Lifestyle Month: on Exercising

Every year, it`s an intention, and every year, it is a struggle.

In summer, I don`t need the gym – I walk everywhere and enjoy running at the beach. Winter however is a different matter. I don`t like to be outside, but soon, both body and soul are missing the activity. Gym should be calling my name – but I just don`t want to go.

When I reduced my working hours, I vowed to go finally re-establish a regular gym routine and wrote down a list of the most compelling reasons why I should get over myself and just go, no matter what:

  1. I always feel good as soon as I enter the gym. As soon as my body is in there, my mindset will follow suit. And I feel amazing afterwards!
  2. I set myself a goal of 30 mins (for the beginning). That`s not much, but it`s more than nothing, and a small step towards establishing a habit and being able to do more again eventually, as I get fitter.
  3. Every journey starts with a small step. The first visit is always the one I`m most likely to postpone over and over again. The second (and third, etc) visit however will never be as difficult again, as once I started something I want to keep it going. So just go!
  4. Too busy? 30 minutes of gym will cost me about an hour including travelling, getting changed and shower. What else would I do with these 60 minutes? Probably mainly berating myself for not going to the gym.
  5. The time and effort is an investment into my health and wellbeing, for now and for the far away future. I remember what it felt like to be overweight, and I can only imagine what it will be like to get the first ailments of old age and knowing that I could have held them off for a few years if only I had taken the time to exercise more when I was still able to. Remember the benefits of exercise go beyond weight loss.
  6. Being happy with my body and going to the gym regularly feels great and nourishes a positive mindset and self esteem that spread to other areas of my life: nutrition, general activity levels, alcohol and how I dress and care for myself in general.  Not going to the gym affects the same things, in the opposite way.
  7. Money – I pay the same fee for my membership, regardless of how often I go. One visit can cost me anything between £1.20 and £40.00 – choice is mine.
  8. Exercise releases endorphines and enhances my sense of self worth and confidence, which makes me happier (and easier to be with) altogether.

Even though, it lasted about 3 weeks. Finally, I acknowledged that I simply dislike it – and cancelled my membership. And the guilt (point 7 above!) fell off as soon as I handed in the letter!

I now exercise at home. I already had a treadmill, and I also bought myself a mat and a kettlebell. Now, a 30 min session isn`t difficult to fit in at all – no travelling,, my own bathroom, and then straight into my comfies. My own music. I often preper dinner before I go, so it`ll be ready for me coming out. So far, this seems to work for me.

I really think you have to enjoy exercising in order to stick with it, and if you don`t, you`ll have to go and find something else, until you discovered the activity you`re actually looking forward to.

Lifestyle Post: on Dying one`s Hair

I`m a dyed red head. My real colour looks like this

July 2013-Dec 2013 138

and this (profile pic from January 2016)


is courtsey to that:

2 packets, 3 weeks apart, were necessary to get me to this colour, but after that, the result was indeed pretty close to the model on the package. Typically, I had to re-apply every 5 weeks or so if I wanted no roots at all, but I ended up regretting this over-processing in the past and eventually died it back to my natural colour.

Last year though, I succumbed to red again. While testing how long I could go without re-dying, I discovered this product here (available at Amazon in various colours):

It is non permanent and ammonia free, and it`s designed for reviving dyed hair (does not cover roots!!) between “proper” colours to avoid it becoming dull and lacklustre. Indeed, my hair looked freshly done again – the colour is rich and glossy, and it  just washes out over time, lasting 2-3 weeks depending on my tolerance levels.


It`s now about a year and a half since I last dyed, and while I did have to go through a really difficult stage of getting used to the every growing and increasingly noticeable roots, those have now grown down to giving a nice dip-dye effect, which just does not seem to go out of fashion at the moment.


After I was seriously considering going back to dark, I now feel I found the perfect compromise, particularly as red is also notorious for being difficult to change. What I particularly like is that the roots are now long enough for all to look dark again when I wear my hair up:

Bianca Culbert

So I can have both and don`t need to decide!

I now moved on to another shade of red, which is this semi permanent one:

This says it lasts for a month, but I re-dye after three weeks, when I usually find it`s getting a bit dull. I only dye the bits that have been processed before and leave the roots alone –  a perfect compromise between staying red and not overprocessing. The fact that I managed to grow my hair so much in one year (between the second and the following picture) proves that neither of those products have caused any damage – and the colour is pretty cool, too:


PS: I do not receive sponsorship from the manufacturers of either of the mentioned products

Lifestyle Month: Rethinking my Spending Habits

Last year, I`ve reduced my working hours for a while, and I was determined to make do with what was just over half of my old salary. Listening to people around me, I very strongly suspect that most people need, or want, to save money, so I hope you`ll find it interesting to read what I`ve been doing, and what works:

  1. think before I spend. Not that I haven`t always done that, but while I used to think “Do I really WANT this item?” I`m now asking myself “Do I NEED it?” Also makes me appreciate the luxury of sometimes being able to buy the occasional item that I do not need (but want :-))
  2. I eat before I go out and/or take a banana. Cafe meals can be extremely good value for money if you can enjoy them with a friend and then linger forever, but if I just want to satisfy hunger and thirst, they`re expensive.
  3. I refuse to save on or downgrade groceries.
  4. when I go to town, I’ll do at least two things to justify the expense of the bus ticket.
  5. I stopped drinking alcohol, and although this was for different reasons, it also drastically cut the price of a night out. In a restaurant, I tend to have just the main course – highly likely, you don`t need a starter or pudding, unless you`re *very* hungry, or desperately want to try a particular thing
  6. I think we all know situations where we have bought something for a one-off, purpose (a dress for a particular night out, a couple of champagne glasses to serve six guests, when I only have four glasses) or to meet the approval of a particular group or person. Before I buy, I now make myself think: if this one-off purpose was not happening, or if this group or person could not see this dress – would I still buy it? Surprisingly often, the answer is NO, and then I know I didn`t really want the item but something else – approval for the dress or lack of embarrassment with the glasses, or it could be wanting to buy a new body by buying exercise equipment or a nicer home with new tableware. All of this can be achieved in other ways, and without involving money. If I crave social approval, I arrange to meet a friend who makes me feel good about myself regardless of what I wear or which glasses I use to serve her drinks. If I want to lose a couple of pounds, I`ll skip carbs. And if I want a nicer home, I`ll tidy it up.
  7. I`m planning to use up *all* my beauty products and carefully consider what to replace and what with.
  8. Although I gave away two jackets recently, I have not bought myself a new one. I still got two for winter and one for autumn/spring. I’ll get a nice new one once this are worn. Will do the same with other clothes.
  9. Charity shopping is fun 🙂
  10. I cancelled my gym membership. I just didn`t go enough to justify the expense.

Feel free to add. I`d love to hear 🙂


Lifestyle Month: the Facebook spring clean

Albeit with trembling fingers (always – as fully aware there`ll be no way bback!), I had a look through my friends list again this morning and deleted a few people.

While I`m not one to un-friend people after a disagreement, etc, I periodically do a “spring clean”, which somehow feels less personal – I delete people I no longer interact with. (Most of us seem to agree those days that “friend” is not a good term for a facebook contact, and I suppose it does raise our inhibitions to delete, as how can it not be personal to “un-friend” someone?)

There are several (predominantly younger) people I`m connected to who have close to 1000 facebook “friends”, but we share very personal stuff there (not just what we post, but also whom we know, etc!) so I feel a facebook list should be dynamic. If I had 1000 friends, I would find it impossible to keep track of them, and I then may as well post everything publicly. This is how people end up coming back from their holiday finding their flat was burgled. Or get sacked for complaining about their boss, even though they`re not friends with anyone from work. Some people use lists and Restricted Profiles, but I never liked the idea.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, someone recently suggested this phenomenon of large and outdated friends lists as one of the core reasons for bragging (which is, btw, the most cited reason for un-friending). If we don`t have any more offline contact, this can be seductive, particularly if the ex or high school bully are reading.

Because I don`t want to offend (or seem offended), I chose my disconnection moment wisely – another reason why a general “spring clean” works best for me. Do I send a farewell message? Never. .It never seems appropriate. I wonder when they`ll even notice. I really only ever delete people who are, online and offline, already far, far away from me already.

Bye. Part of me is still sad when I click that button, as it is, sometimes at last, a honest, final and now also clearly communicated recognition that those relationships are really over and will not be resumed. They all used to be nice, otherwise, they wouldn`t have been there in the first place.

Lifestyle Month: on Body Image

I can relate such a lot to this brilliant post! I, too, was a chubby child, teenager and young adult. I managed to lose and regain this extra weight several times, but in my own eyes, I was never thin enough (even when I stopped menstruating).

It was only when I got big again that I could see what I had, and I would grieve every single time because I hadn`t appreciated it more. I promised myself that if I ever lost weight again I would believe the numbers (which we give so much importance to when we want them smaller!!) and enjoy my body. (Today, I`m actually convinced that that mindset of never being slim enough was part of my yoyo-dieting issue: Because I still saw myself as fat, I never stopped starving and, equally, had nothing to lose when I started binge eating again…)

Eventually, I managed to lose weight again, and I`ve kept it off for 6 years now. And I think that`s a lot about acceptance. I can now accept that I`m a good weight, and this motivates me to take care of it. Neither do I want to starve to lose more, so I no longer binge eat. I wish I had known this at 20, but I`m glad I`ve learnt it at all.

>> ” I do these things not because I hate my body and want to change it, but because I love it, and want to take care of it.”
– is just *beautiful* and *so right*!!! I think that`s the difference for me, too!

Lifestyle Month: Wardrobe Boredom

As my longer term readers may remember, I was on a lengthy no-shopping mission last year. Nevertheless, I get bored, which is when I`m usually looking to adding a few items. After some generally unsuccessful visits to charity shops, I finally came up with the following two cheats:

1. Dyeing my old Clothes

Suitable for things which still fit and are in a good condition. Works best with natural fabrics which are light in colour – it is not recommended to dye an item lighter than it was originally, as you cannot anticipate the outcome (other than that it`ll not be as advertised).

Seams don`t always take the new colour, because they are synthethic – I like the contrast as in the red skirt below, which still has its original blue seams, but this may not always desired. Also, you may not always get exactly the colour you bought if it`s so different from the original colour (same item – was hoping for plum, but still ended up happy:-)).

The white blouse had become just a bit too grey over the years but was otherwise still in good condition, and dying it makes it feel and look like new again.

White items, which may have become a bit too grey (as the blouse pictured below) are great to dye, as they take on any colour really vibrantly.

I particularly like the fact that I`m not adding to or taking away from the size of my wardrobe, but still getting one new thing for each old one for about £5.99. I wish I could be motivated to change buttons, but right now, while writing this line, I think I may give this a go… watch this space…


2. Design my own

I was looking for some more T-shirts but couldn`t find any at all that I liked. Eventually, I remembered this shop here: Their T-Shirts are so customisable I felt overwhelmed by choice (style and colour of T-Shirt, colour, font and direction of text, size of picture, border or not, where is the motif going to be placed and will there be something on the back and arms as well?), and it was a project which fitted in beautifully with my desire to start doing a bit more with my own photography. I even designed my own logo, which I placed on the back of each creation, between the shoulder blades.

For the highest available quality, I paid just over £20.oo each, they kept their colour, print and shape after a lot of wear, and apart from being unique, the Siamese cat T-Shirt especially is a great talking point – I feel properly proud to tell people that`s my own cat, and on the back, it actually says #catenvy underneath the logo.



Lifestyle Month: Book Recommendation: Yes Man (Danny Wallace)

The story of a man who was going to say “Yes” to absolutely everything – every request, every suggestion…

Extremely funny (think certain email scams, fundraisers, invitations which were extended out of sheer good manners, projects which seem way beyond your capabilities…), provocative at times, but also very philosophical and thought provoking.

Is YES really extending our horizon (by making us do things we wouldn`t otherwise do) and giving us the freedom to do things we really want to do (but may be scared of, if offered the choice), or is it actually narrowing our freedom by taking away our choice entirely rather than extending it?



Lifestyle Month: Book Recommendation: Heavy Drinking – The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease (Herbert Fingarette)

Published 1989, I`m still finding this book highly relevant – it`s available on Amazon from 1p + £ 2.80p&p.

It explores whether excess consumption of alcohol should be termed a disease or not, and whether total abstinence would be the way forward or too ambitious a goal. It asks a lot of difficult questions, which I`m finding highly inspiring.

Calling alcoholism a disease, rather than a behavior disorder, is a useful device both to persuade the alcoholic to admit his alcoholism and to provide a ticket for admission into the health care system.

The classic disease concept admirably suits the interests of the liqueur industry: by acknowledging that a small minority of the drinking population is susceptible to the disease of alcoholism, the industry can implicitly assure consumers that the vast majority of people who drink are not at risk.

If loss of control is triggered only after the first drink, why should the alcoholic have any special difficulty mustering the self-control to avoid the first drink? Why should abstinence pose a problem?

Or if we do recognize evidence of control, we decide the drinker in question cannot be a “true” alcoholic. We then minimize or discount that person`s drinking problems because the labels “alcoholic” and “disease” do not seem to apply.

Finally, the disease concept poses a frustrating paradox for drinkers who do seek treatment: They are told that they are unwilling victims of a disease that destroys their ability to manage their drinking and yet that they must strive to exert absolute self control and that only total abstinence can save them.

Instead of viewing heavy drinkers as the helpless victims of a disease, we come to see their drinking as a meaningful, however destructive, part of their struggle to live their lives.

Thus, he comes to see himself as the victim, even though it is his wive who has to endure his drunken outbursts.

Conversely, once a drinker`s overall quality of life is used as one of several measures of success, total abstinence is not necessarily a sign of success. Over time, the controlled drinking group on average reduced their drinking far more than the abstinence group. For heavy drinkers who are trying to address their problems the concept of controlled drinking can have the salutary effect of acknowledging human fallability.

Lifestyle Month: Wardrobe Audit

I `m always trying to cut my spending, but I also really like my clothes. It used to be a ritual every new season to set a (large) budget, go to town and shop to my heart`s content.

As I entered what is probably my third wave of a more solid interest in sustainable living, I started going to second hand shops more, but I still rarely find things I end up buying.

It was inheriting a large part of my friends` wardrobe that made me sit down and list every single item I own. I never thought I had a lot, and most importantly, I was kidding myself that I was wearing every thing I own at least once a year.

What I however found shocked me:

Shoes Boots – Black 1 smart, 1 biker
Shoes Boots – Grey sheepswool
Shoes Boots – Brown tan, chocolate
Shoes Boots – Blue sheepswool
Shoes Boots – red wine red
Shoes Boots – half aztec tan
Shoes Shoes – Trainers lilac
Shoes Sandals – Fitflops cream, yellow, red
Shoes Sandals pink, grey, brown, cream, red, blue, yellow, black
Shoes Shoes – Pumps blue, teal, black, green, lilac, pink
Shoes Shoes – evening gold, silver
Bottoms Jeans – short light blue and dark blue
Bottoms Jeans – long next, gap, shredded, dark
Bottoms trousers – relaxed 1 long, 2 medium
Bottoms trousers – short cord plum
Bottoms skirt – casual orange, blue, green, brown – all cord
Bottoms skirt – work winter black pencil, lilac short, lilac long
Bottoms skirt – work summer black, stone, brown, burberry style, floaty black
Dress Dress – maxi blue, colourful, stewardesses uniform, vietnamese, burgundy
Dress Dress – Casual Winter leopard, psychedelic autumn colours, psychedelic wine
Dress Dress – interview navy
Dress Dress  – work Winter RL leopard, wine
Dress Dress – Casual Summer daisies, black, cream
Dress Dress – work Summer stone, green, 2xblue, black and white
Dress Dress – occasion RL Blue, long black, short black, Cavalli black, chinese, tartan, gold
Dress Dress – holiday white, yellow
Tops Tops – T-shirts 3 cream, 2 white
Tops Tops – long blouses 3x black, 2x white, leopard, yellow, stone, lilac, blue mix, brown cord,brown, green
Tops Tops – short blouses stone, blue, 2x teal, white, black and gold
Tops Tops – winter pullovers lilac, grey, white, stone, orange, brown
Tops Tops – Summer Pullover 2x stone
Tops Tops – evening orange, orange mix, corset, black
Jackets Jackets – winter black, fake fur, leather
Jackets Jackets – summer jeans, black, grey, weather, poncho
Jackets Jackets – vest blue, yellow
Sport Sport – Bikini 2x black, pink, orange, green, white, multi
Sport Sport – top 3x football, pink
Sport Sport – Bottom 2x blue, 2x black, pink

I spare you the entries concerning my underwear and coloured tights, but all put together, I owned 198 clothes and shoes, not counting at all accessories. How on earth, I ended up with 13 long sleeved blouses, 11 pairs of sandals and 7 bikinis (I live in Scotland!!) I do not know.

Fact is – I do not need new clothes. Not for a long time. Or, let`s say, not until I stumble upon something I really like and that`s hard to get again. And since this list was done in May, I really only bought one more thing which definitely belongs to this category:


A Parisian Street Cafe motif from a boutique in Porto! That`s definitely one of the exceptions that should always be allowed.

I can really recommend making a list like that – it`s a real eye opener, but last month, I took my little project a bit further still: When I started my new job, I “downgraded” a few things to spare time only, and after I also just gave quite a few away, I  was getting concerned that I was wearing the same stuff all the time. So in order to find out how long it would take me to run out of outfits, I vowed to wear something different every day for the whole of December (same things were allowed, but not the same combination or acessorisation) and also took notes of them (one extra page in my planner, which I was simply moving along with me:

image(Hearts indicate compliments, and dark hearts mean many of them)

And I could do it. Despite my much reduced wardrobe. I still don`t need new clothes. I`ve got enough to wear a different outfit every day of the month. And there are still things I have not worn at all.

We all know that a lot of our reasons for shopping are more want than need, but I for my part still do it, and I feel the occasional reminder does me a world of good.