Monday, 28 September 2015

Staying focused

It's been a hectic day. 

Filled with gathering of the last belongings, dismantling furniture and packing for the journey. It felt longer than the other days, as it's been strangely chaotic and intense. My mind was all over the place, resolving the 'fold or roll' clothes dilemma, being melancholic about the leave and trying to stay positive (the grass is definitely greener). It was challenging to focus on the regular tasks. The ones I promised myself to focus on, no matter what. Writing two posts a day is one of them. But can you create anything sensible when your brain just wants to hibernate and rest? It's tough. That's when "no matter what" part is so important.

Fighting temptation

It was tempting to throw a towel, forget about the plan and relax. Irresistible. Especially after seeing my friends. But 'no matter what' was drilling a hole in my brain. I kept hearing motivational speakers talk about the discipline, making a sacrifice, doing what no one else is prepared to do, in order to achieve the goal. It was then, that I've decided to push myself one last time, open the laptop and start typing. My brain is still half asleep and not willing to co-operate, so this post might not be as sleek as others (whom am I kidding here). But I'm glad I pressed on and pushed myself. Well done. Now let's hope this regime continues in Poland and I carry on writing. Till next time, be lucky.

Goodbye for now

Goodbye for now
House is almost empty. Everything is gone. I am leaving tomorrow, even though it doesn't feel like it. I can't believe I abandon England, my home for the last 11 years. Everything is so familiar here, so accustomed and mine. I almost burst to tears in Morrisons, when I got to the bakery section and saw the scones, carrot cakes and flapjacks. Foods I couldn't understand 11 years ago, yet became so customary. I will miss you England, with all the funny phrases I had to learn, unique fashion choices, Christmas markets, lunch for dinner and tea for supper. You are not perfect, but you are so mine. It's goodbye for now, but not forever!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

When all falls into place

Image by
I am moving soon. In two days, precisely. But after months of selling all that was possible (a car, bed, appliances etc.), there was still plenty left. Shelving units, various chairs, TV stand, pictures. My plant. Beloved deckchair. Things that don't have a trade value, but hold a personal value to me. I didn't want to leave them behind - especially the plant. I feared they end up on the skip - a horryfying idea. I resolved to sell them in bulk - a household clearance lot. I drafted an ad, put it online and waited. Nothing. Until this weekend.

There was a sudden shift. 

Plenty of items left through the door. Bamboo sofa - lord and behold, it broke the record - 2 years of no interest. It ultimately sold and I gratefully waved it good bye. Result! My bed is gone and so is the washing machine.

To top it up, I found the buyer for my household lot. 

A lady replied to my ad on She found a lot and was keen to pick it up straight away. She and her partner bought a house and needed practically everything. Shelves, chairs, stands, vases. Household goods. All that I had for sale. Incredible! They took all they could today and will come back for the rest tomorrow. That means I can now leave on Tuesday without uncertainty about my stuff. I'm relieved. The couple is delighted too.

And as I type it sitting on a wicker chair, in almost empty house, I feel I have accomplished my goals. I gave my all to sell what's possible and raise funds. I worked tirelessly and followed a game plan. I pushed, lifted and rushed around. And I got results. So that's how it feels like. An achievement. I shall remember it and practice regularly. It will do me good. Until tomorrow, be good, my lovelies.

A Breakfast read

Image by Reader's Paradise

I wish I could read more. 

Books, newspapers, magazines. I wish I could just get on with it and finish with the excuses. Find the time. My friend, who is always busy, loves books and reads whenever he has a chance. Waiting in the car or visiting a family. Yes, he carries the book with him and reads when possible. I used to do that myself. I kept 2-3 books in the car and read when I was waiting for somebody, or queuing at the car boot sale. And the car boot queues take forever!

Now, I read while having breakfast every morning. I don't open a laptop or check emails, I want to dedicate this time for reading. I currently read a brilliant book "Starter for Ten" by David Nicholls. It tells a story of a new student and his male struggles. Chasing the girl he loves, although she's way out of his league. Trying to get onto 'University Challenge' team to impress her. Or having a toe-curling encounter with the girl's mum in the middle of the night.

Simply put - a cringe fest but very engaging.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Hunt for the perfect gift

Buying a gift is difficult.
We all know how hard it is. You want to delight the recipient. You want to see their face when they un-wrap it. You want to find something they would love and treasure. That's not easy.

Gifts divide into three categories.

First one - a casual 'that will do' gift for a co-worker. Not too serious, box of chocolates or a gift card. Nothing personal.
Second one is bit heavier - a birthday gift. You should spend some time researching this one. Find what the other person wants. It is important especially if you are buying for your partner. If you mess it up and buy something they don't like, you'll be branded an ignorant, who's not listening. I imagine.
Now the third, the art in itself, the King of all Gifts - a Christmas gift. It comes with a yearlong expectation. It's a heavy load and can only be handled with the biggest care. It requires consultation with the in-laws, cousins and friends at work. You don't want to get it wrong.

Today I faced a challenge on the middle scale - a Birthday Gift.

It couldn't be just any gift though. First, it had to pass a certain check-list. Airport security one, to be precise. It had to fit into my bag when I'm flying to Poland. As it's a hand luggage, the rules are strict. No after shave, no razor set, you get the idea.
Second - it is for my Dad. A man! That's a real challenge. I find it easier to shop for women - because I'm a woman. I can guess what they like. With the guys, it's a different story. I am clueless. Socks and underwear are an easy fix, and usually work. You can never have too many.
But this time I wanted to make an effort and find something my Dad would use in a 'special-me-time' way.

Challenge accepted.

However small Liskeard is, it still has a decent number of gift shops. Some are better in catering for men then others. Yet their focus is home decor - coasters, figurines, fragrances, that sort. Not exactly man's cup of tea.
Still, I persisted. I was determined to find the perfect gift. Today.
I knew my best bet is to consult with the shop assistant - she knows her stock inside out. And it paid off. I hit the jackpot in the second store. Among the mosaic bowls and carved elephants was hiding a display just for Men. Ok, slightly new-age, but still men. Fragranced beard and moustache balms (they soften the facial hair), warming muscle rub and beer soaps (yes, beer!).

I liked the idea of a balm, but in the end my Dad wouldn't like the fragrance, it was too feminine. I picked the beer soap and a muscle rub - two things he'll definitely use. Both quirky, unusual and practical. Win, win, win! I visited one more shop and found a mango wood spectacle holder in the shape of a giant nose. Nose on a stand! It can be kept on the desk and hold the glasses. Fantastic. All items can fit in my bag and are not on the 'no-no' list. Job well done. Now fingers crossed my Dad will love them too!

Practice post

I am trying to improve my written English. I have been writing for many years now, but never analyzed my skills. It was a non-specific type of writing, like blog posts or product descritptions. But now I want to turn it up a notch and take further. My dream is to work as a copywriter - and that needs ultra correct English. The kind that comes out of being a native speaker. I can't fake that, but I can practice. By the end of the day, all native speakers were kids learning to write. It's a skill you can learn and perfect. All I have to do is practice. And practice some more.
So you will see me practicing here, on this blog. If you spot a mistake, please let me know - that would be a great help and make me aware where I need improvement. Thanks!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Art of repelling

Moving is stressful. Some describe it as one of the most difficult events in life. And I can relate to it. I have been sorting out my belongings for the last few weeks. A sum of 11 years. What a joke. Picking only few items I can pack in the box and ship by a courier. My achievements can fit in the box. Not too heavy, as it needs to be carried by somebody. 
It was hard going through these items. Many memories started coming back, most of them painful. Things I have said that should never been said. People I have mistreated. Opportunities I have missed. A cruel memory lane.
How did it all come to that? How did I end up here - not attached, not needed, not sought after? How come I don't have an over-sized land rover with baby seats in the back and a ridiculous mortgage? How come the ties I break by moving away are practically non-existant? What is in me so repelling? I'd like to know...

Who is your inspiration?

Will Smith achieved a huge success due to his legendary work ethic

I'm taking baby steps now. Haven't got the energy anymore to rush around since I've switched to the fine world of the ready meals. I couldn't even complete my regular jogging route on Wednesday, I felt bleak and slacky. It's definitely a poor diet. But I still want to carry on, don't want to cheat - I would only be cheating myself, right? So I went jogging again today, but decided to take a shorter route instead and do a smaller circle. At least I've made an effort, and I'm really happy about it.

When I returned I've washed my jogging gear, to have it ready and clean to send on Monday. I thought I'd do it tomorrow, but it might not have dried in time. If I packed it still damp, it would surely mould in the transit (it's 5 solid days at least). But then I would have to skip jogging this Sunday - surely I can't send a sweaty gear in the parcel - it would stench the whole box... Yuk, I cannot do that. I will have do an exception and skip jogging this time. It will be very hard but I'm willing to make this sacrifice...

I begin to feel like having a bit of time-off right now. Like a small holiday. But on the other hand, I'd feel too guilty. I would be thinking about all the inspirational videos I've been watching lately about the successful people and what kind of sacrifices they've made to get where they are. About their work ethic and how they schedule their days. It all differs so slightly from my schedule. I understand that I won't develop my career as a brilliant copywriter by watching another episode of Celebrity Apprentice USA. So I do feel guilty even when I watch it while having lunch. "No, Maggie" - I can hear Will Smith in my head - "I work while I eat, I work while I sleep - all the time. That's how I achieved so much. You should do the same!". Yes, I can hear him in my head. He is evidently very successful singer and actor, but he's achieved it all by having a "sickening work ethic", as he describes it. You can find his motivational videos on YouTube.

I feel like my work ethic is still not sickening enough, so I push myself. All the time, even if I don't feel like it. Just a baby step, one at a time. It can be hard sometimes, but I know that taking a small step in the right direction is better then not doing anything at all. I think these are the times when having a strong goal is so essential, that's how you find the strength to kick yourself in a butt and carry on... So thanks Will Smith for the inspiration!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Secret of good time management

What's the secret of good time management?

What is the secret of a good time management? I sure would love to know that. Do you remember "About a Boy"? Hugh Grant played this privileged rich man with a sleek London apartment, living off royalties from his Dad's Christmas Jingle. But even without a job his days were packed with other activities - listening to the music, having his hair done, contemplating the existence. At some point he wondered - "I'm so busy without a job, have absolutely no idea how do people actually find the time to work?". But some people actually do. Most of them do. They have full time jobs and still find the time to cook a dinner, play with the kids, see friends, maybe even work on their business idea in the evenings. What's their secret? Where do they find these extra hours you seem to be short of by the end of the day?

It's a good time management. Not getting distracted. I was listening to the podcast few weeks ago about the new phone app. You used this new app to help you stay focused on a task. Basically you had to sit down and finish the given task without doing anything else. No tea, no toilet break, no checking your Twitter account. And incredibly, what normally would take an hour to finish, it only took 10 minutes without all the distractions! What a difference!

That's why so many writers and artists prefer to work online. They switch the Wi-Fi off. They're not tempted to check their email or Facebook. They just focus on the task. Until it's done. It's such a fantastic and simple method. We can try it for ourselves. We can prepare the list of tasks we want to finish that day, and go through each of them separately. Finish one at a time without any distractions. Don't even step away from the laptop (notepad, iPad) until you complete it. Then go the next task. Check your email, Twitter or Facebook in the breaks between the tasks. Have your cup of tea then. You'll be surprised how much you can fit in one day. You'll even find a time for a gym in the evening! It's a God send for any person working from home.

And remember - we all have 24h in a day, you, Beyonce and even Barrack Obama. It's all in the preparation and the time management.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Want to feel better?

There's a formula to a good mood!

I haven't got a fridge right now. Or an oven. It's not a big deal, at least I don't have to cook every day. I have sold these two quite early in the process and put a collection date as of 15th September. My plans have changed since the sale and now I don't move until the 29th! So, having electric kettle and a microwave as the only equipment in the kitchen, ready meals seemed like a perfect solution. It will be like a Uni again - I thought. Noodle soups and rice, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Well, it worked for a while, at least...

Back at Uni it definitely made more sense. There was no money, no kitchen and no culinary expectations. And ready meals 'diet' didn't affect me. I had enough energy for the class work, homework and other activities. Obviously I was a 'child' back then - with heaps of 'built-in' energy resources.

It's a different story now. After only a week I started feeling low and negative. I became pessimistic and not prepared to do any kind of work. I couldn't motivate myself to write, exercise or even sort out the recycling. Everything was hopeless, and of course my complexion became grainy and bland. Yuk!

I decided that ready meals was not the way to go. What I needed were natural healthy products. Fruits and veggies. I went to Aldi to stock up on these. Tomatoes, cucumber and rocket for a healthy salad. Bananas, oranges and nectarines for a fruit cocktail. And few yogurts. Amazing... I noticed a change right away. I felt like jumping, cleaning, singing, all at the same time! My dark moods were gone, everything started making sense and I had motivation to work.

It made me realise how important a healthy diet is. For our body and our mind. It's a fuel we need and we should not underestimate it. The fruits, the vegetables, cheese, milk, grains, variety of colours and textures. We need it all to have the drive and energy to keep us going. It's a source of our good mood, happiness and a healthy mind. Maybe next time we feel low we should fill up the fridge with healthy goodies instead of reaching for the energy drink...

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Get Skinny Fast - and Other Bollocks

There's no magic formula to losing weight...

For a long time I believed that 'get rich / thin quick' method is really possible. It's all the influence of media, planting images in our heads of rich and successful celebrities who don't seem to be doing much. You don't get to see people working hard to achieve their goals, you only hear the stories of people living on a dough, having 5 bedroom mansions! It's not surprising we don't push ourselves; we don't strive to work hard to achieve anything.

The same goes with the diets - how many times have you heard about people losing weight due to their healthy lifestyle, exercise regime and self-control? Me neither. No, you only hear the stories about a new 8-hour diet (yes, it's there), gastric band surgeries and magic diet pills. That's the images we see and that's what we think we need - instant overnight results in a packet. No hard work, no responsibility for what we eat. You only hear excuses and blame games. Don't blame the genes for obesity - that's an absolute bollocks! Genes take hundreds of years to adjust to change a body - like losing a tail or a body hair we had beck in the Iron Ages. Sorry, that's not a plausible excuse and it shouldn't be taught to our kids.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Are You Making These 40 Diet Mistakes?

Don't set your expectations too high - it's very easy to fail!

1. You set unrealistic expectations
Don't expect to see massive results after a week. Slower weight loss (1kg a week) is most recommended for skin elasticity and muscle structure. Have you ever seen people with saggy skin after losing a substantial amount of weight? They were on the 'crash-diet' shedding weight too fast and the skin didn't have a chance to keep up and adjust!

2. You lose interest after two weeks
I know, first two weeks are a blast, your weight is dropping, you can see a difference in your clothes and all is fun & games. But suddenly everything stalls and you seem to starve yourself to no avail. Hey - that's when the real work starts! You see, first two weeks is the time when you lose mainly water (not fat), as our bodies are made in 60% of water. So that's why you see an immediate change. It's encouraging, and now, with a bit of determination, you will start losing fat. Hang on there, the change is coming!

3. You weigh yourself every day
It relates to the point above - you see a difference on the scale in the first two weeks, and then nothing. Yes, you have lost weight (in water) but don't be discouraged when the scale stops (or worse - when it goes up) - it's normal, and doesn't always mean you gain fat - read more here - Avoid scale when on a diet.

4. You feel guilty after 'cheat-days'
Setbacks happen in life - and diets are no exception. Just take it as a part of the process, and move on with more determination and motivation the next day!

Don't end up feeling deprived!

5. You starve yourself
No, no, it's not about torturing yourself, you know? Starving is a double edged sword. You do it until you snap, and have a 'larger-than-life' cheat day (believe me, I've been there). But as your digestive system now is used to really small portions, it goes bonkers and really doesn't know what to do with all the excess food. In the end, it stores it in form of fat to prepare for future starvations - read more about it here: Crash diets - why they never work?

6. You change your diet completely and ditch ALL the food you really love
That's a one way ticket to a disaster town! Come on, don't treat a diet as a torture, you'll end up feeling deprived and excluded. All in moderation, have an ice cream or fish and chips from time to time (make it a reward for losing weight - see point 40). Just have a smaller portion. Read more: Smart girls have their cake and eat it!

7. You eat certain foods together
Tut-tut, no... Meat and potatoes should not be eaten together; it's like a belly-fat producing combo... Either have a chicken with a salad only, or potato cakes with steamed carrots. No more meat-potato coupling!

8. You don't count 'hidden' calories 
Yes, I know they're hidden, so it's hard to know they're there - especially if you are eating out. But they count too and can spoil all your hard work. I'm talking about oily salad dressings, cooking with too much butter, having ketchup and mayo in your sandwich. These add to your overall calorie count, so it's important to limit them as much as possible.

We end up eating more while watching TV

9. You snack while watching TV
Terrible habit and one that takes you by surprise. Did you know that we end up consuming more while watching TV, as we eat unconsciously and therefore don't really notice how much we eat?

10. You're dining out too often

It refers to the point 8 above. When you are dining out, you can't control how your food is prepared - is it steamed or deep fried? How much of the oily dressing is in the salad? Is the meat in Spaghetti Bolognese lean or with all the trimmings? You don't really want to turn into a control freak and send a waiter with the strict instructions for the chef - believe me, no one will be impressed. It's best to treat dining-out as a reward (see point 40), and avoid the meals you know are full of fat and sugar - we'll cover this subject in the future.

11. You drink too many fizzy drinks 
And it doesn't really matter if you go for the sugar-free drinks. These are low in natural sugars, but packed with chemically processed sweeteners. These bad boys attack your taste buds and make them less sensitive to sugars, so you end up wanting sweeter and sweeter things. They also put your system into a fat-storing mode. Zero sugar is not always good news!

12. You don't get enough exercise
It's like a supporting buddy for your dieting efforts. By jogging 30 minutes 3 times a week, you turn your body into a calorie-burning machine!

Don't give up too easily!

13 You give up too easily
Yes, hard times will come inevitably; it's a part of life, and definitely part of a diet. What will help you is to have a really strong goal to get you through the set-backs. Read more about it here: Set goals to resist snacking.

14. You punish yourself after 'cheat' days
No, no, give yourself a break. It's absolutely normal to slip, so stop punishing yourself. Simply move on, and change your attitude to the whole process. Maybe reward yourself every time you resist a temptation, and don't acknowledge the set-backs. It will be much more encouraging!

15. You skip breakfasts
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I'm sure you've heard it millions of times. By having nutritious breakfast, you prepare your digestive system for the whole day. Fibre in a wholegrain cereal helps you deal with anything you're about to eat. Protein in milk makes you feel fuller for longer, helps resist snacking and over-eating. Seriously, do yourself a favour!

16. You don't make a shopping list
It's like going to the shop blind-folded! By having a list, you get what you need and stick to the budget - it's a Win-Win!

Don't buy the food you can't resist!

17. You buy your favourite comfort food 
You know you can't resist it! Seriously, don't do it.

18. You practice stress eating
Thinking about that deadline tomorrow makes you drink litres of strong coffee and snack uncontrollably. It's not the best time to worry about a diet, I know. Promise yourself to go jogging the next day? And maybe snack on carrots with a humus? Ok, I'm hiding from a flying shoe for now.

Say NO to snacking!

19. You snack between the meals
Stop it, really. Give your stomach a rest to digest everything properly after each meal. Don't overload it with new batch to deal with - it can get stressed too! Have a 4 hour break between the meals, and leave any snack for the dessert.

20. You think 'Healthy' means low in calories
So you can have more of it? Not really. Just because it's healthy, means it's not chemically processed. This food still has got calories, so better refer to a calorie chart on the packet.

21. You reward yourself after the gym by eating more
Yes, we know you are starving, and you probably lost thousands of calories in the gym, so having 400 calorie chocolate bar will hardly make damage? Not really. Having a snack is ok, some are even recommended after a work-out (like a banana). But don't overdo it. Stick to a small healthy snack, nothing too crazy. An hour of cycling burns 600 calories - same as a Snickers!

22. You treat a diet as a closed-end 'torture' period
So you deprive yourself of all the things you love to lose weight. And can't wait to go back to your old eating habits? No, no, it's not about a short-term diet. It's more about adjusting your eating habits for good. Don't feel like you have to suffer, it's not fair, and won't work on longer scale. Treat yourself from time to time to a take-away or have a favourite snack as a dessert - it's about variety and moderation!

23. You always clear your plate
And I don't mean washing up! If you have a habit of eating all that's on your plate, make sure to have smaller portions. We always think we can eat more when hungry. If you serve yourself a smaller meal, you won't be over-eating!

24. You eat until you're full
I've been guilty of it for too long. But then I realised that only about 20 minutes after a meal, I start feeling full. It seems like my stomach plays a catch up with a brain. It needs the time to register all the food that's coming in, before sending up the signals it had enough. So work with it, stop eating at the moment you feel like having one more bite. You will thank yourself in 20 minutes!

Watch out for those calories...

25. You don't count the calories in alcohol 
 These definitely count and can ruin all your efforts.

26. You always take a lift
We underestimate the value of the simple everyday work-outs - climbing the stairs or taking a 20 minute walk. Every little helps when it comes to burning the calories!

27. You eat sugar-free and fat-free products
No, it doesn't mean you eat less calories. We have covered sugar-free items above - see point 11. But fat-free doesn't mean guilt-free. To produce a fat free food, manufacturers have to modify it and pack with carbs and sugars for it to taste nice. All that means, that we end up eating similar, if not higher amount of calories to the original full-fat product. Let's not forget that our body needs some amount of fat to process essential A,D,E,K vitamins we get from vegetables and fruits.

28. You make excuses
You had a long day, you're tired and definitely not in the mood for steaming your veggies and skipping to the gym. Take-away again? That's a one-way ticket to the lazy town and I'm sorry to tell you, but no pain = no gain! You need to make an effort to see a positive change. If you can't be bothered to cook dinners every day, prepare the meals in advance and freeze them up. Go to the gym in the morning instead of evening. Go jogging on your lunch break? To quote a wise man: 'To have a life like no other, you have to live like no other'...

Don't rely on the weight loss tablets

29. You take weight loss supplements
These are not miracle workers. They might leave you feeling fuller for longer, because they're based on proteins, but if you don't put in an effort yourself, they won't shed the weight for you.

30. You don't stock up on healthy snacks
You know, when the hunger strikes... Have some healthy low-cal snacks handy, so you don't end up reaching for the biscuit tin

31. You don't share your weight loss plans with family and co-workers
They will support and motivate you on your journey. And guess what, you're less likely to cheat, as they're watching! That's why the group weight-loss programs are so effective, by the end of the day you want to impress your group and prove them you can do it!

32. You stick to a boring diet with little variety
Of course you will be more likely to cheat to break the monotony! Nobody eats the same steamed veggies and grilled chicken everyday, you need some zing. Don't deprive yourself of your favourite foods, as long it's all in moderation.

33. You don't drink enough water
Water is your friend and support - we covered this subject here: Will drinking water help me lose weight?

Bring your own healthy snacks!

34. Snacking with friends and family
Peer pressure hey? It's hard to resist the bowl of crisps on the table, while everybody enjoys them watching TV. Maybe next time bring some of your own snacks (trail mix, rice crisps), so you don't feel left out?

35. You don't get enough sleep
It's amazing how much it can affect your diet - read more about it here: How does lack of sleep affect your diet?

36. You eat standing up, rushing around
It makes you lose count of how much you eat during a day. Take 10 minute break, and sit by the table. Have a proper meal, when you can clearly see how much you have on your plate. It really does make a difference!

37. You wear stretchy / slacky clothes
They're comfy and forgiving, that's why we love them. But they won't let you track your weight. You could lose or gain weight and not even notice! Jeans are much better, you see a difference once you put them on. And it's such a rewarding feeling to see your jeans getting loose!

38. You don't cut your food into smaller chunks
By cutting food into small pieces you make the food appear bigger on your plate - and fool your brain to think you had more to eat then you really did

39. You don't keep a food diary
It's surprising how much we go through during a day, it's scary sometimes and definitely eye-opening

40. You don't reward yourself for your efforts
So you've done it - you worked really hard for many weeks and finally lost 5kg yay!!! That's amazing feeling, and well done. You definitely deserve a treat. How about a night-in with the girls, rom-com evening with wine and Ben & Jerry? Enjoy :)