks, but fishing and shooting are also available if you really want to give your Barbour a workout.

Doubles from £105, www.lordcrewearmsblanchland.co.uk

 

Askham Hall, Cumbria

Askham Hall makes a very glamorous home from home – owner Charlie Lowther and his wife Juno have renovated and transformed his family home, a Grade I-listed manor house, complete with a medieval tower, to create a 13-room hip-yet-unpretentious hotel with history. The rooms are relaxed yet grand; a winning cocktail of antique beds, dinner-plate showers and jaw-dropping Lake District views. Sitting in the middle OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAof the 70,000-acre Lowther Estate, you’re literally surrounded by walks, from challenging fell climbs to a gentler walk across the estate to the George and Dragon pub in Clifton where most of the food is sourced from the estate itself, or a potter around the Hall’s romatic gardens and woodland and into Askham village.

Doubles from £150, www.askhamhall.co.uk.

 

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The Wild Rabbit, Kingham

Since opening last summer this immaculate pub with rooms, owned by Lady Bamford (the brains behind nearby Daylesford Organic), has recently won Michelin Pub of the Year. Behind its alluring honey-hued Cotswold stone walls and sage green paint, the handcrafted interior has antique furniture, stripped walls and open fires – while the menu stocks artisan ales and wine from small vineyards. Expect thoroughly stylish, and seasonal, food such as pot roast partridge or cacao nib crusted venison with girolles, celeriac and figs. While this may be the poshest pub in Britain, it is also surrounded by fields and farms – dogs are most welcome (they even provide dog beds for free). There are walking maps to borrow and you can hoof it over the fields north to Daylesford Organic to visit the spa, farm shop and restaurant there. Chipping Norton, Burford and Stow on the Wold are all close by.

Doubles from £135, www.thewildrabbit.co.uk

Bar area and dining room, Bel and the Dragon, Churt, Surrey BelDragon_churt3

Bel and the Dragon Churt, Surrey

Less than an hour from London, but a welly’s throw from the National Trust-owned Devil’s Punch Bowl – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offering incredible views, this fabulously-restored country inn has 14 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar – complete with a cosy lounge with an open fireplace and an inviting sofa. The new pizza oven and chalk-topped tables are proving a huge hit with families, while the josper grill (for the juiciest steaks) and wine served by the magnum – you just drink what you can – keep grown-ups more than satisfied.

Doubles from £95, www.belandthedragon-churt.co.uk

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Ockendon Manor, Sussex

Surrounded by the South Downs National Park, this Elizabethan Manor House welcomes guests with a roaring log fire and a cosy, wood-panelled bar. Set in nine acres, and with the South Downs Way, Wakehurst Place and Sheffield Park all on the doorstep, you’ll be spoilt for choice for walks. And at the hotel, you can spoil yourself in the state-of-the-art spa and at the Michelin-starred restaurant.

Doubles from £179, www.hshotels.co.uk/ockenden-manor-hotel-and-spa

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The Gunton Arms, Norfolk

You can’t get much more rural than a 1,000-acre deer park, which is where you’ll find this eccentric-yet-unpretentious pub and B&B owned by an art dealer and interior designer. The buzzy restaurant and bar, headed up by chef Simon Tattersall, who worked with Mark Hix, attracts north Norfolk’s finest, from muddy booted walkers and farmers to artists and landowners alike, who come to watch Tattersall cook over a vast 16th-century open fireplace. As you’d expect from a deer park close to Cromer – venison, crab and seafood abound. Just the thing after a misty country walk.

Doubles from £95, www.theguntonarms.co.uk

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The Grove, Pembrokeshire

Between the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and the Preseli Hills, the boutique Grove hotel, and its award-winning restaurant makes a chic retreat after a wild winter walk. Nab one of the fire-side seats in the lounge a snuggle up with a spicy glass of red wine and a great book. Book the Winter Warmer package and the hotel will pack you off in the morning with a walker’s hamper containing a flask of traditional Welsh cawl and tasty bites to keep you warm and toasty on your walk. Then head back to a roaring log fire, a soothing bath with a box of Wickedly Welsh chocolates and a full body massage courtesy of The Grove’s In Room Spa before delicious candlelit meal beside the fire in our award-winning restaurant (£200 per person per night).

Doubles from £165, www.thegrove-narberth.co.uk

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The Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall

There can be few more rugged or wild corners of Britain than the Zennor peninsula in Cornwall, and after a bracing walk, through cow fields, out to the tip of Zennor Point, you’ll be more than ready for a pint of real ale by the fire in the bar. This is pub-grub at its best and most local, from the ham hock terrine to the venison stew, even the soda bread with locally-churned butter is lip-smackingly good. Rooms are cosy but charming, with brilliant beds – you’ll feel so at home that you won’t want to leave. Dogs are welcome and wellies are practically obligatory round these parts.

Doubles from £110 – or book the fantastically good value Winter Escape: £130 a couple for dinner, bed and breakfast, Sunday to Thursday. www.gurnardshead.co.uk

ALISON TYLER

This article appeared in Metro on 26 January

 

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5 food trends for 2015

Clean+Sweep

Cold-pressed juice
What’s hot this year? More like what’s cold –cold-pressed, that is. Raw is a growing trend, but it’s pretty hard-core to eat raw in winter, or all of the time. But the theory is that to preserve the most nutrients and vitamins, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, are best eaten in their natural state. Bur ask anyone who’s eaten their way through a raw salad without any dressing and they’ll tell you there’s only so much roughage you can eat before getting bored. Juicing is the obvious solution, and while you lose some of the fibre you can absorb the vitamins and nutrients faster and more easily – and you can add super-powders (read on to learn more) to give an extra health boost. Most juices you buy have been heated, but cold-pressed is the new gold standard. Expect to see this prefix in all the hippest bars, cafes and brands. If you don’t have your own cold-press juicer, try ordering juices from Raw Press.

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Spiralize your life
Who knew that spiralizing would be such a massive trend? Well those clever clogs at Lakeland did, for one. Since December they’ve sold out of their spiralizers twice already “They’re literally flying off the shelves,” explains buyer Catherine. “We were actually ahead of the trend and started selling them about four years ago but we were too early so we took it out of the store. When customer requests to bring it back kept creeping up and up we knew something was happening.” And now, thanks to bloggers like Hemsley + Hemsley, whose own fancy spiralizer can be bought from Selfridge’s, and Deliciously Ella, we’re all in a bit of a spin for spiralling. Think courgette spaghetti, cucumber ribbons and carrot noodles.

spirulina-powder

Super powders
Forget vitamins and health supplements, now it’s all about super powders. Ultra powerful antioxidants, hemp protein powders that are rich in vitamin E, energising spirulina and acai, and skin-boosting, hormone-balancing maca powder, and kick-ass immune-improving, alkalising chlorella.
Add them to recipes, sprinkle them over your cereal, blend them into a smoothie or drink it like a tincture, these powders are not cheap but are the buzz-word in health at the moment.
If you want a pre-made blend, Elle MacPherson’s SuperElixir powder mixes 45 ingredients and is designed to be added to a smoothie to help heal, energise and defend your body from illness and attack.

paleo-diet-foods

The Paleo diet
I predict 2015 will be the year that what were once considered special dietary requirements, such as gluten and dairy-free dishes, will become not only mainstream but fashionable.
Step forward the Paleo diet, a new take on the Stone-age diet, and this year’s 5:2.
Simply put, if a caveman couldn’t eat it you can’t either. That means no dairy, refined sugar or wheat as farming did not exist at that time, but plenty of fruit, veg, nuts and seeds, leaves, eggs and meat.
The first Paleo-only restaurant, Pure Taste, opened in Notting Hill at the end of 2014 – expect to see many more menus catering for this style of eating this year.
Diet delivery company Soulmate Food launched a Paleo plan in December and it has fast-become one of their most popular plans, with the likes of Mel C and Michelle Keegan now following it.

This Cauliflour cake by Yotam Ottolenghi, from his book Plenty More, taps into the savoury baking trend (image by Jonathan Lovekin)
This Cauliflour cake by Yotam Ottolenghi, from his book Plenty More, taps into the savoury baking trend (image by Jonathan Lovekin)

Savoury baking
Fans of the Great British Bake Off might well be asking “what on earth is left for them to bake next year?” after this year’s Swedish Princess cakes, Polish poppy seed Makowiec and French Kouign Amann, there can’t many obscure bakes left.
Lakeland is tipping savoury bakes – think courgette cake and sun-dried tomato and basil muffins – breads and pies as the next direction for baking this year, and is launching a range of savoury essences and oils accordingly.
And since we’re all giving up refined sugar anyway this year (yet another big trend – swap to agave syrup, maple, honey and dates for healthier alternatives), this is one baking trend we can actually eat!

ALISON TYLER

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Baby specialists from birth to the 1st birthday

You’ve read the books, done the antenatal classes and booked your birthing pool – but what about after the big day? Our essential guide to all postnatal specialists and experts will help you with everything from tackling tongue-tie to weaning with ease.

Parenting classes

It’s probably the toughest (and the most rewarding) job you’ll ever do, yet no one actually trains you to be a parent. Luckily there are classes and workshops out there to help prepare you, inspire you and fill you with confidence about the wonderful, exhausting and exhilarating adventure ahead.

Founded by Sarah Ockwell-Smith with the idea of creating calmer babies and happier parents, Baby Calm offers classes and workshops for new parents (including Michelle Heaton, Strictly’s Brendan Cole, and Ray Quinn). The Mother and Baby Class is a four-week course for new mums that covers colic, baby massage, feeding, fussiness and crying, sleep and parental confidence. Other short workshops include sleep, calming and weaning. Classes across the UK. www.Babycalm.co.uk

In London, Surrey and Sussex, The Parent Practice offers confidence-boosting classes on positive parenting, fostering independence in your children, how to be in charge without being over-controlling, and how to keep calm. www.Theparentpractice.com

After realising how many courses focus on preparing the birth but not beyond, BabyNatal started up the Practical Care workshop covering all the basics of baby care, safety, what to buy from buggies to reusable nappies, and how to calm your little one, that can be taken after or before birth. They also run dedicated classes for dealing with twins. And for those that didn’t take antenatal classes, the New Parents Group is a four-week course exploring sleeping, feeding, calming and anything else you need to know. Classes nationwide: 01780 479183, www.babynatal.co.uk.

The NCT Postnatal Early Days courses give you the chance to explore different approaches to parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other local mums and dads. You’ll gain parenting skills, feel confident about the decisions you make for your baby, and gain support and encouragement from others. 0300 330 0700, www.nct.org.uk

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Lactation consultants

Sore, cracked nipples, mastitis, thrush and trouble latching on – breastfeeding isn’t always as ‘natural’ or straightforward as you might like. Not all babies are born ‘naturals’ at feeding and mums have to learn how to feed too.

Seek out help and support – it will help you get feeding established and dispense any worries you might have about, how much, how often, and how long you should be feeding.

Your first port of call should be your midwife and your local health centre and health visitor – they will run weekly baby clinics where you can weigh your baby but also ask any feeding questions.

For something more social that also offers expert advice, try a Baby Café. There are Baby Café drop-in centres in most regions of the UK that are open to all pregnant and breastfeeding mums, and you can take your partner or mum along with you if you want, too. Run by midwives, health visitors and lactation consultants, most are open once a week and offer coffee tables, comfy sofas and play areas for accompanying toddlers and inquisitive crawlers. Locations range from children’s centres to church halls and community centres and they are great places to pick up tips and advice from experts and support and reassurance from other new mums. www.thebabycafe.org 

The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (www.abm.me.uk, 0300 330 5453) also has a list of local breastfeeding support groups across the country.

If you’d rather look online, the La Leche League has stacks of free info and advice (www.laleche.org.uk), as does the National Childbirth Trust (www.nct.org.uk). Lastly, the website www.breastfeeding.co.uk also has a breastfeeding helpline 0300 100 0212.

If you’d like a private consultation with a lactation consultant – after all, not every new mum wants to practice breastfeeding at a semi-public Baby Café or in the rushed environs of an NHS baby clinic – then you can find one through the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain (www.lcgb.org), where NHS, private and voluntary consultants across the country are listed. Most will come to your own home to provide support and advice to help get feeding established.

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Cranial osteopaths

Often referred to as baby whisperers, cranial osteopaths are trained to feel very subtle, rhythmical shape changes in body tissues and to release stress and tension throughout the body and head in an extremely gentle way.

And while you might not think a baby could be stressed, the process of birth can both physically and mentally take its toll on babies’ bodies.

Sometimes the way that a baby is born might make it harder for that baby to turn its neck and feed well; their heads can get squished into odd shapes, especially if forceps or a ventouse are used; other babies may be traumatised by a very quick birth that causes them to be extra sensitive. Even problems like colic, trapped wind and sleeping difficulties can be soothed by the healing hands of these experts.

Visit www.cranial.co.uk to find out more about how cranial osteopaths can help babies and young children and to find a list of local cranial osteopaths.

The British Osteopathic Association (www.osteopathy.org) also has a directory of osteopaths – look for ones that specialise in infants and babies.

 

Best Tongue-tie treatments

At least one in ten babies are born with a tongue-tie, where the piece of skin that connects the underneath of the tongue to the base of the mouth is too tight, causing some babies problems with breastfeeding or to take in too much air when bottle feeding.

The sooner it is diagnosed the less discomfort you, and your baby, will suffer. Getting the tight skin un-tied is a quick, simple procedure, called a frenectomy. Most hospitals will want you to be referred by a midwife, health visitor or GP, which can take a week or two and some will only treat breastfed babies, while private clinics can see your baby and treat them instantly for between £100 and £200.

The Association of Tongue-tie Practitioners was set up last year to increase awareness about the condition and to support parents of babies with tongue-tie. Their website, www.Tongue-tie.org.uk, has a directory of private and NHS clinics that offer tongue-tie division.

Dr Peter Reynolds is a Neonatal Consultant at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals in Surrey who specialises in tongue-tie (01932 722678). Babies can be referred by a health professional, or you can also see him privately by contacting his PA on 01932 723499. His own website www.tonguetie.co.uk is a mine of information on the subject and can help you to decide whether your baby has the symptoms associated with tongue-tie.

Marion Copeland and Kate Battersby are Infant Feeding Specialist Midwives and lactation consultants at Southmead Hospital in Bristol (0117 323 3527), who accept NHS referrals for breastfeeding babies up to 12 weeks old. They will also see clients privately.

Mr Shailesh Patel, a Consultant Paediatric Surgeon at Kings College Hospital, Camberwell, London (020 3299 3350) now runs three clinics a week due to demand, referral is for breastfed babies only, through your health visitor, GP or midwife. Meanwhile St Georges Hospital in Tooting, London, has a rapid-access tongue-tie clinic every Monday – contact Catherine Milroy, Consultant Plastic Surgeon (020 8725 0007).

In Manchester, Mr Patrick Sheehan, Consultant Paediatric ENT Surgeon sees breastfed and bottle-fed babies with no age limit at the New Royal Manchester General Hospital and Manchester General Hospital Children’s Unit (0161 701 5039). Parents can go through their local healthcare provider or they also ask for a private patient appointment.

You can learn more about the condition and find a full list NHS tongue-tie division providers at www.nhs.uk/conditions/tongue-tie

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Baby massage and yoga

Helping with bonding, relaxation and better sleep, improving digestion and colic, and relieving pain from teething, baby massage is good for babies and for mums, while baby yoga moves can also calm and reduce colic.

In London and Wiltshire, the girls behind the Calm Birth Calm Baby collective offer a range of baby massage courses from mums who are registered with the Association of Infant Massage. 07949 764105, www.calmbirthcalmbaby.com.

You can also find baby massage classes in your local area on the International Association of Infant Massage’s own website: iaimbabymassage.co.uk (020 8989 9597).

Hands On Babies are baby massage and baby yoga courses accredited by the Royal College of Midwives – find a class in your area on their website. 0845 017 6029, www.handsonbabies.co.uk.

YogaBellies offers baby yoga and baby massage courses in Glasgow, Northern Ireland and London. www.yogabaellies.co.uk

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Baby sleep experts

Oh, what you’d do for a full night’s sleep right now? But should you try controlled crying, the pick up/put down method, gradual retreat, patting and shushing, the 90-minute rule or the no cry sleep solution?

The options are baffling and many tired parents give in to try and get at least a few hours of rest. If you’re at the end of your tether, there are experts out there who can help you to start a routine and get your baby through the night, while you get some well-earned kip.

The Sleep Nanny, based in Bath (though she will travel up to 100 miles or more to see clients), has helped everyone from celebrities to GPs and can offer phone or home consultations to help advise you on how to get your little ones through the night from £60. For closer to £1300 she will come and stay with you for two nights to establish a routine and advise you at home. It may be the price of a holiday, but she promises lasting results within a week – priceless. 0844 357 9913, www.sleepnannies.co.uk.

In London, Chris the Nanny, Chris Wandrag and Vanessa Crane, offer similar sleep training for babies and twins. A consultation and two nights assisting parents in sleep training their child costs £500 (twins £600), while night nannying – where you get to sleep through or go out for the night and leave all the baby stuff to them – costs £140 a night from 9pm to 7am. 020 8444 6316, www.christhenanny.com.

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In the Manchester and Cheshire area, qualified paediatric nurse, health visitor and baby sleep expert with 20 years experience, Dawn Kelly has helped babies from four months old to children of 12 to get through their sleeping problems. Her consultations start from £180 and are tailored to your family’s needs and lifestyle – which means there’ll be no controlled crying if that’s not what you believe in. 07957 357324, www.sleepthroughdawn.co.uk.

For a tailored consultation and sleep programme to help train your baby or toddler (or older child) to sleep through the night, Millpond can help. They have seen everything from children that still wake to feed at night or that need rocking to sleep to those who will only sleep with a parent in bed or who struggle to go to bed on their own. Packages start from £75 and include free email support for the duration of the programme. 020 8444 0040, www.mill-pond.co.uk.

Lastly, if you have the budget, you could consider a night nanny to come and stay with you to deal with night waking and night feeds for as long as it takes. Night Nannies is the UK’s leading overnight maternity nanny service, ensuring you get a good night’s rest and your baby gets expert care and is gently trained to sleep better. 020 7731 6168, www.nightnannies.com.

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Weaning

When, how often and how much… starting solids can be a daunting prospect. But there are experts out there to make it easier.

The NCT Introducing Solids course covers when to start weaning, purees and baby-led weaning, allergies and foods to avoid, as well as what to do about milk feeds. 0300 330 0700, www.nct.org.uk 

Combining cookery classes and weaning advice, Yummy Baby Group offers three different classes, in which you’ll prepare and cook meals for your little one, get all the advice you need, and come away with recipes and menu plans. Courses cover Stage 1 Weaning, Stage 2 Weaning, and Baby-led Weaning. In Berkshire, Surrey, London and the South East: 07872 030206, www.yummybabygroup.co.uk

Want to know more about baby-led weaning? The Baby Calm Baby-led Weaning workshop will give you the lowdown on the science behind it, ideas and options for foods when you’re at home and out and about, and how to make weaning as easy as possible. Across the UK: www.babycalm.co.uk

For a crash course in all things food-related, from equipment needed to vegetarian weaning, Parentskool in Brighton, Lewes and Haywards Heath, this one-day course comes with free online help for a month afterwards. 01273 620401, www.parentskool.co.uk.

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The Baby Blues and PND

One in ten mums suffer from PND. While a degree of the baby blues and feeling tearful after birth is normal, a prolonged sense (more than two weeks) of feeling low, not wanting to go out, having a lack of interest or enjoyment in your baby, or feeling unable to cope and without motivation to do anything, could be signs of postnatal depression.

Talk to your GP or health visitor, they can help. Treatment can range from counselling, to anti-depressants, to Cognitive behavioural Therapy, but for many mums, just being able to tell someone can help to ease the burden.

The Association for Post Natal Illness is another good place to start if you want more information: 020 7386 0868, www.apni.org.

The National Childbirth Trust also has a postnatal helpline: 0300 330 0773.

To read about other real mum’s stories and share and seek support from other mums who have been through it, www.pni.org.uk is a must-visit site, set up by women who are current and past sufferers of PND. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

ALISON TYLER

 This article appeared in Gurgle magazine.

My chat with A Girl Called Jack

I don’t normally post my Chez Chef column here, but last week I interviewed Jack Monroe aka A Girl Called Jack, and she is so inspiring that I thought I’d share it on these pages…

Chef chef Q+A, Metro: Jack Monroe

As a single mother living in abject poverty, Jack Monroe, 26, began blogging about her struggles to cook and eat on a budget, and the hardships of pawning her belongings to feed her young son, almost three years ago. She soon discovered she was not alone, as her blog, A Girl Called Jack, amassed a huge following and she has since published a cookbook on ultra-budget eating, as well as now writing about food and campaigning against poverty and food hunger. She lives in London with her partner, Allegra, and their two children.

Describe your kitchen…
My girlfriend, Allegra, is also an author of several cookery books and a chef – so it’s busy! Every wall is covered in counter-to-ceiling shelves, and everything has a place. Any space not covered in vinegars and spices is plastered with kids artwork and treasured photos. The large farmhouse table in the middle is surrounded by chairs and cushions, none of which match, and a teetering pile of cookbooks balances in one corner next to a dresser piled with mismatched and eclectic crockery.

What’s your favourite thing about your kitchen?
It’s the social hub of our home – from family breakfast with our two children to meetings during the day, recipe testing, working together, and drinks with friends in the evenings, it’s definitely the most used room in the house, and that’s what makes it special.

How did you get into cooking?
When I started writing about food on my blog, determined to try to cook well for myself and my son despite only having about £10 a week to spend at the time (due to benefit delays, I was unemployed and had some difficulties with my housing benefit…) I was using ingredients like kidney beans that I had little experience with other than throwing them in a chilli, simply because they were so cheap.

I looked up recipes online and made cheap versions of ones I had in recipe books, and felt proud that I was learning something new – and got a lot of messages from people in similar situations saying how useful they found it. When you don’t have a job it’s easy to sink into a spiral of feeling worthless and useless, so it helped me feel like I was achieving something.

What’s your most used kitchen gadget and why?
My hands! I’m a physical cook, touchy feely, I’m sure there’s a better word for it but I can’t think what it is. I like to knead bread, none of this fancy bread maker nonsense, peel garlic, tear up mushrooms, squash the juice from lemons and limes, I like to know my food, it’s mine. How can you tell an avocado is ready if you don’t caress them gently in the supermarket? How do you pick the juiciest lemons if you don’t pick them up and squeeze them?

What do you eat at home?
Breakfasts are generally porridge or eggs or sausage sandwiches or pancakes on weekends, followed by fruit and yoghurt. Lunches are usually a smorgasbord of whatever’s kicking around in the fridge, cheese and cold meat and pickles and leftovers and a bit of toast, with some fruit and more cheese… Cheese is a winner in our house! Dinners range from risotto to curry to stews or pasta.

What’s your best advice to encourage more people to cook at home?
It doesn’t have to be complex or showy – a lot of my recipes are very quick and you can substitute ingredients for ones you like or tend to have in the house – just try it and don’t be disheartened. The BBC Good Food website is a good place to start.

Do you have a favourite fast and easy meal that you could share with us?
Carrot, cumin and kidney bean burgers – recipe from A Girl Called Jack – on my blog.

What are your must-have ingredients, why?
Kidney beans for a cheap protein to bulk out soups, make curries and stews. Chopped tomatoes for sauces, pasta, curry, tagines, casseroles – I panic if I don’t have any in the house…

Your favourite restaurant?
Perhaps slightly biased but Blackfoot in Exmouth Market, for the camaraderie as well as the pork.

Your favourite cookbook?
I don’t have just one!! Bought, Borrowed and Stolen by Allegra McEvedy, Plenty by Ottolenghi, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, Tender by Nigel Slater…

Currently I’m loving Cucina by Angela Hartnett and The River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.

Who has inspired you?
Allegra, long before we met. But I owe a huge thank you to Rory, who taught me lots of tips and tricks to make life easier, rescued my crispy garlic, showed me the right way to zest a lemon, and got me through a very difficult shift after I’d had some bad news.

Guilty food pleasure?
Sweet potato mash with chilli and cheese, cooked with the skins on, mashed with a f***ing ton of butter, eaten from the pan. It’s in my first book as Tragedy Mash; it’s got me through heartbreak, work stress and bad days galore.

What would your last supper be?
See above.

Where do you shop for food?
We grow some bits – herbs and tomatoes and potatoes and spinach and rainbow chard were all very successful this year. There’s a very good market round the corner, some brilliant ethnic food shops for spices and unusual fruit and vegetables; and day-to-day it’s the supermarket.

Best tips for shopping and eating on a budget?
Downshift a brand at the supermarket – if you always have premium brands then try the supermarkets own, if you use those then use the basic or value range. If you really can’t stomach it (after you’ve tried it) then change back, but there will be products where you can’t tell the difference.

Buy green veg frozen as it’s cheaper and lasts longer so you’ll waste less, and check out tinned and dried fruit for the same reason, it all counts towards your five a day.

And if you’re eating out, check online at somewhere like Groupon before booking a restaurant, you can make savings on meals out from all sorts of restaurants, from burger joints through to Michelin starred restaurants.

How can we waste less food?
Bread can be blitzed into breadcrumbs, dried and stored. Salad can be whizzed into a pesto with herbs, garlic, oil and cheese – yes, any soggy salad will do. Catch things before they turn and freeze them if they can be frozen, and always check your fridge before you go shopping.

What do you do with left-overs?
Well they’re ‘rollovers’ in my house, no such thing as a leftover! Rice becomes rice cakes for breakfast, porridge can be made into porridge pancakes, leftover curry is extended with a can of tomatoes or made into soup.

ALISON TYLER

This article appeared in Metro on 20 January 2015.

 

Restaurant review: DEN udon

One of the biggest trends of the past year has been for restaurants to do less, but do it better, whether it’s chicken, burgers or lobster. Den is set to do the same thing for noodles.

There’s nothing flashy or pretentious about this local, light and airy, Wagamama-style udon diner. But that’s the point. The short menu comprises of freshly made udon noodles in a ramen broth or without broth; donburi rice dishes, and some delicious sides – the prawn and vegetable tempura was light and crispy and tender, sake-steamed clams tasted like the seaside, by way of Japan.

The miso broth, or dashi, and noodles are both made in-house everyday and the menu changes according to what’s seasonal. Pork Belly and cabbage udon in a really umami-flavoured miso broth was both delicate and bold, without feeling too heavy; while the chicken curry donburi felt like a healthier and far more authentic version of a katsu curry.

Best of all, it was brilliantly affordable with excellent, friendly service, making it a great spot for a lunch or quick supper, just a short stroll from Kings Cross.

www.den-udon.uk.com 2 Acton Street, London WC1X 9NA

The skinny on DEN:

Udon won’t break your diet or healthy eating regime – udon is huge in Japan because it has fewer calories than ramen, soba or pasta.

Everything is be made in house – from the noodles to their dashi broth. There are two dashis: white dashi (made with bonito flakes, dried seaweed and soy sauce) and black dashi (white dashi mixed with strong soy sauce to produce a richer, umami taste).

The Head Chef is Emi Machida – she knows her stuff having held Chef de Partie positions at Koya and Bone Daddies.

ALISON TYLER

This review appeared in Metro on 19 January 2015.

6 ways to get your house in order

Perhaps it’s how empty the house looks without the Christmas decorations, or lack of space thanks to all the goodie that Santa brought, but there’s something about January that makes us want to tackle the neglected nooks, unloved rooms and cluttered spaces. Here are six fresh ideas to get your house in order for 2015.

Clear out clutter

The quickest, cheapest and easiest thing you can do to improve your home is to get rid of the clutter. Jo Cooke, owner of Tapioca Tidy and co-director of Hoarding Disorders UK, has helped clear many a home and she accepts that clearing out, while cathartic, can be daunting.

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“Start with a small area like a drawer and be methodical. If you are feeling nervous start with the bathroom as a warm up. Then tackle the least intimate areas of the home, but the most visible; hallways full of junk post, stray gloves, broken brollies and muddy wellies.

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Kitchens are next. If you haven’t looked at a cookbook or used that melon-baller, chicken brick or fish kettle in the last 2-3 years, the reality is you never will. If in doubt, throw it out.”
When you’re clearing out clutter, ask yourself “Does this enhance my life in anyway? When did I last use it? Would I miss it? Would I replace it?”
Paperwork is the biggest source of clutter and research reveals that 80% of what we file is never looked at again. Switch to paperless billing and you’ll dramatically reduce the amount of paper entering your home.

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Make an entrance
Messy hallway? Is there any other kind? Your entrance is the most high-traffic area of the home, with muddy boots, dogs, children and bicycles all passing through it. Is it any wonder that it can quickly become a dumping ground for gloves, post, keys and shoes, and a magnet for dirt on the walls and mud on the floor.
“Hallways can be one of the most difficult areas of the home to keep clear and clutter-free, often being small, narrow spaces, so it’s important to use the space carefully to make the best of every available nook and cranny,” explains Clotilde Passalacqua, Interior Design Leader for IKEA UK.

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Her advice? “Instead of an open shoe rack, use a shoe cabinet (try Ikea’s Hemnes, £80, www.ikea.com) to tidy away shoes, the space will look tidier – and often bigger.” Bench seats that you can hide shoes inside are also handy in hallways.
For small spaces, Habitat’s Jux coatstand (on offer at £120 until 31 January, www.habitat.co.uk) combines coat hooks, a vanity mirror and a key shelf, while Garden Trading’s Chedworth wall unit (£100, www.gardentrading.co.uk) with hooks is a compact way to store hats, gloves and coats, in one.
If you want a smart look, a console table with a drawer to hideaway gloves and post such as Furniture Village’s Nexus console (£399, www.furniturevillage.co.uk) or Habitat’s Maconie table (£395) are modern and compact.

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To create a welcoming ambience, paint the walls with a hard-wearing, wipe-clean paint, such as Dulux’s washable Endurance+ Matt range which is 20 times tougher than regular paint, add pictures to give some personality, and use a scented candle to mask any unwanted wet dog or muddy boot odours.

Smart storage
No one has enough storage, no matter how big your space. But there are ways of storing things more smartly – is there space under the bed for roll-out drawers? Room above your wardrobe for stacking boxes? Could you create built in shelves that use the full height of your room, even potentially using the dead-space above the door? Or try the divide and conquer approach – use shelving like a wall to split a room or create a screen, you double the number of living areas and get more storage.
Empatika specialise in creating contemporary fitted storage furniture to make the most of your space and have recently partnered with interior designer and personal organiser Helen Sanderson to help you de-clutter and re-organise your space. Hammonds furniture (www.hammonds-uk.com) also specialise in bespoke storage and cupboards – something that most new homes are greatly lacking in.

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The website aplaceforeverything.com has every manner of storage you could want. If your children’s toys are taking over your house, the Great Little Trading Company does brilliant storage for children (www.gltc.co.uk).

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“For home-offices, where space is tight, consider transforming a built-in double cupboard into a mini study-area with an integral desk, drawer below and book shelving above, all of which can be closed away at the end of the day,” advises interior designer Julia Kendall. Sharps can also create fitted office spaces under stairs, or in small alcoves, from £1,500 (www.sharps.co.uk).

Compact with an impact / Clever furniture
British homes are the smallest in Europe at 76 square metres on average – and they are shrinking, new homes are now half the size that they were in the 1920s. But small spaces don’t need to feel busy and crowded.NORNAS Cabinet, £110

One of the best ways to make a space appear bigger is to expose as much of the floor space as possible – look for cabinets or drawers on legs (such as the Nornas cabinet from Ikea, £110) and look for hidden storage under the sofa.

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Compact, dual purpose furniture is on the rise as we adapt to smaller living spaces. Drop down desks and tables, slim-line consoles with added storage, sofas and beds with secret built-in storage (Sofa.com’s Fleetwood three-seat sofabed with storage, £630, is a brilliant example), even stacking chairs and extendable tables make a huge difference to the amount of living space you’ll have.

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Tidy shelf, tidy mind
Have you ever noticed that shelves in magazines are usually empty, except for the odd artfully placed vase or picture frame? Burgeoning bookshelves look unsightly, but for most of us, they are the higgledy-piggledy reality.
There is something very comforting and homely about a book collection. It not only says a great deal about the homeowners, but is both inviting and has an aesthetic depth difficult to achieve with any other ornamentation,” says interior designer Julia Kendall.
“But books can often look untidy and investing in a bespoke-built solution, taking into account the quantity and sizes of the books (with a little extra space for future additions) is a sensible approach. For a really minimal, smart finish, consider a sliding door to disguise any clutter.”
Try Hammonds Furniture for a bespoke solution from £2,500.
Display your books or objects to best effect by grouping collections of objects, such as vases or pictures, or arrange your books in visually interesting ways – try organising them by the colour of spine, or shape and size, or try stacking some books to create different shapes.

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“Shelving is ideal for utilising otherwise redundant wall space close to the ceiling and above doorways and can help to make a room feel taller as a result,” adds Kendall.

Lighten up
You needn’t despair at dark spaces and gloomy rooms. Start by using some of the latest light-reflecting paints to “bounce” more light around the room – try the Dulux Light and Space range, which contains light-reflective particles and comes in a palette of airy, bright shades. To lighten a dark room choose bright colours, not – as you might instinctively think – light shades that will not get enough natural light and will appear cold and drab. Think warm yellows, blush pinks, corals and terracotta shades.

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Miranda Knight, colour consultant for Valspar paint (www.valsparpaint.co.uk) shares her top tips for enhancing a dark space, “the lighter the ceiling colour, the brighter and bigger the whole room will feel, so opt for white. Similarly a white or neutral shade nearest the floor (skirting boards or even floor paint) will extend the floor space as much as possible. Choose a mid-sheen or silk paint to reflect the most light around the room. Likewise pale and shiny floor and furnishings will increase the overall sense of light and space.”

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Use lighting too – overhead lighting is rarely sufficient to light a space effectively so consider a combination of accent lights that cast light onto one area of the room, such as a table light, spot light or picture light, and floor and desk lights, known as task lighting, as well as, potentially using wall lights.
“The perfect lighting scheme can make all the difference in creating a welcoming atmosphere,” says Chris Jordan of lighting specialist Christopher Wray (www.christopherwray.com). “Choose a wall-mounted uplighter to cast a soft diffused light against the wall and ceiling. A floor lamp will brighten up dark corners – consider investing in a light with a statement shade or detailing so that it doubles up as a piece of decorative art as well as being functional.”

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The Lex floor lamp from BHS (£52 in the sale, www.bhs.co.uk) is great high street example of a decorative and architectural floor light, while a Decanter glass table lamp makes a chic addition to any sideboard.

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To brighten in an instant, Ikea’s Ribba picture light (£17) simply clip onto picture frames, while the Janso Clamp spotlight (£10) clips onto anything you want to attach it to, even the stem of a house plant.

ALISON TYLER

This article appeared in the Daily Mail on 16 January 2015.

My raw cleanse: PostScript

MY RAW JUICE CLEANSE: A POSTSCRIPT

So earlier this week I did Tanya Maher’s raw alkaline juice cleanse for 48 hours (read more about that here) – and then a little bit longer as I started day three with a green juice and a lemon tea with chia seeds.

Yes, there were a couple of spots (a sign it’s working and toxins are leaving your body), but I wasn’t sure if I’d feel any other “benefits”. In fact I was worried if feel lethargic and hungry.

How wrong was I?! My tummy never rumbled (though I wouldn’t say I felt full); I lost two pounds in two days (!); my skin looks better, AND – the best news – that mummy tummy (or stomach boob as I think of it, there’s no polite way to describe the saggy trouser overhang!) has quite visibly shrunk.

I cannot believe it. And I certainly did not expect such a radical reaction in two days. I’ve had that horrid tummy fat for four years!!!

So if you’re unsure about whether to do a juice cleanse (make sure it’s raw cold-pressed juice) all I can say is: do it. Do it today!

READ ABOUT THE JUICE CLEANSE HERE