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Monday Morning Matters: Our honeymoon in Paradise

Hello everyone and a very happy Monday to you all!

I wanted to do something a bit different today and I’ve handed over the blog to my husband Wayne for a guest post! I was going to write one myself but Wayne had already written a post for Victoria Marie over at This Is The Life so I thought, why reinvent the wheel? Plus his post is brilliant (despite me being biased!) and I would love to share it.

Here is Wayne’s review of our amazing honeymoon to Kuala Lumpur and Pangkor Laut in Malaysia with some of our photos. I hope you enjoy it:

Pangkor Laut sea villas

The only time I had known someone win a holiday was Rodney Trotter in Only Fools and Horses. And even then he had to pretend to be a teenager in order to claim the prize.  A similar height to television’s favourite plonker, I wondered if I would be forced to also claim to be a 15-year-old when my now wife, Kate, won us a honeymoon to Malaysia in Brides Magazine thanks to Turquoise Holidays.

This was a competition not won by Mr and Mrs Made-up of London or by the editor’s daughter, but by us, Wayne and Kate, two sport journalists from East Yorkshire. The bounty? Ten days in Malaysia, spread across three in Kuala Lumpur and seven on the private island resort of Pangkor Laut. The flights were thrown in by Emirates and all our food was too.  Cushty! But surely they would want something in return? Shots of my milk-white body on the beach for the next issue? On second thoughts…

So off we went, wondering when the first sighting of Beadle would be to send us back down to earth with a bump. First up was check-in at Heathrow. No problems, have a nice flight. So we were definitely going at the very least. I will not bore veteran fliers about the quality of Emirates, but as someone who had previously counted Greece as long haul, I was amazed.

The Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

And so Malaysia (via a quick pit stop in Dubai). Our prep notes said a driver would be waiting for us, but in amongst the throng there was no sign being held for ‘Miss Kate’ or ‘Mr Wayne’. “I told you it was a hoax, I told you, this was too good too be true,” I said. Danger was soon averted, though, as we were in the wrong spot, and were quickly found and packed onto a train to the central station, where a car was waiting to take us to the Majestic Hotel – one of KL’s most famous spots.

Built in 1932, the Majestic was the go to place in the city in its day – classic white columns and marble halls making it a stand-out and a hive for visiting dignitaries. The owners took their eye off the ball, though, and competition not only caught up but passed. The hotel closed in 1984 and became the National Art Gallery, before reopening as the Majestic in 1998. The new owners, YTL, have tried to incorporate the old with the new, and the place does have a feeling of grandeur about it – possibly to the point where as a travelling Yorkshireman I felt a little out of place.

In total we had two nights in a Junior Suite – which would cost anywhere between £240 and £400 over the counter – and an hour-long spa treatment thrown in to take our minds off where the sting in the tail was going to come from! We had breakfast at the hotel on all of the days which was, for want of a better word, fine. Corned beef hash might be a winter warmer in the UK, but it’s a breakfast delicacy in Malaysia! Again, though, it was difficult to feel comfortable in the regal surroundings. We were on holiday, so shorts and t-shirts were abound, but I did feel a little as though I should be in a jacket and tie – the Prime Minister even popped in on one night.

I found the city to be very business like, although mixed in with the suits and cufflinks was a pretty unsavoury underbelly, with lots of dirt and dust and shady-looking characters on street corners. It was an eclectic mix with no real middle ground. I loved the China Town market which was amazing. I felt in my element amidst all the bargain-price football shirts and sunglasses and revelled in bartering with the local traders. In terms of eating on the streets, we were a little bit rabbit-in-the-headlights when it came to dinner and ended up doing out money in a mutton-dressed-as-lamb spot called Sesai. It only cost us roughly £10 each in English coin, but we felt oddly mugged. We could have eaten in China Town for 80p and I would advise anyone heading to KL to do the same.

After our first two nights in KL (the third was tagged at the end for logistical reasons) we were driven to the coast and given a 4G router (I’m looking at you, UK) to help keep us company. We reached the marina – oddly close to a huge Tesco – and were then whizzed to Pangkor Laut on a speedboat. The island goes under the banner of ‘One Island, One Resort’ and is a 230-acre site, pointed entirely towards holiday luxury. There are seven restaurants, a fitness suite, four acres of spa, a private beach, pool and three sites of accommodation; the sea villas, spa villas and jungle villas. We had the letters VIP stamped next to our name and were in the biggest of the sea villas, bested only by the Pavarotti suite, named after the resort’s famous fan.

Upon arrival it quickly felt as though my brain wasn’t big enough to take in everything that was going on. How was I going to be able to capture everything I could see on camera? How was I going to be able to relay to my mum just what I could see? In the end, I wandered around on FaceTime a lot, holding up the iPad and saying ‘look at this’. It was a place where I wished I could afford to bring my nearest and dearest.

The seven days we spent there were incredible – as good a time as I have had anywhere. From the champagne-on-ice and rose-petal bath on arrival to a teary goodbye to favourite staff members on departure, we savoured every minute. The food was incredible and so fresh that it made us ashamed of our late-night slinks through the drive-thru. Everything was halal, there was fruit and veg galore and every angle was blocked off, right down to selecting your own fruit and taking them to a waiter who would turn them into a juice in front of your eyes. Every meal was taken either beach or poolside, with incredible views of the villas and jetty, with the sun either rising or saying goodbye for the night in the background. It was the sort of place where you start thinking about your own approach to life – why do we not live like this at home?

It could be said that the resort does not offer a great deal nightlife wise, although that considered, I was fine as I do not drink. If you want a stella-fuelled karaoke sesh at 1am, do not come here. If you want a juice on your balcony with plenty of time to detox, then come ashore. As a big runner I hammered the gym and we also swam plenty, played a fair bit of tennis and cashed in some free yoga. Alternatively the outdoor library had lots to keep you busy, with hundreds of books to trade and big, four-poster beds to kick back on. Also, the 4G coverage meant it was the same as being at home. I am someone who likes his comforts, so to have the internet close at hand (I know, turn the phone off, whatever) was a great way of keeping in touch with people and interests.

The whole thing (KL too) stacked up to just about £10,000 which is the most fortuitous thing to happen to me in my life and to be honest, I am ruled out of bemoaning back luck for many years to come. I can live with that.

A good friend had told me that this would change my views of holidays forever. On our last night, we sat on the balcony of our villa until gone midnight and just reflected on what had happened. I was quite misty-eyed by this point and I remembered what my pal had said. My thinking had changed and I was actually going home feeling a refreshed man with changes to his outlook. Of course, we would never have been able to afford this holiday but then again, I would never have considered it either as ‘it wasn’t me’. In future, if finances allowed, I most certainly would. It would not need to cost such an amount either. We would drop the KL part and save a percentage, and would not necessarily need such a high spec of villa.

That said, I do not know if I want to head back to Pangkor Laut. Not because I think its quality will not endure, but because it might not be be the same. As an example, Kate and I got on famously with a couple of staff members in particular who really helped make the trip – what if we saved up and came back and they were not there? It might sound innocuous and even silly, but as Liam Gallagher said recently, how can you remaster something that’s already been mastered? It all made sense very quickly. Your honeymoon is the time of your life. It is one of the rare occasions in life when good will is raining down on you and no-one tells it to stop.

I will always be glad that I headed to Malaysia and without sounding like a wise – possibly smug – married man, I would recommend anyone to push the boat out with their honeymoon if possible. We of course had the boat not just pushed but super-powered by Turquoise UK who I cannot thank enough.

People in the world there earn plenty more than I do – some earn plenty less too – but if you get the chance to head to Pangkor Laut, via hook, crook or competition, take it and run with it. You will not regret it.

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I hope you enjoyed reading Wayne’s review of our honeymoon. Have you been to Malaysia and do you have some travel tips? Would love to hear from you!

Kate x

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Monday Morning Matters – Why Sugar leaves a bitter taste

Hello everyone, happy Monday, and here’s hoping this week will be another lovely one!

For me, today is something of a landmark. In exactly a month’s time, I will be getting married!

As a result of this (and the fact I couldn’t quite do up my wedding dress at the last dress fitting just before Christmas) I have been on a diet, and that’s what I wanted to talk about today.

Sugar

When Sugar isn’t quite so Sweet…

I have put on about a stone in weight over the last couple of years. This is totally down to me being a lazy so-and-so and my absolute love for cake, pizza and everything massively calorific. If only I could love salad in the same way.

Still, the wakeup call came last December, when, all excited to be trying on my almost-completed wedding dress, the realisation hit that I had put on one too many pounds and the zip wouldn’t reach the top.

I was gutted.

I mean, I had (half-heartedly) tried (and briefly succeeded) then failed in losing the odd bit of weight in the previous year, but the amount of time left until the wedding meant I all-too-easily slipped back into my old ways and put it all back on again.

Well not this time. With just over two months until the “I dos” and the prospect of not being able to squeeze my carcass into my wedding dress, I knew I had to do something. The only problem was, it would mean changing the habits of a lifetime.

It was pretty obvious what my problem was – my sweet tooth and the fact I ate so many refined carbohydrates in bread, pasta, noodles, cakes and the like. Oh, and my aversion to doing exercise.

Cupcakes - a major weakness

I did a lot of reading around on the internet and was interested in the research that sugar and not fat is believed to be the thing mostly to blame for expanding waistlines. Not just the obvious sugar in sweets and cakes, but stealth sugar found in other places – like in a slice of bread, in tin of baked beans or in good old “healthy” tomato soup. I won’t bore you with it here, but there is so much research now as to why refined sugar and added sugar is so bad, instead calling for a return to more natural foods in their natural states.

So off I went, cutting out sugar, checking labels and dismissing anything with sugar listed in the first three ingredients or with a high amount of sugar  included.

And do you know what? In the last month I have lost about 10 pounds in weight!

Yes it has meant changes and sacrifices, although I do allow myself to have one “cheat” meal a week where I have whatever I want (last week it was pizza, the week before that it was a burger and a mini chocolate cake). I think that helps as I know I can still have a bit of what I want every week.

The Basic Rules

I kind of distilled a few things that I read and came up with this, which seems to work for me:

  • I only eat when I’m hungry
  • I have porridge or eggs for breakfast. These keep me full, have no sugar and are in their natural state (although I do occasionally have bran flakes, which I know are bad, but then have no more sugar that day).
  • I aim for a total of five teaspoons worth of sugar a day in the food that I eat. This means I’m not eating anything too bad and helps me to keep on track. An easy way to work out how much sugar in something is to divide the number of grams of sugar it says on the packet by four to get the number of teaspoons, eg: There are 35 grams of sugar in a can of Coca Cola. Divided by four this equals 8.75 teaspoons of sugar! I find this helps me to visualise it much better.
  • I don’t have anything which lists sugar (or fructose, glucose, corn syrup or any other sneaky name for sugar) in the first three ingredients
  • I have a few nuts, a banana or some hummus for a snack
  • Soup is my friend! Well, the low sugar vegetable variety. Quick and easy and keeps me full.
  • I use Stevia instead of sugar to put on the top of porridge. It’s a natural sweetener derived from a plant and contains no calories or fructose!

I still have some bad things like potato wedges on “good” days, but not big portions – just enough to fill me without going over the top!

Well, it’s working for me so far. I don’t really need to lose any more for the wedding but I’m determined to stay on track this time.

I just thought I would share this in case anyone else is thinking of going sugar free or at least giving it a try in a bid to drop a few pounds. It need not mean a shopping list filled with a load of expensive items like The Clean and Lean Diet book suggests.

So are you going sugar free? If so how is it going for you? Have you noticed a difference in your weight or anywhere else?

Kate x


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Monday Morning Matters

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend? What did you get up to?

So the big news this week is that Wayne and I have WON A HONEYMOON TO MALAYSIA!!

I know, pretty amazing, right?!

It was all a bit of a shock to say the least when I found out last Monday that I was the winner of a competition run by Brides magazine.

Last year I entered a whole stack of competitions on their website but never thought I had any chance of winning them. That’s probably why when an email popped into my inbox entitled “Congratulations on winning your honeymoon!” I almost didn’t open it as I thought it was just spam!

It’s a good job I did, though, as it turns out it was legitimate and I had indeed won a 10-night honeymoon for Wayne and I after our wedding next month.

And breathe!

A lovely lady called Lizzie from Turquoise Holidays then spent last week organising it for us and sent us the itinerary on Friday. It’s pretty unbelievable still to be honest. We will be spending three nights at The Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur before transferring to Pangkor Laut for seven nights where we will be staying in a Sea Villa, which stands on stilts over the sea!

I still can’t believe it. We would never have been able to afford a honeymoon like this ever in a million years – so we’re not going to Spain after all and are booked in to have our travel vaccinations this week.

Blimey – what a start to 2014!

In other news, I had my wedding makeup trial (which went very well), Wayne and I did the table plan (which I just have to make – have got an idea, though!) and we had a great meeting at our wedding venue and with our florist which answered a lot of questions. So all good!

I’m off to go and pinch myself to double check that I’m not dreaming…

So what is your news?

Kate x