Christmas Traditions

Hey there!

I am having one of those moments right now where you realize Christmas is only 4 weeks away. I know everyone says this and it sounds clichéd but seriously – where did the year go!!

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Not that my Christmas is very festive this year. Being in Korea means you need to come up with some new traditions, in addition to doing your best to recreate the old. I know my favorite parts of the day such as hanging with my family and eating dad’s trifle and fresh strawberries wont be happening. As a big Christmas day nerd I have been pumping the music, baking and watching every movie imaginable to get into the spirit. It is fantastic, but at the same time I do realize that you can’t recreate the same experience you have back at home. Last time I was here I was invited to a co-workers apartment where we ate food and met some of his other friends. It was nice, but too be honest I didn’t know them that well and the day was a little awkward. We ate good food, yes, but in my traditional mind it just wasn’t the ‘right’ Christmas day food with the ‘right’ kind of activities.  This year we are planning on making new Christmas day memories and not going to force the old ones by hanging with strangers. While this can be nice, I am looking forward to doing something new and spending the day just me and my fiancé. So Christmas day morning we will be flying to Japan!!!

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I heart Japan. I studied the language for 5 years and our first trip away together was to the country in December/January when we were 19. Neither of us thought we would return, let alone be in the country for new years again! I am so excited, although a little disappointed my meal will probably consist of something like ramen as we land at 10:30am and have to train and whatnot to the hotel.

new years day in Japan was a little quiet...

new years day in Japan was a little quiet…


Despite this, I am learning that Christmas is what you make of it. These holidays can be really tough when you aren’t with your family or in the usual surroundings, but it is part of growing up. As we get older and meet new people, we get to start our own traditions with these new families. Who knows, in ten years time I might be sitting down to my customary Christmas meal of ramen and sushi.

 

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eats, eats, eats

Hey there

How’s your weekend going? Hopefully much warmer then it is here!

I thought I would give a little update of what my diet has been lately. I have been trying to eat a lot of veggies to ward of any winter colds and trying to eat less sugar as care package from have are arriving and they are filled with dangerous treats. So most of my lunches have looked like this.

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Delicious giant salad with pumpkin and cranberries- winning combo.

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And rice crackers with marmite and mozerella on the side, crazy amazing.

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I have been eating a lot of my favorite Korean dish lately, bibimbap! If you don’t know about this it is basically rice with different veggies on top, hot sauce and an egg. You mix it all together to make a tasty hot eggy rice bowl. So good!
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School lunches have sucked as usual. Some shredded potato, boiled peanuts and rice.

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Tofu! and rice.

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mung beans and rice.

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sautéed spinach and rice. Always the rice and some vegetable, but I do bring a lot of food and snacks. Some are probably wondering why I just don’t bring my own lunch, but the complexities of a Korean school lunch are serious. It is very offensive to not eat the free lunch provided, even if it does mean all you can actually eat is rice. It would be very offensive to the cook and school if I didn’t eat anything so I find eating a little then bringing the rest of my meal is working out okay.

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I have been pounding back these soy cream latte too. As you can see from the above meals I have been eating more dairy and eggs lately, I go through weird phrases with non-vegan food like this. Sometimes I go months without any, then I have weeks where I am eating an animal product every couple of days or so. It is weird and I often feel confused and guilty about, but I have never labeled myself as a strict vegan for this reason. When it comes to milk, however, I have issues with the stuff from cows so always chose soy. Plus this latte is amazing and have ground almonds through it which gives it a really different taste.

Right now I am off to make some hummus and meals for the week. Just the usual busy Sunday!

Sleep vs Exercise

Every morning my alarm goes off I have an internal battle. My body is engulfed by a cozy blanket and it does not want to get up. My instinct is to roll over and hit snooze on the alarm for another 40 minutes because my body is telling me that bed is awesome. There is another side, however, which starts to think about the workout I planned on doing this morning. It remembers the way I carefully got my workout clothes ready and debates how crappy I will feel if I miss the exercise. Usually this side wins and I drag myself out of bed but never regret it.

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There are some days though were I seriously wonder what is better for weight loss and my overall health – sleep or exercise? We all have those nights where we just can’t sleep for whatever reason, and in the mornings afterwards getting up a little bit early really does throw us off. While it may be hard to know knowing that your gym clothes are sitting by the door waiting, it does come down to one thing, sleep and exercise are equally as important.

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I feel like we can be our own worst enemies as we push ourselves to the limits and often work our bodies into an over-tired state. I know I am guilty of getting caught up in the guilt of skipping a day, thinking that it will magically make me gain weight overnight. While it is hard, we need to force ourselves to take rest days, they are such an important part of being healthy. Rest days gives your muscles a chance to change and grow stronger, as well as giving you mental break from the work. Sleep is when our bodies change their composition and grow stronger, missing it to get in a few extra kilometers or weights is not going to do your hard work any favors.
Countless studies show that when our bodies are tired it slows down our metabolisms and we hold on to fat much more easier. This comes down to two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which regulate our appetite. Ghrelin is produced by your stomach, leptin by fat cells; and they work together to tell your body when it is full and satisfied. If you aren’t getting enough sleep the these hormones are going to e out of whack and your ability to resist snacking on sugar and junk is weakened. I am sure you have noticed that having a bad nights sleep results in some bad cravings the next day!
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Sleeping is also good for our mental approach to exercise. If we are dragging ourselves out of bed and being pushed to the limits, chances are you are going to develop some negative feelings. It can be really frustrating to fall out of love (or like) with something you enjoy and is so important to your health. If you are really dreading that early morning wakeup, re-evaluate how often you are working out each week. If you aren’t taking 1-2 rest days, now is the time to start.
Basically, being overtired means that your workout may be a little counter-productive. not only does it affect how your body changes and grows stronger, but it also affects your diet and healthy eating mindset. If you are working yourself into overdrive like this because you are worried that missing a day will un-do all of the good work you have done you really do need to force yourself to stop.  

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Next time you are unsure about sleeping or working out, think seriously. How much exercise have you already done this week? Chances are this is a once off and skipping a morning isn’t a regular occurence for you. Take a look at how many hours sleep you have been getting and if it hasn’t been the recommended 8 a night for a few days then sleep is probably more beneficial then a tired, half-assed workout.
At the end of the day it is simple, sleep, exercise and eat well to be a healthy person. Our bodies are good at telling us what they need, you just need to listen.

Staying Cosy (and a little bit sweaty)

Ahh what a crazy weekend! As expected it was busy but instead of feeling tired today I really have a great feeling of satisfaction – I got a lot done and it feels good.

Not to mention Saturday started with a dark hot chocolate espresso, ahhh-mazing!
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Saturday, however, the zumbathon did not happen for me. I was set up to help out with a charity speed dating that night and the plan was to go from zumba to the event but there was a minor hitch. The lovely girl who runs the charity (Daegu’s Time To Give, works with orphanages in the city), was attacked Friday night by a drunk US army soldier. I don’t want to judge the entire army of this one person, but the problem with being in a country like Korea is that you are representing where you are from in everything you do. What he did was awful and totally unprovoked, not to mention pushing around a girl who is much younger and smaller then you is just pathetic. Anyway let’s now get stuck on a rant (there was a lot of that this weekend). I ended up having to run the whole event which meant I gave zumba a miss in order to get everything ready.

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Instead I went out for a coffee, made xmas cookies and had a little shop for some winter things. It turns out finding non-cute scarfs and hats may be difficult.

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Oh Korea.

I didn’t find a thing, but came home to make cookies which cheered me up. Cookies and hot chocolate for lunch – living the dream!

I was supposed to have two guys from the charity helping me set up the speed dating, but both of them missed trains and were super late. I went to the club where it was being held, got all the chairs and sign up list ready and then had a small panic attack as every single person decided to show up at once. All of the money in the entrance fee was going towards Christmas presents for kids in the orphanages, but we managed to swing some free shots from the club in there. Of course everybody was asking about their shots but the guy running late had the vouchers for them (plus the name tags and table numbers) so I had to stand there telling people just to wait for the liquid courage. I was smiling nicely and chatting away between sending ‘hurrythef*ckup’ texts. Luckily my helpers turned up, the event begun and went perfectly. People seemed to be having fun, I got free tequila from the bar for being in charge, and we raised half a grand for the orphanages. Success!

This was big deal for me because come Feb I will be in charge of this charity so I felt like Saturday night was a test. I feel like I dealt with all the crappy things that seemed to happen and everyone had fun. Next year I am going to rock this thang.

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Sunday I had boot camp and decided to go to the free belly dancing class offered before hand. Not because I am good at that, but I just thought it would be fun to try. Umm it was not.

Belly dancing in hard! And the instructor kind of made me feel like an idiot for not getting it. I don’t think I will go back, but I gave it a go and the boot camp afterwards was awesome and sweaty. I spent the rest of the afternoon doing housework and chilling with my kindle.

So how was your weekend? Can you believe it is already heading to the end of November, ahhhh 2013 you went way too fast for my liking. Have a lovely Monday 🙂

 

Chocolate Caramel Christmas Cookies!

It is never too early to start Christmas cookie baking.

It is especially never too early to turn up the Christmas tunes so you can sing and dance while making delicious cookies.

And if you do feel the need to indulge in the spirit, then these are the cookies you should bake.

 
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Perfectly soft, melt-in-your-mouth pillow with a surprise chewy caramel on top, these babies are irresistible. Make them with the intention to share, but don’t be surprised if they don’t make it through the night.


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It’s not too early… Chocolate Caramel Christmas Cookies

Ingredients

– 2/3 cups of softened butter or vegan replacement spread.

– 1/2 cup of sugar

– 1/4 cup cocoa powder

– 1/4 tsp baking soda

– pinch of salt

– 1 egg

– 1tsp of vanilla

– 1 and 1/4 cup of all purpose flour

– 20 small pieces of caramel. I bought a few caramels and just cut them into smaller pieces.

 

The Steps

– Beat butter until soft, add sugar cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.

– Beat in egg and vanilla until just combined.

– Mix in flour slowly. You should be able to tell when it is at a good cookie consistency, add a little more flour if needed to refrigerate for an hour to firm up if needed.

– Roll into balls and press a piece of caramel into the center.

– Bake at 180degrees for around 7 minutes or until the edges are firm. These will be soft so let them sit for a minute or two before taking them off the baking tray.

Yum! They are particularly tasty paired with a mug of hot chocolate.
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If you do want to veganise them you can sub the egg for 1/2 a mashed banana or 1/4cup of vegan yoghurt, and the butter for 1/3 cup of oil. Just note that the banana will change the taste a little.

Merry Christmas!!

 

Things I’m Loving this Weekend

Heya hope you had a lovely week. Mine was a bit of a bummer due to a tummy bug that was going around the kindergarten. Think bad stomach pains and no appetite, not fun. But I think it is better now, and I hope it is as this weekend is crazy busy! Anyway that aside here are some things I am loving right now.

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Skinfood peeling gel. I don’t need to harp on about how amazing Korean skincare products are, but this was a new one for me. My skin gets really dry in winter so I picked up this last night to try out – ohmygoodness! It is a gel you rub on that exfoliates your skin (sorry for the grossness of that, but who doesn’t feel good after exfoliating). The amount of skin it removed was crazy and today my face feels so beautiful and soft. Best of all it was only $9 and is so good that I think I will only need to use it twice a week.

New classes. A café downtown has been offering new workout classes like yoga, belly dancing and boot camp on the rooftop every weekend. It is so good to have some new activities to try, and even better doing them with a group.

Oats!! My summer breakfast of chia pudding has been overshadowed by oats. I have been rocking overnight oats with spinach, cocoa and peanut butter pretty much every night this week. Today I changed it up and made stove top with cinnamon and pb, delicious!

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Winter clothes. Not big bulky coats but lovely soft, snuggly cardigans and wraps. Sometimes I feel like I am just wearing pjs to work because I am so wrapped up in soft winter clothes and it is a nice feeling.

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Winter nail colours. I paint my nails obsessively after years of working a job where it was forbidden. The stores are now getting in all their winter shades and I picked up this pretty red and a gold, lush.

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Christmas of course! I love the music, movies and decorations. Right now the best feeling is sitting in a café with a warm coffee and cheesy music playing. When it comes to xmas I love the hype and build up around it.

Have a great weekend! I am off to a zumbathon followed by a charity speed dating event, it is going to be a long day 😀

Weekend

You know what makes a Monday morning just that little bit worse? When you spill all of your coffee and breakfast down your skirt just as you’re about to sit down to eat. Fantastic.

A morning mishap which resulted in my choosing between making more coffee or more food – coffee won.

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My weekend ended up being a little busier than I had imagined. I went downtown to buy some clothes/have a coffee date and do groceries which sounded nice but turned out being stressfull as hell. I blame the coffee shop. In an attempt to be adventurous and try somewhere new we went to a place that I know sells Americanos with a shot of whatever flavor syrup you like, it is tasty without all the calories of a flavored latte. We ordered a drink and a sandwich then sat down for the longest wait ever. Seriously Korea how long does it take to make a sandwich!!!

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Cafes here are really about having a drink and spending time with another person, not like back home where you meet up for lunch or afternoon tea and spend around an hour in the place. Koreans on the other hand will spend an entire day sitting in a couch just talking, playing on their phones or sleeping. Maybe this is why there was no rush, but we waited 40 minutes for the damn coffee and sammie. When it arrived I felt like a big chunk of the day had been lost as I wanted to spend the afternoon relaxing. After deciding to take the coffees with us clothes shopping we pushed past the huge crowd of people to the end of the street where the shops with foreign sizes were. And it was madness.

So many people decided to go clothes shopping on Saturday – rage! I quickly found a couple of cardigans, and tried on some pants (which I really need so of course they were all awful) then we bailed and went to do groceries. When having a bad day food really makes me happier, especially when I find babies like these…

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Dark chocolate with pomegranate, blueberries or goji berries, I had to try them all.

The rest of the day was spent skyping and watching the Karate Kid (the fiancée had a MMA tournament yesterday and I thought it would be motivating, it was). Sunday I slept in and went to boot camp downtown. I felt so unmotivated to go but being involved in a group like that makes it way harder to back out, if you have trouble staying motivated then I recommend joining something like this! The workout was awesome of course and I came home to eat, cook for the week and do some yoga. As you can see it was a busy weekend, but not too bad.

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Dry November has been going well, I have had one drink and it was a class of champagne last night. Fiancee had been on a diet for the past month due to the fight and having to cut weight. He gave up everything sugary and all alcohol so we felt the need to celebrate his medal and end of this restrictive diet. I didn’t enjoy the drink that much, maybe because it made me want to snack like a crazy person. Then this morning I woke up feeling groggy and gross. I do think it was just because champagne seems to dehydrate me more then other alcohol, but it did make me want to focus more on the alcohol free challenge.

So how was your weekend? I hope it was lovely and relaxing, and didn’t end with a kitchen disaster on Monday morning 😀

Clumsy

I have been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. Not because I have super cool plans, but because I have none. Other then going to boot camp tomorrow I have absolutely nothing going on for two days and it is a fabulous feeling. My mind and body need a break from the world and I have some new books on my kindle which need attending too.

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In keeping with my running goal, I managed to pack in more then usual and ran 4k on Thursday and 6k Friday. It wasn’t too difficult but today my leggies are feeling it! I woke up stiff and snuck in a yoga for runners workout which helped a little. Recently I have changed from running in the morning to the evening and it has meant I can run much longer and am enjoying it much more. Because of the cold I debated wearing a mask like all the Koreans do when they are out in the park, I thought I looked like too much of a ninja though and would scare people.

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Running late also means that I eat dinner at 9ish and by then I am so hungry that I turn a little crazy. Last night I went out to buy some groceries after my run and got so excited looking at all the food and possibilities, but was also torn between the desire for roast vegetables and the need to eat right now. I ended up quickly heating some veggies and mixing in laughing cow cheese and balsamic vinegar. I had this with marmite on a rye bread roll and it was just foodgasmic.

After todays yoga I had some overnight oats for breakfast (they are overtaking my love for chia pudding) and began what can only be described as a fail of a morning. First I opened up the milk and it someone exploded all over the kitchen – how does that even happen!! Then I dropped my beautiful new eyeshadow on the floor and it managed to crack and go EVERYWHERE. Such a pain in the ass!! It took forever to clean and has left purple smears everywhere, despite the large amount of eye makeup remover that I used. I tried to console myself with breakfast but my oats must have had too much liquid because they were way too runny and tasteless. Ahhh what a terrible start to my relaxing weekend!

having these on my feet speeds up the relaxation process

having these on my feet speeds up the relaxation process


Random side note, I am a huge Christmas dork and have been downloading my Christmas tunes like it is the day itself. I love the build to the holiday, all the decorations, movies and cheesy music. Tomorrow I will be beginning some Christmas baking in the form of peanut butter and chocolate cookies, lets hope my tiny toaster oven doesn’t crap out on me like it has been known to.

The rest of today will be spent with a good coffee and some reading in the park.
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Enjoy your weekend 😀

Punching the New Year in the face

Ahh autumn you are so pretty.

 
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I love the crisp air and crunchy leaves, not to mention the fashion. It is lovely rocking out scarves, boots and cardigans before it gets too cold and all our style is bundled up. We had yet another field trip today to a greenhouse which was pretty casual and involved a lot of leaf playing.

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I spent the afternoon teaching and cleaning out the teachers room (so.many.flashcards.) before coming home to sneak in my workout and relaxing. Dinner was weird as I could not be bothered cooking.

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I roasted some tomatoes and garlic then mixed in lettuce to attempt to make it a salad. Had a bowl of kumara and ginger soup then an apple with peanut butter on the side. Random but delicious 🙂

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Being a little nerdy, I like to make lists and set little goals for myself. I love having a clean page of paper, making my little list and slowly checking things off on it. Yup total dork, but it is so satisfying when you see yourself achieve goals or even just get tiny little jobs done. Despite this, I am not a fan of new years resolutions. I think it places too much stress on an individual and waiting around until the new year to make them means that people tend to slack off in December. It is too easy to fall into that mind set of ‘oh I can eat this now and skip this workout because it is the holidays and new years will be a new start.’ So instead I tend to begin new projects in November/December. This way I feel like by the time new years rolls around I already had a strong grasp on the next year. Rather then slowly creeping into it, I embrace the year and kick it in the face.

Last year I began running in December and it felt really awesome going for a run on new years eve and already seeing some progress. This year I have been thinking about how running has been a big change in my life and has opened up new doors and a new lifestyle too me. It has made me so much healthier and happier, I am even considering becoming a personal training when I return to NZ (a crazy in the air idea right now). One of my goals had been to run a 5k but unfortunately that did not materialize. There was a race when we first arrived in Korea but it was only a couple of weeks after we got here and I was unsure if training wise I could do that, and I have allowed other opportunities to slip through my fingers.
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So with this in mind I am setting myself a goal for March of next year. I want will run the Daegu half marathon.

Yeah you read that right. Not a 5k but a HALF! That’s a lot and I am so nervous but also excited. I am always challenging and pushing myself, and have already completed fitness goals which I never dreamed were possible. I guess it is almost a test of myself. A test of the confidence I have in my mind and body, a test of what I can do if I put my mind to it, and a test of overall faith. I see this as a huge milestone, if I make it then I know I can become a personal trainer, that I can overcome every damn difficult thing that crops up in my life – exercise related or not.

. For now I will begin training towards a 10k which I aim to be able to run by the new years, then I will start on the half training. Taking it one day at a time is my motto right now!

 

Dry November Challenge

Hey there

Hope you had a fabulous weekend. Mine was busy as we had to go up to Seoul to visit a friend from back home (I say ‘had to’ like it is a chore, really I should not be complaining!) We haven’t seen this person in over two years so it was so good to catch up. As our friend is Korean he was here visiting family and was able to show us his old neighborhood.
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It was one of those surreal moments as we spent so much time together in NZ and I never thought I would be in Korea, let alone being shown his old high school. So a good relaxing weekend full of delicious bibimbap from a traditional restaurant, and a few drinks.
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Okay a lot. It is pretty common in Korea to go out and buy a bottle of whatever you are drinking for the table. It is pretty cheap, and generally a bottle of something like vodka will coast $40 but come with some free mixers and snacks. We did just that, splurging on a bottle of Canadian Club (there were nostalgic reasons to this), which came with nachos and lemonade.

The nachos were a joke, just corn chips with cheese slices on half of them – Korea just misses the ball sometimes. We drank and laughed, but surprisingly I feel pretty good today.

After catching the train home, going to book club and cooking up a delicious vegetable soup for dinner, I am doing my usual Sunday night wind-down. This usually involves going through my mini-goals for the week, but today I feel like making a larger one. I have mentioned before that I don’t drink much, and to be honest compared to how I was in my younger days I am pretty good.
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Right now though I have a pattern of Friday night going out for one or two and then having a few more on Saturday. I never get drunk or messed up, but as I have been constantly sick for the past month and trying to focus more on my health I have decided to cut back for a bit.

My challenge is to not have any alcohol for the remainder of November. It may sound silly but I want to remind myself that I don’t need to drink to relax, while seeing if it helps my health at all. Plus we are going to Japan soon and I could use the extra dollars.

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Is there anything in your life that you wish you could cut back on? Why not join me in your own challenge, even If it is just for a week or the whole month. Fine some new things that make you happy in life and focus on being a healthier you 😀