Touring Bali

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I hope you enjoyed my last blog post where I showed you the work I was doing as a volunteer, but perhaps meeting with prisoners and playing football with street children isn’t on your travel agenda (though it really should be). So I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite spots in Bali that I got to visit on my days off.

I was really lucky to meet some amazing friends who were either volunteers like myself or full-time staff. Many were from Indonesia or had learned Bahasa Indonesia (the language of Indonesia) and had been in Bali a lot longer than I, so they knew all the local spots where the “cool kids” hang out… so to speak.

 

Transport

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Getting around was never going to be easy, or so I thought! Here’s the thing, getting around in a car tends to cut a chunk out of most of your day as you sit in traffic and bake (or freeze if your driver has the aircon on like mine did at times). So how else are you supposed to get around? Yeah, you guessed, scooter!

The scooter! Also known as a motorbike, bike, moped, or whatever. It has two wheels and it weaves in and out of traffic like magic. Everyone has one and everyone uses this method of transport unless you are like foreign and don’t know about Go-Jek.

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I’m going to tell you about Go-Jek, and Grab. These are apps you must download before you go to Bali. Must. This is your Asian version of Uber and it is suuuper cheap. Seriously. An hour’s journey cost me £0.45p. Although you can select the car option, I’m going to tell you to choose the motorbike option because your journey time will cut at least in half. You have to be prepared to wear their helmets which have been worn by who-knows-how-many but it’s a small price to pay for a cheap, fast ride.

 

Temples

Temple

Bali has many notable temples, and being a majority Hindu country, you will see many people bringing their offerings and incense thrice daily and laying them all around their houses, businesses and the temples. These colourful offerings are supposed to give back to the gods and bring health and prosperity to their families.

There are many beautiful temples in Bali, but I only had time to visit one. Maybe I’m biased but I would definitely put the Uluwatu temple on your list of places to visit.

You are given a purple and orange sarong to wear around your waist before you enter and then you are nearly immediately faced with breath-taking cliff-top views. It doesn’t take long before you spot a monkey or two in the trees, and next thing you know you are surrounded by these cheeky creatures as you clutch tightly to your bags. And you should, these monkeys are well known for stealing sunglasses off your face and purses out of your hands so be careful!

 

Street Food

Having local Indonesian friends meant never being far from tasty treats from the streets (see what I did there?). I’ll try my best to describe some of these Balinese treats but you have to promise not to knock it ’til you’ve tried it!

Fried Banana

So this is literally bananas that are dipped in some kind of batter, deep fried and topped with chocolate and cheese. And… it just works… somehow!

Martabak Manis

I also heard this referred to as a different name, but whatever you want to call it, it’s delicious. It’s a mix between an English crumpet and a pancake (so maybe call it a crumpcake?!) and this thick pancake is doubled up with a layer of chocolate and crushed peanuts sandwiched in between.

Deep Fried Pancakes with Egg & Leek

I don’t actually know the official name for this but it is a savoury snack you will definitely get an appetite for. Pastry is thinned out to a large circle and then placed in hot oil to start frying, then the egg/leek mix is added to the middle and encased within the pastry. This parcel is deep fried on both sides until it is ready, then sliced into squares for your consumption.

Satay

It’s just basically chicken (or other) kebab sticks marinated in a peanut sauce and cooked over a fire/grill.

Tempeh

Tempeh is a traditional soy product originating from Indonesia.It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form (source: wikipedia, cheers bro!). They love this stuff here, and it is often marinated in a sweet sauce and served with rice.

Nasi Goreng

Don’t get me started on how much Indonesians love their rice! They just love it! So it should come as no surprise to find the most famous Balinese meal is Nasi Goreng, or basically, fried rice. Now, it is good, and you can get it everywhere and it is cheap, so you can’t really not love it! #nasigorengforever

 

Cafés

Okay, so Bali is basically café heaven! Everywhere you go, you will find a gorgeous café selling really flipping tasty food and equally stunning smoothie bowls! For the vegan, the Canggu area is bliss! Here is a list of my top 12 cafés.

  1. NOOK, Denpasar |Rice Fields|Smoothie Bowls|Avocado Toast on point|Fresh
  2. Smoothie Shop, Uluwatu |Vegetarian|Organic|Takeaway smoothies in glass bottles
  3. Café Organic, Canggu |Organic|Fresh|Locally Sourced|Vegetarian
  4. Crumb & Coaster, Kuta |Fresh|Locally Sourced|Smoothie Bowls|Paper Straws|Coffee on point
  5. Revolver Espresso, Seminyak |Quirky|Good Coffee|Buy Coffee Beans|Locally Sourced
    Revolver Espresso
  6. Zeus Café & Secret Garden, Jimbaran |Bean Bags|Fresh Juices|Smoothies|Glass Straws|Relaxing Vibe
    Zeus Cafe & Secret Garden
  7. Mac Eleven Café & Roastery, Jimbaran |Good Coffee|Buy Coffee Beans|Relaxing Vibe
  8. Peekaboo, Canggu |Quirky|Good Vibes|Good Food|Totes Instagrammable
  9. Betelnut Cafe, Canggu |Airy Upstairs Seating|Healthy|Amazing Food
  10. Locas Waroeng, Keramas Beach |Beanbags|Smoothies|Great Ocean Views
    Locas Waroeng
  11. Kitchenette, Beachwalk, Kuta |Best Avocado Toast Ever|Beach|Shops
  12. J.Co, Bali |Best Doughnuts Ever|Free Doughnut with every Drink|Chill Vibe

 

Shopping

The Balinese Rupiah is not a strong currency which makes for dirt-cheap shopping and with the haggling culture, prices are rarely set. That in mind, please remember that what you earn in a year is probably more than some earn in a lifetime, so be generous- you can afford to be!

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One of my favourite shopping spots was Kuta, I didn’t really bother with the Beachwalk mall but in the streets surrounding the mall there are several unique shops and stalls all selling anything you could imagine from very large paintings (guilty) to super cute clothes. The other favourite spot was in Ubud, there is a huge outdoor market in Ubud with each stall packed closely to the next making a sea of merchandise before your eyes. It’s hard to know where to look, but the stunning silver jewellery may just catch your eye. Indonesia is famous for it’s silver so be sure you will find some great quality pieces, and with a set of earrings and two rings for 100 rupiah, it’s a steal.

A little more pricey but worth a visit was the Mal Bali Galleria in Kuta where you can find your typical high street shops but also some quirky and cute stalls. Lastly, and most expensively, is the Love Anchor in Canggu which has some of the most beautiful and unique jewellery I have seen but also gorgeous bags, clothes, shoes or souvenirs. Make sure you pay a visit to the shops upstairs too!

 

Beaches

The volunteer base just happened to be opposite the beach most famous for it’s sunsets and seafood restaurants. Jimbaran Beach has one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen and if you head there after hours, you can enjoy a seafood BBQ on the beachfront with the waves lapping at your toes (or in my case swallowing my ankles).

If you enjoy surfing then you will love Keramas Beach in Kuta, this black sand beach hosted a surf competition which I enjoyed under the shade of an umbrella (you definitely need one in the Bali heat). You get to see the surfers right up close and many photographers gather to get “the shot”, which my lovely friend Guia was lucky enough to get with the winning surfer!

Also great for beginner surfers is Echo Beach in Canggu, a great time to go is just before sunset as you can watch the surfers surfing and the sun setting at the same time, then head into Canggu for drinks in one of the quirky bars, or dinner at one of the vegetarian cafés.

A more touristic area is Nusa Dua with some stunning views and the famous Water Blow where the waves smash against the jagged rocks with their alien-like appearance. But a local gem was known as the “Secret Point” only ten minutes from Jimbaran where you have insane sunset views and you can cliff jump (permitting the tide is high enough)! To make it extra special, bring marshmallows and make a small fire to roast them whilst you watch the sun go down.

 

Waterfalls

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You can’t visit Bali without visiting a waterfall, there are so many beautiful falls hidden away in the center of Bali. I can recommend a visit to Kantolampo Waterfall but I can’t recommend the route that I took to get there.

You see, a friend who I trusted, took me to visit this waterfall. Except, when we arrived, it wasn’t immediately obvious exactly where this waterfall was. But my friend insisted that he knew where it was and it wasn’t far, so I followed him into the jungle (never follow anyone into the jungle).

Several traumatic slips and slides later (including one where we both slipped and landed in decomposing fruit turning into mud – eeeek!) we found the water fall. But needless to say, on the other side of the river, there was a clean cut staircase that lead from the road directly to the waterfall.

So don’t go through the jungle kids, just don’t.

 

Night Life

There’s plenty to do in Bali during the day, but it’s worth staying up because you don’t want to miss some of these magical places.

Sunset Seafood BBQ @ Jimbaran Beach

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If you are looking for the perfect romantic setting, you will be hard pressed to find one that competes with this beautiful beach. This is the perfect spot for dinner before you head to the next destination.

Nav Karaoke

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So you’ve had a few drinks and you’re feeling like you’re meant to be famous, don’t just keep that thought to yourself; get your own private Karaoke booth! This colourful Karaoke “bar” allows you to rent a booth for a period of time with your friends so you can explore your inner Beyonce. You can order drinks, choose from a very large library of songs and artists and of course, sing your heart out!

Old Man’s Beachfront Bar

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Maybe you are feeling super chill and you want to sit with some friends simply chatting and sipping on some Bintang (local beer), take a seat in the open outside area. If you can tolerate bumping into the occasional celeb, and you can shake a leg with some stag and hen parties, you might also find yourself enjoying the more enclosed area near the bar.

La Laguna

La Laguna

You haven’t seen magic until you’ve seen this place. Seriously. La Laguna had me at “wow” from the start. I stared at the magical lighting and medieval style wagons that lead down to the main restaurant. I crossed the stunning bridge, dimly lit, with vines drooping from above, wondering where it would end. I delightfully ran through the sand as I realised the bridge lead me to the sea, and played with photos around the teepee.
But, I couldn’t stay on the beach long because I had a date with my friends at the outdoor cinema where beanbags were lined up and blankets laid on the ground beneath us.

This. Was. Magic.

 

So I hope you have enjoyed following me on a short trip through Bali, keep following (and subscribe) for my future adventures.

Sunset Heart
“Thank You Bali!” – Secret Point. Photo Credit: @totosamurai
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Italy Bound; Florence

Firenze, or Florence, the heart of Tuscany. Historic and romantic, sense tingling and taste teasing, beautiful and intriguing… so where could I possibly begin?

The three of us met at the Venezia Miestre train station; Rachelle, Pablo and I. If you read my last post on Venice, you may remember that I met this honeymoon couple in a queue and invited them to join me in Florence… after a quick discussion as to whether or not I am a serial killer it was a “sure, why not?”!

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So two hours of delightful scenery, freezing air-con and awkward phone charging later, we arrived in Florence. Immediately we felt like the floor beneath us was moving when we made our way out of the station, maybe it was a mini earthquake or maybe it was just the rumbles of the trains or maybe Florence just felt different somehow. A short bus ride then walk away was the two-bed, light and airy top floor apartment.

Exploring Florence 

Florence is much bigger than Venice and has a lot to offer. One moment you are surrounded by high street shops like Zara and H&M, the next you are staring up at a marble clad Cathedral.

Surrounded by mountains, and with the river Arno through the heart of it, Florence has everything for every type of person. For the history geeks, there are over 80 museums, for the foodie there are many restaurants, cafes and sandwich shops, and for the explorer the winding streets will always lead you somewhere new.

Here are some of the things not to miss.

The Duomo


Il Duomo di Firenze, previously known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower) is one of Italy’s largest churches and until recently, was the largest dome in the world but is still the largest brick dome ever built. This Gothic-styled Cathedral was built in 1436 with the exterior of the basilica clad with white, green and pink marble panels.

A major tourist attraction, the cathedral includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile.

Other churches are full of historical art, with their walls covered in beautiful paintings as well as marble sculptures. Even the most outwardly unassuming church can have the most stunning art inside so make sure you wander in when you come across a church.

Museums
Michelangelo's David

For the keen history and art boffs, Florence is heaven! With over 80 museums, you are sure to find one you can get completely lost in. The Galleria dell’Accademia and Uffizi are two of the most popular museums.
The Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, an art museum, is best known as the home of Michelangelo’s sculpture David. But it has many other sculptures by Michelangelo and a large collection of paintings by Florentine artists, mostly from the period 1300-1600.
The Uffizi, however, is the main art museum in Florence. It is one of the largest and most visited art museums in the world with a collection of priceless art. Waiting times to get in can be up to 5 hours, so if you plan to visit, get your tickets in advance online.

Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio, Firenze

The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is a medieval stone bridge that crosses the Arno River. It is famous for the expensive jewellery shops built along it, and each night the jewellers cover their jewels and bring down large wooden chest-like barriers to protect their shops.  Also enchanting are the Ponte Vecchio’s two neighbouring bridges; the Ponte Santa Trinita and the Ponte alle Grazie. Make sure you make a sunset visit for some very romantic views of the Arno River.

The Beach

Urban Beach on the Arno

Who knew there was a beach in Florence? Not me!
Located in the middle of the city, on the banks of the Arno, is a recently built urban beach. The city council decided to use part of the river bank of the Arno for a relaxation spot in the summer, free of charge for locals and tourists alike!
Sunbathe, play ball or dip your toes in the water… but I don’t know if I would swim in the river!

Double Helix Slide in Palazzo Strozzi

Double Helix Slides

Installed by a German artist, Carsten Höller, who is also known for his playful interactive installations, this pair of slides in a double helix formation can be found within the famed Palazzo Strozzi of Florence. It’s open quite late, doesn’t cost a lot, and at the bottom you can find a couple of bars and restaurants. I don’t suggest going on after a few drinks though!

Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo

A long walk from the centre, and an even longer climb, this Piazza is not worth missing! The best views over Florence, you can also find churches to explore and if you’re lucky you may find yourself in a Gelato festival!

Gelato Festival

I stumbled across this festival which took place between 20th – 22nd April this year (2018) but check the website to see when it’s next on. A festival dedicated to tasting ice-cream, the Italian and international gelato makers will prepare pounds and pounds of ice cream and with one ticket you can taste all of them!

Food in Florence

Let’s face it, you don’t go to Italy for McDonalds. Probably one of the most popular cuisine worldwide, Italian food is easily a palette-pleaser with its heartwarming combination of pastas, tomatoes, meats, herbs and cheeses. In Tuscany, pasta (especially pappardelle) is traditionally served with meat sauce (including game meat). Also famous for its wine, there are so many reasons your tastebuds will fall in love with Tuscany.

Here are some of the places you must not walk by.

All’Antico Vinaio Sandwich

After seeing queues nearly 30 people long, I felt it would be foolish not to join the crowds, each holding their own foccacia sandwich filled with an array of meats and cheeses, as they sat along the curbs drinking and eating.

Make sure you choose enough of the more succulent ingredients as the foccacia is quite a dry bread, and this large €5 sandwich won’t let you down.

Officina

By far one of my favourite places to eat, this restaurant had it all. Great food, great vibes and great staff, it was no surprise that I came back more than once. I recommend the fresh pasta, the meat plate, the burgers, all of it! Just pay this place a visit!

€2 Pizza on Via dei Neri
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Who wouldn’t give this place a try for €2?? I admit, I didn’t actually expect much from this place being so cheap and my being dairy free but I was pleasantly surprised! I was offered a marinara pizza custom topped with parma ham at my request and it was delicious! I admit, I didn’t catch the name but you can’t miss it on Via dei Neri.

Ditta Artigianale
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Come to this cafe for a chilled out vibe, freshly blended juices or a coffee on the go. They have dairy free options which was a first for me here in Tuscany, and whilst some relaxed on the bench outside, others worked on their laptops inside. I simply enjoyed my pancakes and soya chai latte.

Desserts

Wherever you go, whatever you do, make sure you grab one of Italy’s delicious pastries; most famously, Cannoli. You won’t miss all of the gorgeous cafes lined with colourful sweet treats as you explore the city of Florence.

In my next post, you can hear about my day tour to Pisa, San Gimignano and Sienna.

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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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

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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
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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
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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
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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!

Ciao!

X


December Month 12: Volunteering (Part Two)


Challenge: Volunteer
Charities: The British Red CrossThe Natasha’s ProjectBe@titudes
Total Hours completed: 23
Thoughts: “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”
― Horace Mann


The Final Challenge: To Volunteer

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Getting myself started with volunteering wasn’t as simple, quick and easy as I thought. The thing with volunteering is, the opportunities to do so are there but you do have to look for them. Most charities really need long term commitments and not one off days here and there. But I found this site useful in finding opportunities nearby that fits my skillset and availability.

Thankfully I have some good connections and so it wasn’t long before I had booked myself up for a few days. My workplace pay for up to 5 days a year of volunteering leave so I can volunteer without fear of losing out on a day’s work. I was able to take advantage with 2 of those days.
Tip: If you are thinking of volunteering, why not ask if your work place would be open to doing the  same? Charity has become a very important part of our society, especially to businesses and you will be surprised at how supportive your place of work can be towards you volunteering.

 

How did it go?

As promised, I gave time to Be@titudes, giving two of my Saturday mornings to hang out with Rosemary and be that extra pair of hands. It was there that I found out how much of a help it has been that the Duke of Edinburgh awards have included voluntary work as a mandatory. Two lovely girls were also giving up their Saturday mornings to help in the shop and really seemed to be enjoying it!

b@titudes
Image Credit: http://www.facebook.com/DorkingBeatitudes

If you have a spare Saturday and want to do something good for the local Dorking community, consider volunteering here!

I was also lucky that Val (my partner in crime for all of my challenges) volunteers regularly at the The British Red Cross and so was able to contact the manager directly and arrange a time for me to come along.
I was given free reign to arrange the Bridal window as I please and organise the bridal room. I was also able to bring in my pre-loved wedding dress and donate it. I hope you think I did a good job:

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If you are getting married, try popping in to the Red Cross, you will be surprised at the quality of the Wedding dresses in stock; some are even brand new!

Even if you aren’t getting married, pop in anyway – I put out some (otherwise) expensive designer bags and shoes yesterday; Ugg, Cos, Ted Baker and more! I may have nabbed a cheeky deal myself… shopping and working, what could go wrong?!

Sadly, I couldn’t volunteer at The LifeTrain Trust this time, but I will be doing so in the new year which I am looking forward to!

I was, however, able to volunteer my time from home by doing some admin work for The Natasha’s Project! This has been particularly good because it means I can fit it around my job and social life so it doesn’t feel as if I’m giving up an entire day. If you have any skills around fundraising, social media, general admin or even if you have some connections that will help this amazing charity to get some secure funding then get in touch!

 

The Conclusion


Success rate: 100%
Hours given: 23



Will I carry on volunteering?
 Definitely! I already am looking at doing some hours with the LifeTrain Trust in January and I will continue to support Be@titudes, the Red Cross and the Natasha’s Project.

What can we do? Get involved! Give some time to any of the charities that I have supported this year, or any causes that are close to your heart. Whatever you do, whether it is giving a sandwich to a stranger, or lending a hand to a friend in need, the reward is the same; a little light of kindness in a broken world.

If you can’t give time, you can always give dolla $$. Many companies are starting to do charity matching, whether they match a certain monthly contribution you decide to make to a charity of choice or they may match an amount that you raise for a charity through an event up to a set limit. Ask your employer about this!

Or if, as the new year looms, you are feeling super inspired by my 12 months of simple living, why not give yourself monthly challenges and wager your time/money to a charity for when you (inevitably) balls up!

I hope you have enjoyed following my year! Here’s to an amazing 2018!

X

 

October Month 10: Sugar Free (Part Three)


Challenge: To go Sugar Free
Charity: Diabetes UK
Total £ accrued: £9
Thoughts: It’s been tough but I’ve learnt so much.


The Tenth Challenge: Going Sugar Free

Autumn is in full swing, and winter is threatening as the days get colder and darker. The feel good rays of the sun are harder to come by, replaced with a consistent grey and damp atmosphere. It’s no wonder that this time of year we start to crave sugary comfort foods more and more. We need a pick me up, something to make us feel good, and our bodies want that extra layer of fatty deposits that we love to call our “winter coats”.

Instead, this month I have resisted the urge to indulge and harnessed all my will-power to replace the sweet white granules with healthy and naturally occurring substitutes.

 

What can you eat?

If you read my last post, 12 every day foods that contain added sugar, you may have thrown your hands up in despair and thought there’s no way you could do a month without sugar. I did!

But don’t be disheartened, going sugar free can be easy if you know how to use what’s available to you. To save you the headache of coming up with creative meals that are also nutritious and delicious, I have written up a menu for you. Also, if you click on the titles, you will be lead to the full, legit, tried and tested recipes!

Menu


Breakfast

Pancakes

Banana Muffins
Crispbreads, Cheese & Salami (check for sugar free)
Coconut Yoghurt with Fruit & Honey
Pancakes with Berries & Maple Syrup


Snacks

Chikas Plantain Chips

Flatbreads & Smashed Avocado
Veg & Hummus (check for sugar free)
Plantain Chips with Home-made Salsa
Crispy Coconut Curls
Nakd Bars
Munchy Seeds
Pistachio Nuts
Fruit


Lunch

Rye Bread

Baked Sweet Potato with butter & grated Cheese
Rye Bread with Goats Cheese & Avocado
Pitta with Brie & Avocado
Macaroni Cheese


Dinner

Fajitas0

Pitta Fajitas
Vegetable Stir Fried Rice
Halloumi Pitta Burgers
Spaghetti with Olives, Veg & Feta
Vegetable Frittata with Feta
Linda McCartney Sausages, Egg & Chips


Dessert

Home Made Ice Cream1

Berry Ice-Cream
Chocolate, Coconut & Peanut Fudge
Yoghurt with Fruit & Maple Syrup
Watermelon Fruit Cake


 

The Conclusion


Success rate: 9 Failures across 6 days
Accidentally on 7 accounts, 2 are “maybes” because I was out for dinner and couldn’t ask the waiters to read through all of their labels
Cost per fail: £1
Money raised for charity: £9


Do I feel any different? The only thing I have noticed is occasionally feeling quite shaky and I wondered if that was a symptom of withdrawal. I was surprised to learn that sugar has effects on opioid pathways within the brain, as it does with drugs like heroin and morphine making it pretty addictive.

It is no wonder, then, that sugar is added to nearly everything; to keep us coming back time and time again to buy their products.

Will I carry on? I will definitely reduce my sugar intake and look to substitute with natural sweeteners wherever possible. But I’m really looking forward to a good brownie!

Next Challenge: A Technology Diet!