12 Months of Simple Living: End of Year Thoughts

It’s been a year of this transformation journey and as January 2018 arrived, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on each month and what impact, if any, it has had on the way I live my life now.

1. | January – Vegetarian |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Vegetarian Recipes

If there was ever going to be a controversial challenge it was this one. With opinions and beliefs splitting people world wide on the subject, it was always going to be harder for a previously strict carnivore to “try out” being Vegetarian for a month and then blog about the short lived and not hugely successful experience. But this journey is my own and now I can see this short lived month really did have an effect on my view, and now my lifestyle choices. However insignificant they might seem, they are still small steps toward a healthier life and a better world.

Since January, I’ve found myself increasingly choosing the vegetarian options whether it is in my work canteen, at home or out to eat with friends. I put this down to a change in my attitude towards meat as a result of understanding the vast amounts of waste, the damage to the environment and the inhumane treatment of animals all for the sake of corporate greed.

From a health point of view, I am so much more aware of the fats and greasiness of meat and how much heavier it sits in my stomach, I do tend to feel a little odd when I eat some types of meat now. It does make me wonder what sort of diseases we are potentially exposed to by eating meat.  That’s not to say I don’t crave the odd steak now and then but I am so much more aware of  trying to choose organic, free range, grass fed meat.

Having said that, I do want to aim to be even more veggie and I have concluded that being a full time vegetarian would be the ideal lifestyle choice and probably is how we were once meant to be. Not that any of my life choices are ideal- we’ll see!

Note: Spiralizers interest me now more than ever before!


2. | February – Forgiving |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three

This one has to be the hardest of all as it’s a continuous battle and a continuous cycle. Choosing to let people off the hook when they have wronged you seems unnatural to our human instincts and makes us feel like a doormat sometimes. But this doesn’t have to be so. I am continually reminding myself that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation; if you are continually wronged, don’t let them wrong you again. But love them and show them kindness anyway.

I can definitely see improvements with the way I handle disagreements, knowing that just because we have differences of opinion doesn’t make us bad people, just unique individuals who handle things in different ways. I try to respect another’s perspective even if I disagree.

I still struggle with letting things go quickly, but I can usually get over it after taking a breather. And with my long term grievances, it will always be a battle to maintain forgiveness but I will keep trying.


3. | March – Positivity & Thankfulness |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

This challenge is one that went beyond my natural disposition. I’ve grown up in an environment of complaining, from my family to the culture of the UK, so trying not to was a real difficulty. Being thankful for everything, including the bad times, just opens your eyes to how blessed you really are. Blessed you have arms and legs, and eyes and ears, blessed you are able to use them, blessed you have food, shelter and a job. There’s actually a lot to be thankful for!

I really struggle, still, to see the glass half full rather than half empty but I am working on it. A good way to start thinking a bit more positively is by writing a diary of your week noting, at various points of the day, how you felt – happy, sad, angry – and to what degree out of 100% you felt those emotions. When you look back, you will likely realise you have a much happier life than you initially thought. This is because our minds get conditioned just to remember the negative and not the positive.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you!


4. | April – Stick at It |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three

This challenge  actually made me realise that my problem wasn’t so much giving up on things, as feeling like giving up every time something gets tough. Also it was about believing in my ability to achieve what I set out to do.

Through going travelling, something I needed to do for myself but was afraid to, it helped me build confidence in myself. I’m trying to maintain this confidence now that I am back; it’s actually the mundane things in life that knock the confidence out of you.

I have found myself being a little braver and taking those risks even if I might fail, but there’s still work to be done!


5. | May – Exercise |

Navigate: Part One| Part Two | Part Three

This one’s gone out the window! Seriously, I don’t like doing any of it – classes annoy me, I don’t even know where to start in the gym, I HATE running, going for walks in the cold British weather is not up there on my fun list… so what can I do?!

I know I have to exercise, I know it’s very important for mental and physical health, but I just need to find something I actually enjoy doing.

I am working on it!!! The only classes I do quite enjoy are yoga classes, so I will try to keep those up at least. Any suggestions? Let me know!


6. | June – Meditation |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two

A very interesting challenge, in that, I thought this would be the easiest, but it turned out to be much harder than I thought.

I enjoyed it when I did it, but I found that I had to make time for it, rather than try to fit it in my day.

I haven’t kept it up on a daily basis but have naturally found myself meditating on life, faith and positive thoughts when on my own and spending time enjoying the beauty of Nature.

“Beauty is the purest feeling of the soul. Beauty arises when soul is satisfied.”
― Amit Ray


7. | July – Water |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two

A challenge that you either understood completely or didn’t get at all. Fellow water haters, I confess, I was doing so well and then I reverted… But I have a plan to get me back on track!

Drinking water has always been at the bottom of my to do list, and something happened when I realised, in my sugar free month, that (some) wines only had naturally occurring sugars; I started drinking more wine… And more… Not like an alcoholic, but just like with my dinner and in replacement for water…

Okay jokes aside (sort of), I just struggle in this already damp and wet, cold English weather to feel thirsty. I feel somehow I’m absorbing so much water just through breathing damp air. And even when thirsty, I’m so cold I opt for a dehydrating cup of tea (that’s right, tea is a diuretic so you ultimately lose more water than you take in).

But the plan? I bought this from Kikki.K and I intend to use it.
New Year, new pee… I mean me.

8. | August – Say Yes |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
Climb every mountain

This challenge was certainly the most adventurous and the most rewarding, delivering me to exciting new places, giving me more out of life and connecting me with the best people the world has to offer!

It’s an attitude that takes courage and takes self-belief. You need to be a risk taker, taking chances when there may be disappointment. Worst, you need to be prepared to be disappointed.

I have definitely carried on with this type of attitude, but I have to remind myself. I am naturally cautious and if left to my instincts, I would let opportunities pass me by. I struggle with disappointment and so when I am let down it hurts, a lot! But life is not going to get more interesting, fun or exciting if you don’t take risks.

I hope 2018 will be a year that I don’t hold myself back with my own self-doubt, but a year which I open my eyes to opportunities and take them with both hands!


9. | September – Slow Down |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two

slow down 1
Image Credit: ryangoggin.com

This one is harder to keep up when life just gives you busy schedules week on week. Certainly, my technology diet assisted with this and I naturally slowed down in most aspects of my life.

I have since had to remind myself to enjoy beautiful moments, the first full moon of 2018 for example, and a stunning sunrise the following morning.

Slowing down ties in with meditation, with reducing social media and other time fillers and many other parts of my yearly challenges.

I hope to carry on a slightly slower, more purposeful pace into 2018.


10. | October – Sugar Free |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner | Dessert
Home Made Ice Cream1

This is the challenge I am most proud of. It was complex and required a lot of effort; cooking, reading ALL labels, turning down tasty office junk food etc. But I smashed it!

I honestly saw the health benefits (especially when I returned to sugar), I realised the effect that sugar had on my asthma!

Sadly, the return to sugar has been a full submersion due to the time of year, but I would like that to change in the new year and I’d like to greatly reduce my intake. If not for my overall health, for my asthma (which has suffered greatly due to the return to sugar and all the other factors that trigger it).

I will proudly say though, that I have not returned to putting sugar in my tea!


11. | November – Technology Diet |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two

Being cut off from the world of social media came with mixed feelings… It was strangely freeing but at the same time isolating.

Yes, I missed out on social events, life updates from all my 900+ facebook “friends” (ha! I have more than you! JK) and ultra-hilarious memes, BUT I gained an independence, learned a new language (slash carried on learning Spanish from all my years of dabbling) and met people in more organic ways.

Being back on social media, I actually am not as bothered anymore… It’s sort of an effort to post so I’m doing it less. And I’m only really scrolling through facebook for the “12 times you failed at life” style posts, because … they make me giggle.

So, although I won’t keep off social media, I think I have struck a balance along the way.


12. | December – Volunteer |

Navigate: Part One | Part Two
volunteer 1

What a feel-good way to end the year; by volunteering! I honestly got such a sense of achievement by helping these charities in the skills that I had to offer. I really cannot urge you enough, if you have any spare time, to give some of it to a charity of your choice. You will form new friendships, new connections and it can even help you gain more skills.

One thing that is overlooked when people are looking for jobs but lack the experience, is volunteering. The way I gained my administrative experience was by volunteering for the Lifetrain Trust. So if this is where you find yourself, just go for it – if not to help, then to look better on your CV. But you will feel good when you see the contribution you have made to these charities.

Charities do amazing work, and I will be more than happy to give more of my time to volunteer during 2018!


So that’s it, my end of year update! Let me know how you have found my challenges and if you have a resolution for 2018!

Thanks for reading!




13 Weeks of Wandering – In Cambodia

Bangkok | Cambodia | Vietnam | Laos
New York >> Miami | Portland >> Vancouver

Where To? Cambodia
How long? 7 days
Status: Temples, Tarantulas and Treks

13WoW – In Cambodia

Getting to Know the Cambodian People

To summarise Cambodia in 3 words, it would be temples, tarantulas and treks.

Cambodians are beautiful people, kind, warm and friendly. And all this is despite the horrific genocide that took place by the Khmer rouge nearly halving their population not even 40 years ago. This genocide affected everybody and most will have at least one family member who was killed by the regime. I highly recommend you educating yourself on this if you choose to visit Vietnam by visiting the interrogation camps and the killing fields in Phnom Peng.

The killing fields
People have left bracelets around the “burial grounds” as a sign of respect. I added mine also.

And make sure to book a tour guide to get the not-so-official full story that you will not get by listening to the government approved audio guides (I recommend a tour guide called Nay – just ask if you want his details).

I was also lucky enough to have been able to have met 2 of the 5 survivors of the interrogation camps. I bought one of their books for $10, the proceeds go to a charity to help those affected by this genocide.


Tasty Little Creatures

Actually, the one of the first things I came across when entering Cambodia was Tarantulas.

Yes, that’s me, holding a tarantula, trying not to cry!

Believe it or not, deep fried tarantula is a delicacy in this part of the world, as well as many other insects.

A couple of my tour group were brave enough to try some insects. I was not!

There was a fiasco where a member of  the group was holding a bigger tarantula than the one above and then it started to quickly crawl up their arm. In that moment we all screamed like little girls and dropped the poor thing in a puddle. The seller was not amused as taranulas can die in water.

I was glad when we stopped at this restaurant to get a real lunch. Needless to say, Beef with Fire Ants was just one of the wonderful options on the menu.

The view at lunch

And later that day visiting the New Hope restaurant (see my previous post) deep fried crickets were brought to the table alongside other (more delicious) Cambodian dishes; coconut curry with pumpkin, beef lok lok, crispy vegetable parcels and more!



Ankor Wat

With Asia being predominantly Buddhist, you don’t have to look far to find a beautifully designed temple. But some of the oldest and best temples are located in Cambodia.

Here are some of the temples I visited:

‘Wat’ Else?!

Aside from the many temples that you could lose yourself in for days on end, Cambodia has lots to offer.

We visited the circus which is produced and performed by the locals and tells a story about the Cambodian people. You will be pleased to know there were no animals involved.

If you were feeling like interacting with some animals, you can pay a visit to Wat Leu temple where monkeys freely roam and like to hang out with man (especially with a food incentive).

Cambodia also has a number of trekking spots, some great beaches and even waterfalls!

And if you’re thirsty, they are not short of good bars!


Overall, Cambodia has a bit of everything! You have a lot of choice and a lot of variety – just watch out for the street food as it’s slightly less reliable than some other parts of Asia and be prepared to pay more if you stick to dollars rather than convert to Riel.

Next stop, Vietnam! X

May Month 5: Exercise! (Part Three)

Challenge: Exercise!
Charity: Cancer Research
Total £ Accrued: £20
Status: It’s working!

The Fifth Challenge: To Exercise

As the month draws to a close, I’ve realised that I am stronger than I was before and my stamina has increased. Exercise is still not one of my favourite things to do but I am starting to see the appeal (in that it can start to be addictive as you realise that you are getting better and better).


I don't have time!

The biggest challenge for me, especially with planning for my travels, has been time! I don’t seem to have enough hours in the day for anything – work spilling into overtime, organising consuming my every moment, socialising being put on the back burner whilst trying to balance the obligatory “let me just show my face” with the exhaustion that sets in.

When I try to extend my days, waking up earlier or going to bed later, it seems that sleep just overpowers me (a problem I am sure many wish they had), but seriously – I am literally dragged into sleep by my body no matter what I try to do to stay awake! It’s a real problem guys! But on that note – I am starting to believe those that say the cure for insomnia is exercise because it really does knock it out of you.

So, my suggestion is, if you are finding yourself short of time to do exercise, try splitting your 30 minutes into three 10 minute sessions.


As promised, I have put together my favourite 30 minute all-rounder routine that you could do daily. So without further ado…

Mary’s 30 Minutes of Simple Living Workout… Fun!

Yoga can be done anywhere...
Stretch (I don’t want anyone complaining to me about injuries)
2x 25 Squats
2x 25 Mountain Climbers
1 Minute Plank (can break this up by going into yoga down dog position half way through)
1 Minute Side Plank each side (can break this up by going into plank half way through)
2x 20 Bird Dogs
2x 25 Cycling Cross Crunches
20 Leg Lifts
20 Scissor Kicks
3x 10 Torso Lifts
20 Press-ups
2x 20 Knee Ups
1 Minute Jog on the Spot
Post Workout: Stretch

I know it’s not fancy, and I had to look up the official names for some of these but it got me through and I definitely felt it!


When it comes to motivation I am definitely lacking, particularly in the running area. I’m just going to come clean, I hate running! Definitely will not be doing any more running after this month. But what I found (when I did actually go for a run) was that after being completely winded and slowing down to take a breather, I struggled to find the motivation to run again.
It was those times that mother nature stepped in and assisted me with some fresh motivation by sending a wasp to fly nearly into my ear! Don’t know where it came from but I was sprinting after that!

The point is, there is always a reason to push yourself harder and you always have the strength within you to do it. You just have to force that strength to the forefront and focus on each step in front of you.

Tip: What works for me when I am doing a 60 second plank is start counting in 10s when I start to feel like I can’t carry on. Because you can always do an extra 10 seconds of anything, can’t you?

The Conclusion

Success rate: 87.1% (4 days failed out of 31)
Cost per fail: £5
Money raised for charity: £20

Overall, it was difficult (especially the 30 minutes a day) but worth it. I don’t have an eight pack yet but I do feel more in shape and I think I look more in shape. Have felt able to wake up earlier but do also want to sleep much earlier, also sleep like a log now!

Will I carry on? I would like to, but I know I will struggle with motivation. I will definitely try to incorporate more “surprise exercise” in my day to day activities.

Good luck to Elsa as she completes her own Pretty Muddy 5k challenge on 25th June! X

Next:  June’s Challenge – Meditation

May Month 5: Exercise! (Part Two)

Challenge: Exercise!
Charity: Cancer Research
Total £ Accrued: £10
Status:Who the hell runs for fun?!?!

The Fifth Challenge: To Exercise Continued…

Squad Goals = Squad Gains

It’s been a whole two weeks, that’s 14 days, of exercising every day (bar one day when I made the 5 hour drive up to Manchester and today where I cba) and I still don’t have a 6-pack. What do you want from me, life?!

Okay I know it’s not meant to be that easy but having said that,  I am starting to benefit from daily exercise already. I feel more energetic, happier and more alert but the down sides are that I’m generally achier and hungrier…


Routine & Rest

Photo Credit: http://www.kimberlycookphoto.com

My weekly routine is as follows.

Monday: Home Work Out 20 mins
Tuesday: Wing Chun Self Defence Class 1 hour
Wednesday: Home Work Out 20 mins
Thursday: Pilates Class 1 hour
Friday: Home Work Out 20 mins
Saturday: Wing Chun Self Defence Class 2 hours
Sunday: Home Work Out 20 mins

Now, I have recently been advised by a personal trainer that it is counter productive to exercise every day without a day off. He said it, not me! So, as of next week I will be introducing one rest day which is just as well because I will be raising the bar (pun intended, don’t judge me) with 25 minutes of exercise as a minimum and going up to the target of 30 minutes a day.

Strangely, I struggled to think of what to do for my 15, then 20 minute home work outs. I sort of found myself doing a panic plank and then following up with the typical press up/sit ups and squats.
It should be no surprise to you to find that I turned to pinterest yet again and was not short of inspiration. I will put together my favourite routine for the next post.

Surprise Exercise

We can all feel like hitting that target of getting 30 minutes of exercise a day is not achievable, especially when you work a desk job and have no interest in exerting yourself. But I have some good news for you, you may be doing more exercise than you think! I call this the “surprise exercises”.


Do you do any of the following?

  • Clubbing
  • Shopping
  • Touring or Exploring e.g. a day out in London or elsewhere
  • Climbing Stairs (extra points to you if you were also tricked by your best friend into doing the 193 steps in Covent Garden station… in heels)
  • Cleaning or Tidying (extra points if you’ve had to move house- that is pretty much worth a year of exercise)

If so, the good news is you have most likely been partaking in the act of surprise exercise! Who said keeping active had to be boring and inconvenient? There is so much in your daily routine that can contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle and sometimes just slight adjustments can mean that we live a happier and healthier life.

So I guess what I am saying is, go on that shopping day out in London and don’t feel bad- it’s all in the name of keeping fit!


Part Three

May Month 5: Exercise! (Part One)

Challenge: Exercise!
Charity: Cancer Research
Total £ Accrued: £0
Status: Body Shakin’, Heart Racin’, Money Savin’…

The Fifth Challenge: To Exercise

This month’s challenge is focusing on nurturing the body.


This may come as a major (non) surprise, but I am so unfit that I physically couldn’t do more than two lengths the last time I went swimming. And don’t get me started on running, the only thing I run is my mouth (I’m African, deal).
The combination of having asthma, working at a desk and being lazy means that exercise has fallen to the bottom of my priority list.

Last time I checked my figure, I realised that the priority list had to change. And no, I’m not saying I think I’m overweight; it’s not just about to exterior, it’s also the interior. Like my lungs, my bad back & bad posture. Like my mental well-being & my energy levels.

The challenge will also be an exercise of my will and motivation because the last gym membership I had may as well have gone straight in the bin.


The Training Plan

Had to nick this one because there are zero pictures of me going for a run… haha as if!

The experts reckon we should all be getting in 30 minutes of exercise a day. However, I expect a bit of a shock to the system as I go from doing nothing to suddenly getting my heart rate going faster than Forest Gump. So I will be easing myself into it week by week.

The challenge will be to have at least 15 minutes of exercise every day week 1, 20 minutes a day week 2, 25 minutes week 3 and 30 minutes of exercise a day week 4.


When I say exercise, I mean I have to feel it!

Gran Canaria 2009
Gran Canaria 2009 = #goals

My goals to help me along are:

  • Go for a run twice a week
  • Join an exercise class (I have already joined a Wing Chun self defence class and Pilates class)
  • Get a beach bod ready for my travels!
  • And the lung capacity to keep up on tours!
  • Breathe…

For every day that I do not do any of exercise, I will pay £5 to my amazing friend, Elsa Hartley’s Pretty Muddy Crawley 5k fundraising page for Cancer Research.

Part Two