A city break to Milan

I had always heard that Milan is a city of fashion, culture and delicious Italian food. A perfect mixture of all the things that I love. This made my husband and me plan a four – day trip to this gorgeous city and experience all of this first hand. We visited in July, and the weather was lovely and warm with a mixture of clear blue skies, the sparkling sun and also a torrent of rain to cool things down. The moment we landed and after we settled into our hotel, we went out for a walk and to eat dinner at this cute authentic Italian restaurant with the most cozy decor and a huge selection of Italian wine. I was absolutely taken aback by the beauty of the city and the relaxed happy vibe that this city exuded.

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The architecture, the cozy cafes with people sitting outside and laughter rippling through the air, the gentle breeze, the young professionals returning from work in their stylish clothes and accessories, people queuing outside the gelato stores filled with innumerable mouth-watering flavours…. it was truly a sight that warmed my heart and filled me with excitement!

I absolutely love visiting churches and The Duomo (Cathedral of Milan) dedicated to St. Mary of the nativity is one of the most beautiful churches that I have laid my eyes on. It is truly majestic with amazing detail and intricate carvings. We even walked all the way to the top to catch a view of the vibrant city. Sitting inside and praying was a truly humbling experience for me.

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The Duomo – Milan Cathedral
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Inside the Duomo

We were super lucky to have the opportunity to see the Last Supper painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, preserved in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. 

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The Last Supper – Leonardo Da Vinci

Right next to the Duomo is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is the world’s oldest active shopping mall and boasts an iron and glass roof. It is packed with designer stores, jewellery shops, chic restaurants and is alive with talents musicians busking and artists sketching potraits of tourists.

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We also visited the Sforza Castle, which was built by the Duke of Milan and contains several museums, luscious green lawns and a gorgeous water fountain at the entrance.

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Being a food lover, Italian being one of my favourite cuisines, I absolutely feasted on the delicious pastas, pizzas, lemoncello and gelatos! Here is us looking super happy visiting this gorgeous city.

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On top of the Duomo

Milan was everything that I ever imagined it to be and more. It is a great place for a city break. Have you ever visited? Would love to hear what you loved about the city!xx

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A channel of your peace

Happy Sunday loves!

I hope you’re having a great one so far. Everyday on listening to the news, I always hear about all the suffering and hardships this world is facing. It is an era of unrest and turmoil. But it is also a world of compassion, kindness and love. We must not lose courage and strive to become a channel of God’s peace and love. There is always hope that one day we can all live together in peace and harmony.

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Below is one of my favourite hymns titled “Make me a channel of your peace”

Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me bring you love; 

Where there is injury, your healing power,

And where there's doubt, true faith in you. 

Make me a channel of your peace:
Where there's despair in life let me bring hope; 
Where there is darkness - only light,
And where there's sadness, ever joy. 

O Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood, as to understand, 
To be loved, as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving to all that we receive,
And in dying that we are born to eternal life. 

 

Amen!

 

Dry or Dehydrated Skin?

Happy Saturday everyone 🙂 It is freezing here in Manchester but the sun is shining and I am currently having a super lazy morning, that is, lounging on the couch in my onesie with a bru!

Last weekend, however, was not so great. I normally have a mixed skin type – dry during the winter and oily during the summer. Much to my dismay, suddenly out of the blue, I ended up having a bad state of skin dehydration which left the skin on my face feeling super dry, tight and with an unpleasant burning/itching sensation. This made me seriously reflect on the amount of make-up/chemicals that I use on my face everyday, subjecting it to irritants and clogged pores. I felt like my skin needed a serious change in some of the products that I use everyday, and hence I researched what I could use to revive/hydrate my skin and this is what I learnt/have changed in my daily routine.

Firstly, I learnt that there is a difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin. Dry skin is a skin type and dehydrated skin is a skin state. The former causes flaking and the latter – tight and scaly skin. Here is a great article on the difference between the two:

www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/difference-between-dry-dehydrated-skin_us_573b2ba4e4b08f96c1842349

  1. Firstly I searched for a serum/oil and day cream that was organic and irritant free. This is when I came across the brand Pai. I normally use vaseline aloe vera or Olay for my face (but found that both these products were causing a burning sensation on applying after washing/cleansing my face). Cosmopolitan has done a great article on the top 10 Vegan skincare products of 2018 www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/beauty-hair/a46238/vegan-skincare/

I visited their website and they do a whole range of serums, oils and creams that are organic, vegan friendly and built for sensitive skin. I even had an expert to chat to and give me advise and I ended up buying the back to life hydrating day cream, camomile and rosehip calming day cream and also got 2 free samples and another free product! I must admit that these products are a bit pricey but using it on my skin caused zero irritation and it does work wonders with locking in the moisture. You can even use it with your make up as a base!

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www.paiskincare.com

2. Coconut Oil 

I cannot begin to even describe what wonders this has done over the past week. It is an excellent moisturiser (with anti-bacterial/inflammatory properties) and also smells delicious. I have been applying generous amounts of this twice a day and my skin has started to rejuvenate and even clear up.

3. Hydrating face mask 

I absolutely love the face masks from Sephora, my favourites are the aloe vera, algae and lotus masks. I have used them sparingly as we don’t have a sephora in the UK, but these masks are rich and full of moisture. Leaves your skin feeling supple and dewy.

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4. Drink more water 

I think part of what caused this state of dehydration was sitting in small rooms with heating on full blast and drinking minimal water and a lot of caffeine instead. I am now making a conscious effort to drink more water to hydrate my skin/body from the inside to prevent this from happening again.

I also love green tea and could drink several cups during the day – my favourites are twinnings peppermint and jasmine green tea. I am planning to carry these to work to sip on instead of a coffee.

5. Avoid using make up everyday 

Now this has been the hardest one for me. I love makeup and cosmetics and use it everyday. However, since this episode I have actually applied absolutely zero make up on my face and let my skin breathe – and my skin am sure is thanking me for it. Once fully recovered, I would like to go back to applying make up but have promised myself that I would give myself one or even two make-up free days during the week.

I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me. I would also love to hear what you do to keep your skin hydrated! Here is to happy healthy skin 🙂

xx

 

 

 

A week in Dubai

Over the past few years, the travel bug has really hit me hard. One of the things that brought my husband and I together is our mutual love of travelling, and we promised ourselves that we would try and fit in as many holidays as possible before doing more grown up things like buying a house or starting a family. I enjoy a mix of beach and city breaks but having grown up surrounded by majestic mountains, the beach has lured me more. We had an amazing honeymoon last year in the Maldives, it truly was like paradise on earth with it’s pristine turquoise water and colourful sea-life, clear blue skies, sparkling sunshine and smooth feet sinking sand – the highlight of my trip was to spot a sea turtle close to the beach whilst out snorkelling. In the summer last year we did Bali  (having been inspired by the movie eat, pray and love). Bali is rich in culture and history and is full of beautiful temples with intricate carvings and delicious food that tantalises the tastebuds.

Having done two beach holidays, we felt that it was time for a city break. Dubai is a city that has always been on my husbands’ bucket list but I have always had mixed feelings having heard various things from visitors. But something about that place (maybe the shopping ;)) has always attracted me and hence we decided to visit Dubai for my birthday week. As soon as I landed I fell in love with the city – it is modern, multi-cultural, vibrant, glamorous and also a city that never sleeps – we landed in the middle of the night and the city was alive. We stayed in doubletree by Hilton in the business bay (a brand new hotel) with a room overlooking the tallest building in the world – The Burj-Al-Khalifa. Here are some of the highlights of our trip:

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The Dubai Mall –  I absolutely love shopping, I could shop all day without a break which requires both skill and energy 😉 but this mammoth mall, surrounded by a canal, was truly the king of all malls. It has got a million designer stores and chains from all over the world, chic cafes with delicious smelling freshly baked pastries and cakes, tall bubbly fountains with clever lighting dancing to the rhythm of the music, restaurants with cuisines from all over the world with tasteful decor and a soothing ambience, and wait for this….a massive aquarium filled with several tropical and reef fish including sting/manta rays and reef sharks as well as a zoo with an impressive selection of animals including crocodiles – right in the middle of the mall! This left me absolutely flabbergasted and awestruck!

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For shopping – well the designer items are cheaper in the U.K. including high street items. However, they seemed to have a wider selection of clothes in stores such as Zara, Ted Baker and Kurt Geiger. However, I did splurge on a lot of make up (Huda Kattan’s) and face packs from Sephora, which is not available in the U.K.

Afternoon tea at the Burj-Al-Arab – This was a truly breath-taking experience. This entire hotel (claimed to be 7 star) has got a royal feel to it with tall gold plated interiors and a beautiful view of the serene sea. We were whisked off to the sky view dining area where we had a table by the window overlooking the magnificent sea. The afternoon tea in itself was delicious with a number of courses of sweet and savoury nibbles and sandwiches and a huge selection of tea from all over the world to go along with it.

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Desert safari – This experience left me absolutely giddy headed. It’s a full days trip where they drive you and a few other tourists in an SUV to the desert, straight to a camel farm to start off with, followed by a 15-30 minute fast safari ride over the velvety sand dunes. This is topped off by watching the blazing orange red sun set over the horizon of the dunes which is truly a surreal experience and then an Arabian nights styled barbecue dinner and entertainment (belly dancers, sheesha, egyptian and fire dance) to end the day.

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Dinner at the Burj-Al-Khalifa –  This was a special birthday treat for me, thanks to my sweet husband. This building is as breath-taking from the outside as the view of Dubai is from the inside. We got a table right by the window where we we had a gastronomic experience comprising of a seven course meal from the tasting menu (and to my delight there was an entire vegetarian menu option too) and just soaked in the sparkling lights of the city.

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The rest of time time was filled with lots of arabic tea, smooth sheeshas with various deliciously aromatic flavours and just exploring this lovely city.  So if you want a city break this one is definitely one to consider. I am hoping to visit again in the future for sure 🙂

 

Miracle Prayer

I have had a sudden urge to publish this and share it with all of you. A few months ago whilst attending mass at my local church, I headed to pray to the sacred heart of Jesus. This is when I saw this beautiful handwritten prayer titled ‘Miracle Prayer’ resting at the feet of the statue. I took a picture of it. I never really prayed using this particular prayer until recently, for a special request from God.

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” Dear Heart of Jesus, in the past I have asked for many favours, this time I ask for a special one (mention here). Take it dear Lord, dear Heart of Jesus and place it within your own broken heart where your father sees it, then in his merciful eyes it will become your favour not mine ” (To be said for 3 days)

Isn’t it just a sweet and beautiful prayer.

Image courtesy: straphaelslifeteen.com

 

 

40 acts and lent

I first came across what 40acts was all about on a busy day at work. It was 2016 and I remember worrying about all the jobs I still had to complete for the day and finish on time for once. Lost in my own thoughts and engulfed by all the tasks lying ahead of me,  is when I bumped into a friend and her colleague on the corridor. It was lent time and since all of us belonged to the same faith, the usual question of “oh, what are you giving up for lent this year” came up. I don’t think I had thought about anything in particular – maybe sweets/chocolates was my answer. This is when both of them told me that they were doing this 40 acts challenge. 40 acts are acts of compassion, kindness or generosity – however big or small, that you perform each day of lent, which enriches your soul. What a beautiful way of going through lent and enhancing one’s spiritual being. I thought I would pen down my 40 acts journey here – I am a bit late as I was poorly these past few days, but now I am on the mend, here goes (better late than never right?);

If this is something you might be interested in here is the link

40acts.org.uk

Day 5 – Favourite. 

Here is the challenge:

What are your favourite things? Favourite film? Favourite coffee shop? A view where you go to be alone? Get ready to fly in the face of your impulses – and give those personal favourites away. Give away the novel. Pass on the scarf you think someone would look fantastic in. Share the introvert hang-out spot.

I have always been an avid reader. Over the past few years I have fallen in love with the books written by a turkish author – Eli Shafak. My favourite one being – The forty rules of love. It was presented by my mother to me a couple of years ago – and is about the relation between the poet Rumi and his guru Shamz-e-tabrizi, one of immense love, trust, honesty and understanding. Here is a link on when I had written a bit about the book Reflections and Resolutions 

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You can also read more about it here – www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-forty-rules-of-love-by-elif-shafak-2021678.html

I would love to share it with one of you, if you are interesting in reading it. Just comment on here (not just like) and I will be happy pick one via a draw and contact you in the next couple of weeks to arrange sending a copy across to you 🙂

“You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God, because the service of this ministry is not only providing for the needs of the saints but is also overflowing with many thanks to God.”
(2 Corinthians 9:11–12 NET) – from 40acts 

Have a blessed lent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ways to beat the January/February blues

OK, so now that the festive period is over we are all back to business and have the entire year ahead. A prospect both exciting and daunting. I always find the first two months of the year a bit of a downer after all those festive parties and making merry. But we can always use these initial months as an opportunity to reflect, re-organise and re-fuel, right? Here is how I try to get over the post-festive blues;

  • I don’t know about you but I am a personal fan of making lists – whether I achieve everything on it or not ;). It’s a great visual aid and go to check-list. So, first things first – I make a list of all the things I failed to achieve in the previous year, which can either be transferred on to the new year or I make a new set of major goals for the year.

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  •   I try to organise a weekend getaway towards the end of January or mid-february. Nothing super expensive or over the top – just somewhere out-of-town. This makes me have something to look forward to especially if I have assignment deadlines or exams. I am planning on going down south at the end of the month to attend my counsins’ engagement lunch – this is after 2 exams due in these next couple of weeks.

 

  • Doesn’t it feel amazing to step out in to the winter sun and breathe in the crisp winter air? A post-lunch weekend winter walk with some thinking time always helps me clear my head.

 

  • As one of my goals for 2018 is to cook more and order less take-away, I recently bought a vegetarian Indian cook book (after getting inspired by watching the Julia-Julie project). I have leafed through it and I must say it looks incredible. I am super excited to try some of the delicious recipes. I always feel this is a great time to make a start on whatever hobby excites you.

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  • I am planning to re-organize my wardrobe. I always try to pick one little home project to work on – whether it is the kitchen, a desk or a shelf that needs sorting. Getting rid of clutter or giving away clothes that I no longer wear to charity helps lighten my mind and might also help others in need.

 

  • Take time out to see that friend or family member I tried to pretty much meet all of last year but just couldn’t make it happen.

 

  • I plan to pray/meditate more these couple of months. If not everyday, at least once a week. I used to couple meditation with yoga, which was a great stress-buster, but could never persist with it everyday. The surya-namaskar in itself is a great way to keep both the mind and body healthy. For now, I am hoping to get back into it at least once a week.

 

  • Plan a destination for one sunny holiday for the year – now that is right up my alley. I was super lucky last year to be able to go not just on one but three amazing vacations – maldives (heaven on earth – for my honeymoon), Bali and Dubai and twice back home to India. I love exploring new places and cultures and of course also lounging at the beach and soaking up the sun.

 

  • Exercise. I totally feel bloated and lethargic after having no control over what I ate this festive period. So now is the time to give my body a break from all the over-eating and get it moving as opposed to lounging on the couch.

 

  • One little personal pampering treat – maybe I will get my hair done or a pedicure.

 

Hoping to incorporate some of these in the next few weeks to kick-start 2018.

I would love to know what you do to get over your post-festive blues! 🙂

 

 

 

A New Year and a “New” me

Goodbye 2017 – filled with bittersweet memories! And hello 2018! I have never been the kind of person to set a list of new year resolutions, usually the same every year – cook more, go to the gym, don’t leave everything last minute and stress, spend more time with family, meditate etc etc. Come first of Jan I’d start making all these salads, hit the gym, call my mum more often and organise my diary with full gusto. After not even a week (I am talking about a few ‘days’) my enthusiasm and will power would dwindle at top speed till I’d be back stuffing my face with takeaways, paying religiously for my gym membership and never going and studying for that exam until a week before. Such a nightmare! By the way, my last post about going on a diet totally failed!

But, this year is different and needs to be. I feel like I have totally started 2018 on a wrong note – by being daunted by all the mammoth tasks lying ahead of me. But, if you fail and fail again, you have to pick yourself up and keep trying right? Who knows, I might even be looking back at 2018 with a sense of satisfaction – feeling healthier, happier and at peace. I recently read a book by a celebrity nutritionist and fitness guru – Rujuta Diwekar. Her weight loss and health fitness mantra was simple, ditch diets and counting calories and eat small healthy portions of meals throughout the day, and enjoy indulging in that samosa or gulab jamun every every now and then. Now, that can also be applied to other aspects of life – ditch worrying about what will be or not, set small achievable tasks throughout the day and enjoy pampering yourself every now and then.

So here are my big goals of 2018

Work and study related 

  1. Pass all my masters exams x 3
  2. Pass my work-related exam
  3. Write a 20,000 word dissertation to complete my masters (and be organised so as not to have a melt-down last minute)
  4. Audit
  5. Complete writing that case-report

Health related 

  1. Cook every alternate day at least (just bought a vegetarian cookbook on amazon)
  2. Gym twice or thrice a week
  3. Meditate once a week
  4. Try being vegan for a week

Personal 

  1. Pass my driving test
  2. Go on holiday for some sunshine
  3. Weekend getaway with friends (been planning this for years now)
  4. Visit Devon/Cornwall
  5. Go on a hike
  6. Read 3 books (any suggestions will be welcome)

These are the big ones for now! 🙂 Will keep posting my progress on each and every one of them throughout this year. Lets hope for a good one.

Happy New Year and do let me know what your 2018 is looking like 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tummy-tuck

No, I am not talking about cosmetic surgery, but a more ‘natural’ approach to achieving this :). For anyone who knows me, I have always wished to be a bit more leaner (ok a lot more, especially around the tummy and face) and more than that, have the motivation and will power to sustain a healthier lifestyle and also have no excuses – no more “I am too busy to go to the gym” or “I am too tired to cook – lets order a takeaway”. And boy, have I tried all sorts of diets in the past – my fitness pal (calorie counting) and south beach diet (too hardcore for me) being amongst a few. I got married last year and starved myself before the wedding to fit into my dress – but I am absolutely tired of having periods of crash dieting followed by binge eating and then feeling guilty as hell!

So recently, I stumbled across the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet. I had heard about it via my sister-in-law a while ago, I even registered a few months ago onto the site, but never really gave it a proper go! However, found some time today to read through it and see what it is all about – a diet where you fast (eat 500 calories) on 2 days and normally the rest of the week – sounds do-able right? Well, I shall find out I guess. I am planning to start today and going to fast (it’s always good to be keen on your first day :p) and try this for the next month or so to see how I sustain this, and also be accountable to myself by posting about it here!

There is also a test (very interesting) on what is the right diet for you? (BBC) – I took the test and found out that I am a 50% constant craver and a 50% feaster (not the ideal combination at all!) – so what better way to start, at least I know where i stand!

www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z2csfg8

Also, to anyone who is in a similar situation as me or has tried the 5:2 diet – any help, advice and support will be much appreciated!

Wish me luck!

PS: thefastdiet.co.uk is the link to the 5:2 diet page.

Image courtesy: weightlossresources.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Reflections and Resolutions

It is almost a week till Christmas (and yes before you say it, it is definitely one of my favourite festivals and time of the year) and I am sat here at the table with a cup of coffee on a lazy Sunday afternoon reflecting on this past year and the year to come. This is the time where we all stuff ourselves with mince pies and drink way too much mulled wine, and come January resolve to sign up to the gym, exercise at least thrice a week and eat no sugar!! I know I certainly have and my resolution started with much gusto lasts a total of a week at the most!

I probably will do it all again this year but for today I wanted to write about three ladies who have personally inspired me this year and how I would love to imbibe some of their qualities/teachings as I see myself into the new year.

  1. Eli Shafak – Author of forty rules of love

I stumbled upon her book by chance, thanks to my mother’s love of reading and instilling this in me as well. Her book is so beautifully written and warmed my soul directly. It is full of history – about the bond between the poet Rumi and his guru Shamz-e-Tabrizi, wisdom about the teachings and beliefs of sufis and an insight into the true/higher meaning of life where the modern is blended with the mystic. It is a book that anyone and everyone can relate to at various levels.

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She is a Turkish author whose parents separated when she was young and was brought up by a single parent. She is now a successful author, has won various prizes and lives in London. I recently watched one of her TEDx talks where she says anyone can write about anything. I have always wanted to start a blog where I can pen down my thoughts and write about my journey through life and was inspired to do this. I have always had a thirst to learn more about other people and their experiences and better myself as a human being not only learning through my own journey through life but also theirs. This blog has opened up a world of knowledge/life experiences out there and I am truly grateful for that!

eli-shafak

The book also inspired me to start on a spiritual quest, something that has always drawn me and I have wanted to pursue.

I hope in the year 2017, I continue to strengthen my passion for writing and spirituality.

2. My Mother – entrepreneur and founder of @rosamysticaindia

The words that always come to my mind when I think of my mother are – will power, strength, integrity and compassion. She is truly an incredible woman who has faced several obstacles in life – to do with family, health, friends, career and has always braved these with immense strength and determination and triumphed. She has sacrificed and compromised a whole lot for her family and her love is truly unconditional.

She recently started an NGO called Rosa Mystica. It is an initiative aimed at empowering the women of Garhwal, India by showcasing their talent.These women are mostly single parents striving to provide a better future for their family or women who are struggling to make ends meet. I have never seen anyone so dedicated and passionate about her work and cause.

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I have always loved and enjoyed being creative and as a result I created an instagram and Facebook page dedicated to this noble cause. Please check out their instagram page @rosamysticaindia or Facebook page to learn about their work in more detail.

www.facebook.com/rosamysticaindia/

Here is a sneak peak of an ethnic and vibrant kurti that these ladies made. All their products are handmade and made with a lot of handwork and love. You name it and they make it: clothes for women/men/children, fashion accessories, bedding items, home goods such as hot water bottle covers, table runners, dining table covers, place mats, potholders etc, handmade cards etc.

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In 2017, I hope to have more compassion, passion for what I do and will power to see through any obstacles and goals.

3. A friend 

What i admire the most in this dear friend of mine is her determination and motivation to stay fit. She goes to the gym everyday without fail and eats in moderation (without depriving herself of sweet treats/eating out). She always strives to stay healthy and happy.

We really need to learn to respect our bodies, the saying that we are what we eat is true to a great degree. A healthy body and mind are key ingredients to a happy life full of contentment.

What I admire about her is not going on ‘crash diets’ for a certain occasion or to fit into a dress or prepare for a beach holiday. Those kinds of diet don’t last for long. I did one myself before my wedding (kind of) and did manage to lose weight but have not been able to sustain it.

In 2017, I hope to become more fit by exercises a bit more regularly and indulging in yoga and meditation to heal my body and mind.

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So bring on 2017 and the challenge to advance myself….physically, mentally and spiritually 🙂

Photo sources:

  1. amazon.com
  2. cnn.com
  3. my visions.org