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!




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

volunteer 1
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!

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!



November Month 11: Technology Diet (Part Two)

Challenge: To give up Social Media
Charity: Be@titudes
Total time accrued: 3 hrs
Thoughts: If social media is used correctly, it connects us.

 The Eleventh Challenge: Less Technology, More Reality


What I Expected to Happen…

There’s a certain stigma around social media, I’m not sure whether it’s due to the fact that we live in a transition period where we have a spectrum of generational extremes.
On one extreme, we have a generation of people who come from a time where there was no internet… contrary to popular belief, these are not people who have time travelled to live among us, the internet is still a fairly new thing.

On the other extreme, we have those who were born pretty much with the iphone X attached to their hand from the womb.

I am in the weird middle ground where I remember a time where not everyone had the internet and when we finally got the heavy, clunky, space consuming technology in our home, we all gathered around it in awe. But nobody really knew what to do with it.
Over time, growing up with it, I discovered Neopets (anyone remember that?!) and dabbled in html, then discovered MSN, then MySpace, Hi5, Babble and all the rest of the strange social sites. Again, nobody quite knew what to do with these!

I even remember when the new Nokia 3310 came out and the popular kids in school were the first to get their hands on it, snake was the shit back then.

So in this spectrum of extremes, there has been a stigma that has naturally developed in the adaptation period where those of us who remember the times before the internet cannot understand those who’s lives totally revolve around the internet. And some of us who have adapted, still feel a pang of guilt when we realise what an importance it is on our lives now, when there was a time where it did not exist in our lives.


In short, detoxing from social media, although not entirely eliminating technology (most significantly, the internet) from my life, I expected it would reduce my dependency on this virtual world and give me a better connection with reality. I expected it would free up that two hours a day we supposedly  spend on Social Media to do some of the things I keep putting off. I thought that without the distraction and the procrastination, I would pursue some of the hobbies I enjoy more.


What Actually Happened…


I don’t think you need to have a lot of life experience to know that, things don’t always work out as you plan them in your own head. Even when you have total control over it. So in short, it didn’t quite go as planned… this is pretty much how it went.

  1. Daily checks from concerned friends that I am coping without their minute by minute life updates – I was not.
  2. Regular jokes on all the exciting goss I am missing out on – #severelyjel.
  3. People trying to show me videos/memes and me covering my eyes.
  4. Lots of debates about what Social Media even is and whether there are any loopholes to my challenge.
  5. People wondering what I even do with my life. I also wondering the same.
  6. My social life dying a horrendous death as I miss out on invites.
  7. My mum and grandma thinking I am dead because I haven’t posted in a while.
  8. Limited people to talk to as I don’t have anyone’s number.
  9. Finding other things to distract me from doing all the things I supposedly always wanted to do but just “never found the time”.
  10. Serious reconsideration on whether or not it’s actually worth taking photos anymore if I can’t insta them.

Okay, sort of joking on that last one but this challenge has been a real eye opener for me, and taken the ownership of my decision making back onto me. I’m not a “victim” to social media, it’s not and never has stopped me from doing anything and I am not as dependent on it as I thought – it definitely got easier as time went.

Sure, I did use it as a “filler” activity a lot of the time, browsing pointlessly through facebook or instagram. But having removed this distraction, I found other things to pass the time, like browsing pointlessly through my photos.
However, the good part to having to find an alternative “filler” activity, was that some of the things I defaulted to were actually helpful. For example, in my bored moments, I would find myself checking my online banking and browsing through what I’ve bought which is a healthy habit to build.
I also found myself going back to the duolingo app regularly and learning Español which does happen to be one of the “things I’ve always wanted to do but put off”. So that’s a definite win (45% fluent apparently – the app don’t lie).


Doing the challenge has made me realise how social media can really connect us. Those who care about us do want to be able to get little updates on our life and see how we are getting on. I didn’t anticipate my mum and my grandma both actually becoming seriously concerned because they hadn’t seen me post in a while, maybe that’s a reflection on just how much I used to post (which I think may go down now) but I also think for them, it’s a nice way of them staying connected to us albeit from a distance.


I hadn’t anticipated how disconnected I would feel from others and how isolating it could be for me being off Social Media, because prior to this month, most of my communication was done through these apps. I quickly discovered that I need to keep more phone numbers because I literally had like barely anybody! But also, it’s easier for people to crate a group or an event on facebook and invite those who they want to attend, so that they don’t have to repeat themselves. So I may have missed a few invitations… sorry guys!


The Conclusion


Success rate: 3 Failures
2 mins each on 2 occasions where I needed to extract travel photo’s from my blog and 20 seconds when my BFF showed me a meme from his instagram!
Cost per fail: 1 hour per day.
Hours accumulated for charity: 3

Will I stay off Social Media? Definitely not. Having said that, I am less bothered and so I will be posting less (I think) and would like to stay out of the habit of checking my phone constantly.

Am I like super connected to mother nature and spiritual and enlightened since being off Social Media? No but I now have more options on how to distract myself and procrastinate should I require it.

I’d love to know what other people think, especially those who have done a Social Media detox, let me know in the comments below!

Excited for my final challenge; Volunteering!


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!




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


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


Rye Bread

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



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


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!