Saturday, May 21, 2022
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Have Some Fun With Stripes

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Stripes are a great pattern for fashion; they can be subtle or bold, can slim you down, can look professional on a business suit, and can add visual interest and depth to any piece you own. Using stripes of different colors and varying widths can make your outfit fun and give you a unique look. Consider how to have fun with stripes on anything you wear.

First consider trying stripes of different widths, rather than just pinstripes. Thin pinstripes are very good for professional suits and can break up a monochromatic look. They can also slim you down and coordinate with your blouse or sweater. However, pinstripes have been around for decades, so you might try thick stripes for a fun touch. Larger vertical stripes can be very slimming and very eye-catching and they’re a unique touch on a professional suit.

You can also have fun with stripes by mixing up the colors. If you see a piece with more than one color for stripes, consider wearing it with something solid so it’s not overwhelming, but different colors of stripes give your clothes dimension and depth.

Typically you don’t mix and match striped pieces but if you do it right, this can also add a unique and personal touch to your wardrobe and create a fun look. You might try pinstriped trousers with a blazer that has thicker stripes, or striped jeans with a t-shirt that has smaller stripes. Coordinate the colors so everything complements but don’t be bound by the old rules that stripes need to match.

Striped pants are also a great touch for any occasion and striped jeans or casual trousers can be a great option when going out. Try white jean with blue or red stripes or red jeans with white stripes. These too can slim down your legs and make you look taller, and are very unique and personal.

Mix up your stripes with other patterns for even more visual interest. You might try striped pants with a polka dot sweater or some other fun patterns. Try to avoid stripes with more geometric shapes as these can be too harsh, so mix it up with softer shapes that are rounded or curved. When you wear striped pants or a striped skirt, try a tee with a fun graphic or sweater with complementary design.

You can also have fun with stripes by introducing them in your accessories. A colorful handbag with stripes or pumps with stripes can be visually stunning but not overwhelming. These can break up a floral print or monochromatic outfit and make your accessories stand out. Toss out the old rules about wearing stripes and have fun with your fashion for your own personalized look.

Garden Gloves Extra Long – To Protect Your Arms

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If you have allergies or sensitivities to things in the environment, you will be happy to know that you can now buy extra long garden gloves designed specifically to protect your arms. If you have ever grown and harvest raspberries or roses, you know the dangers associated with these plants and their prickers, so a pair of extra long garden gloves would make yard work much more pleasant.

Traditional Garden Gloves

Traditional garden gloves come in a variety of different textiles to meet the needs of the gardener, but the gloves cover the hands and the wrists. If you are working with plants that have long stems and prickers or thorns, traditional garden gloves do very little protect any part of the arm. If you have ever had to stick your arm into a raspberry bush, you know the dangers associated with the thorns that cover the canes and branches and having extra long garden gloves would make transplanting, harvest, and trimming bushes much less painful.

Types of Extra Long Garden Gloves

Extra long garden gloves also come in a variety of different textiles, like rubber, canvas, and leather to meet the needs of the garden. The difference between the extra long garden gloves and the traditional length gloves is that the extra long gloves cover the forearm up to the elbow. They are usually quite wide at the elbow to accommodate different sizes of arms.

Utilitarian and Whimsical Garden Gloves

Extra long garden gloves can be designed to be utilitarian or a bit whimsical. The part of the glove that covers the hand is usually very utilitarian, but the part that covers the arm is where the whimsy comes into play. Often, if the gloves are designed for women, the forearm is covered with a fun fabric print or with ruffles or some pretty embellishment to make the gloves more fun to wear. Despite the whimsy and embellishments, extra long garden gloves will still help you get the difficult gardening work finished with less pain and discomfort.

Garden Gloves for Allergy Sufferers

For those who have sensitivities to pollen or grasses or other environmental elements, extra long garden gloves can protect your skin. It might be warm outside, so you do not want to wear long sleeves, but the extra long garden gloves can protect the part of the body that is usually the closest to the plant and other greenery. If you purchase extra long garden gloves with rubber forearms, you can truly protect the arms from allergens because the rubber is not permeable by pollens and other allergens.

Where to Buy Extra Long Garden Gloves

Extra long garden gloves can be purchased at your favorite garden supply store or home improvement warehouse. You might be able to find them at fun boutiques and they are available on Etsy. If you are motivated and like to do things yourself, you can even make your own extra long garden gloves by combining traditional garden gloves with long rubber gloves and your favorite embellishments.

How to Deal With Daytime Sleepiness

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Daytime fatigue can be annoying at best, and downright deadly in extreme cases. Drowsy drivers falling asleep at the wheel can cause accidents that cost them their lives and the lives of others, and nodding off at work can cost you your job or put you in harm’s way. If you seem tired in front of others they may mistake this for boredom and your relationships might suffer, and you may miss out on many fun activities because you’re too fatigued to go out. How do you deal with daytime sleepiness and get the rest and energy you need?

Your nighttime sleep habits will affect your daytime energy levels, so this is the first thing to address. If you don’t get enough sleep at night, consider why this might be. Do you stay up too late? Are you drinking too much coffee or cola or something else with caffeine? If you’re heavyset then you might be physically uncomfortable and unable to sleep. You might also have emotional worries that keep you up at night. Address all these issues so you can get to sleep each and every night.

In other cases you may be sleepy during the day because your metabolism is low and you have no energy. Your metabolism is the rate you burn calories every day, and the higher your metabolism, the more energy you have. To raise your metabolism you need to be more active. This may sound confusing, that you need to be more active so you’re less sleepy but it does work. Being active raises your heart rate and your metabolism and in turn, your energy levels. Those who are active also tend to sleep better at night.

Daytime sleepiness can also be caused by a high-stress job as you try to focus on many things at once or feel constantly distracted. The mind needs rest just like the body, and without proper breaks the body may make you feel sleepy so that the mind can shut off during sleep. To address this problem, you need to take regular breaks so your mind can switch off and get rest. During your coffee breaks, take a walk outside or around the building. Be sure you use your lunch hour and don’t spend it working at your desk. During your off-hours, practice yoga or meditation or other habits that help you to relax mentally.

Avoid stimulants like caffeine and energy drinks if you feel sleepy during the day as these can interfere with healthy sleep cycles and may make you anxious and nervous. If you continue to have daytime fatigue, you might also want to see a doctor to rule out health concerns like low iron levels, low blood sugar, and other conditions that may require medical intervention.

How to Waterproof Your Shoes

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While it’s good to protect your best and most expensive shoes by carrying them with you and changing when you need to walk in inclement weather, you can waterproof shoes of all materials in just a few minutes so they’re protected from rain and snow. This is especially important when the seasons change and spring arrives and when you spend hundreds of dollars on your shoes. After all, you want to protect that investment!

The way you waterproof your shoes will depend on the material. You use different treatments for suede, leather, vinyl, and other shoe materials and will also use different application methods. The easiest way to waterproof your shoes is to purchase a spray that is meant for the shoe material in particular and use that over all parts of your shoes, but even with this treatment method you need to use caution. Some sprays are very lightweight and don’t protect well and may not work for all the materials of shoes you have.

Wax-based polishes are good for waterproofing various forms of shoes as the wax provides a thin coating over the shoe material which repels water as well as dirt, salt, and mud. The wax also nourishes and moisturizes leather and vinyl materials so they’re less likely to crack. If you polish your shoes once per week with a wax-based polish you’ll be providing it with a waterproof coating at the same time.

Specialty waterproof compounds are made to provide a barrier against moisture but don’t give your shoes that shine that you’ll get with wax. These compounds are usually found in those sprays you purchase but the better the brand, the better the seal you’ll get. It’s often recommended that you use your waterproof compound and then a wax polish on top of that. Those that are sold in solid form will be thicker and provide a better seal for your shoes.

Before you use any type of waterproofing material on your shoes, you want to determine if the material will withstand the treatment without fading or changing the color. Choose a part of the shoe that won’t show such as the back of the heel and test just a part of it. Before you waterproof your shoes, clean them thoroughly with a brush or wet rag so you’re not waterproofing over dirt and mud. Make sure the shoe is completely dry.

It’s good to waterproof once a month during winter or any rainy season so you know your shoes are completely protected. Be sure you treat them everywhere, including along the sole and the stitching between the sole and body of the shoe, and the heel. This will keep your shoes dry and comfortable all season long.

How to beat jet lag

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Mother Nature throws some mighty curve balls – and jet lag is one of the nastiest biorhythm hurdles. While some frequent fliers thrive on the executive experience of taking frequent international flights, others bemoan the exhaustion and confusion that comes with constantly changing time zones. Meanwhile, there’s nothing worse than wasting your precious vacation time because you’re too knackered to leave the hotel room.

There are a number of ways to combat and to try and overcome jet lag, including pressure point techniques and medication, but most travellers agree that natural methods are the most effective way to adjust to your new time zone quickly. The key is to plan ahead for your arrival and to make compromises with – rather than try and dictate – your body’s natural rhythms.

• Plan your flight time – the battle against fatigue starts the moment you step on board the aircraft. First and foremost, flyers should try and use the time in flight to adjust to their destination time. This means that if you’ve booked a cheap flight to Thailand that touches down in the morning, you should get as much sleep as you can on the plane. However, if you’ll be arriving in the evening or at night, you’ll want to stay awake for most of the flight so you’ll be ready to hit the hay.

• Limit alcohol and stay active – it’s important to stay hydrated during your flight as cabin pressurised air tends to be quite dry. Also limit the number of drinks you have on board as the alcohol increases dehydration. Dehydration can increase the likelihood of bad jet lag as your body will be less equipped to handle the experience. Meanwhile, little in seat exercises, especially if you’re in the cramped economy sections of cheap flights, will keep your circulation flowing which will help you feel more energetic when you arrive.

Adjust as soon as you arrive – once you arrive at your destination, do what you can to adjust to a normal schedule. If it’s day, stay outdoors and in the sun as our bodies respond well to daylight. Meanwhile, some hotels are offering ingenious jet lag services such as bright light therapy to help you battle fatigue.  Resist the urge to take a nap even a short quick one if you can.

Did you know?

According to the Journal of Sport Behavior, eastward travel is more difficult to handle because it compresses days into shorter time periods, which takes your body further away from its natural rhythms. Westward travel, on the other hand, expand your day – so the experience is more like staying up late for one night rather than trying to go to sleep at 5 in the afternoon!

Jordan – Desert smiles

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The smell of fresh figs, dates and pomegranates is an assault on the senses as I move among the shoppers in the marketplace of Amman. I bite into the nugget of juicy mango offered by the stallholder and accept a handful of saffron-flavoured pistachios and a sliced fig. He smiles a greeting. The smile is genuine, the welcome real, for the Jordanians’ warmth and traditional hospitality have not been corrupted by mass tourism.

Jordan offers the visitor everything from ancient sites to stunning beaches, plus stress-free modern shopping and superb hotels. There are no touts spoiling your walk as you follow in the footsteps of Old Testament prophets or wander the sandy streets of 3,000-year-old cities, and no beggars implore you with outstretched hands for a few cents, for there are no beggars here.

The shopkeepers are busier with their worry beads than with their calculators and no one tries to sell you a kaftan when you finger the beaded silk robes outside a shop. Dead Sea health products – especially the mud, which works wonders on the face and body – finely decorated daggers and swords and the high-quality, hand-blown glass for which Jordan is famous are real bargains in this part of the Middle East.

Amman’s Roman remains are overlooked because of the glory that is Petra but this city that sprawls across seven hills has a rich history of its own. Wander among its centuries-old colannaded streets, its well-preserved Roman theatre and Nymphaeneum. Better still, view them from Citadel Hill in the early morning when the stones of Hercules’ Temple and the Umayyad Palace on the summit are awash with golden sunlight.

Gigantic sandstone blocks litter the ground, part of the Roman Temple jigsaw awaiting completion by archaeologists working on this vast 1200BC complex. The nearby museum houses the third-century Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered by Bedouin in 1947.

A few hours’ drive along the King’s Highway that cuts through the desert and you are in Wadi Rum, familiar to film fans as the setting for Lawrence of Arabia. Massive pillars of red sandstone surge out of the dun-coloured desert that was once a caravan route: many of the rocks and stones still show the graffitti engraved on them 2,000 years ago. To spend a night in the desert as the sunset deepens the shadows and colours the rocks, to sleep under inky black skies filled with stars, and to wake at dawn to see the rocks change from brown to reddish-pink is a life-affirming event you will never forget.

Not far from Wadi Rum, the Red Sea port of Aqaba lies in a spectacular setting of purple-coloured mountains and white sandy beaches ringed with palm trees. A maze of shops clusters together up the wide, hilly streets, many selling the turquoise and lapis lazuli for which the town is famous. Apart from the Mamluk Fort on the corniche and the castle of Saladin on an island in the middle of the Gulf, there are few places demanding attention, making it the perfect little town in which to relax.

Its deep, indigo-coloured waters that never fall below 20 degrees teem with rainbow-hued marine life and make it a mecca for international divers. If you prefer not to get wet, take a glass-bottomed boat from the beach.

Journey from the golden sands of Aqaba to the rose-red city of Petra and you enter a sixth-century BC world of temples, Roman theatres and rock-cut chambers. Petra, a legacy from the Nabataens who settled in southern Jordan more than 2,000 years ago, was lost to the west until 1812, when Swiss explorer Louis Burckhardt penetrated the walls of this hidden city and returned to Europe to tell the world of its wonders. A Unesco World Heritage Site, 85% of the city is still to be excavated.

The cliff walls on either side of the Siq, the 1,200m chasm that winds through the canyon and is the only approach to the hidden city, soar for upwards of 80m into an impossibly blue sky until, suddenly, the narrow defile opens on to a square and you are face to face with the grandeur of the Treasury façade, carved out of the pink sandstone rock. This was used to spectacular effect in the final scenes of the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Walk a little further and you are in the centre of the ancient city, passing intricately decorated housefronts cut into the sandstone cliffs, impressive royal tombs, rock drawings and reliefs, the colonnaded street at the heart of Petra and a theatre dating from 25AD.

By the pleasant terraced restaurant, a flight of 800 steps leads to the Sacrificial Place, with stunning views over the countryside. Those who are daunted by the steps can make the journey on a donkey or horse – well worth it if the day is very hot.

Jordan tourism is still in its early stages but it has some magnificent hotels. The pomegranates, the figs and the cup of sweet tea will be waiting, for a warm welcome and the hand of friendship will always be extended to the visitor from the people of this most peace-loving nation.

Factfile

The best time to photograph the Treasury façade in Petra is around 11am when the sun has begun to intensify the rock’s colour.

Amman is relatively small, taxis are cheap and drivers knowledgeable. Women should sit in the back of the taxi, but men should always sit in the front. Taxis are reasonable even over long distances, but several bus companies offer regular tours.

For Petra tel: (06) 562 1217/6

For Wadi Rum tel: (06) 562 6135

Car rental is a good way of seeing the country and available with a valid UK driving licence.

Arabic cuisine plays an important part in the culture. A typical meal will include a mouth-watering array of aromatic breads, salads, savouries and mansaf, Jordan’s traditional dish of lamb, yoghurt and pine nuts served on a bed of rice. Alcohol is available in most major hotels and restaurants.

Recommended restaurant in Amman:  Reem Albawadi (Gazelle of the Desert), tel:  (06) 551 5419

Royal Diving Club: PADI 5* IDC Dive Centre, Aqaba Southern Coastal Road, fresh-water pools, beachfront bar and cafeteria, sun deck, all facilities are wheelchair accessible.

Tel: +926 3 203 2709, email:  rdc@jptd.com.jo. www.rdc.jo

Jordan Tourism Board in Amman, tel:  (06) 567 8294, opens daily 8am-4pm except Fridays

Best Guidebook:  1st Edition Jordan Handbook  (Footprint)

Zambia – Smoke on the water

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Mosi-o-tunyi has competition. The “smoke that thunders” is being overshadowed by the smoke that drifts over from Zimbabwe, as Mugabe’s henchmen burn squatter camps in the town of Victoria Falls, just across the border. It is an object lesson as to why Livingstone is booming. The troubles in Zimbabwe have virtually wiped out its tourist industry, and it seems that everything has decamped to Zambia.

We hit the ground running and head straight from the airport to the falls for sunset. The inconceivable volume of water that plunges into the deep gorge throws up so much spray that sometimes it is impossible to see. It is certainly impossible to stay dry and there is a small stall renting out waterproofs. Buffeted by the permanent waves of water, I wonder why the area has so many adventure sport options when, after just a few minutes, I am left invigorated.

The next morning I have an early start to go white-water rafting. The Lower Zambezi has some of the best rafting in the world; rapids of grades four and five have been given names including The Terminator and Oblivion.

The climb into the gorge is steep and rocky, and feels more dangerous than the river, but soon we are in the boat and paddling towards our first rapid. Just before we hit the white water we are pitched up on the crest of a wave, and can look down into the bubbling froth. The boat seems to hang in mid-air then plunges into the white water. The boat is thrown backwards, and we are drenched as a wave breaks over us.

Our guide is manning a couple of large oars and keeps us on track, out of this rapid and on to the next. Two people are paddling and trying to hold on in the front; I am sitting in the back, taking pictures and trying to grip the bucking boat with my feet. For the whole trip I am popped around like a champagne cork but it is exhilarating.

In the afternoon I head to the gorge swings, where the nice people there have worked out a variety of ways to throw visitors into the void. The Gorge Swing is a monster: a cross between a bungy jump and a swing. You leap into the gorge, and, as the rope breaks your fall, it swings you out into the middle. There are a couple of “death-slides” as well, including the superman slide, where you can take a flying jump over the gorge like a superhero.

The bungy jump from Vic Falls bridge, that crosses the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is renowned although the prize for being the highest has now passed to Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa. It is a stunning location for a jump. However, I did it six years ago and this time I am happy to let someone else have a go.

A more sedate adventure can be had from the back of an elephant. Thorntree runs elephant safaris in the National Park on the outskirts of Livingstone. The elephants don’t seem to be quite as controlled as those I have ridden in Asia, which may be down to the fact that they are allowed to live in the wild when they are not being ridden. A while ago one of the females wandered off with some wild elephants and came back months later to give birth. There is a chance we might meet buffalo or wild elephants on our travels and so we have an armed escort.

We are lucky enough to be travelling in our own plane – a little Cessna – and so we did our own “flight of the angels” over the falls as we arrived in Livingstone. But there are other options – both fixed wing and helicopters – and I want to try the microlight. This gets you much lower over the falls, close enough to spot crocodile and hippos basking in the Zambezi. The falls are much more spectacular from the air, and it is easier to appreciate their shape, and the meandering gorge leading away from them. They are pumping up so much spray that at times I can feel it on my face.

The Quad Bike Company is based at the same location as the microlights. It has a number of trails, including nature trails along the gorge, but it is action we are looking for so we opt for the shorter, more intense adventure circuit. Rough and dusty, with jumps and far too many trees, it is easy to see why there are so many dents in the bikes.

With all this excitement during the days, I figure I need somewhere pretty chilled to relax in the evenings. Tongabezi Lodge is a short drive out of town, on the banks of the Zambezi. A series of chalets look out on the river and guests drift off to sleep to the grunting of hippos. Sometimes they even come out of the Zambezi and walk around the grounds.

From the Tongabezi, there is access to Livingstone Island on the very edge of the falls. This is the spot where Dr David first gazed on the falls in 1855, and made his “flight of the angels” analogy. To sit on the very lip of the falls and look into the gaping, frothy chasm below is to get a inkling as to their true power. For the truly daring, it is possible to swim in a natural pool at the edge; for all of the man-made adrenalin buzzes at Livingstone, this is possibly the greatest rush of all.

Spain – The Golden Path

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On the slopes high above the town of Baena, brothers Don Paco and Don Felipe Núñez de Prado give me a grand tour of their olive groves. The pride they take in the organic cultivation of their trees is clear to see.

“The healthier the trees, the better the oil,” Paco tells me. A charming and dapper man, he heads a family business that has been producing oil for seven generations at the same mill in Baena.

He explains the care they take at every stage of growing, harvesting and pressing the olives, in order to perform the age-old alchemy of turning these small black fruit into liquid gold. This is his passion. A passion that results in Núñez de Prado producing some of the finest olive oil in the world. An oil for the best-dressed salads, for drizzling and dipping.

Baena, lying south-east of Córdoba, has long been celebrated for its olive oil. It bears one of Spain’s treasured denominación de origen labels, guaranteeing its quality. This label also covers the neighbouring villages of Zuheros, Luque and Doña Mencía – and includes oil from private mills as well as co-operatives. Spain is the world’s leading producer of olive oil, 80% of which comes from Andalucía – the biggest olive-growing region in the world. As you drive through this area, wave after wave of hillsides roll by, covered with endless rows of olive trees stretching over the hazy horizon like a giant candlewick counterpane. Poet Lorca said the hills seem “to open and close like a fan” as you pass.

Most of these groves are carpeted with bare earth, but on the sprawling Núñez de Prado estate, the ground beneath the trees grows lush green.

“Our neighbours think we’re crazy to let weeds grow,” smiles Paco. “But we’ve found everything is much better without chemicals.” He points out hares and partridges scuttling through the wildflowers.

While most farmers beat their trees with sticks or shake them with mechanical harvesters, Núñez de Prado olives are picked by hand. This protects the olives and trees from damage. “It’s important not to bruise the fruit as this causes acidity, spoiling the flavour. The best oil has low acidity,” Paco explains.

Harvesting starts in November, when the fruit ripens from purple to black. The olives are trucked to the mill to be pressed soon after picking, before fermentation begins. Most producers are happy to press within a few days; Paco starts to worry after a couple of hours.

The handsome 18th-century mill faces a shady park near the centre of Baena. The pressing process still uses time-honoured methods and antique machinery, kept gleaming and antiseptically clean. First the olives are crushed using 300-tonne granite cones – a technology that goes back to the Romans. The paste is layered between mats in a hydraulic press to produce extra virgin oil. Meanwhile “free-run” oil is allowed to drip from the paste, taking twice as many olives to yield a litre of oil. This is the Flor de Aceite, “flower of the oil”, acclaimed by connoisseurs.

After expert tasting and blending by Paco and Felipe, the oil is bottled in an amiably homespun fashion by a few people at a table, who cork the Flor bottles, seal them with red wax, and give each a number that is entered in a ledger.

After spending a morning with Paco, I am already a convert. But when he gives me a taste of the Flor, I am impressed by the complexity of aromas and flavours – fruity, floral, herby, with a peppery punch – redolent of the warm sensuality of Andalucía. It would be sacrilege to use this for cooking. I will be pouring it on my breakfast tostada or orange slices with honey.

Suitably inspired, I set off to see what else this area has to offer. My route includes several towns and villages that evoke a fascinating past; their importance during the Moorish period and subsequent centuries evident in their architecture.

In Baena, I am glad of my olive-oil boost during the steep climb up to the old part of town. On the Plaza de la Constitución is the Casa del Monte, an elegant 18th-century arcaded warehouse housing the Denominación de Origen offices and a bar serving delicious tapas. While exploring the Arab quarter, the Almedina clustered over the summit of the hill, I come across a group of girls and boys with drums, practising for a religious procession. One tells me I should visit Baena at Easter, when hundreds of drummers compete to make the most noise. “It’s like the streets are exploding,” he declares.

South of Baena the road winds up into the craggy limestone hills of the Sierra Subbética Natural Park, with its weather-sculpted outcrops and deep gorges. Perched theatrically on rocks above the villages of Luque and Zuheros are the ruins of their Moorish castles, ragged outlines silhouetted against a dazzling sky. This region was once frontier country between Moorish and Catholic Spain, so hilltop castles are almost obligatory. The Moors often built on Roman fortifications; just as churches were erected over mosques.

Of all the area’s pueblos blancos, Zuheros is the most enchanting. A picture-book village, its sparkling white houses hug the precipitous sides of a gorge, and the maze of narrow streets climb up to the square beside the castle. I recover my breath at the café on the square, taking in the sweeping views. The café’s patron, who is as round as the barrels in his bar, tells me Zuheros is ‘famoso’ for its goats’ cheese – which can be bought at the nearby factory. As evening approaches, the locals gather here to chat and watch the world go by, while children play around the fountain. Although Zuheros is popular with walkers and painters, I see no visitors to break the Andalucían spell.

Next stop is Cabra, a town with old-fashioned appeal. Rugged peaks rise to the east, one of which is crowned by a hermitage, the Sanctuario de la Virgen de la Sierra. At over 1200m, this eagle-eye vantage point is known as the Balcony of Andalucía, giving awesome panoramas from the Guadalquivir valley in the west to the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east. It is said to lie at the very centre of Andalucía.

My visit coincides with a gypsy fiesta, the annual Romería Nacional de Gitanos, a “pilgrimage” that – as so often in Spain – combines religious fervour with an excuse for a party. Crowds gather under the trees at the top of the hill, some primped up for the occasion, others dressed down to suit the sweltering heat. Soon flamenco songs ring out from different family groups, accompanied by rhythmic hand-clapping, appreciative shouts, even drumming on a cool-box. Individuals take turns to perfom a dance, with everyone from elderly men to small girls joining in – it’s the older women who strut their stuff the best.

After a stage performance of flamenco guitar, everyone jostles into a procession behind the jewel-encrusted image of the Virgin, which is carried inside the chapel. Bells ring, incense burns, and the aisle erupts in a frenzy of singing and clapping.

Outside it is time to refuel with paella, being cooked up in several giant pans. “Here, you must eat,” smiles a plump, dark-eyed girl called Dolores, giving me a scalding plateful. “Good?” she asks. Definitely.

The afternoon drifts by, with more singing and clapping under the trees. At one point I am even persuaded to take a turn at dancing. The relaxed and friendly atmosphere is typical of Andalucía.

My route ends with a flourish in Priego de Córdoba, a gem of a town. Its wealth as a silk-production centre in the 18th century was poured into a froth of Baroque churches and mansions. Now high-quality olive oil is its mainstay, with its own denominación de origen seal.

The old part of town is dramatically built along the cliff-edge of an escarpment, and it’s like stepping into a different world when I enter the medieval quarter. The Barrio de la Villa is a knot of tranquil cobbled alleys where the blindingly white walls and balconies are festooned with scarlet and pink geraniums. I emerge onto the Paseo del Adarve, a promenade along the top of the cliff, where I watch the evening sun gild the splendid Subbética countryside and its rolling olive groves.

A young man on the bench beside me starts chatting. “Olives are more than a crop,” he says, “they are a way of life to us.” Paco Núñez de Prado would agree. Olive oil is the lifeblood of Andalucía.

Tourist offices have details of mills (almazaras) open to visitors.

Baena has an olive fiesta in November. Romería Nacional de Gitanos is in June.

Tips for Simplifying Your Wardrobe

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Having a wardrobe with too many pieces sounds like something every woman would envy, but in truth this can be a bad thing. In the morning when you’re trying to choose an outfit you need to sort through dozens of pieces to find what you want, and may not have room in your closet for anything new. Trying to own every new piece that’s offered by every designer and keep up with every emerging fad or trend can also be overwhelming and unnecessary.

To simplify your wardrobe, first start by cleaning out your closet and getting rid of everything you haven’t worn in the last year. Be generous as you go through this process and resist the urge to hang on to clothes you “think” you’ll wear again one day or those that are purely sentimental. Get a box to collect items you can donate to a charity as this may encourage you to let go of more things, knowing that they’ll be put to good use. You can even sell secondhand clothes in good condition on eBay or Craigslist or have a tag sale at your house one weekend.

Next, set aside the clothes you find yourself wearing over and over again. It’s said that most people wear about 20% of their clothes 80% of the time, so start with these items. Next, set aside clothes you wear throughout the year but less frequently. Make one last pile for clothes you do wear but very rarely. These last pieces may include little black dresses or party wear, your best jeans or fancy blouses. Make these same three groups for all your accessories and jewelry.

Now look at all three piles. Is there any way you can dress up the pieces you wear in group one or two so that you can get rid of your third group altogether? For example, your second group may include nice dresses that you think are too plain for clubbing or special dates. Can you match one of them with a nice shawl you have or oversized jewelry pieces to make them more fancy? If so, you can get rid of those club dresses or fancier dresses you wear only once or twice per year.

Look at your groups again and note how you can mix and match pieces you do wear and feel comfortable in so you don’t need everything in your wardrobe. For example, if you have too many pantsuits for the office, note how you can wear a pair of black trousers with any number of sweaters and blouses for a new outfit. If you mix and match items like this, you can get rid of some of those suits without losing choices to wear throughout the week.

Choose your most neutral pieces and items to keep and get rid of those things that you don’t wear so often, and use your creativity to mix and match, and you can simplify your wardrobe with ease.

Add Some Life With a Flower Pattern on Your Dishes

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Your dining room should be welcoming and warm and ready for the family. When you sit down to eat, you want to feel relaxed and content and ready to enjoy the meal as well as your company. The décor of your dining room should be considered as much as you consider the décor of any other part of your house, and this includes the pieces you bring into the dining room including your decorations and your dishes. A flower pattern on your dishes can make them look more welcoming and homey, and will add colour to the room. They can also make your table more inviting for guests.

Some flower patterns on dishes can seem old-fashioned and may resemble the type of china your grandmother would have, so it is good to shop carefully for flower-patterned dishes. The color and design of the flowers will affect its overall look; old-fashioned dishes may seem faded and worn whereas modern pieces will have a stronger, bolder colour. You may also see unusual flowers on today’s dishes, such as lotus blossoms, irises, or sunflowers, as opposed to older designs that may have included roses or lilies.

The design of the pieces themselves will also affect their overall appearance, and modern dishes have some subtle differences you might notice. For example, older patterns often had ridges around the edge of dishes to add visual interest, whereas today’s dishes are flat around the edges. Completely flat dishes are seen as modern and clean, and coupled with a bold flower pattern in a strong colour, they make for a very welcoming place setting that is also updated.

Another great way to bring a fun flower pattern to your dishes today is to choose a geometric design or one that takes up the entire piece. Think of flowers that are abstract, in round circles or squares rather than hand painted realistic-looking blooms.

If you want to bring a sense of whimsy or richness to your dining room, then an older pattern or style of dishes may be the best choice. Look for gold motifs with lots of detail, and flower patterns that also involve fruit and greens. These were very popular in fine china for centuries and can add glamour and elegance to your table.

Be sure you dress up the rest of your dining room to complement and coordinate with your new dishes. Add a table runner for some fabric, and use candles even for your weekday meals. Fresh flowers are also appreciated at the dining room table, and using the right glasses and stemware will make a dinner party the toast of the town!