When I have to teach my students the word ‘habit’ and how to use it, I often go around the room asking each one of them what their worst habit is, and sometimes the bold ones will turn the tables on me and ask me what’s mine. I often respond along the lines of drinking too much coffee or eating too much chocolate. But I’ve just realised that my worst habit is actually far worse than that.
My worst habit is that I am forever starting things and then not finishing them – a habit that stems from childhood. I feel like I should stand up in a room and declare, “Hello. My name’s Mrs. D and I’m a quit-aholic. It’s been two hours since I abandoned my most recent project.”
Think I’m joking? Think again!
At sixteen, I gave up A-level French because after being top of my French class for years, it came as a shock to find that I was struggling with the language at non-phrase book level.
“You give up too easily,” said one of my classmates.
Well I couldn’t argue with that!
Fast forward several years and I’ve lost count of the number of home study courses that are still incomplete; the lessons for singing, dancing, and various instruments that I stopped attending early on; those books that are falling off my bookcase on subjects I’d always said I’d wanted to know more about but never managed to get past the introduction; the language CDs and DVDs which taught me hello and goodbye in many languages but not much else. Then there are the craft kits that are collecting dust, the work-out equipment that looks just as it did when I brought them home from the shops, the blog posts I started last year but haven’t got round to finishing; the drafts of plays, short stories, and novels that I always mean to work on; my ideas for new business ventures that remain just that…
And these are just the ones I can remember. It all starts off so well with so much interest and enthusiasm. But as soon as I realise that it’s not going to be as easy as I thought it would be or I feel I don’t possess enough natural talent, I start to lose interest and lack the patience and perseverance necessary to keep going, which explains the reason why I only ever touch upon the basics (if that!)
I’ve figured out what my problem, no, make that problems are. The first is having a finger, thumb and toe in every pie as I have waaay too many related and unrelated interests. This leads to sloppy time management as there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, which in turn leads to an inability to focus because I’m trying to do too much and end up feeling overwhelmed. I’m also an impatient perfectionist who wants everything to go swimmingly the first time I attempt it. I have a deep-rooted fear of making a fool of myself, and then to top it all off, I have a tendency to procrastinate, especially when I feel that whatever I try to accomplish is never going to culminate in the desired result anyway. Here you have a recipe for never getting anything done. And many of my likeminded, ‘creative type’ friends agree with me. We’re just so inquisitive and curious about everything and want to give it a go. We have a million things whirling around our heads like a cyclone. And then just as quickly as our interest appeared, it starts to wane, and we then move onto the next big thing.
Well I’m glad to know I’m not the only one!
But without meaning to sound overly dramatic (even though Mr. D says no one does overly dramatic quite like I do) I had a flash back to when I was five and we were practising for sports day at school. I had been put in the skipping race even though I couldn’t skip to save my life. Feeling deflated at being laughed at and ridiculed by the other kids, I persuaded my mum to buy me a skipping rope. That weekend she did. From morning until evening honing my skipping skills was pretty much all I did. And do you know what? None of the other kids ever laughed at me again. Do you know why? Because I was lethal with a skipping rope (and not because I tried to whack them with it. Although I probably should have done!)
Recalling this event has restored a lot of my inner confidence. It reminded me that with a lot of determination, hard work, and persistence you really can achieve anything – that’s not just talk show host speak! I remember that five year old who had enough fire in her belly to go out there and show everyone that she had what it took. She didn’t think that it was too complicated or unachievable. She didn’t listen to those who said that she couldn’t do it. Perhaps it’s time I followed my younger self’s example.
But then I realised that the determination of my younger self did crop up over the years. It was that determination that helped me achieve two degrees; fulfil my dream of studying drama; train as a florist; pass my driving test (something my dad thought was never going to happen) and carve out a career as a teacher for the past seven years. I certainly didn’t give up at the first hurdle there. Maybe I do have it in me to get things done after all.
I feel angry at myself for allowing this habit to continue for as long as it has. I’ve missed out on developing new skills and interests not to mention wasting sh**loads of money. But now that I’ve realised where I’ve gone wrong, I don’t have to allow this habit to continue. First of all I need to accept that I’ll never be able to give my attention to everything at once so I’ll need to prioritise and concentrate on what’s most important to me. And once I’ve done that, I’m going to dedicate some time each day or each week (even if it’s just a little time) to a particular activity and really make a promise to myself to go for it. After all I owe it to myself to try – plus I want to get my money’s worth out of all the stuff I’ve bought! I can always give the other interests a go when I’ve fulfilled these goals.
And I’ve also got to stop getting so hung up on being able to do everything perfectly. We can’t all be brilliant at the first attempt, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m always telling my students that with practice and patience, you’ll make vast improvements so maybe it’s time I took some of my own advice. Until then, I’ll just have to accept that I’m going to suck! Who cares if I can’t ice a cake properly? I’m not Mary Berry! So what if I can’t rock a guitar like Slash? At least I’ll have fun trying. I heard someone say recently that it was better to do something badly than not at all, and that is all the inspiration I need (unless of course the doing something badly is flying a plane, performing life saving surgery or firing a gun in which case it really is better not to do them at all!)
I’m going to leave you with this fantastic piece of advice from the legend that is Dave Grohl which is a reminder that even the greats don’t always start out as great. Sure, you might be pants today, but tomorrow people might be throwing their pants at you while you’re rocking out on stage!
Right, now I’m off to a car boot sale to buy some sh**ty instruments and start putting all those ‘teach yourself’ guitar and drum books and DVDs to good use!
The road to healthy living is paved with good intentions: getting more sleep; exercising regularly; drinking more water, and consuming the all-important five portions of fruit and veg every day. There are some lucky people who have no problems getting their five-a-day. And despite the fact that I love fruits and veggies and have no aversion to them, I also love chocolate, cakes, pastries and anything sugary and stodgy, and more often than not, that’s what I opt for – especially when I need to dash. It seems such a mission to remember to eat healthily with my fast-track lifestyle where I’m always on the move.
I’ve convinced myself many a time that the jam tart I’m scoffing is actually quite healthy because it contains jam which is made from, er, fruit; that coffee and chocolate are good for you because they are made from beans; chips are made from potatoes which is a vegetable so all good in the hood there, and sugar comes from a plant – need I say more! But seriously, who am I trying to kid?
SO WHAT COUNTS AS A PORTION?
There seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what constitutes a single serving of fruit or vegetables but it’s widely believed to be around 80g. The following are examples of single servings:
- 1 150ml glass of pure fruit juice
- 1 thick slice of pineapple or melon
- 3 heaped tablespoons of pulses or beans
- 1 apple, pear, orange, banana or other similar sized fruit
- 2 plums or kiwi fruit
- 1⁄2 a grapefruit
- 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
- 1/2 an avocado
- 3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad
- 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins or sultanas
- 3 heaped tablespoons of stewed fruit
- 3 dried apricots
- 1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries
- 1 small bowl of salad
With the exception of potatoes, which are very starchy and aren’t included in the recommended five a day, all other fruit and vegetables count, whether they’re fresh, frozen, dried, tinned, or pure juices.
But it’s worth remembering that no matter how much pure, freshly-squeezed juice you drink, it still only counts as one portion owing to certain nutrients being depleted in the juicing process. And because they don’t contain the same vitamins and minerals as other fruit and veg, kidney beans, chick peas, lentils and other pulses also only count as one portion, no matter how much you eat. Therefore in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, it’s advisable to munch on five different types of fruit and veg each day. It’s also worth noting that when people talk about getting their five-a-day, that’s just the minimum amount that we should be consuming every day. Ideally we should be aiming for about seven servings but goodness – it’s sometimes hard enough just getting the five so we’ll concentrate on that for now!
To be honest, it’s not actually hard to eat the recommended daily amount of fruit and veg. It’s just that we all live such busy lives these days and we’ve fallen into a pattern of bad eating habits. An ideal healthy eating day for me would see me start with chopped mango and pineapple with yogurt for breakfast; an oaty, apricot flapjack for mid-morning; prawn salad for lunch; a snack of fruit salad; and salmon with spinach, asparagus, broccoli and potatoes for dinner. What could be simpler?
I was thinking of ways in which you could effortlessly get the recommended five-a-day where it seems as though you’re not even thinking about it so it doesn’t seem such a drag. Many of the ideas below are things that I’ve tried or that appeal to me, and appear to be effective and not at all unrealistic ways of getting more fruit and veg into your diet. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change your eating habits overnight, and lifestyle changes always seem a bit daunting but you’ll gradually be able to work your way up to incorporating more fruit and veg into your diet – and once you know how easy it is, you’ll be unstoppable!
USE REAL FRUIT INSTEAD OF ARTIFICIAL SYRUPS IN DRINKS
I always feel really disappointed when I call into a coffee shop, order a fruity iced drink, smoothie or milkshake – and find them pouring sickly-sweet, synthetic-tasting syrup into the glass instead of blending real fruit.
Well you can’t control what your local coffee shop uses, but you can make delicious cold drinks at home using real fruit. It may take a little more effort than opening a bottle but it’s so worth it!
2. GET SPIRALIZING!
Spiralizing has caught on in a big way where vegetables such as carrots and courgettes are cut into thin, spaghetti-like strands using a spiralizer before being cooked and eaten a lot like pasta with pesto or tomato-based sauces.
3. CAULIFLOWER ‘RICE’ ISN’T JUST FOR THOSE DOING ATKINS!
When I first heard about cauliflower ‘rice’, it was something that Atkins dieters were making as a substitute to rice, where they would pulse cauliflower florets to resemble rice grains.
I don’t really think it tastes like rice but I do think it’s really delicious. It tastes a lot like the fried cauliflower my mum used to make. It might sound quite bland but with seasoning, herbs, spices, a little chopped onion or crushed garlic, and a lot of imagination it can be very tasty. You can even add egg to it to make egg cauliflower fried ‘rice’!
4. SNACK ON DRIED FRUIT AND FROZEN BERRIES INSTEAD OF SWEETS
I do love my sweet, sugary treats but thankfully I also love dried and frozen fruit and it’s a healthier way to get my fix of something sweet.
5. ICE ICE BABY
Blend yogurt, and honey with your favourite fruit, pop into ice-lolly moulds and you’ll have a delicious, frozen sweet treat that takes next to no time to prepare.
6. GO BANANAS!
Bananas are so versatile and contain a lot of potassium which is great when you need an energy boost -something many of my colleagues know only too well as they’re always bringing bananas to work to snack on. There’s so much you can do with them. You can have them on toast, or blended into a milkshake or smoothies for breakfast; coat them in chocolate and freeze them as an alternative to ice-lollies; mash them into pancake, muffin or cake batter; bake or barbecue them and serve them with ice-cream… the list goes on!
7. DREAM TOPPING
Purée some berries with honey and pour over ice-cream as a healthy alternative to sugar-laden ice-cream toppings.
I don’t know many people who don’t own a juicer – but I know many juicer owners who don’t use them. This is a real shame because fresh, pure juice is so good for you. And of course with a vast array of fruit and veggies available, you can have fun trying to come up with unique flavour combinations.
9. SWAP POTATO CHIPS FOR APPLE CRISPS
Slice an apple (or pear) very thinly; place on a baking sheet; place in the oven at a low temperature, and bake until crispy, turning over occasionally.
10. BLEND VEG INTO SHOP BOUGHT FOOD
There are times when we don’t have time to make things from scratch – no matter how much we want to. But you can always add veggies to shop-bought stews or blend vegetables into shop-bought soups. My grandfather always liked adding mushrooms to frozen pizzas while I tend to add sautéed onion, garlic and mushrooms to shop-bought pasta sauces – something Mr.D. is not happy about!
11. MAKE VEGGIE DESSERTS!
It started with carrot cake but now there seems to be a trend for adding vegetables such as beetroot, sweetcorn, pumpkin and courgette to baked goodies and desserts – and it seems to be going down a storm. It’s great because you can enjoy the sweet treats you love so much AND get the necessary nutrients. So you get the both of best worlds!
12. CHIPS AND DIPS
Ever since I discovered that I can make dips and salsas that taste better than the shop-bought stuff and that they’re so quick and simple to make, I’ve been making delicious guacamoles and spicy salsas to serve with tortilla chips when I want to snack on something in front of the telly. Not only do they taste great but I feel so much healthier.
13. FEEL THE PULSE IN A CAN!
These are a great cupboard stand-by and a good source of fibre. A serving (three tablespoons) of canned beans or lentils can be added to soups, stews, salads etc. And let’s face it – how much effort goes into opening a can?
14. LIVEN UP THAT SALAD
Gone are the days of boring lettuce, cucumber and tomato salads. Today we have a fantastic array of fruits and vegetables available – not to mention awesome dressings – which will change the way you look at salads forever and let’s face it – how hard is it to prepare a salad? My favourite is prawn with mango and avocado with a chilli, lime and coriander dressing. I’d eat it every day if I could!
15. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DO WITH AN AVOCADO???
When I was a kid, there was only one way in which people used to eat avocados and that was halved with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice. Nowadays the humble avocado has come a long way since then, and like the banana, it’s quite versatile, and is even making an appearance in sweet dishes. Salads don’t seem the same without them, and you can add avocados to dips, salsas, smoothies, milkshakes, desserts and is also used as a substitute for butter or cream in cakes and mousses. I even saw a contestant on Come Dine With Me baking them – something I didn’t know you could do with avocados.
Tired of, er, being tired, I set myself a challenge last month to get eight hours of sleep or more for four weeks and see if I felt like a new and improved woman. Well those four weeks have flown by, and I promised to let you know how I got on. So did I sleep like a log, party like an animal, or count sheep all night? Well…
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.
I didn’t always manage to get the full eight hours that I was after. I remember for the first few days, I’d go to bed at a decent hour with the best of intentions – and then toss and turn as I tried to get to sleep. Either that or I’d stay up talking to the lovely Mr.D.
And the really bad news is that there were a couple of weekends (especially the long weekend) where I was very naughty! And there were a couple of week nights were I probably got my usual five to six hours of sleep.
Oh dear. Slapped wrist for me!
Now here comes the good part.
Although there were some nights where I did get the full eight hours, I’d say that on average I managed about seven and a half hours most nights which isn’t bad for someone who barely used to get any sleep at all and would walk into work a total zombie who could only be revived by the sweet taste of caffeine (and lots of it!)
And has it made a difference? Hell yes it has!
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I sprang out of bed every morning, but it definitely wasn’t a struggle either. I looked and felt a lot less tired and there was no need to plaster on the make-up so another plus point is that I no longer looked like a toby jug! I’ve also noticed that my skin appears to be so much better and healthier, and even without the make-up, I definitely look a lot less haggard and, dare I say it, a little more youthful!
I felt more alert and my performance at work had improved. There were actually some days where I didn’t really need my morning cappuccino which I had previously depended on to help me open my eyes and could have forgone it if I wanted to – but hey, it’s one of my few simple pleasures in life so I went ahead and indulged. And outside of work, I feel as though I got a lot more done – especially in terms of blogging which is great.
However I think it’ll take a few months of early nights before I see an improvement in my memory – if at all!
So I didn’t quite meet the challenge of eight hours, I’m disappointed to say, but I got closer than I thought I would. Best of all, I’ve experienced for myself the great benefits of a good night’s kip – I look tons better and feel more energetic – and that’s something I don’t want to give up ( the days where I only got my once usual five hours sleep, I felt even more rotten than I had done before so I’m definitely getting used to more sleep.) So I will be aiming to get, at the very least, a minimum of seven and a half hours sleep from now on, especially as from next month I will be starting work earlier than normal which means I’m going to have to get up extra early.
I’m totally thrilled that I did this challenge. I’ve (almost) gotten rid of a bad habit, and experienced lots of positives – with the only drawback being that I’m now going to be the one slumped in a corner at parties come eleven o’clock – I suppose I’m just going to have to blame it on the shandies!
Last year I set myself a challenge where I wanted to see if I could cope without using my hair straighteners for a month. I’d discovered the benefits of straightening my untameable waves since my mid-twenties and couldn’t live without them. But years of using the heated hair appliance had left my locks parched and frizzy so I decided to abandon my straightening regime for a while. Over the course of a month – with the exception of straightening the front sections of my hair (I just had to!) – I found that I didn’t need to use my straighteners all the time and my hair got it’s va-va-voom back. A challenge well worth doing.
Well now I’ve set myself a new challenge. And it’s one that’s much more vital than forgoing the old hair straighteners…
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been one for getting a good night’s kip. We’re supposed to be getting, on average, eight hours of good quality sleep a night but I can’t remember when was the last time I’d slept for that long. I currently get on average around five to six hours sleep a night. So naturally I’m shattered every day. Furthermore, I’ll be starting work an hour earlier in two months time which will mean getting up even earlier in order to begin the long commute into work. Not good!
When I was younger, I was often told how tired I looked (and quite often I felt it too) and things got worse when Mr.D. came along because we were long-distance for quite some time, and the nine hour time difference meant that I’d either go to bed really late after talking to him or I’d have to get up mega early to Skype him. My sleep patterns became quite erratic and I’ve never been able to regulate my sleep schedule. And I definitely, definitely need my sleep. Without it I can’t concentrate, can’t string a sentence together, cab be rude, snappy, and irritable. In short, I can be a right bitch! And I can also see the toll that lack of sleep is taking on my face.
It doesn’t help that I’m something of a night owl and can stay up for hours. But then it’s an ordeal having to get up in the morning. Is it any wonder that coffee is my best friend? But even then coffee can only do so much and it definitely can’t work miracles. It can’t banish my under-eye circles, or illuminate my tired-looking face. I don’t think make-up can hide my tiredness. I just look tired with a whole ton of make-up on! And it can’t make me focus better or improve my memory – but I believe sleep can do all these things and more which is why I’m challenging myself to get eight hours of sleep (or more) every night for a month.
I’ve been sacrificing sleep in favour of other things I feel I need to do but sleep should never be ignored as it’s so vital for our overall health and mental performance. The health benefits include:
- Improved memory
- Less fatigue
- Increased stamina
- Sharp attention
- Less stress
- Increased immune response
- Feeling happier
- Less depression
- Decreased dependency on caffeine
- Better judgement
- Reduced chances of developing certain illnesses and health problems
- Improved efficiency and productivity
- Reduces risks of accidents and making errors
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Better sex!
And let’s not forget the beauty benefits – after all, it’s not called beauty sleep for nothing:
- A radiant complexion
- Bright eyes
- Smooth skin
- Look more youthful
- Gives your body a chance to renew, restore and rebalance
- Reduced dark circles and bags
- Gives overnight beauty products a chance to get to work
- Look better in photos and not like a Toby jug!
- Less make-up needed!
Now with all these fantastic benefits isn’t it worth getting a little extra shut eye. Hopefully the new and improved me will be reporting back exactly a month from now feeling like a whole new woman.
Wish me luck!
Jennifer Aniston has admitted that watching The Bachelor is her guilty pleasure. I watched one series back in 2012 where Courtney Robertson waltzed off into the sunset with her bachelor Ben Flajnik. I found the show to be over the top, contrived, and appeared to be scripted. It was something that people watched when they didn’t want to engage in anything too intellectually taxing… but oh my goodness it was so addictive! I hated myself for not doing something more productive with my time but once I started watching I had to continue in order to find out who Ben would choose. But I made sure that it was to be the last series I watched!
We all have our guilty pleasures in life. We all enjoy something which we feel a little bad for liking. And we shouldn’t feel bad – after all no one is ever harmed while we pursue our guilty pleasures – but we can’t help feeling a little bit naughty all the same.
It got me thinking about my own guilty pleasures – and I had a lot more than I thought. Naughty Mrs. D!
1. Romance novels
I wish I could say that I love rolling with the classics and I have a copy of War And Peace on my bedside table but that just wouldn’t be true! I’m a sucker for romance novels and it’s one of my ambitions to increase my collection of Danielle Steel and Mills and Boon novels. I’m lucky to be married to such a romantic man so there’s no shortage of romance in this household but these novels do help to reaffirm my belief in love and romance (as if I need reaffirmation!)
I’m sure I’ll get around to War And Peace one day!
I have a ridiculously sweet tooth. My parents are big sugar fans so I reckon I inherited my sweet tooth from them – and my dad in particular loves puddings. And if there’s lashings of custard, so much the better! I always stop off at M&S every Friday to ensure that I have enough yummy desserts and puddings to last until Sunday. During the cold winter months, there’s nothing I enjoy more than to curl up with something sweet. Unfortunately it means that I go back on the promise that I made to myself to be healthier.
Oh well – at least I’m sensible from Monday to Thursday!
I’ve loved magazines pretty much from the time I’ve been able to read. When I was a kid, my aunts and uncles used to spoil me with comics and kids magazines. As I was growing up, I’d sneak a peak at women’s magazines that my mum and aunts used to buy before I graduated to pop music and teen mags. At one point, I used to buy pretty much every magazine that was out there (or so it seemed!) which looking back was a ridiculous waste of money.
These days I limit myself to just two magazines a week which isn’t too bad and provides me with something to read on my way to and from work. The only problem is that our home is permanently strewn with magazines and pages that I’ve ripped out from them. So far Mr. D hasn’t complained…
I get such a buzz from buying things I really want that have been reduced to a fantastically great price. Books, clothes, shoes – you name it; if the price is low enough, I’m snapping it up! I don’t mind admitting that I’m a great bargain hunter and I try very hard not to pay full price if I can avoid it which often means waiting until it’s on sale. Whether this is a good thing or not is debateable but at least I can honestly say that say that I’ve never annoyed a retailer – or embarrassed myself – by haggling in my quest for a good bargain.
5. Reading in the bath
Reading in the bath is all very good if you live by yourself. But when you live with others, you run the risk of irritating them when you hog the bathroom while you indulge in a bubble-filled bath with a little light reading material. Whether it’s a magazine or one of those romance novels, it’s perfect ‘me’ time – especially when I throw a little chocolate into the mix!
6. Salon pampering
OK so there’s a lot of beauty treatments I pay for at professional salons which I could actually do myself at home thus saving money. But I’m often short of time (OK, a little lazy!) and I like being pampered. Grooming often feels like a chore when I have to do it myself.
And it doesn’t help that there is a salon right down the road from me…
7. Celebrity gossip
I don’t like gossip. I don’t like people who gossip. I’m careful not to gossip or repeat things that I’ve heard especially if it sounds dubious. So why is it that I’m addicted to the celebrity gossip pages of a particular national newspaper? It’s not only me but one of my closest friends as well who can’t get enough of the same gossip column, and we can often be found at work discussing in great depth what we’ve just read about Angelina, Jordan and co.
Mr. D is not impressed by any form of gossip and I have to admit I’m not too proud of myself either – but I try to convince myself that we’re not gossiping about real people!
8. Take aways/Eating Out
When I cook at home I save money, I know what’s going in my food, and it’s healthier. But there are some days when we just can’t be bothered to enter the kitchen – especially when we’re having a lazy weekend, in which case we’ll phone to get something delivered. And if we happen to be in town, we’ll stop off at one of our favourite restaurants. The food’s always delicious but I can’t pretend I don’t feel guilty afterwards.
9. The Internet
Ever since I discovered the benefits of being connected to the world wide web, it’s totally taken over my life. I do use it constructively – most of the time – but then there are times I’m just aimlessly surfing and I can spend hours wasting time looking at sites with animals wearing silly hats and people doing funny dances! I’m not sure what’s so addictive about the internet that it causes me to waste time when I actually do have things to do like sleep for example – but it’s one of those things that can’t be explained.
I may enjoy lounging around in the bath tub but I absolutely love my bed and no matter how much time I spend in my lovely comfy bed it’s never enough time. It’s where I sleep; read my magazines and romance novels; indulge in puddings; surf the net; eat my take always; shop for bargains on the internet, and of course snuggle up to my gorgeous hubby.
So a new year has begun, and for most of us, it will begin in the same way as it does for every other new year: trying to get our finances in order; working off all that excess food that was consumed over the festive period, and making resolutions which – let’s be honest – are most probably broken by now!
I begin every year by wondering what the new year has in store for me – and hoping that it will be the best ever yet. I was very fortunate that the last couple of years have been very good, and without wanting to sound greedy, I am hoping for another one! And that’s why I’m determined to make sure that I play an active role in trying to make life the best it can be. That means taking control and doing what’s best for me. I’m also going to spend more time working towards my goals and doing what I need to do to become a much happier person. Hopefully by the time we celebrate 2016, I’ll be able to look back on another awesome year (2016! Oh my goodness!) And I’ve already started putting my plans into practice…
So that’s what the first post in the Better Living series is dedicated to: setting a few basic rules to guide you into becoming happier, healthier, less stressed, and more focused on getting what you want out of life. It’s a good starting point but in future posts, we will look into each of these aspects in more detail.
20 STEPS TO A NEW YOU!
- Take care of the basics! – Eat healthy food; consume lots of fresh fruit and vegetables; take supplements if necessary; get lots of fresh air; drink plenty of water; do physical exercise; sleep well; meditate, and be happy!
- You are the scriptwriter and the star of your own show – not the supporting actor – It’s always important to listen to those around us who are genuinely there to give us support. But ultimately no one knows you better than you do so do what’s best for you. Don’t be afraid to get advice or ask for opinions but listen to the most sincere voice, not the loudest. Don’t let anyone push you off stage or grab your microphone. No one else tells you what to do or speaks for you – just you and you alone.
- Be a wise decision maker – Sometimes we only have one shot at things, so it’s important to be careful before making major decisions. Too many people jump head first into making decisions that require a lot of thought and then go on to live with the disastrous consequences. Much of our happiness and wellbeing depend on the little decisions we make in our everyday lives, so be aware of the consequences, don’t rush and choose carefully.
- Stop chasing your tail – Life can sometimes resemble being on an exercise bike: you’re peddling away like mad but you’re not going anywhere. Being unnecessarily busy and being productive are two different things. You can rush around like a crazy person but at the end of the day you still won’t have achieved anything constructive and will only have succeeded in stressing yourself out. Cut down on things that you don’t need to do and don’t be afraid to ask people for help.
- Do what makes your heart sing – This year I’ve started doing things that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s not just new skills like learning languages or instruments that are on my to-do list, but also spending more time with friends, getting more ‘me time’, and spending more quality time with my better half. So rather than concentrate on what you have to do or what you’re able to do; think about what you were meant to do and take steps towards doing it. And if you only have half an hour a day to spend on it, at least it’s half an hour that’s going to make you very happy.
- Do what’s right – not easy – There have been many times I’ve done what was the easiest thing to do rather than what was right. And what was ‘easy’ was usually what other people wanted which I went along with for the sake of a quiet life even though the person who lost out in the end was me. But there have been times when I’ve really had to put up a fight and do what was right because the easy way wasn’t going to benefit anyone at all. And looking back, I’m glad that I had the courage to stand by my convictions. You don’t have to do something purely because you can. Do what’s right in the long term – not what’s easiest. In the long run you’ll feel less stressed and resentful.
- Worry solves nothing, action does! – I can’t help it, I’m a born worrier. My friends actually worry about me worrying. But I know that in the long run worrying solves nothing. It just causes more stress and more problems. Replacing worry with solutions and positive action gets far better results. Don’t believe me? Just look at the most determined, successful, happiest people. Do they look like they have endless sleepless nights worrying their socks off? No, I didn’t think so either!
- Burying your head in the sand solves nothing!– Now this is advice I really need to follow. The only way to combat something negative is to take steps towards doing something positive in order to resolve it. Burying your head in the sand and not resolving problems only leads to stress; sleepless nights and a great deal of unhappiness. Now that we can live without.
- Let little frustrations go – Admittedly I do get wound up by silly, trivial little things. In fact I’ve been known to brood over things for days that most people would shrug off. But it’s absurd to let one meaningless incident put a dampener on tons of good things that are happening around you. Everyone has their fair share of day to day dramas but a lot of people have learned not to let it get them down, so focus on the positive.
- Peering over the garden fence gets you nowhere – If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s people who never count their blessings and are forever wanting what other people have. The thing about people like that is whatever good fortune they’ve been blessed with, they’ll never be happy. Let’s be honest, it’s human nature to feel a twinge of envy when we see others with something we would like to have. But comparing ourselves to others and keeping up with the Joneses won’t make us happy. Focus on yourself and your own unique circumstances. Work on what you need to do to make life better for YOU. And don’t underestimate the power of gratitude and counting your blessings. Be grateful for the life that you have and all that is yours – you’ll feel happier, more positive and confident.
- Give from the heart… but don’t let anyone steal your energy – Don’t give with the expectation of getting something back because not everyone thinks the same way and you’ll only be setting yourself up for disappointment. That’s why if you’re going to do something for someone, make sure it’s because you really want to do it; that the gesture comes straight from the heart, and that you don’t expect anything back in return. BUT be wary of those who keep taking and give nothing back. All they do is drain your strength and energy and make you feel worthless and resentful. This is where good decision making comes in to play: know when to give and when to draw the line. And if someone really is taking advantage, it’s time to close the door and focus on those who are more appreciative of your efforts.
- Start focusing only on what you can control – It’s pointless banging your head against a brick wall. Do the best you can and then let whatever happens happen. If it’s meant to be it will be, but if not then you have to accept that there are some things that are out of your control and move on.
- You own technology – technology does not own you – Twenty first century living definitely has its emphasis on gadgets, and while they are very useful, it’s very easy to let them take over your life and I feel that some people have definitely lost that human touch. Don’t allow technology to control you. Know when to put down your iPad, to switch off your phone, and to stop texting, make eye contact, have face-to-face conversations, write letters, and hug more!
- Live in the moment – Don’t carry the heavy burdens of the past on your shoulders. And don’t excessively worry about what the future holds. Time has a habit of going by so quickly and before you know it, the here and now will have passed us by without us having the chance to experience it. Try not to dwell on past mistakes, and don’t get caught up in thoughts about the far, distant future. Enjoy the present and live in the moment.
- Start being the difference you want to see in the world – We are all destined for great things. Some of us realise that and act on it, but sadly some of us never fulfil our potential. Being ‘the difference’ can mean writing a prize winning novel, finding a cure for cancer, or winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Or it could be something as simple as making time to have a cup of tea and a natter with someone who needs a friend. We all have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life in one way or another – it’s a gift that should never be wasted.
- Be relationship rich! – Working hard and making money is essential to live in today’s world. But don’t get so caught up in the daily grind that you forget about the people who matter. Show those special people that they are loved and valued. Close relationships are important to our happiness so make an effort to be rich in good friendships and value family time.
- Embrace new growth opportunities – I’m not always one for change but I wonder how much different my life would have been if I hadn’t taken a different path from time to time. I wouldn’t have experienced everything that I have done up to now and I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. We have to accept the possibility that there may be things out there that are better for us and in order to find it, we may sometimes have to get out of our comfort zone. Try something different; go somewhere new. Life is full of countless opportunities and new possibilities. So embrace life, keep an open mind and have fun exploring new avenues.
- Understand life’s lessons – Sometimes life teaches us painful lessons that we didn’t think we needed. But everything happens for a reason and these lessons make us wiser and help us to grow, Everything that happens helps you grow. Learn from your experiences but furthermore learn from the painful experiences of others too. There’s always a lesson to be gained from everyone’s experiences.
- Be proud of those little achievements – We all think that when we hit a certain age, we’ll be at a certain stage in our lives. But real life doesn’t always work that way and you may find that you’re not where you want to be right now. But bear in mind that you’ve come a long way and you’re not stuck where you once were. Don’t set unrealistic targets for yourself. Give yourself attainable goals and work towards achieving those. As a work in progress, you’ll get there a little at a time, not all at once. So celebrate the small progresses that you make.
- True happiness comes from within – You could have all the money in the bank, a jet set lifestyle, a fabulous relationship, and be stunning to boot – and still not happy. That’s because being happy starts with you. If you’re not happy with who you are, you won’t find happiness from any external influences. So if there’s something in your life that you’re not happy with, it’s time to start making the necessary tweaks, adjustments, and changes, and getting rid of what doesn’t work for you anymore.
I hope this post has given you food for thought and that you’re able to put some of these plans into action. We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day so it will take some time before you see results but don’t let that put you off. The trick is to take things one step at a time. Just think, by the time we get to the end of this year, we could be looking at a whole new you!
The lovely Chitra who blogs at the fantastic Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen follows many of my blogs and she has always been extremely supportive; showing a genuine interest in many of the posts she reads and leaving kind and helpful comments. She’s basically every blogger’s dream follower!
By chance, Chitra and I discovered that we lived practically around the corner from each other. That was a pleasant surprise and it goes without saying that a meet-up was in the works! However real life kept getting in the way as it has a habit of doing, and the tasks of our day-to-day lives meant that despite living so close by, we had to wait until a less hectic period in our lives for that natter over cake and coffee – although with Chitra being a huge fan of healthy eating – as the title of her blog suggests – I figured that I’d be gorging on the cake and coffee while Chitra would be the one doing most of the nattering!
But meet we finally did on Saturday, and not only did I get to meet the great lady herself, but also her family. And what a lovely bunch of people they were. Obviously our discussion turned to blogging, and I asked Chitra about how she got started with Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen. I was amazed to discover that she’d only been working on her blog since the beginning of this year, as it seems to have been around forever and has become quite huge for something that’s still only a baby. Chitra then went on to talk about all the planning, hard work and effort that goes into Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen – not to mention the huge weekly shop and the last minute changes that sometimes need to be made. She cooks a dish every single day before writing about it; listing the recipe; taking photographs, and editing the post. In the past, Chitra did two posts a day but because of the amount of work that went into each post, she limited it to a reasonable one a day, which to be honest is more than most of us do, even though we have good intentions to blog every day.
One of the best things about Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen – aside from the fact that it’s focused on achieving a healthier diet and lifestyle – is that it really is a family affair, with Chitra getting a great deal of help and support from her family, who assist with the shopping, photography, editing, and of course, the tasting! I was astounded by the amount of work that went into Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen, and how dedicated Chitra is to maintaining the blog. Every recipe that features on Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen is her own creation – there’s nothing that’s come straight out of a recipe book. Could she be the hardest working blogger in the blogosphere????
All too soon, it was time to leave. But I left knowing that not only had I just met my first fellow blogger but that I’d also made a new real-world friend. As talented a blogger as she is, Chitra is also a lovely, down to earth lady and it was lovely getting to know her and her family. And yes, another meet up is being planned. It also got me thinking about the other bloggers I interact with. They come across as genuinely lovely people and I hope that one day in the not so distant future, I’ll be able to meet them in person too!
And if you haven’t checked out Chitra’s awesome blog, what are you waiting for? You can check it out here.
Back in April, I told you that I was planning to ditch my hair straighteners, having used them constantly for almost a decade. As I have unruly, ultra-wavy hair, my straighteners were most definitely my best friend, and I always felt my most glamorous with super-sleek, straight hair.
Unfortunately the battle with my hair really began early last year. Years of straightening had left my hair frazzled, parched and a little on the static side. There were days I looked like Mr. Majeika and no amount of hair product would help. I was beginning to lose hope of ever having hair I could be proud of again.
I made a great egg and olive oil conditioner – but was too lazy to prepare it every time I washed my hair. Naughty! I also tried a variety of shampoos and conditioners which I thought might help improve the condition of my hair. Everything helped to some degree but nothing eradicated the problem completely.
That’s when I decided that the only thing left was to ditch the hair straighteners. I knew it would be hard because without straightening my hair, I look like a small shrub! Would I be happy for Mr.D. to see me looking like this every day? Could I walk down the street and not mind the horrified stares? Would I be able to ignore the smirks from my students?
But I knew that if I continued to straighten my hair, it would just become an even bigger mess. My hair was so straw-like I felt as though I had a haystack on my head. No, the straighteners had to go.
So they did. Well – almost…
I set myself a challenge that I would go a month – possibly longer – without straightening my hair and see if it made any difference. For the most part, I was actually very good and kept to my word BUT… I couldn’t stand the kinked sections of hair that framed my face, so I cheated a little and straightened those sections. But that’s all I did. The rest of my hair was completely untouched by my straightening irons. Thankfully my Tresemme Keratin Smooth shampoo and conditioner left my hair adequately sleek so that I could get away with not straightening my hair.
In fact it’s only been in the last couple of weeks that I’ve taken to straightening my hair again but not in the same capacity as before. The straighteners only come out when necessary and even then it’s only to smooth down the sections that really need it.
And what’s the condition of my hair like now? A million times better! All the effort was so worth it. Yes, I still have a little frizz going on but my hair is definitely more soft, shinier and a lot smoother. It’s less dry and looks and feels much, much healthier. It’s definitely been given a new lease of life, and I intend to keep it this way.
I’ve also been paying more attention to my diet and been eating more fruit, vegetables and oily fish as well as taking vitamin supplements, as I know that what you put into your body is just as important as what you put onto your hair. I’ve also felt that having super hot showers might also have been drying out my hair, so I’ve been washing my hair in much cooler water.
So I didn’t adhere to the challenge one hundred per cent – but I still think I did quite well. And now I no longer depend on hair straighteners to have great looking hair.
So for you ladies out there who are reaching the end of your tether with dry, straw-like hair, there is hope. The best advice I could give you is a healthier diet and using your heated hair appliances a lot less. It could well be the making of your hair!
Everyone who knows me knows that although I try to eat healthy and like fruit, I’m not really an apples and oranges kind of girl. I love anything that’s a bit out of the ordinary so I can’t get enough of exotic fruits. Dragon fruit, mango, lychees, rumbutans… you name it, I’ve tried it. Or so I thought… After being introduced to granadillas by a friend this week, I tried them for the first time. “If you like passion fruit, you’ll love granadillas,” said my friend confidently. And he wasn’t wrong. The granadilla is indeed a relative of the delicious passion fruit and hails from South America. Whereas passion fruits have a tough purple skin, granadillas – which are larger in size – have an inedible, shiny, orange-gold skin which appears hard at first but is actually surprisingly fragile. There is a very spongy pith before you get to the edible part of the fruit. As with passion fruit, the edible part consists of black seeds covered in a jelly-like pulp; the only differences being that the pulp is more of a pale champagne colour and is much sweeter in flavour – almost like honey.
HOW TO PREPARE
- Granadilla is orange and firm when it is ripe.
- Ripe granadilla can be refrigerated for a few days.
- Cut the fruit into two halves as you would with passion fruit.
- Scoop out the jelly-like pulp with a spoon. The skin is not to be eaten.
HOW TO EAT
- Granadilla is commonly eaten by itself but it can be cooked or juiced.
- It makes a great jelly, jam, pie filling, flan topping or cake frosting and also makes a great addition to fruit salads.
It also has great nutritional value and is said to be an excellent source of fibre and essential minerals, such as phosphorus, iron and calcium. They are usually available in the spring months so now is the time to try them. You never know – it could be your new favourite fruit!
Try this recipe for a granadilla meringue pie – a tropical twist on the classic lemon pudding.
GRANADILLA MERINGUE PIE
200g packet of ginger biscuits
80g butter, melted
385g can of condensed milk
125ml lemon juice
Put the biscuits in a food processor and remove and place in a bowl.
Add the butter and mix well.
Press the mixture into a greased 20cm pie plate and chill in the fridge.
Combine the condensed milk, lemon juice, rind, yolks and granadilla pulp and mix well.
Pour into the crust.
Beat the egg whites until stiff then gradually beat in the castor sugar, reserving 15ml to sprinkle on top.
Pile the meringue on top of the filling.
Sprinkle with the remaining castor sugar.
Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes or until the meringue is light golden brown.
Turn off the oven and leave the pie in for another hour.
Remove and cool completely before serving.