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The small print All competition entries for the December/January edition need to be received by 1st February and sent to or posted to Office 28 – Suite 2, 28 Cleveland Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 3HT. Winners will be notified by email/telephone and listed in the January/February edition of Local Zest. No cash alternative to the prize. The competitions are free to enter but in doing so you agree to the terms and conditions as detailed above. We gratefully acknowledge the support of businesses whose adverts appear in Local Zest magazine and whilst every care is taken to ensure accuracy, Local Zest cannot take responsibility for loss, damage or omission in an advert or editorial. All artwork is accepted on strict condition that permission has been given for use in this publication. Adverts are accepted on the understanding that descriptions of good and services are fair and accurate. Local Zest Ltd does not endorse any advertising material included within the publication. No part of this magazine can be reproduced without prior consent. All rights reserved.

Welcome Note from the editors


ello readers, Welcome to your festive edition of Local Zest Magazine. So with the big day literally in sniffing distant, this month’s edition is filled with festive recipes, things to do with the family over the festive season, ways to add extra sparkle to the big day and of course lovely local businesses who may have just the thing you are looking for.

Time For



Welcome to your Local Zest magazine


December / January

This month for you we have a whole host of things for you to enjoy with lots of inspiration for the home and tips on decluttering ready for a fresh start in 2017! Our four legged friends also get a look in this month as we rapidly approach one of the busiest times of year for re homing and medical pet emergencies. Read how you can try to avoid any unfortunate incidents and also how you could help some furry friends this Christmas. Check out some of the fun things to do with the little ones as we hurtle towards the big day, whether you fancy festive baking or Christmassy arts and crafts, we have it! Our “What’s On” guide this month has lots for you to do and places to visit whether

Take a look on pages 24 & 25 where we try out some really simple tips to help take the hassle out of gift shopping this Christmas.

it’s a family day out or a few and far between evening with the other half, there is something for everyone! Also, find out what Christmas and all year round favourite Ricky Tomlinson, also known as Jim Royal, has been up to on page 31.

from local businesses in and around the area. We’ve also got some really helpful tips for you to help brighten that Winter complexion and add some sass and sparkle to your make up routine. So, with a fresh new year about to begin, it’s a great time to turn over a new leaf, set a new challenge or kick that habit that has been holding you back. Whether, it’s a personal aim, professional aspiration or simply a new outlook on life we wish you every success in achieving your goal throughout 2017. Once again, a big thank you to all the local businesses for their support in this edition of Local Zest. If the need arises for you to use one of them please remember to give us a mention!

While lots of you have Christmas wrapped up, there are always the last minute ones amongst us who are still buying presents on Christmas Eve! Take a look on pages 24 & 25 where we try out some really simple tips to help take the hassle out of gift shopping this Christmas. It might be a good idea to start a touch sooner in 2017 though! But we all know that it doesn’t end there though does it? Then there is all the wrapping too!! But we have that covered too with some helpful hints on page 23. Now, we are no wine experts but we know a man who is! Edward Wilson from The Wine Press in Lye has given us the low down on what we should be sipping this Christmas over our festive faves. Find out more on pages 50 & 51, plus check out our recipe for mulled wine too!

A big congratulations to our winner of The Island Pool competition from the October/November edition. This month up for grabs on page 52 is the chance to win a meal for four at the newly refurbished Royal Oak in Alveley. Finally, a very Merry Christmas to you and yours from Local Zest, enjoy your read and see you in the New Year!

Sam & Marie xx Winner of The Island Pool competition: Pam Brewer

Take a well earned tea break and enjoy this month’s just for fun puzzles! Plus keep your health in check with some fantastic offers and information


Home & Garden

the Plant of Month

Poinsettia Poinsettia plants are most commonly seen around Christmas time and you can instantly see why with their leaves and bracts coming in typically Christmas colours of bright crimson and dark green. Although at first Poinsettias seem as though they have flowers, the bright red parts of the plan are bracts, which are a form of modified leaves. They have a reputation for being rather difficult to maintain but there are a few tips to help keep then thriving even after Christmas. As they are native to Mexico they thrive best in humid temperatures and prefer indirect sunlight. You need to make sure to water them thoroughly but be careful not to drown them.

Househ old Tips

Longer Lasting Bananas Before putting your fresh bananas into a fruit bowl, make sure to break them apart at the stem. When you leave them connected it makes them ripen quicker, breaking them apart slows this down! So, you get to have fresh bananas for longer!


December / January

Pretty Christmas Pinecones Dip clean, dry pinecones in gold or silver paint (either partially or all of the way) or use a mixture of water, glue, and glitter for a sparkling effect. Once dry, place on side tables or use to fill baskets and bowls for a fabulous, low cost festive decoration.


Home & Garden

Decluttering – the KonMari Way

Marie Kondo is a Japanese ‘organising consultant’ whose method for decluttering is taking the globe by storm. Called KonMari, the method is actually pretty straightforward. If something you own doesn’t ‘spark joy’, get rid of it. Simple right? KonMari isn’t for everyone, and Kondo certainly has a few somewhat bizarre suggestions. (Seriously, who has the time to unpack every item from their handbag, every evening?) But most of her advice is practical, easy to follow and actually makes a lot of sense. She also dips into the psychology of why we hold on to things, and why we should let them go. Kondo recommends collecting every item in a particular category and going through them in one go. So, for instance, you’d lay every item of clothing you own on the bed or floor, pick up each one and if it doesn’t ‘spark joy’ add it the charity pile. With this approach, you get the shock of realising just how much stuff you actually own, and are more likely to discard items than if you just flick through them when they’re in a drawer. She does, of course, make some concessions for items you really need but that don’t particularly spark joy. The main idea is that you should stop hoarding stuff that you might use one day, clothes that you only ever wear when the washing pile is teetering over, and items you feel guilty about getting rid of.

Kondo also has some good advice when it comes to what to do with the things you keep. She advises against buying expensive storage solutions, and using shoe boxes to keep things tidy instead. She also recommends storing things vertically, e.g. folding clothes so that they can be stacked on end, meaning you can see them, rather than having them buried under other items. I’ve found this useful, to an extent. It does mean I can find a black t-shirt easily, but that I might have to unfold several black t-shirts to find the one that has the motif I want. Kondo lives alone, and it does feel sometimes that her method is mainly aimed at other single adults. She recommends leading by example, the idea being that if you get rid of clutter, your family will follow you. That has not yet happened in my house I have to say. Nevertheless, I have got rid of several bin bags and boxes full of ‘stuff’ since reading her book and have felt surprisingly relieved about doing it. If you fancy trying the KonMari method for yourself, her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, can be ordered from most libraries and book stores. By Kate Duggan

Kondo recommends collecting every item in a particular category and going through them in one go. So, for instance, you’d lay every item of clothing you own on the bed or floor, pick up each one and if it doesn’t ‘spark joy’ add it the charity pile.


December / January


Home & Garden

A Good Read

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion There have been several novels published in recent years which feature an autistic character; The Rosie Project is one of them. Don is a scientist working at a university in Australia. In his late 30s he is single and largely contented. His day is meticulously mapped out, and routine is a part of everything he does. He is never early (a waste of precious time) or late (rude and puts everything out of time), and can’t abide small talk. He also has lobster every Tuesday. As the novel opens he is lecturing on Aspergers at a conference but it is not a lecture from a personal perspective. Don is undiagnosed yet many friends and parents of those on the spectrum will identify his traits. A chance conversation with the conference organiser leads him to consider if he can apply scientific methodology to the search for a suitable partner, and The Wife Project is born. Readers will warm to Don, and his naïve approach to relationships and life in general, and anyone who is currently negotiating the dating minefield might wonder if it would all be easier with the aid of his questionnaire?

North Child by Edith Pattou This Young Adult novel is published by Usborne Books. Based on the Norwegian fairy tale ‘East of the Sun and West of the Moon’ this sweeping fantasy story is set in the snow-covered lands of Scandinavia. Legend has it that children born facing north are destined to travel far from home and die, crushed under ice and snow. When Eugenia’s eighth and youngest child is born her belief in superstition leads her to fear for her daughter’s future. She lies about the circumstances of Rose’s birth but it would seem that fate cannot be deceived by a lie. As Rose grows up she feels out of place in the family and longs to travel, with a desire for adventure. Her unease, combined with a wanderlust means that when a white bear appears and offers her family a way out of poverty and ill-health if she will come away with him to a land far away in the north, she readily accepts. Here she meets a mysterious stranger in a castle hidden in a mountain. Who is he and why does he only appear at night? Faced with challenges she discovers her purpose in life in a tale of love, betrayal, and adventure. This rich story will appeal to readers from the age of 10 upwards and is a great introduction to epic fantasy. By Willow Coby


December / January

Home & Garden

TV Guide

What’s the best way to watch TV? Most of us enjoy curling up in-front of the TV on a cold winter’s night. And, as long as you have decent broadband, these days there’s plenty of ways to watch your favourite shows. If you’re feeling a bit flummoxed by all the options available, our quick guide might help to make your mind up. Freeview – Free As the name implies, Freeview gives you access to more than 60 TV channels, for free. You can also watch hundreds of programmes that have aired in the previous seven days. With most TVs, you shouldn’t need any extra equipment, but TVs bought before 2010 might require a set-top box, which costs from £30. You will need a TV aerial, and not all channels are available in all locations, so it’s worth checking what you can get before you buy anything. Satellite TV – from around £7.50 a month There are a range of providers to choose from, including Sky, Virgin Media, BT and Talk Talk, all of which give you access to a wide range of digital channels. You will need a set-top box, and in some cases a satellite dish, which is normally included in the cost of your subscription, and you’ll need to take out a 12-18 month contract. Most providers have different packages to choose from, and you can add on bundles, such as sports channels. Some providers offer wider phone and broadband packages. BT, for example, offers 80 channels, unlimited broadband and free weekend calls from around £10 per month.


December / January

Netflix – £5.99-£8.99 per month Netflix is a subscription service that allows you to watch thousands of films and TV shows through your smart TV, laptop, phone, tablet and other devices. You can choose what you want to watch from a huge menu, including programmes made by Netflix, such as the award-winning Orange is the New Black. You don’t need any extra equipment; there are no adverts and you can pause, rewind, fast forward and watch again as much as you like. There’s also no contract, so you can cancel whenever you want. Amazon Prime – £79 per year Like Netflix, Amazon Prime is a subscription service that allows you to watch films and TV shows through a multitude of digital devices. With some older TVs, you’ll need to buy a fire stick (which costs around £30). There doesn’t seem to be quite as much choice with Amazon Prime as there is with Netflix, but if you take into consideration the other benefits of Prime, such as free music, next-day Amazon delivery and cloud-storage for photos, it is a great price. If you don’t want the extras, you can opt for Prime video, for just £5.99 per month. By Kate Duggan

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Home & Garden

Pet Health

How to have a happy, healthy Christmas with your Pets The best thing about winter has to be Christmas! It is the time of year that we celebrate together as a family and of course our furry friends are a big part of that. Hanging up their own stockings by the fireside and placing their presents with care under the tree, we wouldn't want to exclude, them would we? However, Christmas is the time of year that we as vets get our most emergencies! The over indulgences that we take for granted for ourselves can be catastrophic to our companion animals. The worst offender has to be the turkey skin and gravy; too rich in fat (enhanced invariably with alcohol) for our cats and dogs, they can end up with very painful pancreatitis as their bodies cannot cope with the excesses. Although treatable it can be a very expensive experience on top of being very upsetting and traumatic. And let’s not go there with the foie gras! Turkey bones are best left for the soup and not to be given as a special treat. Splintering as they do and then being ingested can only lead to perforation of the gut. Painful, expensive, traumatic for pet and owner; get my drift? All chocolate's pose an extreme threat to our pets well-being and can be fatal, as can be raisins, grapes, liquorice, certain nuts and xylitol (found in sugar free treats). Of course these aren’t the only things our pets will eat given half the chance. Those beautiful Christmas plants Poinsettia, Mistletoe and Holly all pose a threat to our pets if ingested; they are toxic folks and can cause irreversible damage.

It doesn't end there... Tinsel and ribbons, baubles and tree lights as beautiful as they are can cause injuries if pets are not suitably supervised. Rabbit owners will be aware that their fur buns love to chew and electric cable is fair game (though with disastrous consequences!). Do keep an eye on that adventurous kitten climbing the tree or for the inquisitive puppy eating the tinsel or chasing baubles. Christmas can have its downside as the veterinary profession can testify. With all the care in the world accidents and emergencies continue to happen so be prepared. Check your vet’s emergency cover and have the telephone number to hand, or, if you are away, have a suitable alternative close by. The number of a local taxi service is good to have also, if you are going to partake in a festive tipple or two! Being aware of the pitfalls and taking a few extra precautions, should help to prevent the unexpected. Which leaves me finally to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Saving the mince pies and puds for yourselves will help to give your pets a safe and healthy festive season and you a peaceful Yuletide. Danielle Giles, Heathside Veterinary Surgery


Home & Garden

CONSUMER CHAMPION JAMES WALKER – “Don't drop your cover as the temperatures plunge” By JAMES WALKER, Founder and CEO of With the onset of the winter, the chances of problems happening around the home grows more likely. Whether it's a broken boiler, a frozen pipe that bursts, a radiator not working or an electricity outage, the coming colder and darker months are the worst time of the year to experience such issues. Now if you're like me, you'll have taken out cover to protect you should anything go wrong. But no matter how covered you think you are, things may not always be straight-forward when you need to use it. I had the idea after my boiler broke and the repair insurance I had taken out didn't come to my rescue as efficiently as it should have. After weeks of hassle, I made it my mission to ensure no-one else suffers like I did and that's why I suggest now is the time to be checking your cover and knowing exactly what it offers you in an emergency. It's not my place to advise on which policy or cover is right for you, but in my experience, there are many things I'd recommend to consider. Like most things in life, it’s much easier and cheaper if you actively seek to prevent problems in the first place, and if you insure against them, but you need to know the cover or service plan will pay out enough to at least fix, or even replace whatever is broken. But do you know what type of policy you actually have and where you can turn if it fails to deliver on what you hoped? For example, insurance - whether on your home buildings, or contents policy or an actual insurance policy to cover a leak or loss of heating, is one thing. But

a Service Agreement is another thing entirely. If you have problems with an insurance policy and your case is not resolved in eight weeks, then you can escalate it to the Financial Ombudsman Service for a free independent assessment. But a Service Agreement is NOT insurance so this is NOT covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service. This means you do not have an independent way to challenge decisions and while the Retail Ombudsman or Consumer Ombudsman may be able to investigate your case, the company does not have to agree an independent case assessment. Then there's warranties. Extended versions of these are often costly and tend to come with a lot of exclusions. Always be sure to check the cover terms closely and remember than any installations you've had, say for a boiler, in the last 12 months will be covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 if there's a problem. So what else should you be thinking about when it comes to taking out this sort of insurance cover or protection plans? For a start, always use a comparison website like - as you'll find a range of deals and offers out there. But remember that low-price introductory deals are only cheap for a limited period and the cost at renewal will be much more. And if a deal seems too good to be true, then sometimes it is and may not include the essentials. Then there's comparing feedback.

Not just from comparison sites and customer reviews but also by talking to family and friends. If they've had a bad experience, you need to know about it so you can shop around elsewhere. You don't want to be faced with a repair that takes weeks to happen while you sit shivering. If you can, make sure too that any repair cover is for both parts and labour – and annual servicing in the case of your boiler and heating. That way you won't be left with a big bill shock, maybe just a standard excess to pay in the case of a claim being made. You should also be checking that anyone doing work for you - whether a plumber, electrician or heating engineer - is registered with the appropriate trade body. That way you can raise a complaint with them if you feel you have an issue. Examples are Gas Safe and NICEIC. You can also look for a TrustMark or a Buy With Confidence stamp. And finally, ALWAYS check the expiry dates of your policies. A policy should roll over to keep continuous cover but no-one wants to go and make a claim only to be told the insurance or service cover is no longer valid. Don’t forget, whenever you have a complaint to make or an issue to raise, use to do it quickly and easily with our template emails. You can also use our iOS or Android apps. James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Follow James via @resolvercouk, or email James@


Home & Garden


December / January

Home & Garden

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Garden View

This month - The Christmas cactus Christmas cacti are splendid plants. They pump out masses of delicate jungle flowers in rosy red, white, orange, pink, and pale yellow, depending on the variety, just in time for the festive season. And although they're a true cactus, their spines are so tiny and soft that you'll barely notice them - and never get pricked. Also as each outer leaf produces its own flower the display gets better year on year. They are available in shops and garden centres right now and are just perfect for those hard-to-buy-for souls. Also, according to my neighbour, who grows prize-winning cacti, they can live for 25 years or more so they’re the gift that just keeps on giving.

Christmas cactus care! Light Christmas cacti are tropical epiphytes, which grow naturally in rain-forest trees. Choose a cool, bright spot, out of direct sun is best. Try an east-facing windowsill, and it won't know it ever left the jungle. Humidity They love a humid atmosphere so are best grown on a gravel tray. Fill a waterproof bowl with gravel then add water to half way up the gravel. Place the potted plant on top of the gravel. Water As it’s tropical it’s less drought-tolerant than other cacti species. Water thoroughly then allow the top halfinch or inch of soil to dry out before watering again.


December / January

Fertilizer As new leaves appear or when flower buds start to swell, apply a liquid fertilizer formulated for houseplants every 7 to 10 days until the growth or flowering cycle ends.

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Repotting Christmas cacti flower best when they’re pot-bound. Every year or so, gently pull the plant out of its container and check the roots. When roots start to mat where they touch the inside of the pot, move the plant into a container that's an inch larger in diameter. Gently rough up the matted roots with a knife or fork before you repot. After Christmas When flowering is over, keep the plant indoors until the weather warms in late spring. New growth tends to start in March. If you particularly want the plant to flower at Christmas then next November put the cactus in a place where nights are cool (about 10-12C) and there's no artificial light. After flower buds form, you can stop the cool/dark treatment and start fertilizing for a strong threeweek bloom cycle. My neighbour tells me that Christmas cacti are pretty forgiving souls and that even if you’re unsuccessful at inducing Christmas blooms you should be treated to regular flowering displays throughout the year. What could be nicer? By Rachael Leverton

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Christmas Festivities

It’s just around the corner… be frozen and end with the fresh items which need to be purchased just a day or two before. Puds and cakes Make these early to give them time to mature. Stir up Sunday is the last Sunday before advent and this year is on November 30th. This is traditionally the time when Christmas puddings are made. I make my Christmas cake during the first week of December which gives me time to feed it as much brandy as it will hold. Yum!

…Christmas that is. Now we all know someone who buys their prezzies in the January sales, has their cards written and addressed by Easter and their turkey ordered before the first frost. We hate their smugness and lack of proper festive spirit but mainly we hate them because we know that we could never ever be that organised...until now! We’re not suggesting that you start planning Christmas while on your summer holidays but it does pay to be a little bit organised. You’ll arrive at December 25th with far fewer grey hairs and much lower blood pressure if you plan ahead. Clear out food cupboards Be ruthless. Chuck out all the out-of-date items and things you know will never be eaten. Make room for all those festive goodies. Clear out toy cupboards Be ruthless. Involve the kids. Donate outgrown and unplayed-with items to charity. If you are an eBayer, spend an afternoon listing items for sale. Order meat early Farmers’ markets and shops are teeming at this Christmas time. Don’t imagine you’ll get what you want if you leave it until the last minute. Who’s coming to dinner? Are there any vegetarians, vegans or dairy intolerances among your guests. Are you planning a party? List all the food, alcohol and gift items you think you will need and add to it as you go along. Study your list Are there items which can be bought online? Do any of your local shops offer home delivery? Look into local veg-box schemes. Divide the remaining list into manageable chunks and purchase a few things each week. For foodstuffs, begin with items which can


December / January

Write the cards It’s bit of a chore but put the carols on, pour a glass of something festive and get into the spirit. You’ll feel really virtuous when they’re done. Tree lights and outdoor lights Test them well in advance so they can be replaced if necessary.

Wrapping- tips and techniques for beautiful gifts

Check bed and linen status! Will you need to buy or borrow fold-up beds, or extra bedding for your guests? What about elderly guests? They may be able to lie down on a Z bed but will they ever be able to get up again!

Are you one of those people who leave all their wrapping until Christmas Eve and end up using a bit of birthday paper because you run out of Christmas wrapping?

By now you should be feeling organised and in control. You may even feel the beginnings of a smug smile twitch at the corners of your mouth. Enjoy it…you earned it. Just be aware that someone somewhere hates you for it!

Why not plan ahead and take a little more time this year. It can be really satisfying to see all your gifts looking beautiful under the tree and receive lots of compliments when you hand them out. There are lots of different types of wrapping available including paper, bags, huge sacks, tubs and boxes. You can also get lots of accessories from craft shops to add a unique twist. Here are some tips and suggestions to help:-.

If your gift consists of a number of boxes try making a tower and wrapping ribbon round the whole. Even if your gifts don’t come in boxes, you could put them in some to make wrapping easier. This is also the art of disguise and can create an element of fun. Even those who think they know what you are buying them will start to wonder. When wrapping something soft like a scarf or a jumper, lay the item on a piece of cardboard, This will give you a firm base and mean that you can create clean corners and crisp edges. For oddly shaped presents, you can create a better effect by padding out unusual angles with tissue paper or using a gift bag.

If using wrapping paper, measure it first and trim off the excess. Decide how much you need by wrapping a ribbon around the gift and then laying the ribbon on the paper and cutting it to that size. Alternatively, use a tape or ruler.

Try creating a cracker shape for tubular gifts.

If you have trouble cutting gift wrap in a straight line, look for brands that have grid lines on the reverse. If you can’t get these, mark the paper where you need to cut it and then fold it and cut along the crease.

To avoid getting in a tangle, buy tape which is on a dispenser and use double sided tape where it will help.

Keep any off cuts as these may fit smaller gifts. This will also help avoid waste.

If your present has a circular bottom, pleat the paper to get a neat finish.

Create a wow factor by colour coordinating your wrapping or using the same design for all of a persons presents. You could also use plain wrapping and be creative with patterned tape, add homemade gift tags or create a pocket effect in which you insert a card or other decoration By Susan Brookes-Morris


Christmas Festivities

Christmas Gifts


don’t know about you but for me the most stressful part of Christmas is what I’m buying and who it’s for. Whether its your Mom, Dad, your cousin twice removed, the dog or your secret Santa at work it really is a minefield. To help you get Christmas all wrapped up here are our top tips for successful Christmas gift shopping... Set a Budget... Yes, we know it’s tedious but the cost of Christmas can keep escalating if you don’t draw the line somewhere. Most websites now over the facility to search by not only age and size but by price which makes life so simple and in control! Keep an eye out for all those retailer offers too! So many stores run promotional offers and nights in the lead up to Christmas whether it’s 3 for 2 or 20% off when you spend in store, these savings soon add up! You can register online with your favourite retailers to get email reminders about promotional events meaning you won’t find out a day late and miss out!

There’s always one... There’s always someone who really is the bane of your Christmas shopping list, you know the one, the person who seems to have everything. You wander the aisles picking up things, putting them back, picking them up again but nothing seems right? One of the things I love nowadays is how many shops and websites offer personalised gifts, they make really unique and thoughtful presents and wonderful keepsakes. Whether it’s a beautiful story book for a little one, a personalised chopping board for the chef in your life, a calendar made up of your favourite pictures for your best friend or personalised stationery for that co worker you picked in Secret Santa but have only have spoken to once at the water cooler! You really can find something for everyone! Another great idea for Christmas for the person who seems to have everything is tickets! Tickets to see a show at the Theatre, maybe their favourite artist at the local arena or even a voucher for a spa break. Give them something to look forward to post the Christmas excitement, something they will remember too!


December / January

Online shopping... Last year was the first year I did any of my Christmasgift shopping online and what a breath of fresh air! No queuing, no mad rushes and delivered to my door. Before I knew it, my shopping list was well underway and I barely let the house for a thing. Word of caution though, shopping online is a really easy way to get carried away with what you are buying and you only realise when it won’t all fit in the secret hiding place... or is that just me?! Remember when shopping online to double check your sizes and quantities before you check out to avoid unnecessary returns post the Christmas period. The, last but by no means least, if you are a last minute Larry when it comes to Christmas shopping, remember ordering online on Christmas Eve is not going to get you a present for that special someone delivered on Christmas morning. Plan ahead and get organised. When shopping in store, remember to ask for your gift receipts, these are really handy should something need to be returned post Christmas!

Final thought ... Ultimately Christmas time is about spending time with your loved ones, eating way too many calories and making memories. Whatever your plans are this festive season, enjoy and remember, when you open your fifth pair of socks or third set of bath salts... it’s the thought that counts.

Merry Christmas!

When shopping in store, remember to ask for your gift receipts, these are really handy should something need to be returned post Christmas!

Shopping Trips... As convenient as online shopping can be I do love a good festive shopping trip. A day out with your family or friends, coming home with stacks of goodies, Christmas songs playing everywhere... sound familiar? Festive shopping with friends is an annual tradition for me but can also lead to aimless wandering, easy distraction and a distinct lack of gifts crossed off the list when you do finally get home. To avoid this, or at least minimise it, try scouring online before you go shopping.If you can get a rough idea of what you are looking for and the shops you are going in you can be much more much productive with your time, leaving you plenty of time to shop for those added extras and maybe a quick pitstop for a glass of mulled wine!

Christmas Festivities


December / January


Christmas Festivities


Deck the Hall with Boughs of Holly this Christmas

One of the things I most enjoy about decorating the house for Christmas is finding all the handmade creations my children have made over the years, the obligatory Angel with woollen hair and doily dress, colourful clay, leaf or handprints made at nursery and hand-stitched felt mini-stockings, which proudly adorn the tree. Each year I encourage the children to make at least one new decoration to add to our collection. As well as making great presents for elderly relatives they come in handy when you discover, as we did one year, that most of the decorations had been nibbled by a family of mice! If you’re looking for no and low cost activities, with the added bonus of bringing life to your tree, here’s my pick of the best Christmas decoration fun. Mini Christmas Trees This year we will definitely be making some cute and adorable mini trees. All you need are some pinecones, paint and mini terracotta pots. First you need to collect the pine cones, a great excuse for getting wrapped up for a winter walk, then home for a warming mug of hot chocolate while the glue and paint dry. Don’t forget glitter and sequins to decorate the mini trees and a loop of gift wrap ribbon for hanging on the tree. Sparkly Stars While the glitter is out, you may as well make some sparkly stars. Made from cutting up the inners from wrapping, kitchen or toilet paper tubes and covering in glitter, they are sure to make your tree sparkle with Christmas spirit. These gorgeous sparkly stars are also likely to be a firm favourite, the perfect way to recycle and repurpose the innards from all that paper waste. Garland For a more grown up decoration for the teen in your life to make, how about getting them to choose family snaps taken throughout the year? Simply back the photos on to card, red, green or whatever your colour scheme is, make slits in the corners to hold the pictures, and attach to the tree or make a pretty garland to hang on the wall. A hands on smelly alternative is threading slices of dried citrus fruit and cinnamon sticks to make a wreath or garland to decorate the hearth. Simply buy and prepare your fruit – lemons, oranges and limes work well, then dry very slowly in the oven on a low heat. Provide tapestry needles and fine string for some aromatic threading,


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then sit back and enjoy the colours and festive smells of the fruits of your labour. Present time Decorations sorted it is time to turn my attention to the presents. With increasing pester power and the overwhelming feeling to buy buy buy, this year I decided to take to the internet to look at ways to reduce present costs. It seems that I’m not alone as I discovered a growing trend for the 4 Gift Christmas Challenge. ‘What’s this?’ I hear you ask, well the premise is you buy children only 4 things: Something they want, Something they need Something to wear, and Something to read After a slightly nervous ramble as I tried to explain, or should I say sell this idea to the children, I was pleasantly surprised at how on board they were! Far from lamenting their lost presents they were genuinely excited to be able to spend more time choosing and enjoying each gift. We sometimes forget that children get overwhelmed by the mass of gifts under the tree. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the sheer disappointment at the conveyer belt of unwrapping that happens, as each new gift is seemingly discarded in favour of the next. You may even have commented on how much longer they spent playing with the packaging than the toy! With so much suffering in the world and the environment paying the price of our excesses it’s nice to know that each gift that you have spent your hard earned cash on will be cherished and enjoyed like those special presents from our childhood which didn’t cost the earth but bought so much joy. This year I’m hoping for a stress-free, more cash in my pocket, enjoyable Christmas. Cheers, I’ll drink to that! Here are some links to the activities mentioned: Activities: By Sue Gascoyne Sue is a published author, trainer, educational consultant and therapeutic play practitioner. She is the founder and Creative Director of Play to Z Ltd, specialist providers of award winning Sensory Play resources. For more fun, sensory play activities, Sue’s latest research, resources and training go to www.

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Christmas Festivities

Celebrity Interview Ricky Tomlinson talks to Tim Saunders

Ricky Tomlinson is probably best known for playing Jim Royle in the Royle Family. His catchphrase ‘My arse!’ is equally memorable. In 2001 he was National Television Comedy Actor of the Year and was awarded Best Performance in Network Drama by the Royal Television Society. Many, including the director, Ken Loach believe Ricky to be a fine actor, “…His work – and comedy – springs from a life that has seen hardship and struggle and many changes in fortune. From his early days in the building trade and as one of the heroic Shrewsbury Two, he has always known which side he is on, as those who have experienced his generosity and loyalty will testify.” In 1968, after deciding that less immigration meant more jobs, Ricky signed up to the National Front. He went on marches and registered as a candidate. Britain’s first building strike was called in 1972. Ricky became a member of the Wrexham Strike Action Committee and peacefully picketed building sites but was later arrested and found guilty of unlawful assembly. Refusing to plead guilty, he went down for two years. “They were tough times but my Liverpool sense of humour helped me survive.” On leaving prison he discovered that he had been blacklisted from the building trade. “So I became a stand-up comic touring the pubs and clubs. I started acting in 1979, when, at the age of 40, director Roland Joffe cast me in the lead role of the controversial BBC film, United Kingdom.” Yet Ricky admits to finding it difficult remembering his lines. “It does take me time. Fortunately, Ken Loach and other directors are happy for me to extemporise.” Ricky has starred in a variety of TV programmes and films: Brookside; Boys From The Blackstuff; Cracker; Down To


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Earth (which sums Ricky up to a tee – he happily chats to anyone); the Royle Family; 51st State; and Mike Bassett: England Manager. He has made one top selling comedy video entitled Laughter My Arse and written two books, the first, his autobiography was called Ricky (available in all good bookshops priced £17.99) and was a number one bestseller. “So far it has sold half a million copies. It was in 2002, that my wife Rita sold it to Time Warner for the incredible sum of £800,000. I still can’t believe it.” Since this phenomenal success, Rita has become Ricky’s agent. Given that she knows his availability and the roles he likes, she insists it’s no problem negotiating his acting work. Ricky has now been commissioned to write a third book, which will be about his life in showbiz. In addition, he has won ten regional awards for comedy, personality and drama. His CD single are you lookin’ at me was released in 2001 and reached no. 18. So what’s this celebrity up to now? Driving Ferraris and jetting abroad at every opportunity? Not a bit of it. “We do have a big caravan that we take to Benidorm now and again, but to be honest when I’m not acting, I’m doing DIY which I’m not bad at. We have a large garden at home in a quiet part of Liverpool near the Mersey and I’ve built sheds, fitted electrics and water. Actually, I’m a DIY fanatic. Every day off I get a different tool from B&Q. I have most of their tools. Now that I’m a certain age, I’m a B&Q Diamond cardholder - I get 10% off any purchase, which’ll come in handy when I buy my generator. I’ve just finished filming an in-house film for B&Q too.” Tim Saunders is an author, journalist and businessman. He meets celebrities, goes on holiday and road tests cars


Leisure & Lifestyle

How to communicate better in your relationship By Sophie Personne -

The world constantly evolves and since the second World War, we have seen some of the most amazing technological advances, especially in terms of communication. The way we interact with each other has been totally revolutionised, and today, we have the world quite literally at our fingertips. We are, without a doubt, the most connected that we have ever been... Unfortunately, we are also probably the loneliest.

SUCCESSFUL​DATING 4 Steps to A Healthy Relationship

By Sophie Personne - Keeping a relationship healthy and alive only takes little work, if both partners are on the same page and there are some very simple ways to do so. It is, however, also so easy to get swept away by life, work, our routines and just ‘things’ that we sometimes forget about not taking each other for granted. It is important to remind ourselves of this from time to time. Talk about what you think doesn’t matter Talk about all the little nothings and insignificant details of your life. Over time and because of normal day to day living and work pressures, we can grow in different ways, and forget to talk about the little things that we think don’t matter. Yet these often become the important things that tear us apart. So many people spend a lifetime together but don’t actually know each other anymore. They might know what sort of jam they like, how they take their tea in the morning, the way they scratch their nose and some of their habits, but they no longer know the person, what they stand for, or what matters to them. Do things apart One of the issues that gets brought to my attention is that a lot of couples feel they should do everything together when it comes to spare time. It may not be so obvious, but often one of the partners actually resents that and wishes they could have a bit more time for themselves, doing something they would enjoy more. We are not talking


about routine activities here, or watching TV, but maybe opening themselves up to new horizons or hobbies. It is important to miss each other too, so you can look forward to sharing new ideas and having different things to talk about that aren’t what you already have in common. You are both still individuals, and doing things separately will actually deepen the bond. Do things together At the other end of the scale, another issue I regularly come across is that whilst many couples do things together, such as going shopping or on holiday, they don’t spend any fun or quality time with each other on a daily basis. Unfortunately, routine kills so many relationships in so many ways! It takes very little effort from both sides to carry on creating nice happy memories instead of becoming strangers living in the same house, watching two different TVs in two different rooms, and getting stuck in a rut. Of course, there is a time for individual relaxation and winding down, but if there are any existing issues, the danger is that the rift will only deepen. Couples with young kids

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are a prime example of where it can go very wrong, as they do not create enough quality time together (if any). Time pressures are obviously high, but making sure you spend 30 minutes a day with your spouse could prevent so many problems down the line. Surprise each other Again, it sounds so obvious but so few people do it. That’s probably one of the reasons why women often think men have done something wrong when they bring them flowers… It just needs to be simple things, like the bath being run for when they get in from work, or breakfast in bed. Little attentions and feeling taken care of make anyone feel wanted - it shows that you are thinking about the other person and don’t take them for granted. Besides, who doesn’t like a nice gesture and a bit of consideration? After all, it brightens our lives and makes us want to do more for the other person. Sophie Personne is a Relationships Expert and Author. Her first book ‘Your Other Half – The Guide to Better Relationships with Others & Yourself’ is available from the end of November. If you want to find out more, visit

Pay attention to the people around you and be in the moment. We are actually disconnected from each other. Just go anywhere, anytime, and notice how people who are obviously out together, will check their phones. The world around them has disappeared. Literally, just like that… and you’ll struggle to get an answer out of them until they resurface.

We cannot not communicate. It isn’t just about what we say. In fact, the words we use only represent 7% of the way we communicate. 38% is about the delivery and the tone of voice that we use whilst 55% is body language. So, if you’re grumpy and tell someone that you’re absolutely fine, that person will get the vibe that something isn’t adding up. The actual meaning of your words won’t be in sync with the way you are saying it, or your physiology, and it will feel incongruent. Whether it’s face to face, by phone, text or email, the way we say things or the way we feel will transpire. Always be honest and voice how you feel

This shows the actual disconnection we are currently experiencing, not only with other people but with ourselves. We are no longer aligned with what we really want or need, but more with what we perceive the world to expect of us, and what we feel we ought to do.

This is just so crucial, as not doing so will create a vicious circle of misunderstanding and resentment. It also seems so obvious but we can all be guilty of ‘holding back’, often because we are worried about the consequences of our words. And it is worth noting that we should be aware that once something has been said, it can never be taken back. It is however, about the way we express our feelings that matters. Common adage but remember to treat people as you would like to be treated.

The science of communication

It’s ok to disagree

You may or may not be familiar with the concept of Neuro Linguistic Programming (otherwise known as NLP)? It is basically a set of tools and techniques which were developed in the seventies by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, for better communication and personal development. It can easily be explained like so: • Neuro - the mind • Linguistic - words & body language • Programming - patterns of behaviours learnt and repeated It is a method to understand yourself, why you act and react as you do or what makes you tick. It will help you change and influence your own behaviour, utilising language and other types of communication so you can create new ways of being. Better communication, not just with other people but within yourself, is a key element of happiness.

We all have different views on the world that have come from our life experience, our values and what we believe in. We shouldn’t try and force our point of view on somebody else but rather let them express where they are coming from. As long as both parties feel that their opinions are respected, it’s completely ok not to always agree. An argument will only occur where we are in our trenches and not even listening to what the other person has to say. Better communication is about reciprocal listening and understanding, as opposed to always trying to be right. Sophie Personne is a Relationships Expert and Author. Her first book ‘Your Other Half – The Guide to Better Relationships with Others & Yourself’ is available from the end of November. If you want to find out more, visit www.


Leisure & Lifestyle

Your Day Your Way Meet Jo Burgess. Jo is the Wedding Coordinator and part of a larger team at the Granary Hotel. After 16 years working at the Granary Jo has lost count of the hundreds of weddings she has helped plan but she still maintains that each and every couple she works with is just as important as any other.Â

Sometimes bride and grooms are hesitant to say what they really want - or venues are proscriptive about what they will accept. This does not happen at the Granary. It is your day and it is done your way.

Sometimes bride and grooms are hesitant to say what they really want - or venues are proscriptive about what they will accept. This does not happen at the Granary. It is your day and it is done your way. This is what makes Jo one of the best Wedding organisers in the business. Her informality and sense of humour belie someone who really knows the trade and is backed up by a professional team who can deliver on the day. You get a friendly welcome and treated to someone who will really listen to you. She will then nurture you through the whole planning process until the day itself so that you feel heard and taken care of.

for up to 200 guests. The food created by the award winning 2 AA Rosette team of Chefs brings the same high standards to both Wedding Breakfasts and Buffets. There are a variety of menus and packages to choose from. In addition you are treated to modern and contemporary facilities including two stylish Bridal suites , lovely gardens and a beautiful Market garden adjacent to the hotel which even has its own Vineyard. Come and speak to Jo. You will not regret it.

The Granary hotel itself was one of the first venues to get a Civil Wedding licence in Worcestershire and can cater


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Leisure & Lifestyle

New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Want to Keep All too often New Year’s resolutions seem to focus on doing more of what we don’t enjoy, and less of what we do enjoy. So this issue, we thought we’d give you our suggestions for resolutions you’ll actually want to keep. Learn something new Whether you want to get a qualification so you can get a better job, or you just fancy trying a new hobby, make 2017 the year you try something new. www.futurelearn. com is a good place to start. It offers hundreds of free, short online courses. Many are delivered by leading UK universities. You could try writing fiction, exploring digital technologies, or learning about forensic science. If you prefer face-to-face tuition, check out the courses offered by your local college. You could improve your computer skills, take up a new craft, or find out how to delve into your family history. Enjoy time outdoors Nature is good for you. It’s been proven to help with depression, anxiety, stress and a whole lot of other issues. It may even help you to live longer. We know the great British weather doesn’t always make it the most tempting prospect. But if the sun breaks through the clouds, wrap up warm, pull your wellies on and head for your nearest green space. You’ll likely find you feel calmer and happier as a result.

Take time to cook Home cooked meals are usually much better for you than ready meals. They’re higher in vitamins and minerals, and lower in salt and sugar. So, try resolving to cook for yourself a few days a week. If you struggle to find the time, you could try a box scheme. Simply Cook, for example, post you the herbs, seasonings and recipes to make simple (but delicious) meals in around 20 minutes. You just add four to six items of fresh food and follow the instructions. Hello Fresh go even further. They send you everything you need to make a meal, including simple-to-follow recipes. Appreciate the little things We’re often so busy; we don’t get time to really appreciate the little things in life. A soak in the bath, your favourite radio programme, a chat with an old friend… Taking a moment to be thankful can make us happier and calmer, and improve our relationships. You could try listing three things that you’re grateful for before you go to sleep each night, or keeping a daily gratitude journal. Or just try to give thanks to the people you love a bit more often. Whatever your New Year’s resolution, we wish you all the luck in keeping it. By Kate Duggan


Leisure & Lifestyle

The ladies are taking over the Palace in the New Year with a range of comedic and musical shows T

he New Year starts off with Ruby Wax a much loved US born comedian, actor and writer, along with being the ‘it girl’ of mental health campaigning. She has a Master’s degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy from Oxford University. FRAZZLED – A GUIDE TO MINDFULNESS is a follow up to her sell out touring show, and best-selling book, ‘Sane New World’, which helped us understand why we sabotage our sanity with our own thinking. Her new best-selling book, ‘A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled’ is the basis for the discussion. Funny and insightful, this event is your passport to saner living. She might not be sane herself, but she does a pretty good imitation. Ruby is quickly followed by comedian JENNY ECLAIR in her show HOW TO BE A MIDDLE AGED WOMAN (WITHOUT GOING INSANE) in February. Following a complete sell-out spring tour professional grumpy old woman, Splash survivor, amateur soup maker, and novice knitter Jenny Eclair extends her hit tour into the autumn. Jenny is younger than Madonna but eats crisps and likes wine. Semi –bearded and suffering from outbreaks of gout and hysteria, Eclair puts middle age under the microscope and decides whether to laugh, cry or buy a dachshund!


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You are most welcome to join her, just button your cardi up properly and wipe that lipstick off your teeth. And finally there is AN AUDIENCE WITH LESLEY GARRETT join Britain’s most popular soprano for a delightful evening of song, reminiscences and chat. Her behindthe-scenes stories and anecdotes will give you a unique insight into her life on the stage. As well as performing on the opera and concert stage both in the UK and internationally, Lesley has recently starred in Carousel and The Sound of Music and appeared on television shows including Strictly Come Dancing and Loose Women. She has also performed with artists as diverse as Michael Ball, Renee Fleming, Andrea Bocelli, Bryn Terfel and Lily Savage. Tickets are available for all show by calling the Box Office on 01527 65203 or by booking online at www.




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Leisure & Lifestyle

Out and About

Whether you are planning a well earned night out with the other half or something with friends we have scoured the area to find out what’s happening and where during December and January. There is always lots going on over the festive season but give yourself something to look forward to in the New Year once all the fuss is over!

The Rose Theatre

Curtain up 7.30pm £ Tickets Standard Ticket Prices

Hogarths Stone Manor - Wedding Fair – 22nd January 11am-3pm

For more information or to book tickets visit The Granary Hotel, Kidderminster – Murder Mystery, 28th January

The place where wedding dreams come true... Whatever the size and theme of your wedding, let Hogarths put your grand plans in action.

If you have never done this sort of thing before – you will love this. A melodrama played out whilst you eat. You have to try and figure out what has happened and why.

Come and meet the Stone Manor Wedding team to discuss hosting your special day! Join us for a glass of bubbles and a tour of this newly refurbished venue.

From soulful ballads to the high-energy disco classics, the band faithfully recreates the songs that made the Bee Gees musical legends. Bee Gees Fever perform all songs completely live: no backing tracks; no sequencers; just five guys; their voices and their instruments creating an undeniably authentic show packed with raw energy.

Nigel Reeves has had a successful career but was not happy. He quit his job and went travelling round the world to “find himself”. On the trip he met someone “special” – but all was not as it appeared and you are cordially invited to join the Wedding Reception.

For more information call 01564 779988.

MURDERED TO DEATH by Peter Gordon The Nonentities – Main House (A) A 1930’s country house, and an eclectic mix of ‘whoddunit’ characters combine for this affectionate and tongue in cheek take on the Agatha Christie genre. When the owner of the manor house dies in suspicious circumstances, it is up to the inept and bumbling Inspector Pratt to solve the case and arrest the murderer, Will he solve the case, or will the audience die laughing first...

For more information or to book your place call 01562 777535.

Bee Gees Fever 2017 – Friday 3rd February Since 1999 Bee Gees Fever have been wowing audiences across the UK and Europe with their stunning live tribute to the music of the Brothers Gibb. Murdered to Death Nonentities – 23rd-28th January


What could possible go wrong?

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The Palace Theatre The Definitive Elvis Experience – Saturday 21st January The most authentic live stage show produced to honour Elvis Presley’s legacy. For those who missed the opportunity to see Elvis Live on stage you will have Such a Night... Ruby Wax FRAZZLED, A Guide to Mindfulness – Thursday 26th January Ruby Wax is a much loved US born comedian, actor and writer, along with being the “it girl” of mental health campaigning.

Business & Finance


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The atmosphere is truly unique here at Office 28 and wrapping up each week at the end of the day with Wine Friday has been a perfect way for the businesses based here to network and share their successes and challenges amongst like minded professional people. It’s a small gesture but then this just one of the small ways Office 28 helps create a professional, friendly and successful business environment.

Get In Touch 28 Cleveland Street Wolverhampton WV1 3HT T: 01902 271000 / 07539 122076 E:

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Business & Finance


pens, you’d need to pay for it on your credit card, meaning you still have no savings and £1,000 of credit card debt.

Money Sins

By Martin Lewis @ moneysavingexpert Are you a sinner? Financially that is. There are a host of everyday money misdemeanours that millions of people do, costing them thousands, without being aware of it. These aren’t horrors like grabbing a payday loan, but the result of simple misunderstandings, bad habits or inaction. So having recently toured around the UK doing roadshows for the sixth series of my ITV show, I’ve collated five of the most common. 1. Saving while you’ve expensive debts Savings rates are depressingly low – the top easy-access rate is 1%. Credit card and other interest rates are depressingly high. So, £1,000 credit card debt at 18% costs it costs you £180 a year, the same amount saved in top paying savings account at 1% interest only earns you £10. If you had both, pay the debt off with your savings and you'd be £170 a year better off. Many of you will be thinking, "but I want to keep my savings, what if the boiler packs up or the roof falls in?" However, that’s a sentimental strategy, not a logical one. Let’s carry on the £1,000 debt and £1,000 savings scenario to show you why. - If you don’t pay the debt off with the savings and an emergency happens that cost you £1,000 to fix, you’d use all your savings and still £1,000 of credit card debt. - If you do pay off the debt with the savings, and a £1,000 emergency hap46

The end result of them both is the same, yet by paying off the debt with the savings, you save in the meantime. The only exception is if the debt is at 0%. Then the financially savvy and disciplined can do what’s called stoozing, where you deliberately build up 0% debt only to save it and earn interest. Though with current saving rates so low, it’s not as easy as it used to be. Full help on that at 2. Not at least asking your energy firm are you on its cheapest deal. Most people in the UK are on their energy firm’s standard tariff, which typically means they’re overpaying by £300 a year. I’ve talked about switching until I’m blue in the face, and, of course, the best plan is take five minutes to do a full market comparison via my www. or any www. approved comparison site. Yet for some that doesn’t hit home. So, let me be plain. Even if you won’t do that, just pick up the phone and ask your current provider “Am I on your cheapest tariff?” and, if not, switch to that as there’s no change but the price! For example, as I write (it can change daily), on EDF’s standard tariff someone with typical usage pays £1,070/year. It also has a 12-month fix at £880/year £190/year less. British Gas’s standard tariff with typical use is £1,044/year, but it also runs Sainsbury Energy (i.e., it’s the same company but a different name), and its cheapest fix is £804/year – saving £240/ year. This don’t ask don’t get saving works at all the big firms, so if you won’t do a comparison, at least do this.

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3. Only making the minimum repayments on credit cards Credit card minimum payments are based mostly on a percentage of the balance, which only just covers the interest. So, you hardly clear any off. A 30-year-old with £3,000 debt on a credit card at 17.9% interest, who made only typical minimum repayments, would take 27 years to clear it. By then, they’d be 57 and have paid a total cost £4,000 in interest (see my minimum repayment calc at www.mse. me/minrepay to work out how long it’ll take you).

more out of your marketing with

Now you may be thinking ‘easy to say, but I can’t afford more than the minimum.’ Well, I have a solution. On £3,000 debt, the current minimum is around £70 a month. If instead of opting to pay the minimum, fix your repayment at £70. The debt will clear in five years at a total cost of £1,500 in interest, saving £2,400. Though if you’ve debt on more than one credit card, focus all spare cash on repaying the most expensive, making only the minimums on the others. That way you get rid of the most expensive debts first. 4. Don’t cover your home’s value on buildings insurance Your house price is the wrong figure; you only need to insure the usually much lower rebuild cost – literally how much it would cost to rebuild your home should it get knocked down. This is often far less than the market value. There’s information and a calculator on this at Martin Lewis is the Founder & Editor in Chief of Money Saving Expert. To join the 11 million people who get his Martin’s Money Tips weekly email, go to

Call Marie on 01902 906020 or email



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Food & Drink

Our pick if you haven’t tried it is Old Boys tawny from Debortoli, £19.99 a bottle - a divine, tawny port which is lighter and slightly sweeter than ruby.

Tannic (younger) wines do not pair well with salty dishes as the salt makes the tannin taste bitter. Instead combine a salty dish with a slightly sweeter wine and/or with more acidity. Hearty dishes such as steak and stews should always be paired with full bodied wines. As a general rule always remember to serve a wine with more sweetness than the food. If the wine is less sweet than the food, it will taste bitter and tart.

Christmas dinner..


hristmas dinner is arguably one of the most significant family events of the year! Selecting, preparing and cooking the food can be challenging enough without the pressure of pairing the perfect wines to compliment your meal. Allow the Wine Press to guide you in your decision and provide you with great knowledge to enable you to make the right selections. Below is a general overview of how to combine wine with food and a list of our finest, excellent value and best rated wines, ideal for the special day. First and foremost I recommend you match the weight of both the food and wine. For example full-bodied wines complement heavy, rich food whilst lighter wines go with fish, chicken etc… Consider the distinguishing characteristic of a particular wine and try and let that characteristic shine through; make sure the wine will shine instead of fighting against the food. Acidity in wine is very important – oily dishes need an acidic wine to cut through and refresh the palette. (The best example and my favorite pairing is Champagne with Fish & Chips!)

Smoked salmon is possibly the most popular starter; it is a medium bodied (weight) food with an oily texture. Our Champagne Gruet Brut at £16.99 is the perfect aperitif and will pair beautifully with your salmon. The acidity cuts through the oil and cleanses the palette; alternatively our Sancerre at £13.99 is an exquisite medium bodied French Sauvignon Blanc which has the correct balance of acidity if you prefer a non-sparkling wine. Turkey has always been the traditional favorite, which is quite a clean meat with a low fat content. I often like to recommend rich, full-bodied, quality reds for Christmas dinner as it is a special occasion but this should not generally be the case when pairing wine with turkey, (Bigger reds pair better with Goose). A medium bodied wine with less tannin will compliment Turkey far better. As cranberry is typically used as a condiment, an old world (French) wine just won’t have the sweet fruit aspect to pair well, therefore my choice would have to be a Californian Zinfandel at 10.99 as it oozes red fruit and a delightful natural sweetness that will compliment the dish perfectly. HOWEVER, as good gravy can contain a fair amount of fat (from cooking) we can lean towards a more tannic, full bodied wine such as a Chateauneuf du Pape from Ferme du Mont for £24.99, superb!

Christmas pudding and mince pies pair perfectly with port. Our pick if you haven’t tried it is Old Boys tawny from Debortoli, £19.99 a bottle - a divine, tawny port which is lighter and slightly sweeter than ruby. If you are partial to a dessert wine, Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon from Bortoli is sublime at £7.99 a bottle, this will not overpower as it has just the right amount of sweetness. Armed with our advice you’ll astound your guests with knowledge and wines that pair beautifully!

Independent Wine Merchants - Established 1982 Come and visit our large showroom and browse: • Christmas Corporate Gifts

• Over 90 Gins

• Bespoke Hampers

• Wine Tasting Evenings • Personalised Wine Labels

• Over 500 Wines • Vast array of Gifts • Over 100 Champagne & Proseccos

From all of us at The Wine Press have a very merry Christmas but remember food and wine tastes best surrounded by the people you love…

The Wine Press | Grange Lane | Lye | DY9 7HH

“Life’s too short to drink poor wine!”

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December / January

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Food & Drink

The Royal Oak Traditional Carve ry Restaura


Win a Meal for up to FOUR people A

longside our carvery we have an extensive menu with a range of foods to suit any and every palate. We are proud to offer exquisite beef steaks all cooked to perfection. Our carvery is available 7 days per week and you will enjoy a choice of four meats beef, pork, turkey & gammon,  a selection of ten freshly steamed seasonal vegetables and crispy roast potatoes.  Not forgetting to finish it off, stuffing, yorkshire puddings and of course our amazing gravy!  For Bookings give us a call on 01746 781555! We look forward to welcoming you soon.

Competition Time!

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esday: 12pm – 8pm Wednesday – Saturday: 12pm – 9pm Sunday: 12pm – 8pm

Which of these would you typically find on an Oak tree? a) Conkers b) Acorns c) Fruit

December / January

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All competition entries for the December/ January edition should be received by 1st February and sent to sam@localzest. One winner will be chosen at random from the correct entries and notified in the February/March edition of Local Zest. No cash alternative to the prize, terms apply. The competition is free to enter but in doing so you agree to the terms and conditions as detailed above.


Enjoy The Ro yal Oak’s be auti refurbished restaurant an fully d bar Large garde n with childre n's play area to rear. Larg e car park. No less than 5 real ales an d a real cider availab le

Book now on 01746 781555 Kidderminster Road, Alveley, BRIDGNORTH, WV15 6LL

We look forward to welcoming you soon!

Food & Drink

Food & Drink

Tastes so good...

Turkey Magic! My Gran insisted on soaking her Christmas turkey in brine (or ‘broin’ as she used to call it, being a Birmingham girl). I never really understood why until I tried it for myself.

Mulled Wine

Ingredients for 4- 6 servings 1 bottle dry red wine

An easy mulled wine recipe for the festive season, brimming with Christmassy spice. Don't bother with expensive wine - a cheap red will work beautifully and no one will ever know the difference!

2 (5cm) cinnamon sticks 1 dessertspoon whole cloves 1 dessertspoon whole allspice 1 large piece orange rind (avoid the pith) 1 large piece lemon rind (avoid the pith) 2-4 tablespoons demerara sugar, (or to taste)

Eat, Drink and be merry! Preparation time: less than 30 mins Cooking time: less than 10 mins Serves: 4- 6 adults Equipment: Saucepan, kettle, large casserole dish with lid Method Pour the wine into a heavy saucepan over medium heat, and add the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, lemon rind and orange rind. Heat gently, but don't bring to the boil. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and once dissolved, taste to see if you'd like the wine sweeter and add more if so (take care not to burn your mouth as this will be hot!). Keep hot on medium to low heat for 20 minutes to let the flavours infuse the wine. Strain your mulled wine into heatproof glasses or mugs and serve at once, perhaps accompanied by mince pies or just enjoy by the fireside.


December / January

You need 750g salt for a large turkey. Use a large watertight plastic box and dissolve the salt in 4 pints/2 litres of boiling water. Add 9 pints/5.5 litres of cold water and leave to cool. Immerse the turkey in the brine, breast side down. Cover with a lid and put in a cool place like the garage for 24 hours. You might want to seal the lid or weight it down to prevent mice from gaining access! The next day empty the brine and pat the turkey dry and refrigerate overnight. Remove the bird a couple of hours before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature, and prepare in your usual way. So why go to this trouble? Here comes the science bit! Roasted turkey can be dry and tough because it’s lean and we tend to err on the side of caution with cooking times, (no-one wants to serve up a plate of festive salmonella right?). Moisture loss is inevitable when you cook any type of muscle fibre. Heat causes individual coiled proteins in the fibres to unwind (the technical term is denature), then join together with one another, resulting in shrinkage and moisture loss. Meat loses about 30 percent of its weight during cooking but by brining first, you can reduce this moisture loss to as little as 15 percent. The main reason for this is because the dissolved salt causes some of the proteins in muscle fibres to pre-unwind and swell. As they unwind, the bonds that held the

protein unit together as a bundle break. Water from the brine binds directly to the proteins, and then gets trapped between them when the meat cooks and the unwound proteins bind together. As long as you don't overcook the meat, the natural juices will be retained. All this ensures moister, juicier results. But what if you don’t have the container or the inclination to soak your bird? Is there an easier way? Yes, you can ‘dry-brine’, that is pre-salt the turkey. This seasons the meat like the wet brine, but does not use any water. Instead, it involves rubbing salt and seasonings directly onto the meat and / or skin, and then letting the meat rest in the refrigerator before cooking. For a 15lb /7Kg turkey you need about 3 tablespoons of salt, ¾ teaspoon of ground black pepper and herbs of your choice. Pat the turkey dry and then rub the salt mixture liberally over the surface. I like to rub about a third of it under the skin but if you don’t want to go to the bother of separating the skin from the meat it’s fine to just rub it over the skin. You need to allow time for the salt to penetrate the meat so allow a day’s brining time per 5lb /2 1/4 Kg of turkey. Dry brining has the advantage of producing extremely crispy skin, and we all know that’s the best bit! Final tip: Make sure you use an unseasoned turkey. Avoid pre-prepared or self-basting turkeys as they have been injected with brine. Enjoy! By Louise Addison


Food & Drink

Tastes so good...

Lucy’s recipe corner INGREDIENTS 397g can Carnation caramel 100g chocolate (70% cocoa solids) 100g chocolate (50% cocoa solids) 4 medium eggs 130g plain flour 1 tsp flaky sea salt 200g golden caster sugar 50g cocoa powder 200g unsalted butter

Salted Caramel Brownies Pre-heat the oven (180c/160c fan/Gas 4). Grease the tin and line with baking paper. Melt the butter in a pan and then break up the chocolate and heat until cubes have melted, then remove from stove and put to one side. Mix 175g of the caramel and 1tsp of the salt into a small bowl. Put the rest of the caramel in a large bowl adding the eggs and the sugar. Mix well with a hand mixer. Then, whisk in the melted butter and chocolate. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder. Once mixed, evenly pour half the brownie mixture into the tin. With the ready mixed salted caramel, use a teaspoon to make 5 thick, even stripes over the brownie mixture. Then spoon in the rest of the brownie batter on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until evenly risen and with a firm crust over the top.

Beef and Vegetable Stew

Ingredients for 4 servings 1 onion, chopped

A traditional beef stew with thick, rich gravy - an ideal recipe for budget cuts of meat as slow-cooking guarantees a tender dish. A classic winter warmer dish

2 large carrots, sliced 5 bay leaves A couple of thyme sprigs

Equipment: Saucepan, kettle, large casserole dish with lid

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Oven: 160C/140C fan/Gas 3

1 tbsp. butter 2 tbsp. plain flour

1. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Put the kettle on. Put the onion, carrots, bay and thyme sprigs in a casserole dish with 1 tbsp. vegetable oil and the butter. Soften for approximately 10 mins, then stir in the flour, followed by the tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce and beef stock cubes.

2 tbsp. tomato purée 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce 2 beef stock cubes, crumbled 850g stewing beef, cut into large chunks 600ml hot boiled water

2. Gradually stir in 600ml hot water, then add the beef and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover the dish and cook in the pre-heated oven for 2hrs 30 mins, then uncover and cook for between 30mins – 1hr more until the meat is really tender and the sauce is thickened. Serve with your choice of green vegetables and enjoy!


Melting Snowman Biscuits

200g fondant icing sugar

1. Put the icing sugar into a bowl and add cold water a teaspoon at a time until the mixture is runny but thick enough to coat a spoon.

6 white marshmallows (cut in half) 6 large flat biscuits (digestive are ideal) 24 mini coloured sweets or beans 6 pretzel sticks tube black writing icing Cold water

2. Spoon enough icing onto each biscuit to attach half a marshmallow. Using a little icing, stick the other half on top to look like a snowman’s head at an angle. Drizzle a little more icing onto the biscuit to make it look like melting snow. 3. Break the pretzel sticks in half and place on the biscuit for arms. Stick orange sweets/beans on for the noses using extra icing if needed. Stick three coloured sweets/beans on each biscuit to represent the snowman’s buttons. 4. Use the writing icing tube, pipe small blobs for the eyes and mouth ask a grown up to help if tricky. Leave to set in a cool place. Yum – enjoy!


December / January



Driver Survivor Most people spend many hours in their car each week, but none of us expects to have to live in it! But in the face of a major incident or in the event of a breakdown or bad weather, you could be forced to rely on your car for short term shelter and survival. With a properly equipped car emergency kit, you could survive in your vehicle for days if necessary. If you get into trouble and you are in your car, studies have shown that you are most likely to survive if you stay with your vehicle rather than venture out looking for help. But if you do decide to leave your vehicle only do so if it’s safe to do so, the weather clears and you have proper protective clothing. In addition, make sure the vehicle is parked well off the road and leave a note indicating what has happened, where you have gone, and your health situation.

Car Emergency Kit - Essentials • De-icer • Ice scraper • Shovel • Sand/ old sack/piece of carpet • Tow rope • Jump leads • Torch and spare batteries • First aid kit • Map • BlanketNon-perishable energy-rich food such as cereal bars, nuts and dried fruit. • Bottled water • Coat, hat, scarf and gloves • Spare shoes or wellies • Emergency supply of regular medication • Fully charged mobile phone • Breakdown membership details By Tom Hancock


December / January

Health & Beauty It’s always good to keep to the general rule that if you are really making a statement with your lips, keep the eyes simple but another great party look for the winter is super smoky eyes and a nude lipstick or gloss to add real style and glamour to your finished look.

Winter Health & Beauty Tips


t’s safe to say with the dark nights finally here, the temperatures dropping and Christmas just round the corner we automatically change the obvious in our wardrobes, wear waterproof jackets, pack umbrellas, the cosy knits, hats scarf and gloves. However, we shouldn’t just care about the clothes that we wear but also give some extra thought to our health and beauty regimes too. Colder weather causes our skin to retain less moisture while central heating worsens the problem by drying out the air too, so a good skincare routine especially in winter is vital. Skincare is not just your face but your lips and body too plus the change of season is a great time to revitalise your make up routine too! Moisturising and exfoliating is essential to keep those rough patches under control and your skin in tip top condition. I am a huge fan of many of the ranges in The Body Shop but the Vitamin C skincare products in particular are great for brightening dull complexions and when your complexion needs a boost. Another bathroom staple for me is Boots Botanics Hot Cloth Cleansing Balm. It took me an age to get my hands on this as it was always sold out but I have been really impressed over last few months. My skin always feels fantastic after


using this product, super moisturised and fresh! I’m also never without my Vaseline lip therapy full stop however during the winter months even more so. Dry chapped lips are not a great look but can be incredibly painful too! Winter is a great time to re energise your make up routine. It’s really easy to get stuck in your comfort zone with

Just make sure that when using bold lip colours that you also use a lip liner too, the overall finish is much sharper and will help the look last much longer. makeup but nowadays an array of colour, formulas and brands are so easily accessible, it would be rude not to get involved. Now, I’m not suggesting for one minute that you go out and change every single item in your makeup bag and walk out looking like a completely different person but one of my favourite ways to update my look is a new lipstick. The winter months are particularly good for opting for a bolder lip, burgundy and berry shades instantly add style

December / January

to your look! Make sure you browse the counters and test these colours on your own skin tone. They often look much scarier in the tube than directly on skin! The classic red lip is always a winner too, especially with Christmas around the corner. Red isn’t as difficult to wear as I think many people believe, it’s again about getting the right tone for your complexion. If you think about your jewellery for instance, if you naturally suit silver jewellery best you have cool undertones and if it’s gold then you are warm. Cooler undertones suit true red and pink based reds to a tee whereas warmer skin tones should opt for more coral and orange based reds. Just make sure that when using bold lip colours that you also use a lip liner too, the overall finish is much sharper and will help the look last much longer.

Copper and metallic eye shadows are a great way to liven your make up in winter months if statement lipsticks aren’t your thing. My absolute favourite for long wearing metallic shades that pack a punch without looking like I’ve had an accident with a pot of glitter has to be Urban Decay Naked Palette 2. These palettes are slightly pricier than your average palette but are well worth it with a selection of the most gorgeous neutral shades that are super blendable to create a million looks. By far my favourite and used everyday in my house, day or night! No eye make up is complete without eyeliner and mascara, they had drama and impact and really make your eyes pop. I really love using liquid liner which I know for many is a scary prospect but a little practice and it soon becomes second nature. That said, I do like to make my life easier and since finding the L’Oreal Super Liner, getting the perfect wing really has become much simpler. Although there is a huge selection of mascara colours on the market, I personally I prefer to stick to classic black. I do have super long eye lashes but they definitely lack curl and lift. I have struggled over the years to find mascara that I fall in love with and very rarely buy the same one twice. The only exceptions to those rules have been Benefit Roller Lash which lengthens and curls really well and Lancôme Hypnose which thickens my lashes beautifully. Brows are huge at the minute, literally! Good brows are essential for framing your face and if you don’t already shade and shape your brows, do it once and you will never look back. The key is to find the right shade and to not be heavy handed, it’s easier to add to rather than take away remember! I have used a million brow products over the years but my current favourites are definitely WunderBrow and Maybelline Brow Satin. The Wunderbrow actually lasts a couple of days and really adds depth to your eyebrows whereas the Brow Satin defines and shapes the brow perfectly. Word of warning though, if you do try the WunderBrow, remember less is definitely more!

Winter is a great time to re energise your make up routine. It’s really easy to get stuck in your comfort zone with makeup but nowadays an array of colour, formulas and brands are so easily accessible, it would be rude not to get involved.

Health & Beauty

Health Checks all Women Should Know About A routine blood test last year picked up the fact that I had very high cholesterol. I am 48, healthy, have a low body mass index, eat very little meat, no dairy, and I exercise several times per week, so it had never occurred to me to have my cholesterol levels checked. It turns out I have hypercholesterolaemia – my body makes too much cholesterol, and now I have to take medication to control it so I reduce my risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease in later life. This got me thinking, and reading. What sort of medical checks should we be considering in our 40s and beyond? Midlife MOT The NHS Health Check Programme is a free screening open to anyone aged 40 to 74. It targets the top seven causes of preventable death: high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, cholesterol, poor diet, physical inactivity and alcohol consumption – all the things that are more likely to cause us to become ill as we age and / or die prematurely. You’ll be asked about your lifestyle and family medical history, and have some blood tests. It was this blood test which showed up my own high cholesterol levels. Cervical smear Cervical cancer is most common in women between the ages of 30-35 but a fifth of cervical cancer cases occurred


December / January

in women over the age of 65 so it is vital to have regular smear tests. You should have one every three years between 25-49, and every five years after that. A smear involves taking a small sample from the neck of the womb, called the cervix, to check for any abnormal cells that might lead to cervical cancer. Almost all cervical cancer is caused by the HPV virus, which is initially contracted by sexual activity. It may lay dormant for years before it starts to cause cancerous cells on your cervix. If you have bleeding between periods or after sex you should see your GP. Mammogram Breast awareness is very important at any age, because breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and affects one in eight women. A mammogram is an x-ray of both breasts to look for any changes that might suggest cancer. Depending on where you live you will be called for your first mammogram between the ages of 47 and 53. Regular self-checking is incredibly important too. Familiarise yourself with your family history if you can. If you notice any changes to your own breast tissue, such as irregular lumps, bumps, or skin dimpling, book an appointment to discuss it with your GP.

buy a testing kit from good pharmacies.

Eye examination Most healthy people should have an eye examination bi-annually. But if one of your parents has or had glaucoma, or macular degeneration, or you have certain underlying medical conditions such as thyroid dysfunction or diabetes, or you are aged 70+ attending annually is more sensible. An eye examination can pick up early signs of eye disease, as well as discover whether you need spectacles. Glaucoma and wet macular degeneration in particular have a much better prognosis if picked up in the earliest stages. Bowel checks Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK yet accounts for the second highest number of deaths, so it’s essential to have regular tests. A test involves submitting a specimen of your stool for analysis through a postal self test kit. The test can detect tiny amounts of blood in the stool which may indicate cancer or precancerous polyps. Polyps can be removed before they go on to cause any harm. Everyone aged 60 to 74 is sent a free home test kit every two years from the NHS, but you can take the test if you are younger than this and it’s a good idea if you have a family history of bowel cancer. You can

Bone density check The menopause can seriously affect bone health. Once we’re over 50 we are at risk of osteoporosis because a drop in oestrogen for a prolonged period can cause a loss in bone mass. If you have a family history of osteoporosis, are a heavy drinker or smoker, have rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s Disease then it is important to have your bone density assessed. Low radiation X-rays are used to take pictures of your spine and hips while you are lying down. You can also request a ‘bone turnover’ test. This is a urine test which detects whether you’re losing bone mass. If you are you may need calcium or vitamin D supplements. Remember, prevention is better than cure. Most test results will simply give you peace of mind but if a problem is picked up, treatment is more effective the earlier an issue is identified. Take charge of your health in 2017. By Louise Addison.


Health & Beauty

Fixing the Hangover from Hell Pounding head … gasping thirst … a vague memory of telling anyone who’d listen how much you love them … Sound familiar? Most of us have woken up to regret that last drink (or five), at least once. If you’re reading this through bleary eyes, while trying to stop the world from spinning, you might want to take heed of these hangover cures: Rehydration sachet Dehydration is the main cause of your hangover symptoms. Drink plenty of water and juice, but if that’s not helping, try a rehydration sachet or isotonic drink. A fry-up A fry-up is a bit of a kill or cure remedy in my opinion. Many people swear by it though. Ideally, go for grilled meat, rather than fried, or you might realise it tastes a lot better going down than it does coming back up. A banana Bananas contain potassium, which you might be lacking after all the booze. If you don’t fancy a banana, try popping a multivitamin. Tomato juice and raw egg Personally, the risk of salmonella is enough to put me off this one. No one seems to be able to explain why the egg needs to be raw, so I’ll stick to my boiled egg and toasted soldiers, with a side of tomato juice. Milk thistle This is my fail-safe remedy. Milk thistle can help to

detoxify your liver, so really does seem to help reduce a hangover, or even prevent it in the first place. Ideally, you should take one or two capsules before bed and another first thing in the morning. Hair of the dog that bit you Treating a hangover with more alcohol is just delaying the pain. If you can stomach a drink, you may well feel better short-term, but the hangover will come back again, with a vengeance. Fresh air While you may just want to curl up on the sofa with Netflix, a walk outside will usually help to clear your head. Just don the shades so your bloodshot eyes don’t scare any small children. Mongolian cure If all else fails, you could go for a drink that’s said to be popular the morning after the night before in Mongolia – tomato juice with a pickled sheep’s eyeball. Not sure where you’re going to get the eyeball from however. Prevention Of course, prevention is always better than cure. Next time you’re out, try alternating your alcoholic drinks with soft drinks, and downing a pint of water before bed. Suffering from a few too many hangovers? It might be worth visiting By Kate Duggan


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