How to make your wedding as grand as George and Amal’s

3 October 2014 by in Entertainment, Lifestyle

Yesterday Catherine purchased the latest edition of Hello! magazine and this morning we were impressed by the wedding of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin, and were particularly taken by the Oscar de la Renta dress, celebrity guests and perfect setting.

We have learnt many things from George and Amal’s wedding: tuxes never go out of style, everyone looks good in a boat, and restrained beading can work wonders. Luckily for all you lay people wishing to have a similarly memorable day, Infinite Ideas has a book, Perfect Weddings, which is filled with helpful tips on how to make it the best day of your life. One thing you have to get right is the location. So if you can’t afford to have it in the Aman Canal Grande hotel how do you decide upon your venue?

What will suit the kind of ceremony and reception you want? Your location should be a reflection of your overall theme. If it’s formal, your local grand hotel may be a suitable location (and should be licensed for civil weddings), with plenty of space for ceremony and guests. But make sure you have free rein to make your own choices – they sometimes insist on using their own favoured caterer. And check there’s enough parking space.

george wedding

If you plan to hold a church wedding, you may need to book up to two years in advance for the date that you want. If you want something a little more unusual, such as a ceremony with your own vows in a ruined castle, try a quiet registry office and a second ceremony; that way you are free to make all your own style choices. Make sure you have a dry run well in advance of the big day. You must make sure that you know which door the band will use, and that they also know which one it is, unless you want everyone moving tables to allow equipment to be lugged through your reception meal. Will the fire regulations allow for the hundreds of tea lights you have planned to dot all around your tables? Is there room for you to greet your guests? Can they make sure that there is a safe place for the wedding gifts to be left, or can they be locked away and collected the following day by your parents if you are going on honeymoon straight from the reception?

For George and Amal, the theme was undoubtedly Hollywood glamour and it definitely delivered. Their location was old school Hollywood at its best, full of pomp and ceremony, completely over the top but managing to stay on the right side of ridiculous. We would have loved to have gone, but we’re guessing that the venue capacity was just too small.

As for the problem of transport, there’s no need to worry when it comes to Venice, just make sure that your guests are put into a water taxi and haven’t fallen over the side and it’s all taken care of. Venice is a great city to hold a wedding in as there’s no issue of having to delegate the designated driver. Everyone is free to get as drunk as they like so long as they watch out for the canal.

Venue: check. Transport: check. Designer dress: we’re pretty sure Oxfam has a stock of used designer wedding dresses that you can rifle through and hopefully pick up a bargain.


Short cuts to supermodel looks, as London Fashion Week 2014 begins

12 September 2014 by in Entertainment, Lifestyle

Today fashionistas in London are gathering to watch the models of London Fashion Week strut their stuff. With the exciting line-up of designers at this year’s event offering a variety of fashions from ready to wear all the way up to haute couture there are bound to be some new looks that strike fear into our hearts (‘What – with my thighs?’ …). So how can you look gorgeous and fashionable? Linda Bird and Cherry Maslan’s book, Catwalk looks offers some simple suggestions on how to look your best at all times – we can’t all look like supermodels Lara Stone and Cara Delevingne, but here are some tips that can at least help you feel like a supermodel.

The key to looking great is lots and lots of sleep, eating well, working out daily, good skin care etc. We all know this, but surely there must be an easier way. The problem is that you haven’t quite found the time for all that healthy living stuff but what you do have is a date/party/wedding and just a few hours to get ready and you just have to shine.

First impressions do count, so make sure that you have all your necessary maintenance done for your special night out. It’s not just the look itself, it’s the fact that the psychological boost will leave you with a glow that shows. For a small investment that goes a long way, a manicure is a must.

LFW14For a short-term skin solution you can’t beat a facial. If you can afford the time and the money for a salon-based treat then do so – the more you spend, the better you’ll feel. However, if you can’t, there’s plenty you can do at home. Forget cucumber slices on the eyes – it’ll make you feel too much like a distressed divorcee and not enough like a sex kitten. Instead have a hot bath before you go out to plump out your complexion with all that steam and to get the circulation going so that you appear rosy and, therefore, healthy.

For an energy boost try supergreens. These are ground up superfoods – health-promoting vegetables, algae and sprouted grasses – which give a shot of optimum nutrition in one glass. Upside: you’ll swear you can actually notice the difference in energy levels and well-being. Downside: they tend to taste disgusting. So mix these energy-enhancing powders with a little juice and down the hatch.

Some people also recommend performing a couple of press-ups to flush the blood through your system and bring a healthy glow to your skin. (Not so many that you arrive out of breath and beetroot faced.) Before you make your entrance, try spritzing (not dousing) your face with a water spray, which helps cool you down and also freshens up your make-up – so carry your own supply with you at all times.

The meat dilemma

20 August 2014 by in Lifestyle

There are many differing theories on whether it is better to be a vegetarian or an omnivore, if red meat is better than chicken or whether we should all survive on nuts and seeds for the environment’s sake. In a recent Horizon for the BBC, Michael Mosley investigated the effect eating red and processed meats has on our health.

One thing the programme highlighted is that it is very difficult to get definitive information on diet from the media, which is keen to sell stories so often chooses the most dramatic outcomes from research. The result is that one day we’re told we need to eat meat to ensure we’re getting a healthy amount of protein and the next we’re told that sausages give us bowel cancer (we may be exaggerating a little here). In her book The corporate wellness bible, Kate Cook tries to help us through the confusion by taking us back to basics and explaining the importance not just of protein but also the other basic building blocks of food – carbohydrates and fats:

There are so many different diets and ways of eating that it’s no wonder we’re thoroughly confused. Eating for energy by controlling your blood sugar is probably best for handling stress and fuelling Wellness at work but to begin with here are some general nutritional guidelines. One minute vitamin C is good for you, the next it’s causing cancer. We all change to margarine, then lo and behold we’re told to change back to butter. Let’s try to make sense of it all. The food we eat can be divided up into three major ‘macro’ nutrient groups: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Curb the carbs?
The body uses carbohydrates (carbs) as its main fuel. Carbs can be divided into two types: ‘fast burning’ (junk food, processed food, honey, sweet foods) and ‘slow burning’ (whole grains, fresh fruit and veg, grains). The type of carbs you should curb are the fast-burning carbs because these will give you a surge of energy followed by a nasty crash. And avoid rocket-fuel carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, cakes, biscuits and sugar. Complex carbohydrates usually have more fibre in them to slow down the way sugar is released into your system.

Perfect protein
Protein contains the building blocks (amino acids) that are used for making enzymes, hormones, antibodies and neurotransmitters as well as for repair of the body and for growth. Protein isn’t just about huge slabs of juicy steak. Vegetarian sources of protein are important to consider and include beans, tofu, quinoa (a type of seed) and lentils. Aim to eat plenty of vegetarian sources, which are less acid forming, and also consider some cheese and eggs, but not in excess. If you eat meat, have it no more than three times a week.

Fear of fat
A fear of fat has been drummed into us. Yet it’s only the wrong kind of fat we should be scared of, not good fats. There are two main types of fat: saturated fats (hard fat) and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are not essential for the body to function. There are also two main categories of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated (olive oil is in this group) and polyunsaturated. Some polyunsaturated fats are good for your brain and generally make the body work efficiently. In fact, they’re known as essential fatty acids (EFAs) – the name speaks for itself. EFAs are destroyed by heat and light so, despite some manufacturers’ health claims, the benefits of these fats are likely to have been destroyed once foods are processed. Each day, supplement a pure fish oil or flax seed oil, and eat a good handful of nuts and seeds. And avoid too many saturated fats or the type of fats found in processed foods.

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Getting into the spirit of the Commonwealth Games

25 July 2014 by in Current events, Lifestyle

Last night the Commonwealth Games officially opened in Glasgow so it’s time for us all to revive the enthusiasm that we had two years ago for the London Olympics. Team GB may now be divided, but surely that gives us infinitely more reasons to cheer?

If, like us at Infinite Ideas, you’re struggling to think of which sport you should be training for, take this simple test. Rebecca has signed up for Judo, Catherine is dusting off her hockey stick, and Richard thinks he’d be good at netball (though the general consensus is that he should join a lawn bowls team).

If, however, you are stuck in the office during the Games and taking up judo is a distant dream, Corporate Wellness expert Kate Cook offers advice on how to keep fit even when at your desk:

Pilates is a great way of avoiding injury and you don’t have to be a dancer to benefit – the average desk jockey risks quite enough damage at work, and a few simple moves can ease the pain of the working day.

Pilates first found fame as a way for injured dancers to recover their strength and mobility. With its emphasis on building up tone with low stress and few repetitions it proved a great way of recovering dynamically – essential for those aiming to get back to full fitness as fast as possible.

These days the walking wounded that turn to it are just as likely to be office workers with back pain and stiff necks. Ironically many of them will perform their Pilates moves with great care and attention in the studio, then go back to doing exactly what caused the problem once they’re back in the familiar surroundings of the office. While the studio is undoubtedly the place to learn new moves, you can practice them just about anywhere on the planet, and Pilates in the office is a great way of preventing those problems from showing up in the first place. Take it from me. I found out the hard way. A professional life slaving over a hot keyboard left me with chronic back pain, stiff hands and an amusingly lop-sided neck from clutching a phone under my chin. These days I make sure I get away from the keyboard often enough to give my body a break, but when deadlines are tight, or the boss is hanging over your shoulder, you don’t have to leave your seat to perform simple exercises to release those muscles, help your posture and above all ease the stress.

Since we tend to store up stress in the shoulders, try to roll it out again with shoulder rotations. Mobility exercises – taking the joints through their full range of movement – are a staple of most forms of modern exercising and Joseph H. was a great fan as can be seen from exercises like the one leg circle which was one of the first he taught in Return to Life through Contrology. Your shoulder, like your hip, is a ball and socket joint, meaning it can rotate in any direction, so every now and again you should let it. Sitting in neutral, with your feet flat on the floor and your shoulders relaxed but not slumped, bend your elbows and rest your fingertips on your shoulder (right on right, left on left). Now circle them forwards and upwards so your elbows touch, then lift up above your ears, pull back to be in line with your shoulders and finally come forward again. Now perform the same circle but in the opposite direction – remember the importance of working every equal and opposite muscle so that for every pull there is a push.

The best office destressing exercise is undoubtedly to land a clean right hook on the boss, but since this may lead to ugliness it’s worth looking at other options.

Stress balls – those squidgy balls you can squash in your fist when anxiety rises – are a good exercise for your hand muscles. The problem is people often tense the trapezius muscle that leads to the shoulders when they do. If you use a stress ball, then make sure you perform the shoulder roll above.

Now work on the fingers – if you’ve been typing, then they’re probably tense and tired. Despite the publicity about RSI you only have to look around any office for a couple of minutes and you’ll find keyboards without wrist wrests, keyboards set up at the wrong height for the seat and keyboards right at the edge of the desk so there’s nowhere to rest your elbows. Concentrated mouse work, even with elegantly shaped ergonomic mice, can also put real pressure on your fingers. Remember that before you start your fiftieth game of minesweeper.

To release tension in the fingers start by turning your hands palm upwards and bring the tip of each finger in turn to the tip of your thumb then repeat the sequence. Just to make things a little more interesting, try starting with the little finger on one hand at the same time as you start at the index finger on the other so the two hands are out of synch.

Next, hold all your fingers our flat together and then open up the gap between the second and third fingers so that the first and second pull away in one direction and the third and fourth in the other. Sci-fi fans will immediately recognise this as the Vulcan greeting. Now bring the second and third fingers together and keep them together and this time open up the gaps between the first and second, and third and fourth. Try not to do this if the self-appointed office wit is around, otherwise Spock/Mork and Mindy gags will follow you around forever.

Put your arm up in the air, bend your elbow and allow your hand to rest on the top of your head with your fingers on the side just touching your ear. Now gently ease into a stretch by pulling very lightly with the hand while resisting gently with the head and neck muscles as if you were trying to straighten your neck against the pull of your hand. Don’t overdo it: this is a gentle release of the muscles in the neck for just a few seconds. Now reverse arms and do the other side. Now roll your head back and circle. There, feel slightly less homicidal now?

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Crisis management in the office: improving your corporate wellness

23 July 2014 by in Lifestyle

We’ve all heard of the first aider in the office: the one who has been on the training days and sits at their desk with a well-stocked first aid kit ready to dole out plasters (or even administer CPR) when necessary. What you may not be aware of, however, is the gradual appearance of a new office position, the mental health first aider. As you can probably guess these people are responsible for the mental well being of their colleagues. This is not just some posh gimmick from human resources; these people are your colleagues and there to help you.

The pressures of the modern office can be monotonous and mind-numbing but corporate wellness expert Kate Cook, author of The corporate wellness bible offers tips on how to stay sane in the office.

Don’t catastrophise
Dorothy Parker, on hearing a telephone ring, apparently drawled ‘What fresh hell is this?’ We’ve all been there. On really busy days with multiple deadlines, I’ve got to the stage where I’m scared to answer the phone in case it’s someone demanding something else of me. Then I made a conscious decision to stop being such a victim. My attitude became ‘Why fear the worse until it happens?’ Every time a negative thought crosses your brain, cancel it out with a positive one. This takes practice. An easy way to do it is to develop a mantra to suit whatever crisis you’re in today and that you say to yourself mindlessly every time your mind goes into tailspin. Right now, I have to pick the kids up from school in half an hour. I have four weeks to my deadline for this book and I have done approximately half the number of words I promised myself I’d write today. My mantra is ‘I am serenely gliding towards my deadline and everything will get done’ and every time panic hits, I chant this to myself and feel much better.

Master the only question that matters
The ‘best use’ question was taught to me by my first boss and it is invaluable in negotiating your way through any day with dozens of calls on your time. It helps you to prioritise ‘on the run’, sometimes quite ruthlessly. On the morning of manic days decide what you’ve got to achieve that day and if anything interrupts, ask yourself ‘Is this the best use of my time, right now?’ If the answer’s no, take a raincheck and come back to it later. So if a friend calls at work, nine times out of ten, you won’t chat then, you’ll call her back at a more convenient time – unless, of course, she is very upset about something, then talking to her is the best use of your time. Nothing else is more important. By doing this, I don’t let colleagues sidetrack me with complaints about their lack of stationery, unless of course it’s the best use of my time. (No, you’re right, so far stationery has never been the best use of my time, but you get the idea.)

Always underpromise
A lot of stress is of our own making. Thomas Leonard, who founded Coach University, the first professional training centre for life coaches says, ‘One of th biggest mistakes is to tell people what they want to hear, give them what they think they want, without thinking if it’s feasible for you. You overpromise results you can’t deliver without a lot of stress. And of course, if you don’t deliver, not only are you stressed, they are, too.’ Leonard’s advice is to underpromise rather than overpromise. That way your friends are delighted when you turn up at the party you
said you couldn’t make and your boss thinks you’re wonderful when you get the report finished a day early rather than a week late. Make it your rule from now on to be absolutely realistic about how long it’s going to take you to get things done. And until you get expert at this, work out the time you reckon it will take you to complete any task and multiply it by 1.5.

Keep a time log of your working week so you finally get a realistic idea of how long it takes you to complete all your usual activities. This means you stop kidding yourself about how quickly you will perform tasks in an imperfect world – where you’re interrupted frequently – and you’ll reduce your stress levels hugely.

Life events versus daily hassles
It may be that the nature and scale of the situation we are facing is truly threatening, e.g. loss of a loved one, loss of a job, in which case anyone’s ability to cope will be severely challenged. These significant life events demand significant efforts to cope with. Psychiatrists, Holmes and Rahe, developed a ‘ladder’ of life events from the least to the most demanding; the higher up the steps an event is perceived to
be, the greater the coping effort required. The impact of these events is cumulative; the more we have to deal with, the more our coping skills are tested. Sometimes we may not realise the magnitude of the challenge we face, until it becomes obvious our attempts to cope are not up to the challenge. Then we need to get help, as the saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, whether that be through social or professional contacts.

Rather than life events, we more often find ourselves dealing with a series of minor issues, which gradually gang up on us and grind us down over a period of time. We tend to forget about these daily hassles, but they too are cumulative and the more we have to deal with, the more our coping skills are tested. Life can keep piling on life events, daily personal and work hassles, so it is not surprising that occasionally
our coping skills are overwhelmed – the balance tips and we feel we are no longer coping. Time to get some assistance and engage our coping skills before our sense of well-being is undermined and damaged!

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Tackling the rising rates of obesity from your desk

9 July 2014 by in Lifestyle

There have been plenty of warnings in the past few years about the rise in obesity in the world but are we really considering the financial costs to ourselves? Never mind the extra expense of a family bag of fun-size Mars bars, how much will treating the effects of obesity really cost you?

Alarming statistics suggest that almost 5% of the Scottish population now have type 2 diabetes: a direct cause of obesity. Factor in the cost of regular trips to the doctor, prescriptions and extra treatment and the bills soon add up. This therefore begs the question, should obese patients pay for treatment that is putting a strain on the already-stretched medical facilities?

In most cases, doctors agree, obesity is self-inflicted, and is becoming more of a strain on medical resources than life-long smoking. We’ve all seen the programmes about The World’s Biggest Man, and Embarrassing Fat Bodies, which make for compelling viewing. What is it about this self-destructive condition which makes us unable to look away? Surely we should take our own health more seriously.

Nowadays we are more plugged-in than ever before, with more of us employed in office jobs that don’t give us the opportunity to get up and walk around. The temptation to sit at our desks and open a packet of cookies is too easy. Joining a gym seems an easy way to combat obesity but all too often those memberships go unused. However, with the ever-rising cost of medical treatment, eating healthily at work can be a small and relatively cheap way to improve your general health.

They say charity begins at home, and in a similar vein getting healthier can begin in the office. Nutritionist Kate Cook advises that, while sugary foods give us an instant rush, the comedown, particularly at work, can be really tough. When those cravings hit, Cook suggests eating small, balanced meals and snacks to keep your energy levels high.

Cook also suggests that though exercise can take some motivation, it can give you a much-needed boost, increase your confidence and reduce your appetite. Even little things like taking the stairs rather than the lift can add up to make a huge difference to your day to day life.

Responsible employers encourage their employees to be healthy and happy; our Corporate Wellness Bible is full of hints and tips. Your health is your most important asset.

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