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The Food of Love

843 560 Vita Burton-Davey, Working to be better each day

herbs and oil

I like cooking. I am a fairly good cook. My friends and family are generally very complimentary about the meals they have shared with me.

It is not, however, the applause nor the mastering of the skills involved in cooking which gives me pleasure: it is the understanding that the love involved in making a meal for friends or family is a gift which is given back a thousand fold.

I love good food and care about how it is produced and where it comes from. If I have grown the food myself, even if the ingredient is a handful of herbs, the whole dish carries more love, it carries more meaning for me and more care for the consumer.

Consumer – the loved one consuming the meal I have prepared.
Consumed – the loved ones being eaten.



The love, and the care extends to all: I choose my vegetables with care, growing what I can and finding or inventing recipes to use a wide range of seasonal herbs, vegetables and fruit. I choose the meat I cook with the utmost care. Animal husbandry and the environment are important considerations in the choices I make. I have chosen to eat meat after careful thought (and after several forays into vegetarianism) and am very aware of how much I use, how many meals contain it and its provenance. I care about the people I cook meals for.

Love is the essential ingredient in cooking: both for the cook and the cooked for. It is hard work preparing meal after meal for family and it is hard work preparing a special meal for friends but the love involved in this daily act of nurturing makes it a gift to the self, as well as to family or friends. It makes the labour a labour of love.

There is something very basic about preparing food for others and for oneself which reaches back through the ages and reconnects us with reality rather than the modern construct we inhabit. We need to eat and if the food we eat is homemade our sense of wellbeing and security is also fed. If we have given time and energy in producing the food, if we have plucked it from the earth, washed it and incorporated it in the dish we serve, the gift we give is magnified. If we have bought the individual ingredients, choosing the best on offer and prepared the meal from scratch, we have earned the appreciation of those we share our meal with and can feel satisfied with what we have done.



Visceral satisfaction is quite rare in many people’s daily lives. Unless one is involved in very practical work or play, it will be something that is seldom experienced. The physical act of cooking is immensely rewarding. Once one has gained some experience, there is a meditative quality to cooking and one can lose oneself in the routine of a regularly prepared meal or anticipate the reception that a popular family dish will elicit.

Cooking and eating are very sensory activities. The smell, look and texture of the food we eat and of course the taste, combine to bring us an experience other than that of merely sustaining ourselves. Washing of vegetables is an extremely tactile and tender act. Cleansing to ensure the health of those who will eat the food we make is an act of basic care. Peeling and chopping and heating have been a part of food preparation since pre-history. That link, back to our past, can be felt in the body and the heart when we make a meal. I believe that the inherent knowledge that food is precious and that it need be respected, is embodied in the act of selecting, cooking it and being mindful whilst eating it. This is felt more strongly as one gives more and more attention and love to the processes involved.


The loss of this connection which fast food and ready meals have brought has led to food being undervalued, factory farmed and homogenised to extremes. Many of us do not want to bear witness to the reality of the suffering of factory farmed animals. Most animals suffer in death and to only consider their end is to close our eyes to the longer term suffering which is for most part, their lives. I do not kid myself that good animal husbandry, free range and organic or small farm produced meat, means that there is no suffering but within my choice to eat meat, I do my best to care for the consumed. Most of us turn a blind eye to the waste involved in the production of fruit and vegetables with barely a blemish or size discrepancy. Do we really care if our apples are all the same size and shape?

When cooking for family and cooking for friends our love and our care extends far beyond the immediate, far out into the world. Loving cooks are true environmentalists, true lovers and true friends… of those who are close to us and of the earth we share with all living things. The things we need to eat!

‘And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching….

Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.’




Why Taking Time off Work & Going On Holiday Is Important

940 788 Rachel Le Feuvre, Reset Button


Do you feel like you can’t take a vacation? Do you worry that if you have a day off, the office will fall apart? Perhaps you’ll look like you don’t care enough about your job? Nobody knows the client like you do, no-one knows your project like you do. In fact it’s harder work to take a day off than it is to just go to work every single day of the year.

Well…if you agree with any of the above, then you definitely need a day off.

A recent report claims unused holiday days are at a 40-year high, with nearly a quarter of all paid vacation days in the States not being used, with the Brits not far behind.

When I worked at a top ten advertising agency in NYC, the EVP called a meeting to tell us, her staff, that she ‘didn’t want people taking vacation days off willy-nilly expecting everyone else to pick up the pieces’, and ‘a week’s holiday is not a right, it’s something that has to be earned’.

I believe she was wrong. Even though she may be successful, it’s not the best or healthiest way to do it. We all need to take a break. Here’s why:

1. Reduce your stress
When you’re in the midst of all the stresses and pressures of work it’s hard to see things clearly or rationally. Taking a proper holiday break helps give you perspective on the role of your job within your life. Staying aware of this viewpoint on your work/life balance when you return to work helps you maintain composure and decreases the effect of stress and likeliness of burnout.

2. Improve concentration
Taking a holiday improves your effectiveness and concentration throughout the rest of the year. Unwind from your everyday stresses and you’ll return with confidence, ready to face your work-related challenges. It gives the body the chance to replenish itself – like letting the grass grow back.

3. Increased job satisfaction
Knowing that your employer appreciates the importance of you having some personal time makes you feel valued. Richard Branson recently announced unlimited holiday days for his staff. It can lead to better teamwork and a boost to everyone’s morale. Work is then a collaborative effort, each employee is prepared take on each other’s roles to allow each of them to have their time off, She was proud of the fact she’d worked every day straight for 6 years before taking a single day off. It was the most demotivating fact any of us had ever heard. Every employee left the meeting feeling thoroughly deflated.
knowing that this is what will be done for them too.

4. Have some family time
Dealing with your partner and/or children after a hard days work can be exhausting. Have a break and you’ll have some important time to bond and relax and grow as a family. Just make sure you plan a holiday where it’s easy for everyone to enjoy themselves.


5. Improve your health
Taking a holiday is good for your health. The New York Times recently reported that those who take less than one holiday every two years are more likely to suffer from depression and burnout. Those who fail to take annual holidays have a 21% higher risk of death from all causes and were 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack.

Piling the pressure on yourself because you know your workload better than anyone else isn’t a reason not to take time off work. In fact, you could be doing more harm to yourself and your clients. You work hard all year round and you’re entitled to those days off. And even you have a boss who thinks holiday should be earned, you’ve earned it!



Five Simple Tips For A Stress-Free Holiday

940 529 Clare Evans, Personal and Business Coach


In a few weeks or maybe even days, many of you will be heading off for a summer break.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed In the time leading up to a break as you try to clear your workload, manage multiple projects and head off with a clear desk and your handover completed.

Avoid the stress of last minute panic, working long hours and general chaos in the last few days by following these five tips.

Plan ahead – What needs to be done over the next few weeks and when are you going to do it? Plan 2 to 3 weeks before your holiday so you have to time to organise your workload and schedule accordingly.

Keep the week or 2-3 days before your last day in the office as free as possible. Avoid overbooking your diary with too many meetings in this week. You may not have enough time for all the follow-ups and actions needed or expected before you leave and you’ll end up with even more to handover.

Prioritise – the ‘important’ things you need to work on before you leave. Don’t leave them to the last day or your last few hours. If you’re pushed for time, what are the priority tasks you need to complete to keep things moving while you’re away? What can wait until you get back and is there anything that’s likely to slip through?

Set time limits on tasks. You’ll get things done quicker and be less distracted, especially if you only have a limited amount of time available.

Delegate – What’s going to happen to your business or workload while you’re away? Who’s going to answer calls, respond to emails, look after your clients, customers and projects? If you need extra resources, ask in good time.

Remember to switch on your voicemail and/or ‘out of office’ message (and switch it off when you return – make a note in your diary).

Handover – Set up a handover meeting(s) with your team or direct reports a day or two before your last day in the office.

If you have the right systems and processes in place it will be easy to provide status updates and keep track of projects and expected actions while you’re away.

Communicate – Let your team, customers and clients know when you’re going to be away and for how long. Give them and yourself plenty of time if you’re expecting work from them or need to get information, updates to them before you go.

And finally …

You holiday is meant to be a break from work – unless you’ve specifically booked it as a working holiday and your family or friends are in agreement, avoid the temptation to work while you’re away. While a cursory check of emails may be needed or you might be contacted in an emergency – focus on your family and friends first.

If you find you often spend the first few days of your holiday feeling unwell, exhausted or ill, you way be suffering from adrenal rebound. It will take you longer to relax, unwind and enjoy your holiday.

If you’re in the habit of spending much of your intended ‘holiday’ working, it’s an indication that something’s missing or needs to change. You need to look more seriously at your time habits, your boundaries and priorities.


On your return:

• Don’t overload your first few days back at work.
• Allow time for planning and catch-up on your first day back.
• Book handover/update meetings with your team.

If you want to enjoy a stress-free holiday and be more in control of your workload but don’t know where to start – give me a call or book a time for us to chat and make your next holiday even more relaxed and stress-free.


When It Comes To Relationships, Are You a Parent, Adult or Child?

1024 713 Susan Carr


The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 (16-22 May) was ‘Relationships’, as it is recognised that an important factor in promoting mental wellbeing is a good support network of family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues.

However, on the flip side, those relationships can equally be a factor in poor mental health, and this is something that is commonly discussed in counselling, whether it is arguments between partners, bullying by colleagues at work or difficult relationships with parents and siblings. In fact ‘Relationship issues’ was the second most searched for term on the Counselling Directory website in March 2016.

Our everyday lives are filled with multiple relationships of differing degrees, in which we relate to each other not just verbally but also through body language and facial expressions. During the 1950s Eric Berne developed a type of therapy known as Transactional Analysis based on the idea that all our interactions are a series of ‘transactions’ in which there is a stimulus and a response. So I might ask my husband “Do you want a cup of tea?” (the stimulus), to which he replies “Yes please” (the response).

Berne identified that in every transaction, we may act in one of three ego states: the Parent, Adult or Child, but that these vary from transaction to transaction. These have a particular meaning in Transactional Analysis which is different from the way they are used in everyday language, as described below:

Parent – This ego state is based on external childhood experiences of parents and parent-like figures which tend to be recorded in the brain without any form of filtering or analysis and include such messages as:
“Don’t talk to strangers”
“Remember your manners”
“Always chew with your mouth closed”
“Look both ways before crossing the road”

Child – In contrast, this ego state is based on internal perceptions of events experienced, e.g. childhood emotions and feelings, for example:
“The nightmare was really scary”
” I feel happy when playing with my friends”
“I feel sad when I hurt myself”

Adult – This ego state is concerned with data-processing and making sense of both what has been observed (external) and felt (internal), particularly the validation of data from the Parent, for example:
” I burnt my finger. Dad was right, I shouldn’t play with matches.”

These ego states (Parent, Adult and Child) influence all our transactions (as well as our internal conversations with ourselves) and affect the response that is evoked by the other party. For example, if I act as a Parent then the response that is likely to be evoked is one from the Child ego state and vice versa. The simplest transactions are those between Adult ego states, for example:

Adult stimulus: “What time is it?”
Adult response : “It’s six o’clock”

However transactions can become ‘crossed’ when the response does not correspond to the stimulus, for example:

Adult stimulus: “What time is it?”
Child response: “Why are you always rushing me?”

The tone of voice, choice of words, body language and gestures also vary depending on the ego state we are acting from, so a soft, soothing voice may be a nurturing Parent or a wagging finger may come from a critical Parent.

Relationships are complex and there are often multiple factors that contribute to our experience of relationships, but having an understanding of our own ego states can help us to learn to adapt our responses, thereby improving our interactions and relationships. So the next time you are in a conversation have a think about what ego state you are acting from!


Balance Isn’t Something You Have, It’s Something You Do

768 1024 Caroline Flanagan


“Better work-life balance this year,” said my friend Hannah when I asked about her New Year’s resolutions in January. “Last year was too manic and out of control. I spent the whole year rushing from one thing to the next and it was just exhausting”.

Hannah is not the only one I know looking for better work-life balance this year. “No time to think” and “Life is flying by too quickly” were common phrases on the lips of friends, family and clients throughout last December. Does it resonate with you?

The winter months don’t help, do they? You can’t escape the darkness! Dark and foggy when you leave the house in the morning, dark and rainy when you come home in the evening, and every moment in between spent in the office. It’s hard to feel that your life is well balanced in these conditions.

So whether you’re suffering from the winter blues or still feeling hung over after an exhausting 2015, here are my top tips for getting better balance this year:

1. Treat balance as an action, not an objective
Most people I know talk about balance as something they want to attain, a state they want to reach. When you do this you are short-changing yourself. It means that anything less than a perfectly segmented life divided between equal hours spent working, sleeping, having fun, socialising, relaxing etc., will make you feel as though you are out of balance. As long as ‘work’ is the dominant activity on your list, leaving you less time to spend on your ‘life’ activities, you’ll feel a constant sense of imbalance.

All of this changes when you view balance as an action. In other words, something that you do each day to ensure your life is on the right track and to help you correct your course when it’s not. For example, if you have had a horrendous few weeks working long hours, instead of focusing on how little time you have left for your life stuff, you…

2. Get up an hour earlier
You may not like the sound of this if you feel forever sleep deprived and struggle out of bed every morning, but I assure you from past experience, and the experience of my clients, how effective this can be. The hour before your day typically starts is the one part of your day that you have control over. Every other part of the day is open season for everybody and everything else. Train yourself to get up earlier by starting slowly, and dedicating that time to you, just you and only you. No email, no work. Spend it thinking, meditating, writing a diary or just reading something of interest. In my experience this one hour of quiet time each day spent focusing on myself – what’s working well, what isn’t, what I want to change or do better and who I really care about – has had a greater impact on my work-life balance than any other work-life balance strategy I’ve tried.

3. Declutter
Not the most obvious work-life balance strategy, but it works. When you are surrounded by clutter and stuff, not only does it create a sense of overwhelm and constant busyness, it eats up your time. When your environment (your work desk, your home) is organised, you can find things more easily and focus more effectively, instead of wasting time and energy looking for things you can’t find and feeling as though everything is out of control. Both of these make you more efficient, and with efficiency comes freedom.



4. Say no to friends

Yes, that’s right, friends. Now, I know this sounds like a crazy and counter-intuitive way of trying to get better balance. After all, I hear you ask, isn’t the quest for better work-life balance about having more time for friends? Yes, exactly. But most people have too many friends. By which I mean more friends than they have any hope of building or sustaining quality relationships with. But instead of admitting this to ourselves we put everyone we know and are friendly with into one box labelled “Friends” and spend our limited time spreading ourselves thinly between them. This approach will never help you to feel you have a good work life balance. What you need is to be fiercely selective about which friendships you want to nurture and dedicate to them decent chunks of your quality time. So grab a pen and write down your top 3 most important friends (your VIFs) and make them your absolute priority this year. Say no to invitations from everyone else. NB: You are not giving up on your other friendships, you are simply prioritising those which are most important this year.

5. Say no to extended family
See 4 above.

6. Make regular adjustments
It’s a subject I come back to with clients over and over again, and which I cover in my book, Baby Proof Your Career. Successful living doesn’t mean choosing a straight and narrow path and always staying on it; it means choosing a path and when (rather than if) you stray from it, using the skills and resources you have at your disposal to get yourself back on track. Getting yourself back on track can mean anything from checking you are on the right path in the first place (does it align with your values? Are you chasing the right dream?) to making minor adjustments in your schedule that improve your quality of life. When it comes to getting better balance, these minor adjustments are key. For example, when your diary is full to brimming and your work load is spiralling out of control, it may be time to cancel all non-urgent commitments and/or improve your delegation skills. When you feel it’s impossible to fit exercise into your routine, it may be time to re-evaluate how you exercise and when – if going to the gym at lunchtime doesn’t work, then perhaps it needs to be a run before work.

7. Question your assumptions
My work as a Coach is all about questions, and the question that usually brings the greatest revelation is: What are you assuming? When you feel your life is out of balance and you’re stuck for a solution, this question will bear all kinds of fruit. Are you making assumptions about how you will be judged if you leave the office early? About what others expect of you? About what is acceptable? About what it means to have work-life balance?

Which of these tips will you adopt this year, in your quest for better balance? If you’ve got any questions or would like to talk about how you can improve your balance, then please get in touch.