A (nervous) Beginners Guide to Skiing

Beginners Guide to Skiing
Never in my life have I had a want, a hankering or a desire to stick two planks on my feet and throw myself off a slippery slope. Not even a morsel of my body has been inclined to do so.
Don’t get me wrong; the snowy scenery, the hot chocolates in log cabins, the permittance for living in my double-bobble hat, now that appeals to me. (Especially in the name of my love of Hygge) But a ski holiday would be wasted on someone with absolutely no intention to ski.

Enter Matthew.

– An avid skier. 15 years of practice. Hundreds of slopes under his belt. And to my dismay a passion to do it over and over again.

I can’t quite remember how it happened, but one way or another I agreed to join the annual family ski holiday to Austria. (Though this did fall nicely in line with two of my new year’s resolutions: to keep on learning, and to face my fears)

And, boy am I glad I did!

Here’s my journey – a beginners guide to skiing. From crying at every thought of a ski, to grinning my way down an icy slope. (Overdosing on rescue remedy included)

UK Skiing Lessons

I decided to take some skiing lessons on home turf before throwing myself head first (hopefully not literally) into skiing. Also because everyone I was going away with had been skiing before they could speak, I at least wanted to know how to do up a boot and click into a ski.

I did a fair bit of research on different indoor slopes and types of courses but settled with The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead. Mainly because they offered an intense 5-hour beginners lesson for only about £20 more than a 2 hour one. I can’t recommend this enough – you’re placed in a group of 10, all of whom can’t get a ski boot on at 10am, but are following each other in a neat snake down the main slope by 4pm.

(I also went for a 1-hour private lesson after that to banish any bad habits. Then dragged Matt along with a 3-hour evening lift pass so that he could check out my ability [and also because he was fairly jealous I’d been on the slopes before him this year])

beginners-guide-to-skiing-lessons

All The Gear (no idea)

It’s fairly well known that skiing can get quite expensive. And looking at kitting yourself out with the clothing you’ll need before you even get there can be slightly daunting. The essentials you’ll need are:

  • Base layer (either just a top or trousers too if it’s super cold)
  • Light middle layer
  • Salopettes (the super attractive warm, waterproof trousers)
  • Ski jacket
  • Ski socks
  • Ski goggles
  • Ski helmet
  • Ski gloves
  • Snood (optional)
  • Snow boots (optional)

Yes, this may sound a lot. But rest assured there are easy ways around forking out.

For a base layer, I wore long sleeved sports tops which I already had = £0

For a middle layer, I wore microfleece jumpers I again already had for walking = £0

For salopettes, I added the Topshop Sno ones below to my Christmas list (a viable option as most ski holidays are likely to take place after the Christmas period) = £0

For a ski jacket, and my best trick yet, I headed to eBay. I found a few people who had done what I was trying not to do – spent lots of money on fancy skiing equipment, only to go on a weeks holiday and never want to go again. Luckily for me, this meant I landed a £160 jacket, worn for barely a week, for just £20. RESULT.

//shopsensewidget.shopstyle.com/#/?options=%7B%22widgetId%22%3A%225ac1ec92be7a4468e25c9d1b%22%2C%22version%22%3A1%2C%22pid%22%3A%22uid4864-40782808-96%22%2C%22size%22%3A200%2C%22columns%22%3A4%2C%22rows%22%3A1%2C%22url%22%3A%22https%3A%2F%2Fapi.shopstyle.co.uk%2Fapi%2Fv2%22%2C%22iframeHeight%22%3A275%2C%22iframeWidth%22%3A920%7DThe two optional items: a snood and snow boots, do come in handy but aren’t essential. The snood was great for keeping out the wind and snow on more bitter days, and the boots super warm for walking around the town after a snowfall. Both of which you could swap with a scarf and walking boots/sturdy shoes.

You could, of course, head to sweaty betty and kit yourself out with their *incredible* snow offering (which may have made its way into the above). Or you could just admire from a distance… either way, I don’t think my pulled together ski ensemble looked too shabby:
Beginner Skiing
Beginners Guide To Skiing – Clothing

The Holiday

No not the Cameron Diaz type… though the snowy landscape was rather romantic.

My biggest blocker to skiing was the fear. Mind over matter has never been more relevant. I don’t like not being in control, and I felt that skiing would be me with two polished planks on my feet, set on top of a slippery slope and sent flying down to my death. This, unbelievably, was not the case. I had way more control than I imagined and could stop when, and where, I wanted.

This didn’t mean that I didn’t still freak out. As soon as we landed and I took one look at the mountains, I panicked. Getting up in the morning knowing I was heading up one, I cried. Matt putting me on a huge scary *read not at all that huge or scary* chairlift on my first afternoon, I cry panicked. So I reverted to my school days and turned to ‘rescue remedy’ – a calming flower essence. I’d drop some of the liquid under my tongue, as well as into my water in the morning, and then chew the sweets on the bus to the slope. It seemed to calm me down and get me in the right frame of mind to navigate the snow. I’m not afraid to admit that it’s probably completely psychological, but like I said – mind over matter.

Rescue Remedy: Drops and Chew Sweets

I also then had a 2-hour private lesson on my third day. Whilst my instructor did make me look ‘through the window‘ of my skis down the mountain which I’d desperately been trying to avoid, it did boost my confidence hugely and meant that I enjoyed the rest of the holiday a whole lot more. beginners guide to skiing

Once I’d got the hang of it and didn’t have to concentrate on ‘weight down… up… down‘ so much I could actually admire the beauty of my surroundings. I had an absolutely wonderful time skiing down slopes I never dreamed I’d have the courage to, with 5 incredibly supportive family members around me, and I don’t think I held them up too much.

And hey, I even got a bit of a thrill from the chairlifts in the end!

beginners-guide-to-skiing


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Beginners Guide to Skiing

Beginners Guide To Skiing

5 Shocking Facts Which Turned Me Vegan

5 Shocking Vegan Facts
Cowspiracy– essentially created & directed by a guy who’s doing what all good humans are to reduce their environmental impact; recycling, using renewable energy, foregoing a car in aid of cycling etc. etc. But in doing so realises he would be having more of an impact on the planet by ‘simply’ adapting his diet to become vegan.

This is the chord which struck me the most in my research.
As mentioned in a previous vegan post, I conducted a lot of research and swotted up on the subject for a Uni project (veganism was an out there topic for us to pick and pitch to our client… but nonetheless we outshone the competition and won- which I think says a lot for the cause and the current climate). That being said, I’m not trying to preach, but after delving into Veganism I do feel that everyone should have the knowledge and understanding of not just where their food comes from (farm to fork is so 2015) but the impact it has- on health, humanity, and the planet.

You can watch Cowspiracy on Netflix here, and What The Health here. Neither of which are gory, squeamish or over-bearing – they simply display the facts in a documentary style. Cowspiracy is especially great at using some great visuals and real-life examples to bring the facts to life. Which brings me to my first Vegan fact:

1. 1 Burger = 660 Gallons of Water

It takes 660 gallons of water to make 1 burger…. which is the equivalent of showering for 2 months! If you watch any of Cowspiracy, make it this 28-second clip. A little later Kip Andersen puts it into perspective by saying “it’s kinda like, my neighbour has this giant hose turned full blast until you see 660 gallons of water are shooting out into the street, flooding the entire street. I think I’d say, hey can you turn that off, please?” (I’ve also found a 2-minute clip of that here)

2. ALL types of transport combined produce 13% of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Livestock & their byproducts are responsible for 51%!Greenhouse gasses Vegan

Because everyone knows cycling, walking, car-pooling and the like will greatly reduce our carbon footprint, right? Wrong. Cars, trucks, planes, trains, boats are responsible for only 13% of greenhouses gases, compared to that of agriculture which sits right up at 51%! This is where I really started to see what Kip was getting at with being more sustainable by switching diets than switching transport mode.

3. Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.

As if this wasn’t bad enough on its own, there are more stats to back this up:

  • 1-2 acres of rainforest are cleared every second.
  • Up to 137 plant, animal and insect species are lost every day due to rainforest destruction.

  • 136 million rainforest acres have been cleared for animal agriculture.

Why do people in the area not know about this and do something about it? 1,100 Land activists have been killed in Brazil in the past 20 years…

Vegan Lungs Deforestation

 4. 82% of starving children live in a country which grows food to feed animals in the West.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some far-flung places. This also means I’ve seen some of the ‘poorest’ communities and children in the world. I’ve even led a group of British teenagers to teach and build schools benefiting children in Ghana. Yet this one makes me wonder, would we be helping more if we went Vegan? Save the flights, the labour and the endearing support, and allow the residents to reap the ‘fruits of their own labour’. Instead of sending their crops abroad to feed animals, to feed humans.

I say ‘poorest’ in inverted commas, as I truly believe these communities and individuals are the richest in terms of happiness.

5. A meat-based diet requires 18 times more land than a vegan diet.Vegan Land Use

Land required to feed 1 person for 1 year:

Vegan: 1/6th acre

Vegetarian: 3x as much as a vegan

Meat Eater: 18x as much as a vegan

This was something which I was completely oblivious to beforehand. I’m a massive recycler, carry reusable bottles and cups, and use paper sparingly to save our land and forests. Yet 1.5 acres can produce 37,000 pounds of plant-based food. Or 1.5 acres can produce 375 pounds of beef. That’s a crazy difference in land use between 2 types of diet. If one type of diet benefits the planet, as well as my body and my health, then its win-win for me. My journey began with Veganuary, and whilst I’ve had a couple of indulgent meals with french toast and pancakes I haven’t had any meat, fish,  or direct dairy or eggs since, and I don’t intend to anytime soon.

BONUS: It’s surprising that facts such as these aren’t more widely known. Particularly as reputable sources such as the World Health Organisation and the United Nations have issued reports outlining the negative impacts of meat-eating and recommending that populations eat plant-based. WHO here. UN here. The reason that this information isn’t being shouted about is another very interesting theme which Anderson investigates in Cowspiracy…. enjoy!

Vegan Positive Articles
A snippet of our Uni presentation highlighting Vegan positive articles for the sake of the environment.
I haven’t focused on any facts which concern animals, their welfare or their treatment. Veganism and even Vegetarianism have massive stigmas around them, or misconceptions surrounding people’s motivations. Most may think someone’s vegan or vegetarian because animals have feelings and are just as intelligent as pet dogs. But in reality, there is SO much more to it than that. Hopefully, I’ve managed to prove that in this post!

Some other facts and infographics which I came across:

Disclaimer: I’m very aware that the numbers vary greatly from source to source. I’ve chosen a few to show here which stood out the most to me during my research.

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5 Shocking Vegan Facts

A Spontaneous Lake District Getaway

The Lake District

Why you shouldn’t cancel your travel plans because of the weather…
Probably a very British problem we know!

If you’re an avid Helptathon follower you’ll know that in September we hiked Scaffel Pike in the Lake District for Matt’s charity initiative. Originating as a weekend for 4 it got ‘slightly’ bigger when another 12 people opted in for a weekend of literal mountain clambering. (For evidence of this you can watch the challenge video here).Lake District Weather Forecast

However, we still had credit to be used on a hotel in Ambleside before March. Matt and I looked into it one Thursday evening and decided to go the following weekend – despite the weather warnings which we pretended to be oblivious to.

Ignorance is bliss, right?

The weather (despite forecasted like this) played out extremely well and we enjoyed a rather romantic, snowy weekend away.

The Hotel

We stayed in a beautifully quaint hotel with no more than 10 bedrooms making for a private cottage vibe. The Three Shires Inn is nestled away in the village of Little Langdale near Ambleside in the South Lakes.
We were in a superior room with a bay window looking out over the valley to the front of the hotel.

  Lake District Bay Window

It’s fair to say the view was rather different the next morning…

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The Area:

Cathedral Quarry

Granted you may think there isn’t much to do in a cold, wet Lake District during winter. And a quick TripAdvisor search only proved the point. 2 mere things were returned for my hunt for “things to do in Ambleside”.

1- Blea Tarn, described as “bodies of water” and 2- Cathedral Quarry.

Having seen the Cathedral Quarry on TripAdvisor I did have an incline of what to expect, whilst Matt was completely oblivious despite my ramblings en route. Which if anything made it even more spectacular. Walking past the sign with “important safety information” listing 7 dangers from deep water to steep drops and falling rocks. (we really were going for ignorance is bliss) You’re faced with a cave tunnel to walk through with a glimpse of light at the end. The light at the end of the tunnel truly was incredible. An old quarry and slate mine with visible dynamite holes. A crater at the top letting in natural light and air. A pool of clear water showing fallen slate. And on Sunday a friendly robin who followed us around hopping from rock to rock perching beside us. I’m sure he was posing for Matt’s camera giving him a chance to snap for Wildlife Photographer of The Year. (he’ll kill me for saying that).

(But seriously, check out Matt’s photography Instagram account here)

The Lake District Snowy Bridge
The Bridge to reach Cathedral Quarry
Ambleside, Lake District

After the snow had stopped falling and the roads had been (sort-of) cleared by nonchalant locals in everyday hatchbacks, we ‘braved’ our way out. We drove the 15 minutes into Ambleside and parked up at the top of town. (The driving was no problem in our borrowed 4×4 Mini)

Ambleside is more than we ever imagined it would be. We did, however, feel slightly silly at the fact that in the morning we’d questioned whether we’d be able to find some new walking boots for Matt. Well, if there’s one place you’ll be able to find new walking boots, it’s Ambleside. This is a high street like no other, there are more outdoor shops than we have in the whole of London combined. (not a proven fact). The magic of it is that some look like an unassuming, small shopfront on the outside, but when you step in you’re faced with 5 floors of discounted goods from ski-wear to tents. Gaynors, in particular, was a myriad of excitement.

The Food Scene

We stumbled upon The Apple Pie Cafe & Bakery on Saturday and stopped for some lunch. We were so impressed that we planned to pop back on our way home to buy pies as gifts for our families. With a craving for avocado toast (and missing the 9.15am hotel breakfast cut off on a Sunday), we altered our plan slightly. We decided to sit in and devour brunch here before picking up our apple pies, loose leaf tea, and homemade granola. (all exceptional!)

The Weather

Now, as mentioned above the weather for the weekend looked pretty dire. The Lake District is roughly a 5-hour drive from us so we were a little worried about the road conditions. (Though I was secretly hoping we’d get snowed in and recreate The Holiday). Much to my disappointment, Matt had packed like the Bear Grylls he is so that our boot contained snow chains, blankets, shovels and a helicopter to airlift us out of tricky situations. (okay maybe that last one’s a teeny white lie, but we felt well prepared!)

The weather could not have been more perfect! It was beautifully sunny on the journey up – meaning we were peering out of the car window at the snowy peaks with the sun basking our faces. We’d left earlier than planned so once we arrived we still had time to head out for a walk and make the most of the sunshine. This also proved the perfect opportunity to get the drone out and take some shots, beautifully showcased by Matt here:

When we woke up on Saturday and peeled back the curtains we were met with a white blanket scene. Scoffing down breakfast at a man vs food rate we then retraced our walk from the day before taking in our disguised surroundings. After which we then took a couple of hours to warm up, have some tea in bed, and then explored Ambleside as described. We [read: Sam] had researched local restaurants to peruse in the evening, but due to the snow and cold, we opted for another dinner in the hotel perched next to the log fire.

 

On Sunday the weather was back to its sunny self, with melted snow and clear roads for us to head home on. And so a weekend which we could have cancelled due to the impending weather turned into a romantic getaway for two 🙂


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The Lake District

Little Book of Hygge – Book Review

Little Book of Hygge Book Review

I first saw The Little Book of Hygge in February 2017 at Copenhagen Airport, but preferring to spend my remaining 10 Danish Krone on Danish pastries than a book, I left it on the shelf.

I stumbled upon it a few times since but didn’t put much time aside for reading so wasn’t sure I’d get round to making use of the book. Until Matt and I spent New Year in Woolacombe and had a 2018 planning session – one of my resolutions was to read more and keep on learning new things. When we saw The Little Book of Hygge reduced in a supermarket the next day Matt kindly bought it for me and I saw it as fete.

Since then I’ve been reading it by candlelight, snuggled in a fluffy blanket, wearing my most comfortable PJs. It’s fair to say the book has rubbed off on me…

Why ‘The Little Book of Hygge”?

I grew up fascinated by people. You’ll still find me people watching anywhere I go – motorway service stations are an all-time favourite! I went to Uni to study Anthropology & Sociology and moved to a people-facing role in HR looking after thousands of individuals across the globe. The Little Book of Hygge is written by Meik Wiking – CEO of The Happiness Research Institue in Copenhagen who’s “spent years studying the magic of Danish life“. You can certainly feel the sociologist in him throughout the book, which brings me to my first point:

1- It’s Educational

With sections on language and etymology, citing anthropologist Franz Boas and facing the all-important subject of pronunciation – it’s HOO-GA. A hygge dictionary defining all things Hygge, Hyggekrog, Hyggelig and Hyggesnak (seriously- don’t underestimate the use of Hygge in Danish culture). Aswell as a plethora of studies displayed in pretty graphs and infographics throughout the book which enhance the (no doubt-interesting) point Meik is making. Case in point below- Meik proving Danes light the most candles:IMG_0154

2- It’s Funny AND relateable

At one point Meik refers to sourdough as “basically an edible Tamagotchi” – this made me chuckle out loud in my comfortable pyjamas cocooned in my fluffy blanket whilst reminiscing primary school playgrounds. The very nature of the book is increasing my level of Hygge.

In the clothing chapter it states “Once you get out of Copenhagen airport, you may think you have walked on to the set of a ninja movie” due to the amount of black that’s worn. We’re advised to aim for a look fitting for Karl Lagerfeld’s funeral” but are told that in summer “you are allowed to go for a wider range of colours, even something crazily flamboyant like grey“. This whole paragraph of quirky quips almost set me howling, I’m sure many a fashion blogger will relate and have a laugh at their own relateable expense.

3- There’s a whole section on Food & Drink…

…which encourages the consumption of cake. But does reassure us that “there is more to Hygge food than increasing your body mass“, it’s about comfort, enjoying the preparation and releasing dopamine in response to food. This section also includes recipes which I’ll come back to in point 6. The Little Book of Hygee Recipies

4- It’s littered with images and photos

Which makes for a super easy read! This is not only an aesthetically pleasing book which would fit right in on a wooden, vintage, candle-laden coffee table, but it’s perfect for picking up and flicking through. You can start pretty much anywhere in the book and get stuck right in. You could simply pick it up and scan for the photos of families on beaches, people snuggled in their Hyggekrog and friends snuggled in weekend cabins. Or you could skip to the ‘year round’ section, look up Feb and see that I should be going on a ski trip for the ultimate Hygge that month. It appears I’ll be testing that one a month late.

5- It’s realistic

Meik doesn’t show Hygge through completely rose-tinted glasses or portray it as airy-fairy fluffy and unattainable. There are ample of reality checks throughout the book, a couple of my favourites:

  • Your eyes hurt from the smoke, your hand hurts from being close to the fire, your bread is turning black on the outside yet remaining unbaked on the inside. But it doesn’t get much more hyggelig than this” (Cooking over fires)
  • The sound is usually difficult to hear, you sit kind of uncomfortably on the ground, without back support, and the people who were bright enough to bring small chairs set up camp right infront of you and thus block some of your view of the screen. However, it is still total hyggeligt.” (Outdoor movies)

6- It’s possibly THE most diverse book

The Little Book of Hygge Copenhagen Travel Guide

You can probably tell from the above that even the very layout and range of topics covered are extremely wide. The Little Book of Hygge also doubles up as:

  • A Copenhagen Travel Guide (pg 200-213)
  • A Recipe Book (pg 87-97 and throughout)
  • A Craft Instruction Manual (pg 235 has Christmas decoration crafts)
  • A Sociology Reference Point (throughout)
  • An Activity Manual (pg 180-195)
  • An Interior Design Guide (pg 110-137)

Concluded – this is my dream book. The only thing more dreamy would be if I’d done the research, written it, and created the graphics!!

I very much enjoyed reading The Little Book of Hygge and would recommend it to anyone. It possibly appeals so much as a huge deal of the manifesto and foundations upon which Hygge stands relate to my lifestyle. From having snuggled chill time to lighting candles and finding the therapeutic aspect of cooking. It even gave me all the affirmation I need in my decision to not drink “drinking tea is more hyggeligt than drinking champagne”, well wham bam thank you, mam.

If you do read The Little Book of Hygge let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And if you have any other book recommendations drop me a message on our contact page.

Little Book of Hygge on Amazon

little book of hygge

You can buy The Little Book Of Hygge here


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Little Book of Hygge Book Review

Fundraising for Alzheimer’s, How I raised £7150!

Fundraising for Alzheimer's

In this blog I share my experience of fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society running my own charitable campaign to raise £7150. I talk about the events we completed, how we built the campaign and offer my 3 tips for anyone wanting to raise money for a charity.

What inspired me to start fundraising for Alzheimer’s?

Over the Christmas period in 2016 the festive atmosphere was dampened somewhat by the absence of my Grandma, who unfortunately had to move to a care home due to her struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. After her diagnosis in 2008, we had really struggled as a family watching her gradually lose the outgoing, full-of-life attitude she was known for.

Seeing my mum and grandad come to terms with what was happening really drove home the horrible effect the disease has on everyone it touches, and so my cousin James and I decided we had to do something to help.

As it happened we were complaining about how unfit we were, so it seemed like the perfect solution to take on some physical challenges and start fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society. They’re the biggest charity looking to fight and find a cure for Alzheimer’s, and so it felt right to contribute to funding their great work.

Enter ‘The Helptathlon’

When we started planning fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society, there was a point of realisation where we both said we should make it really professional. I started by coming up with a name, and the ‘Helptathlon’ was born. James and I decided to take on 6 challenges over the course of this year, setting a goal of raising £5,000.

We set up a Just Giving page for donations, but we also wanted to create an independent hub for the campaign to really inspire people to donate. We decided to design a website and record a campaign video, providing a touchpoint for people to connect with our story, and hopefully support our cause.

I had some Photoshop experience so I designed our logo, and also taught myself how to build a website. Filming and editing the video was new for the both of us, but it turned out to be so much fun. I loved the whole process, and now I have these extra skills at my disposal in my professional life.

The hardest part was actually planning all the challenges. We wanted to get as many people involved as possible, taking advantage of a wider network to raise awareness. It also gave us the chance to share these amazing experiences with friends, family and co-workers alike.

Challenge’s Complete!

Time really does fly when you have fun. At the end of April 2017 we completed our first challenge of climbing Snowdon, and just a few weeks later Tough Mudder marked number two.

Mount Snowdon.

We had a team of 14 climbing Snowdon, half of whom used to be Unilever apprentices with me. The climb itself was tough, but we did it in a ridiculously short time. It was meant to take 6 hours, and we did it in 3 and a half!

Tough Mudder.

Tough Mudder – a 12-mile assault course designed by British Special Forces – pushed us even further. We had a tight-knit team made up of my two cousins, two friends and myself. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but felt so rewarding. Despite aches and pains the day after I could really feel the progress I had made with my fitness, and the benefits to my own wellbeing were becoming clear.

Ben Nevis & Ride London.

Come the end of June, we had scaled Ben Nevis in the pounding wind and rain – perhaps that motivated us even more because we made it up and down in 6 hours! The challenges kept coming too, as at the end of July I completed the Ride London 100 with my dad. It was probably the toughest challenge physically, covering 100 miles through London and Surrey, but having him there with me made it really special and we were proud to finish in 6 hours. It was probably the closest I have felt to being in the Tour De France!

Scafell Pike & Great Birmingham Run.

As the months went past the challenges kept coming! In September, a team of 16 of us conquered Scafell Pike, we decided to drag my Mum and Auntie along for this one, they both trained hard for the hike and it paid off because they both smashed it! This challenge felt like a real team effort and we also had great fun whilst doing it. The final challenge was the Great Birmingham Run, I’d done Ride London so this was James’s big event – he managed an awesome time and it was a great way to round off a year of epic challenges.

So after a full year and 6 amazing challenges we managed to raise a ridiculous £7150 fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society! – James and I weren’t expecting to raise more than £100 so to smash the target by over £2000 was the most amazing feeling! Looking back, it was a lot of hard work and required quite a lot of training, however it was all totally worth it at the end of the year knowing we’d made a difference.

Raising money for a charity: 3 top tips

1)    Be ambitious. Aim for a campaign of multiple events, get stuck into it and give it its own identity. Just Giving is great, but so many people have a page for one off runs, hikes or cycles that you just get lost in the crowd. Do something ambitions, over a period of time and really make a song and dance about it.

2)    Share the experience. Take on challenges with a friend. With charity, it really is the more the merrier, and the benefits are many: motivation, shared networks, and shared workload (meaning less stress on your career).

3)    Create Content. I would highly advise creating as much content which you can share on Facebook/ Instagram as possible. We created videos for each event and did updates on Facebook while on the hikes! The more social presence you can get the more people will see the amazing stuff you’re doing and will be more likely to donate!

The whole campaign has been a really positive focus for me. I got fit, learned new skills, had an amazing time and overall thoroughly enjoyed fundraising for Alzheimer’s society. I say bring on another year!

Please do check out the Heptathlon website if you’re interested! – www.helptathlon.com 

If you have any questions, or are looking to start fundraising for Alzheimer’s and need some tips – drop me an email on our Contact us page!


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Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 14.58.54

10 Things I Learned During Veganuary

10 things going vegan for Veganuary has taught me…

Firstly the answer to the question I’ve heard a thousand times over the past Veganuary month: WHY?
Towards the end of 2017 I was completing a project for a University course I was taking in the evenings, and my group chose to focus on Veganism (specifically it’s saving of the planet [granted not in an Avengers kind of way]). This not only consisted of a graded pitch in front of course lecturers, the CIM, and our client, but an 80-page document full of our ideas and justification… so we really needed to know our stuff! Cue hours of Cowspiracy watching, Pinterest pinning and mind-blowing fact reading. 

So after my eyes had been peeled wide open, and I’d trawled numerous health benefit claims & climate change improvements I stumbled upon the Veganuary movement (which is also a charity) and signed up! Here are 10 things I learned during the meat free, dairy free, animal free month.

1. Mushrooms = Meat

You will never look at these mighty meaty fungi the same again! The meatiest burger can be concocted from these babies. I’m sure many a Veganuary-phobe were cured by these!

2. There are TONNES of ‘accidentally’ vegan products

From Oreos and Hobnobs to Bisto gravy, Ketchup and the greatest discovery of all… Jus Rol Pan Au Chocolat, Croissants and Cinnamon Swirls! There’s a whole host of discoveries to be made on the Veganuary website

3. There are TONNES of what do you mean it’s not vegan products

Brace yourself for this one… ever since I’ve been combining icing sugar with butter, I’ve been adding in cochineal red food colouring, because everyone knows its more potent than normal red. But there is great (for want of a better word) reason for that, my fellow deep red hunters. Cochineal is a pigment obtained from the body and eggs of beetles! (I kid you not- for further reading check out these articles: LiveScience & FoodInfo)

4. My go-to 3 ingredient pancakes are difficult to replace (I’m secretly in mourning)

1 banana, 2 eggs and a dash (read: heaps) of cinnamon. There’s just no replacement for this. I even tried adding flour, almond milk, canned chickpea water and chia seeds, but my best efforts failed me – and afterall, the idea is that they’re quick, simply and healthy. Regardless, I did devour the warmed, mushy heap with raspberry coulis drizzled over…. hey what’s a fresh, experimental vegan to do?🤷

5. My tastebuds are in OVERDRIVE!

I can’t tell you why, but everything I bite into – regardless of whether it’s the 1000th Oreo that’s graced my lips in my lifetime or the 1st ever tempeh strip: it’s intense, it’s deep and it’s like I’m falling in love with the holy Oreo all over again. Can you tell I like the happy ‘creamy’ circles of joy? (this post is NOT sponsored… I wish)VEGANUARY

6. My head is the clearest it’s ever been!

You won’t find any of that ‘brain-fog’ around here, and you certainly won’t see me on any 3pm slumps (much to my surprise as it’s usually chocolate I call for at 3pm, and not being able to devour a Kinder Bueno or Dairy Milk I thought I’d long for them even more!)

7. My energy levels are through the roof!

And so am I (almost) – 6am gym sesh? Sure! Ready for another at 6pm? Absolutely! I even had enough energy and enthusiasm to ask Matt to book out a squash court and teach me to play… twice!

8.Even if that does extend to (not so) sleepy nights

Yes I have a lot of energy and my mind is super clear… but in the first 2 weeks I was struggling to get to sleep. And once I did drift off my imagination was having a whale of a time conjuring up rather extravagant, vivid, action-packed dreams. I hadn’t put 2 and 2 together, but the trusty community of Vegnuary experimentalists in Vivo’s facebook group all had the revelation at once whilst sharing dreamy stories. Thankfully after my body had adjusted (to the absence of additional animal hormones so my new FB friends tell me), I’m back to my usual sleeping routine.

9. Food to go becomes a lot more difficult…

But… every cloud has a silver lining. The lack of vegan grab food definitely means I think ahead more and am more mindful of what I eat. (something I can safely say I did not practice before. I was a walking, talking, eating memoir of the ‘see-food’ diet joke). It also lead to a lot more time being spent reading food menus online. But hey, who doesn’t love scrolling through pages of perfectly photographed food – it was a favored past-time of mine anyway!Tesco Wicked Kitchen Vegan

10. The World is changing, people!

Whether it’s because I’ve been in a Veganuary bubble (read: now follow 584 vegan Instagram accounts) or not, it’s apparent how many big brands, restaurant chains and supermarkets are jumping on the non-leather, non-horse pulling band-wagon. Of them all, Tesco has come up trumps – hiring a “Director of Plant-Based Innovation” and releasing its own vegan range “Wicked Kitchen” from ready-meals to hoisin lunch wraps and buddha-esque bowls.

BONUS

According to my calculations, if Cowspiracy claims that “Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds (0.63tonnes) of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.”

Over the course of January, I’ve saved a WHOPPING 34,100 gallons of water, 1395 pounds (0.63tonnes) of grain, 930 sq ft of forested land, 620 lbs CO2 equivalent, and 31 animal’s lives.

All in all, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed experimenting, reading and munching my way through the past 31 days. Who knows what the future of my eating pattern holds, but whatever it is, I’ll be a lot more mindful with every chew.✌
(apologies in advance @matthewbailey and thank you to my family [especially my mum and sister who put on a huge vegan birthday spread] for standing by me with this one!)


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10 Things I Learned During Veganuary

Buying on EBAY our Top 3 tips!

Buying on eBay - Sam and Matt

Anyone who knows me well, will also know that I have a small obsession with buying on eBay (selling things as well but we’ll save that for another blog). I’m not sure what it is about eBay, but ever since I was young I’ve always got a real buzz from making deals on the site. Whether its haggling with someone on a buy it now or having my finger on the trigger for a bids listing, I’ve always seemed to have the knack for buying things for a great price.

I’m not sure how many people know this…however while I was in sixth form, and then working part time in Waitrose, I was also running a small eBay business where these skills came quite in handy!

In about 2013 I started a business which imported LED lightbulbs in bulk from China (Don’t worry these were legitimate high end bulbs), and then re sold them in smaller quantities in the UK market on eBay (I did feel like head of the UK mafia for LED lighting!). The business ran for a good 4 years and I’ve only recently started to slow it down – it was reasonably successful and I made enough money to pay for a new car, a load of gadgets and fund some new ventures – which was great.

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However importantly, in my time doing this I learnt SO MUCH about buying on eBay! In the early days, I wasn’t buying directly from China and was having to find great deals on the UK eBay site…which if I’m honest was an absolute pain in the a*se, but did teach me some seriously useful things about getting the cheapest price for products on eBay.

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling…here is my simple 3 step process for buying on eBay!

*disclaimer – There are loads of different tools you can use to “snipe” for bids such as Gixen or find items that are spelt wrong (Fatfingers) etc… but if I’m being honest I think most of them are a load of rubbish. They take so much time to use and because so many people are now using them the discounts you get just aren’t worth it! These 3 steps are more of a “mentality towards buying” than an instant win tool. The idea is that if you have this process in your head when buying things, 99% of the time you’ll get a better deal.

 

Buying on eBay My 3 Top Tips

1 – KNOW THE MARKET!

Before you buy anything on eBay you must spend some time learning about the market. eBay is completely different to most platforms with New and Used products being mixed in together which can make life confusing! I always go through a couple of quick steps to make sure I know what the best price should be for a product before buying.

Firstly, search for the product and use the advanced filters of Sold and Completed listings, this takes 2 seconds and will immediately give you a good gauge as to the going rate for items. Do consider the difference between new and used though and the spec or bundle the listing may include. For example, if you’re buying an Xbox and comparing one which has a controller to own without, they’re have slightly different prices.

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What I’ll also do is make sure I know the going RRP of the product on major retailer’s sites like Amazon, I’m sure if you’re looking to buy something you’ll this already, however have a quick google beforehand just to check there isn’t any 50% offs which you haven’t spotted is normally wise.

Once you’ve got in your head what you think the average RRP is, the lowest price you reckon you could find it new from a private seller and how much shipping may cost you…it’s time to start searching for listings!

2 – CHOOSE THE RIGHT TYPE OF LISTING TO BUY!

So many people think there are only two ways to buy on eBay. Either you Buy it Now and pay asking price or have to spend days waiting for a bidding war to play out which you may not even win…..not true! The single best way to buy things on eBay is to haggle with people (not business accounts) who have items listed as “Buy it now”. The reason….

If a person has listed something as Buy it now 90% of the time it suggests they’re super impatient and want the cash immediately…i.e. the perfect opportunity to get a great deal. The other 10% are professional sellers, selling either brand new or refurbished product – i.e. not the ones we’re after.

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To find these kind of listings, first filter the BUY IT NOW. The listings you want will be somewhere in the middle so if you know the market well enough you’ll know roughly around what price bracket these will sit! Yes, you may have to do some scrolling as these listings won’t just jump out at you, but the general idea is to find private sellers with buy it now listings.

3 – HAGGLE! IF YOU DON’T ASK YOU DON’T GET!

Right, once you’ve found the listing this is where it gets interesting. The BIGGEST mistake people make when buying on eBay is to not haggle with the seller! EBay is essentially a virtual car boot sale, and when have you ever paid asking price at a car boot sale…never!

If you’ve followed the first two steps correctly, you’ll currently be in this position:

  1. You’ll know the market price and going rate for the item.
  2. You’ll have selected a listing which is a private seller and Buy it Now.

Now what we do is message the seller…

Firstly, what you DO NOT do is use the phrase “Hi, what’s the best price you can do for the xbox?” – this is not haggling! I guarantee if you asked this question the seller would come back with “Ahh sorry mate, best I can do is £5 less than buy it now” – meh not good enough.

When you send a message to the seller this is how it should go. Say we’re looking to buy a second-hand bike, the RRP new is £500, second had in good condition between is £240 – £280. You have a trawl through the listings and find the below…

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Based on your research about prices you know that if you could get this for anywhere near £200 its going to be an absolute steal! My advice at this point is to message the seller directly and make and outrageous offer. I tend to go in at around 40-50% the asking price – so for this example here’s how it would go…

 

“Hi, really interested in your bike!

 Unfortunately, I’m on a super tight budget – would you consider and offer of £160? 

Thanks, Matt”

 

Simple as that. Straight to the point. Now you’re probably thinking, well duh he’s obviously not going to accept that…well yeah I know, but what it’s done is got the guy thinking. “oh someone’s interested, might be able to sell this quick!” What will probably happen is you’ll get a reply sounding something like this…

 

“Hi, sorry but that’s too low.

Best price I could do is £220, I’ve already had some offers around this amount.

Thanks!”

 

BOOM! They’ve taken the bait! Now this is where you pounce.

 

“Hi, thanks for getting back to me.

Best I could do is £200 and I could come and collect the bike tomorrow.

No worries if not.

Thanks”

 

Sold. At this point the sellers thinking, I’ve got a buyer, he’s coming to pick it up tomorrow, which is great because I’ll get the cash before the weekend and I don’t mind dropping a little. I’ve honestly had so many conversations like this when buying on eBay and they always end with me getting an awesome deal!

Couple of things just to point out though – If they are stubborn on the price, then walk away. Buying on eBay is amazing because there are always new listings and it’s not worth wasting your time haggling with someone who won’t budge. Also, I have had it where I have walked away and then they’ve messaged saying they’ll sell to me so don’t be afraid to do so – by messaging a seller you have not committed to buying.

Finally, you’ve just got to be ballsy with it. You have nothing to lose by making a ridiculous offer, all they can say is no. The reason you do this is that you know they’re going to say no but it brings the “I’ll meet you half way” price down significantly. If you offered the seller £200 straight up they’d probably come back with £230 and you’d end up paying £215. Placing a stupidly low offer opens the playing field for negotiation and you’ll always get a better price.

Anyway, there you go! I hope this was of some use. Again, this is just an example and I know it completely depends on what you’re buying on ebay, but I’ve followed these 3 steps for ages now and had some success so may be worth a go.

1 – Know the market.

2 – Chose the right listing.

3 – Make that first outrageously low offer.

If you have any questions – drop me an email on our Contact us page!