Many people this time of the year are choosing to observe ‘dry January’ in a bid to detox their bodies from all the Christmas overindulgence.
We’re almost half way through the month now and many of you may be rethinking a whole 31 days without alcohol. Rather than going cold turkey and risk crying in the wine aisle at the supermarket, why not adjust your goal to something more reasonable such as only drinking at weekends. We’re also approaching that dreaded of all days, ‘blue Monday’ where the entire human race seems to question its own existence and wonders whether it isn’t better to just admit defeat and look for the answer at the bottom of a large bottle of Jack Daniels and the wrappers of the now not-so-amazing Cadbury’s creme eggs.
Perhaps, rather than drowning your sorrows in whisky, you could take this month of reflection to learn more about the spirits that you regularly consume during happy hour. Mark Ridgwell’s Spirits distilled is an excellent book filled with everything you need to know about spirits. Each chapter begins with a brief history of the drink and provides ample opportunity for you to bone-up on your knowledge and impress your colleagues at after work drinks. Perhaps this is the month to drink the bar dry or to enjoy a dry gin and tonic. Be creative and impress your friends by coming across as a cognac connoisseur, a whisky wizard or a gin genius. Ridgwell’s book is interspersed with quizzes so that you can test your knowledge on what you’ve read and prove that you really do know your stuff.
All the best for the upcoming Monday, we really do hope that you make it to work on Tuesday. Our sound advice would be to get back off the wagon slowly, tonight, treat yourself to a scotch (or American) on the rocks, then perhaps that bottle of JD will go down smoother than expected!
We’re all very excited to tell you that Sherry, sixth edition by Julian Jeffs, is now available and you can buy it for yourself, to learn more about the fantastic drink, or you can buy it for that special someone who likes nothing better than having a tipple or two before bedtime.
More often than not, sherry is synonymous with your grandmother’s slippers, Christmas trifle and Countdown in the afternoon. But there has been a turn in the tide and what used to be a very old-fashioned drink is now becoming rather trendy among the young drinkers, even described by The Telegraph as ‘hip’.
One reason for this surge in popularity could be the rise in tapas restaurants and bars in Britain. What could be a better accompaniment for a Spanish meal than a Spanish drink?
And advantage of the rise in this trend is that not everyone has bought into it yet. For example, if you want a good quality Sauvingnon Blanc, you could be paying through the nose for it. However, an excellent sherry (as recommended by the experts) can be found in supermarkets for less than £15.
Of course, sherry is unlikely to replace the traditional bottle of red on the table at your dinner party, but how about surprising your guests with a glass of sherry before the meal. It would make a great talking point and introduce others to the great drink.
Vintage is becoming very cool. The recession made upcycling and vintage shopping very popular as well as practical. While we’re not advising drinking the bottle of sherry that has been open in the back of your cupboard since the beginning of the 1990s, perhaps now is the time to take a leaf out of grandma’s book. But perhaps donate her slippers to Oxfam!
Of course, as publishers, we would tell you that. So it is our job, as publishers and promoters of books to prove to you that we are right. Obviously.
Firstly, a book is just about the easiest gift to wrap. Yes, it’s great getting a bike or a bottle of wine for Christmas, but good luck wrapping it. Too much paper and sellotape and the need for four hands means a happy Christmas is suddenly in doubt. You may end up consuming the wine out of frustration.
A book enjoyed can be passed on to your friends and family with excited expression of joy about all the wisdom/happiness/laughter that you have gained from reading it. A book not enjoyed can be passed on to your enemies in order to trick them into having a really terrible time. Of course, you can give your ereader to your loved ones but you might not get it back as they may think you are challenging them to read all the books you’ve downloaded.
A book is a really handy tool around the house. Its screen does not crack when used to prop up a table as an iPad’s might and it provides an excellent coaster for the contents of that badly-wrapped bottle of wine I gave you.
Books also make your house really colourful and inviting. Nobody wants to visit a sterile home; books add vibrancy, they make you look interesting, they start conversations with your guests. Anthony Powell even called one of his books Books Do Furnish A Room.
Game-lovers can buy multiple books and stack them, play Jenga, make houses or build forts. The possibilities are endless once you visualize your books as bricks rather than reading material. That is, of course, if you are lacking in building materials.
If you’re in the mood for love this winter, a book can make you look very clever and sexy, particularly on public transport. No texting for you, oh no, engaging the mind is the purpose of your journey. There are those, of course, who choose to take their ereaders on buses and the tube but most people just assume that they’re reading 50 Shades of Grey or worse, the Daily Mail and shun them to the limits of society.
If someone thinks you look sexy and intelligent while reading, they may strike up a conversation about mutual interests and next thing you know, you’re walking down the aisle. Knowledge is romantic and guaranteed to help you find love.*
Finally, books save lives.
Save a life. Give someone a book this Christmas.**
* This has not been proven by experts
** Infinite Ideas also sell ebooks. We like it when people buy those too.
*** Ryan Gosling would no doubt be difficult to wrap up, but we’re willing to give it a go. In an exception to the rule he most likely would be more gratefully accepted than any book.
Dr Michael Mosley has been at it again and is shaking up what we thought we knew with more diet tips. This week, Dr Mosley tackles mould and the debate about when it is acceptable to keep on eating and when we should just chuck it away.
Common sense will tell us that sell-by dates (particularly on tins) are really just a precautionary measure and most things do not suddenly wither on the day of expiration. However, we can take other, valuable life lessons from ‘gone-off’ food, in particular, advice on dating. How do you know when to end a relationship? How can you tell if it’s going to go the distance?
Lisa Helmanis offers great advice on when to throw in the towel in her book, Master dating:
How to spot a ‘definitely not’
Of course, we all have our off days, and sometimes we don’t give the best impression. If you think that some of his dodgy behaviour could just be some dodgy, early-days glitches, then give yourself a time limit and hang in there for a little while. On the other hand, if he seems to fit any of these descriptions, if they seem to be a large part of his personality or a major pastime, walk on by.
- A man who has more beauty products than you do. There is nothing wrong with taking a pride in his appearance, but it shouldn’t take up 50% of his salary.
- Someone who uses the calculator on his mobile phone to work out your share of the bill in a restaurant. Or an actual calculator.
- A man that assumes it’s OK to invite his friends along when you ask him to a friend’s party, dinner, meet your parents…
- A man who always complains that he is exhausted every night after work or whenever you ask him to do anything that involves your friends. This is selfishness of the worst kind: disguising his laziness as you being demanding.
- Any man that says he loves you within the first week – it rarely counts for much if he doesn’t know your second name.
- Someone who turns being boyish into an art form. It’s cute until he can’t be relied upon to pay his share of the rent or leaves the baby on the bus.
- A ‘rarely available’. No one is that busy. A man who is not often available is usually not very interested or has got someone else.
- Anyone in a relationship. If you genuinely believe that he is the one, then ask him to come back when he is free. If he is right, he will extract himself and come find you.
- Your best friend’s ex, father or current boyfriend.
- Anyone who leaves weeks between being in touch – to be frank, he is obviously looking for an, ahem, ‘release’ and you are it.
- Anyone you think would be perfect if you could just change that one little thing about them…
Are you free?
Sometimes people think they are looking for a relationship, when really they are looking for a way to fill their time, entertain themselves or get some sex and comfort. And there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with those desires. Unless, of course, you are on the receiving end of them, hoping for more. You can, naturally, ask the other person straight out what they want, but they might not be honest with you or even be aware of their real motivations.
So you have to use a little common sense here and make a judgement call. A guy who wants to see you no more than two nights a week may be taking it slow or may just have no big plans for your future. Try upping the ante by asking clearly, in an adult way with no whining, for what you would like (three nights a week, perhaps). Don’t explain or cajole; if he wants to keep you or please you he will think it through and reply, also in an adult way; if he wants things only on his terms he may try to make you feel like a demanding bunny-boiler (unless you are a demanding bunny-boiler, in which case get help). If so, it could be time to move on.
Maybe it’s time to clear out your fridge…and your little black book!
We’re in dire straits regarding the environment. For most of us recycling has become second nature, we’re becoming aware of our carbon footprints and some of us have even seriously considered buying a hybrid car. Yet this is still not enough. The youth of today, spared from revolting about the nuclear threat as the children of the 1960s were, are now actively campaigning to save the environment.
I’m sure most of you went to university to have a great time, meet some new friends, possibly even learn a thing or two and eventually come out with a degree. However, there are others who have a different agenda. Two students at the University of East Anglia are encouraging their peers to urinate in the shower in a desperate bid to save water.
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down’ used on desperate camping trips or in times of drought, but these students believe that this is a motto to live by every day. What next – digging pits in our gardens and hoping for the best while squatting? To be serious, it is important to make an effort for the environment, so Infinite Ideas has come up with some crafty was to save water which won’t have you looking at your shower with trepidation.
Save water in the kitchen and laundry
- One of the easiest ways to save water in the kitchen/laundry is to install a water-efficient dishwasher and washing machine and ensure that you fill them right up each time.
- If you wash by hand, use minimum detergent to cut back on rinsing, and use a plugged sink or a bowl of water.
- Use only as much water as you need in kettles and saucepans and you’ll cut your electricity costs at the same time as saving water.
- Flow-controlled aerators for taps are simple devices that you fit into existing tap nozzles, which mix air with water under pressure as it emerges from the tap without affecting the flow rate. They can be bought at most DIY and bathroom stores, are inexpensive and can halve water flow.
- Try to capture ‘warm-up’ water (i.e. the water that you run out of the hot tap while it’s coming up to temperature) for use on plants, rinsing dishes, washing fruit and vegetables, or other cleaning jobs.
- Insulate hot water pipes so that you need to run less water before it heats up. Equally, keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator so you don’t need to run the tap until the water is cold enough.
- Don’t use a waste-disposal unit. They use about 30 litres of water per day and send a lot of extra rubbish into the sewers. Compost what you can and bin the rest.
Save water in the bathroom
- Take showers rather than baths, and keep them short; use a timer if you have a large family. Power showers can use more water than a bath in less than five minutes, though!
- Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth or shaving. A running tap uses about five litres of water per minute.
- Install a water-efficient showerhead and toilet cistern.
Save water outside
- Install a rainwater tank that collects runoff from roofs and gutters for garden use, or ask your local council about getting it connected to the toilet for flushing.
- If you’re watering the garden, make sure you only water plants and lawns, not paths, paving and buildings.
- Use a broom or rake to clean outdoor paths and paving instead of hosing them down with water.
- If you have a pool, install a cover to reduce evaporation, and persuade pool users to cut back on over-exuberant splashing.
- Wash your car sparingly, reusing a bucket of water from inside rather than turning on the hose (or, even worse, the power washer), or if you don’t have to drive too far visit a commercial car wash that recycles wash water.
From Save the planet by Natalia Marshall, which has hundreds of other ideas for conserving your environment.