15 articles Articles posted in Lifestyle

Is it Time for an Intersex Olympics?

Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

(I apologise in advance if I use any incorrect terminology, my aim here is not to offend anyone, only to start a conversation)

If you’ve been anywhere near the news in the past few days, you can’t fail to have missed the furore surrounding South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya and the questions over her gender. In case you have missed it, here’s a TL:DR of the situation: Caster, born in 1991, won a gold medal in Rio in the womens’ Olympics, however there have been complaints from other athletes because she has high levels of testosterone, which they claim gives her an advantage.

Caster Semenya

When I first started reading about this, I came across an article where they said that it had become common practice for Semenya to go into the bathrooms before a race to show one of her competitors her genitals to “prove” her femininity, which sounds absolutely appalling and like a gross invasion of her privacy and I was genuinely shocked to read that she had to go to such lengths to confirm her eligibility to race.

However, the controversy takes a slightly different slant when you consider her internal physiology. You see, according to official reports, Semenya has high levels of testosterone which is produced by internal testes and she also lacks a uterus and ovaries. The officials who deal with eligibility to race have stated that there’s insignificant evidence to suggest that testosterone gives her a significant advantage over the other athletes, however, several other athletes with the same physical attributes as Semenya took steps to change this, as reported in the New York Times:

At the London Olympics, four female athletes, all 18 to 21 years old and from rural areas of developing countries, were flagged for high levels of natural testosterone. Each of them subsequently had surgery to remove internal testes, which produce testosterone, as well as procedures that were not required for resuming competition: feminizing vaginoplasty, estrogen replacement therapy and a reduction in the size of the clitoris.

One could argue that many athletes have physical attributes which make them “unusual” in the grand scheme of things, but which give them an advantage when it comes to sporting prowess. Take Miguel Indurain, for instance. He’s a Spanish cyclist who won FIVE consecutive Tour de France in the early to mid-Nineties and is considered cycling royalty to this day. However, he has a huge physical advantage; his blood took almost double the oxygen of a normal person and his cardiac output was 50 litres a minute; a fit amateur cyclist’s is about 25 litres. No-one suggested that his physiology was an unfair advantage, just a happy anomaly which, ultimately, made him a legend.

So, if the issue isn’t physiological, then is it a gender issue? Well, Semenya identifies as a woman and has spent her entire life living as a woman; from what I can gather there’s never been any suggestion in her life of any sort of gender dysphoria or questions over how she identifies, which makes it clear cut, right? Maybe not.

Fallon Fox Tamikka Brents

Fallon Fox in white, before her fight with Tamikka Brents (pink bottoms)

Another similar case in sport was that of MMA fighter Fallon Fox. Featherweight champion Fallon underwent gender reassignment surgery back in 2006 and entered the MMA as a female fighter. Not only has she had her male reproductive organs removed but she has been on hormone therapy for many years, however she’s faced massive opposition and controversy within the MMA community because people feel that her physicality gives her an advantage, not least of all when she fought Tamikka Brents, and “Brents suffered a concussion, an orbital bone fracture, and seven staples to the head. After her loss, Brents took to social media to convey her thoughts on the experience of fighting Fox: “I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right,” she stated. “Her grip was different, I could usually move around in the clinch against other females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch…””

Fox argues that her hormone therapy probably means that she actually has LESS testosterone than her competitors, but this doesn’t alter the fact that testosterone played a part on how she developed physically in the first place, until her reassignment surgery.

It’s all such a grey area. Traditionally speaking, men and women have never competed against one another because of the clear physical differences, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no middle ground. Obviously, it’s rare to see a woman who’s the size of say, Mike Tyson, with the same bone structure and heavy musculature, but there are plenty of female fighters who probably make Conor McGregor look like a leprechaun with his featherweight frame. But does size equal strength? No, definitely not.

All of this is leading to a point…honestly!

While I’m not suggesting that being intersex or hormonally different is a disability (quite the opposite, in fact), is it time that we offered an Olympics for competitors where gender isn’t clear-cut, in the same way that we have a Paralympics for differently abled athletes? This way there can’t be any suggestion that they’re somehow exploiting a physical advantage. Issues of gender have become far less taboo in recent years, allowing people to live exactly as they wish to without the previous levels of prejudice, which is great, although there is still a long way to go. Should be we accommodating people for whom gender/sex isn’t black and white? A ‘third-sex’ Olympics? It would certainly level the playing field, but is it getting into dangerous levels of classification and potential prejudice from different angles? Is submitting to hormone tests before being allowed to enter a step too far, or is it no different to submitting to a drugs test to ensure that performance-enhancing drugs aren’t used? Is it all just sour grapes from the losing athletes?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this, so please do leave me a comment below!

Retirement: Everything You Need To Know And Consider For The Future

Being a parent, it’s difficult to see beyond the here and now. We focus so much on the daily routine. The school runs. The fact whether our kids are eating. The chores, our work life perhaps. Not feeling like we have the right balance, but yet hoping to have as much quality family time as possible, sound familiar? This is the norm for most parents of today. There is so much focus on what you should be doing right now, and less about the future. It was a different story for our parents and grandparents. They tended to make provisions for the future.

Image credit

It’s not that modern parents don’t think about it, I think it may be more to do with the issue of it seeming like a big task. Future finances, our retirement plans. They seem like such big decisions to make for our lives that seems so far away. But as we all know, time moves exceptionally quick. Before we know it, that will be us. So I thought I would take some time to break down exactly what you should think about for the future. It’s not as difficult as perhaps you believe.

Your finances

Finances are possibly one of the biggest things you need to tackle for your retirement and future. Not everyone is lucky enough to be Elon Musk and have SpaceX Aktien kaufen! Once you or your partner leave employment, that is it for income. Of course, you can draw your state pension. The one everyone gets. But that may not leave you accustomed to the life you have gotten used to. Don’t threat. There’s plenty of things you may have already put the wheels in motion for, and certainly, things you can start doing right now.

Image credit

Equity Release

Have you bought a property that you own? Whether you live in it or rent it out for income, that’s one big step for securing your financial future. If you haven’t bought a property yet now’s the time to start saving to do it. It’s a great investment and one that can secure you in the future. Equity release is one of the things you can consider. This is where you draw down some of the equity in your property, it can be done in a lump sum and then used to live off or pay for things like holidays. Some people love this kind of option whereas others see it as using up funds that could be passed down to children or grandchildren when you pass away. If you’d like to see how much you could get, using an equity release calculator can give you a good idea of what will be available to you. The choice is yours to make, but it is an option.

Pensions

You may have one you pay into already, which is perfect. However, many employers now offer the workplace pension scheme, and it is one you should consider. The money is taken directly from your wages each month so you don’t need to think about it. Your employer also pays a set amount, which means you get more investment. It’s a great scheme that many of you can take advantage of. If you want to consider a personal pension, then there are many advisors who will be happy to advise on some of the best packages available.

Image credit

Savings and investments

Finally, when it comes to your finances, you could always look into your savings and investment options. This is where you could tie in your money to a high interest savings account for a set period. Or consider investing in the stocks and shares market, although that can be quite risky if you are inexperienced.

What you might do with your time

On a positive note, now is a great time to consider what you will do with the time you have. Retirement is a new chapter in your life and one that should be embraced wholeheartedly. You should make the most of the time. If you are unsure, here are a few suggestions.

Image credit

Make a bucket list

Start now and sit down and make a bucket list. This could include all the places you want to see and experience. It’s a great idea to get some perspective on where you want to go in life. Retirement is the perfect time to take advantage of seeing these pleases, but don’t let that stop you if you have the chance to begin exploring now.

Image credit

Travel

Now that you have some time, and no doubt have saved for retirement, you could consider travelling. There are many options like taking extended cruises, seeing different countries or travelling to the other side of the world.

Take up a new hobby

Whether it was something you stopped years ago or something you have always wanted to try. Retirement offers you the chance to start a new hobby, and invest yourself into it. It could be anything you like. If you are stuck for ideas, there are plenty of websites to provide some inspiration. Taking part in a hobby or pastime allows you to get involved in your community and could ensure you make some firm friends in the process.

The future beyond

The one thing we cannot predict is our health. It’s one of those things that would love to prepare for in advance, but sadly that isn’t the case. While you may take care of yourself with a balanced diet and regular exercise, you never know what the future holds. This is why it is worth having a plan in place, just incase.

Image credit

Would you consider a care home?

Many people are put off by the idea of heading into a care home when they are older but these days these places are state of the art and luxurious. A care home could provide you with everything you need around the clock, and provide you living that is more comfortable and rewarding. Care homes can cost, so this is why it is something to consider for the future, it’s worth knowing whether this is what you would want. If you want some more information, you can find it from HC-Care-Homes.co.uk.

 

It may also be necessary to enlist the help of a care home like Mount Battenhall Retirement Village if you experience unexpected health issues as you grow older. Even if you are not planning on living in a care home, you should incorporate the cost of one into your financial plans and search out the best options. Most likely, if you do end up needing one, it will be unexpected and already having a plan and a place will greatly reduce your stress and anxiety during an already stressful time.

 

Family carers

Alternatively, you could consider staying at home and having a relative or family member care for you. There are many benefits to this including being able to stay in your home. You could consider having it adapted to help with mobility. There are many options, depending on what you need. Carers get allowances to help cover the financials. If you wnat to look into this further, then check out https://www.gov.uk/carers-allowance/overview.

Have you made out a will?

Making out a will is often something we can forget to do. But it’s our opportunity to make a note of how we want things to proceed when we pass away. While it is never a pleasant subject to think about, what is nice is that you can ensure your family’s future. You may want to make sure that your children get the house, or that your grand daughter gets your wedding ring. It might even be to make a note f how you want things to happen when it comes to a funeral. It is your time to have your say, so don’t miss out on it.

We highly recommend that you use a company such as Casey & Associates to complete your will so that you can be sure it is done properly. You don’t want there to be any way for someone to contest the will and go against your last wishes.

Using a professional company such as this will ensure that your last wishes are honored, exactly the way that you intended them to be. Speak to a member of the team, and see what you think about the service that is being offered before you sign with them though, because you never know what is going to crop up if you keep doing your research.

Funeral plans

So as we mentioned this isn’t exactly a nice subject to think about, but you may have strong beliefs that you want taking into account when the time comes. Perhaps you don’t want a fuss at all, or want people to wear bright colours instead of black. Perhaps you want someone in particular to say a few words, or you prefer to be cremated instead of buried. These are all things that you have every right to request and note down. This is your last song. This is where you still get the chance to be in control when you have no control whatsoever. It’s one moment in your life that you have to think about it, and then it’s done, and noted for when it is needed.

Image credit

Dividing of assets

Again, perhaps not the nicest thing to think about it, but you have worked hard for your money and assets. The last thing you will want is someone else taking control of matters. In you will you need to make a note of who you want things to go to. Mostly people keep things simple and state that their estate is divided between their children, or to their partner. Many couples agree to have their assets transferred to one another in the event of someone passing before the other. Then it would be divided after that. It’s up to you. You can go into as much detail or keep it as simple as you want. Again once it’s done, it’s done. The only thing to bear in mind is that assets change over time, you may purchase more property or get a bigger house. Try and remember to keep your will up to date.

I hope this has opened your eyes a little about the future and made you realise it’s not as difficult to plan ahead as you once thought. It’s just about taking a few moments to consider some things, and then carry on living your life.

The UK’s Most Expensive Neighbourhoods

Living in the South East of England can be an expensive business; our proximity to London means that house prices and rents are still very high and that expensive perimeter around the capital is only increasing with improved high-speed travel. In the area we previously lived, we saw house prices steadily creeping up to the point that, when it came to moving house, we decided that enough was enough and moved to a less expensive area.

Property Rescue has created an infographic, showing the top ten most expensive places to live in the UK and I was COMPLETELY unsurprised to see that 90% of them are in London! Here’s the full list:

According to their research:

“The East of England continually sees the biggest growths in house prices with homes worth 8.4 per cent more than last year, seeing the average price of the likes of Chelsea, Notting Hill, and West Brompton comfortably sit above £1million.

London property averages at almost £500,000 but sitting top of the list is Kensington, where residences are worth an average £1.74million. Such is its regard, the area includes a street which is home to the ambassadors of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Finland just to name a few.

Located in the west of London, surrounded by other affluent areas including Notting Hill, Knightsbridge, and Chelsea, the area includes a wealth of London’s premiere hotspots including the Natural History Museum, the Royal College of Art, and the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace.

The list is entirely made up of London locations, with neighbourhoods in Kent and Hertfordshire missing out, whilst the quiet commuter town of Virginia Water, Surrey is the only area outside London which makes the list.”

The saddest part about the list is that so many of the areas which have now been gentrified were once areas which were homes to average working people, people who would have absolutely no hope of living there ever again. It reminds me of the episode of Only Fools and Horses where Uncle Albert tries to go back to Tobacco Road where he grew up and finds it full of million-pound Docklands apartments and penthouses.

Do you live in an area which has become unaffordable over the years? Do you think it’s a good thing when older areas are regenerated or are you, like me, sad that working class people are being driven out of their home towns? Leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear what you think about it all.

Beanies Coffee – A Review

A while back, we were sent a selection of items by Beanies Coffee to taste-test and review. For those of you who haven’t heard of Beanies, the company makes flavoured coffee, both roast ground and instant, in a wide selection of flavours. I opted for Cherry flavour and Maple Syrup flavour in the roast ground, and Amaretto Almond in the instant.

I would definitely class myself as a coffee drinker; I drink instant at home at least twice a day, and usually have a latte somewhere if I leave the house, plus Husband and I stick the pot on for a “proper” cup of coffee a few times a week, too. I also have a personal filter coffee machine which makes a thermally insulated flask of coffee for one person which I often take with me when I’m out and about. See – definitely coffee people!

I was worried at first that the sweet flavours of Beanies coffee meant that they had added sugar; being a diabetic means I have to avoid excess sugar, but I needn’t have worried. Beanies sweetness is explained on the website’s FAQ:

Your sensory cells for taste and aroma respond to the sweetness of the flavours and although they contain no derivatives such as dextrose, fructose, lactose or syrups the receptors tell the brain that the product must surely contain sugar. Therefore when you taste our coffee you in fact smell the familiar flavour notes and your brain is automatically tricked into thinking the drink is sweet. Clever eh!

Each of the three flavours I tried were very authentic – the cherry really tasted of cherries, while the maple syrup and amaretto versions definitely tasted of maple syrup and amaretto! All three flavours smelled amazing, too. It was almost worth brewing a pot just for the amazing aroma that permeated around the house! 

I have to admit, none were sweet enough for me, despite the Beanies claim that you shouldn’t need to add sugar or sweetener, but then I do have my coffee pretty sweet on a day-to-day basis, adding two sweeteners to a normal mug, so it may well be sufficient for someone who doesn’t like their coffee as sweet as me.

All in all, I was really impressed. I’m not sure that flavoured coffee could replace every mug for me, across the day, but it definitely makes a lovely mid-morning treat and I could happily see myself tempting a guest to try something flavoured rather than our usual brew!

If you want more info on Beanies, head to their website, or take a look at their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages.

Wine Tasting Evening! Host Your Own With These Tips

Wine Tasting Evening

Is your circle of friends gaga about wine? Well, why wouldn’t they be? Get together with friends for a wine tasting party (accompanies with nibbles, of course). Don’t worry, you don’t need to do the whole spitting thing – we know you want to get a little merry. Here are a few pointers for planning this grand event.

Placemats

Not everyone will know what to look for, so this provides a great helping hand, along with protecting your dinner table. Wine Folly does some great templates. They’re free! And all you have to do is print them off.

Choose Your Theme

Buy a variety of bottles, all selected from a common theme; this could be region involving wines from Loire Valley, for example, old world versus new world, or price comparison. Decide if you’re going to opt for blind tasting. Cover all your bottles with aluminium foil and number each wine for a fairer test.

Wine Order

Simply put, you should always order your wines like this: sparkling wines, followed by light white wines, bold white wines, rosés, light reds, bold/ high alcohol reds, and sweet wines. When trying to work out how much wine you’ll need, there should be enough for each person to drink ½ a bottle. It’s up to you if you want to provide a variety of wines or if you’d rather stick with red or white.

Temperature

Degrees Celsius can really make or break a good bottle of wine. Red wine should be warmed while whites and sparklings should be chilled. For exact measurements, check out this infographic. You can get wine warmers from Tesco for around a tenner, so they really don’t need to break the bank.

Palate Clearers

Your guests will want palate clearers, so they can effectively sample the wines; this could be slices of baguette or crackers…but it’s generally a good idea to line stomachs, so your quaint wine tasting party doesn’t turn into tabletop dancing and bad 80s anthems. If you can’t face preparing a five course meal, just ask your guests to bring a dish each and everyone can get stuck in with a buffet.

Crash Course In Tasting

If you want your wine tasting evening to be moderately serious, it’s an idea to learn more about how to ape the professionals. Check out this video for some tips on how you can teach your friends how to take a bit more notice of the wine they’re drinking and decide which ones they rate the highest.

Glasses

We’re pretty sure that the only true specification for wine glasses is that they have to be HUGE. Everyone needs at least two glasses, and if you’re serving bubbly, guests will need separate glasses for this: either champagne flutes or saucers. A handy tip for serving champagne is to put it in the freezer an hour before your guests arrive – that way it will be perfectly chilled.