Saturday, 15 December 2012

Staying Positive When the World Seems Like Such a Bad Place...

Well, I'm sure we all heard the horrible news yesterday... another gun crime, a whole load of innocent children shot while at school, just before Christmas, in a place where they were supposed to feel safe.

Naturally, this has raised the old debate about gun control again - with gun supporters claiming that such dangers mean that people need MORE guns (because I'm sure an armed kindergarten teacher would solve everything) and the other side claiming that this highlights the need for tighter gun controls. Well, it's hard to truly know what to believe, but it seems that there are greater social problems at play, and that increasing gun control is only one part of the solution. But I won't go into that debate here - the arguments go around and around, and we seem no closer to a solution.

Amidst this chaos, in the aftermath of another disaster, it might seem impossible to stay positive. All the self-help books on your shelf can be rendered useless by one piece of bad news. You might be wondering - how can I focus on improving my own life when this shit can happen? How can I think about increasing my own career prospects when innocent children are dying? How can I practice positive thinking when the world is such a terrible place?

Friday, 7 December 2012

Something New: The final entry!

Well, I've done a few new things in the last week again - turned down a job offer, read an interesting book (the 4 Hour Work Week) and generally tried to mix things up.

I plan to continue with this as often as I can, but after 65+ days I think you guys get the point!

Actually, in the 4 Hour Work Week the author recommends something he calls "comfort exercises", where you push your own boundaries and comfort zone - kinda similar to what we've been trying to achieve here! His challenges are a little harder... maintain eye contact with a stranger for as long as possible, try to contact a famous person... but the idea is the same.

Only by challenging yourself can you change your life. If you expect to wake up one morning and be confident, successful and on your way to the life you really want, then I've got bad news - it just isn't going to happen. Crazy things can occur -  you could win the lottery - but the person you are inside isn't going to change unless you take steps to do that. When you challenge yourself, you learn new things, and you grow as a person. Plus it just keeps things so much more interesting!

I hope you keep trying to do something new, if not every day then every week, or month. Start with what's comfortable, and then go beyond. The aim is not to be comfortable, after all - it's to stretch your limits and show you how capable you are.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Something New Days 61-68: Thanksgiving and Muse!

OK, back on track!

Day 61: I started playing a depressing (but fun) game on the PS3 called Fallout 3... it's an open-world game set in a post-apocalyptic future, with lots of mutants and wrecked cities. It gets a bit bleak after a while but it's very interesting to see this depiction of what could happen if a nuclear attack were to occur...

Not my own pumpkin pie - I forgot to photograph that!
Day 62: Went to see Muse live at the O2 Arena in Prague - very exciting! I was impressed by the visuals and the sound quality (which was almost so perfect as to be boring) but we were sitting too far back to really get involved. I have to say, I'm impressed at how cheap drinks were inside the arena (£1.30 for a beer in a stadium!?).

Day 63: Tried a new restaurant - Prague's Lehka Hlava ("Clear/Light Head") - a vegetarian restaurant with a good reputation and funky space-like interior. The food was nice, but sadly the service was so fast (and absent, once we'd eaten our first course) that we felt rushed and unwanted!

Day 64: My first ever Thanksgiving!! There was turkey, mac & cheese, loads of veg and bread and salad and delicious things. It's a tradition that I think I'll adopt... in fact, I liked it so much that I did it all again the next day (with a different friend).

Day 65: As well as having Thanksgiving again, this was my first experience of baking pumpkin pie. I followed a non-traditional recipe - pumpkin pureé (baked and blended pumpkin), soaked cashew nuts, spices (cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg) and maple syrup, blended up in a pie crust. It was actually amazing, and I could have eaten ten slices... the rest of the meal was lovely, too!

Day 66: I had one of those days where pretty much none of my students showed up, but as they hadn't given me 24 hours of warning, I'll still get paid... nice, but a little frustrating when you're traipsing over Prague with a heavy backpack full of paper!

Day 67: I made mince pies for the first time! Marks and Spencers in Prague sells mincemeat (as well as British bacon, cheese, hummus and lots of amazing things), and now that I finally know where to find pastry, I was good to go! They didn't turn out quite as I'd imagined, but they were nice...

Day 68: Finished watching the TV show "The Newsroom" - if you haven't seen it, I recommend it! A very intelligent, thought-provoking insight into the news industry, and the battle between being authentic and being popular that some organisations might face.

Is anybody still trying to do something new every day? :)

Something New Days 48-60: The F Word

Well, it finally happened. I reached that point where I wasn't doing something new every day. I don't know... I was busy, tired, distracted, and it just didn't happen. But instead of beating myself up about it, lamenting about how I ought to be a good role model for you guys, I've chosen to look at the positive side of it.

It wasn't easy at first, oh no. As I went to write this entry, that little voice (you know the one) started to say it... You've failed. Who will respect you as a life coach now?

It's all too easy to listen to that little voice - and to use that dirty word: fail. We hear it everywhere - as an exam result, on amusing internet memes about people slipping up - but mostly, we tell it to ourselves. I failed at my New Year's resolution, I failed to plan ahead, I tried to start my own business but I failed...

What is our obsession with this word? It's clear that the idea of failure is drilled into us from an early age, but what do we really mean when we tell ourselves that we failed? If you remember back to your days at school, what really happened if you failed something? I'm pretty sure that you were always given the chance to try again, perhaps with extra guidance and support. It might have turned out that you were looking at the problem the wrong way. And hey, even if you never quite passed that exam, you survived - you're still here now, aren't you?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Something New Days 41-47: Parties and Problems Aplenty

I'm determined to keep this up until the New Year! I know that sometimes it can feel exhausting, but as one of my friends said a few weeks ago, you don't always have to set out to do something new - you can also look back on your day and realise that you did something a little different. That feeling of achievement can cheer you up and encourage you to do more things. All you need to do is listen to a new song, click a new link, read about something you didn't know about before, or learn a new word in a language you don't know (even a word in English - I bet there are tons that I don't know!).

Day 41 - It was November 1st, and I was at work all day before heading to my weekly choir meeting. I had about half an hour to find food, so I walked through the food court in Anděl shopping centre and found Loving Hut, a vegan restaurant with Asian-style cuisine. There was a help-yourself buffet for 19Kč per 100g, so I spooned some tofu dishes and spring rolls onto my plate and enjoyed a vegan dinner. It was actually really nice! I also had to use Czech to explain that a piece of my jewellery had broken and ask them to fix it - the conversation went something like "Hello... I have a problem" "OK, come back in a week" but I felt proud of myself anyway.

Day 42 - Finally checked out Merlin, a pub/restaurant near our flat in Prague. It's an Irish pub, with Guiness and the delightful Merlin (beer) as well as good food... some of it Czech with a Mexican edge. Interesting! I recommend it if you're in the neighbourhood (it's between Bruselská and Nuselské Schody).

Day 43 - My boss's 40th birthday party! It was at yet another venue in Prague (Park Hotel & Restaurant near Vršovice) and it was all you can eat/drink... I ended up with a lot of salmon and white wine in my belly, not to mention some epic chocolate cake. There was a DJ with karaoke, too, so Jeff and I sang in front of a lot of strangers.... not really that new for us, but it was a new venue/crowd!

Day 44 - I actively tried to spend a whole day without biting my nails. It's way harder than you might think.

Day 45 - An unexpected "new" thing happened. After paying the larger part of a contract fee and thinking that our wedding venue was booked and sorted (and having sent out invitations for the date next June), my wedding planner called to tell me that, actually, we couldn't have the venue on that day. Now, please understand, when I say "wedding planner" I'm not talking about the type you see in films that cost thousands, but it is somebody who I had trusted to sort things out for me. Suddenly, it seemed as if the world came crashing down on us. I was angry, upset, stressed... after promising myself that I wouldn't become a Bridezilla, I knew I had to keep it together (and THIS was an understandable thing to get upset about, as most venues would have been booked months ago). We had to keep the date, but find a new venue. So, my new thing was to take something that could have made me mad for a long time and to cope with it as quickly as possible. Of course, the important thing is that Jeff and I will be there, along with our loved ones.

Day 46 - I realised that I'm going to get married under the open sky, and that a part of me has always imagined that, anyway. It means walking down stairs in a big dress, though. Eek!!

Day 47 -  I discovered, which is a little like Pinterest for stories. I especially love the "interesting news" category, as it's full of delightful stories like "1400 year old Vampire Skeleton Discovered in Britain", "Man Attempts to Auction Off Earth" and "4600 Year Old Pub Found in Scotland". I find these little stories make great conversation pieces in my English lessons, as well as being very informative!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Something New Days 34-40: Pumpkins, Castles, Singing on the Subway

Hi again! It seems that a few of you have given up... I know it's hard, and that most of us are too busy to be able to truly do something new every day. In fact, there are days when I struggle to think of something to call "new" - but I'm determined to power on in the hope that it will give you some inspiration! As you'll see, I am quite obsessed with food and restaurants, but some of the new things are only ways of thinking, or other minor changes.

Day 34 (Thursday 25th October) - My friend and I checked out a relatively new Vietnemese restaurant in Prague (Pho Vietnam). The same owners already had a popular take-away, but now they have a sit-down version - but you still go up to the counter to order and pay. The food was delicious, and very cheap.

Oh yes, and it was snowing!
Day 35 - This weekend marked the Hallowe'en retreat for my new group, the International Choir of Prague. For two nights we stayed at a hotel in the countryside, singing and partying. This was my first time in the area known as Česky Raj (Czech Paradise), and the hotel location was amazing. We were situated on top of a mountain, two mountain peaks mounted by castle towers overshadowing us.

Day 36 - Still at the retreat, there were a few firsts. We learnt some new songs, for one. I dressed as a pirate for the evening party (not entirely a first, but a new costume). The most exciting new thing was carving a pumpkin! I'd never tried that before, and to make matters trickier, we didn't carve a face into ours but "ICP" (the choir's initials). I cut the "P" - it's quite hard to push your knife through the pumpkin, but not as hard as I'd imagined.

Day 37 - Well, I'm going to cheat a bit on this one, and count it as past midnight on the previous day (also when the clocks went back). To kick start our party, one of the girls led us all in a salsa dance. I learnt a few new party games, too... but I won't give too many details here!

Day 38 - Ah, Monday. It was a busy day, with hardly a breath to be had between working. One of my working hours, though, was life coaching a new client via Skype. He was based in the States, too, which is a first!

Day 39- With 90 minutes to spare between classes, I found myself wandering around a part of Prague that I don't know that well (Florenc), and chanced upon a vegetarian restaurant that I'd never heard of before (Mlsna Kavka). It was pretty good - I had a veggie burger and chips, and some nice leek-based soup.

Day 40 - Not sure of what to do, I found myself singing quietly on my walk up to the metro (as I tend to do anyway). I decided to keep this going into the metro to see how loudly I could sing before I was given a strange look. I didn't get very loud, but eventually somebody dared to look at me. It made me smile a little to see the "Get me away from this crazy person!!" look in someone's eyes, but also a little sad. What's so wrong with having a song in your heart, eh? Perhaps I know how Maria von Trapp felt, having to go into the mountains to sing. Ah well, that's why I have choir (and karaoke).

So, that was my week! Feel free to send me suggestions for new things to do!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Something New Days 27-33: This is getting hard!

Hey guys! I've decided to start updating in weekly blocks, to make for more concise entries (and to mask my laziness). Actually, I've been very busy, but I've still been trying to do new things.

Day 27 (Thursday, October18th) - I did something that somehow hadn't occurred to me before. I posted a message on a few Facebook groups that are based in Prague, advertising my life coaching services. The first session would be free, I said, as most groups don't let you advertise things that cost money. I was very excited to get about ten responses within two days!

Day 28 - A very simple thing - I tried to walk around thinking "What would I do if I didn't care what people thought of me?" It can be surprisingly empowering to answer, and could make you question the very path you're on at the moment.

Day 29 - The autumn leaves look beautiful in Prague at the moment, so, despite the mist, Jeff and I decided to take the camera for a walk and explore a new part of Prague. We went out to Barrandov, where I often take the tram, but we walked down some roads until we were on a lovely leaf-scattered path. We found a nice little pub there, too, which had a roaring fireplace and nice cheese.

Day 30 - If I haven't already mentioned this, I'm a bit of a nerd. On this misty Sunday afternoon, Jeff and I joined a gaming group that we found online. They're based in Prague, but nobody in the group seems to be Czech (but rather from every other country imaginable). We spent the day playing Talisman, a fantasy board game that takes hours but is a lot of us (until your character dies and you have to start again!).

Day 31 - I tried another new restaurant - the lovely Noi, a Thai restaurant with good prices and a nice, classy atmosphere. The Pad Thai was delicious, as was the Mojito. Oh yeah.

Day 32 - I'm quite stingy. I usually wear my clothes until they're falling apart and refuse to buy new ones because I can't afford it. When I do splash out, I look for the cheapest things possible. My last coat had a gaping hole in it, the stuffing falling out, and after one attempt to stitch up the hole had failed I finally buckled and went shopping for a new coat. I forgot how nice it can feel to have a new item of clothing. I don't want to fuel any shopoholics' habits, but if you're like me and on some level you tell yourself that you don't deserve nice things, it could be good to treat yourself for once.

Day 33 - I met up with one of the people who responded to my life coaching advert. It was the first time I actually coached somebody in a pub (at least officially), and I found the experience very interesting! Hopefully he left with a few goals and a slightly clearer idea of what he wanted to do.

So, how is it going? I know it can get to the point where you feel exhausted with trying to think of new things to do, which is why my day 28 idea might help you out.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Something New Days 23-26:

Well, I'm getting a little better! On Sunday, day 23, I went to the cinema and saw Looper. It was pretty cool, and definitel y got me thinking. Unforunately I am a bit of a nerd and wasn't convinced that altering time would work quite in the same way that the film portrayed, but every sci-fi story has its own version of the rules!

Day 24 - I researched possible causes for my belly ache, and decided that I might be gluten intolerant. Turns out that the more likely explanation is that the antibiotics I was on made me ill, but I get these tummy pains quite a lot so I'm still looking into the gluten-free thing. I researched a lot, and bought some gluten-free bread. I'll be honest, it tasted a little like cardboard, although I've discovered that it's better toasted and covered in avocado!

Day 25 -Pondering ways to promote my blog and coaching business, I ventured over to and churned out an essay, subtly linking back to my blog. Let's hope it brings somebody over, at least!

Aaaand day 26, while browsing through information about South America (as I do) I discovered a lovely new blog - - I'm sharing it because I enjoyed how many resources it had, and how inspirational it is. The couple who run it sold everything they owned two years ago and set off travelling around the world, supposedly forever, making money from an internet business (and from the blog). I'd like to be able to do that, please! :)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Something New Days 20-22: Switching it up!

Well, despite being quite ill for the last few days, I've managed to do some new things!

Yeah yeah, so Thursday (day 20) was just "staying in bed all day" - not the first time I've ever done it, but definitely something different. If you're one of those people who finds it hard to just "do nothing", who can't forgive themselves for wasting valuable time when there are things to be done out there, then you'll understand how hard it was for me to let myself just be lazy and watch episodes of Glee all day! Heheh.

By Friday, I wasn't feeling much better, but was bored and hungry, so I decided to try a new recipe  again. I found this lovely vegan burger recipe at for sweet potato and white bean burgers, so I got going. It seems that Tesco is one of the only places in Prague that sells sweet potato, so I bought enough to last a while... it's quite easy, really. You bake the sweet potato for 45 minutes or so, skin it and mash it together with white beans, seasoning, and - as the recipe recommended - a little bit of agave (or maple syrup) and tahini. I added more flour than it recommended to keep the mixture together, and as I'd forgotten to buy breadcrumbs, we stuck a few slices in a blender and used that to coat it. Cover your patties in breadcrumbs and shallow fry them until they look crispy, and put on a bun with toppings of your choice - we tried ajvar (which is a spicy paste made with peppers that we discovered in Serbia) and avocado. The burgers did fall apart a bit but they were lovely!

Saturday, day 22 - despite feeling rough, Jeff and I decided to switch things up in our apartment and swap the location of our rooms. We have a bedroom and a living room (plus a tiny kitchen) but, just for the fun of it, we swapped them around! This took all day, of course, but it meant that I could throw away a lot of things that we didn't need, and now the place looks much tidier. A bit of furniture re-arranging can make your place feel like new!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Something New Days 13-19: Busy times!

Whew, hey guys - sorry that my update has taken so long! Let me give you a run-down...

Thursday (day 13) brought something I had been waiting for years to happen - new episodes of Red Dwarf! I have to admit it's my favourite show - perhaps not the funniest, now, but I started watching it when I was 10 or so, so it has always had a special place in my heart. I've even been to a convention and met the cast... too much nerdiness? Anyway, last year they filmed six new episodes (I watched one being filmed in London, too!), and on Thursday they finally aired the first one. It was better than I'd expected, and great to see something new from them.

Friday was the graduation party for my latest trainees (English teachers in Prague) so I joined them for their celebration. We went to a club I'd never been to before, which was quite cool.

Saturday - my fiancé persuaded me to come for a morning jog with him. I got into my sports gear and we ran (if you don't count the few times I had to slow to a walk) around 3km. I'm not in great shape, really, so it was quite hard - but I did feel good after it, so maybe it's something I can start doing a bit more often. Later that day, his best friend arrived in Prague (from the States), so I got to meet him at last, too!

Sunday we visited a restaurant in Prague that was new to me - a place with six of their own microbrewed beers.

Monday - I joined a Czech coupon website, where you pay £1 or so for a coupon that entitles you to 50% off at a selected restaurant. We bought three coupons for a curry place nearby, and tried it out. Very nice, too. Yes, there were a lot of restaurants, mostly because of the friend being in town.

Tuesday/Wednesday (today) - I burnt myself out. So, it hasn't been a good "something new" these past two days, as I sit here now with glands the size of golf balls and a hoarse whisper when I try to speak. Somehow I worked/partied too hard over the last few days, and now I'm paying for it. The Doctor (I wish I meant Mr Tennant in his TARDIS) says that I should stay in bed for a few days... so I'll have to cancel a lot of lessons, if I heed the advice. But even getting sick can be seen as positive, in a strange way - when you wear yourself out, your body will try to slow you down. It seems to me that other people can power on (working long hours and getting little sleep) a lot more effectively than I can, but everybody is different, so it's important to know your body and find a lifestyle that suits you. I'm certainly taking this as a lesson that I need to look after myself more carefully, and that sometimes "something new" can be as little as giving yourself space to breathe. So, now I'm going back to bed with Game of Thrones and a cup of honey and lemon tea...

How is it going for you guys? I've had a lot of nice comments, and the Facebook event makes me feel happy - it seems that this has inspired a few people to do new things, and one girl even told me that she's been happier since she started. I'm glad to have given people some ideas, anyway, and I hope that this grows and continues!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Something New Days 11 & 12: New bar and songs

Well, on Day 11 I finally had a beer at the bar under my house - you'd think I would have gone by now, but when things are so close we normally seem to ignore them, thinking "I can go any time". I finally decided to go, and while it was nothing special, I did get to see a little dog trying to navigate the spiral stairs, and the beer was nice enough.

Yesterday (Day 12) I learnt a new song with the choir that I joined - it was Trench Town Rock by Bob Marley! Pretty cool... even a bit of Patois in there (which I can kind of understand thanks to all the Jamaicans I met in Japan!). Always nice to learn a new song!

So, my ideas for you for today... learn a new song (so that you can sing it without looking at the words), or check out something that's very close to your house that you haven't got around to visiting yet!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Happiness Tips: Focusing on Now

What will I make for tea? What will my career be? What if it all goes wrong? What if the world comes to an end?

Did I make a mistake at work today? What did he mean when he said that? Have all of my relationships been like this? Could it have started during my childhood?

If you really stop and examine your thoughts, I'm willing to bet that most of them refer to the past or the future.

It seems almost strange to think about right now, this very moment, because even as you do it, your mind will draw comparisons from the past, references to pop culture, thoughts of the future. Try it now. Look around the room and try not to think about the past or the future at all.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Something New Days 9 & 10: Home-made pizza and sharing tables

On Sunday I decided to do something that I haven't done on my own before - make pizza from scratch! I used to make them in my university days, but always with someone else. This time, I tried it myself. It's very easy... flour, yeast, a touch of salt, sugar, olive oil, and lukewarm water in a bowl. The fun part is mixing it all together by hand - very sticky!! Then you leave the ball of dough for an hour or so to rise. After that, roll it all out and put on any toppings and whack it in the oven. I have to say, it was really good!! I probably made too much (and the accompanying salad was a bit overkill) but it was nice.

Today something "new" happened by chance - I sat at a table in a restaurant, by myself, and some other people asked if they could share the table with me. I suppose this is quite normal in busy places with big tables and small groups, but for some reason I can't see it happening in the UK or Japan, and it hasn't happened to me here (in the Czech Republic) before, either. Ideally I would have liked to strike up a conversation, but hey!

So, any new things going on with you? Why not ask a stranger if you can sit with them? It might freak them out, but you can smile to yourself. I've started nice conversations with strangers on trains and buses in the past, too... of course, your gut instinct should be able to tell you who to avoid!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Something New Days 7 & 8: Potluck and Pilsner

Well, Friday marked one of my first pot luck parties, believe it or not! I had been to one very nice one in Japan, but still, it had been a long time... so I made some guacamole (my "secret" is to mix it with sweet chilli sauce - beautiful!) and headed over. Some of the other food that I tried was delightful - hummus, some interesting things that I'd never had before, and a lot of vegetarian snacks!

Then, yesterday, Jeff and I went to the town of Plzeň, where Pilsner Urquell is made. It's only an hour from Prague (in you take the Student Agency bus from Zličin) and £3.30 or so, and as it's Student Agency you get free hot drinks and comfortable seats. There isn't so much to do in that town, and it was raining heavily, but we took the Pilsner brewery tour and got to learn all about how this beer is made. The most special part is that you get to try unfiltered Pilsner, straight from the big wooden barrel, while in a nice, cold, damp cellar. They don't actually sell non-filtered Pilsner outside of the town, so it's something quite special. They also make Gambrinus (and Kozel, Fenix, pretty much every good beer) and I tried the non-filtered version of that, too! It's quite fun to run tipsily through the pouring rain, too...

So, why not visit somewhere nearby that you've never actually been to? Or try something new to eat or drink, perhaps?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Something New Day 6: Reading about aliens...

OK, so for a while, my brother has urged me to read this - the story of a man who claims to have met aliens. His story was originally published as sci-fi, but later he 'admitted' that it was true. I finally decided to start reading it. I haven't finished yet, as it's a long story, but so far it's interesting...

Whether I believe it or not doesn't matter. I don't not believe it - after all, how can we say that it's  statistically probable that life does exist on other planets, yet instantly dismiss any stories about it? Of course, our gut instinct tell us that this man is lying, or crazy. And he might be. But, whatever the case, you can't deny that he has an amazing imagination. The level of detail made me forget that it might not be true for a while. Of course, I want it to be true, but even if it isn't, it made me think a lot about humanity and our attitude. Unless people driven by short-sighted greed, ego and hatred lose their power and we all start to live in a more loving and altruistic society (which actually cares about the future of the planet) then things don't look good for us. Have a read, if you're curious.

So, my suggestion for today is - challenge your own beliefs, read something that you normally wouldn't, or something that a friend has been suggesting that you read for a while.

Something New Day 5: New people, choir practice

Well, three weeks ago I did something very new - I joined a choir! The International Choir of Prague, in fact. Everything is done in English, the songs are fun and modern and pretty easy to sing, and they let me in - woo!  Last night was the third rehearsal with them, and I spent the evening talking to a lot of new people. I've also found out that over Hallowe'en (yes, I spell it like that!) weekend there'll be a "retreat" for singing and bonding somewhere in the Czech Republic. Very exciting!

I can't emphasise enough how much joy I get from singing - on my own at home, on quiet streets, in choirs, at karaoke. It doesn't mean that my voice is amazing or anything, but I feel that singing releases some kind of energy from inside me, that if I don't do it then it will build up... maybe that's how Maria Von Trapp felt? If that sounds at all familiar to you, then I urge you to make your Something New for the day something similar - join a choir, a theatre group, try karaoke for the first time, or just blast your favourite music while you do the housework and sing to your heart's content. Who cares if you're no Celine Dion? It's about expression! You could even look for a singing tutor and get a lesson as part of your new mission... be brave!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Something New Day 4: Coconut curry!

Well, to be fair, every day in the kitchen is a little bit of an adventure for me, as I don't have a list of set recipes that I follow. Usually it goes along the lines of rice/pasta/noodles, vegetables, maybe some meat, and a bunch of spices or sauce. Last night, though, I felt bored and uninspired by my latest dish, so I decided to do something I never do - to follow an internet recipe.

Actually, that failed, as I couldn't find half the ingredients - but I did go to the shops especially to buy things for a dish, which I never do (usually I try to use everything I have left - not always tasty!). The original recipe required lemongrass, limes and even apricots, but what I made was chicken with coconut milk and a variety of spices (plus lots of tomatoes and onion). Instead of rice, I used couscous. It was nice!

Another new thing that I did today was give advice on relationships during a life coaching session. I've normally dealt with things like "Should I quit my job?" "How can I start a new business?" or "How can I lose weight?", but this was new ground for me. Of course, I have plenty of ideas and I spent a couple of hours reading up on relationship coaching techniques, but for the first actual session using it I think it went quite well! If any of you are feeling brave and have any relationships that you want to work on (it could be your relationship with a family member, a friend or a co-worker), remember that I offer a 30 minute free coaching consultation over Skype - it's free and it will give you the chance to find out how I can help you make things a bit clearer! Email me here if you fancy adding "got life coaching" to your list of new things... [/shameless self advertising]

Monday, 24 September 2012

Something New Day 3: Walking with a Samoyed

Well, today's something new was a little unplanned! After cancelling my morning lessons (due to yesterday's sickness) I woke up around 10am - after 12 hours of sleep - and felt ready to take on a new day. I arrived at my 1pm lesson, a fairly new one, and after 45 minutes we were down to one student.

"Do you want to come with me while I walk the dog?" the student ask, seemingly wanting to kill two birds with one stone.

Actually, this wasn't totally new, as the week before a different student had invited me to walk around with his wolf hound while we chatted about everything under the sun. This was a different student, though, and in his office sat the most amazingly cute, fluffy dog ever. I'd never been up close and personal with a Samoyed before, but they are friendly, cuddly and beautiful, and I want a whole basket of them to play with. I don't have the time or space for a dog but... walking with one and petting it for a while was great!

So, if you have a dog, celebrate it by taking them for a special walk someplace new. If you don't, you could join a friend for a walk or just sit in the park and watch them. If dogs aren't your thing, then why not spend time revelling in the joy of any animal (or plant) that you like? You could even buy a goldfish... I still smile when I remember one day at university when Hermione and I spontaneously decided to drive to the pet shop and buy a tank and two fish. A while later we added some smaller fish.... sure, I'm pretty sure that one of the fish somehow ate the smaller ones, but it was nice while it lasted.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Something New Day 2: Hot baths and doing nothing

Well, as bad luck would have it, my body completely crashed before day 2 even dawned. From the moment I woke up, I've had excrutiating stomach cramps and back pain, which later turned into being unable to keep anything down. Yay!!

When you feel like that, it's hard to make yourself do anything, let alone anything new. In Czech, Sunday is Neděle - which literally means to do nothing. So, on the day of doing nothing, that is what I did.

Actually not my bath, but close enough...
Well, I also ran myself a steaming hot bath - being a quick shower kind of girl, I rarely let myself soak and relax. The heat did something to soothe the pain, but I still don't feel much like moving from my bed.

Sometimes we push ourselves too hard, and our bodies tell us to slow down by making us ill (hey - there IS science here - stress knocks your immune system for six). Last week was a lot busier than I've been used to - getting up at 6 or 7am and not getting home until 8 or 9pm - and I think I'm paying the price for it now.  I could have pushed through it and told myself it was fine, but today I let my body heal a little. Tomorrow, I'll be back at work, though...

So what did you do today?

Something New Day 1: Chalk drawings and new restaurant/bars

Well, as the first day of my Something New Every Day challenge, I felt pressured to do something BIG. What should it be? Naked parachute jumping? Playing with live tigers? Those thoughts did cross my mind, but after a few comments asking how one is supposed to fit something new into their schedule every day, I decided to keep things low-key.

It's Saturday, so I did have more time than I normally will - the rest of the week will be much smaller changes, and hopefully those will give you an idea of how small the "new things" can be.

Today, I started off by eating a lovely stawberry cake at a new café in Prague. Outside, I noticed a box of chalk with a comment saying "you can draw!" - so I drew a cat. Not a huge thing, but I'd never drawn a cat in a public space with chalk before, so... why not?

 After that, we headed to a festival that was going on - a lot of restaurants on Americká were advertising their food, as well as a lot of random stalls selling clothes, wine etc, music playing lots of children and dogs running around. Nothing was massively new there, although of course I'd never been to that particular festival before! Some of the stands talked about the rights of illegal immigrants in the Czech Republic, and it was very interesting and eye-opening to read about some of the awful conditions that some people live in.

We spent a bit of time in Maghnia Village, a cool shisha bar that sometimes even has live belly-dancing shows and always has nice teas. I tried Strawberry and Chocolate tea, which was interesting, although I don't think I'll repeat the experience. After that, we joined some friends for dinner at a place called the Hairy Ghost, where we had some nice pizza (well, I had a bunch of vegetables as my stomach wasn't feeling up for a lot of cheese). After that, we found a cool little bar with hardly any people, but three pianos. Jeff played some music for us, so perhaps performing in a bar can be his new thing for the day.

So, what about you? Did you manage to do something new or different? Even if you didn't try a new place, anything that's out of the ordinary or interesting is great. I've already had people tell me that they've tried ultimate Frisbee, planted spinach seeds and tried cooking some new dishes today. I'd love it if you commented below with your own!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Challenge: Something New Every Day

I've been thinking about this for a while, and it's time to finally start it!

Do you ever feel just bored of life? When every day is the same, nothing really surprises you, you drag yourself out of bed to face another predictable day?

What about those things that you'd like to do? Some of us are ashamed of our dreams. You might want to start your own business, quit your job and travel around the world for a year, change your image so drastically that it terrifies you. But something in your head tells you "You can't... not you. You're too young/old/poor/dull". Perhaps you secretly believe that excitement and success are for other people, but not you.

If you're happy living in an unhappy, limited world, then don't read any further. Go back to denying yourself the things that you deserve, and feeling bitter when you see people who aren't afraid to go and get them. But if you want to feel more confident in everything you do, more excited about waking up every day, then read on. Those big changes won't seem so scary when you've been making little changes every day for the last few months.

So what is the challenge?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Happiness Tips: Some News is Good News

This is the first of what I'm calling Happiness Tips - little changes that you can make to your life, bit by bit, in order to feel more positive, confident, capable and creative! When you're happy (and we're talking really happy on the inside, not the kind of cheap, temporary euphoria you might get for a few hours before plummeting back to feeling blue) you get more done, attract better people into your life, find solutions to problems more easily, become physically healthier and generally just make the world a better place for yourself and others.

Happiness Tip 1: Some News is Good News

There is no objective reality. We can watch scenes through cameras, but those are designed based on the way we filter information. Some animals can "see" pheromones, others communicate using dance (that's bees) - if we could sense everything, all at once, we wouldn't be able to cope. So our brains find patterns, label things to make it easier for us to get by from day to day. Take a look at the pictures below - what shapes do you see?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Happiness as the Ultimate Currency

Have you ever had one of those lovely little moments when something wonderful falls into your hands from seemingly nowhere? One a stroll through my old haunts in North Wales, I wandered into a charity shop and chanced upon a book called "Happier".

A simple, pleasing read, I spent a while contemplating after every insightful chapter, where the author makes complicated ideas sound so manageable. The thing that affected me most - the main vein running through the book - was a new way of looking at things. The idea that happiness, not money, is the Ultimate Currency.

As the author puts it - a business is evaluated on its financial profits and losses. A human being makes profits and losses, too, but whether we believe it or not, our ultimate currency is happiness. Thinking of happiness as the ultimate currency is not an entirely new spin on life - we already do trade in happiness, even if we don't realise it.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Why Travelling Isn't Just for the Rich or Retired

Sharing my holiday snaps online, I realise that I might sound a little like I'm bragging. Yes, I spent the last twelve days travelling around the Balkans in glorious weather. I swam in the Adriatic, visited a beautiful national park, enjoyed some wonderful seafood. But as I snorkelled through crystal clear water, chasing mischievous little fish and feeling the sun on my back, I realised something. Most people might never do this. Most people might never afford this... or at least, that's what they tell themselves.

How often do you dream of adventure and excitement, only to sigh and say "Well, I'll do it when I'm retired/when I win the Lottery/when I finally pay off my credit card bills".

Friday, 22 June 2012

Handing the Bad Days - We Can't Always be Happy!

When you're feeling down, reading someone's overly happy blog can be more irritating than helpful. I've been told that I'm "too happy". This is for anybody who thinks that, who finds it hard to feel good, or who believes that you need to in a great mood 24/7 to be "happy". 

Of COURSE I have down days. We're all human.  This week, I've been hit hard financially. It felt as if several forces were working together to bring me down, and my first reaction was not to smile and think of a way to solve it. I cried, I swore, and the world seemed to go a few shades darker.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Why Groups of Laughing, Happy People are So Bloody Annoying

What, you don't want to join us? (from
Janine sat alone, her music blasting into her ears through her headphones, her eyes focused on last-minute revision, but she could still hear them. Those peals of laughter, breaking through her music and drilling into her brain, insisting to be heard. Insisting that she know how much fun they were having while she sipped her luke-warm latte and tried to focus on the words between their dancing shadows. Glancing up, she saw them; all toothy laughs and blushing cheeks, perhaps not beautiful but confident enough to fool anybody, jumping and rolling around in the sun. She clenched her teeth. How annoying they were, these fools who had nothing better to do with their summer holidays than to play and laugh and drink and dance. How irritating. How lucky.

If you hadn't guessed, Janine is spending her summer working hard, while everybody around her seems to be having fun. Does her predicament sound familiar to you? Have you ever tried to enjoy a relaxing revision session in the park, only to be interrupted by some frisbee-playing maniacs? Are your ice cream café breaks turned sour by the sound of laughter from a nearby table? Do you find yourself feeling annoyed when a big, rowdy group disturbs your day?

Monday, 28 May 2012

Enjoying a Moment

Here's a little poem-type thing I jotted down recently...

You spend your life rushing from A to B,
Glued to your phone, never looking up.

Stop, listen to the sounds that surround you,
Pick out the voice of a happy child in a crowd,
The engine of a car that brings pride to its owner,
The leaves that rustle by on the wind,
A stream's gentle babbling in the background.

For one moment, stop sending those texts,
Stop flinging birds at pigs and look up
At the actual birds in the trees, hear them,
Watch the way a flower dances in the wind
And appreciate this planet that you're on.

The way that light casts shadows as your bus plods along,
Isn't that more interesting than cursing the traffic jam?
The feel of fresh grass between your fingers
Will heal your soul more than whining about the dirt.

Remove your eyes from that TV screen and actually taste your food -
Experience every flavour bursting in your mouth, the textures
And the smells, savour them all, feel gratitude for being alive.
Instead of trying to plan your next meeting, or arguing over text,
Or watching shows about real life, go and HAVE a real life.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Responsible, Authentic Adventures with Couchsurfing!

The Couchsurfing world map!

Part of what reminds me that there is magic in this world is meeting new, interesting and compassionate people. It can be easy to read about all the negativity in the news, to find examples of nasty people trolling online forums, or to find yourself surrounded by cynical, negative people who drain your energy and leave you with little faith in humanity. But I’ve found a lovely way to meet exciting, wonderful people, sometimes without leaving my own home – it’s called Couchsurfing.

Like many, I was cynical when I first heard the premise behind couchsurfing – a traveller in need of a place to stay crashes on your couch for the night, and in return you can stay at the houses of similarly altruistic people. There is no exchange of money involved – although some couchsurfers might bring gifts – it is an exchange based on kindness and curiosity.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Healthy, Tasty, Easy and Fun Vegan Cooking!

Yum - pumpkin soup! Make sure your pumpkin is soft (boil it)
then blend with water, veg stock, garlic and onions
Well, I'm not vegan, although I try to be for most of the week. Why? Well, it's healthier (a good way to have more energy, lose weight and clear up the skin, for starters), better for the environment, cheaper, and causes a lot less cruelty and suffering on its way to your plate. Plus it can taste amazing! For those of you who love a good steak (and believe me, I love my steaks, bacon sandwiches and chicken dishes too much to totally give them up... hey, some progress is better than none!), the word "vegan" might conjure up images of malnourished hippies sharing a cupful of lentils and leaves, but there is so much more to it than that. The meat and dairy industries are very powerful, their influence extending into our schools and media, convincing us that we can't live without their products. Well, take the time to meet a few vegans and you'll soon notice that they're still alive! Not only that, but a lot of the vegans I know have a healthy glow and look very healthy.For me, cooking vegan makes me feel as if I'm doing something good for the environment and for myself, and forces me to be creative - and hey!- it produces some delicious results.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

How to Make Sure You're Giving to the Right Charity

While self-improvement is all very well and good - no, great - it can often be seen from the outside as selfish. Well - I won't stand for that. Oh, no, with my life coaching! I encourage people to be conscientious, compassionate and well-informed about the world they're living in, while being smart about their own feelings and lifestyle at the same time. This is internal and external healing, people. I just don't believe that this world will improve if we are all wrapped in bubbles of egotism - so, while you're working on being true to yourself and creating your kick-ass life, take a look out at the world and think about what you can do to make it a little bit better. 

The first thing that came to my mind when I thought "helping others" was giving to charity, so that's what this entry is about! Whatever the reasons, whatever the circumstances - a phone plea, a charity raffle, a monthly subscription or attending a fundraiser - I'm sure that most of us have given some money to charity at some point or other. But how often do you do it? And what stops you from doing more of it?

One of the reasons I hear for not giving to charity is "I don't know where the money is going". I was especially surprised to hear this in Japan, after the March '11 earthquake, coming from some of my Japanese friends and co-workers - while millions of expats and overseas observers sent their donations in. It seems that donating to charity isn't as big a part of Japanese culture as it is over here, and knowing where they money goes is part of this.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

What Do I Really Want? (FREE E-BOOK)

Life presents us with many decisions, from what to have for dinner to which career path we want to spend our lives pursuing. Every day, we are bombarded with more and more choices, and  sometimes it can be too much.
Do you feel overwhelmed by possibilities? Or perhaps you can't think of a single thing that you actually want? In this book, I walk you through seven simple steps that will help you:
  • Clear away the "I should want" from the "I want"
  • Look more closely at why you want what you think you want
  • Work out your priorities and what truly makes you happy
  • Set clear steps towards achieving what you really want!
At its most effective accompanied by meditative music and your notebook, What do I really want? will leave you with a clearer, focused idea of where you want to be and how you can achieve it. And best of all? It's free! Just enter your email address below to receive it and to sign up to my newsletter, which contains regular free tips, links to good products and special offers!

Once you've joined my newsletter, you'll receive an email to confirm. Just click the link in there and you'll be good to go! I will send you the e-book within 24 hours of receiving your subscription. If you are already signed up, just email me to request your free copy!

Monday, 26 March 2012

How You're Putting Obstacles in Your Own Path
I was speaking to a client the other day, who had been fired from his latest job and was seriously considering leaving the entire teaching industry to pursue his true dream of being a freelance film maker, or perhaps to travel instead. He asked whether I had time to talk later, and then he said an interesting thing;

"I'll be busy this afternoon, I'm applying for some more (teaching) jobs."

My answer, according to him, changed his perspective. Now, it might seem like an obvious thing to ask, but it isn't always as clear when it's you in that situation:

"If you want to get out of teaching, why are you still applying for teaching jobs?"

Well... he didn't know. Perhaps it was out of habit - he had been applying for teaching jobs for so long that he hadn't noticed an inconsistency between his words and his actions. Perhaps he was afraid that his filming career would fail, and so sought the comfort of a "safety net" - the one thing that he already knew that he could do, something comfortable that would bring a consistent income. But, every time he had started a new teaching job, his dreams and plans had to be put on hold. Without realising it, perhaps he was trying to prevent himself from progressing; trying to throw obstacles into his own path.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

5 Steps for Making Exercise Fun

Borrowed from
"I should go to the gym...", "I need to lose weight", "I have to work out".
Does any of this sound familiar to you?

I'll be honest with you; I have joined four or five gyms and exercise classes in my time, each time thinking that paying a membership up front would force me to get off my arse and onto the treadmill. Even now, I find myself conveniently mapping out my day to give myself just not enough time to squeeze in an hour of exercise, and yet I know that I should go. 

If this sounds like you, then read on. You know that you want to fit into a smaller dress size, to tone up or just to feel healthier, and yet the thought of exercising is exhausting, scary, boring. Besides, you can always start tomorrow, right? 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Importance of Duvet Days

Hey, we've all had them. Lazy days, duvet days, whatever you want to call them. You snuggle up under the covers, stick on an old DVD, make a cup of tea and just catch up on your rest. And, if you're anything like me, you end up feeling guilty, lazy and like a waste of space.

This post is the brainchild of a midday nap (interrupted by a variety of builders, bulldozers, drills and noisy neighbours of all descriptions) on a day where I really couldn't feel motivated to doing anything. I wanted to write a blog post, but I couldn't think of anything. I wanted to read up on life coaching some more, but I didn't have the motivation. I started to chide myself, to give myself this old, bullshit inner dialogue that goes something like "You're wasting your day, you're not doing anything constructive, you're so lazy and disgusting!" - does that sound familiar?

Thursday, 8 March 2012

7 Tips for Managing your Time

What is time? 

To some, it's just numbers on a clock. To others, it's the boss that dictates their every waking moment. To many of us, it's a strange, mystical substance that we never seem to have enough of. Honestly, if I had a penny for every time I'd heard somebody confess to a secret ambition, fail to deliver what was expected of them or put off an event or task with "I just don't have time"... well, I'd have a whole load of pennies.

How often do you feel as if you just don't have the time to get everything done? How many times have you passed up an opportunity, postponed a goal that you really wanted to work on or just felt as if you were burning out because you just didn't have enough time? In this modern, fast-paced world, it seems to be something that we're becoming less and less adept at using. But think; what would you do if time didn't constrain you? What wonderful things would you be able to experience; what dreams would you start putting into action?

Monday, 5 March 2012

When it's OK to give up...

What? A life coach is telling me that it's OK to give up? Let me explain...

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and two of my friends took me skiing. It was my first time, while they were very experienced. I was nervous but they reassured me that I'd be fine. Well, surely I can't talk about making big changes and trying new things if I'm going to shy away from something like skiing! So, off we went.

So there I was in my sexy red ski pants, trying to walk in snow shoes. As I saw all those pros swerving down the mountains, I started to get nervous. I'd tried ice skating and roller blading, and while they assured me that it wasn't the same thing, I couldn't help but think I can't do things involving balance - what a negative, self-limiting belief! I just had to put it to the test and prove myself wrong!

New Beginnings...

So, here it is, my new blog, my new career path. I've gone from Psychology student to English teacher to (now) life coach. But don't worry, I have lots of lovely counselling experience behind me, and if you want English lessons I might find the time, too!

Big changes are scary, aren't they? It wasn't easy for me to pluck up the courage to actually start this up, believe me. From the moment that I knew that I wanted to set up my own practice, I found ways to put it off. Not that I regret my travels in Japan and Europe, of course - it is always amazing to meet new people and to see new places, to think of things in a different light. But that dream - the life coaching, the (one day!) hypnotherapy, NLP and holistic therapies that I want to bring to the world - hovered in the back of my mind, afraid of being realised.