Eating, a La Francaise

Last year was really the year of the French parent, with a host of books being published on why the French make the best parents. And having lived in France for five years, I must admit that French children do seem to be exceptionally well-mannered and well-behaved, observing social niceties and the rules of expected behaviour from a very early age. I was especially impressed by their manners at the table; and food being a focal point of French social life, this is of immense importance there. However, French children’s food behaviour transcends mere table manners to actually eating right and staying healthy.

Which is why when I came across ‘French Kids Eat Everything: How our Family moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters’ by Karen Le Billon, I had to pick it up to try and discover the reasons behind the phenomenon that I had been observing – and envying – for so long.

Le Billon has written a fairly long book on her food education. She moved from Canada to a small village in Bretagne, France, with her husband and two daughters. Her children, typical of North American kids, subsisted on snacks, pizza and burgers, refusing to try anything new and literally having a meltdown at the mention of vegetables. The mother traces the family’s ‘food’ journey, from her own initial resistance to the French way of eating, to accepting that the food culture there is superior to what she is familiar with, and then trying to instill similar values in her children. The book is anecdotal and Le Billon frankly details the mistakes that she made. And yet, one year down the line, her children were pretty much eating all vegetables (including spinach and broccoli!) and were also open to trying unusual and ‘exotic’ foods like snails, foie gras et al!

How did she achieve this? Le Billon has outlined 10 French Food Rules that she discovered and incorporated in her daily routine. I am not going to detail these – you should read them yourself, but I will point out four that I particularly liked:

You don’t have to eat it, but you do have to taste it – Apparently children need to taste a new food at least seven to eight times before they start accepting it or appreciating its taste. So as parents, don’t give up if you ask your child to try something new and she says she doesn’t like the taste. Simply take it away quietly, without a fuss and reintroduce it a week later! Of course, the idea is to get them to at least taste the food and not simply refuse outright!

Avoid emotional eating – Food is to be eaten for nutrition, and is to be enjoyed. Do not offer food to your children simply because they are cranky or bored – as a distraction – or even as a reward or bribe. This leads to eating for ’emotional’ reasons and teaches children to eat even when they are not hungry, resulting in over eating, obesity and eating disorders.

Kids eat what adults eat – No special, customised cooking for children, and ‘babying’ down their food. Teach them to eat the same things the rest of your family does – this is also more convenient, less time-consuming and better for the parents in the long run, as it teaches children to be more flexible and ready to try everything.

And finally, my favourite – absolutely no snacking – Mealtimes should be fixed and on a regular time schedule, and snacking in between meals should be strictly discouraged. Not only does this lead to healthier eating habits, but children eat better during mealtimes since they are hungry enough and have not filled their little stomachs with snacks. Le Billon points out that the French even discourage eating ‘healthy’ snacks such as fruits in between meals, preferring their kids to eat complete, well-balanced and large meals.

Do read this book to discover the rest of the Food Rules. It is also interesting from a cultural standpoint, since it explains how and why so much of French culture revolves around food and eating. Though most of the book is more relevant to North American eating habits (I, for one, do believe that Indian children still have healthier eating habits than their western counterparts), there are enough tips that Indian parents living in urban areas can glean from it. More than anything, it will show you how to deal with issues of junk food, picky eating and bad table manners – relevant to all cultures and all ages!

I have just picked up a copy of ‘Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting’ by Pamela Druckerman. And I will blog about that one when I finish reading it!

Try a 2-5-6 Carb Plan for Weight Loss

This is a plan I am using right now to get my carbohydrate intake back on track, shrink my stomach and eventually lose some winter weight gain from my waistline. Even though I did exercise most of the winter I also managed to eat more than I burned off and now need to get back in shape.

Here are some quick tips if you want to try this plan for yourself.

• 2-5-6 means that you eat 2 carbohydrate choices – 5 times a day – 6 days a week.

This will keep your daily carb total at 10 carb servings which are not extremely restrictive but with moderate activity should help get weight loss going. This plan is not going to be a magic answer for everyone but it is a low carb intake that should work for most women whose activity is light to moderate. If you need more for breakfast do 3 carb choices and then 1 for a snack instead of 2 choices.

• What is a carb choice?

Starches: 1 carb choice equals any of the following: ½ cup potatoes, corn, green peas, casserole, pasta salad, 1 thin crust slice of pizza, 1/3 cup cooked pasta or rice.

Sweets: Examples of 1 carb choice = 1 snack size candy bar, ½ cup ice cream, 2 Oreo size cookies, or a 2 inch by 2 inch brownie square unfrosted.

Milk includes only milk and yogurt.

Fruit: 1 cup melon, ½ cup canned fruit, 1 small to medium apple or orange, ½ banana, ½ cup juice.

Foods that are NOT carb foods are meats, vegetables and fats/oils. This includes fish, cheese, peanut butter and cottage cheese.

To figure carbs from packages look at the Serving Size and Total Carbohydrate amount. Every 15 grams = 1 carb serving.

For example 1 cup Cheerios has about 26 grams total carbohydrate. That counts as almost 2 choices. If you have 8 oz milk that is another 12 grams so 26 +12 = 38 or about 2.5 carb choices. (38 divided by 15)

• 7th day can be a free day if you want or you can give yourself an extra 3-4 carb choices that day. Try not to go over 15 choices total even if it is a free day.

• Sample Day

Breakfast: 2 whole grain toast with peanut butter, coffee black, and water

Snack: Small to medium piece of fruit or 1 cup berries or melon

Lunch: Salad greens with sunflower seeds, cheese, strawberry or mandarin orange slices, croutons and salad dressing.

Dinner: Lean meat, broccoli and 1 cup roasted potatoes

Snack: Tea and 1-2 carbs of chocolate

• Note how hungry you feel between meals. You should start to get hungry between meals and snacks and remember that feeling means it is working! Eating 5 times a day allows you to eat frequently enough to not get too hungry but the small amounts will help shrink your stomach so that you will get full sooner when you do eat.

• Don’t forget the activity. Try to stay active with exercise, yard or house work or taking walks.

Don’t Abuse America’s Seniors: Let Them Enjoy Life!

The New York City Elder Abuse Center posits various examples of elder abuse or neglect. A Mrs. Rose has a ‘wonderful’ 37-year-old son named Derek. He’s got a drug problem, and he yanked a bloody swatch of his mother’s hair out of her head during an argument when she refused to give him money. Mr. Koff’s 44-year-old mentally ill daughter, Karen, threatened to rip the phone out of the wall and trap him in his bedroom while he slept if her father didn’t let her boyfriend spend the night. Mrs. Goffard owned some jewelry that was precious to her. But her 21-year-old granddaughter, Ivy, sold the jewelry without permission and used the money to pay back a debt to an acquaintance. The 32-year-old stepson of a Mrs. Noonan forced her to watch pornography with him while he exposed himself.

Now, here’s the kicker, thousands more Americans have one parent or both secluded in their homes. Most do not overtly abuse or harm them. However, they take the parent’s social security check and pension money. They take away their autonomy under the guise of making sure they don’t “hurt themselves.” However, the biggest crime is the fact that the parent could still be quite active, enjoy outings, spend days or evenings with friends, cook or do hobbies, and enjoy being accompanied by their adult child on errands and shopping trips. But they are cast aside as if they are useless.

Contrary to what some may think, many seniors don’t typically want to live in the home of a relative; for as long as possible, they want to live on their own. In fact, research shows that only about 1 in 1000 would prefer to live with their kids. This population is not helpless by any means. The facts indicate that Americans over the age of fifty own 75 percent of all American assets and spend half the money. Close to 70 percent of them still own their homes. They vote and are often more active in the community than are those who are younger. Many even exercise regularly and work out at gyms.

And caregivers must help seniors to remain as active and independent as possible for as long as possible. They must walk that fine line between using methods to preserve and promote normal functions for as long as possible while still beginning to assist the senior with overly difficult duties. In other words, most seniors express a strong desire to remain relatively independent for as long as possible and efforts can be made through exercise, diet, and physical activity in order to allow them that ongoing sense of accomplishment and self-respect. Aerobic exercise, brisk walking, leg and arm strength routines, and health monitoring is important. It is vital that senior mobility is evaluated consistently because adult falls often result in severe injury, including torn muscles or broken bones.

Authorities Mark Freedman and Phyllis Moen both write of a new demographic forming in America. By the year 2030 there will be about 72,000,000 individuals in the U.S. over age 65. That is twice the number of seniors in 2000. They call it the mid-course or the New Life-Stage. It will primarily encompass this baby boom generation. Millions of these “retirees” will actually retool themselves and launch second or third careers, develop new ‘identities’, establish new patterns with their significant others, and avoid boredom and helplessness at all costs. Abigail Trafford, Washington Post columnist, writes, “Something huge is happening here… The emergence of an older, more vigorous population is the most significant story of our times.”

Six Reasons to Eat Leafy Greens Every Day

Are you interested in being healthier? How about slimmer, smarter, or more beautiful? Well, eat your greens and you’ll be on your way to all of those.

Greens are amazing and here’s why:

1. Weight Control. Leafy greens are extremely low in calories, yet super high in nutrients. Make them the base of your lunch and dinner and weight control can be breeze.

When I had a weight problem years ago and joined weight watchers, I learned that there are some kinds of vegetables that you can eat pounds of and still lose weight. As an over-eater, this was great news to me! While on weight watchers I’d cook two-pound bags of vegetables in a large pot and eat the whole thing. Greens are among the vegetables you can eat in unlimited quantities and still lose weight. Three cups of most kinds of greens contain less than 100 calories. I lost 20 pounds in a few months.

Of course, you can’t add high calorie ingredients like butter and creamy dressings, but you can season with herbs and spices, lemon, and low calories salad dressings.

If you’re trying to lose weight, but unable to master portion control, do consider satiating your need to chew and swallow with hefty helpings of greens as part of your meals.

Try them like this:

RAW: Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or lemon and a little (no more than one tablespoon) olive oil to flavor them. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and crushed pepper.

COOKED: Boil the greens in fat free reduced sodium chicken broth or water and add some chopped garlic and lemon juice. Cook until the leaves are tender.

Serve with broiled, or baked chicken, or fish and a baked sweet potato, or some brown rice.

2. Youthful Skin. Leafy greens like Kale, Spinach and Swiss Chard contain antioxidants including beta carotene, which helps renew and repair your skin.

¨I was traveling recently and did an experiment. Usually when I take the red-eye from LA to New York and get no sleep, when I arrive, my skin looks sallow and scary. On my last trip, before leaving, I ate a pound of greens that I’d prepared with chopped garlic and a bit of olive oil.

The next morning, instead of looking like the zombie I usually do after an overnight flight, my skin had an amazing healthy glow.

Greens also contain folate, a vital nutrient for DNA repair and lutein, which balances the lipids in the skin, increasing hydration and elasticity. Lutein also protects against sun damage that ages the skin.

3. Clear Skin. While researching a book I wrote about preventing acne, I discovered that leafy greens have clear skin benefits.

The long held belief that diet has no bearing on acne has been debunked. Studies have shown that high glycemic foods do trigger breakouts in some people. High glycemic foods are those that contain refined grains and refined sugars that cause a spike in blood glucose level, which your body tries to lower by producing more insulin and male hormones. These hormones cause the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, in turn, blocking pores. Too much sebum in the pores causes the acne bacterium (propionibacterium acnes) to over propagate, inflaming the pore causing a pimple.

Switching to a low-glycemic diet, which includes leafy greens, has proven to be effective. (Other low-glycemic foods that benefit acne include whole grains, fish, and green tea.)

Leafy greens are chock full of inflammation fighting ingredients and they also contain lots of fiber, which helps keep blood sugar levels in check.

4. Beauty. Yes, leafy greens (and other high color vegetables) can actually make you prettier. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Well, a recent article in the LA Times by Karen Ravn referenced a study done at The University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, that sought to find out how many fruits and vegetables a person would have to eat, and for how long before this could be detected in the skin. According to the article, scientists have long known that the pigments that give vegetables their color, “carotenoids,” accumulate in the skin and give it color, too. Apparently, they enhance our natural coloring and when we see someone whose skin reflects these enhanced carotenoids, they appear healthier and more attractive to our eye.

In the study, they showed undergraduate students sets of pictures; for each set of faces one reflected the look of having ingested about 3.3 servings of high color fruits and vegetables, and one did not. The students deemed the fruit/veggie eaters to be more attractive than the non-high color food eaters. More servings were associated with more attractiveness.

So, eat lots of leafy greens (as well as other high color vegetable and fruits) and you may find yourself getting more compliments than you used to.

5. Better Brain function. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dark leafy greens may protect against cognitive decline in older adults. This is attributed to the high folate content of the greens. Studies performed at Tufts University concluded that a diet high in folate protected against decline in verbal fluency and another cognitive test called spatial copying wherein subjects were asked to copy shapes and figures.

I recently read a book by Dharma Singh Khasala called Brain Longevity and he talks about helping his patients reverse the effects of dementia through a variety of means including stress reduction, exercise, and diet. He says that the brain needs proper nutrition and his dietary recommendation includes lots of kale and other dark leafy vegetables.

Dr. Terry Wahls, a TED TALK lecturer claims to have cured her Multiple Sclerosis with a diet that includes dark leafy greens. In her lecture, “Minding Your Mitochondria,” she recommends a “hunter gatherer” diet, which eschews processed foods and favors things we would hunt or pick, including fish, grass fed meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and plenty of GREENS. She says for optimum health people should eat three cups of green leaves a day. Three cups is a dinner plate piled high. According to Dr. Wahls, kale has the most nutrition, per calorie, of ANY plant. It contains B vitamins, plus A, C, K and minerals. B Vitamins protect your brain cells and mitochondria. Vitamin A and C support your immune cells, Vitamin K keeps your blood vessels and bones healthy and minerals are co-factors for hundreds of different enzymes in your body.

While you may not have MS or dementia, if greens can palliate those conditions, they can assist your brain, too. Having a healthy, well functioning brain can certainly enhance your life.

6. Disease prevention. Greens contain vitamins: A, B2, B6, C, E, folate, calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc, fiber, which according to The Cleveland Clinic, are important to keep your heart healthy.

The folate in leafy greens helps reduce levels of homocysteine, which can contribute to cardiovascular disease and also cause strokes.

A Harvard study showed that diets high in magnesium reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac failure in women. Greens are a great source of magnesium. Magnesium is an element in the chlorophyll molecule, which gives plants their green color. Any green leafy vegetable you eat will give you magnesium, thus helping to reduce your risk of heart disease.

According to Dr. Terry Whals, eating a plate of greens a day will also dramatically reduce your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Green vegetables like Kale and collards also contain isothiocyanates (ITCs) which is a compound with proven anti-cancer activities.

A friend whose family is predisposed to skin cancer was the first one to tell me about the anti-cancer benefit of leafy greens. Her children’s pediatrician has them eating tons of spinach and kale to protect them.

Hope I’ve persuaded you to eat your greens. They really are good for you!

If you really don’t like them, consider making “green smoothies” to help them go down better. Put greens in a blender with coconut water and a lot of berries and you can whip up a drink wherein you may barely taste the vegetable. Also, the blending makes the nutrients available to you body even more quickly than when you eat the leaves whole.

You might also prefer “crispy greens.” Coat kale or spinach in a little olive oil, spread on baking sheet and cook in the oven until crisp (about 15 minutes). Yummy!

As always, I wish you good health and great beauty!

Take the Grubby Out of Grub With Great Hygiene on-The-Go

There’s nothing quite like the aroma of freshly-cooked food wafting across the wide open spaces of a festival or show ground on a balmy summer day. Once you’ve got your head together from last night’s excesses, the first thing you look for is a tempting variety of good food to set you up for a day or three in the open.

Excellent food is now as much a part of the outdoor event experience as the music and the stalls. Gone are the days when festival-goers accepted that burgers and chips were the only options and that food vans would be battered, grubby affairs. Now they expect a full range of world cuisine: a quick internet survey revealed Moroccan, Brazilian, Spanish, Mexican, Vietnamese and Thai on offer, as well as specialists in sushi, crepes, tacos, hog roast – even oysters! A hugely diverse range but all with one thing in common – all served from stylishly designed and sparkling clean vans.

What are your standards?

The standard of hygiene in mobile catering has soared along with the range of foods on offer. As well as a limited range of grub, festival goers used to be prepared to swallow a fairly basic approach to hygiene. Not anymore. Nothing will turn off your prospective customers more than glimpses of a dirty, smelly interior as they stand in the queue. The caterer next to you with an obviously hygienic kitchen will be infinitely more appealing. After all, the last thing you want when you’re spending three days in a tent is to be dashing to the limited toilet facilities regularly. Knowing the food has been hygienically prepared in a clean environment is vital to a good festival experience.

The customers’ experience should be the mobile vendor’s main driving force but even if it isn’t, the same hygiene rules apply to mobile catering units as to bricks and mortar ones. There’s a little flexibility due to the space constraints, but generally all of the Food Standards Agency’s rules apply, covering walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, surfaces, and equipment, washing facilities, your staff, the transport and traceability of your food – even your suppliers. So if you thought it was the easy alternative, think again! Start a mobile catering business and the deep clean will become as much a part of your life as trundling around the country to events.

Food on-the-go

Fish and chips are still arguably the nation’s favourite and the National Federation of Fish Friers, the voice of the UK trade, sets sky-high standards on everything involved, from the quality of the raw potatoes and fish through to good cooking oil hygiene. So make their guidance your Bible, if you run a fish and chip van.

Food on-the-go is no longer the poor cousin of the catering industry. It’s chic and fashionable and there’s a lot of competition out there. So give your mobile business the best chance by making your hygiene as good as your food.

Business owner, marketing expert and writer Karen James has always been mindful about germs and cleanliness and often seeks guidance from one of the best deep cleaning companies; Bright Hygiene who are experts in their field. When her house is immaculate and dirt-free, she likes better than long walks with her dogs or weekends by the sea with her grandchildren.

Low Carb Recipes For Low Carb Snacks

Carbohydrates are usually converted to fat thus making you have your undesired body shape. If you want to lose weight, you need to reduce the amount of carbohydrates that you take. If you have been wondering which are the best low carb snacks that you can prepare in your home, here they are:

Almonds Italiano

You make this using 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 egg white, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 2 teaspoons of onion powder, 3 cups of whole unblanched almonds, ½ teaspoon of salt, and 8 teaspoons of Italian seasoning.

You should put egg white, spices and salt in a large bowl and then whisk them using oil. You should then add nuts and mix them well in order to coat the almonds evenly. You should then bake them at 275º for 45 minutes.

For ideal results you should ensure that you stir after every 10 minutes. By doing this you should be able to make 3 cups. If you don’t want to take the snack when you finish preparing it, you should consider freezing it.

Karen’s coconut crunch

You should prepare the crunch using 1 cup of finely chopped pecans, 1 cup of sliced almonds, 18 grams of unsweetened coconut, 2 tablespoons of Da Vinci sugar free syrup, praline flavor or vanilla, 1 egg white, ¼ cup of granular Splenda and pinch salt.

You should start by tossing nuts and coconut in a medium bowl. You should then drizzle in the syrup and toss to coat the nuts. In a small bowl, you should beat the egg white with the Splenda and salt until soft peaks form. You should then add the egg whites to the mixture and gently toss them in order to coat them well.

While stirring occasionally you should bake the mixture at 350º for 15-20 minutes. To know when the crunch is ready you should look at the color-the crunch tends to turn dark near the end of baking time.

Vanilla not cake

You should prepare this one with 4 tablespoons of butter, ¼ cups of granular Splenda, ½ cups of vanilla whey protein powder and 1 egg. You should bake the mixture at 325º for 8 minutes or until it sets.

Conclusion

These are some of the low calorie recipes that you use in preparing your low calorie snacks. For ideal results always follow the instructions carefully. If you aren’t a good cook always ask a friend to help you out.

Values: The Savior Often Forgotten in Business

A few days ago we celebrated my son’s 10th birthday. Although he has already turned 10, I still fondly remember the day he was born. As I held him close and looked into his eyes, I was elated on becoming a father… just like any new father would be. However, my elation was mixed with anxiety. I had so many questions running through my head:

• Would I be a good father?
• Would he become a menace to society?
• Would I be able to help him through the challenges he will face?

With all these thoughts running through my mind, I turned to my mum and asked her, “How did you make sure that sis and I turned out alright?” After she made me feel guilty about all the trouble I caused her throughout my growing years and of course reminding me of Karma as well, she said something that really resonated with me: “You teach him values. You can’t always be there for him. He is going to grow up, make mistakes, fall, learn and recovery. How he reacts to each of these situations will depend on how deeply rooted these positive values are ingrained in him”.

My mum went on to explain how courage, discipline, determination, honesty and other positive values need to be gradually nurtured throughout his life – taking every opportunity to show him that when you are strongly rooted in great values, it will save him from going astray. It was certainly sound advice for life; but, I thought about how these same principles could be applied to business success as well.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of meeting many young and aspiring new employees in my company. I’ve enjoyed the conversations we’ve had, listening to their ambitions – what they would love to achieve and where they see themselves within 5, 10 or 15 years. They often asked me for advice and if I had anything to give them, I pretty much gave them the same advice my mum had given me. The only difference, I related it to our company values instead – the often forgotten bullet points that we are shown when we join the company and barely remember thereafter. Truly living by these throughout your career could actually help you to achieve your long-term ambitions.

In fact, throughout my career, I have seen heroes become zeroes in a short period of time. It usually came from bowing to the pressures of meeting short-term goals and not having the courage to resist the temptation of winning at all costs. Thomas DeLong highlighted in his book, Flying without a Net, how many companies are experiencing results myopia. An example of this would be the sole focus on quarterly results instead of long term goals. The test of holding up core values under the pressure of attaining short term results often ends in failure… but why?

I was recently reminded of Jeff Skilling (ex-CEO) and the Enron scandal when I read “How will you measure your life?” (Clayton Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon). Skilling was Christensen’s MBA classmate and he highlighted how he didn’t recognize the Jeff from grad school who was a good man who finally turned out to be a financial shark in his later years. What made him change? Enron’s company values were – Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence. Nothing was upheld by him or the management who were guilty. If only they did, many jobs and families would have been saved from one of the worst financial disasters of all time.

Apple CEO Tim Cook stressed the importance of values in a recent Fast Company Magazine article. When asked the question about the fundamental ways in which Apple is changing after Steve Jobs, Cook highlighted that Apple has never stopped changing. Even when Jobs was around, there were lots of changes within Apple. However, something that never changed was the core values of the company. For example: To have the courage to change their view if they saw things differently due to the changing environment such as technology, new information, market conditions, etc., even if the duration for this change of mind was as short as a week! This helps to ensure that they do not charge ahead just because a decision has been made or a direction has been set even though they know that circumstances have changed. Their belief and adherence to their core values have catapulted them to be the world’s most valuable company and brand.

In an article published in the Journal of Values Based Leadership, David Burkus, from Regent University, highlighted that culture will always trump values. Burkus highlighted how people don’t look at the written value statements but at how others in the company behave, learning from them. Although I do agree with him, I believe that, especially for the ones who are new to a company, a strong, meaningful set of value statements will act as their guiding light to stay focused and out of trouble. Most companies do not put much emphasis on this today.

This is not something that only the HR department should take care of; managers should also be equally held accountable on how they lead by example and articulate these values to their directs. They should highlight the best practices, promote the heroes who have stuck to the values even under extreme pressures and develop the young and new to understand those values deeply to the core. For example, an ex-classmate explained how her organization has started a visibility board where the names and photos of employees are highlighted for taking tough but right decisions by sticking to their core values even if it meant that their revenue or profit was affected short-term – excellent idea! Senior leaders of organizations need to place equal emphasis on results and how it was achieved as well. For instance, how John Mack (former CEO of Morgan Stanley) clearly stated, “If we promote professionals who hit their numbers and yet are bad managers then we have no values, it’s all talk” (Delong, Flying without a Net).

If every manager constantly and consistently emphasizes their core values, it will permeate within their organization and consequently form a strong positive culture. Christensen also highlighted this in his book – culture is the unique combination of processes and priorities, which is formed through repetition. Employees will feel more connected to the companies they work for. This can apply to both established organizations and even startups that are in the process of cultivating a strong positive culture within their organization.

Be it in parenting or business, I firmly believe that mum’s advice will hold true. Values that are nurtured patiently, courageously held up high and aptly rewarded will stand the test of time. It will always be the savior when faced with the toughest challenges – let’s not forget that!

Traditional Entertainment of Kenya

With 42 tribes in Kenya, defining a specific entertainment as ‘traditional’ is nearly impossible without going into an excessive treatise on the subject. Each tribe has song, dance, costumes and musical instruments particular to their area. This article gives a brief overview of the types of entertainment, some examples from various tribes and where you can find traditional entertainment when you come to Kenya.

Song is a form of traditional entertainment almost globally so it is no surprise to find Kenyan tribes also singing. Each of the 42 tribes has their own language, so it is simple to tell where the song is from… so long as you can recognise the language! Across the tribes one thing is the same: there are different beats and words for songs associated with the various ceremonies. This means that when a Kikuyu returns to his village and hears singing he can tell what is happening. It doesn’t mean however that if a Taita goes to the Kikuyu village he will also be able to tell what is happening, unless he understands Kikuyu. So each tribe has circumcision songs, party songs, wedding songs, funeral songs, new baby songs and so on.

Along with singing comes dancing and, again, movements differ across the tribes. Kikuyus wear bells on their ankles with men and women pairing up, putting palms together and swaying. In Luhya culture, the dance is all about the shoulders and for Luos it’s about the hips. The Maasai men jump and it is a show of manliness if they can jump higher than their peers.

Dance is complemented by the traditional costumes which are made from materials found in a tribe’s area. Luo men wear grass skirts from the reeds by Lake Victoria and cow hide on their back. Towards the coast, Taita men wear kangas from the Swahili culture while the women wear grass skirts. In the central highlands, the Kikuyus’ costumes are a bit more substantial to protect against the cold, with sheepskin hats confusing many travellers as they look similar to the typical Russian hats! The men generally wear white and the women a brown-beige colour. Kikuyu men also carry swords and have a belt made of animal skin to carry the sword.

Musical instruments often accompany the singing and dancing and most people are familiar with the African drum. But there are even differences in how the drum is used across Kenya. For example, the Kamba sit with the drum between their legs while the Luhya hold the drum under their arm. Kamba also use a whistle to signify a beat change.

Story-telling is common with the old men teaching lessons through stories to the young boys. Nowadays comedy is becoming popular, with sketches performed between music sets. The stories and sketches are usually set in everyday situations that Kenyans can easily relate to.

Bomas of Kenya put on a lengthy performance every afternoon which showcases singing, dancing, costumes and musical instruments from each of the tribes. Shade Hotel in Karen also does a more informal afternoon of traditional entertainment every Sunday and on public holidays. If you visit a Maasai village on your safari, the villagers will perform a welcome dance for you. The Samburu villages do the same in northern Kenya. Finally, the Lake Turkana Cultural Festival might be the best opportunity to see a variety of traditional entertainment. A gathering of 14 tribes from northern Kenya, this Festival is a celebration of different cultures living together. They sing, they dance, they build huts, they cook, they dress traditionally – it’s fantastic! It is held every May in Loiyangalani on the shore of Lake Turkana and well worth the journey.

A Tantric Perspective: What Does a Woman Like in a Man?

A WOMAN LIKES A MAN

Over the last decade more and more men have become conscious of the need to become more in touch with their feminine side. Men and women are no longer bound by the old roles of sexual stereotypes; macho-man and submissive wife is outdated.

Many women have developed their more competitive, directed, assertive side and many men have cultivated their more feeling, intimate and relational side. This is a positive step. However taken to the extreme without consciously being aware of the dynamics in your relationship it can create a problem. A lot of women now complain that men are no longer “men”. That they like a man who is confident and clear, especially when it comes to giving a commitment. Someone who can show her a love that she can trust in, even when she is upset and “doing her panda bear.”

KEITH’S STORY

“In my 20’s and early 30’s I was very much in touch with my male energy. I was directed, focussed and on a mission to make things happen. I started my own business in Event Management. Through listening to some of the personal development speakers at the conferences I started to expand my ideas on what it is to be a man. I met Judy, my current partner, and she encouraged me or rather insisted I develop more of this emotional, intimate, reflective side of myself. What I saw this as my feminine side. I read numerous books, took vegetarian cooking classes, had frequent massages and gave up competitive sport to do weekend workshops on personal discovery. I became the popular sensitive new age guy I had read about. Then, through a series of circumstances, I lost my business and had even more time to explore my emotional side.

After being with Judy now for nearly three years she often complains that I am not focused or decisive enough and she doesn’t feel supported by me. She tells me about other successful guys at her work. I feel criticised and hurt. Our sex life is not as passionate either.”

That is why Keith came to see me. He asked me for some advice.

I firstly acknowledged him for taking time to develop his more feminine side and it sounded like Judy was well in touch with her more masculine side. Having a successful career in Real Estate and taking charge of their financial situation and in their relationship in general. They had certainly progressed from the stereotype “I’m the man and you’re the woman” of their parents generation. However they had fallen into another modern new age stereotype of “sensitive guy, powerful woman.” This can be just as restrictive if you don’t realise what is happening and you become identified with those new roles.

Something else that can happen is if you as a man have equal masculine and feminine qualities and your partner has equal masculine, feminine qualities, then in bed the polarity between you is neutralised and the sexual attraction is not as powerful. What was once passionate hot sex between opposite poles becomes lukewarm lovemaking between equals.

In order to recreate the fire and the powerful attraction between man and woman we need to play with our roles and to let go of the cultural ideal of what we “should” be. We need to determine what is needed in our professional life and what is needed in bed in order to get what we want. Then to take on the appropriate male or female side of our nature from one situation to another.

In sexual loving it might require a woman to let down her guard, let down her resistances and open to being madly, truly and deeply loved. To connect with the goddess of love and sensuality within her, allowing the beauty of her feminine radiance to shine through. For you it may mean you need to tap more into your masculine side so she can feel your strength, directedness, confidence and especially your presence and passion.

Your partner might be a successful career woman and you may often feel overpowered by her or in competition for power but there is a big chance that at her heart of hearts she still wants to be cherished and honoured as a goddess. To feel your yearning to enrapture her with your love. Not from a need for sexual satisfaction or power or control but from a burning desire to have a deep passionate heartfelt connect with the person he loves.

After explaining this to Keith and Karen in a subsequent consultation I suggested the first thing they could try is to playfully explore with taking on the roles of Shiva and Shakti in a Tantric ritual: Making a devotion to each other before making love and looking for the Shakti and Shiva within each other. That way they could step out of their current reality and predictable roles for a time and become the god and goddess of love. In a session like this you treat your partner as the goddess and she treats you as the divine male energy of existence. Of course all your lovemaking won’t be ritualised and nor should it be but by doing this in the ritual and experiencing how it feels you will be more willing and more able to feel the presence of Shakti and Shiva in your normal lovemaking. This is an excellent way to bring back some polarity and passion and nurture one of your woman’s deepest needs in the dance of sexual loving, to feel your masculine love in intimate union with her sacred feminine essence.

I am not suggesting you shouldn’t develop your more sensitive, emotional side. Women love a man who they can be emotional and intimate with. This is an important part of Tantra, to be able to open your heart and turn sex into making love. However if it is at the expense of not feeling your male essence any more, where you find yourself becoming more indecisive, non-committal, not feeling in touch with any direction or vision and not feeling your male strength, especially in bed. Then it is time to regather and build new confidence in your male expression of yourself.

You have the ability to be in touch with your heart and feelings and at the same time embrace your male essence when you need it. To be able to be free to develop and access what is required at different times and in fact from moment to moment. Then in your lovemaking you will be able to give your woman more of whatever she needs both physically and emotionally. You will feel confident in your love. A man with ‘spine’ and an open heart is very attractive to a woman.

Independent Travelers – Driving a Vintage Alfa to a Great Hotel/Restaurant in Tuscany, Italy

The Hotel La Chiusa in Montefollonico Becomes a Magnet

The ristorante and hotel, La Chiusa located in Montefollonico, Tuscany is situated in the hills southeast of Siena. It is an old farmhouse converted into fifteen unique rooms with the fantastic bonus of operating one of the best restaurants in Italy. The owners, Dania Masotti and Umberto Lucherini are two of the most gracious as well as delightful personalities that you would come across and Dania is an excellent chef too. She also offers cooking classes and has written a cookbook based on her culinary skills and knowledge.

On our first visit to Italy over twenty years ago we stayed at this hotel which was and still is recommended by “Karen Brown Travel Adventures”. Our room and the view was perfect and it had a large soaking tub which is an unusual feature. The people, the atmosphere, the room, the views, and especially the dining experience have made an indelible impression on us after all these years.

The second visit to La Chiusa was not a planned return and only happened because when we arrived at our hotel, Residenza d’Arte in Torrita di Siena during riposo (nap time) we found that everything was closed for the afternoon. We were famished after a long drive so we set out in search of the suggested alternatives and somehow our “Travel Angels” led us this way and that until we literally stumbled upon the familiar La Chiusa farmhouse.

We approached the gentlemen sitting at a table doing paperwork and told him “we stayed here eight years ago. Is it possible to get some bread, cheese and maybe a glass of wine at this time of the day? “

Umberto looked up, smiled and said “I remember you!” We were skeptical, to say the least, but it turned out he has an uncanny memory and was not kidding. “Please sit at the table under the chestnut tree and we will bring you something to eat”.

The view from under the chestnut tree led out into an olive orchard and rolling hills crowned by a medieval castle in the distance. Umberto’s spontaneous lunch began with an excellent Friulian wine and continued with warm baked bread, and handmade regional delicacies that represented some of the specialties of Tuscany.

We finally raised up our hands and said “basta” (enough) we cannot eat anymore…

The experience was magical, the food was “simple” and spectacular. The way we were treated was the epitome of Italian warmth. They endeared us to them. We vowed to return again one day and added it to our bucket list.

Returning to Tuscany with Two Bucket List Items in Our Sights

Establishing a Base Camp in Spoleto

Two of the leading benefits of using a vacation rental versus a hotel are the cost savings and the more spacious accommodations. With the per night unit cost being more reasonable you can take an overnight trip to another village by simply packing a small bag, leaving the bulk of your luggage in a locked up apartment and off you go! We opted to go back to La Chiusa.

Bucket List Item #1 – Renting a Vintage Car for Touring Tuscany, Italy

We perused the internet and determined that “zephyrus-classic-car-rental.com” had the best selections, reasonable prices and were the most responsive to our numerous questions. We selected their Duetto Osso di Seppia which is a 1966 Alfa Romeo (no… not the one from “The Graduate” fame as it was already booked). The company also offers travel tours and other organized events but being the independent types we opted for a solo rental plan.

Booking the car was a bit of a challenge and a leap-of-faith too. We had to prepay the rental fee with a credit card (which added some level of security) and kept an open line of communications with the Zephyrus Team. They were very responsive but you never know until you actually get there and see the car. “Meet us in the town of ‘Chiusi Chianciano Terme’ at the railroad station and look for a red Alfa”… another leap-off-faith. Will they be there?

We got off the Autostrada in Chiusi and began checking our GPS and road signage for the railroad markers but no need as Matteo anticipated our possible confusion and met us on the off ramp. We followed him to the parking lot where we would drop our Hertz rental. We signed some paperwork and he gave us a few mechanical instructions and “Oh, yes, your GPS will work… the cigarette lighter is right there”. And off he went with a cheery “CIAO”.

And there we sat, in this old car whose exterior was certainly cherry, but whose interior left much to be desired… we are talking original 1966. OK, so we familiarized ourselves with the clutch, brakes, mirrors, and we are ready to head into the Tuscan countryside… plugged in the GPS, but, sorry, the cigarette lighter doesn’t work. Oh well, we have a map and we kind of know where we are going.

Driving a classic Italian automobile has its moments to say the least. The gears were “grinding”, the clutch is hydraulic and very stiff, fumes from the stinky exhaust waft through the car and you start to think… what on earth are we doing?

The Why – Driving a Classic Automobile in Tuscany

Rumbling down century’s old country roads and viewing the Tuscan hillside in a red 1966 Alfa is simply so much fun that any car enthusiast has to experience it for themselves. This Alfa had a 1570 cc variation of the Alfa Romeo twin cam four cylinder engine, coupled with dual Weber two-barrel side-draft carburetors which, all said and done, produced 109 horse power @ 6,000 rpm, packaged in a 2,183 pound body. When you added the five speed manual transmission, disc brakes and an independent front suspension you had a classic design and a pretty nice ride. It attracted people so much so that they waved and greeted us, and other cars gave us the right of way… apparently Italians still love this car.

Getting lost in a foreign country, with only a map and a smile adds a little excitement to your day. As a possible solution we fired up the iPhone and Google Maps to find our way to La Chiusa and found out the stark reality that cell coverage is spotty… no joy and no lasting signal. Back to asking the locals for directions using the car as a conversation magnet.

The “driver” specifically asked the “navigator” not to go into a large city and to avoid traffic at all costs. So naturally we wound up in Montepulciano at their busiest traffic junction and at the most hectic time of the day! Driving a vintage automobile in the countryside is a heck of a lot more fun than sitting in traffic with an uphill slop and the reflection of the front end of a tour bus poised right on your bumper in the rear view mirror added an interesting twist to the day… va bene (so be it)!

Bucket List Item #2 – Returning to La Chiusa in Style

We have all heard the expression “the third time’s the charm” and so it was at La Chiusa.

We made it to La Chiusa in the late afternoon, parked the Alfa and found a glass of wine to celebrate the survival of this part of the adventure. We enjoyed a spacious room, with a fabulous view and a soaking tub! We then proceeded to have a gourmet Tuscan meal prepared by Dania and hosted by Umberto.

Our gracious hosts helped us celebrate our wedding anniversary by making a “special” cake for dessert. Along with fine after diner drinks and singing Italian songs late into the evening… we really had a unique celebration.

The owners, Dania Masotti and Umberto Lucherini represent the essence of Italian warmth and hospitality.

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar