Live on Chorley FM : Wake Up To The Weekend

Ever since I was a panellist on Sally Naden's daytime chat show on BBC Radio Lancashire, and then took part in a blogger take-over on radio stations around the UK talking about healthy breakfasts, I fell in LOVE with notion of presenting my own radio show at some point in my life. Fast foward a couple of years and I found myself promoting an adult learners course on a local community radio station (Preston FM - sadly no longer in existence) and was encouraged by one of the presenters to join the next training course to become a presenter

I wrote a two hour show that was based around the spoken word (poems, short plays, monologues) and then ended up hosting my own quiz show on Preston FM - The Big Cheese - which ran for six episodes and a couple of one-off specials.  I also had the opportunity to be part of an actual radio play - Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully - which is very funny, you should have a listen! But volunteering takes up valuable time and sometimes real life and jobs that pay the bills has to take precedence. So I put the dream on the back burner for a bit. 

Until now... 

Live on Chorley FM : Wake Up To The Weekend - Chorley FM logo

Through a certain amount of circumstance, I found myself back in the studio today with my fabulous podcast co-host, Rowena.  We bagged ourselves an hour on Chorley FM (yes, THAT Chorley FM - it really does exist, and NO we are not allowed to say "coming in your ears" which is a bit of a challenge...) from 9am to 10am.  

Our show was hopefully mindful, motivational and a little bit mad (people may say, exactly like its presenters) and it was totally live.  There were a couple of hiccups and we had to get used to the workings of the studio but we were literally thrown in at the deep end with a quick "this is the desk and this is how it works" training session beforehand. Luckily, Rowena has worked that type of desk during her time on hospital radio but I'm definitely going to be learning and refreshing on the job.

I'm not going to lie, I was SO nervous.  I think it's the first time Rowena has seen me like that and she found it hilarious! Rather than calm me down, she just told me to get on with it and laughed at me - but that was probably the best course of action. It's no good pandering to me because I'll just carry on panicking. 

Live on Chorley FM : Wake Up To The Weekend - working the desk at the radio station
Trying not to break 'the desk'

We did advance warn our friends that we were going to be broadcasting to the nation local community and they very kindly joined in with our request to contact the studio for a "Saturday Shout Out" so it was lovely to see that we had support from the outset.  We were also broadcast live to the runners at Blackburn GroupRun's Saturday session (thanks John!) and lots of people outside of the area listened online and gave us some awesome feedback.  I wish I could share the show with you but that facility isn't available just yet. 

There's a few extra pictures on my Instagram account if you want to go and have a look.  I want to go back and do it all again RIGHT NOW! Hopefully, there will be that opportunity in the not too distant future.  Stay tuned!!

Live on Chorley FM : Wake Up To The Weekend - the girls take over the studio


Struggles with Sharing a Bed? Solve Your Sleep Problems

Sharing your bed with a partner can be a big adjustment, especially if you've got used to sleeping alone for a while. Sometimes, you just need some time to settle into it and feel comfortable being next to each other. But there can also be fundamental differences between you that are extremely difficult to resolve. Neither one of you is going to change your mind about how you prefer to sleep, and sometimes it's nearly impossible to alter your sleeping habits, so you need to find solutions that help both of you. Here's how you can do it.

Get the Right Mattress

Mattresses can play a big role in how well you sleep next to your partner. You might have different mattress preferences, or one of you might move around a lot, disturbing the other. One solution might be to have separate mattresses, particularly if one of you prefers a firmer mattress. Getting the right mattress can make a big difference too. If you look at Mattress-Guides.Net, you can find reviews of some of the top mattresses. Mattresses that help to stop transference of movement are a good idea, helping whoever is moving around to avoid disturbing their partner.

Sort Out Snoring

Snoring is a huge problem that affects many couples. If you're fed up of poking your partner through the night, you need a more permanent solution so that you can both sleep better. Firstly, you need to see if you can find the cause of the snoring. A variety of things can cause it or make it worse, from drinking alcohol to sleep apnea. If you can't get rid of the snoring, blocking out the sound is the next best option. A wall of pillows between you or a set of earplugs will help to keep things quiet.

Pick an Agreeable Temperature

Some couples disagree about the temperature in their bedroom, which can make it difficult to get your sleep environment right. If you can't decide on a comfortable temperature, there are a couple of things you can do. You can try to pick a temperature that's in between your personal preferences so it works for both of you. If you can't find something that you're both happy with, you could have separate covers so one of you can have more layers or a thicker duvet. You can also change what you wear to bed to feel more comfortable.

Solve Bedding Problems

Another common issue between partners sharing a bed is the struggle for covers. If one of you tries to keep them all to yourself, it can be a constant battle of the blankets. This is another issue that could be solved by separate bedding for both of you. While it might be nice to get under the covers together, it's not always the most practical option. If you each have your own, there won't be any fighting and your problem will be solved.

It can be hard to share a bed, even with the person you love the most. But if sleep problems are causing a rift, you need to find solutions for them.

Image Credit : Image 1 |  Image 2

Instrumental Music & Noise Sources for Writing

Instrumental Music & Noise Sources for Writing

One of the problems that many writers face is an inability to work while listening to music that contains any form of lyrics or words. When crafting text, it's tough to focus on what you want to say when you're hearing something else: it's similar to having two people talking at the same time! Since a large chunk of music these days contain lyrics, you'll sometimes struggle to get a decent playlist or artist that's able to provide you with what you want. That's why I've decided that today, I'm going to offer you my best sources for noises that contain no language whatsoever!

A Soft Murmur

This isn't actually musical in nature, but I find it a fabulous source for noise. What the website does is essentially give you access to a soundscape of various things that you might find calming or useful, such as the sound of rain, waves, fire, birds, white noise and so on. The page is incredibly easy to use and completely free: they've even got some apps for iOS and Android devices if you'd like to have a version that's available on the go. I generally have this going in the background for a little ambient pleasure and sometimes, I use it by itself when I'm not feeling like some upbeat music.

Nas Kingston on YouTube

Whether I'm writing up a movie review, blogging on finance or just looking for some porn deals worth taking advantage of, I'm convinced that Nas Kingston's YouTube channel is a premium source of instrumental hip hop. There are hundreds of tapes uploaded here featuring some of the best work from the likes of Dr. Dre, Hi Tek, 50 Cent, The Beatnuts and DJ Premier. I'd say that 98% of the play time is without vocals and I've literally listened to every single upload that Nas has: I'm addicted! Definitely check it out if you're a fan of the flows that hip hop has to offer. Some absolutely stellar collections here.

Remix Rotation

This used to be my favorite source of music if I'm honest with you, but the website has changed over the last few years and has become a bit more commercial and hard to use (it was very simplistic when it first launched). Still, I head on over to Remix Rotation from time to time when I want different genres of music to enjoy. You'll find liquid DnB, trance, dubstep, minimal and deep house here, as well as lots of genres I've never heard of before! It basically curates the top-selling tracks on various platforms and finds them on YouTube for you to enjoy for free. Simple and convenient – just how I like it.

Thanks for reading – I hope your next writing adventure with some sounds to listen to has been greatly improved by this article!


Tips For Creating A Beautiful Flooring On A Budget

The fascinating look of the home comes as the first priority to any home-lover. As they are much conscious about the look of their home. So here your choice kept a great role to give your home the splendid look. Do you know that what is key to give beauty to your house? It’s the base of your house!! Yes, you’re Floor. Nowadays, flooring has become a center of focus to attract and raise the beauty of any house. Don’t worry we are here to share you some genuine tips which will match to your choice at the low price.

• Things You Should Remember:

The choice of virtuous stuff can really make your room to look mind-blowing. But always keep in mind that choosing the area for flooring is most important than looks. You should always deal with the strength keeping material along with having no trouble in the installation of that material while flooring. Although many flooring pieces of stuff are very costly and in case of any drawback you may have a great loss of your money and time too. So you should have to follow some tips for beautiful flooring & also to save your money to buy new accessories.

• Always Choose Best Material For Flooring:

You can make your room beautiful by buying beautiful flooring stuff. Always try to check the durability, installation capacity, sustainability, peel and stick capacity, water-resistance and luxurious look of your material. These facts work to increase the beauty of your room. There are many flooring stuffs like Laminate Floor, Luxury Vinyl Plank Floor, Bamboo or cork Floor, Peel & Stick Vinyl Floor, and Carpet Tiles. These materials are best to choose that have the variety of models that came under cheap price.

• It’s Better To Choose Laminate Flooring:

Laminate is over-all the best choice to make your floor jaw-dropping and it’s cheaply too. There are the variety of laminate flooring materials that resembles the hardwood, cement & stone flooring. Many homeowners prefer to have laminate flooring in their house because it is budget-friendly, easy to clean and it has enough durability. Moreover, you can save your money by installing it on your floor by yourself. Another quality of laminate flooring is that it can fade through sun exposure & also water-resistant.

• Prefer To Install Flooring Material By Yourself:

Always buy that stuff which can easily be installed. Because you can save you enough money by doing handy-work. But you should have to be known from the procedure for proper installation and that’s not a big deal to learn how to install floor properly, you have a great approach to solve this problem by searching it on Google, YouTube and so on.

• Have Some Concession On Budget Of Your Stuff:

You can ask for some concession and discount with the dealer. You can demand a more good looking stuff at the low price by gonna bargaining in good manners. If you have enough knowledge about any product you can deal perfectly.

Photo Credits : Image 1  |  Image 2  |  Image 3

What’s the best way to ask your employer for funding?

With the right knowledge and training, many adults can bring more to their job and company. However, it’s possible that many people think that they can’t speak to their employer and ask them for education funding. Perhaps they believe that this is an inappropriate question to ask, or they don’t think that their employer would agree. In reality, employees that have been invested in by their place of work often have a higher well-being and are more productive — bringing more to their company. 

If you do want to speak your employer and ask for more funding, how should it be done? There are certain things to remember when approaching an employer and asking them for training. Members of the Newcastle College adult learning department give us their advice:

Spend time assessing your options

It’s important that you do plenty of research into your options before going to your employer. With many training and education providers, you’ll find that there are a range of courses and options available. From night courses to part-time degrees, to higher apprenticeships, you can find a course that will fit nicely around your work/life balance. 

You should bear in mind that university is not your option to further your education. Speak to your local college and visit their website to see what they have to offer — it’s likely that they run a course related to your field or around a topic that you’re interested in.

Courses are flexible

Put yourself in the shoes of an employer — they’re more likely to support your funding if they think it won’t affect your work productivity. Again, this is all about doing your research and demonstrating to your boss that there are flexible courses out there – designed for workers like you! 

Assessment in many courses happens on the job. This means that you wouldn’t be sacrificing any working hours for exams and your ability to complete tasks at work shouldn’t be affected. 

Why not speak to your local college to find out more about the module structure and methods of assessment? 

Demonstrate further benefits

Are you aware of the benefits that you can bring to the business if you further your training?

You might be able to fill a knowledge gap in the company, for example. This is knowledge you can share with your colleagues. It’s also possible that after your training, you could be bringing in financial benefits for the business, for example if it means they don’t have to employ somebody else to fill a role or an external company to pick up that area of work. Think about what your new qualification could allow you to do and present this to your employer when asking the question. 

The happiness and satisfaction of employees is important to many company bosses. Let your employer know what this training would mean for you. Will it make you feel more confident in your role? Or, more valued and empowered? If so, express these feelings to your boss. 

Gather the information for them

Before you ask them about training, make sure you give them all the information they need upfront. This allows them to fully review all the information at a later date and saves them from doing in-depth research themselves. 

Bring information such as; module overviews, assessment methods, course testimonials and information about websites or open days so that they can find out more if they want to.

Remember that you’ll have to commit to giving up a significant amount of your personal time to complete a course, especially if your employer isn’t able to give you time away from the workplace. Make sure your employer knows the sacrifices you are willing to make to improve your performance at work.

One last thing to note is that you should never be afraid to ask the question for funding. You and your employer can enjoy the many benefits. 

As you can see, there are ways to approach your employer and ask them for funding. Don’t be afraid to ask the question — you and your employer can both enjoy the many benefits.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash


Why You Should Prefer Vaping To Smoking

Why You Should Prefer Vaping To Smoking - Photo by Itay Kabalo on Unsplash

More than ten years have passed since the introduction of vaping but the conflict between vaping and smoking is still on its way. Electro puffing and E-cigarettes are the alternative names of vaping which has been getting immensely popular around the globe since its launching in 2003. In spite it being a new concept as compared to smoking, people are showing strong inclination towards vaping and there is a tremendous increase in the number of vape shops and vape stores across the globe. All of this is not just accidental, but has many logical reasons behind it. Some of these obvious reasons are actually the benefits of vaping over smoking. Let's have a look over these 

Chemically milder in comparison

Cigarettes contain at least 24 harmful chemicals including nicotine, cyanide, arsenal, lead, ammonia, carbon monoxide and many more. The combustion of tobacco produces all the carcinogenic chemicals which lead to cancer in regular or chain smokers. Lung and mouth cancer, a number of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases are caused by smoking cigarettes regularly. On the contrary, vape juice or E-liquid contains far fewer chemicals. These include PG, VG and flavors, all of them FDA approved, too. These are comparatively quite milder chemicals which bring just 5 percent harm as compared to that by smoking. 

Variety of flavours

Where smokers can enjoy only various tobacco forms, vapers have E-liquid in a plenty of flavours easily available from the vape shops online. Apple, strawberry, caramel, menthol, cherry, chocolate, etc are a few of the so many flavours of vape juices. A user may keep changing the flavours as per his mood. Moreover, you can easily replace the used batteries from, say, vaporizer batteries for sale, etc. 

Causes less addiction

Cigarettes contain much nicotine which makes users highly addictive and they become chain or regular smokers and ultimately catch a number of diseases. Electro puffing, on the other hand, contains either very low or not at all any amount of nicotine which makes it less addictive. 

Helps quit smoking

It has been observed that many E-cigarette users vape as a first step towards quitting the habit of smoking. It has been reported that many regular or chain smokers have ceased smoking by using vaping as an aid to quit smoking.

Produces less harmful effects on others

Smoking a tobacco cigarette not only affects the direct users but also produces adverse effects on the people around them. This is called passive smoking or second-hand smoke. Passive smokers are also always subjected to catching coronary diseases or even cancer. Comparatively, vaping is far safer for the people in the immediate vicinity of the vaper. Vaping fumes do not contain anything but odorless smoke or a pleasant aroma which is always harmful. 

Environment Friendly

Vaping never pollutes the environment at all because of its harmless and non-toxic smoke, for it is quite free of residue toxic smoke and ash. You never have to use an ashtray while vaping. On the contrary, the tobacco smoking itself and the litter it produces are always bad for the environment. They contribute a lot towards the atmospheric pollution and the green house effect. Moreover, carelessly discarded cigarette butts have started many fires causing huge loss of life and property on countless occasions. 

Convenient in use

Depending upon the local laws, vaping is quite convenient in use as compared to smoking a cigarette. You can vape in public areas without any fear of unpleasant odours or passive smoking. You only have to manage vape pen cartridge refill and keep enjoying as much as you can. 

Far cheaper

Last but not the least; vaping is far cheaper than smoking. In addition to its health, social and environmental benefits, this economical or financial benefit is also very much appreciable when you see that you are already under an extra-ordinary burden of acute dearness. Practically proven, vaping is 90% cheaper than smoking though initially you have to buy an E-cigarette. Compared to the cost of heavily taxed tobacco products, E-juice proves much cheaper. 

In short, you can judge it for yourself that vaping is a better and safer option for you, the people around you and the environment. It is an acceptable alternate to smoking.

Photo by Itay Kabalo on Unsplash

The Snowman Tour 2018 | Blackburn

The Snowman Tour 2018 - The Snowman and Violin - photo credit : Gareth Widdowson

Earlier this year I was asked to be an official blogger for The Snowman Tour, especially as the tour is coming to my home town and being presented in Blackburn Cathedral on 11th December.

Carrot Productions bring you the magic of the iconic film, The Snowman, with a full live orchestra and additional festive treats in a unique setting. It's a beautiful, fun introduction to the orchestra and a perfect pre-Christmas outing for all the family.

The show is in two halves - both around 35 minutes long - and aimed at children aged three and above. The first half will feature a wonderful Christmas overture followed by an animated film of the award winning book, The Bear and the Piano (written by David Litchfield and narrated by Joanna Lumley) which promises to enchant all ages. The second half of the show leads into the film itself with a surprise conductor during the Snowman Waltz.

The musicians are drawn from orchestras around the country including the Hallé, BBC Philharmonic, BBC Concert and BBC Scottish amongst others with players chosen for their musical skills and their fun, friendly nature. The orchestra is conducted by the BBC Symphony Orchestra's Steve Magee who is an expert in syncing music to film.

I don't want to share too many spoilers but I heard SO MANY great reports about this tour last year so I'm really excited to be taking the grandchildren this year. You can watch this sneak peek from two performances last year, one being at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool. Just see how magical it all looks!!

As I mentioned above, The Snowman Tour arrives in Blackburn on 11th December and you can buy tickets here. You can also find all other tour dates from around the country here. It promises to be a feast of sights and sounds to thrill the whole family. See you there!

The Snowman Tour 2018 - The Snowman and Piano - photo credit : Gareth Widdowson

Image Credit : Gareth Widdowson - reproduced with kind permission from Carrot Productions

Holidaying once the children have grown up and moved out

Now that I am edging slowly towards fifty, I wonder how I would feel once I am on the other side. When I look back, I feel life has been good and kind. My kids are now 19, 25 and 27, and I am no longer in my thirties. Life is certainly changing as the numbers grow in our age. 

However, I have not allowed it to change my desires and zest for life. I know that my children will not always be there with me as they move on in their own lives. My nest would be empty, but I plan to fill the big empty with wonderful possibilities. I am going to celebrate my life and make a new beginning all over again. Have any questions about life after 50? Click here to know about the amazing possibilities at this golden age. 

As I love to travel, I have already made a bucket list of where I would travel once I am alone and my children move out. I already feel like a free bird!

Greece is my favourite

I love beaches, and I have heard that the beaches are the best in Greece, so this is my first travel destination, especially after visiting Corfu last year. The climate is warm and sunny, and it would be great to enjoy the beaches, explore the islands and hike. Moreover, the locals are friendly, and the food is healthy and delicious too!

Italy for its rich history and culture

I would love to explore the canals in Venice or look at the astounding art treasures in Rome and Florence. I have heard that Italian trains are very affordable and it would be great to explore regions such as Basilicata, Umbria, Puglia or Le Marche. 

The sunny and colourful Mexico

I’m a big fan of Mexico, and the city seems to be cool and pleasant. I am attracted to its foods, customs, handicrafts as well as archaeological sites and the colonial towns. Moreover, it has an exploding food scene and is a very affordable city.

Japan for its politeness and bullet trains

I do not know a single word of Japanese, but feel very excited at the thought of travelling in Japan. It would be great to experience Japanese politeness and the delicious food in person. Those ultra-punctual and speedy bullet trains would make travelling a breeze.

Laos for Buddhist temples and orange-robed monks

I have always been fascinated by Buddhism and so have placed Laos on my bucket list. It would be very relaxing to explore the peaceful towns and small villages. I would love to hike in the beautiful countryside.

The vast and interesting Argentina

I would love to have a longer holiday in Argentina as there is so much to see and do. I could hike up the mountains and go around the lakes or take a boat to a glacier. I am excited as in Argentina I would get the chance to see the biggest waterfalls in the world. Then there are churches a, museums to explore and lots of shopping to enjoy!

My bucket list is open-ended, and I look at it as a motivational force to cheer me up and move towards a yet better and fruitful life after 50!

Photo 1 by Charlie Marusiak on Unsplash 
Photo 2 by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash 
Photo 3 by Quinn Buffing on Unsplash

Beautiful Property Fences

If you would like to add beautiful property fencing to your yard but don't know where to start, you are not alone. Many people would like to install a fence in their yard but don't know what option they should choose to reach the outcome they want. This guide explains the steps you can take to choose a fence that makes your property stand out in a positive way. 

As you move forward, you can select a parameter fence in a colour that matches the rest of your home. Installing a privacy fence is another option from which you can choose. Review the rest of the information to learn about other fences worth considering, and you won't have trouble making your decision. 

Chain-Link Fencing

The chain link fence is the first option you are going to explore while deciding what path you should take. This option comes with a simple design that won't enhance the visual appeal of your property. Although it does not look pretty, a chain link fence is cheap and durable enough to do its job without issues. A lot of people use this type of fence in their backyard so that their children can’t leave the property and endanger themselves. 

Others use chain-link fences as a parameter fence that goes around their entire yard to keep unwanted guests at bay. Some people move forward without first measuring their yard. If you want to avoid unneeded complications, make sure you know how much fencing you need before spending your money. 

Pool Fencing

If you own a pool and don't want anyone to get hurt, having a pool fence is a vital element you can't afford to overlook. You can have peace of mind and put your worries to rest when you have a quality fence around your pool. The type of fence you choose does not matter as long as it's sturdy enough to keep children from entering the water without supervision. Some people opt for a simple chain-link fence to reach their goals, and you can do the same. 

Looking for pool fences that enhance the look of your pool and yard is another option you should consider. No matter the type of fence you choose, make sure it's so tall that children can't climb over it. Keeping your needs and goals at the front of your mind allows you to choose a fence that looks great and keeps everyone out of harm's way. 

Garden Fencing

Protecting your garden is important if you don't want wildlife to ruin it, destroying everything for which you have worked. People will often use the first fence they discover when looking for smart ways to keep deer, rabbits and other animals at bay. 

But not getting a fence that meets your needs gives wildlife a perfect opportunity to sneak past your defenses. Rabbits can squeeze into small spaces when they are determined to get food, so make sure your mesh openings are smaller than 1 inch in width. A fence that is at least 10 feet high is what you want when your mission is to keep deer at bay. 

Final Thoughts

Increased safety and a beautiful property are what you can expect if you install a fence that meets your needs. No matter if you want a pool fence or something to keep animals out of your garden, the information you have discovered can make things much easier. 

Choosing a fence will be simpler than you once thought possible when you keep these tips on hand. When you buy a fence and see what it can do for your property, you will be proud of yourself. Your fence will grab attention and let you achieve the result you have in mind without much effort.

Photo 1 by Saber Kchikech on Unsplash  |  Photo 2 by Luke van Zyl on Unsplash

The journey of a fair trade coffee bean

The journey of a fair trade coffee bean

Ah coffee... If I'm being honest, I swing between my love for coffee and tea but I'm quite particular. If we Brits are married to our cups of tea, then coffee is our secret love affair. Recent figures revealed by the British Coffee Association (BSA) paint Britain less as a nation of tea-drinkers and more as coffee connoisseurs, with our coffee consumption increasing from 70 millions cups a day in 2008 to 95 million cups a day in 2018.

Obviously coffee beans don't grow in the UK, and it took a lot of manpower to get you your morning pick-me-up!

And, if, like me, you’re a fan of drinking fair trade coffee, that journey is all the more wonderful and varied. You see, the journey of a coffee bean depends on which farm it came from, the grower of the bean, and how it was processed.

Obviously, a large-scale coffee plantation will operate a lot differently from a simple (and much smaller) fair trade coffee farm. Sure, you know about the ethics surrounding fair trade coffee, the issues of pay and the treatment of workers, but it goes far beyond that. The number of workers, the use of waste water, the difference in fair trade coffee production can't be understated. The process is more eco-friendly and more worker friendly!

As an example, CIPAC's fair trade honey and coffee co-operative in Guatemala has in excess of 140 members working for them. It may be a remote area, but it's a fantastic area to grow coffee all the same.

Numerous farmers here are performing a trade inherited from many family generations. There’s lots for CIPAC’s farmers to do before the beans are ready to be made into the delicious coffee we know and love. So what exactly happens on the journey from bush to mug? Let’s follow some of CIPAC’s fair trade coffee growers to find out…

Harvesting coffee beans

Winter is typically coffee-harvesting season for many farmers. On family-owned farms, the whole family might get involved. Coffee ripens at a slightly different time within this period, depending on the climate, the altitude, the type of soil and the variety of coffee. Some farmers even live in areas with their own microclimate, which means the coffee they produce has its own particular and quality flavour!

Throughout the season, the same coffee plant can be harvested up to two or three times over. This is because only the ripe cherries are hand-plucked from the bush to guarantee a high quality coffee. On large coffee farms, the harvesters must travel up steep hills and down into valleys to collect the cherries in a basket — which can be exhausting.

The de-pulping process

Once the coffee has been harvested, it is moved on to the farmers. This involves the harvesters often having to travel up and down hills and across rickety bridges to reach the end destination, where the cherries are de-pulped within 24 hours.

While large-scale plantations use heavy machinery to quickly take off the coffee-cherry skins, farmers at CIPAC either use a small electric de-pulping machine (where the cherries are poured in the top and emerge de-pulped from the bottom) or their own energy. The coffee beans are closely inspected as they’re poured into the machine, and any beans that don’t look quite ripe enough or are too ripe are taken out.

Cleaning the cherries

Once the coffee cherries are de-pulped, they are submerged in unique water pools for a full day in order clean them and remove any remaining layers. Some beans will float in the water and these beans are always removed. After washing, the leftover water will contain some toxic elements that means it can’t just be thrown onto the plants in their backyard. But farmers at CIPAC know what to do – they re-use the dirty water and skins to make an eco-friendly compost to use around their coffee plants!

Drying each coffee bean

After cleaning, the beans are laid out to allow the sun to dry them naturally. The farmer chooses an area that’s wide, flat, and clean, and spreads the beans out with a rake. They turn the beans with this rake while the sun shines, and then hurry to cover them with a huge sheet if there’s a hint of rain or moisture about. As well as this, they also cover the beans every night, to keep off the dew. This process can take several days, or much longer if there’s rain!

Transporting the beans

Once the coffee has dried, parchment beans are formed. The farmers take the sacks of parchment beans to the nearest road, where they’ll be a collected by a van sent by the coffee co-operative. Farmers in the most remote areas must make their way along dangerous winding mountain paths and encounter huge cliff drops. Can you imagine having to walk along a cliff-edge while carrying a 30kg bag of coffee beans?

If there are no co-operatives to sell their products to, farmers often have to make longer, more dangerous journeys to find a trader. Once the beans reach the co-operative storage site safely, they’re then weighed, checked for quality, and stored.

Transforming the beans

Once the parchment beans arrive at a fair trade cooperative, they are then turned into green beans. This is the most important quality milestone yet, and involves the beans being judged by their weight and appearance, to make sure they’re of the best quality. Finally, the beans are ‘polished’, which removes the last layer of skin covering the coffee beans.

The beans are then sampled by buyers for quality in a process known as ‘coffee cupping’, which involves them slurping coffee in an attempt to accurately taste all the subtle flavours of the coffee, especially for the special varieties grown in areas with their own microclimates. These samples are sent to the co-operative, so they can easily vouch for the quality of the coffee to buyers! Finally, the finished beans are bagged, and sold to an exporter.

CIPAC sells the coffee beans to Cafesca, a fair trade operator based in Mexico. From there, some of the beans are sent to another Mexican fair trade operator, Descamex, who are the only facility in the world to use the Mountain Water Method to produce decaf coffee. Descamex send the decaffeinated beans back to Cafesca, who transform all the coffee beans into instant coffee and instant decaf. Once the finished coffee is sealed in jars, they’re loaded onto a container, then onto a ship, and then transported to the UK to be sold by retailers such as Traidcraft

The journey of a fair trade coffee bean

The journey has now reached its conclusion and it’s clear to see that coffee beans go on quite the adventure before making it into your mug! And while the huge coffee plantations use lots of workers and modern equipment, the fair trade farmers at CIPAC like to keep it simple. Family-run farms. Hand-picking only the ripest cherries. Drying the beans naturally under the heat of the sun. Fewer chemicals, and far more character.

Photo credits

The One Time I Was A Run Director At Parkrun

The One Time I Was A Run Director At Parkrun - group photo of Blackburn Road Runners as volunteers at Hyndburn parkrun

A couple of months ago I noticed a request on our running club newsletter to organise a "club takeover" for a local parkrun so I thought I'd give it a whirl.  Hyndburn parkrun is a fairly new parkrun course (this was their 46th event), it's one of our nearby parkrun courses and is one that I really enjoy running. So I was put in touch with their Run Director, we chose a takeover date and I was given a list of jobs roles that I needed to fill on the day.

Our club members really enjoy parkrun and we have at least 12 courses within an hours drive from our central point in Blackburn. This year we have a couple of challenges available to encourage you to get out of bed on a Saturday morning; there's a "12 in 12" challenge where we can be awarded a badge for visiting twelve different locations during the year and we have a volunteers badge available for rocking up and helping out on at least 10 occasions in a year. 

One thing I do love about our running club is that we have a very supportive core membership who are readily available to step up to the occasion, whether that be supporting at races, organising club events (running and social) and getting involved in one-off requests such as this. I had to have a minimum of 23 volunteers for the "takeover" to be effective and, boy, did our club step up to the challenge. 

Fifty club members arrived en masse at Hyndburn with children, dogs, cow bells, foam hands and even a drum(!) and were sent out across the course to the regular marshalling points. We had extra hands on deck for timekeeping, barcode scanning, funnel management and photography and I nominated myself as Run Director for the day.

I was very nervous because, even though we had guidance from the regular team, I really wanted to ensure that the event went without a hitch and that our club was well represented.  I didn't need to worry on either score because, on the surface, everything ran smoothly and any little hiccups were ironed out with support from the regular Run Directors who were there to keep an eye on things.

The One Time I Was A Run Director At Parkrun - parkrun logo

One amazing achievement that was celebrated on the day was from regular parkrunner, Karen Shackleton. This was Karen's 322nd parkrun and her husband, Barry, had worked out that when she hit 1.69 miles on the course, she would have run 1000 - yes, one thousand - parkrun miles!  It was an honour to have cheered Karen on her acomplishment! 

Now, anyone who runs regularly at parkrun will be very appreciative of the High Viz Heroes who line the course week after week, pointing them in the right direction, shouting out encouragement and ensuring that everyone is well looked after on their Saturday morning run.  What you may not realise is that there is a whole world of responsibility going on behind the scenes. Run Directors and their support team turn up at 8am to set up the course signage and finish funnel, and to ensure that they have enough hands on deck for the event to run safely and effectively. They then hang around afterwards to sometimes provide refreshments and process the results, sorting out any anomalies so that runners can receive their times and positions as quickly as possible - it can be 10.30am, or even later, before your results are accurately processed. Then there's the recharging of all the equipment and the washing of the volunteer's only then that the volunteer team can officially stand down.   

Many parkrun events struggle to maintain a bank of regular volunteers week on week and I wanted our runners to appreciate the effort that goes on to organise a parkrun instead of turning up a 8.50am, chasing a PB around the 5km course, having a slice of cake and going home to continue their weekend. As a club, we're received some amazing feedback from regular Hyndburn parkrun attendees and tourists alike but going forwards, I have a new found respect for parkrun Run Directors and their team and I  will definitely strive to have more of a volunteer/run balance. 

The One Time I Was A Run Director At Parkrun - getting jumping and posing tips from Rowena!

Photo credit : Gemma McAuley Photography

Summer Training Recap : Keeping The Miles In My Legs

I can't decide if I'm suitably embarrassed or completely proud of this "official" photo from my most recent race (more on that in a bit). Sometimes I think I need to bloody grow up or maybe I'm just having the BEST year EVER, taking on challenges to help me become a better person all round and listening to advice from my peers. I'm never going to win prizes or stand on a podium again so I might as well have a bit of fun whilst doing something I'm learning to love. 

Summer Training Recap : Keeping The Miles In My Legs - leaping photo from Ribble Way 10k Trail Run
Photo courtesy of Ribble Way Run

After my second half marathon I decided that I needed to try and maintain a 'running for pleasure' attitude seeing as though I was enjoying running so much. Our running club had a fantastic summer calendar planned and I thought I'd try and join in with a couple of the events where I could.

The first one was a Grand Prix where the rules were far too complicated to explain but as long as the members organising it could work out the results then I was happy with that!  The idea was that you ran in teams to checkpoints around Blackburn, found the answer to a clue to prove you'd visited that checkpoint and the winning team was the ones who ran their chosen amount of checkpoints in the shortest distance and the fastest time (I think... see what I mean?!).  Anyway, this was three days after the Southport Half Marathon and my legs wouldn't tackle the hills properly but my team mates propped me up and helped me out.  And we won "Best Team Name" with WE'VE GOT THE RUNS. In fact, I think our prize of a bottle of wine is still in the boot of Anna's car!

Team "WE'VE GOT THE RUNS" - BRR Grand Prix - July 2018

Even though I wasn't training for anything I did want to keep the miles in my legs just in case. There was a group going out for training runs on a Friday night so I tagged along with them for a few weeks and I gave off-roading a go - some short but challenging runs, totally working out the body in a different way to normal road running. I also started going to parkrun more regularly. I knew that I could run on my own just as well as I could run in a group and hitting a 5k personal best felt very much achievable, moreso because I was concentrating on course times and not an overall PB.

Then I lost my friend, Kate.  She didn't live close by but we spoke almost every day via message or social media. She had her personal ups and downs but always radiated positivity - or managed to put a humorous spin on a negative outcome.  She always asked how my run had gone and she was very supportive when I was pulling together my Fitbitches Movement project last year. I realised, there and then, that I needed to put more of an effort into something that I was enjoying.  I needed to be more positive and forward thinking with my approach to running.

I kept on turning up to parkrun, each week knocking seconds and then minutes off my course times.  The parkrun PB I had was from three years previous on a course with only one hill in it - breaking that had felt out of my reach but, on the 21st July I managed the impossible.  A course PB by 1m17s and an overall PB by 31 seconds!! This gave me the confidence I needed and I ventured out to new parkruns (one on my own and one with my running buddies) - and it was at a completely flat course, with perfect running conditions, I got another PB. My parkrun personal best now stands at 32m17s and this is nigh on impossible to beat on the 'undulating' courses around Blackburn but I'm nearer that much-coveted 30-minute 5k. 

Another club summer event was a 5k-Trail Relay.  On any other week I would have participated but I had another long run planned for later in the week so I offered to marshal and take photographs.  The relay teams were randomly picked from pools of "fast", "medium" and "slower" paced runners and a tough course was the order of the day.  It was good to give back to the club and be on the 'other side' for a change!


And then I decided to run home from work one Friday evening.  It's a shade over 10 miles door to door and I managed to talk fellow podcast host, Rowena, into accompanying me. I'd already decided to break the distance up by videoing a little update after each mile, and by mile 3 I knew that this was definitely going to work in my favour - it was only ever going to be another 12 minutes before I could take a break and use the filming as an excuse for a breather.  Plus, Rowena is one of the best people EVER to run with - she has story after story to tell about her time in the circus (yes, really) and doesn't mind being the one to chat whilst I concentrate on just breathing in and out. She was an absolute star from start to finish because she's a much faster runner than me but has the patience of a saint.

Anyway, here's all the mini-clips mashed together - usual advisory warning about the use of adult language (but if you've ever run with me, you'll know that this is completely the norm).  And the title of this video is a play on our podcast title too.

The final major event in the club calendar was the Club 5K Handicap which I had been looking forward to for a few weeks.  There's loads of science and maths behind this but every entrant had to submit their best 5k or 10k time and then runners would set off in a specific order, with the slowest runner going first and the fastest runner going last; the theory being that it should be a blanket finish for all runners. I was second to set off so I'll let you draw your own conclusion about that...

Now, I probably had a tiny bit of an advantage because my 5k/parkrun time has improved by around 5 minutes since the Spring but it was still everyone for themselves on the day. I set off a little bit too fast, panicked on the first hill, tried my best to recover on the downhill and then reminded myself not to slow down or to walk as it was "only 5k".  I managed to take the lead just over a mile into the race but knew it probably wouldn't last - and sure enough, I was overtaken towards the end of the second mile.  But I tried to keep my pace up, didn't look at my watch or over my shoulder and was convinced that my mate, Mel, was on my shoulder all the way round.  I turned into the park for the final stretch - which was a killer - with someone overtaking me in the final 50 meters or so.  But THIRD PLACE (and second place female) and yet another 5k personal best (31m52s) - I'm so OK with that!  And what was really nice was being able to cheer in our elite runners as they finished rather than them hanging around for me to finish at the back of the field.


And finally - the most recent race I've been involved in was the Ribble Way 10k Trail Run.  I thought I'd challenge myself to something completely different and this was a local race organised by one of our own club members. There was a half marathon trail race on the same day but I managed to talk myself out of that quite early on and I'm glad I did because the 10k was tough enough as it was.  We ran over actual fields, had to stop for sheep crossing, climbed over stiles and picked our way over uneven paths. I had very bad calf pain for the first mile and it was hard work to adapt to the different paces over the unusual terrain but I can definitely say that the off-road runs over the Summer really helped. And the lead photo on this blog post is my official photo from that race.  As an aside, this was a brilliantly organised race - not too busy, fantastically marshalled and a great medal and t-shirt for all finishers! 

Trail run pace looks totally different to regular run pace!

It's been a brilliant Summer for running. I reunited with my 'running wife', Lesley, on one of her training runs for the Great North Run, I had a "first in age category" at one parkrun (there was definitely more than one person in my age cat. but that's as far as that information needs to go) and tried to keep up with the 32-minute pacer at another. I attempted another "leaping" photo when our local paper covered a Club Run Taster Session and ended up on Page 3! Also, my two lads joined me at parkrun one week - it was their first visit ever, they finished in 22 minutes and within 30 seconds of each other!  

Me and my running wife, Lesley

I'll do anything for a "Flying Feet" photo


Yes, I made these two and I am of average height!

The nights are now drawing in and the high-viz bib is back on for evening club runs.  I haven't really got anything planned with regards to racing over the next couple of months even though there were two half marathons that I would liked to have had a shot at but training would not have fit in with a holiday we have planned (I'm still a definite maybe on one of them but ssshhh!).  I am looking forward to two 10k races in November that I always take part in and which are potential PB courses.

My Instagram account has almost become is a timeline of before/after weight loss comparison photos plus self-congratulatory post-run selfies. I've been micro-blogging each run on Instagram and I'm really enjoying my recent training and personal achievements. I wonder what the next few months are going to bring?

I need a new mid-run pose!


Diamonds are forever? Perhaps, not for much longer

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I couldn't ever imagine spending £5,000 on a piece of jewellery, according to a survey completed by Insure4Retirement, a Home and Travel Insurance provider for the Over 50s it was found that 73% of people who completed a quote and listed jewellery as part of the cover required and they owned over £5,000 worth of gems and precious metals. Data from the Wealth and Assets Survey 2016 (WAS) shows that households with, what the insurance industry refers to as the largest ‘physical wealth’ were people who had reached retirement age, such as my parents, having accumulated more than £66,900 in household assets. 

The same survey also shows that those in the 16-24 age group (perhaps unsurprisingly) have the lowest ‘physical wealth’. Now maybe this is because they simply haven’t had enough time to accumulate physical assets but also because the average age for getting on the property ladder has risen to over 30 years old, seven years older than the average in 1960. Simply put, my children don’t have homes filled with stuff, because they are still living with me!! 

Despite this being a contributing factor to the huge gap in physical wealth between the younger and older generations, industry analysts realise that this is generally down to the fact that our next generation simply don’t see value in spending their cash on valuables. “Millennials gravitate toward spending money on experiences, and not things” according to Sarah Berger of Today’s younger generation are far more inclined to spend a significant amount of money travelling to locations such as Bali and Thailand – both popular destinations for under-30 Brits - than on fine jewellery.

The move toward spending a higher percentage of income on experiences isn’t isolated to the younger generation according to the Office for National Statistics. The ONS highlighted that households aged between 65 and 74 are now spending nearly a fifth (18%) of their income on recreational and cultural activities. Perhaps fuelled by the recent availability of reasonable travel insurance for older people with medical conditions. Over 65s are spending the highest percentage of their income on package holidays than they have in a long time. 

As the rising cost of living eats in to the wallets of UK households, the jewellery and retail industry are competing unsuccessfully for the attention of our young generation. The generation currently aged 18-36 typically spend around 30% of their income on rent, in comparison to the 10% their grandparents would have spent in the 1960s. Leaving them with less to splash out on luxury possessions as they opt for Instagram-worthy brunch spots in lieu.

The diamond industry has reportedly slowed as our Millennial consumers are far-less enamoured by traditional diamond jewellery than their parents. “Diamond jewellery appears to be low on the buying lists” of today’s youth according to Des Kilalea, an analyst from RBD Capital Market. A worrying situation for the jewellery industry, as the Millennial generation edge towards becoming the most active consumer group. According to Insure4Retirement, whose customer base is predominantly made up of baby-boomers, 50% of all specified items of jewellery are diamond. If the jewellery industry can’t find a way to grip the hearts of our youth, we can expect to see these figures decrease with each decade, until the once much-coveted diamond becomes yet another icon of a bygone era. 

Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in the above articles are those of the author only and are for guidance purposes only. The authors disclaim any liability for reliance upon those opinions and would encourage readers to rely upon more than one source before making a decision based on the information


What's In Your Dream Kitchen?

How do you like your toast in the morning?
I like mine with a hug.
Dark or light,
The world's all right,
As long as I get my hug.
How Do You Like Your Eggs In The Morning : Dean Martin feat. Helen O'Connell

My name is Nickie and I suffer from toast anxiety. There, I said it.

I shared this picture of the fifteen stages of toast a while back (ranging from warmed up bread to total cremation) and it caused all sorts of debate. I'm personally a 15 kinda girl (8 at a push) and cannot really deviate from that.

My toast has to be perfect.  Hot, buttery and crunchy. And cut into triangles (because you can get a better bite out of it and there's only one corner to eat, just in case you were wondering).

But... do you know what the worst thing is? It's when you make a couple slices of toast and by the time you get to the final triangle, it's lukewarm *shudder*  I never, ever order toast in a café when having a fry-up because you can guarantee that the toast will be stone cold by the time it comes to the table. Oh and toast racks just give me the absolute jitters.

All my life I have been trying to come up with solutions to this dilemma. I've lost count of the amount of times that I have stood up in the kitchen, eating the first slice of toast, hovering over the toaster as the second slice cooks only I can never time it right. Sometimes the toast cooks too soon so has popped up before you're ready to butter it or it pops up too late and you're left with toast-cravings. I have been waiting for the day that Jon Tickle (yes, he of Big Brother Series 4) got past the prototype stage for his Toaster delay idea but it's never yet materialised. 

Now, I was browsing the Kitchen Warehouse website, looking for inspiration for a kitchen  make-over and got sidetracked by appliances. I  know I'm WAAAAAAY behind the times here but imagine my delight when I found the toaster of my dreams. A DeLonghi Argento 4-slice toaster. LOOK... you don't have to cook four slices in one go - you can utilise both sides and cook at separate times and there's even a 'reheat' setting for if the toast you've made does go cold. It's like all my prayers have been answered. And it looks bloody gorgeous sitting on the kitchen units

Delonghi Argento 4-slice toaster from House of Fraser

So, whilst I munch on my multiple perfect slices of toast, tell me how you eat yours and if there's a kitchen appliance you have (or dream of having) that makes your life easier. 



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