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Monthly July 2017
Flash Fiction: Card Reading

Julia stopped card reading on her thirty-fifth birthday. It used to be a favourite past time of hers, to leave the hectic stream of the high street and enter the bright, warm, orange infused glow of the greetings card shop, her glasses instantly misting and then clearing as she started to make her way to the ‘with sympathy’ section. She’d always start there; she felt it grounded her, reminded her that she was mortal, made her appreciate the life she was living. She tried to remember those cards when she was frustrated, or angry, or just generally having a bad day. It sometimes even worked.

After her sobering start, she moved to the anniversary cards. She had no one to buy one for, but it didn’t stop her looking. Pastel colours or bright, bright reds and pinks, hearts, flowers, teddy bears… Soppy and silly, but so beautiful in their charming, clichéd way.

Other sections received a brief glance, and special occasions, such as Valentine’s or Christmas, necessitated a much longer rest stop in the shop, since it was often busier inside than out. But no matter what, the birthday cards were never ignored. This was what she came for. This was what she adored, and this is what she wanted. She spent long minutes, if not hours, searching for just the right card. Sometimes she came away with nothing. Usually she came away with nothing. So far, from her hundreds of visits to the shop, she had bought just seventeen cards. She only wanted one more.

She never bought her eighteenth card.

It was twenty years before that she went to the psychic to ask her one, specific question; When will I have a baby?

Before you are thirty-five, was the answer. Certain. Definite.

It never occurred to Julia that finding a man should be her priority if she was to achieve this goal. She didn’t think of that at all; instead she planned everything else, bought everything, painted and decorated a nursery, bought a stock of nappies and clothing in different sizes, opened up a savings account for her child’s education. She had so many toys she had to store most of them in the loft, in cardboard boxes, labelled ‘Baby’.

On her thirty-fifth birthday, Julia stopped card reading. She sat, silent tears of a lost life dripping onto the seventeen birthday cards she had so carefully picked out for her child. The eighteenth would stay in the shop. Someone else could have it.

The Weird and Wonderful World of Writing Superstitions

Just as with many professions – musicians, sports players, even medical professionals and plenty more – writers have a variety of weird and wonderful writing superstitions that are as unique to each writer as their own writing style.

Writers, however, seem to have more than anyone else.

Whether that is because good luck and excellent timing can – by some – be seen to be the way to gain success in the fiction industry, or whether it is because the muse does not always deign to make an appearance when we want (or rather need) her to, who can say? The point is, writers have superstitions that offer them peace of mind. And a peaceful mind is often the first step in creating something beautiful.

 

The Weirdest Superstitions…

Edith Sitwell was a British poet, and she certainly enjoyed having a clear mind. However, the only way for her to clear that mind was to lie in an open coffin before beginning work.

Truman Capote would never, ever start or finish a piece of writing on a Friday. And neither would he write sitting down; he always had to lie down to get anything done.

John Steinbeck wrote all of his first drafts in pencil. Perhaps not so strange. But he did always make sure he had 12 sharpened pencils on his desk at all times.

Alexandre Dumas used colour in his superstitious ideas. Fiction had to be written on blue paper, articles on pink paper, and poetry on yellow paper.

Friedrich Schiller had to have the smell of rotten apples around him if he was to get anything worthwhile down on paper. Therefore, to ensure he could always write, he kept rotten apples in his desk drawer. Every now and then he would open the drawer and inhale the scent, boosting his creativity (so he said).

Isabel Allende writes about magical realism. She always starts a new novel on 8th January.

 

More Common Superstitions

Of course, there are some more common superstitions that many writers believe in – or rather, don’t want to not believe in, just in case. This includes the idea of not having 13 pages in a chapter, or not only including 13 chapters in a book. This might be why some books don’t end when it feels that they should! Other writers don’t like to end a book (or chapter) on an even page. More don’t like odd pages.

Some writers only ever think of the title of a book once it is complete (J.K. Rowling does this), but for others, there must be a title before any work can be done (this is how I work, as it happens).

Using a specific notebook, pen, typewriter or computer are also common superstitions. Or wearing a certain piece of clothing that brings luck (or at least words).

Whether or not these superstitions actually work is the matter of some debate. Those who cling to them will insist that they do, whilst others who don’t understand will say that they don’t.

But either way, what harm does it do? The writer enjoys their work, safe in the knowledge that they have carried out all the checks and balances that need to be done for inspiration to strike and the words to flow. And the sceptics… well, they can simply enjoy the finished product, can’t they?

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I started writing in my late teens but it was only with the birth of my daughter that I decided to write more seriously, with the aim of publication. Since that decision in 2010, I have had over 40 short stories published in anthologies and magazines.

Find out more about my publications on my Amazon Author Page.

I am the features and online editor for insideKENT and insideSUSSEX magazines.

I am also a freelance writer who has ghost-written hundreds of blog posts, articles, reviews, fiction, and more.

I live with my husband, daughter, and a cat called Cheryl in the Kent countryside next door to a field full of horses.

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What To Consider Before Running For Public Office

Many business people and particularly, perhaps, business leaders, feel that running for political office has something attractive about it. Once they have done all they can do in their work life, it can often be that moving into politics is something that interest them, so they start a campaign and begin a new life. For some this works out wonderfully, but for others it isn’t so great and they soon realize that being in politics is not as ‘fun’ or as ‘easy’ as it might have seemed at first. It takes a lot of thought before moving in this direction, so here are some of the things that will need to be considered first.

You Will Need To Ask For Money

No matter what branch of politics you are choosing to go into, whether you are creating presidential slogans or you would prefer to do something a little more local, you are going to need money to do it. Politics is a surprisingly expensive business, which is why you will most often see those who have already made it in their professional lives (or those who were born into a wealthy family) running for political office – it is simply out of the reach for most ‘everyday’ people.

In order to be able to finance your campaign in such a way that it gets noticed, you will need to ask for money, and lots of it. Political campaigns that falter part way through because the money ran out will not be remembered fondly, if they are remembered at all. A politician who cannot budget and who spends unwisely is not going to be a particularly popular choice when it comes to picking a candidate at the polls.

It can be hard to be constantly asking for money, but it is essential that it is done. If this is not something you feel comfortable doing, you may need to look at another way to help the public because in politics you will need to ask for money time and time again.

Speak To Your Family

Although running for political office is an individual endeavor in some ways, it also needs a strong team to run the behind the scenes parts of the campaign. Some of those team members will need to be your family; they have to be on board if you are running for political office because, like it or not, they will become part of the campaign and they will be thrust into the public eye.

Although as a business leader you may have been able to and wanted to keep your personal life private, as a politician that will no longer hold true. Your opponents will be looking into your past to see if there is anything untoward there, and the press will most likely be doing the same. The more popular you are, the better you are doing in your campaign, the more digging will be done about you.

This is why it is important to speak with your family first to ensure that they understand what is probably going to happen and what might be required of them. If they aren’t happy with the idea you may need to reconsider whether your political office plan is worth risking your family over.

Be Ready For Hostility

Politics can be an ugly place to be and there is often hostility on both sides. It won’t matter how nice you are or what your intentions are, someone will also be against what you are doing. When you are running for office you need to be ready for the attacks against you that will come. If you believe in what you are doing and you are an eloquent person then you need to speak out and be strong. Not only will this wrongfoot your opponent (whether a political one or someone on the street) but it will also show others how strong your intentions are – sometimes someone else’s hostility can be what drives you on and makes you more popular.

Remember, never return hostility with hostility as that will solve nothing. It’s far better to be civil in the face of someone’s ire and anger and maintain a dignified stance as this will better enable you to put your point across and make sense to those who are listening.

Find A Good Lawyer

Having a good lawyer in side will be a useful addition to your team and can stop you from making mistakes when it comes to what you are and aren’t permitted to do during a political campaign – the rules are strict, and if you fall foul of them you might have to remove yourself from the race. This would mean your entire campaign had been a waste of time and money (and other people’s money) so no one wants that to happen. 

Be Prepared To Lose

No one is going to win all the time and in politics, although it is wise to keep a winning attitude, you should also be prepared to lose. If you look at the numbers, you’ll see that the majority of people lose when it comes to politics because there are very few positions open in the first place. That means that a huge percentage or those campaigning will walk away with nothing after the ballot, despite the good feeling created and the money spent.

If you do lose, you should have a plan in place for what you will do next with your life. It will depend on whether you felt that politics was something you desperately had to do, or whether you might now try something else. There should always be a plan, however, so that you are not left feeling low with nothing to do. It is easy to become emotionally invested in your campaign (in fact, it is expected) but this can mean problems when it is all over; you might feel depressed and deflated. So having a backup plan should you lose that means you can get on with the next thing right away will solve these issues and help you to feel better.

 

9 Reasons Debating Is Good For Kids

Many schools offer kids the chance to be on the debating team but not all of them want to take this opportunity up. However, if possible, parents should encourage their children to try debating because it has many fantastic benefits that can help the kids now and in the future. Here are some of the most important reasons why debating is good for kids and why they should at least try it to see if it is for them.

Debaters Win Arguments

It’s a simple fact that those who are good at debating will always win an argument. They will never let anyone get the better of them when discussing something because they will know exactly how to word their points, and how to research their opinion in the first place. It means that as adults in the workplace, they will never have to worry about trying to find the right words to explain what they mean and why – this can help them immensely during presentations, pitches, and other negotiations.

Debaters Don’t Mind Crowds

When debaters first begin, they are only arguing their point in front of the judge and the other team, or even just one opponent. As the competition progresses, there will be more and more people in the crowd and in the final there could be many thousands depending on what level you are debating. Everyone will want to see how you do and will want to watch you closely. This can be intimidating at first, but over time the children involved get used to it. This will help them hugely in the future because it means they will be used to pressure and be able to work – even thrive – when under it. Nothing will faze them.

Debaters Are Good Travelers

Traveling is all par for the course when you’re a good debater, and those who make it to the national levels will become extremely well practiced at traveling through airports and on coaches – they might even take the car. Whichever mode of transport they choose, those kids will turn into adults who are great travelers. They will be able to go anywhere at any point without fuss or worry, and they will probably know how to travel pretty light too with just a few clothes, their notes, and their team baseball caps, flags, and badges.

Debaters Have Fantastic Communication Skills

Arguing your point is one thing, and it’s obvious that debaters can do that, or they wouldn’t be much good at debating. However, communicating and speaking clearly is something entirely different – yet great debaters are able to do this as well. Speaking clearly and concisely is an important skill to learn; it enables others to always understand what you mean, and it denotes a sense of authority, professionalism, and intelligence. Mumbling quickly and not being understood is not going to help anyway, and yet that is exactly how many people who have not had the chance to be a debater do speak. It’s refreshing to find someone who can communicate clearly and this will help your child stand out from the crowd.

Debaters Have Great Memories

When in a debate the rounds are pretty fast paced and there isn’t a lot of time to get your point across. Therefore, a debater has to be an excellent memory in order to be able to put their argument forward and include all the relevant facts and details. Some people naturally do have amazing memories but others require some ‘brain training’ to get there. That’s where debating can help because the more it is done, the better at remembering those facts the child who is debating will be. In the future this skill will help them in their work progression.

Debaters Take Notes

Taking notes is something that all high school and college students will need to be able to do well in order to get the most out of their classes and do well in their examinations. It is also important at work when in a meeting or in an important phone call. It makes life a lot easier when good notes can be taken and lessons can be learned. Debaters need to be good at taking notes, a skill acquired with practice, because if they can’t remember everything (as mentioned above) they will need to have the information written down quickly and efficiently.

Debaters Are Empathetic

Debaters are excellent at looking at arguments from both viewpoints. After all, each debate topics has a pro and a con side to it, and it is only the flip of a coin (or similar) which determines what side your child will be arguing on. So they need to be able to see both sides of each debate because they could be asked to argue either way. Being able to do this and be empathetic to other people’s opinions, ideas, and situations will be useful for a child when they become an adult and have to interact with other people. It makes them kinder, more humble human beings.

Debaters Are Speed Readers

Speed reading is an essential skill for a good debater. They need to be able to find out as much as possible about their given topic in a short amount of time, so it will help them hugely if they can read quickly and accurately. This skill will also help when they get to college whether they are debating or not – they will be able to absorb all the information they need to know and digest it well enough before an exam that they not only know the facts but understand them as well.

Debaters Are Great At Teamwork

Debaters have to work alone when it comes to making their argument, but they also have to work as a team in order to win their rounds. In a debate team, you could be working with the same people for a number of years, so it’s important to be able to strategize with each of them, working out what their strengths are and using those against their opponents. Again, this is a skill that will be a wonderful advantage for the workplace where working in a team will certainly be part of most jobs.

4 Ways To Lose Your Confidence (And How To Get It Back)

Confidence… No one can be confident at all times, no matter what. Even those who seem totally self-assured will have moments of self-doubt, and it can happen for a variety of different reasons. Taking a knock when it comes to your confidence can really be an issue; no one wants to feel bad about themselves, after all. However, there are ways to get over these problems and get back to being a happy, productive, self-possessed person sooner than you might think. Here are some ways you can help yourself.

Judgemental People

lose confidence when judged

People do have a tendency to be judgemental; you’ve probably done it yourself without meaning to (perhaps without even realising it). Unfortunately, these slip ups can cause others to feel bad about themselves, and if you are the subject of someone’s judgement, your confidence can be sorely tested. It doesn’t matter whether you know the person or whether they’re a stranger in the street, the outcome is the same; you’ll go from being a happy person going about your business to someone who is now wondering whether you should just head home and hide.

There are three things you can do if someone makes a comment that you think is judgemental. The first is to take them to task about it, letting them know that their words have made you feel bad (after all, they may have been talking in the abstract and didn’t know that what they were saying would affect you). Next you can walk away and remove yourself from the situation. Finally you can just ignore them. These last two ideas will require you to also remind yourself how great you are in the process, of course, and that can take some practice.

Not Being Praised

If you’ve ever done something great at work or on a personal level, something that you were truly proud of, yet no one noticed or, if they did, they didn’t mention it or deem it praiseworthy, your confidence can take a serious knock. The problem is that it’s not ‘normal’ to ask for that praise either, for fear of being seen as needy or high maintenance, so even if we feel that we desperately deserve some kind of acknowledgment for the hard work we put into something, we can’t demand it.

What can be done? The best thing to do is to speak to the person you feel should be noticing what you’re doing, whether that’s a boss, a partner, or perhaps a parent. Take them to one side and ask them why your efforts haven’t been noticed, or what they think you can do to improve. If you don’t like the answer then it could be time to move on; after all, this is your life and you need to live it the way you see fit. Having all your confidence taken away from you will stop you from achieving the success you deserve if you leave it too late.

Clothes Shopping

confidence when shopping

Shopping for clothes can be a lot of fun, but it can also be something that seriously damages our self-esteem. Body image is something that many people struggle with, and taking a trip to buy clothes can make things worse rather than better. Take the advertisements that use models who have been airbrushed and changed completely – even though we know this is the case, it can still make us feel bad about ourselves. Then there are the mannequins and even though we understand these are not real people, there is a still a niggling worry that we just don’t measure up. Not only that, but as we’ve mentioned above people are judgemental (even when they don’t mean to be) and the fear that someone will say something or look at us askance is real. Add that to the fact that clothing comes up in different sizes in different shops, and there is a real issue at hand.

These issues can be overcome, however. Firstly, choose a shopping buddy. Take someone with you that you know well and trust implicitly. This makes the whole experience much more fun (you can make a day of it and stop for lunch and coffee too) and you can be sure that you can trust their honest opinion when they tell you clothing does or doesn’t suit you.

You can also make a plan before you leave the house and make sure you avoid any shops that have odd sizes or don’t do the size you need (or the style of clothing, come to that). This means doing research, but it will be worth it, making your trip a much happier experience. If you’re really unsure then stick with the shops you know and like – you’re sure to find a great outfit there without the worry of a new place to explore and be uncertain about.

Being Undermined

Being constantly undermined be someone is demoralising and can really chip away at our self-confidence. If this is happening to you at all, you need to speak up. This is a form of bullying and unless something is said it will just continue. Is someone always stealing your ideas at work? Does no one listen to your opinion at home? Does your ‘best friend’ only ever talk about themselves and dismiss anything you might have to say as irrelevant? These things can easily become a regular pattern of behaviour, eroding our confidence over time and leaving us to expect that this is how it has to be.

This is not how it has to be, and it is not how it should be, so talk to them about it and let them know you’re not happy. They may be completely self-absorbed and not realise what they are doing. They may, of course, be totally sure of what they are doing and these are the toxic people you need to stay away from. When you talk to them, pick somewhere neutral where you both feel comfortable and try not to point a finger right from the start. Find out why they do what they do and you might be able to move on.

8 Reasons To Visit Spain On Holiday

Picking a spot to visit for your summer holiday is never an easy task, but it is an exciting one. Looking through travel brochures, weighing up the pros and cons of each country, working out the budget, then finally booking – it’s all part of the experience. To give you a head start when it comes to working out where you want to go this summer, we’ve put together some great reasons why Spain should be your ultimate destination. Here they are.

Festivals

Spain has many different festivals and fiestas that span the entire year. No matter where you go or when, you’ll find there is some festival or other being prepared for. Some are more serious, like the ones you’ll come across during Holy Week, and some are more frivolous and fun, like the many food festivals across the country. Each festival is full of color and life, and is certainly something for you to remember for many years to come.

The Location

Spain really is its own country. Although part of Europe, it is often considered a little bit of an outsider due to its location; geographically it is a little more isolated from the rest of the continent. That means that although there is a lot of European culture in Spain, there is more solely Spanish culture. This is completely different to anywhere else you’re going to have a chance to visit, and even if you’ve been to many other European destinations, Spain will be something new which is a great reason to go there.

The Food

Spain is famous across the world for its food and for good reason. Paella is perhaps the most famous single dish, but you’ll discover that it is prepared different in each region (sometimes in each town or city). The basic ingredients of rice, stock, shrimp and prawns, and mussels tend to remain the same, but plenty more besides can be added. It is entirely possible to travel around Spain subsisting on paella alone – it wouldn’t become boring because there are so many variations.

Tapas Spain

Tapas is another famous Spanish cuisine. Tapas is not one food but a type of food made up of lots of small dishes that you can pick and choose and share. It’s a fun way to eat and it means you can try many different Spanish delicacies in one sitting.

Let’s not forget the drink either. Spanish wine has made quite a name for itself, but it is sangria which is most well known. Sangria is made from red wine (usually Spanish rioja) with fruit and it is a refreshing, delicious adult beverage.

So Many Cities

Spain is one country but by visit some of the many different cities across it you might be forgiven for thinking it is many smaller countries bundled together. That’s because each region in Spain is entirely distinct from the next, meaning you can travel from one end of the country to another and experience a multitude of different things. If you find that you have seen enough of one place, you can easily hop on a train and head off to another. Remember not to get too carried away though, as travelling can sometimes become expensive. The key is to set a budget before you leave.

The People

Although it might sound like something of a generalization of cliché, the Spanish people really are incredibly friendly. You can be confident in trying out the Spanish language, for example, because the Spanish people will appreciate your efforts even if you get it wrong! By the end of your holiday your confidence and your Spanish will be much greater than they were before you left home.

No matter where you go, whether it’s the beach, a museum, a café or bar, you will find someone who will be happy to talk to you about their country and culture. You’ll discover so much more this way and your vacation will be a much more fulfilling one. Lying on the beach for two weeks is fine (in fact, it’s good for you as long as you wear the right sun block), but mixing that with learning about the country you’re staying in is even better.

Flamenco Dancing

Flamenco in Spain

When you think of Spain, the famous flamenco dancers might be the image that comes to mind. All across Spain you’ll be able to find flamenco shows and it is definitely something you should experience. The proud woman with her fan and hair up on her head and her beautiful dress dancing passionately across the stage is a sight to be seen. There is a kind of contagious energy that comes with flamenco and once you start watching you won’t be able to draw your eyes away. 

Family Friendly

If you are looking for a family-friendly holiday to take the children on so that they can also experience new cultures and places, Spain is a great choice. This is not a country where it is frowned on for children to stay up late; in fact, the locals will enjoy seeing your kids having fun and it will be a refreshing break for the parents to be able to relax and let the children run (relatively) free. With great, fresh food, plenty of space to play, and wonderful beaches as well as museums and adventure theme parks and the like, your children will love Spain as much as you do.

The Climate

Spain sunshine

Spain has the same kinds of seasons as the UK which means when you travel in the summer you’re sure to get some great weather when you arrive in Spain. That’s not to say it never rains, but for most of your holiday you should have great sunshine and hot weather. If you’re looking for somewhere hot to relax and enjoy, Spain can be the ideal choice. When it gets too warm you can head back to your hotel for a siesta like the locals do, ready to enjoy the slightly cooler temperatures when you wake up.

5 Tips For Being Productive When Working From Home

For many people, working from home is the ultimate dream. There’s no long, soul-sucking commute, you can be in a place you find most comfortable, and – if you’re really lucky – you can even choose your own hours (this is even easier if you’re self-employed). Yet in some cases working from home can make us a lot less productive than we might normally be if we went out each day to an office environment. Here are some great tips for making the most out of your home office and getting everything done.

Start Early

Because you don’t have to catch a certain train or head out the door at a specific time to miss the traffic, you can get up nice and early and make a good start on the day. If you begin work when you would normally start a commute to an office (or before that if possible) then you will have achieved something before most people even switch on their laptops. When you reach that point you can get up, stretch, have some breakfast, re-set, and start again.

When you begin with such a positive, achieving mindset, you will get so much more done. Plus you might even be able to finish early because you started before everyone else.

Imagine You Are Going To The Office

For some people, there is a big psychological difference between working from home and working from the office. The daily commute, although not perhaps the best part of the day, sets them up ready for the work they have to do. So too does wearing more formal attire and leaving the house. If this is the case for you, you can trick your mind into feeling as though you are heading to the office and it can make you more productive at home.

Firstly, set your alarm and get up as though you have to be in the office. Get dressed in office clothes, pack a bag with your lunch, make a flask of coffee, do whatever it is you need to do to get ready. Then leave the house. It doesn’t matter whether you need to drive around the block a couple of times or you go for a walk to the train station and back, if this puts your mind in the right place then go for it. When you get back to your house, you’re at work so all other distractions – housework, shopping, chatting to a neighbor – can’t happen. When the work day is over, go out again and when you come back you can relax into your evening at home.

Have A Dedicated Work Space

Although you might feel as though working from your bed, the couch, or even the kitchen table is a perk of working from home it might be making you less productive than you could be. You really need a dedicated office space that you can go into and shut the door behind you, cutting off as many distractions as possible. That way you don’t have to keep packing away your things and moving somewhere else because someone wants to watch TV or cook dinner.

Another bonus of having a dedicated work space is that you can leave it at the end of the day and not go back until the morning. One of the issues many people find when working from home is that they can’t stop working; it’s too tempting to check emails or spend 10 minutes here and there finishing off some task. They key point to remember is that if you worked at an office you wouldn’t be able (or, perhaps more importantly, expected) to do these things, so you shouldn’t do them just because you work from home.

Stay Off Social Media

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be fun but they can also be hugely distracting. Many offices have a policy that doesn’t allow them to be used during working hours and in those office productivity is increased. At home, there are no hard and fast rules about it, so make one for yourself. Don’t look at social media during working hours; whatever is there can wait until you finish work for the day, or take a break (although beware: if you use social media on your break you might lose track of time and get behind on your tasks).

Many people are addicted to social media and can find that they unconsciously type in the URL whenever they’re online. If this is the case you may need to block those sites from your work computer (unblock them when work has finished if you use the same computer for personal browsing too) and remove the apps from your smartphone.

Make A Plan

The best way to be as productive as possible is to make a plan. Planning your next day’s work should be the very last task you do the day before. That way, you’re already pumped for whatever it is you need to do the next day, plus you can get straight to it without wasting working time wondering what you should begin with. Try to do the hardest tasks first to get them out of the way and then move onto the easier ones as the day goes on.

How To Be A Better Lover

When sex is enjoyed by both partners it can be fulfilling and satisfying. The problem is that many people are so worried about ensuring that they are doing well in bed that they forget to enjoy themselves, or they forget to make sure their partner is having a good time. However, there are some easy ways to become a better lover and none of them require having to learn (many) new positions or get into costume (unless that works for you).

Smell Good

Although our natural pheromones are what attracts people to one another, that doesn’t mean you can allow your body odor to become overpowering. Someone who is clean and tidy, who showers regularly, and who uses deodorant is always going to be a better idea than hopping straight into bed after a long day at work. That isn’t going to make your partner want to get close to you.

Communicate

Talking to your lover is more powerful than you might think. It may be embarrassing to start with, but talking about sex, finding out what your lover wants from you, and letting them know what you like in bed will go a long way to ensuring that your lovemaking is not just good but great.

No Pressure

If your partner feels pressured to sleep with you, they aren’t going to enjoy themselves very much. Even if they do want to make love, pressuring them into trying a position they aren’t keen on, for example, is going to kill the mood significantly. So make sure that you are doing things that you both want to do. When you do want to try something new talk about it first to gauge their reaction.

Keep Fit

Although looks and physique aren’t what’s important in a relationship and lover, keeping as fit and healthy as possible means that sex will be a lot better. Your endurance will be increased, you won’t get so out of breath, and you’ll be more flexible too. Eating the right foods and exercising regularly are both great ways to start this keep fit routine off correctly, as is reducing the amount of alcohol you drink and completely quitting smoking.

Get The Basics Right

Good sex really doesn’t have to be complicated. Get the basics right and make sure you can find the right erogenous zones in simple positions before you try to switch things up. If this means having to do some research then go for it – plenty of magazines and website will give you the details on how to make sure you’ve got it all exactly right.

Make Time

Feeling like an afterthought or as part of a routine is not sexy. Although it’s a good idea to plan sex, try to make it seem spontaneous if you can. That way you get the best of both worlds as a lover; you know you’ve got enough time because you’ve planned in advance, but you can still enjoy the thrill of the spur of the moment.

7 Ways Owning A Pet Can Be Good For Your Health

There are many reasons why owning a pet is a good idea, and one of those reasons is that they can be good for your health. Studies have shown that there is a definite correlation between having a pet in your home and feeling fitter and healthier. It’s good for you on an emotional level too and can even improve your immunity. Here are some of the ways that owning a pet can be good for your health.

Less Stressed

Being able to be with a beloved pet can reduce our stress to a more manageable level. This is because, when looking after or playing with a pet, we are fully in the moment, feeling utterly present in our lives and not thinking about anything other than what we’re doing right now. Therefore, those stressful moments that might have been worrying us won’t be in our minds. When we do come back to the ‘real world’ after being with our pets, we’ll be feeling calmer and happier, so those situations that were causing us concern won’t seem so insurmountable anymore.

Stress can be the cause of many other illnesses, so having less of it in our lives is a good thing.

Lower Blood Pressure

Having a pet has the potential to lower our blood pressure, which is hugely beneficial to health. This links to the point above about decreasing stress, as when you are stressed you have higher blood pressure. This can cause many problems including strokes, heart disease, heart attacks, and even type 2 diabetes. Remember, however, that if you have seriously high blood pressure over a prolonged period of time, it could be a good idea to see your doctor as pets alone might not be enough to keep you healthy; you may also need medication.

Less Pain

If you suffer from chronic pain such as that experienced with arthritis or migraines, for example, a pet could help you feel it less. When you are in pain, you feel more anxious. Unfortunately, that anxiety actually makes pain feel even worse, and then you feel more anxious. This can go on and on until you make yourself feel incredibly unwell.

With a pet to take care of, you’ll feel less anxious, and that means that the pain you are feeling will be lessened too. A dog, cat, or other kind of pet won’t cure you, and it won’t take away the pain entirely, but it should help a little.

You’ll Feel Happier

Owning a pet will make you feel happier in general, which has a hugely positive effect on your mental and emotional well-being. Having a pet means that you will always come home to someone who loves you unconditionally, and this alone can boost happiness levels. When you are feeling happy in one aspect of life, you’ll most likely feel happier in other aspects too.

Clinical depression, of course, is another matter entirely, and although pets can help in some respects, this is another time when an expert is essential in order to get to the root of the problem. If you experience any mental health issues, or try to stop any form of self-medication and start to feel signs of alcohol withdrawal, we recommend booking an appointment with someone who can help. You’ll get treatment and your pet will thank you for it because you will be able to take care of them properly once again.

You’ll Socialize More

Owning a pet will give you many more chances to socialize with people, and since studies have shown that spending time with people you like is good for you, and can increase your health and happiness, it’s a good thing. A dog is the best pet for socializing as you need to walk them at least once a day and this means going out and seeing people. You might bump into the same people walking their dogs each day and strike up a conversation. Even a simple hello is better than nothing.

Other pets can also enable you to socialize. You might join local groups, for example, or go to workshops that teach you how to care for a certain type of animal and meet people that way. You could add yourself to an online group or forum and find people to chat to there. Or it could simply be a matter of having something in common with someone you’ve met for the first time.

Can Improve Immunity

It may seem like the logical thing to say that if someone is allergic to animal fur, they shouldn’t have a pet. However, studies have shown that actively being around these animals can improve immunity towards them, particularly for children. This can mean that allergies become less severe or even disappear altogether. Studies are still ongoing as to whether this can help an adult who suffers from pet allergies, however.

Another benefit of owning a pet is that your immune system can be improved in general, and not only in relation to pet allergies. That means you’ll be less likely to catch colds and other illnesses so you’ll feel more healthy all year round.

Helps With ADHD

If a child has ADHD it is difficult for them to express themselves properly. An animal can help them to focus and give them something to talk to when they need help. Simply being able to tell their problems to a pet can make a big difference in the lives of children suffering from ADHD and similar conditions, and it is especially helpful if they are unable or unwilling to communicate with their parents.

Pets offer a predictable, safe routine which can be ideal for ensuring that these children feel more at ease and confident. The simple act of holding an animal, of stroking and petting them, can be a soothing sensory experience. If you’re unable to have a pet due to work commitments or other reasons, then a visit to an animal shelter can also be of help to a child suffering from one of these conditions.

How To Choose The Perfect Restaurant For Dinner

How To Choose The Perfect Restaurant For Dinner

We’ve all been in that terrible position of picking what looks like a great restaurant only to find that the food is tasteless, the service is slow, and the prices are far higher than they should be. It can make us worry about picking another restaurant for dinner, or, perhaps more importantly, for a special occasion.

You shouldn’t worry too much, though. There are some useful tips on how to choose the perfect restaurant and if you put them to good use you shouldn’t ever have another problem with one of your picks.

Where Do The Locals Eat?

This tip is perhaps most useful when you are in a foreign country, or even somewhere other than your hometown, but it is a good one to think about nonetheless. Ask a local where the best restaurant is and make sure to find out why they think it’s good; everyone’s opinion is subjective, and what they like about somewhere (loud music and pizza) might not be what you like (quiet jazz and steaks). It’s best to ask someone who isn’t going to be earning any commission from their recommendation either; otherwise you won’t find an entirely unbiased response.

If there is no one to ask you should walk or drive around and see which restaurants have the local people in them. Those are the ones to try out.

Avoid The Tourists

No matter where you are, there will be some restaurants that cater specifically for tourists. That’s a definite no if you’re a local, but even if you do happen to be a visitor these places should probably be avoided. They tend to have a more limited menu (which won’t necessarily be authentic if the restaurant serves foreign cuisine) but the prices are much higher than elsewhere. They might also have a theme or be gimmicky. They will be fun, but for good food at good prices you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Read Reviews

Thanks to the internet it’s now possible to read restaurant reviews on the go. If you want to know what a certain place is like before you step inside, check it out online. You’ll have a whole range of opinions because, as mentioned above, what people enjoy is subjective, but by reading them you should be able to decipher what the restaurant is really like and whether you think you would like it in there.

If you have no idea where to even start, that’s not a problem either. You can search for ‘the best steakhouse in New York’, for example, and find the information you need that will help you make a decision.

Look At The Menu

Before you make a decision whether to eat in a restaurant or not, take a look at the menu. You can usually do this online, but if not you might find the details in the restaurant window. If it is nowhere to be seen you might be best moving onto the next place on your list, unless you want to go inside and ask to see it before making your decision. This can be difficult, though, as you may feel obligated to stay even if you don’t like the look of the food being served!

When you are looking at the menu you are looking for a few different things. One is whether there is enough choice for you and whether you would eat what is served. The next is the price; does it seem reasonable? Too expensive? Too cheap? What about the drinks? If you are taking your whole family out for dinner does the restaurant cater to children with a special kids’ menu, or will they need to choose their meal from the main menu? Are there dishes that you’ve never heard of before? If so, this could mean that it is an authentic place to eat because they have real dishes from the country the cuisine comes from rather than those that have been changed to meet the local palettes.

All of these things need to be taken into consideration before you step through the door and ask to be seated.

Watch For A While

Stand at the window (assuming there is one) and watch the goings-on inside the restaurant for a while. Don’t put anyone off their food by staring, of course, but just take note of how the food is being served; do the waiting staff seem rushed or unhappy? Are they pleased to be doing their job and making customers feel at ease? Does the food look appetizing? This is perhaps particularly important. If people are really tucking into their meals with a smile on their faces that’s great; if they’re moving food around their plates and not really enjoying what they’re eating you should absolutely turn away.

If you spot staff idling around, looking bored, making everything seem like an effort when it comes to actually doing their jobs, that’s not a good sign. If you spot staff that look grubby and messy, that’s not a good sign either. What you want to see are clean, tidy, happy people who are making their customers’ meals a thing to remember (in a good way).

Employ Your Sense Of Smell

A really good thing to take note of is how the restaurant smells. Can you detect delicious aromas coming from the kitchen? Great! That means the food is cooked freshly to order (plus a delicious smell usually dictates a delicious taste).

Trust Your Gut

Gut instinct is something that all humans have, even if we do try to repress it at times. In situations when you’re trying to make the right decision, allowing your immediate gut response to help you is a good thing. If there is something about a place that, even though the menu looks appetizing, the staff are happy, and the prices are reasonable, tells you not to eat there, you’re probably right. The same is true if you like the look of a place even though it doesn’t quite match up to all the requirements you have set for a perfect meal.

10 Amazing Benefits To Losing Weight

Losing weight is excellent for your overall health; it reduces the risks of developing certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, for example. However, losing weight has many additional benefits that you may not think of straight away but that are just as important as improving your health. It’s incredible to think that weight loss can have such an effect on your body and mind but it’s absolutely true, and if you’re struggling to find the motivation to shed those unwanted pounds, this list may give you the perfect reason to do it.

More Energy

When people first start to lose weight they will notice a huge boost in their energy levels. That’s because, when you are not as heavy, you don’t have to use all your energy up just to move around. You’ll have excess energy so you can do more. Plus your oxygen efficiency will improve so you won’t be out of breath when you climb the stairs or run for a bus.

Better Memory

Studies have shown that after losing weight the brain is more easily able to store memories. The brain actually showed more activity. Although research is still ongoing as to exactly why this would be, it could be linked to the point above regarding more energy. If the brain has more energy available to it, it can do more – including storing more memories and recalling them more easily.

Less Risk Of Cancer

There are many things in this life that can increase your chances of developing cancer including smoking, too much exposure to the sun’s rays, and radiation. Obesity is another cause for some types of cancer (such as breast, bowel, pancreatic, and liver), so losing weight will reduce your risk immediately. Losing just five percent of your body weight should have a positive effect on your health levels.

Working Out Is Easier

Doing exercise is necessary for losing weight; when you burn more calories than you are taking in, the weight disappears. However, when you are overweight exercise is a chore. It’s hard to do because the body has less energy and less mobility, and it is often de-motivating to go to a gym or a workout class and see other people who are slim and fit. As the weight comes off, however, exercise becomes easier – it even becomes fun. That means we’re more likely to go out and do it, so weight is lost more quickly.

You May Get A Raise

In a 2004 study published by Health Economics, it was shown that an obese person’s pay cheque came in at around 2.5 percent lower than a ‘normal’ sized person’s. There may be an unconscious (or even conscious in some cases) bias from bosses towards people who are overweight, with stereotypical ideas of laziness coming to the fore, and therefore they may be paid less. Losing weight in these cases could get you that raise you’ve been wanting.

You’ll Sleep Better

When you are overweight it can be difficult to sleep. Getting comfortable in bed is the first obstacle and then, when you are finally asleep, breathing can be an issue. If you don’t get enough good quality sleep you can become ill, developing conditions such as heart disease, increasing your risk of heart attack, and being more prone to developing depression. Losing weight will make getting to sleep (and staying deeply asleep) much easier, which in turn has amazing benefits for your overall health.

Fewer Aches And Pains

Being overweight takes a terrible toll on your joints, muscles, and bones. They are doing a lot more work if they need to carry more weight around, and this can mean that you are more susceptible to aches and pains, and even debilitating injuries. Losing weight will ease the pressure on your joints and bones, making them a lot less painful and resulting in fewer injuries. If your back pain doesn’t get any better after losing weight, or if it is causing you major distress it is best to get advice from an expert.

More Fertile

If can be difficult to become pregnant when you are overweight, so slimming down can certainly improve your fertility. Not only that, but if you are slimmer during your pregnancy you will be healthier throughout, and so will your baby. A mother’s weight during pregnancy has been linked to the health of her child, so it is in both of your interests for you to lose the excess weight. However, dieting in pregnancy is not recommended, so it is best to lose the weight before you become pregnant.

Better Eyesight

For many people, losing weight can actually protect their vision. Obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes can cause blindness, or at least reduced eyesight, so it is far better to lose weight before this becomes a problem.

Seasonal Allergies May Disappear

If you develop seasonal allergies that make your spring and summer something of a misery because you are always sneezing and rubbing your itchy eyes, losing weight might help you. When you are overweight your adrenal glands and respiratory system can be strained making allergy symptoms much harsher. Losing weight will reduce that strain, and you may be able to combat pollen and grass seeds much more easily.

10 Reasons To Try A Vegan Diet

A lot of people are choosing to eat a much more vegetable based diet and for many the next logical step is to incorporate a vegan diet into their lives as well – or even instead of the vegetarian or omnivorous one. Diet is hugely important in our lives and getting it wrong can result in a variety of life-limiting diseases and conditions. Get it right, however, and you can live a long and happy life. Veganism makes it much easier to get that diet right, which could be why so many people are enjoying it. There are many reasons to try a vegan diet; here are some of them to think about.

Prevents Some Conditions

Heart disease and type 2 diabetes are most often the results of bad choices in our diets and they are the most common chronic diseases in the world. When you realize that these illnesses are not something that anyone necessarily has to suffer from if they just changed their eating habits you’ll see how vital a vegan diet can be. It can even reverse some cases of cardiovascular disease if the changes are made properly.

Reverses Some Conditions

Just like cardiovascular disease mentioned above, a vegan diet can have a hand in reversing all manner of other nasty diseases. Studies have shown that vegans have lower cancer rates, fewer strokes, less chance of type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and even fewer reported cases of Alzheimer’s disease. A plant-based diet can help a lot more than any kind of medication or surgery, so it really can’t hurt to at least try it for a while to see if any improvements are made.

Lose Weight And Keep It Off

Vegans tend to have a health body mass index (BMI) which means that their weight is perfectly in relation to their height and body shape. For those who eat meat, it’s much harder to maintain this kind of BMI without a large amount of exercise. This is because animal products are much higher in fat and have more calories than any vegan product. These things are converted into fat in the body, which is then difficult to remove. Vegan food, however, has more carbohydrates which are converted into energy instead of fat. That’s why vegans are able to lose weight and keep that weight off easily.

It’s Kind

This may not be the kind of argument that works for the majority of meat eaters; they like to eat meat and will continue to do it. However, for some it is reason enough to try vegan food. Showing kindness and compassion to animals is something that many vegans feel passionate about, particularly because animals are innocent sentient beings and killing them just to eat them doesn’t seem very fair at all.

Good For World Hunger

There is a huge demand for food all over the world and a lot of this is fueled by the need for animal products; although there is a lot of meat around, when it is produced in emerging and third world countries the majority of it is sent to first world countries, leaving those in the country of origin to be hungry. Not only that, but over 70 percent of the grain grown in America is used to feed livestock, even though that grain is enough to feed 800 million people. If more people were vegan, there would be more food available for everyone and world hunger would be severely reduced, if not eradicated altogether.

Vegan Food Is Cleaner

Vegan food has a lot fewer instances of bacteria, hormones, antibiotics, and other toxins found in it whereas meat and dairy products do have a lot of these within them and they can cause health issues in people. This includes food poisoning which affects 75 million people each year; and it can be fatal. Vegan food can be eaten without these issues and those who enjoy this kind of diet won’t have to worry about falling ill because of it.

Good For The Environment

Somewhere between 18 and 50 percent of manmade pollution comes through factory farming for the meat industry. The more people who cut meat out of their diet, the less need there will be for this kind of industry and the better that will be for the environment.

Fantastic New Flavours

Did you know that there are more than 20,000 kinds of edible plants in the world? Although not all of them have been ‘domesticated’, there are roughly 200 different types that are farmed in the Western world today (and you’ll discover even more if you go traveling). This means that there are always new and exciting flavours and recipes to try; if you love cooking then cooking vegan recipes is something that will keep you happy for a long time to come. You’ll certainly never get bored!

Better Concentration

If you need to study for an exam, or generally be more productive at work, changing to a vegan diet can really help you. People who eat vegan food are much more focused with better concentration. Whether you want to be able to complete an escape the room game, work out a tricky crossword puzzle, or bring in a huge contract for your company, you’ll need to be able to concentrate so ditch the meat (at least for a while) and see the difference it will make.

Get Fit

Although you may think that switching from a meat-based diet to a vegan one will leave you sluggish and without energy it’s the opposite that is true. It can actually boost your energy levels and help you reach your fitness goal much more quickly. This is because you’ll be enjoying a lot more healthy protein in your diet. Not only that, but with a vegan diet almost all of the food is able to be used within the body in some way. In an animal-based diet much of the food is removed as waste, and really not required at all.