Friday, 31 January 2014

#29 Participate in a Tea Sharing Ritual

Ok, this one is a little out there and 'new age' for me. I'm not even a particularly big fan of tea; I'm more of a coffee/cappuccino girl myself. But hey, I'm trying new things. Everyone here is so chilled out and relaxed (I can't bring myself to use chilaxed in an actual sentence), maybe they're onto something.

About tea sharing rituals
In the beginning, tea was cultivated and used solely as herbal medicine mostly within temples. Monks began to use tea to teach a respect for nature, humility and an overall sense of peace and calm. In fact, the spirit of the Chinese Tea Ceremony is described as he, jing, yi, zhen which translates to peace, quiet, enjoyment and truth. Monks felt they could illustrate deep philosophical concepts through tea service. It is for that reason that the underlying philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism blend together through the Chinese Tea Ceremony. Over time, people recognized the health benefits of tea but also its overall enjoyment. Tea ceremonies could be seen in memorial celebrations for both emperors and family ancestors.

Since learning the art of High Mountain Oolong Tea preparation nearly ten years ago, San Bao has been performing Chinese Tea ceremonies. Join San Bao for one of his relaxed and sociable sessions: meet people, exchange ideas and learn about tea preparation and the many health benefits of Oolong tea.

I may have to give up my coffee and caffeine habit after all...

#28 Meditate in an ancient Monk's Cave

Koh Samui has long been favoured by Buddhist monks as a sanctuary for spiritual retreat. The island, they say, has a special energy that enriches and enlightens their spiritual path and helps them connect more profoundly with the universal energies.

There's a centuries-old cave here, once used by Buddhist monks as a place for meditation and spiritual retreat. The tradition of these monks supposedly continues and adds an aura of spiritual and sacred energy to the area.

The Monks’ Cave is always open, and people are welcome to enter this sacred space for quiet contemplation, meditation or a peaceful break to lighten and brighten the day.

Buddhist monks known to use this cave as a place of meditation and spiritual retreat, include:
Arjan Daeng (1889-1976), was a Buddhist sage renowned for his knowledge of healing plants and his ability to communicate with other life forms, including the cobras that shared his living space. An expert sailor, he built his own boat and made pilgrimages to outlying islands where he established other hermitages. He is remembered for his talks on universal compassion and his exemplary teachings of self-discipline, simplicity, patience, and his kindness to all beings.

Arjan Pet, "Diamond Teacher", a great reformer of Thai Buddhism.

Arjan Mahasumreong, the most recent monk to inhabit the cave at Kamalaya, made renovations and added the still-existing skylight. A great scholar, he translated many original Pali texts into the Thai language. Now 87 years old, he continues to teach at a monastery in the Thai province of Kanchanaburi.

It is incredibly peaceful and an amazing place to be alone with my thoughts.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

#27 Drink fresh coconut juice

Drink fresh coconut juice straight from a coconut

It's not this:
PS: Is anyone else wondering why there's a bikini top in the tree on this product shot? If you're talking about liquids that are likely to make you take your clothes off, I think that's more likely to be Jagermiester than Coconut juice...but I digress.

I'm in Heaven

I'm in Heaven...and I don't mean the gay bar near Embankment. Utter bliss.

#26: Go on holiday by myself

I love to travel, but normally I do prefer to go with someone -- preferably my partner.I know it won't be the same as going with someone I love, but going away by myself will be good for me. Besides, I could use some alone time with me.
One of the massage rooms overlooking the Indian Ocean

I live for my holidays and part of what I look forward to in life is going away with the person I love and having fun, alone time together. Since I'm single, that's obviously not possible, but I didn't want the fact that I had no one special to go with to stop me from doing something that I love.

The plunge pool that followed my message. Life is good

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

#25: Go on a spa holiday

Ok, so admittedly this trip is going to tick quite a number of items off of my to do list and I'm kind of double (or even triple) counting. But it's my list and I write the rules...

In the past while I've always thought the idea of a luxurious spa holiday sounded amazing, I'm normally not so decadent so when push came to shove, I could never justify it. Well, in my current state, I couldn't give a rats xxx about that and just want a peaceful place where I can lose myself, and be pampered and taken care of. I need that at the moment. So I've booked myself in for a detox spa holiday in Koh Samui, where I will be buffed, scrubbed, starved, juiced and detoxed for 9 days.

This is my week's worth of healthy pills/supplements. Looks like I'm pill popping by the hour then...and not in a Full Moon Party way

#206: Go to the Gym

Today I surprised myself. I went to the gym. and exercised. No really, I did. This wasn't one of my "go to the gym, then sit in the steam room' jobs. I'm saying workout gear and running was involved. Me. In a gym.

While I used to be quite sporty when I was in my teens, as I've gotten older I've realised that while I enjoy sports, I need to be distracted when I'm participating in them...preferably with a ball (or puck or other high speed object). I've found that running for running's sake bores me to tears; I don't have the attention span to push through the pain by concentrating on whatever cheesy music I have on my iPhone. Come to think of it, previous gym excursions were ruined precisely by me having to make a playlist to exercise the playlist got made, but my attention span waned and I never did the work out.
So imagine my surprise that I actually went to a gym and not only got on a treadmill but also did some weightlifts/arm work. I'm admittedly out of shape, but considering how little formal exercise I get (I walk around town quite a lot but I dont count that.) I was able to keep going for longer than I thought I would be.

That said, my goals of running 5k and 10k seem like a long way off at this point.

Photo credit: Khakimullin Aleksandr, Zai Aragon / shutterstock

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

#24: Watch the sunrise

To say I'm not a morning person is like saying the you might get burnt if you were to try to stand on the Sun (the star, NOT the newspaper). This means that I almost never see the sunrise (at least if I can help it...unless I'm still up from the night before...but those days are mostly behind me now...mostly --- but I digress).

I'm waiting for my flight to Koh Samui and watching the sunrise over Bangkok airport.

I forgot how peaceful mornings can be.

Must be my jet lag talking...

#23: Go to Thailand

What am I up to today, you ask? Going to Thailand! Sorry, but I'm SOOO excited!!

My broken heart and I are off to Thailand for some rest, relaxation and recovery. I hope to/plan on having an amazing time and come back sorted and ready to put my past behind me and look forward to the future whatever it has in store.

Heathrow, I can honestly say I don't think I've ever been happier to see you! Thailand here I come! #LeavingItAllBehind

The 11.50 to Bangkok

My Heathrow ritual involves a stop at the caviar house for some pre flight champagne. Final sips before the detox!

Monday, 27 January 2014

#22: Have a snowball fight

While we've had some snow in London. There's not quite enough snow to make a snoopy. So Snowball fight it is.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

#21 Celebrate Burns Night

Burns is a family name of mine so it's only proper to for me to pay my respects.

For those who don't know: Burns Night is annually celebrated in Scotland/UK on or around January 25. It commemorates the life of the bard (poet) Robert Burns, who was born on January 25, 1759. The day also celebrates Burns' contribution to Scottish culture. Burns' best known work is "Auld Lang Syne".

#205: Babysit my God Child

One of the things I miss most about my old life is my Ex's family. They were, and are, lovely people. While I/we made the choice not to have children, we were not short of children in our lives. I was 'Aunty Ali' to many of my Ex's family and friends' children and we spent many weekends around families and children. While not having kids was the right decision for me/us, now that we've split, I really do miss having children in my life like I used to.

While I'm no longer a part of the immediate family, since our split my Ex's sister and husband have reassured me that they continue to want me in their kids' lives. And for that, I'm incredibly grateful. It so easily could have ended up differently (and still never know). No longer being with my Ex though means that I have to negotiate a small minefield to ensure I'm not intruding, overstepping my bounds or inadvertently causing problems.  At age 2 and 6 years old, the kids are now old enough for me to visit and look after confidently on my own. So I plucked up the courage to offer to babysit by myself for the first time, to let their mom and dad go out for dinner while I looked after the kids and put them to bed.

I loved every minute of it, even the 50 mins the two year old spent screaming bloody murder refusing to go to sleep. No matter what I did she would not go down. Rocking and singing, check. Dancing, check. Diaper check, check. Blanky, check. Reading another story, check. Even the go-to, stand-by failed: Peppa Pig failed to soothe. At one point the 6 year old suggested I just give her Calpol. I thought about it, but decided that drugging the baby was probably not going to result in a repeat visit, except to have child services arrest me. The 6 year old may have been talking a lot of sense about wanting his sister to quiet down, but I suspect he just wanted me more focused on our Army/War game.

 I'm happy to say that by the time their parents came home, the baby was asleep and the 6 year old was in bed. I'm hoping I can do it again sometime soon.

 Photo credit: Tang Yan Song / Shutterstock

Saturday, 25 January 2014

#20: Go Speed Dating

42 speed date
Photo: and a Truck / Flickr

Ok, so this is embarrassing, but you know what? I went speed dating. And it was fun. My list is about getting out there and doing things I normally wouldn't or haven't done before, after all, and speed dating certainly fits that bill.

The evening didn't go exactly as planned though. I had only agreed to go because my friend wanted a wingman/woman to go with her and, while she did show up at the venue, she hadn't booked a spot so didn't actually do the 'dating' part!

I suspect I may have been set up. What can I say, I'm gullible. Lemming. I know something else I could say, but I won't.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

#18: Go underwear shopping.

Photo: Africa Studio / Shutterstock

There's just something about new underwear that makes a girl feel a little bit better about herself. A little bit sexier than normal. Dare I say it, even a bit naughty. Make sure it fits properly though. I recommend trying it on in the dressing room to make sure.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

#204: Get fresh flowers from Columbia Road Flower Market

January can be a bit depressing: the short days, the grey skies, the cold and rain. For me, a good cure for the winter bahs is to head over to Columbia Road Flower market where I can banish the blues by getting cheap (by London standards) fresh-cut flowers in almost any colour of the rainbow.

The atmosphere is fun as well. Listening to Jazz musicians playing while some sort of German apres ski food is being cooked? It's times like this that really test my dieting (and no coffee) will power.

I may have left the market hungry, but I also left with some lovely flowers that brightened my kitchen for more than a week. 


[63/365] .:Escape Me:.
Photo: snippy.snippy.crab.kristine / Flickr 

Monday, 20 January 2014

#16: Go away for the weekend

I recommend 42 The Calls if you're ever in Leeds

#203: Lose 10 lbs

Like many people I started this year wanting to lose a bit of weight. I spent much of 2012 and early 2013 losing weight and while I hit my lowest target weight in Feb 2013, I didn't think it was particularly realistic to stay at that weight for an extended period. I like my food and drink too much and last year was about having fun and enjoying myself again. So it was no surprise that I found myself slowly put some pounds back on over the course of the year.

I had given myself a limit to stay under, -xxx- weight for the year (#190), a number I thought was at the higher end of what I'd consider a healthy weight for me and my lifestyle. Towards the end of the year, I found myself inching closer  to that upper limit and having to keep things in check to make sure I didn't breach my List item.

While I successfully stayed under that high water mark, like many people I went into the Christmas season knowing that I wanted to lose 10lbs by the end of January. So instead of starting my diet on Jan 1, I actually started a bit before Christmas, and have been particularly careful this Jan. I haven't been a complete saint, but not drinking certainly has helped, as has getting on the scales everyday to remind myself to eat well.

As a result, I've found that I've reached the lower end of my target weight and achieved a 10 lbs weight loss before month end.

I hope to keep going and to set a new all-time (adult) low sometime soon...but if it doesn't happen it's because I'm too busy enjoying it's all good either way.

Photo credit: saje / shutterstock 

Sunday, 19 January 2014


Falling out of love is hard
Falling for betrayal is worse
Broken trust and broken hearts
I know, I know...

Thinking all you need is there
Building faith on love and words
Empty promises will wear
I know, I know...

And now when all is done
There is nothing to say

And if you're done with embarrassing me
On your own you can go ahead tell them

Tell them all I know now
Shout it from the roof tops
Write it on the sky line
All we had is gone now

Tell them I was happy
And my heart is broken
All my scars are open
Tell them what I hoped would be
Impossible, impossible
Impossible, impossible

I remember years ago
Someone told me I should take
Caution when it comes to love
I did

#202: Spa with friends

Some readers of this blog will remember I enjoy a good spa visit. I've always gotten tremendous pleasure spending time in the tranquil surroundings of a quiet spa. However, except for one ill-advised couples message with my Ex, I have usually done the spa thing by myself...and never with friends.

A few weeks ago however two friends suggested that we take up a special offer from payasugym, where you can get day pass to a local gym/spa at a reasonable price without having to pay a members/joining fee. With pass in hand off we went. It turned out to be a very relaxing and funny afternoon lazing around the sauna, whirlpool, pool, and steam room where we laughed and chatted and generally set the world right.

We then walked home through the Park with a minor detour for 2 glasses of red wine (and a hot lemon water for me...still detoxing and dry Januarying it, thank you!)

What a thoroughly enjoyable day! That's what friends are for!

Photo credit: Robert Kneschke, ajkkafe / shutterstock

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Number skipping

Needless to say some of the most fun things in life are precisely the things you can't tell anyone about...

...either that or they're so tediously boring that they're even more mundane than the nap-inducing things I've already shared.

I'll leave it to you to guess which is which...

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

#13: Go to a business networking event.

Go to a business networking event = done.

Middle age, eh? My god, this is what it's come to. I usually despise these things but I'm getting to the point in my career where I should not only attend them, I should enjoy them. Unfortunately I have a ways to go on that front, but baby steps first. Actually, I did enjoy this evening. It was different from traditional 'events' I've been to in the past. Was full of friendly people honestly looking to help others get to know people. It was a great night, which I'll go to again. Maybe I've got this networking thing all wrong...

*ps: I wish I could work a skirt/top/bag combination as well as the lady in red above. I've been practicing the wine/champers bit though and I can safely say that I've got that part sorted.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Find what you're looking for

#201: Have a Vitamin C facial

As I've mentioned, I do enjoy a good pampering session. This is especially true at this time of year when I'm feeling down, pale, spotty and generally pasty, white and unattractive. At my time of life, the months of January and February are particularly unkind to my aging face so this year I decided to get a Vitamin C facial to give myself and my skin a little extra boost. After an hour, I stepped onto the street almost a new woman: clear pores, hydrated skin, taut cheekbones, and black circles and bags under the eyes addressed. Feeling younger and more alive is a great way of reviving oneself on a dreary and rainy January night.
Photo credit: Leah-Anne Thompson, StockLite / shutterstock

Sunday, 12 January 2014

#9: Have a relaxing day, lounging in PJs.

Photo: clearviewstock / shutterstock

Simple. Why get out of comfy, cosy PJs on such a cold winter day if I don't have to? It's winter and someone has to hibernate, after all. Today it may as well be me.

This was a tough one to accomplish, but I managed. ;-)

Friday, 10 January 2014

#200: Re-Engage at work

This could also be titled, "Regain My Work Mojo" or, more concerningly, "Become a workaholic again".

I've spent the last almost 20 years working hard at my job and career. In my 20s I was a workaholic, but I knew that was what I needed to do to succeed. My first job out of college I worked at a job in New York City where I regularly worked 100+ hour weeks. I'd pull consecutive all nighters and regularly cancelled my vacations because of work requirements. That said, I was part of the work-hard, play-hard brigade so I enjoyed the free time I had in my 20s in New York as well!

Luckily as I matured and got older I realised what's important in life is not spending more time at the office but in working smarter and maintaining a good work-life balance. It's not just good for your soul, it's also good for business. Too much work makes Jane a dull girl after all.  But the fact was that falling so deeply in love made it easier for me to work less. Falling out of love, however, made it almost impossible for me to work...period.
How I made it through last year employed is a minor miracle. Given how distracted and unproductive I was, the fact that I not only kept my job but was promoted, I'll never understand (but there may be a lesson learned there).

That said, there is only so long that being so distracted goes unnoticed and towards the end of last year, it became apparent that I needed to up my game and pick up the reins more. But until recently I still wasn't really able to; I didn't have it in me.

With the start of the new year, I've returned to work with a new focus and gusto. The fact that I'm teatotal for the month helps, as it means that I'm not rushing off to meet friends immediately after work, so now can put in time after hours to catch up and get ahead. As a result, I've been working until and past midnight most nights this year so far...for the first time in years.  Now, this isn't something I want to make a habit of, but after being out of commission for so long, I'm starting to feel like I'm back in shape and back on top of my game. I get a tremendous sense of personal pride and satisfaction out of my job so it's important part of my new life to be able to regain my form and re-engage with my work.

That said, I'm also looking forward to a time where I'm rushing home...

Photo Credit: Dragon Images, Minerva Studio / Shutter stock

Thursday, 9 January 2014

#8: Go to a Bikram/Hot yoga class.

Bikram yoga (or different variants). It's Hot. Damn hot.

For those who aren't familiar with Hot Yoga, it's a strenuous yoga class suitable for all levels from total beginner to advanced. It consists of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises, performed in a room heated to 40 degrees C (104 degrees F). The heat is suppose to ease your muscles and joints, allowing you to stretch safely, and encouraging sweating which is detoxifying. Living in a cold country means we simply don't sweat enough.

Well, I sweated today. A lot. I've had enough of that for now. Tick.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

#7: Lose 30lbs (2.2 stone)

Ok, I'm cheating somewhat here with this entry. I haven't ACTUALLY lost 30lbs (almost 2.2 stone) in 7 days -- That would require hospitalisation and some major surgery! I actually started actively trying to lose weight about 7 months ago, but today I hit my key magic number for the first time!
Photo: sheff / Shutterstock

Background: In the run up to my birthday last year, I was very unhappy with how much weight I had put on over the years and vowed I'd get fit (or at least fitter) by the time the numbers rolled forward. I had an overall end target weight in mind, but since that number was so large and represented such an overwhelming amount of weight to lose when I started, I cut up my big goal into smaller, more achievable targets to allow me the pleasure and satisfaction of achieving meaningful weight loss, even if I never actually made it to my end goal. It's been a slow and at times difficult process, admittedly helped along a little by coinciding with my break-up 'diet'. Now I just have to keep it off and keep going.

Still have more to go, ideally, but at least I'm back to a relatively reasonable weight for me. Watch this space! Here's to being fighting fit this year...

And while I'm on the topic of salads. There's a funny blog called Women Laughing Alone While Eating Salad. It's brilliant! I can assure you however, that I do not get this level of pleasure out of my greenery.

Monday, 6 January 2014

#199: Do a budget (and try to live within it)

Zzzzzz. Oh, sorry did I put you to sleep there?

The last year or so of my life was admittedly a tough one but it was definitely made easier because I'm fortunate to be able to (kind of) afford to do the things I've done. I've worked hard (and luckily been moderately successful) over the years which has enabled me to pay to do certain the things on The List. I do realise that not everyone is so lucky.

I've been very conscientious with the money I've earned and over the years always made a point of regularly putting money away, 'just in case'. Call it an emergency fund or saving for a rainy day, but when it started pouring down I was able to let the purse strings out to help bring some needed joy into my life. Money doesn't buy happiness, but it can buy a nice holiday and interesting experiences...which over the last year I found was sometimes just enough of what I needed. However, while I did have savings, there were also times recently where I've lived above my means.

Now that I'm feeling better and back on track I want (and need) to start the year off right: literally, figuratively and financially. So I've reacquainted myself with Excel, tracked my spending, looked at my incomings and outgoings and put together a budget that should allow me an occasional indulgent List item while also being financially responsible. It may be a bit boring, but it's a necessary evil that will enable me to save money so that I can spend it on things that really matter.

Photo credit: thinglass / shutterstock

#5: Make a crowdfunding donation

I'd like to be more philanthropic and help an entrepreneurial venture, but I just don't have the time or the money to make much of a difference. Or at least I thought I didn't.

Crowdfunding has its origins in the concept of crowdsourcing, which is the broader concept of an individual reaching a goal by receiving and leveraging small contributions from many parties. Crowdfunding is the application of this concept to the collection of funds through small contributions from many parties in order to finance a particular project or venture.

As someone who started a small business (popcorn, if you're wondering) myself, I understand the problems of getting a new business off the ground probably more than most people. Financing and raising money is hard at the best of times, but nowadays it's even harder.

I wanted to make a small contribution to entrepreneurs that would struggle to get traditional financing. Scanning through the opportunities in London, I came across a Cat Cafe. Off-beat, quirky and based on a successful Japanese concept, this business idea was so crazy that I knew banks wouldn't back it, but it was just crazy enough to work in the super hip world that is Shoreditch. It opens this spring and whether or not it is around in 5 years I know I played a small part in helping support a local small business.

Open a Cat Cafe in London
Donations start at £5 for a pat or £10 for a pat, tea and cakes. I know some of you would want to try it once it opens. Others, yeah, not so much. But support a local small business wherever you are...

Update November 2013:
Action Break Silence
Someone I know has set up this great charity to provide free self defence classes to women in India. It's a great cause I'm happy to support.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

#4: Have a fish pedicure

They’re called Garra Rufa and they are a fresh water species native to the Middle East. It feels like little bubbles or very fine vibrations all over your feet, like a micro-massage. Once you’re passed the 30 second mark, it’s very relaxing. Afterwards, as well as your feet feeling softer, they feel lighter and refreshed. My feet have never felt so soft.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Friday, 3 January 2014

#198: Make American Pancakes

American Pancakes
American pancakes, or just 'pancakes' to anyone in the US, are just one of those things that you take for granted when you live in the States. Go abroad and you realise that there's a reason they're referred to as American pancakes!

I didn't realise that there were any other kind, but the European version of a pancake is more like a crepe; less dense, more flat and most definitely not a breakfast food. Over here, pancakes are traditionally a sweet dish, commonly served with lemon and sugar.  (At first I was like, 'yuck', but actually they are tasty.)
British Pancakes
It's been years since I made pancakes myself but over the last year I found myself telling my new 'friend' about the joy of pancakes and bacon with maple syrup and I realised that before I begin my January detox, I needed to show my British counterpart exactly what they've been missing all these years.

So off I went to a local store that stocks imported American goods and, armed with my Bisquick and Aunt Jamima, I began the New Year in style with fresh pancakes in the morning.

Mmmm, boy were they good. They were also the last yummy thing I'm likely to have for the next month as I start 30 days of dry January, no caffeine, no red meat diet. 

Wish me luck. I'm going to need it. (Here's hoping that January flies by.)

Photo credits: michelaubryphoto, fasphotographic / Shutterstock