Discover Britain: Stonehenge & Wow I am 36 years old now!

Where does the time go? is there a time-consuming black hole conspiracy happening at the moment? lol May 2018, guys, May! can you believe it? This year is flying by, but they do say time flies when you are having fun which is my 2018 motto “Have fun with yourself” life is way too short for complications, negative thoughts and boring political debates (sorry, if this is your thing and its fun for you, then YAY YOU! but definitely not my cup of tea)

Anyway, May means that my 36 (gulp) birthday has come and gone already, I love celebrating birthdays. I see birthdays as milestones, as an opportunity to celebrate life and everything you embody. Be you, unapologetically and embrace the beauty of age. With age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes enjoyment.

My 36 years on earth have been filled with ups and downs, with achievements and failures, with beautiful and ugly people (on the inside – not referring to looks) and with experiencing different cultures.  I have been lucky enough to live in different continents and different countries which has definitely expanded my views and has given me a taste for an eclectic combination of foods, lol. This year, 2018, my first birthday since I came back to the UK and my first birthday with my thoughtful Welsh half who made my birthday magical and unforgettable.

He surprised me with a trip to Stonehenge, Wiltshire ❤ and Salisbury!

Stonehenge is one of those places I always wanted to visit, on my top 5 bucket list destinations since I was very young.

Walk in the footsteps of your Neolithic ancestors at Stonehenge – one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe.

OnixJ Stonehenge stone circlesOnixJ Stonehenge stone circles pic 2

I absolutely loved it! Although I always thought the stone circle would be bigger than what it actually is, the historic meaning of the place makes the trip worth it. As you enter Stonehenge you have access to a small Neolithic museum area with an exhibition of instruments, bones, and artifacts found in the surrounding areas. You can also roam around some Neolithic houses that represent a small village of the time (4,500 years ago).

OnixJ Stonehenge Neolithic Houses

Fun Fact: Stonehenge stones come from West Wales! According to the established wisdom for some 90 years, many of the smaller rocks making up Stonehenge come from the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

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Stone Circle

Stonehenge Stone Circle is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. It consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 13 feet (4.0 m) high, 7 feet (2.1 m) wide and weighing around 25 tons. 

Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC. 

Stonehenge is one of the most famous landmarks in the UK, regarded as a British cultural icon. Definitely, a must see. Just know that access to the stone circles is somewhat restricted and you are not able to get up and close to touch the stones.  This is understandable due to the nature of the place. Also, keep in mind there is a charge for entry and it can be a little expensive for large families to visit considering there isn’t much more there to see apart from the stone circle itself, the Neolithic houses and the small museum area. There is also a cafe and a gift shop with lots of nick-nacks to commemorate your visit.

for more info visit: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/things-to-do/#Section1 

Shoutout to my Welsh half for surprising me with a roadtrip to one of the must beautiful, historical and magic place ever! ❤

On a separate post I will talk about the town of Salisbury, its history, places to go and my favorite location there.

 

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Nutrition: The Problem with School Meals

Nutrition: The Problem with School Meals

Bad eating habits in United States slowly leading to obesity

kids

By Jihane Rodriguez

Houston, Texas – There is no denial America is number one when it comes to junk food consumption.  “The U.S. has the largest fast-food industry in the world, generating $191 billion in annual sales” IBISWorld, a research company based in Santa Monica, California, found in a study. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, CDC, “Adults consumed an average of 11.3% of their daily calories from fast food in 2007-2010.” Supersized meals, free soda refills, and a manic lack of time to actually cook a meal have driven society into a plastic food overload. This phenomenon creates not only a vast range of health problems to our society, but corrodes culture, and our current state of self preservation. Bad habits are usually hard to beat. According to Patricia M. Anderson and Kristin F. Butcher, in their study Childhood Obesity: Trends and Potential Causes “…Among the changes that affect children’s energy intake are the increasing availability of energy-dense, high-calorie foods and drinks through schools.”

In a separate study CDC also found calorie intake of all food among youths age 2 to 19 fell between the 1999-2000 period and 2009-2010. The percentage of calories from protein, carbohydrates and fat fell within recommendations for this age group, the study shows. The share of calories from saturated fat, 11% to 12%, was still more than the 10% recommended in U.S. dietary guidelines, the CDC says.

But are the schools or the parents to blame? Where does the never-ending loop of bad consumption start and where does it end?  Or is it our economy feeding our mind 24/7 with messages corrupted by greasy burgers, creamy milkshakes and frozen pizza commercials?

In January of 2010, an elementary school teacher, Wu, 34, decided to eat school lunch meals every day for a year and write about it anonymously as Mrs. Q. on her blog, Fed Up With Lunch. Wu, didn’t have time to pack her own lunch one day and bought a school lunch instead.

“It was a hot dog encased in soggy dough, six tater tots, a Jell-O cup and chocolate milk”, reports USA Today. “I thought to myself, ‘I cannot believe this is the food the kids are eating.” Wu said.

Perhaps part of the problem is that parents don’t realize what their kids are eating at school. Are we really not aware or do we simply comply due to lack of time?  In a fast paced society in which many families constitute of only one parent keeping up with healthy eating habits can be hard, yet many other countries manage, so why don’t we.

On the other hand the economy has affected the way many eat. Fresh fruit and vegetables as well as lean meat can be more expensive than the frozen variety, or eating out at fast food chains.

According to the BBC and a report conducted in 2005, critics say that school lunches [in the country] contribute to the fattening of the United States. Many of the school meals do not meet nutrition standards and mostly consist in a high intake of fats and processed meats. According to the BBC, Dr Walter Willett, head of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, says of the foods offered to schools by the Department of Agriculture: “Their foods tend to be at the bottom of the barrel in terms of healthy nutrition.”

“Their foods tend to be at the bottom of the barrel in terms of healthy nutrition.” Dr. Walter Willet.

The United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services claims to offer several programs that provide healthy food to children.  Including the  Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC) which is a voluntary certification initiative established in 2004 to recognize those schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity. But is this enough? Schools across the states are still serving heavily processed meats, and canned fruit and vegetables. They claim to have awarded certificates to 5,524, yet the total number of schools is unknown, so it is hard to make a comparison.

School meals in the US include pizza and nachos, mystery meat tacos and turkey sandwiches, canned fruits, hot dogs, and burgers. When compared with school meals served in other countries across the world it is clear that American kids are lacking in the food variety and nutritional food area.  Another astonishing fact is that American schools don’t offer a vegetarian or Halal choice to students. Some children, either by choice, religion or dietary needs, do not consume red meats or sadly do not have a choice when it comes to consuming school meals.

My son loves to eat fresh fruit and salads, it’s a shame schools here don’t offer those options. He won’t eat any beef at school. No tacos, no burgers, nothing and when he doesn’t he simply goes hungry the rest of the day.

In the UK, Halal choices are always – or nearly always – a choice. Granted the Muslim population in the UK might be higher than the Muslim population in Texas.

“Vegetarian option is offered but no halal/kosher, although some schools with greater Muslim/Jewish population do.” Says Ayesha Hafiz, Mother of two, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England.

On the fruit topic, Americans seem to have a tendency to serve frozen or can fruits rather than the fresh variety. At school they give them [kids] Jell-O Fruit Cups and other fruit swimming in sweet processed juice, and i am sorry but It’s not the same as fresh fruit.

In the UK, “Fresh fruit is available not only during lunch time but throughout the day when children can help themselves.” Ayesha Hafiz said.

fruit

 Fresh fruit not only has less additives and sugar than the Jell-O Fruit cups variety, but also constitutes a larger intake of vitamins, fiber and calcium. The sugar present in fresh fruit comes from natural sources such as fructose, and not from corn syrup or other forms of processed sugar.

When comparing school meals in the States with those around the world there the reality is quite shocking. Is this what our kids are eating?

School Meals around the World

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From top to bottom
Brazil, Japan
UK, US
Source: http://todayilearned.co.uk

Back in May 2009, British chef Jamie Oliver was set to tackle America’s obesity crisis in a prime-time ABC series. Jamie Oliver had already changed the school meals mind set in the United Kingdom. Oliver trained schools to cook affordable, healthy meals with greater nutritional value without breaking their tight budgets. “Oliver filmed for over two years in the London borough of Greenwich (for School Dinners) and the Yorkshire town of Rotherham (for Ministry) and inspired people there to change their unhealthy diets of takeaways and ready meals in favor of cooking fresh, nutritious food whilst saving money.” Channel 4, UK, states in Jamie’s School Dinners page.

According to Jamie Oliver’s Camp, in 2005, Oliver’s series Jamie’s School Dinners led to a public outcry about the state of school food in Britain and resulted in over £500m of British government investment in new, nutritious school meals. Recent research suggested that the new meals had been instrumental in improving both attendance and exam results.

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Jamie’s School Dinners. Channel 4. UK

Jamie Oliver series in America was a failure. The newspaper Mail.com on their article U.S. loses appetite for Jamie Oliver as 75 LA school districts turn away his Food Revolution show By David Gardner, 18 January 2011, said “Education insiders claim Los Angeles school canteen staff didn’t want to risk being embarrassed at a time when budget cuts have made it even more difficult to serve up healthy food.“ Whichever the reason was, it was clear US wasn’t ready for a redesign of their school meal system.

 The change has to come from above. There won’t be a change, until the government realizes the importance of nutritional, well balanced meals and implements strict strategies and regulations. Obama’s administration seems to have turned into the subject, and as for now, it looks like there might be hope for school meals in the future. Earlier this year The Obama administration proposed regulations Friday that would prohibit U.S. schools from selling unhealthy snacks.

“Although nutrition standards for foods sold at school alone may not be a determining factor in children’s overall diets, they are critical to providing children with healthy food options throughout the entire school day,” the proposed rule states.

It’s a start.

In the meantime all we can do as parents is to motivate our kids to eat healthy, starting at home.

 

 

Stammering Awareness

Stammering is a disorder of fluency that is characterised by various behaviours that interfere with the forward flow of speech. Not too long ago, the nature of this condition was brought to light by the British movie The King’s Speech (2010) – The story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.

According to the UK based organization The Starfish Project, “There are an estimated 500,000 plus adult stammerers in the UK that is 1% of the adult population, over 3 million stammer in the USA and some 45 million in the world.” Stammering is better known in the US as Stuttering but the two words mean the same thing. The condition is more likely to be developed by males than females on a ratio of 4 or 5 to one. None particular causes have been attributed to stammering; it is believed there is a combination of internal and external factors involved in the development of the condition.

For the purpose of this research I interviewed Jack Goodwin, a 15 year old boy who lives in Whitehaven, Cumbria in the north west of England. Jack attends St. Benedict’s Catholic High School in Whitehaven and developed the speech problem at the age of 4. Jack talked to me about his experience with The Starfish Project and how it has improved his live.

The STARFISH Project (Supportive Training and Recovery for Individual Stammerers Harmony) is a non-profit organisation which teaches stammerers a breathing technique to control their stammer. The ‘Costal Breathing” teaches the individuals to breath from the upper chest; in the same fashion singers breathe while singing. “This explains why people tend not to stammer when they sing” Jack said while explaining the technique.

Speaking about Starfish project Jack said, “STARFISH has taught me, firstly, how to control my speech and also has given me confidence to do things which I couldn’t before such as giving presentations to my class at school and using the phone to enquire about something.”

The Starfish project is only available in the UK, but in the US other organisations with similar programs are now being offered. Such as The National Stuttering Association (NSA) – I don’t have any information to suggest the NSA works with the same techniques as the Starfish, yet it is one of the largest nationwide organisations in the US working for the improvement of stammering.  It is important for people to know and to understand that Stammering or Stuttering doesn’t have a cure. Independence from the condition can be achieved through discipline, and dedication, and by learning how to live with it.

When Jack was asked what would be his message to other stammers he said “There is help out there” It is his positive attitude and energetic personality that drives me to write about this mystified speech condition. It is up to our society, up to families, parents, friends, siblings. It is up to our communities to understand people who suffer from stammering. It is up to us to give these kids the right tools to help them prosper.

We also need to educate our kids from a very young age – stammers or not – about understanding and accepting other people differences. Stammers are often ridiculed on the media and in classroom settings. On the subject Jack said “The Sun (the UK’s best selling tabloid newspaper) recently ran a story about how there will be a follow on from The Kings Speech. Their headline included possibly the oldest and least original stammering pun of repeating a letter when printing the headline.” Jack sent a letter to The Sun explaining his disconcert. This letter remains to be noticed by The Sun’s staff.

ISAD Ribbon

International Stammering Awareness Day (ISAD) happens during October   every year.

For more information

UK: The Starfish Project. Email: anne@starfishproject.co.uk  Telephone: 01825 767268

Telephone from outside of the U.K. international code is 0044 so dial 0044 1825 767268

USA: National Stuttering Association at (800) We Stutter 937-8888 or Email info@WeStutter.org.
Jihane Rodriguez

Twitter@OnixJihane

Book Review: The Poison Tree, Erin Kelly

Recently I went to London, for a week of well, London madness. Although I manage to leave before the riots started,London is always a colourful display of characters, music, personalities and food. I loveLondon, but I most confess I can only handle it for small periods of time, perhaps am too much of a north east lass…

Anyway on my way back from London, while I waited in the chaotic and over crowded Heathrow airport international departures lounge, I got myself a bacon buttie, and an elderflower cordial and contemplated the idea of getting a new book to keep myself amused for the 10hours flight ahead of me. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, so as I browsed the shelves of YA (Young adult) books I felt particularly attracted I most say, by the cover and the title of one particular book. Poison Tree, by Erin Kelly. I didn’t know the author but hey! Why not? It had a yellow sticker on front of it with a good review and it was on my budget (I only had a ten pound note left and I didn’t want to use any of the dollars, nor my card for that matter)  

It took me around 2 weeks to finish the book, which by my standards is a little bit long ( Other books have been gone in less than a week); it wasn’t one of those books that I had the need to run to whenever I wasn’t reading it, but as soon as I started to read it each time I was hooked on it for hours, until tiredness beat me ( I mostly read at night, before bed)

 The Poison Tree captures London in all its grandiosity; the streets, the underground, the unpredictable weather, the people. I think if you don’t know London you can’t savour the book in the same way as you mind find yourself lost in roads you know little off, but on the other hand if you do, or even if you have vaguely  been throught its streets, you can see yourself immersed in the story from beginning to end. It is extremely descriptive, to the point  would secretly jump a few lines now and then– I am impatient. There is also a sudden darkness to it all, from the beginning you know there is something slightly wrong about the characters, something will end badly for sure.  You just can’t put your finger on it.

There is love; many types of love all concentrated towards someone who surely doesn’t deserve it, yet is not a love triangle (which is quite refreshing) and then there are lies. The story is entangled with a web of lies that run in every direction corrupting its characters to the point of no return.

The Poison Tree is dramatic, dark and unique. The Poison Tree is dense, rich in emotions and poisoned by sacrifice. I loved it! Although if it had been me I would have omitted a few sentences here and there, it is overall a fantastic work of art. All hail British young writers – hopefully one day my book will be anywhere near books like The Poison Tree displayed in shelves all over the world.

Xoxo

onixJ

Versace to Desing H&M Autumn 2011

OMG! yes.. it seems to be true, a fashionista’s dream a super high end brand such as Versace and a high street brand such as H&M (always fab) have combined to bring us an affordable, sophisticated collection… keep your lil eyes open because this autumn/fall fashion comes to town!

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