HOME: MY SMALL LONDON GARDEN PROJECT. PART TWO.

Well, the garden is almost approaching the state I imagined when I plotted out my ideas in the spring – you may have seen my beginning of summer post here. I bought the bare minimum of furniture last summer from Ebay – the amazing double lounger, a large parasol, an 8ft folding table (easier to store over the winter than a large wooden one, and easily disguised with a pretty tablecloth), and then there’s the lovely John Lewis Croft Bench that my mother gave me as a housewarming present – and now I have to work out what else I need.

London Small Garden Renovation Project

I took these photos in the middle of May, just over a month ago and goodness what a transformation from my beginning of April post. I hired a local gardener/handy man who did the brute force work: he dug out the dead box hedge, weeded all the borders and beds, dug over the vegetable patch, weeded and cleared all the flagstones and patios, pruned all the hedges, and helped arrest the gradual encroachment of the Virginia creeper.

Meanwhile I went to Camden Garden Centre, and to my local Camden Morrison’s and spent around £150 on plants. I bought a few key shrubs and plants – a peony, euphorbia, a beautiful Choisyia (Mexican Orange Blossom), as well as umpteen boxes of bedding plants for my hanging baskets and  window boxes. (Nicotiana, violas, pansies, ivies, lavenders, mint and the palest of pink fuchsias.) I also robbed a large alchemilla mollis from my father’s garden border.

London Small Garden Renovation Project

Above – lovely empty main bed waiting for plants

London Small Garden Renovation Project

The amount of garden waste has been quite astonishing: this is the box hedge chopped into pieces, stuffed into IKEA bags, and on its way to the Regis Road Recycling Centre in Kentish Town in the boot of a Zipcar.

London Small Garden Renovation Project

The ash tree is now in full bloom, and providing some much needed shade. I’ve also got the large 3metre umbrella from last year up again. I spent ages looking for parasol weights – first I bought the ones that needed to be filled with ballast, and I just couldn’t face dealing with builders’ sand, and water wasn’t heavy enough, so I bought these brilliant ones. (Was surprised to discover that weights cost the same as the parasol – around £50 each.)

London Small Garden Renovation Project

Below is the back wall and patio with the bare patch where the box hedge was removed to the left – the plan is for this to be weeded and I want to find an outdoor sofa set to place here for lounging and working. It’s a great spot for both as it’s pretty much always in shade, so it also means that any garden furniture I put here won’t be bleached by the sun. (I’ve got my eye on this set.)

London Small Garden Renovation Project

We’ve now dug over the vegetable patch and I’ve found a new home for the Japanese Maple (Acer)  via the NextDoor app, as I don’t have another bed for it, and it’s not very happy being stuck in this corner which it has outgrown.

London Small Garden Renovation Project

The small cream canvas umbrella was from Argos last summer – a bargain at around £30, but I bought the wrong size stand and it blew over one day and a strut broke, so I need to replace this and buy a heavier stand. Still extremely pleased with the double lounger. (The cushions were from Homesense, and the delightful leopard  fleece rug was also from Ebay)

London Small Garden Renovation Project

I found the compost in the most amazing special offer in Camden Sainsbury’s of all places. The dogs are loving having access to the sunshine, and roast themselves outside at every opportunity.

London Small Garden Renovation Project

I bought this pretty hanging basked on Columbia Road a few years ago. That’s rosemary in the bottom, and I plan to put fuschias in the top basket.

London Small Garden Renovation Project

I am extremely pleased with my herb window box – I can just lean out of the kitchen window and snip what I need. I’ve planted thyme, oregano, sage, chives, Greek, and Italian basil. The silver zinc planter is one of five I’ve bought from Primrose for all my window sills.

London Small Garden Renovation Project

Here are the plants I’ve collected waiting to go in the beds, borders, and baskets. Camden Morrison’s has been a particular joy and the source of most of my bedding plants.

London Small Garden Renovation Project

I was sent this mint box by John Lewis last summer and, whilst it died down over the winter, I was astonished to see it thrive from spring onwards and it’s now providing me with plenty of leaves for fresh mint tea.

London Small Garden Renovation Project

 

London Small Garden Renovation Project

Wilco has the most amazingly cheap large terracotta pots (although I’ve yet to see how they last the winter).

London Small Garden Renovation Project

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LONDON LIFE: APERITIVO ON THE LE CAPRICE X GREY GOOSE SECRET JARDIN SUMMER TERRACE

This is a Sponsored Post in association with Le Caprice

It’s always surprising to me how few places there are that I would like to have a drink in the afternoon and evening in and around Mayfair that aren’t chic hotels. Sure, there are lots of pubs, many exceedingly smart and very busy bars, and the afore-mentioned chic hotels (Duke’s and The Stafford are particular favourites), but finding somewhere that isn’t rammed, where I can always sit down (heels and age do not make me a fan of standing in any circumstance) and where the drinks and snacks are utterly delicious usually feels like a Sisyphean task.

So hurrah a thousand times over for the Caprice.

This summer, they’ve turned their small but perfectly formed Arlington Street terrace into a secret garden, serving a menu of lighter bites, alongside a specially created Grey Goose cocktail menu.

I love the Caprice – I used to book tables there for my very first bosses at Conde Nast – the legendary Peter Stuart of GQ, and Nicholas Coleridge the Managing Director, in my very early twenties, graduated to eating there of my own account a few years later, and even celebrated my thirtieth birthday in its warm embrace with my family, so I am very happy to know that I can now go there not just for delicious meals, but to sit outdoors for something a little lighter.

To create their Secret Jardin, the Caprice’s terrace has been enclosed with a wall of plants, herbs and botanicals; citrus trees line the sides of the space, walls of climbers create a barrier between the terrace and street, wisteria flowers hang from the ceiling and a selection of potted herbs reflect the ingredients of the specially created Grey Goose cocktail menu.

Le Caprice’s Head Chef, Will Halsall, has created a menu of dishes which are ideal for enjoying al fresco, so those who are ravenous post-work can enjoy a lovely aperitivo.

I took Holly Hannah and Chloe for drinks and snacks after our day at Royal Ascot; happily no one batted an eyelid at our spectacular Rachel Trevor Morgan hats.

After a day outdoors in the sun at the races, we were delighted to see lovely, long refreshing drinks on the menu – the Secret Jardin cocktails created especially for the space include a Garden Goose, made with Grey Goose vodka, elderflower cordial, lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, sage and basil leaves, a Le Grand Fizz, with Grey Goose vodka, St-Germain, lime juice and soda, a French Negroni, with Grey Goose L’Orange, Campari, Martini Rosso, and a Goose Bloody Mary.

We were hungry after our racing exertions, so mulled over the menu – too many things amongst which to choose – from Norfolk asparagus, served hot with hollandaise or cold with herb vinaigrette, to a crispy duck salad with pineapple, pink grapefruit and spiced cashews.

Above: the pickled and raw beetroot salad, goats cheese and multi seed granola crisp, and the Isle of Mull scallops. And, because I am a fervent lover of the high low mix – some of the Caprice’s legendarily delicious French fries.

And, if you ask, nicely, they’ll even let you order pud from the main menu.

HEAVEN

The Le Caprice x Grey Goose Secret Jardin is open from now until Sunday, 30 September

 

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10 Tips to Stay Healthy Over Christmas and a Really Easy Vegan Cheese!

You can still indulge over Christmas and the New Year without completely ruining your healthy eating regime or piling on as many pounds as you might usually. Just making a few small adjustments can make a huge difference to your overall health and, if you’re watching your weight, to your waistline.

1. Try an alternative roast potato. Yes, traditional crispy roast potatoes laden with sizzling oil are a delicious wonder. But how about roasting your potatoes in a flavoursome vegetable stock instead? It really works! You will still get crisp potatoes with fluffy centres only this time they’ll also be infused with aromatic flavours too! Check out this recipe.

2. Alternative cauliflower cheese – seriously… this stuff is like crack…

Amazing Cauliflower Cheese #dairyfree #veganI use an amazing sauce from my friend Somer at Vedged Out to make the most INCREDIBLE cauliflower cheese bake.

It’s also SO easy, no whisking a roux or a lumpy white sauce. You simply add the cheeseball ingredients minus the coconut oil and with just 1 cup of cashews (so already reducing the fat by a third) plus 1.5 cups of hot water to a blender and blend until perfectly smooth. Then smother over lightly steamed cauliflower and baked until golden, blackened in parts and with a lovely crust.

You’re welcome 😀

3. Swede mash… cook swede in a flavoursome stock and season with lo-salt and you won’t miss the butter or margarine.

4. Opt for homemade custard instead of ready made cartons or cream. Use Bird’s custard powder and soya milk (using a sugar alternative too for extra benefits!) or make your own with corn flour, soya milk, vanilla, sugar (or alternative) and a pinch of turmeric.

5. Make festive soups, and even make soups out of your leftovers! Click here for some ideas.

6. Christmas breakfast… Skip the fry up or croissants and try porridge oats with orange zest and a dollop of fruit mincemeat. Or how about a festive smoothie?

7. Love mince pies? Try making your own so you can control the ingredients or how about trying fat free Fruity Mincemeat & Almond Cake Bars instead?

Fruity Mincemeat and Almond Cake Bars #fatfree #vegan #christmas

8. Snacks – it’s so easy to keep dipping in to those crucial bowls of delicious snacks dotted around the house over the Christmas period. Why not try swapping some of the crisps and twiglets bowls with fresh fruit like grapes and berries, dried fruit mixes or whole nuts?

9. Go for a walk! We all do it! Eat so much that we fall in to a slumber on the floor and before we know it it’s Boxing Day! Try going for a walk after the big meal, it won’t only boost your metabolism and burn some calories but it will make you feel great too! Honest!

10. Don’t indulge in fat laden vegan cheese and crackers. Make your own cheese so you can control what goes in. Here are some cheesy delights to try that are so much healthier than anything on a supermarket shelf and fresh.

Smoked Garlic Vegan Cheese

Spicy Smoked Garlic Cheese Block

Two-Step Vegan Halloumi Cheese – Oil Free

The Easiest Boursin Style Yoghurt Cheese and Variations

10 Minute Melting Cheddar Style Vegan Cheese

And for an even healthier spin, make leftover soup into vegan cheese! Really! Obviously your nanna’s minestrone isn’t going to fit the bill here but pumpkin, squash, sweet potato and carrot soups all make amazing cheese bases. Simply use this super easy recipe and swap the milk for soup!

For more healthy eating advice, visit Ramsay Health.

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Safe driving protects your brain

 

When it comes to protecting brain health, you may think about exercise, diet, or engaging in activities that challenge you. Yet most of us hop into the car to travel to work, do errands, go on vacations, or drive the kids’ carpool as a matter of habit. But driving is a huge responsibility. One miscalculation on your part or the part of another driver and the results could be disastrous. Staying safe in the car not only protects your body, but also your brain. Follow these common-sense tips and recommendations, understand the law, and never take chances.

Safe driving means never drive if you are feeling woozy, overtired, or can’t see properly

Perhaps your young child has kept you awake for most of the night, and you can tell as you prepare your morning cup of coffee that you are shaky and slow. This is a good day to use public transportation (maybe you can catch a brief nap if you can grab a seat), call a friend for a ride, or use Lyft. Think about backup options for travel, and remember that being green means cutting down on your carbon footprint. If you have a long commute each day, maybe you can arrange a carpool with coworkers.

Always wear your seatbelt — and think about car “ergonomics”

A favorite story is that of a former surgeon general who tapped a taxi driver on the shoulder, and said “Sir, if you don’t buckle your seatbelt, I cannot proceed with this ride.” This should motivate us all to make sure that when we are passengers, the driver is wearing a seatbelt too. Modern cars have features to bolster safety, but they only work if you use them. Sit in your car while it’s in the driveway. Make sure the headrest as at the right height. Make sure you are close enough to reach the pedals and the wheel, but not right on top of it.

Think “defensively.” If the car stopped suddenly to avoid a crash, would your knees smash into the console? And most importantly, would your head be protected? A rapid forward-and-back head movement can bruise your brain, even without direct impact. In the case of a rear-impact collision, the brain accelerates forward and then bounces back against the skull. Even a minor accident can trigger headache and neck pain that need time and rest to recover from. So, make sure you’re positioned properly in your car, and if you share with a family member, be sure to readjust for each driver.

Kids must be buckled in the right car seat

It goes without saying that children should be carefully strapped into the proper size car seats, in the back seat of the car, and once they’re not babies, taught to behave calmly in the car. On long rides, car games and songs can make the time pass safely and are distracting and entertaining. Animals should be safely strapped in as well. Remember that in the event of a crash, an unrestrained pet is a projectile that can propel forward, hitting another passenger or the driver and potentially worsening a bad situation. Teach car safety starting with the youngest children and never put your foot on the gas unless everyone is safely strapped in.

What about a loss of consciousness or a seizure?

Here is where it gets tricky. Every state has different rules for when people who have experienced these situations are allowed to drive again. (Massachusetts says six months without another loss of consciousness event, such as a faint or seizure.) Your doctor must tell you this and must document that he or she has done so, but then you are responsible for reporting this to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. If your doctor is worried that you represent an ongoing danger, then he or she must follow up. Most people understand the risk of driving if there is a chance of a serious medical event, but because we all rely on our cars, it can be life-changing to be told that you are not able to drive for a certain amount of time. Think creatively about alternatives, such as carpools and public transportation. Again, if you have a seizure and lose consciousness while driving, you’re endangering not just yourself and your passengers, but every other car on the road.

Have a plan in case of an accident

Here are a few things to remember in the event of a fender-bender:

  • Take photos with your phone of your car, and anyone else’s car involved.
  • Take a photo of the other driver’s car insurance and license if you are able to as well.
  • Make notes of exactly what happened and contact the police to file a report immediately if you are not injured.
  • If you have any injury, please seek medical evaluation immediately. Sometimes, neck pain and headache will not start until the day after an accident. Check in with your PCP, who may recommend ice, medication such as ibuprofen, or further evaluation based on your symptoms.

The bottom line on safe driving

Remember, a car is a large and dangerous machine. It’s only as safe as the person driving. Speeding and tailgating have no place on the road. One moment of miscalculation can have lifelong consequences. Protect your brain — and everyone else’s brain on the road — by driving with your seatbelt buckled, and safety and good judgement — not speed — propelling your drive.

How Much Do You Mix It Up?

I was going out somewhere recently, and I overshot the mark on makeup — I wanted to do more than my daily makeup look, but less than my evening/date night/party look, and landed up far too close to my “party look.” So I got curious, and thought it might be a fun discussion for today: how much do you vary your makeup for different occasions — and how much do you vary your looks within those situations? For example, do you always have the exact same office makeup look, or do you mix it up with different products and colors? How wide is your range with makeup — for example, from “no makeup for errands” to “four eyeshadows and three mascaras for date night”?

For my $.02, I have a pretty wide spectrum of makeup looks for different occasions — possibly too wide!

  • Weekend/errands/lounging around makeup: When I was younger I do seem to recall putting on some makeup once I’d finished with my workout, even if I didn’t plan on leaving the house. I have never been the kind of person to put on makeup for workouts, though (fiiine, maybe some tinted lip balm) and by my 20s I spent a lot of my weekends avoiding workouts (you know, the 9 AM planned workout that happens at the last possible moment before you have to start getting ready to go out), so by that time weekend makeup became “no makeup / PARTY MAKEUP.” These days I really have no compunction about going out without makeup, though, particularly if it’s a school dropoff or weekend kid-related errand. (I consider myself #winning so long as I can wash my face and get sunscreen on!)
  • Daily makeup/office makeup: As I’ve written before, makeup for work for me generally means concealer, eyebrow, eyeliner, one color of eyeshadow, mascara, blush, lip liner, lipstick. I tend to have set makeup combinations of eyeliner/eyeshadow/lipstick (so I wear taupe lipstick with greige eyeshadows, but pink lipstick with taupe eyeshadows, for example), but always the same general products applied in the same general way and no more than two or three looks.
  • Work from home makeup: When I only worked from home occasionally, this generally meant “no makeup.” When I started working from home all the time, though, I struggled with this a bit because I had read all this stuff about how if you’re working from home you should “get dressed as if you’re going into the office,” and it conflicted with my previous “no makeup” mentality. Even if I had successfully completed a workout, if it was just me, why should I put on makeup? It all came down to “who am I wearing makeup for anyway”? For some reason, after having kids, daily mascara irritates my eyes, so I didn’t want to do a “full office makeup look,” or at least what that had meant for me previously. I also switched to wearing glasses about 95% of the time around this point, which I also felt necessitated less makeup. (Fun fact: I have uneven eyebrows no mater how much I get them threaded, so when I’m in my glasses the uneven eyebrows are more noticeable, particularly if I darken them with eyebrow powder/gel/liner. But if I’m wearing contacts I absolutely feel like I need to darken them. Shrug.) What I’ve settled on lately for ease of application but a bit more polished than absolutely no makeup is sheer lipstick like a Chubby stick, blush, undereye concealer, waterproof eyeliner, and occasionally a liquid shadow. The routine takes me about two minutes, maybe less. Even now I alternate between three eyeliner colors and different lipstick colors — I wear the brown eyeliner with pinky/berry/purple lipstick and navy eyeliner with taupe lipstick. I’d like to get gray eyeliner in the routine but the current one I have smudges too much; I’m eyeing this one from Chanel, which I have in brown and is amazing.)
  • Must Look Nice But Not Party Makeup (Big Presentation/Job Interview Makeup): For a midday meeting or something, at the very least I put on mascara, refresh my eyeliner and use Touche Eclat on top of my work from home makeup. If I’m starting from a fresh face, though, I’ll put on foundation in addition to concealer, do a little contouring/highlighting, maybe pull out two eyeshadow colors to blend, eyebrow, mascara, blush, and eyeliner. (Loooove the Ecobrow eyebrow wax for these days.)
  • Date night / party makeup: This is where I deviate from what is, in general, a fairly natural look — I like a smoky eye, what can I say? I usually do foundation, concealer, contouring/highlighting/blush, eyeshadow primer, 2-4 eyeshadows (generally all in the same color family), dark eyeliner on top (usually with an added swoop of dark black or dark navy shadow on top of the liner to set it), light eyeliner below my eye (taupey/fawn usually but maybe a faded gray/navy if I’m feeling like it) and usually a pretty neutral lip that somehow takes extra long to apply. I may do a mascara primer as well as mascara (sometimes even layers of different mascaras!), or I may do my One Two Cosmetics lashes. Sometimes I give my husband a choice for the general shadow look (“honey, pick brown, black, purple, or blue”) — sometimes I give my 7-year-old son the choice. I have fun with the date night/party makeup and it’s fun to see myself all dolled up — but it’s a TON more makeup than I normally wear and I worry it’s jarring to people who may, say, only know me a “no makeup/glasses” situation. I also keep collecting red lipsticks in the hope that one day I can get a great red lip with a more natural-but-polished eye look — but I have yet to find a comfortable lip that I can wear for hours without constant monitoring or regret — so I’m not there yet.

So let’s hear it, readers — what are your thoughts on different makeup looks for different occasions? What are your regular looks for office makeup, interview makeup, date night makeup, weekend makeup and other situations? Do you have several makeup looks or just one for each situation? If you work from home regularly, do you wear makeup? How has your makeup changed as you got promoted, got married, had kids, or generally gotten older? (Are there any looks that you think are too “young” for older women, short of, say, Jem’s makeup?) If you occasionally wear glasses, how do you vary your makeup?

Stock photo: Shutterstock / severija.

How much do you mix up your makeup looks for different occasions -- and how many different makeup combinations do you have for each situation? What IS your office makeup look, or your weekend makeup look (whether that's party makeup or a look for lounging around the house)? Do tell! 💄💄💄

Frangollo – Spiced Almond & Millet Pudding

 

I’m really excited to share this recipe which I have designed for the Monarch Island Cookbook to celebrate the food of Lanzarote.

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfree

I’d never heard of Frangollo before, until researching the traditional foods of this beautifully unspoiled island. When I came across it, I knew I had to make a version of it. I am, after all, a sucker for comfort food and this looked mighty cosy.

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfree

Frangollo is made across the Canary Islands and is traditionally made with millet flour or maize, enriched with butter and eggs and sweetened with hints of citrus and spice. It’s like a thick, creamy semolina pudding but with exciting pops of flavour and added texture from almonds and dried fruit.

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfree

I liked mine still warm, but you can also chill it to a firm flan like dessert that can be scooped or cut into slices. It’s simplicity is delightful and it’s zesty aromas even more so.

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfreeFrangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfreeIt’s not too sweet so a drizzle of your favourite syrup might just make it over the top delicious for you. Despite it’s comforting nature, it’s actually not very heavy and the citrus zest cuts through the richness perfectly.

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfree

Plus, without the eggs and butter, you can enjoy this gorgeous dessert guilt free!

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfree

I found a bottle of rum I had infused with cinnamon sticks, orange and lemon peel last year and forgotten about. The smell is out of this world and is a perfect addition to this recipe. However, if you haven’t got a forgotten bottle of home spiced rum lurking in the larder, simply use bought spiced or regular rum or leave it out completely if you prefer.

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfree

It’s so easy… Simply infuse the milk with the sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and rum (if using).

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfree

Meanwhile, slowly toast the almonds to a beautiful, golden hue.

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfreeFrangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfree

Whisk in the millet and almonds and the dissolved custard powder (if using).

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfree

Then stir in the dried fruit or raisins and cook, stirring often for 10 minutes until beautifully thick and the fruit plumped and juicy.

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfree

Serve with an extra sprinkling of toasted almonds, and a drizzle of maple syrup, if you wish.

Frangollo - Spiced Almond & Semolina Pudding #vegan #glutenfree

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 3 cups/750ml unsweetened almond (or soya) milk*
  • 90g granulated sugar (white, coconut, eryhtitol etc)
  • zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp spiced rum (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 80 g ground almonds
  • 100g millet flour (frangollo), fine polenta or semolina††
  • 2 tbsp custard powder (optional)†
  • 1/2 cup dried mixed fruit or raisins

*use a neutral milk. Milks with strong flavours like coconut or hemp may impart too much flavour.

†this adds richness and thickens where egg yolks usually would. Use corn starch/flour or omit altogether for a lighter pudding.

††Semolina IS NOT gluten free

Method:

  1. Add the first seven ingredients (milk – salt) into a large saucepan and place over a medium heat. Leave the milk to infuse, without boiling for ten minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, add the almonds to a frying pan and place over a low-medium heat. Stir every thirty seconds or so, until they are a uniform, golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Dissolve the custard powder in a couple of tablespoons of milk or water. Whisk the millet and most of the toasted almonds (reserve a heaped tablespoon for topping) into the milk, followed by the dissolved custard powder, if using. Stir in the dried fruit.
  4. Continue to cook over a low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened and slightly bubbling, about ten minutes.
  5. Either serve immediately in bowls scattered with reserved almonds or spread into a baking dish, scatter with the almonds and chill until firm.

screenshot-www-caloriecount-com-2017-01-25-18-52-31

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Back to school anxiety

 

Heading back to school sparks an upswing in anxiety for many children. The average child’s school day is packed with potential stressors: separating from parents, meeting academic expectations, managing peer groups, and navigating loud, crowded school hallways and cafeteria, to name just a few of many challenges. That’s why it’s typical for children to experience some anticipatory anxiety leading up to the new school year — and for parents to notice a rise in worries. For example, your child might ask questions about what her new classroom or teacher will be like, worry about having all of his school supplies ready, or have mild trouble falling asleep in the days leading up to the start of school.

Signs of back to school anxiety

But for some children — and particularly for children who already struggle with anxiety or have anxiety disorders — the return to school can be very stressful. Their behavior can reflect this. Examples of behaviors that suggest your child is experiencing above-average anxiety around the return to school include:

  • Continually seeking reassurance or asking repeated, worried questions despite already receiving an answer. “What if my friends are not in my class? When will I see them? What if I don’t have anyone to sit with at lunch because I have no friends? Will I be okay?”
  • Increased physical complaints, such as headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue in the absence of an actual illness.
  • A significant change in sleep pattern, such as taking an hour to fall asleep when a child normally goes to sleep quickly, or waking you up with worries during the night when a child typically sleeps well.
  • Avoiding school-related activities, such as school tours, teacher meet-and-greets, or avoiding school itself once the year starts (a topic that will be covered in an upcoming post).

Here is how parents can help with back to school anxiety

  • Approach anxiety instead of avoiding it. It’s natural to want to allow your child to avoid situations that make her anxious, or reassure her that her worries won’t come true. However, this can actually contribute to a vicious cycle that reinforces anxiety in the long term. Instead, acknowledge your child’s emotion and then help her think through small steps she might take to approach, rather than avoid, her worries. For example, you might say, “It sounds like you’re feeling anxious about riding the school bus by yourself. Would you be up for checking out the bus stop with me this afternoon?” Give lots of attention and praise to any “brave” behaviors rather than to her anxiety. “I love how willing you were to take the bus this morning! Great job pushing back on the worry bully!”
  • Practice school routines. For example, before the start of the year, you and your child might do a school day walk-through of the morning routine: waking up, eating breakfast, packing his school bag, and traveling to school. School tours or meet-and-greet days can be great opportunities to practice navigating the school environment and tolerating any anxiety in a low-stakes situation. After practice runs, debrief with your child on successes and challenges. Support your child in problem-solving around difficult points. For example, if he worries that he will have trouble finding his new classrooms, help him think through who he could ask for assistance if that occurs.
  • Model behavior you’d like to see. When an anxious child refuses to get onto the school bus or has a tantrum about attending school, it’s natural to feel frustrated, harried, and anxious yourself. However, try to model the calm behavior you would like to see in your child. Take deep breaths from your belly. Remind yourself that your child’s behavior is being driven by anxiety. If necessary, step away from the situation to take a few minutes to breathe and engage in a mindfulness strategy, such as counting all of the objects of a certain color or shape in the room around you.
  • Ensure enough sleep. The shift from a summer wake-up schedule to the school year wake-up time can be very challenging for many children, particularly preteens. Fatigue and crankiness from not getting enough sleep can make children much more vulnerable to anxiety. To combat this, consider moving your child’s wake-up time earlier and earlier in short increments in the weeks leading up to the start of school. Additionally, leave screens (TV, phone, computer) outside the bedroom at night.

When to seek additional help

If a child’s worries about the return to school start to interfere with his or her ability and willingness to attend school or participate in other normal activities, such as camp, beloved sports, or playdates, consider consulting with a licensed mental health professional who specializes in child anxiety. Your pediatrician, school guidance counselor, or health care plan may be able to recommend experts in your area. The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies and the American Psychological Association also offer online search tools for mental health professionals who can help.

Should You Tell Your Colleagues About Your ASD?

If you’re doing well in your job, but your supervisor and coworkers don’t know that you have autism, should you tell your colleagues about your ASD? Should you tell them when you interview, when you start work, or only if you need specific accommodations and/or if problems arise? We recently heard from an autistic lawyer who is trying to make that decision:

Reader M asks:

I’ve been recently diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. It’s not a huge surprise, an assessment was begun when I was a child and discontinued because my parents were concerned about me being labeled. Now, before my diagnosis I skipped three grades, entered law school young enough that I was the youngest woman there for all three years, did incredibly well at my bar exam, and have been successfully employed. Should I go public with my diagnosis? What could go wrong?

This is a really interesting question. We haven’t talked about autism before, but we recently discussed how to manage ADHD in the workplace (incidentally, up to 50% of people with autism show signs of ADHD), and we’ve also shared advice on disclosing other personal/medical information at work, such as how to announce your pregnancy at work, as well as tips for handling frequent doctors’ appointments and making time for therapy.

Note to readers: Some people on the autism spectrum prefer being referred to as “a person with autism,” while others identify themselves as “an autistic person.” (This is framed as person-first vs. identity-first language.) We don’t know what Reader M prefers, so we’re using both.

For readers who don’t know a lot about autism, here are a few facts to frame the conversation about ASD and the office:

We sought advice from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, which “seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism,” and certified coach Barbara Bissonnette, who offers career development, job coaching, and workplace advocacy for people with Asperger’s through Forward Motion Coaching.

Before we share advice from ASAN, we’ll pass on their personal message to Reader M: “Congratulations on learning more about yourself, and for reaching out. We’re glad to know you’re part of our world.” (As their email response was a joint effort, we aren’t attributing their quotes to a single person.) Here is their input:

  1. Realize that being openly autistic at work can have an impact beyond your own experience. “[It] can also help make your workplace more welcoming for autistic and disabled employees who come after you. … [Y]ou can challenge people’s preconceived ideas and make your field more accepting,” say the folks at ASAN.
  2. Still, consider the risks: “People can change the way they see you, or start looking at you through a stereotypical lens,” says ASAN. “Sometimes, if the way they treat you differently is subtle, it can be hard to prove that they are discriminating against you or make them stop.” (Ed. Note: See this recent Ask a Manager post.)
  3. Know that your experience may be a mixed bag: “We know autistic lawyers who are successfully practicing in their fields (we have a couple working here at ASAN!). We have also heard about autistic people being discriminated against in law — for example, an employer limiting an autistic lawyer’s access to clients after learning about their disability.”
  4. Do some research specific to your field: “We aren’t aware of any states which would not let you be admitted to the bar because of an autism diagnosis, but it is a good idea to check your state’s bar questions to be sure. It might also be helpful to check out the ABA’s Commission on Disability Rights, which has a disabled attorney mentoring program.”
  5. Remember, it’s all up to you. “[D]isclosing your disability at work is a personal decision, and it is yours alone to make,” says ASAN.

Here are some of Barbara Bissonnette’s tips for Reader M on whether she should tell her colleagues about her ASD:

  1. Learn how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you — and your employer. Your employer must make “reasonable accommodations for qualified employees who disclose,” says Bissonnette, who adds, “the modification cannot cause an undue hardship to the employer.”
  2. Make a list of the challenges you face at work and be proactive by requesting accommodations. “Make sure that your list does not contain problems related to basic job readiness,” says Bissonnette, who suggests The Job Accommodation Network as a resource, and offers a free guide on her website called Workplace Disclosure Strategies for Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome & Nonverbal Learning Disorder. You’ll likely need a doctor or another qualified provider to verify your diagnosis, she says.
  3. Make sure HR documents your request and works with your manager. Otherwise, you’re in charge of who knows about your diagnosis. “You can choose to keep it confidential, between human resources and your supervisor,” says Bissonnette. “Or you can identify specific coworkers whom you want to know.”
  4. Be prepared for your employer to counter with alternative accommodations. “Be professional, and demonstrate a positive attitude and willingness to compromise. Making demands and threatening legal action puts the employer on the defensive.”

If you are a lawyer with autism (or work in any another field), what would your advice be for Reader M? In your opinion, should you tell your colleagues about your ASD? If you are open about your autism at work, what have been the pros and cons? Readers with any disability/condition that has led you to request accommodations at work: Were your efforts successful? Would you have done differently? 

Stock image via Deposit Photos / monkeybusiness.Should you tell your colleagues you're autistic when you start work?

Should you tell your colleagues about your ASD? An autistic lawyer wrote in wondering if she should share her autism spectrum diagnosis with her colleagues, bosses, and clients -- and if so when. We talked to autism experts to get ideas about how to handle ASD and the office for professional women...

Turmeric Coconut Rice

 

Can you believe it’s February already?

There was a lot of hype in January around dieting and detoxing after the festive season. I’m never good at getting on the New Years resolutions health bus right after New Year. It takes me some time to get back to normality and use up all that leftover vegan cheese and chocolate from Christmas.

This vibrant Turmeric Coconut Rice not only tastes delicious, it's good for you too! #healthy #superfood #vegan

February is when I really get to grips with a healthy, balanced eating plan for the rest of the year. The indulgent magazine clippings get tucked away and instead I search and browse for exciting new healthy recipes to try and interesting tricks and flavours to play with in the kitchen. Whether it be adding a pinch of something extra to my basic tomato pasta sauce or transforming leftovers with the spice rack – it’s all about making eating healthy fun and interesting and not just something I ought to do in January.

This vibrant Turmeric Coconut Rice not only tastes delicious, it's good for you too! #healthy #superfood #vegan

This rice dish is an example of just that. I love the plainest steamed rice, but sometimes a little vibrancy can make it all the more tantalising and crave-able.

This vibrant Turmeric Coconut Rice not only tastes delicious, it's good for you too! #healthy #superfood #vegan

The turmeric in this rice adds depth, a golden hue and a hint of its glorious health benefits. I’m increasingly fascinated by the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and since its qualities are most available to us when cooked, a dish such as this is a perfect way to sneak a little into your diet.

This vibrant Turmeric Coconut Rice not only tastes delicious, it's good for you too! #healthy #superfood #vegan

It is also fat soluble and so adding some healthy fat by way of coconut cream, not only adds luxurious flavour but also boosts absorption.

This vibrant Turmeric Coconut Rice not only tastes delicious, it's good for you too!

I love Indigo Herbs turmeric which is pure and stays so fresh in its special resealable packaging. I find the stuff in supermarket jars goes quite bitter in a few months. I was an ambassador for Indigo Herbs last year and am very happy to be kicking off 2017 with some of their wonderful superfood powders to get busy with in the kitchen (and bathroom!).

This vibrant Turmeric Coconut Rice not only tastes delicious, it's good for you too! #healthy #superfood #vegan

This rice needs only 6 ingredients, two of which are water and salt and one which is optional. For so few ingredients and such minimal effort, this is a great way to bring your side of rice into the centre of attention.

This vibrant Turmeric Coconut Rice not only tastes delicious, it's good for you too! #healthy #superfood #vegan

Ingredients:

Serves 2

  • 1 cup of white or brown basmati rice
  • 1.5 cups water (2 cups for brown rice)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream (the thick cream at the top of a can of coconut milk)
  • A handful of finely chopped coriander, to serve (optional)

Method:

Add all ingredients to a rice steamer or a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Leave undisturbed for 10 minutes for white rice or 45 minutes for brown, then remove from the heat but leave to stand covered for 10 more minutes before fluffing with a fork.

Sprinkle with coriander before serving.

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Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t

 

Cannabidiol (CBD) has been recently covered in the media, and you may have even seen it as an add-in booster to your post-workout smoothie or morning coffee. What exactly is CBD? Why is it suddenly so popular?

How is cannabidiol different from marijuana?

CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana). While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant. While CBD is a component of marijuana (one of hundreds), by itself it does not cause a “high.” According to a report from the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

Is cannabidiol legal?

CBD is readily obtainable in most parts of the United States, though its exact legal status is in flux. All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction, and while the federal government still considers CBD in the same class as marijuana, it doesn’t habitually enforce against it. In December 2015, the FDA eased the regulatory requirements to allow researchers to conduct CBD trials. Currently, many people obtain CBD online without a medical cannabis license. The government’s position on CBD is confusing, and depends in part on whether the CBD comes from hemp or marijuana. The legality of CBD is expected to change, as there is currently bipartisan consensus in Congress to make the hemp crop legal which would, for all intents and purposes, make CBD difficult to prohibit.

The evidence for cannabidiol health benefits

CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and in some cases it was able to stop them altogether. Videos of the effects of CBD on these children and their seizures are readily available on the Internet for viewing, and they are quite striking. Recently the FDA approved the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions, Epidiolex, which contains CBD.

CBD is commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia, studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.

CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain. A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. More study in humans is needed in this area to substantiate the claims of CBD proponents about pain control.

Is cannabidiol safe?

Side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue and irritability. CBD can increase the level in your blood of the blood thinner coumadin, and it can raise levels of certain other medications in your blood by the exact same mechanism that grapefruit juice does. A significant safety concern with CBD is that it is primarily marketed and sold as a supplement, not a medication. Currently, the FDA does not regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements. So you cannot know for sure that the product you buy has active ingredients at the dose listed on the label. In addition, the product may contain other (unknown) elements. We also don’t know the most effective therapeutic dose of CBD for any particular medical condition.

The bottom line on cannabidiol

Some CBD manufacturers have come under government scrutiny for wild, indefensible claims, such that CBD is a cure-all for cancer, which it is not. We need more research but CBD may be prove to be an option for managing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. Without sufficient high-quality evidence in human studies we can’t pinpoint effective doses, and because CBD is currently is mostly available as an unregulated supplement, it’s difficult to know exactly what you are getting. If you decide to try CBD, talk with your doctor — if for no other reason than to make sure it won’t affect other medications you are taking.