About Haikugirl

Writer. Brit. Confirmed Japanophile. Kit Kat addict. Writing about Japan, England & travel.

Buy Nothing

Black Friday. A day when we are bombarded with special offers and discounts aimed at making us buy, buy, buy. But I choose not to. I choose to buy nothing.
In fact, I’ve made a drastic decision, and I’m telling you about it to make sure I stick to it.

I’m not going to buy any new clothes for a year.

The exception will be essentials – underwear and socks (should I need them) and shoes if they become irreparable (not just when I fancy a new pair). If I feel the need for a new outfit for an occasion, such as my friend’s wedding, I can buy something second-hand from a charity shop, but this must be justified.

I simply don’t need anything new. I have drawers and cupboards bursting full of clothing – I can’t even fit it all in. No one needs the amount of leggings I own! I’ve got into these really bad habits of picking up items of clothing here and there without thinking at all about the financial cost or the environmental impact, and I need to change my mindset.

Fast fashion is a real problem, and whilst it might be very nice and convenient to pick up a new top from Sainsbury’s along with my groceries, it’s only adding to the problem. And I don’t need it.

The one area where this is going to be particularly difficult for me is dance. Whilst I definitely don’t need any new dance shoes, every time I go to a salsa weekender or special event I like to feel like I have something new to wear. But you know what? I have a lot of nice clothes already, and I don’t need a new outfit every time I dance. If there’s a theme party and I don’t have a suitable costume, I’ll hit the charity shops rather than Amazon.

I hope I can succeed in this mission – a year without buying any new clothes. Here’s to a simpler 2020. A year of conscious and minimal purchases.

a year without buying clothes2

2019: The Year I Discovered I was a Vegan

Around this time last year I decided I was going to give Veganuary a go. Veganuary is a charity and a movement which encourages people to go vegan in January and supports them in their vegan journey throughout the month and if they choose to keep going. As a pescatarian and former vegetarian who hasn’t really eaten meat for the best part of 25 years, I planned to just go vegan for January and then go back to eggs and fish at least. Dairy I wouldn’t miss – it didn’t always agree with me anyway – but I didn’t really think I would be able to give up eggs and fish as they seemed so essential to my diet.Veganuary

My main reason for giving Veganuary a go was for the culinary adventure. I wanted to get back into cooking and try some new food, and I wanted to get out of some of my stale habits. There are lots of reasons one might choose a plant-based diet, and if the focus is to be plant-based rather than vegan, the reasoning is more likely to be health and diet. That being said, I ate a lot of amazing vegan junk food and cake in January, so I don’t want anyone reading this to think it’s all lentils and chickpeas! I also don’t want to give any wrong impression that veganism or choosing to eat plant-based is a ‘diet’ in the sense of it being a plan with which to lose weight. It’s not, although there can of course be fantastic health benefits to any change in what one chooses to eat, and cooking more from scratch and eating more vegetables and pulses can only be a good thing in terms of health.

Culinary Adventure

So, it was all about food to start with. I was excited by how big Veganuary was this year – all the supermarkets had lots of exciting new things to try, and of course there was the Gregg’s vegan sausage roll too!

Greggs

The Gregg’s vegan sausage roll – so many excited vegans across the country!

However, as the month went on I began reading, watching documentaries and educating myself, and I learnt more about the other reasons one might choose to be vegan. Of course, the main reasons are usually the environment and animal welfare. Although I’ve always been someone who likes animals and cares about the environment, I didn’t think eating a bit of fish and a few eggs were that big a deal. What did it matter if I put a bit of honey on my porridge or my shoes were made of leather? I never thought about the plastic my food and beauty products came in, and I certainly never checked to see if my products had been tested on animals or contained animal products such as lanolin and collagen.

Horses

A friend to the animals even at a young age…

But at some point early this year, perhaps even in the middle of January, just a couple of weeks into my vegan journey, I made a decision that this wasn’t going to be just a month-long experiment. It was like I took a good look inside and found a label that said ‘vegan’. It was a light bulb moment of ‘oh, this is what I should have been doing all along!’. I didn’t know I was a vegan, but suddenly it all made sense and I couldn’t imagine living any other way.

The definition of veganism according to the Vegan Society states:

“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

During my journey this year I have cut out all animal products from my diet. That was instant, and coming from being pescatarian I can honestly say it wasn’t difficult at all. I haven’t craved anything or missed anything really, and there have only been a few odd occasions where I have had trouble finding something to eat or have felt a bit left out. But, on the contrary, there have also been some lovely moments where I have felt so included; where friends or colleagues who aren’t vegan have made deliberate choices to provide a vegan option because they know I will be there, and that makes me so happy.

Making changes in other areas of my life is more of a process and not something that can happen overnight. As I use up a beauty product I try to replace it with something vegan, cruelty free and with as little plastic as possible. I’ve made the switch from bottles of shower gel to solid bars, and other products are slowly being switched over as I can. When I’ve needed to buy new clothes I have tried to look for vegan and sustainable options too – who knew a pair of trainers could be vegan! I just never thought about it before.

boots

Vegan boots from Vegetarian Shoes in Brighton

Above all else, this year has made me think so much. I just never considered whether it was right or wrong to use animal products, and I didn’t know about the exploitation of animals in order to provide us with everyday products like a pint of milk or an omelette. The environmental impact of eating meat and fish had never really occurred to me, and I was used to choosing the simple and fastest option, without thinking about how sustainable it was.

So, this was the year I discovered I was a vegan. I’m not writing this to preach at anyone else – you do you – but I do want the world to know I’m a vegan and I’m proud. I will continue to shout about it on Instagram, because I want people to see the delicious food a vegan can eat, to see how healthy I am (not protein deficient!) and to see the choices I make which make less of an environmental impact. Perhaps my choices can help to inspire another person’s choices, and that’s all I can ask.

Vegan

I know this blog has been silent for over a year, but I’m back! Watch this space for more adventures as I continue in search of my ikigai…

Making a splash…

I know, it’s been a while since I posted, but I started this year, and this blog, with the attitude of writing when I wanted to, and when I had something to say, so that’s what I’m doing.

I have something to share with you, but first a little story. Last time I posted, back in June, I had just attended a wellness brunch at my favourite cafe, Foundations. Not long after that I went on a whirlwind trip to Japan, and then just as I got back I attended another workshop, this time with the theme of Body Positivity and Food Freedom (more on that soon).

That workshop was my first glimpse into the world of Body Positivity, and as I left the cafe with this brand new concept spinning through my head, I happened upon a stall selling colour changing bikinis at the Bristol Harbour Festival. I wasn’t in the market for a bikini at all. In fact, this year, I had bought my first ever bikini (yes, at the age of 36), and yet still hadn’t had the nerve to wear it. I had always had the thought in my mind that “people like me” probably shouldn’t wear bikinis. That bikinis were for “skinny people with perfect bodies”, not “fatties” like me. That’s what I told myself.

So why did my attention get drawn to a stand selling bikinis? It was the poster that did it. Mermaid in England, it said, and what I saw on the poster was a group of beautiful, REAL women. Women like me. All shapes and sizes, colours, ages. REAL women wearing bikinis, proudly, happily. It was an image like this:

Mermaid in England

The image was like this, very similar, except this image above was taken only a few weeks ago… and I’m in it. That’s me, bottom left, punching the air with joy, having the time of my life with a group of amazing women, wearing an itsy bitsy, teenie weenie, colour changing red bikini!

You see, on that day at the Harbour Festival, I didn’t buy a bikini, but I had a chat with Antonia, the face behind Mermaid in England, and I put my name down on a list, just in case Antonia was ever looking for models in the future. But I still told myself it probably wouldn’t happen, and I would never have the nerve to wear a bikini for a photo shoot. People like me didn’t wear bikinis, certainly not in public. That’s what I thought anyway…

But you know what? People like me do wear bikinis. And people like you. In fact, this myth of the “bikini body” is no more real than an actual mermaid. It’s time to love ourselves in the bodies we’re in. You only get one life, one body, one chance. Make the most of what you’ve got, look after it. Don’t hate your legs for a bit of cellulite – be grateful that they help you to run and dance. I’m not saying it’s easy, and believe me I’m still going through this process of learning to love myself, but let’s try. ❤

Links

Mermaid in England

Viktoria Kuti Photography

Wild Thing Design

English Rose Makeup

Shari Knowles Makeup

Weekend Wellness

After a bit of a rubbish week it would have been so easy to take my grumpiness into the weekend. I’ve been feeling stressed out and overloaded, and it’s at times like this that I usually turn to comfort food and spending my time in a way that doesn’t really benefit my health. But not today. Today I chose to start my day with a Wellness Brunch at my favourite Bristol cafe, Foundations.

Although the event was taking place in a space in which I felt comfortable, and I knew I would know at least one person there, attending an event like this was still a little bit out of my comfort zone. But, as I learnt today, sometimes it does us good to step just a little way out of our comfort zones and into our ‘stretch zones’; it’s good to push the limits a little bit.

I hoped to find myself in a room of like minded individuals wanting to think about health and wellness, and I knew that if nothing else, at the end there would be waffles.

Foundations protein waffles

Waffley good.

As it turned out, there was so much more than waffles!

Cat Taylor of Nudge Yourself was brilliant. She ran the event with a perfect balance of looking inward and looking forward, laughter and mindfulness, breathing and punching. Yes, there was boxing, and there was also drawing with pencil crayons. What better way to start the weekend?

We thought about happiness more than anything else, and what it takes to achieve this.

There is no path to happiness

One of my favourite happiness quotes

After the workshop, boxing gloves off and pencil crayons down, we enjoyed a healthy brunch and had a good old chat. I met some lovely women – really interesting people, all very much on the same wavelength. We talked about journeys, and it was inspiring to hear other people’s stories and to meet some strong women, following their passions, trying to live their best possible lives.

Because that’s all we can do really, isn’t it? Live each day in the best possible way, get up when we fall down, and just BE HAPPY.

Be Your Greatest

“Be your greatest” was the tagline of the Simply Health Great Bristol 10k which I took part in today, and it certainly stayed in my mind the whole way through.

2018-05-13 10.00.12

This was my first 10k and I had no idea what to expect. I knew that if worst came to worst I could definitely walk it, so my goal for the whole thing was to simply finish. In the lead up to the event lots of people asked me what my goal time was and I honestly had no idea, so I just told them my goal was to have fun and to cross the finish line in one piece. I had only run up to about 7k in my training, so I really didn’t know how long 10k would take. In the back of my mind I knew I wouldn’t complete it in under an hour, but I hoped for under and hour and a half.

I made it in 1 hour and 4 minutes. #thrilled! 😀

2018-05-13-15-16-50.jpg

But, more importantly than the time it took, I had fun! I loved it, although I’m not saying it was easy. The cheering crowds, young and old, as we ran by, signs saying “good luck total stranger” and “you got this”, people calling out your name even though they didn’t know you from Adam. Drummers drummed, music played, and the sun shone on this beautiful city.

Today I was my greatest, and it felt… GREAT! I ran for me, simply to see if I could, and you know what? I think I might quite like this running malarkey! In my post-run madness I’ve come home and signed up for the Great Bristol Half Marathon in September…

 

Leading Lady

One of the things I love about dancing, although it took me a long time to get used to it, is following. I like that there is one part of my life in which I am not in charge and I don’t have to make decisions. I like the old fashioned idea of men asking women to dance, although I’m not averse to doing the asking. I like the idea of being swept off my feet by a handsome man… (hey, a girl can dream!).

On the social dance floor the majority of people will be dancing in male-female couples with the man leading. But you do see female-female couples and (less often) male-male couples. I have a few good friends who really enjoy switching roles, and I know a number of women who lead very well and men who follow very well (some with way better female styling than me!).

So far in my dancing life (which is still less than three years), I’ve not been keen on leading. I have a lot to learn as a follower, and I haven’t felt the need to lead. Until recently. I took a kizomba class not long ago where, for a warm-up exercise, we switched roles. At first I wasn’t keen, but I actually found I enjoyed the experience. And this led me to think that maybe I should give leading a go…

So I’ve started taking beginner’s salsa classes ‘as a boy’, and it’s challenging! Switching everything around to the other side, thinking ahead and working out a move, leading the girl to go where you want her to – it’s hard! But it’s also fascinating. I’ve learnt a lot about myself as a follower so far, which I hadn’t expected. I can see how annoying it is for the lead if the follower leads themselves, or moves around too much – it can be like trying to catch a flapping bird.

So ladies, followers, remember what all your good teachers have probably said to you a thousand times: don’t lead yourself, and if he doesn’t lead you, don’t go! The leads will never learn how to lead you properly if you do.

Acceptance on the social dance floor is a lovely thing. It’s great to be in an environment where everyone can dance with anyone, and when people stop and stare it’s just because you’re doing something awesome.

Kizomba with Charlotte

Sisters doing it for themselves

Connection

I’ve been thinking a lot about connection, both on and off the dance floor. In life, aren’t we all just searching for a connection? Searching for someone who is on the same page as us, someone who gets us?

And yet sometimes it feels like we’re not even reading the same book, let alone on the same page.

On the dance floor it should be easy to make connections. We are all dancing to the same tune, after all (in theory!). But a true connection is a rare thing.

Kizomba (one of the many different dances I now do) has taught me a lot about connection, which I try to bring into all of my dance. In kizomba the follower (usually the girl in a male/female pair) often closes her eyes to better feel the lead and in turn make a deeper connection. It sometimes amazes me that my body knows what to do and where to go with just the subtlest of touches, and that I can understand a lead often from someone I’ve never even met before without any verbal communication.

In all dance my aim is to connect both with the music and with my partner. Whether it’s a fun, fast salsa with a cheeky lead or a slow, sensual bachata or kizomba full of emotion, what’s the point in dancing if you don’t connect? In my mind, you might as well be dancing alone if you are not connected when you are dancing with your partner.

Leads need to be aware of the space around them when dancing, but if the lead spends more time looking around than he does looking at his follower the connection will be lost. I’ve had whole dances where the guy has barely looked at me, perhaps through nerves or inexperience, and it doesn’t make for a great dance. I’m not asking for constant eye contact – that would be creepy – but a good mixture of eye contact and generally looking at each other in order to connect is important for me in most dances.

In fact, this is something I would say is important in most day-to-day interactions. I don’t expect deep eye contact (or deep connections) with most people I interact with daily, but if the person serving you in the shop seems disinterested and barely looks at you, or if your colleague does’t have time to smile in your direction, that makes for a pretty lonely day.

Of course, in kizomba you don’t have the eye contact to make a connection with, so you have to connect in other ways (chest connection is the main thing, but it’s more than just being physically close to someone). In a good kizomba dance I feel like I’m dancing in a bubble, just me and the guy, connected as one moving object drifting around the dance floor. That’s what I’m looking for in all dances.

But this dance floor connection doesn’t have to be any more than that. I have found that it can be possible to have an amazing connection with someone when the time and the music is just right, and never even get to know their name or see them again. It’s sometimes simply about sharing a moment.

So what about off the dance floor? Connections made whilst dancing can be difficult to interpret, and sadly might not exist once the music stops. That’s where things get difficult. You can find yourself thinking, “but we had such a great connection…” and wondering why what you had whilst dancing simply doesn’t exist elsewhere.

I’ve made some of my very best friends on the dance floor, and met some of my favourite people in the world, but I’ve also had a lot of single moments of connection with people I may never see again. Connection can be brief and fleeting, but that doesn’t mean it has any less value than those connections which last a lifetime.

So are we all just looking for a connection? Yes, I believe we are. Whether on the dance floor or off it, finding connections with people, whether in friendship, romance or something else, seems to be a vital part of this thing we call life.