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  • 18 Sep 2015
    Whilst on a trip back home to Sweden, I spent some time at a truly unique spa hotel. ‘Yasuragi‘ as it’s named in Japanese, is nestled on the outskirts of the beautiful Stockholm archipelago, and is deeply infused with Japanese heritage throughout. The hotel, a former school designed by a Japanese architect, is vast, light, natural and altogether in tune with the verdant forestry surrounding it. Wherever you look there are sweeping, majestic views are over the lush archipelago and a fascinating combination of ‘the modern’ – large concrete slab walls, floor to ceiling windows – and ‘the traditional’ – Japanese tatami mats on the floor and walls and the respectful national ethic. It’s a place to unwind and re-energise amidst the invigorating beauty of Swedish forestry, and from which to return home with renewed physical and mental strength. Click MORE to see my review… Yasuragi is so unlike anywhere else I’ve been. There’s an immense tranquility which strikes you from the moment you enter the hotel, and are presented with your own Yukata – the cotton robe i’m wearing in the picture below. The gentle feeling of comfortable seclusion prepares your body for ‘recovery mode’ – a mode it doesn’t often enter into when battling city life! I’m going to walk through some of my favourite parts – some for which I have pictures, others for which I don’t, but hope my descriptions will do them justice :) 1) ROOMSAll rooms are fabulously spacious and decorated in a pared back, Japanese style – and they all have a beautiful view over the Swedish archipelago. My room had a generous balcony which was perfect to watch the sunrise and sunset over a cup of tea. You sleep on futons just like in Japan. Whilst no two rooms are the same, they all take inspiration from the outdoors using natural materials – pine wood and stone. The bathroom has two ablution areas with stools, pails, and a wooden Japanese soaking tubs. 2) POOLSUpon arrival it’s wonderful to get the full introduction to the bathing ritual. Whilst you’ll find showers and large wooden baths in your rooms and in the shower facilities you’ll also notice the wooden buckets which should be used when cleaning oneself. 3) THE INDOOR POOLInside you’ll find a large 25m long cold pool which is perfect for laps. Next to it is a cute teahouse, which is a haven for extra relaxation. Below is me having a little dive… 4) HOT BATHSThe pools or hot springs outside overlooking the archipelago are indeed very hot, especially in the icy winter months, and sit under the birch trees guarding the complex, with a view out to the water. I find the thermal energy works wonders for loosening up muscles, and can often end up like a shrivelled prune, from just enjoying it for so long! 5) JAPANESE GARDEN: Being a bit of a nature lover, a wander through the Japanese Gardens was a favourite for me! They’re replete with Swedish cherry trees, Japanese maples, magnolia trees and bamboo, set amongst the dramatic archipelago landscape. The contrast between surrounding movement and calmness within, hiking and resting, nature and garden creates an atmosphere of amazing serenity. 6) SAUNA WITH A VIEW:This sauna has a tranquil view over the water below and you’ll want to stay here for ages…well perhaps until you’re melting and decide to jump in one of the ice pools with an equally great view! 7) HEALTHY EATINGWherever you look you find water (there’s a strong emphasis on hydration throughout the hotel), and in the lounge a fresh selection of fruits and teas for the sampling. There’s also a selection of raw healthy foods to purchase at the hotel’s shop. 8) RESTAURANTS:There are a vast five restaurants – Tatami, Tokyo, Kaiten Zushi, The Sake Bar and Teppanyaki.I had dinner at Tatami on night where you sit on straw mats (tatami) at ultra-low tables whilst being served in the traditional Japanese manner. I sampled the taster menu which was super fresh, tasty, incredibly light and nutritionally well balanced! 9) BREAKFASTAs with most hotels, you’re offered all the classic crowd-pleasers like toast, jam, eggs of all varieties, juice, muesli and so forth. However, Yasuragi also offers a japanese breakfast; with that in mind, I had Miso soup, with a nori salad and tofu and rice, along with some salmon sashimi, and a bowl of chia coconut and berry gruel (delicious!). 10) ‘COME AS YOU ARE’ ETHOSHere they encourage you to ‘Come as you are’, and upon arrival you’re given your yukata, the cotton robe, along with a pair of slippers and a swimsuit/trunks. That’s intended to be your clothing during your stay, and you’re totally encouraged to wear it for everything including mealtimes. In a way, you leave your worldly concerns at the door, and embrace a more spartan existence! Here everyone dresses the same… and it’s quite relaxing :) 11) REVOLUTIONARY MASSAGE OFFERING:In the shots below, you see me trying the Wellness Air Massage – a world-exclusive new form of massage which sees you suspended and cocooned in a red fabric ‘hammock’, which is fastened to the ceiling by rope. Lying or sitting and often in yoga-inspired poses the masseuse will give you a soothing foot, hand, neck and head massage. Whilst it looks unusual, it is profoundly relaxing, and the effect it has on your muscles is quite remarkable – I’ve not experienced anything so deeply insulating and de-stressing since the womb! It is absolutely worth trying, and will be totally memorable for all the right reasons! 12) CLASSESThere’s an extensive schedule of communal activities, in which every guest is invited to participate. There are guided meditations, yoga classes, gong journeys and more. With no restrictions on undertaking classes, it’s worth trying them all to enjoy the full benefit to your wellbeing! 13) OVERALL EXPERIENCE:To extract the optimum value for your body and mind, I think it’s worth staying here for 3 long days. It is the type of place where you’ll benefit from completely immersing yourself in everything they have to offer; all the classes, all the food, all the treatments and facilities. Comparing it to other hotels is inappropriate, as it’s not supposed to be judged on its plush touches – it is totally different from that, and almost shuns such materialistic and classically western elements. To my mind, it offers some of the most spectacular views of nature, and it provides the peaceful relaxation of a secluded retreat. The question is if you’re ready for it, as admittedly coming from frenetic London, something that first struck me was the depth of quiet; no buses, traffic or yelling; you’re very much able to consider your own thoughts without distraction. The after-effect is quite striking though, and a full 24 hours here counts more than double! This wasn’t my first visit, and it certainly won’t be my last… Faya x Whilst on a trip back home to Sweden, I spent some time at a truly unique spa hotel. ‘Yasuragi‘ as it’s named in Japanese, is nestled on the outskirts of the beautiful Stockholm archipelago, and is deeply infused with Japanese heritage throughout. The hotel, a former school designed by a Japanese architect, is vast, light, natural and altogether in tune with the verdant forestry surrounding it. Wherever you look there are sweeping, majestic views are over the lush archipelago and a fascinating combination of ‘the modern’ – large concrete slab walls, floor to ceiling windows – and ‘the traditional’ – Japanese tatami mats on the floor and walls and the respectful national ethic. It’s a place to unwind and re-energise amidst the invigorating beauty of Swedish forestry, and from which to return home with renewed physical and mental strength. Click MORE to see my review… Yasuragi is so unlike anywhere else I’ve been. There’s an immense tranquility which strikes you from the moment you enter the hotel, and are presented with your own Yukata – the cotton robe i’m wearing in the picture below. The gentle feeling of comfortable seclusion prepares your body for ‘recovery mode’ – a mode it doesn’t often enter into when battling city life! I’m going to walk through some of my favourite parts – some for which I have pictures, others for which I don’t, but hope my descriptions will do them justice :) 1) ROOMSAll rooms are fabulously spacious and decorated in a pared back, Japanese style – and they all have a beautiful view over the Swedish archipelago. My room had a generous balcony which was perfect to watch the sunrise and sunset over a cup of tea. You sleep on futons just like in Japan. Whilst no two rooms are the same, they all take inspiration from the outdoors using natural materials – pine wood and stone. The bathroom has two ablution areas with stools, pails, and a wooden Japanese soaking tubs. 2) POOLSUpon arrival it’s wonderful to get the full introduction to the bathing ritual. Whilst you’ll find showers and large wooden baths in your rooms and in the shower facilities you’ll also notice the wooden buckets which should be used when cleaning oneself. 3) THE INDOOR POOLInside you’ll find a large 25m long cold pool which is perfect for laps. Next to it is a cute teahouse, which is a haven for extra relaxation. Below is me having a little dive… 4) HOT BATHSThe pools or hot springs outside overlooking the archipelago are indeed very hot, especially in the icy winter months, and sit under the birch trees guarding the complex, with a view out to the water. I find the thermal energy works wonders for loosening up muscles, and can often end up like a shrivelled prune, from just enjoying it for so long! 5) JAPANESE GARDEN: Being a bit of a nature lover, a wander through the Japanese Gardens was a favourite for me! They’re replete with Swedish cherry trees, Japanese maples, magnolia trees and bamboo, set amongst the dramatic archipelago landscape. The contrast between surrounding movement and calmness within, hiking and resting, nature and garden creates an atmosphere of amazing serenity. 6) SAUNA WITH A VIEW:This sauna has a tranquil view over the water below and you’ll want to stay here for ages…well perhaps until you’re melting and decide to jump in one of the ice pools with an equally great view! 7) HEALTHY EATINGWherever you look you find water (there’s a strong emphasis on hydration throughout the hotel), and in the lounge a fresh selection of fruits and teas for the sampling. There’s also a selection of raw healthy foods to purchase at the hotel’s shop. 8) RESTAURANTS:There are a vast five restaurants – Tatami, Tokyo, Kaiten Zushi, The Sake Bar and Teppanyaki.I had dinner at Tatami on night where you sit on straw mats (tatami) at ultra-low tables whilst being served in the traditional Japanese manner. I sampled the taster menu which was super fresh, tasty, incredibly light and nutritionally well balanced! 9) BREAKFASTAs with most hotels, you’re offered all the classic crowd-pleasers like toast, jam, eggs of all varieties, juice, muesli and so forth. However, Yasuragi also offers a japanese breakfast; with that in mind, I had Miso soup, with a nori salad and tofu and rice, along with some salmon sashimi, and a bowl of chia coconut and berry gruel (delicious!). 10) ‘COME AS YOU ARE’ ETHOSHere they encourage you to ‘Come as you are’, and upon arrival you’re given your yukata, the cotton robe, along with a pair of slippers and a swimsuit/trunks. That’s intended to be your clothing during your stay, and you’re totally encouraged to wear it for everything including mealtimes. In a way, you leave your worldly concerns at the door, and embrace a more spartan existence! Here everyone dresses the same… and it’s quite relaxing :) 11) REVOLUTIONARY MASSAGE OFFERING:In the shots below, you see me trying the Wellness Air Massage – a world-exclusive new form of massage which sees you suspended and cocooned in a red fabric ‘hammock’, which is fastened to the ceiling by rope. Lying or sitting and often in yoga-inspired poses the masseuse will give you a soothing foot, hand, neck and head massage. Whilst it looks unusual, it is profoundly relaxing, and the effect it has on your muscles is quite remarkable – I’ve not experienced anything so deeply insulating and de-stressing since the womb! It is absolutely worth trying, and will be totally memorable for all the right reasons! 12) CLASSESThere’s an extensive schedule of communal activities, in which every guest is invited to participate. There are guided meditations, yoga classes, gong journeys and more. With no restrictions on undertaking classes, it’s worth trying them all to enjoy the full benefit to your wellbeing! 13) OVERALL EXPERIENCE:To extract the optimum value for your body and mind, I think it’s worth staying here for 3 long days. It is the type of place where you’ll benefit from completely immersing yourself in everything they have to offer; all the classes, all the food, all the treatments and facilities. Comparing it to other hotels is inappropriate, as it’s not supposed to be judged on its plush touches – it is totally different from that, and almost shuns such materialistic and classically western elements. To my mind, it offers some of the most spectacular views of nature, and it provides the peaceful relaxation of a secluded retreat. The question is if you’re ready for it, as admittedly coming from frenetic London, something that first struck me was the depth of quiet; no buses, traffic or yelling; you’re very much able to consider your own thoughts without distraction. The after-effect is quite striking though, and a full 24 hours here counts more than double! This wasn’t my first visit, and it certainly won’t be my last… Faya x
    3680 Posted by Jess Jessica
  • 18 Sep 2015
    Dear Readers: If you come across a contest takes little effort to enter and has no repercussions afterward, there’s no reason not to enter.  Play your cards right and you could win a nice dinner out.  Or a car. OR you could win a trip to Stockholm. At World Travel Market last year, I dropped my business card into a fishbowl at the Visit Sweden table.  I knew there was a prize, but I didn’t look at it closely.  My card was the one picked, and to my great shock, I had won a free trip to Stockholm! And so this October, I made it to my 34th country, setting foot in Sweden for the first time.  Though my visit was brief, I enjoyed Stockholm greatly. Stockholm is BEAUTIFUL. After visiting Stockholm, I can confirm that it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.  The first thing that you notice about the city is just what a spectacular natural setting it has, set on hundreds of islands in a lagoon.  Stockholm’s old town, the Gamla Stan, is where you find the most beautiful architecture, characterized by its yellow buildings and cobblestones. Though it was cold, with early October temperatures in the low 40s (around 5 degrees C), I spent as much time as I could exploring the beauty of the city. Stockholm is SWANK. Looking for fancy places?  You’ll do just fine in Stockholm.  There were beautiful bars all over the place — giant bars with chandeliers, crazy nightclubs with pricey cocktails, Lebanese restaurants with (quality) belly-dancing. And it suits the city.  People tended to be tall, beautiful, and well-dressed.  (Strangely enough, there didn’t seem to be many more blonde people than usual.  It didn’t look like the Sweden in my head.) But there is a flip side to the swankness… Stockholm is EXPENSIVE. How expensive?  In central Stockholm, I couldn’t find an entree in a restaurant for less than $30.  Seriously.  A margarita pizza, usually a great benchmark for telling how expensive a city is, cost about $18.  I paid $13 for a sandwich and a bottle of water; cups of coffee started at around $5. Mind you, this was in central Stockholm, in the pricey Gamla Stan.  As in any other city, the further from the central attractions you go, the cheaper things will be. That said, there are ways to do Stockholm on the cheap.  There are street vendors around the city with sausages and kebabs, there’s the option of renting an apartment and cooking at home, and there are lots of free attractions. One of those free attractions was the Kulturhuset — a cultural center in the heart of Stockholm.  The place is filled with several art exhibits, most of them free.  When I was there, the exhibit was on street art from around the world.  (Fitting, as Stockholm is so clean that you don’t really see street art there!) Overall, though, if you want to have a nice time in Stockholm, I would budget at least $150 USD per day. Does this mean that Stockholm isn’t worth visiting?  Not at all.  Stockholm is a great city, and very worth visiting.  But make sure you realize how much it’s going to cost you before you arrive so you’re prepared in advance. Stockholm has GREAT STREET LIFE. I could have wandered the streets of Stockholm all day!  (In fact, that’s what I did.)  Even though it was chilly in early October, plenty of people were out and about — enjoying the many parks, playing giant chess on the sidewalk, going to markets. I imagine that it’s even better during the summer, when concerts take over the city.   Stockholm is made for POSING. I kept finding places all over the city to strike a pose!  The statues here do everything from Saturday Night Fever poses to I’m-Naked-And-Triumphant poses.  (You’ll find the latter on the edge of the Gamla Stan, proudly showing himself off to the world.) To my great surprise, Stockholm’s public transportation signs, a giant black T in a circle, happen to be identical to Boston’s!  I had to get a pose there. Cool Digs: The Victory Hotel The hotel included with the prize was very posh — the Victory Hotel.  This traditional yet quirky hotel dialed up its nautical theme to 11, complete with a ship in a bottle mounted above the bed. It couldn’t have been in a better location, in the heart of Gamla Stan and just steps from the main shopping streets. My British readers will probably be interested to know that the Victory Hotel has an original letter from Lord Nelson, one of the most important Brits of all time. And most of my other readers will appreciate that they include port in the room. Nice. Should You Visit Stockholm? Does this city call to you?  Then absolutely, you should!  I think that Scandinavia in general is a great place if you’re new to European travel — while it may be an expensive region, everyone speaks English, there’s excellent tourism infrastructure, the destinations are generally quite safe, public transportation is great, and their cities are beautiful. Do your research on Stockholm and plan ahead — just know that it’s going to cost you more than you would pay in London or Paris or Rome.  But what a lovely, lovely destination it is.
    798 Posted by Jess Jessica
  • 10 Jun 2015
    If you can't afford to join a gym but still want to keep fit, there is plenty you can do. And best of all you could burn more calories than the average gym workout and it doesn't cost you the earth. Here, we present five more ways to keep fit without having to join a gym     1. GET DECORATING   Climbing up and down the step-ladder to reach nooks and crannies adds to the calories burned when you decorate. Wallpapering is an energetic activity too - applying paste and reaching up to put the paper on the walls works the upper body. Where to start: The bedroom? Amount of calories burnt in one hour: 280 ________________________________________ 2. JOIN AN INDOOR CLIMBING CLUB Climbing stretches all the major muscle groups in the body and is also a great way to work your core abdominal muscles. These are the muscles of your lower back and stomach that form a 'corset' around your middle. You need these muscles to help you balance while you are climbing. You will strengthen and tone the muscles in both your upper and lower body. Where to start: Visit the Association of British Climbing Walls website on www.abcclimbingwalls.co.uk or try www.ukclimbing.com. Amount of calories burnt in one hour: Around 400. ________________________________________     3. TRAIN FOR A MARATHON   The average person running a marathon will take at least four and a half hours to run 26 miles. But before you can achieve this goal, you need to follow an intensive exercise programme at least four months before the marathon. Running will build up your cardiovascular system so your fat will simply burn off without you realising it. Where to start: Bud Baldaro, running consultant to Adidas, recommends running three times a week and increasing to four to five times a week. Throw in some swimming or cycling and you'll build muscle tone too.  Amount of calories burnt in one hour: From 300-400 ________________________________________ 4. TURN YOUR WALK INTO A WORKOUT Walking at least 30 minutes every day can help you burn up fat and lead to weight loss. This is because aerobic exercise increases the amount of enzymes contained in our muscles. More enzyme activity in our muscles means more efficient use of oxygen which, in turn, burns up fat more quickly. Where to start: Leave the car at home. Amount of calories burnt in one hour: From 220 walking at a moderate pace. ________________________________________ 5. 15 MINUTES OF EXERCISE EACH MORNING Apart from being a great start to the day, moving blood around your body and bringing fresh oxygen to the brain will make you feel more alert and improve your mood. This is because exercise releases endorphins - our body's own natural feel-good chemicals, making you feel calmer, happier and more relaxed. Even better, after around four to six weeks of short bursts of exercise, you'll develop stronger abdominal muscles - the part of your body that gives you that much coveted look - a waist. Where to start: Stretching, squats, lunges and yoga in your front room.  
    770 Posted by Jess Jessica
  • 18 Sep 2015
    With top tier fashion bloggers raking in upwards of $1 million, the competition is hot on their trail. Every Tom, Dick and Jane from Minneapolis to Bondi Beach, Australia, wants a piece of the sartorial pie, but there’s only so much to go around. And who can blame them? To find out who’s really in the running to take it to the next level, we reached out toFohr Card, a members-only fashion blogger directory that provides detailed stats of vetted talent in the aim of linking bloggers with top brands. Here are Fohr Card’s picks to be in the running for the best fashion blogs of 2015. May the best blog win.
    696 Posted by Jess Jessica

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884 views Sep 18, 2015
Harvard Health Blog

Mediterranean diet may prevent breast cancer, but there are other reasons to pour on the olive oil

POSTED SEPTEMBER 17, 2015, 12:53 PM , UPDATED SEPTEMBER 17, 2015, 3:58 PM

Mediterranean diet

This week, a preliminary study in JAMA Internal Medicinereported that older women in Spain who ate a traditional Mediterranean diet enhanced with extra-virgin olive oil were less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

To be sure, it’s no shock that a tasty, wholesome diet that’s already been proven to sharply reduce the number of heart attacks can also help to fight breast cancer. “Am I surprised that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial for breast cancer? No, because it seems to be beneficial across the board,” says Dr. Beth Overmoyer, a breast cancer specialist at the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The new findings

The breast cancer study was bootstrapped onto a landmark clinical trial in Spain called Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea (PREDIMED).  In 2013, the first results from this study established that people who ate a Mediterranean diet — rich in extra-virgin olive oil, fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, and other superstars of healthy eating — were 30% less likely to have heart attacks or strokes or to die from heart-related causes, compared with people who were just told to eat less fat.

But the PREDIMED researchers were not done. They also kept track of how many women were diagnosed with breast cancer during the study period so they could see if the rates were different across three different groups—women who followed the diet plus extra servings of olive oil, women who followed the diet plus extra servings of nuts, and women who were simply advised to reduce fat intake. They followed about 4,300 women ages 60 to 80.

Out of a total of 35 breast cancers diagnosed during the study period, there were 62% fewer cancers in the women who ate the olive-oil–enhanced diet, compared with women just told to cut their fat intake. The rate of breast cancer in women who ate the Mediterranean diet plus extra servings of nuts was not statistically different from that in the women told to reduce fat intake.

Is it true?

That’s great news — but it isn’t definite proof that eating Mediterranean prevents breast cancer. The scientists acknowledge that their findings need to be confirmed in a study that catches a larger number of breast cancers. That could mean a larger study, or a longer study.

The study’s conclusions are based on just 35 cases of breast cancer. The small numbers leave the study more vulnerable to factors besides diet that could have skewed the math — such as how often the women had mammograms. The researchers did not keep track of which women were having mammograms — and fewer mammograms translates into fewer cancers diagnosed. But they argue that the process that randomly assigned study participants was so thorough — like shuffling a deck of cards over and over — that any pre-existing differences between participants would have averaged out.

How good is the good news?

Dr. Overmoyer stresses that women should keep in mind that a healthy diet is only one influence of lifestyle on the risk of breast cancer. “It says a healthy diet may be very important — plus you need to exercise, plus you need to lose weight,” she says.

If diet helps, how much does it help? Based on the study’s numbers, in a group of 1,000 women who eat a Mediterranean-style diet with extra olive oil for 10 years, 14 women would be diagnosed with breast cancer. A similar group of women who only cut fat from their diet without eating in the Mediterranean style would see 29 cases, meaning 15 additional breast cancers over a decade in every 1,000 women.

That sounds much less dramatic than “62% lower risk,” and might even make you wonder how big the benefit really is. But of course, each new case of breast cancer is an actual woman facing a serious disease. “If we are looking at an individual — if you are one of those women who gets breast cancer — then that’s important,” Dr. Overmoyer says.

This study has some important limitations. It could, like other “encouraging” preliminary studies, burn brightly like a meteor for a while before subsequent research with more sobering results causes it to peter out. Fortunately, we know that the Mediterranean eating pattern prevents heart disease, a leading killer. The evidence for whether it fights breast cancer may be preliminary, but women can still consider it a smart bet.

“What is the actual risk of choosing a Mediterranean diet high in olive oil? It’s not much,” Dr. Overmoyer says. “It may be a little more expensive, but it’s still a healthy choice. There might not be a huge upside for you personally, but the downside is very low.”