Winter Sun vs Skiing holiday The Sussex Girl

It’s the time of year where we think ahead to our winter holiday and start to weigh up our options. Last year we had an incredible 8 days in Mauritius where we fell in love with island life. We were booked up to go skiing, staying in a beautiful catered chalet but due to a last minute change of plan (the military life!) we had to cancel. When we looked at re-booking for a few weeks later, we were tempted away from the slopes by the white beaches and tropical waters of Mauritius.

Now we are looking at where to jet off to for Winter 16/17 and we are a little conflicted. Before we were tempted away to Mauritius last year, I’ve been quick to jump on skis and head to the Alps during the winter season but now we’ve got a taste for 35 degrees in February and man, it is nice.

So to help us decide, I thought I’d take a look at the arguments on both sides of the fence. Starting with Skiing.

Skiing in Finland Winter holiday

Why pick a skiing holiday?

It’s close to home.

With great snow less than two hours away by flight, a skiing holiday really maximises the time we have off work – you can be on the slopes within half a day of leaving the UK instead of sweating it out on a 12 hour flight with very little leg room.

Apres ski.

Spiced wine, chocolate pastries, fondue and plenty of beer. Apres ski has got to be part of the reason you head up to the top of the mountain in the morning. Skiing is permission to eat ALL of the comfort foods. Oh and Tartiflette. I’ll just leave that thought here.

No need to bear all.

I know that favourite quote of many a confident girl ‘how to get a bikini body – put a bikini on your body’ but I’m going to be completely honest with you…I just have not got quite that level of confidence in my ability not to scare an entire beach once bikini’d up. So a significant perk to skiing is not having to worry an ounce. Just wrap me up in a gazillion layers and a few cute winter knits. I’m happy. No skin bearing to worry about (apart from that very speedy dash into the hot-tub!). Which is convenient, considering the amount of cheesy goodness about to be consumed (see above!).

Mountain Air Winter Holiday

Mountain Air.

I LOVE that glorious moment when you get to the top of the mountain for the first time and take a deep breath of fresh air. From the incredible mountain-top views to the crisp white snow. It really is something to wonder at.

Adrenaline Rush.

The actual skiing is a fairly major reason to go! The adrenaline rush as you come bombing down (I would use a more elegant word like glide but I never look elegant) is fantastic. Pushing yourself to try new runs and more difficult slopes throughout the week is really satisfying. Plus, it’s brilliant exercise (all the more Tartiflette for me then!).

Tropical island winter sun Mauritius

So what about the Winter Sun?

Skiing is sounding brilliant, after simply writing those five points I want to dig out my ski goggles and book the chalet. To give winter sun holidays a fair shot, here are my five favourite things about grabbing an exotic holiday this winter.

No complicated equipment.

No heavy boots, awkward skis, bags full of bulky clothing. You could probably survive the week on one pair of flip flops, a couple of swimsuits, a kaftan or three and your suncream. Simples. (Don’t let my boyfriend read this post, he’ll hold me to packing that little!)

Variety is the spice of life.

I love skiing but after day four or five, I start to get the itch that I want my days to be a little more varied. That won’t be a problem you face on a holiday in the sun, from soaking up local culture to taking a road trip along the coast, there will be plenty to keep you busy if you get bored of sunbathing.

Mauritius winter sun holiday

A complete change of pace.

No having to get up early to make the most of the morning snow or beat lift queues, you can enjoy lie-ins and a blissfully slow pace of life. A holiday in the sun in the middle of the UK winter provides such a different environment to the daily grind that you can’t help but feel yourself relax as soon as you arrive.

Spirit of adventure.

Whilst I love the beauty of the mountains, there is still so much of the world to see and deciding on another holiday in the winter sun will keep our wanderlust at bay. Should we head to Sri Lanka? The Andamans? Vietnam? So many adventures to be had!

Winter Sun holiday mauritius

No Panda Eyes!

Ok so I’m perhaps not the best person to talk tanning (redhead, pale skin – factor 50+) but even I tanned when we went to Mauritius. The best it has ever got on the slopes is dodgy freckle lines from my ski goggles. There was something incredibly nice about getting such a massive vitamin D boost mid-winter which left me feeling ready to tackle the rest of those dark nights before Spring arrived.

What is your preference? Ski or Sun? Are you heading anywhere this Winter or do you have any destinations that you think we shouldn’t miss?

Sussex Pond Pudding reinvented The Sussex Girl

Every region has quirky recipes that no one else around the country has heard of except for those living within the county boundaries. Up and down the UK, strange but wonderful recipes are passed down through the generations. Some get to be a bit better known like the Eccles Cake or Bakewell Tart but some remain practically unheard of outside of their birth place.

Sussex Pond Pudding is not exactly a household name but Haven Holidays have asked me to have a go at making my own version of this local recipe as part of their look at some of the UK’s favourite regional delicacies.

Sussex Pond Pudding is traditionally made of suet, lots of butter and a mound of sugar so it is no wonder that it has slowly gone off the list of favourite puddings in the region in these more health-conscious days. The ‘pond’ is made when you cut into the piping hot pudding releasing the sugar-and-lemon infused melted butter from within the sweet suet casing.

Sussex Pond Pudding reinvented The Sussex Girl

The recipes for Pond Pudding date back to the 1700s but the addition of a lemon was an early 1900s change to the recipe. I love that recipes get tweaked and changed to suit different tastes, it certainly left me feeling like this particular pud could do with a 2016 makeover.

I love the strength of flavour that lemon brings and gooey buttery pastry is always a guilty pleasure but reading up on the recipes got me thinking about how the rich flavours could be given a new twist that is perhaps slightly less heart-stoppingly high in cholesterol.

The result was a pudding that combines the fresh zing of lemon with the comfort of a home-baked pudding. Custard or cream an optional extra treat!

Sussex Pond Pudding reinvented The Sussex Girl

Recipe

Preheat your oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4). Thinly slice 2 lemons and 1 lime, the fresher these are the better as that is when they are at their juiciest. Put the lemon and lime slices in a saucepan with 4 heaped teaspoons of demerara sugar, the seeds of 1 vanilla pod (or 2 tsp of vanilla extract) and 4 tablespoons of water. Simmer this together for five minutes. You’ll see the fruit start to soften and leak its juice. Pour the lemon mixture into the bottom of a well-greased ovenproof dish (this could be a casserole or serving dish that is able to go into the oven) so that the citrus fruit lies in a single layer on the bottom.

In a mixing bowl, beat together 125g of butter, 125g caster sugar and 125g self-raising flour with 2 large eggs until light and fluffy (this is a sponge batter so make sure you get lots of air into it). Pour this sponge batter over the top of the lemons and limes in the ovenproof dish. Sprinkle a tablespoon of demerara sugar onto the top of the sponge. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the sponge is well risen, golden brown and a skewer, when inserted, comes out clean. If you are using a particularly large dish, you might need to double the sponge quantity.

Sussex Pond Pudding reinvented The Sussex Girl

Just as with the original Sussex Pond Pudding, it is not intended that you eat the citrus fruit slices so leave these in the dish as you dig into the pudding. As you serve this up, you’ll find a lovely buttery lemon sauce under the sponge ready to be spooned over the sponge.  Perfect for a last nod to summer flavours whilst getting all the autumn comfort of a hot pudding.

Don't Screen Us Out campaign protest Westminster
(Featured Image credit: Don’t Screen Us Out campaign – http://dontscreenusout.org/)

Imagine being told that you weren’t good enough because of a certain characteristic or physical feature.  Your parents being told not to expect much, having to battle to get you an equal education, having to fight to get you access to the same extracurricular opportunities, having to lobby to get you considered on the same playing field as other people the same age.

Imagine the joy and comfort your parents would feel when they saw other children with the same characteristic flourishing at school, doing everything other children can do, making friendships, learning to read, finishing school, achieving qualifications, getting a job, living independently, getting married. Your parents feeling that perhaps, just perhaps, society is finally beginning to change and that all the fighting that has been going on for generations to get you considered equal to your peers was worth it.

Imagine hearing about doctors still telling the parents of an unborn child that they can ‘save’ themselves from the pain of having to look after their child in this way by testing in the womb for that characteristic. That they would be able to identify this trait and offer the parents an abortion.  The doctors making the decision that that life wasn’t worth living. Imagine all those parents were told about was the horrible life you would lead, imagine them being told that your siblings would suffer, that they would be less happy.

Testing for down's syndrome - Jack and Alice

If I told you that this was a hair colour, a certain personality trait or a pre-disposition to an illness such as asthma – you’d be horrified.  Doctors can’t make that kind of decision – who are they to predict a life isn’t worth living, that it won’t be happy and fulfilled?

This is exactly what we see happening, across the country, for parents of people who happen to have Down’s Syndrome.

There is a new type of test that is being debated for introduction into the NHS that proudly claims it will detect 102 more children with Down’s Syndrome with implementation of second-line cfDNA screening (NIPT). The latest figures tell us that 90% of babies who are prenatally diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome are aborted. That would mean 92 of these 102 babies that are diagnosed as having DS would be aborted.    Many parents whose unborn child is diagnosed as having a disability have not felt they were given clear unbiased information at the point of diagnosis and many have experienced a presumption of the medical professional that they will abort their pregnancy.

This isn’t about the right for a woman to terminate her pregnancy if she so desires to do so – that is an entirely different ethical and moral debate.

This is about one life being valued above another when information is provided to expectant parents.  This is about how our society is moving towards cleansing itself of imperfections. About how our society can’t cope with ‘the different’. This is a call to improve support to families where a child has additional needs, not suggesting that family should never have allowed that pregnancy to continue. This is the need to be part of a campaign that wishes to highlight out-of-date opinions and misconceptions being perpetuated by poor information delivery and professionals who should know better (Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, I’m looking at you).  This is about how we can build a community who values peoples differences rather than looks to eliminate them.

This is about one happy 20 year old lady, who lives independently, works at a hairdressers and who happens to have Down’s Syndrome, changing her Facebook status to ‘I long for a time when people are equally valued’ because she sees a system that thinks she should never have been born.

This is about how we explain to my sweet, wonderful, kind, compassionate and intelligent 17 year old sister, who also happens to have Down’s Syndrome, that some people don’t think her life is worth living.

Testing for down's syndrome - Beckie and Alice

Please help us to put across a positive, balanced view of Down’s Syndrome. Please help us protect those we love from this discrimination. Please don’t let this become an argument about abortion but about whether or not we should be encouraging NIPT screening programmes that aim to remove difference in our population. How much more positive change could be seen if we invested as much time and research into supporting those with additional needs in our society as we do into researching how to cleanse communities of society-determined imperfections.

Visit Don’t Screen Us Out or Future of Down’s and find out how you can help – write to your MP, ask them to consider their stance when the NIPT programme comes to debate, be proactive.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

I’ve blogged about this topic before – please see these posts for further information.
// What Do You See? World Down’s Syndrome Day 2016
//A Worthy Life: Testing for Down’s Syndrome
// The Power of Words (and how not to use them)
// 15 Things Having a Sibling With a Learning Disability Has Taught Me

Photo of 5 Ways to instantly improve your travel photography

The perfect holiday photo instantly transports you back to the moment you took it.  These days we can be super snap-happy without having to wait for the photos to be developed, the film getting ruined in transit whilst we travel or face expensive processing fees.  You can view your snap in an instant and cram thousands onto a memory card.

BUT you still only get one chance to capture that exact moment.

You also don’t want to be glued to your camera for an entire holiday trying not to miss a moment because you’ll find that you really do exactly that. Miss being in the moment.

So how do you get better travel snaps first time? How do you capture the moment so succinctly that you end up with a photo that practically gets you feeling the sun on your face all over again even when you’re back at home?

There are a few simple tips that can help you avoid out-of-focus or plain ordinary shots and help preserve the flavour of your trip in a single frame.

Look for the detail

Don’t just snap the wide-angle whole scene photo. Look for those details, the different view of the scene that you’ll want to remember. Take your camera to a different height, get up close with the detail in the architecture or the scenery. You’ll come out with far more interesting photos if you don’t try to capture everything at once.  What does your eye get drawn to first? Chances are your gut instinct or first glances are the details you ought to try and capture.

Photo of Umbrellas in Bath Spa
(Umbrellas in Bath Spa. Shot on Sony a350)
Photo of signpost Luosto Finland
(Amethyst Mines, Luosto, Finland. Shot on Sony Cybershot)

Avoid the strongest sunlight

When the sun is at its strongest and highest in the sky, it may be difficult to photograph an over-exposed scene. Picking the time of day you take photos will lead to a photograph with a far more magical light – chase the sunrise and sunset for those beautiful golden glows.  If you do hunt for photographs whilst the sun is at its brightest, use it to your advantage – backlight buildings with sun flare or look for the dramatic shadows.

Photo of Sunset Snowdonia
(Snowdonia at Sunset. Shot on iPhone 6)
Photo of Sunset Mauritius
(Mauritius at Sunset. Shot on Sony a350)

Utilise depth and focus

Picking a photo from an unusual angle is one way of getting a fascinating shot but you can also play with depth and focus to provide a way of drawing the eye to the detail you want to highlight.  Composing your photo with points of interest in the foreground, mid-ground and background. It helps capture subtle details which, if all in focus, would leave the photo confused and busy.

Photo of Mid Wales depth of focus
(Mid Wales. Shot on Sony a350)
Photo of Tea Plantation Mauritius
(Tea Plantation, Mauritius. Shot on Sony a350)

Get natural

The less posed and more natural looking your photos, the more likely they are to be engaging and captivating. This particularly applies when taking holiday portraits of your travel buddy. If it means getting them to walk off or stare into the distance (well, when I said not posed…), you’ll get a photo that looks less forced and probably far more interesting.  People often make the photo – they help to capture the magic of the moment. Their movement, emotions and excitement can be captured but usually far better when the subject doesn’t know they’re being photographed than when you ask them to pose.

Photo of Loch at Luss
(Luss, Scotland. Shot on Sony a350)

You can’t capture everything

By trying to document each and every moment, you’ll not be a part of them. Take time to soak up the atmosphere, experience the sights and sounds, enjoy the quality time of those you travel with. You’ll not be able to send yourself back to the moment with a single photo if you were never fully engaged with the moment in the first place because you were worrying about aperture settings.

Snap photos as you go, but enjoy the story behind each image and learn from the photos you love the most once you get around to sifting through them once you get home.

Above all.  Enjoy the process!

Photo of building Normandy, France
(Normandy, France. Shot on iPhone 6)

Photo of Printerpix Canvas Mauritius

Captured a particularly special moment that makes you smile each time you see it? Why not get it printed properly rather than just Instagramming it to death?

With thanks to Printerpix UK, we picked this sunset photo from our holiday to Mauritius earlier this year. They printed it up on their heavy duty glossy photo canvas, we’re delighted! It looks beautiful – the colours are incredibly rich and true to life.

If you’ve got a photo that you’d like to get printed up then why not take advantage of this pretty darn good discount code.  Printerpix are offering my readers a special 60% off on any of their products through the whole of September (til the 30th September 2016). Just use the code THESUSSEXGIRL to claim your discount.

Let me know what you pick – a canvas? or maybe a photo book?

Did you capture an amazing photo this summer? Please do share with me, I’d love to see! You can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @beckiehsaunders

Thanks to Printerpix for collaborating with me on this post – I only feature products or companies on my Blog that I would personally use and recommend to my readers.