Thursday, 27 February 2014

#55: 30 days no coffee.

Photo: Aleksey VI B / Shutterstock

This was originally going to be 30 days no caffeine, but I couldn't give up the diet coke.
Afterall a JD and Diet without the diet is just a Jack...

Update: 12 Nov: officially went over 30 days no caffeine. That's no coffee or diet coke, tea, pain killers or anything else with caffeine. I'm not saying I've been the most pleasant (or alert) person around, but I've tried to give my system a break.  

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

#54: Go to the Theatre

Go to the theatre.

I saw Harold Pinter's Old Times with Kristen Scott Thomas. But go and see anything that you fancy.

Update: I've since been to see The Book of Mormon, The Sweet Bird of Youth with Kim Catrall at the Old Vic and The Woman in Black. All of which are quite different for me. I can't say I love the theatre, but I have had nice evenings (including a date or two!)

Sunday, 23 February 2014

#53: Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition

Photo: Paul Nicklen/Veolia. Courtesy NHM Wildlife Photographer of the year
Every year The Museum of Natural History in London holds an exhibit of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. It honours amazing photographs of animals (my two favourite things, photography and animals) from professional and amateur photographers alike. It's a great day out and well worth seeing every year.

Friday, 21 February 2014

#52: 21 days no booze

Photo: Dmitriy Bryndin / Shutterstock
Ok, so going 21 days is cheating somewhat because my original goal was to make it 30 days without consuming any alcohol but, what can I say, in my current lifestyle 30 days is just not realistic unless I want to be both a hermit AND a teetotaller.

It's just not possible for me to meet new people and be out doing new things without having at least the occasional drink now and then. There may be some people who say that I need to take a serious look at my health and life choices, but I have to admit I like my drink and always have. I don't want to live a life of healthy abstinence. It may be what the doctor ordered but it results in a very boring and mundane life. I'm proud to have made it 21 days without having a drink; it's long enough for me. The original goal might have been to go a full month without, but that wasn't a particularly realistic least for this year.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

#51: Play Badminton

Photo: Lorelyn Medina / Shutterstock

Simple right, especially if one has a sports centre across the street that holds regular sessions? Well, not easy if you've never actually played Badminton before. Especially in a city that actually takes this sport fairly seriously. Growing up in the US badminton was, unfairly, looked down on and not considered a 'real' sport. Being somewhat sporty as a kid and trying to pick this game up as an adult I can firmly say it is in fact a real sport, and a very difficult one at that. (Note: helps if you know the rules first. It wasn't pretty but it was fun!)

Monday, 17 February 2014

#49: Make new friends

Photo: Conrado / Shutterstock

One of the difficult things I found about coming out of my long-term relationship was the realisation, embarrassing as it is to admit, that I didn't actually have that many of my own friends. Meaning, friends with whom I didn't have to share allegiances with my Ex. Of course I had my long time school/college friends but they're in a different time zone and not part of my day to day life anymore. I met my Ex within 3 months of moving to London and after the 9 years we were together realised that most of my 'friends' were the Ex's to begin (and end) with, or they were mutual.

Don't get me wrong, I love and appreciate our mutual friends and never want them to be caught in the middle. After all a break up is hard for friends too. But within 2 weeks of breaking up with me, the Ex was on the dinner party / social circuit with the new GF in tow (under the guise of 'friends', *cough, puke*) and, fairly or not, I found myself replaced and relegated in our social circle, the odd woman out when new get-togethers were arranged. So not only have I found that I need to start my dating life over, I've also found I need to start most of my social life over as well. (It's my own fault really.)

This is not to say that this has necessarily been a bad thing. As they say, you learn who your real friends are. And on top of that I've met new friends who seem to like me for me. As time goes on I continue to build and grow a new circle of friends -- one that is completely separate from my old life. So I'm happy to say I've met a number of special people who I'm proud to call a new friend. They've been instrumental in helping me move on and establish a new life for myself...not to mention ensuring that I don't forget to enjoy life and have fun.

There are some particularly special people who have been especially important in my life over the last few months. (You know who you are. Know that meeting and spending time with you has meant more to me than you'll ever know.) I'll be forever grateful for the support they've given me and the fun I've had with them through such a difficult time in my life. If there's been one particular positive out of this experience, it's been meeting lovely and wonderful new friends. I look forward to sharing many more fun times with them (and my old friends too) in the future...

Saturday, 15 February 2014

#48: Not work for 14 days straight

Photo: Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock

This may seem like a strange one to have on the list in addition to going on holiday, but for me, going on holiday and not working are not the same thing. Over the course of my career I've had a tendency of taking work with me on hols and working most, if not all, days I'd be away. So I'm happy to report that not only did I go away on holiday, I also made it 14 days straight without working.

That's no phone calls, no emails, no web log-ins. Nothing. Completely detached.

I need to do that more often.

#211: Walk Hampstead Heath

Situated in North London, Hampstead Heath is a massive 790 acre area of parkland. Rolling hills, streams and swimming ponds make the Heath a destination for nature lovers, runners and dog owners. From vast open greenland to willowy forest, Kenwood House Manor on the top of the hill to Parliament Hill Fields tennis courts, the Heath is an oasis in the middle of bustling London.
It's nearly on my doorstep and yet I have never spent an afternoon properly walking throughout the Heath. This is something that could make me lose my North London residency and is shameful. But because it's close by, I've always taken it for granted; it's something for me to do another day.

 Well, today was finally that day!

Friday, 14 February 2014

#47: Weigh less than I did 10 years ago

Photo: Romeo / Shutterstock

Home from the holiday to find that I lost 7lbs (half a stone) while I was away; It's the first time in my life I've actually gone away on holiday and lost weight.

I've now lost a total of 35 lbs and my dress size is what it was 10, possibly even 15, years ago. Woohoo!

While I have now officially met my ultimate weight loss goal, in my heart I'd like to keep going and keep losing weight. However, my head says that's just not very realistic. I could be thinner, of course I could, who couldn't? But I think I'm at a good, natural weight for me and my lifestyle. As I've said, I enjoy going out to eat and drink (a lot) and I'm not overly fond of going to the gym. While I can always wish to be just a little bit slimmer, I also want to recognise when enough is enough and be satisfied with what I've accomplished. Enough is enough.

Bring on the burgers and ice cream (in moderation)...

Thursday, 13 February 2014

#45: Go on holiday, come back refreshed and ready to move on

Photo: federicofoto / shutterstock

My detox holiday has come to an end now. It was great to get away and clear my head (and body). If one is trying to mend a broken heart and move on, it helps to be in beautiful surroundings!

It's amazing what some sun and a change of scenery can do for one's mood and general outlook. I've had a really nice break. I'm refreshed, ready to put the past behind me and move forward with the rest of my life. After all, there are people in my life I'm looking forward to getting to know better and there's a lot of things still on my list of things to do in 2013.

So I'm coming home with my head back on straight, my past behind me, and a very exciting future in front of me. Bring it on...

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

#44: Get a good tan

My cousin once said: Sometimes we long for something that we know is wrong. Sometimes we want something that will make us feel good in the short term, but it could damage us in the long term. Sometimes we want something that will make people's heads turn in judgment. Sometimes we yearn for something that gives us a temporary boost, but we know does nothing to improve who we are on the inside. Today I looked in the mirror and admitted to myself that I grapple with such desire. I WANT A TAN!! Just a little one; a little splash of color; a small painting of bronze to perk up the pasty, pale, jaundice looking skin that stares back at me in the mirror! There. I said it.
Photo: Nicolesa / shutterstock

There's just something about having a tan that makes me feel better about myself. I know it's not good for me but I'm glad to be heading back to cold, snowy, Blighty with a tan.

#210: Drink 2 litres of water a day for a month

A few years ago, my New Year's resolution was to drink more water because I found I was going days, weeks even, without drinking any water. Last Autumn when I started cutting back on my caffeine and coffee intake, I tried to replace my coffee with plain water. It didn't make much of a difference however and no matter how well intentioned I was, I found that I still wasn't drinking water.

With the onset of cold weather and my coffee banishment in high gear, I turned to hot water with lemon, and this seems to have worked. I'm seemingly drinking my own body weight in water now, going to the loo more and going through lemons/lemon juice like a bar tender at a lemonade festival.

My co-workers admittedly initially raised an eye when they saw me pouring lemon juice into my water first thing in the morning, as more than one thought that I was spiking my water with wine and getting a literal jump on the day. After a few embarrassed explanations, however, I've now settled into a new morning, and daily, routine. A routine that ensures I'm more hydrated and healthy.

This is one change that I plan to try to continue into February and beyond for as long as possible.

Photo credit: Sea Wave/Shutterstock

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

#43: Get lost in a good book

I love to read books but the older I get, the less I get a chance to. It's to the point that the only time I do read books is when I go away on holiday. I'll pack a stack of books, generally one per day of holiday, and lose myself in various stories about far away lands. This holiday is no exception and, while I appreciate I'm late to this party, I've become deeply engrossed in The Life of Pi. It's a fantastic read.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but that's now on my list. Take one away, put another one on the list...

Monday, 10 February 2014

#42: Eat no meat for a week

Photos: Kamalaya Spa

I love food so it's been quiet a change for me to be eating so little both in terms of quantity and protein. I also like my liquid beverages, but to be honest, my smoothies tend to be on the alcoholic side, like a Pina Colada, Daiquari or Mojito. These green veggie smoothies aren't really cutting it. I've gone veggie for this whole trip. And every other day I have nothing but water and vegetable broth. On the days I do have something to chew at meal time, the food is delicious. But there's still a very big part of me that feels I'm being cheated. I want a steak and I want it now.

However, my shorts no longer fit me and I have to use a string to hold them up, so something must be working...

Sunday, 9 February 2014

#41: Fast for 24 Hours

Photo credit: Kamalaya

They say that fasting for 24 hours can be really good for your body and help flush out toxins. Now, I'm not sure who 'they' are but I think 'they' may be the same people who say that women should wear 5 inch high heels that cost as much as a mortgage payment (i.e., women's magazines). The fact is that fasting, while no doubt good for flushing your system, is dull. Very dull...

I'm not sure I'm cut out for this lifestyle. Call me crazy, but I like to chew my meals.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

#40: Have a Chi Nei Tsang treatment

What is a Chi Nei Tsang treatment, you ask? Chi Nei Tsang is a Chinese Taoist system of healing massage that focuses on the navel center the of the body. CNT is based on the belief that unresolved emotional issues are stored in the digestive system and that poor "emotional digestion" is one of the main reasons for ill health. It is thought that the navel center is the primary area where imbalances occur that may cause negative emotions, stress, tension, congestion and ultimately illness. Using visceral manipulations and energy work CNT techniques provides a method to balance the energy and thereby improving many vital body functions. Practitioners use a variety of light or deep manipulation techniques to aid in restoring improved function within the internal organs, connective tissue, tendons, muscles, lymph, nerve and endocrine system.

Photo: Kamalaya

CNT was first used a thousand years ago by Taoist monks in their monasteries to help detoxify, strengthen and refine their bodies in order to maintain the energy needed for their spiritual pursuits.

Basically it's a stomach massage, where the practitioner massages the organs between your ribcage and pelvis. I wouldn't say it's the most relaxing of massages, but then again it's not suppose to be overly relaxing, it's suppose to help release the toxins in your organs.

It's not really my thing to be honest, but if I'm going to detox, I'm going to do it all the way.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

#38: Watch a tropical storm come and go

Reading a book in the 'relaxation area', watching a brief tropical storm come and go:

Now, I'm not normally one to enjoy the rain, and one of the things I like least about living in London is the grey, rainy days. However, rain takes on a slightly different feel in the tropics.

Update: 15 October 2013:
Lucky to have been able to experience this twice this year.

#209: Have a Dry January

I did it! I've successfully made it through January without a drop of alcohol. I'm not saying it's been a fun month, but it certainly has been a healthy and productive one for me and I feel better for it. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that by merely abstaining for a month that somehow my body will have miraculously recovered from the damage it sustains the other 11+ months of the year.  I just wanted to give myself, and my body a break and see what it'd be like.

I've therefore had a very limited social life in January because I didn't trust myself not to cave in and just have one drink when out with friends. In a way, that has made everything (not drinking, eating healthy, no caffeine, focus on work, etc) much easier as I've completely removed myself from places and environments where I would be most tempted to relapse and it's enabled me to do all my 'health kicks' at once.
Last year, I attempted a dry Jan but only made it to the 3rd week. I regretted not following through all the way but there was no way I was going to make it through speed dating, and dating in general, without a drink. And if I hadn't gone speed dating, I would have missed out on something very special that made my 2013 so great.

But this year I was determined to go the full month. I've felt better than I have in a long time and will try to limit my intake in the future. That said, I've got plans for tonight, when I'll be celebrating the arrival of February with a single martini from the Dukes followed by a steak and chips dinner.

After all anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Photo credit: ronstik, /shutterstock

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

#37: Do an Infrared Sauna session

This trip is about detoxing both mentally and physically. As part of my detox program the spa offers a number of treatments, including Infrared Sauna sessions.
Photo: Kamalaya
What is it?
Far Infrared therapy provides deeply penetrating heat while maintaining a comfortable air temperature of 32-45 degrees Celsius. Use of far infrared sauna has many therapeutic benefi ts; it stimulates circulation, increases metabolism and burning of calories, and promotes detoxification to purify the body. This includes a possible reduction of heavy metal accumulation. Far Infrared therapy deep cleanses skin for a youthful appearance, reduces cellulite, and slows the ageing process because it promotes skin cell regeneration and unburdens the body of toxins. Various skin conditions may be treated and joint or muscular infl ammation reduced. The Far Infrared Sauna promotes deep muscle relaxation to vanish tension and stress and a feeling of well-being is achieved.

I wasn't sure what to expect. It's basically like a normal sauna, but your body stays hot for 30 mins after you get out.

Basically, it's an oven and I'm baking the toxins out of me. It's pretty boring to sit still in nothing but a towel for 30 mins but after a few days I'm getting used to it and finding ways of meditating to pass the time. At the very least, I'm really starting to see the benefit in my skin.

#208: No red meat for 30 days

As you can tell, I've been on a health kick this January. Like many things, when I'm in, I'm in. And so in addition to my Dry January, No Caffeine, trying to eat healthy but not diet, I've also gone for the no red meat for a month. I'm a serious carnivore so going a whole month without has taken some getting used to, but in for a penny in for a pound. I've been enjoying my cod, salmon, seabass and soups and I feel lighter and healthier.

That said, I have a reservation on 1 Feb at a great steak place. I've been looking forward to it all month!

 Photo credit: Julija Sapic / Shutterstock

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

#35: Meditate with a Master Monk

I had a meditation session with the old Master Monk at Laem Sor temple. He keeled over dramatically during our meditation session, which was quite disturbing. I kept opening my eyes and breaking my concentration because I was seriously worried something was wrong...but then he woke up and stayed mostly upright. Phew!

It started to rain briefly while we were together and he said to me that rarely happens, is a good omen for me, and that I've been blessed by the heavens.

Monday, 3 February 2014

#207: 60 days no caffeine

In the deepest darkest time of the year, why would I do this to myself? This is something I've been asking myself almost every morning as I wake up and get going. But the fact of the matter is that I'm finding it much easier to wake up in the morning and also feeling much better throughout the day. I am not having the high to low energy swings I usually experience and I'm much calmer and less stressed. Though it feels like my brain has slowed down a bit, my mind feels different, clearer and more naturally alert.

 I do miss the social aspects of having coffee: My morning coffee ritual at work; grabbing a cup of coffee with a colleague instead of a more formal meeting in the office; having a diet coke, or Jack Daniels/Rum and Diet coke.

I've had some important meetings recently and I have been very tempted to have a small cup of coffee to give me just the right jolt/pick me up...but I've refrained and somehow made it through without.

I have to say I do like how I feel now and doing some research on caffeine, and coffee in particular, I'm going to try to continue as long as I can, and only have caffeine once in a while. It is a drug after all and I've realised that I'm better off without having so much of it.

Photo Credit: Sergey_Bogomyako / Shutterstock

#36: Visit a Monk Cemetery

I visited an old Monk Cemetery after my session with the Master Monk at Laem Sor temple. For a moment I thought that the old Master monk would be making an appearance here as well:


I didn't mean to take this as a dirty photo but it could be construed as rude.

#34: Visit a Buddhist Temple

Supposedly one can draw a straight line from the Monk's Cave I've been spending time in to the Budda at Laem Sor temple which will pinpoint where the sun sets in the Indian Ocean.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

#33: Get blessed by a monk

Wat Kunaram is situated a couple of kms from Hua Thanon in the south-east corner of Ko Samui and is the site of The Mummified Monk. Loung Pordaeng died in the meditation position over 20 years ago and his body is still in a very good state, apart from having sun-glasses covering the fact that his eyes have fallen back into his head, hence the (knock-off) Ray Bans.

While there, I made sure to receive blessings of holy water and string bracelet from the local (non-mummified) monk:

I also had my fortune told by the wish sticks:

You make a wish by shaking the sticks. Which ever one comes out first, check the number and see your fortune/wish will come true.

My fortune read:
You're like a person who got lost in the wood and have to pave your way through the thorns...You'll recover from your sickness. If you're thinking of having a spouse, it's fine to find one.

Hmmm, Interesting...

Saturday, 1 February 2014

#31: Watch the sunset into the ocean

I love a good sunset. It's something I find incredibly peaceful and relaxing, particularly on a beautiful day, and especially when on holiday. There's something about the magic hour that even the best of photographs just can't seem to capture entirely. On a beach with a delicious cocktail, the waves crashing and the sun setting. It doesn't get much more serene.

Sun setting in Gulf of Thailand, day 3

They say that if you listen really closely you can hear the sun disappear over the horizon. I can't tell, my hearing is crap. ;-)