Wednesday 28 February 2024

Can you eat thirty different plants in a week?

It's actually not as difficult as it sounds!

Sometime before Christmas I read a nutrition article online that made an impression on me. I think it may have been this one - Forget five a day, 30 a week is the new rule you need to follow. It's behind a paywall, but if you don't have a Telegraph subscription you can find a similar article here with lots more advice - Why should you eat 30 plants a week?

The premise behind eating 30 different types of plant in a week is that it can boost the diversity and health of your gut biome, which is also really important for other aspects of your health. When I read the headline I thought that it sounds impossible, I find it difficult enough to fit in my five a day! But after I read more closely I realised that actually it's very achievable. 

Plants doesn't just include the usual fruit and vegetables, it also counts grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. Even chocolate counts if it's more than 70% cocoa, as does coffee and popcorn. The curry mix that I sometimes use in cooking contains coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic, cardamom, chilli, star anise, bay leaf, cloves, mace - that's 11 plants in one go!

I've been making a big effort with my diet since the new year, trying to make healthier choices and increasing the range of foods that I eat. So I decided to quickly add up the number of different plants that I ate on a fairly typical day (that does admittedly tend towards the healthier end of the scale) and see how many I got to. I was really surprised!

Simple bean salad in a bowl

Breakfast - Muesli. I eat a small bowl of Sainsbury's Swiss Style Muesli which contains oat flakes, wheat flakes, sultanas, hazelnuts and almonds. Then I top it with a mixture of my own - raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and some flaked almonds. Adds 9 plants.

Lunch - Bean salad, includes kidney beans, sweetcorn, onion, tomato, red pepper, olive oil. Followed by a handful of grapes. Adds 7 plants.

Snack - A couple each of Brazil nuts, cashew nuts and almonds. Adds 2 plants.

Dinner - Lentil Bolognese, includes red lentils, green lentils, potato, onion, carrot, tomato, olive oil, garlic, curry powder (coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic, cardamom, chilli, star anise, bay leaf, cloves, mace), black pepper. Adds 15 plants.

Snack - Apple. Adds 1 plant. I also had some chocolate, but it was milk so doesn't count!

Even allowing for overcounting or miscalculation that makes an impressive 34 plants! The curry powder does feel like a bit of a cheat, especially because I don't use very much, so I think that I would need to add it more frequently to get the full benefits.

I could definitely do with some adding some more variety to my diet - I eat the same for breakfast every morning and I often repeat lunches - but I was pleasantly surprised to find that eating so many different plants wasn't as overwhelming as I had thought. I'm definitely in the right mindset at the moment to want to improve my diet, and I'm really enjoying researching the topic and finding some new recipes to try - and feeling better for it too.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Four ways to improve lone worker safety

This is a collaborative post

All work can be risky given the right (or wrong) circumstances, but working alone comes with a unique risk profile simply because it involves working independently of others.

As the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reminds us: "Lone workers face the same hazards at work as anyone else, but there is a greater risk of these hazards causing harm as they may not have anyone to help or support them if things go wrong."

That being the case, health and safety managers must devise the policies and kit lone workers out with the right tech that gives them the best chance of staying safe.

Let’s take a look at four ways businesses can improve their lone worker safety.

Assess The Risks

Anyone from machine operators and engineers to teachers and social housing managers can be asked to work alone, meaning they face an elevated level of job-related risk.

How much risk and where the biggest risks lie should be determined by a company’s risk assessment or risk audit process. 

A risk assessment is key to identifying the safety issues that lone workers are likely to encounter and keeping on top of the changing risk profile of a workforce.

Electrician working alone
Photo credit Emmanuel Ikwuegbu via Unsplash

Train Staff

It’s all very well drawing up a set of safety protocols, but if workers aren’t familiar with them they are next to useless.

Therefore it is essential that a business shares its risk assessment findings with staff and familiarises them with the protocols it has established to mitigate lone worker risk.

At its most basic level, this might mean providing staff with a simple check-in/check-out system so that a boss can keep tabs on a worker’s whereabouts.

However, it’s also likely to involve a good deal of training in the right use of equipment, both the tools of the trade and the safety devices a company uses to keep lone workers safe.

Monitor

At the heart of any effective lone worker safety regime lies staff monitoring. Here, technology has an important role to play.

Perhaps the most effective way an employer can provide a lone worker with a vital lifeline in case of an accident or emergency is to fit a worker with a lone worker alarm.

Respond

The lone worker alarm comes into its own when the lone worker hits a snag or has an accident. 

At this point, an accessible SOS button provides the worker with a vital lifeline by allowing him to reach out to colleagues and the emergency services.

If the alarm is sounded the company must have the protocols in place to know how to respond to a lone worker’s mayday signal.

An extra layer of monitoring comes in the form of GPS-powered true man-down detection, a real-time system that allows colleagues and emergency services to pinpoint the exact location of an incapacitated worker.

Conclusion

There is believed to be somewhere between seven and nine million lone workers in the UK. The risks these lone workers face can appear formidable, but with the right protocols and technology in place, it’s always possible to mitigate risks and manage the biggest dangers they face as they go about their jobs.

Monday 26 February 2024

A review of the four new jigsaws that I received for Christmas

For Christmas I was lucky enough to receive some lovely jigsaw puzzles, and so I thought I'd do a quick review of them all in case you are looking for some puzzling inspiration! They are 1000 piece puzzles with bright, colourful designs and all of them were quite quick and easy to put together - a nice change after my larger 3000 piece puzzle!

Modern jigsaw puzzles review

Parkside View by Galison (1000 piece)

This is a colourful view of a city park with skyscrapers in the background. At first I thought it was going to be a very tricky puzzle with all the different colours and shades, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. The pieces only come in two shapes and so you can work out the orientation. Once you've put together the sky and the buildings, as long as you have space to lay out the majority of the pieces then you can work on a tree at a time, picking out the distinctive pieces that you need for that section. It was a bit difficult to take apart, each piece needed to be removed separately which took a little while. There was a separate poster with the image which I always appreciate, especially as the square box doesn't show the complete design. I loved the beautiful, vibrant colours.

Parkside View by Galison jigsaw puzzle review

Art Cats by Happily (1000 piece)

This was a very easy sort, as you can identify the parts for most of the cats from individual pieces. In fact after I'd sorted out the edge pieces and the text I didn't really bother sorting the rest, I just hunted through the box for the pieces I needed. I didn't want to finish it too quickly! Each cat is drawn in the style of a different artist, with an appropriate cat themed name underneath which makes for a really fun illustration. The pieces are solid and chunky, and it didn't take too long at all. 

Art Cats by Happily jigsaw puzzle review

Book Nerd by Workman Puzzle (1000 piece)

I didn't realise until I read the box that this puzzle is based on the book of the same name, which looks like a fun, illustrated read about the love of books. The first thing that I noticed about this puzzle was arrows on the back to indicate which way up the pieces go, which I've not seen before. I didn't need them though! The pieces of this puzzle are all really interesting different shapes which made the puzzle fun to put together. I started with the figures and the plants and then enjoyed piecing together the different sections of books. I loved the variety of books in the image, it's not just classic and well known books but modern books too. I enjoyed the style of the illustration and all the different objects that go on the shelves along with the books.

Book Nerd by Workman Puzzle jigsaw puzzle review

Classics by Happily (1000 piece)

This puzzle was another easy sort. Each book joins to the edge, so once that is in place you can work on a book at a time. This means it's a great puzzle to work on in small bursts, even if you only have a few minutes to put together one of the spines. Although the books include some of my favourite authors - Margaret Atwood, Daphne du Maurier - along with a good selection of adult and children's books, I did think there could have been a bit more variety in the titles! The 37 books include 7 by Jane Austen, including 'Love and Freindship' which apparently isn't a spelling mistake, Anne of Green Gables features twice and books by Arthur Conan Doyle three times. That aside, I enjoyed the contrasts in the colours and patterns of the book spines, and it was a pretty easy and fun jigsaw to put together over a few evenings.

Classics jigsaw puzzle by Happily review

I feel like I've been a very busy puzzler this year so far! Now I just have one borrowed puzzle to get on with and then I might take a bit of a break, or go back and do some of the old favourites in my collection!

Book Nerd jigsaw puzzle completed

Thursday 22 February 2024

Walking in the rain

I love going out for a walk, and as well as my regular runs I also venture out for plenty of walks around my local area. I don't go very far, just a short wander around the estate for half an hour or so, often after lunch. It's not always easiest at this time of year, especially when it's as cold and rainy as it has been lately. 

But I do enjoy taking my walk in the rain. One is that there are fewer people out - because I'm regularly out and about I bump into the same people over and over again and I always feel the need to notice them and smile a greeting! A lack of people also means that I can stop to take photographs of my lovely boots in a puddle without people wondering what I'm up to. 

Boots standing in a puddle

It's soothing to hear the sound of the raindrops falling around me, and as long as I'm well wrapped up I don't get too cold or wet. It's a great feeling to come back inside with a head full of fresh air and tired legs, put on some dry clothes and socks and make myself a hot drink to warm up.

When there has been lots of rain I like to visit the attenuation pond at the bottom of our estate. It's a fancy name for a sunken grassy area which is designed to collect excess rainwater so that it doesn't overwhelm the local drains. When we moved here about ten years ago I can't remember it ever being wet, but lately it seems to be flooded quite a lot of the time. 

Recently two new life rings appeared, one on each side. Not long ago, a couple of local ladies that enjoy sea swimming filmed themselves swimming in the new 'Lido', complete with their wild swimming floats, and I can't help thinking that this is what triggered their installation! Even at its very wettest the water doesn't get deeper than a foot or so, but I suppose better safe than sorry!

Life rings next to an attenuation pond

I prefer a warmer walk in the rain to an icy walk in the cold - although I'm very much looking forward to warmer walks to come as spring approaches!

Monday 19 February 2024

Waiting impatiently for Spring

At this time of year, every time the sun comes out I turn my face towards it and bask in the anticipation of warmer days ahead. Winter thankfully didn't feel too cold this year, but I'm starting to tire of wearing so many extra layers around the house and keeping myself warm with a constant supply of hot drinks.

I keep looking out into the garden and seeing all the jobs that need doing. There are dead leaves from the autumn that still need to be swept up, the gravel needs weeding, it's time to think about jet washing the patios and I want to plan my vegetable patch planting. But when it's cold outside I just can't face it!

This morning I went for my run wearing a thinner jumper for the first time this year and I really felt the cold before I had warmed up. I'm still putting a hat on when I go out for a walk and although we haven't had a frost for a few weeks now there has still been some freezing rain. 

I'm so looking forward to getting out the garden furniture and enjoying a cup of tea outside. I'm determined to spend as much time in the garden as I can this summer, I might even roll out the yoga mat for some exercise or borrow a laptop from another family member so that I can do some work.

I am eagerly watching out for each and any sign of spring - the first crocuses and daffodils have put in an appearance so I'm hoping that it won't be too much longer before the warmth that I'm longing for comes along!

Miniature daffodils in bloom
Photo credit Shishir Pandey via Unsplash

Friday 16 February 2024

Why I can't use TikTok

A few years ago when TikTok first started to become really popular I downloaded the app. As a blogger I felt that I needed to keep up with social media trends, and lots of other bloggers were starting to create content on TikTok. As a parent I was aware that there was some disquiet about young people using TikTok, and so I wanted to see what it was all about.

Within minutes of opening the app I was hooked. I just could not turn it off. I was scrolling through these short, addictive videos and I couldn't stop myself - it was scary! And with each video it felt as though I could feel my brain melting. 

I couldn't even imagine how I would go about creating content for TikTok. The popular videos are professionally filmed, with good lighting and photogenic narrators - I didn't know where to start. I also don't have the time or the inclination to research what's popular and to make videos that fit the trends. 

I don't want to judge people that enjoy scrolling TikTok - it's a really easy way to relax, it's entertaining and it's home to lots of interesting and informative content. But I found that I personally wasn't able to control my use, and so the easiest thing was to delete the app. I don't have this problem with other social media - I check Facebook once a day or so, and I can scroll through Twitter and Instagram for just a few minutes and put them down. There's just that something about TikTok that makes it impossible to turn away from.

On a cruise last year I was amused to notice that the large screen by the pool on a sea day was showing a compilation of short TikTok style videos, mainly cute animals doing funny things. It was clearly aimed at all the people who didn't have internet access on the cruise - it was something easy to watch and zone out to while relaxing by the pool without a smartphone. 

I definitely have concerns about TikTok and what it is doing to people's attention spans. There have been a few studies which seem to bear that out, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence - I found an interesting article here - TikTok and the Death of the Attention Span. I think that my generation are probably less affected as our brains have developed without it, but it does worry me what it is doing to children's brains. I'm hoping to keep mine away from it as long as I can, and I don't intend to reinstall it myself!

TikTok logo on a smartphone screen
Photo credit Solen Favissa via Unsplash

I have a similar problem with YouTube shorts. I use YouTube daily because I have a selection of exercise videos that I follow. It's really difficult to avoid the temptation to click on a short or two, and I almost always get sucked in for a few minutes! I'd love to know if other people have the same problem or whether they just have better self control than I do!

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Happy Pancake Day!

I had to share, because I'm feeling very proud of myself today! I usually attempt pancakes for pancake day, but in the past I've always used a pre-made mix - usually a plastic bottle that you add water to and then shake. I always go for American style pancakes which are thicker, sweeter and easier to flip over.

But I'm trying to think a bit more about the food that I eat, and so this year instead of buying the readymade mix I decided that I would make them from scratch. I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how easy it is to make the batter, I had never even looked up a recipe before! I used this one from BBC Good Food - Easy Pancakes Recipe. I also read a tip online to make the batter about an hour before you need it and leave it to chill in the fridge.

Pancake frying in the pan

To my great surprise, not only did I actually manage to make several successful pancakes for our lunch, they turned out really well and they were delicious!

Pancake spread with toppings

We ate them with lots of far too sweet toppings (I'm only taking the healthy eating so far...) and I have been feeling very accomplished all day. No more pancake mix for me!

Rolled up pancake on Pancake Day

I hope that you have also enjoyed some pancakes today! I will leave you with the obligatory Pancake Day video. When I searched for this I was amused to find that one of the comments underneath was my own, left nine years ago!