Audit, Analyse, Attack!

Today is not a significant day. I am not celebrating any special occasion, it is not my birthday (sadly) but as I sit in front of my laptop, I am inspired by a quote I read recently on Twitter:

If you aren’t seeing the progress in your life that you want, then take the initiative to audit your life, analyse your daily habits and actions, and reassess your goals as necessary, this winning in life thing takes deliberate effort, it doesn’t just magically happen.

I am slap bang in the middle of a study I am part of at work… I say slap-bang but it feels like I have just started. If you follow me on Instagram…why would you not? You will have seen my updates on the dried blood spot specimens I am collecting. The tally stands at 16…only 384 more to go. My workweek is spent travelling to hospitals that are a stretch to get to. I sometimes get home feeling as though I have given the best of me to the earlier part of my day. It is rewarding work but it is also hard work.

Lately while taking internal stock (something we should all do,) I realised that more than my workload, my mind-set was what was leaving me more fatigued than I needed to be. I have had to train myself into believing that I have just as much to give at the end of the day, as I do at the start of it when I’m as fresh as a daisy. I learn everyday what it means to give 110% to everything that I do, regardless of the working hours. It is about applying the strong work ethic and spirit of excellence in everything I do. One hundred and ten percent in being a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, an athlete, a blogger… the list is endless. Did you notice that I didn’t include my job title? Life and the effort you put in it, is about more than what your job title is. It is important to find a work-life balance that does not leave you overworked and always just on the verge of burning out only just being saved by a holiday.

On holiday in my favorite city, Cape Town!

One of the things that I often times allow myself to be burnt out by, is finances. It is something that even if I don’t say it… (I mean hello why would you speak about your finances to every Tom, Dick and Harry.) I’m thinking about it and in months where there’s a lot going on, I tend to obsess over it, more specifically, lack of money.

pinterest // @ lovecaitx

Some of it is down to my anxiety-riddled personality but most of it is because of my childhood when we really struggled to make ends meet. I am learning to manage it and one person who has helped me through my neuroses, is my boyfriend. He is the most handsome, kindest, most caring human that I have ever met and I cannot think of anyone better to procreate with haha! I cannot wait to have little ones who have ALL of his kindness and none of my sarcasm tempered into their cute little personalities.

Aside from the gorgeous boy, here are a few of my rules to live by:

  • Your health is, and should be your highest priority. Here’s the caveat: if any part of your life, exercise included fills, you with anxiety and you no longer enjoy it, stop doing it and switch to something else. Shortly after my sister passed away, the last place I wanted to go to was the box. Instead of CrossFit, I ran and when I was ready for CrossFit, guess what? The box was still there.
  • Self-care is more than a facemask. Self-care is therapy; self-care is journaling in order to have an outlet for managing not erasing your emotions. Self-care is putting your health first, all aspects of it: mental, physical and spiritual.
  • Find your tribe and love them hard. This one is a funny one because the people that know me would probably say that I hate people…I don’t hate people, I just prefer to surround myself with people that I TRULY enjoy being around. There is no point in being friends with people who make you feel crappy about yourself.
  • Having a schedule that you discipline yourself to stick to, will go a VERY long way towards keeping you sane. I wake up at the same time every single day, and I try to get to bed at the same time. Currently I am working on a routine for my eating and training because I have come to the realisation that my life revolves around 3 things: eating, training and sleeping.
  • Setting small goals is a lot better than having one big chunky goal that fills you with anxiety. When I went back to academia, I felt like I knew nothing, which is impossible because everybody knows something even if it is the lyrics to the theme song of ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I told myself that I would read for an hour and a half each day…by the 30-minute mark, I was thinking about how much time I had left and not at all focussing on the material that was in front of me. I changed my goal to reading two journal articles per night. This was a greater success and a goal that I have been able to stick to.  
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. I had an almost two year stint working at LUSH South Africa as their product & brand trainer. Working at LUSH meant that everyday when interacting with customers, you had to put on your bravest AND most fun face. No one wanted to listen to a walking encyclopedia, instead you had to play up to the innovation of the products. It was tough not just because you were on your feet the whole day but because of the fact that no matter what you were facing, the minute those roller doors went up, you put on your smiley face. Life is a bit like that too isn’t it? The show must go on…
The opening of the LUSH store in Cresta had me and my then regional manager Yvé completely naked underneath our aprons to highlight the Naked Campaign celebrating the package free products at LUSH. You had to put on your bravest face, smile, and just have fun with it! Would I ever do anything like that again…maybe!

The biggest take home message is this: when all else, fails, have a second, a third and if necessary, a fourth look at the steps you took to get to where you are. What do you need to audit, what do you need to analyse and what do you need to put into action? You can achieve great things, but you have to hate the comfort zone.

How to Make Your Own Kombucha

Last month my boyfriend’s mum sent me SCOBY to start my kombucha brewing journey. Kombucha is fermented black tea loaded with probiotics and antioxidants. It helps improve your overall gut health and contains a high content of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, known to increase energy levels and contribute to overall mental well-being. Its high vitamin B12 content is one reason supplements sometimes contain dry kombucha products. The gut-repairing function also plays a role in mental health. Depression is thought to be a symptom of leaky gut, specifically due to the way that bad gut permeability contributes to inflammation. A 2012 study published in Biopolymers and Cell examined kombucha as a functional food product for long-term space exploration. The ability of kombucha to regulate the “communication of the gut-brain axis” suggested it would be useful in preventing or minimizing the effects of anxiety and depression.

God alone knows how the boy got past Heathrow security with what is essentially a living organism, I’m glad he did though! I remember once making a shea butter mix for my mum that was taken away by airport security, it could also be because it was in my hand luggage and was a touch heavy even though it was in a small-ish jar, we will never know.

First things first, what the heck is SCOBY? SCOBY stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (damn look at me remembering that off the top of my head!) This is the essential ingredient that you’ll need for booch brewing. The SCOBY is a biofilm of cellulose that is produced by the bacteria and yeast during the fermentation process. The yeast and bacteria use oxygen to survive (like most living organisms) and will most times form on the surface of the brew and not the bottom, in order to be closer to the source of oxygen. My boy’s mum put the SCOBY in a recyclable plastic water bottle with a little bit of the starter tea which is a fancy term for the previous kombucha brew. As the SCOBY develops it might look bumpy or like an alien but that’s all very normal! The one thing to look out for is fuzzy white, green or black spots on your SCOBY which will tell you that your batch is contaminated, don’t be a hero and try to save anything. Bin the whole lot including the SCOBY.

A few tips on how to ensure that your bath doesn’t get mouldy:

  • Always include a sufficient amount of starter tea to the sweetened tea along with the SCOBY. I like to keep a cup or two in my brewing jar as I have a continuous brew and I just top up with fresh strong black tea.
  • Keep the kombucha brew away from other fermentation projects to avoid microbial cross-contamination. I’m not at the point where I have a lot of different ferments on the go, but this is an important one to remember.
  • Keep the kombucha brew in a warm environment. A temperature range of 25-29°C (75-85°F) will keep the kombucha culture active, the room where I keep my booch gets cozy very quickly and thus I end up with very active microorganism. Too low temperatures can cause the SCOBY to become sluggish and lazy, creating a less acidic environment that will welcome pathogens.
  • This one goes without saying: use clean containers and utensils at ALL times.
  • I was lucky with this one: use live SCOBY and starter tea.  Dehydrated or refrigerated SCOBYs are harder to reanimate, although I will say I was in Cape Town for about a week and a half, and during this time the SCOBY stayed in the fridge yet the minute I was ready to brew, it somehow just came to life.

I will include a link at the bottom of this post to give you a lot more thorough information on everything you need to know about brewing kombucha. In this post I’ll share my recipe. Please note, you can grow your own SCOBY from store bought kombucha provided that it is unflavoured and unpasteurised. All you have to do is follow these instructions on The Kitchn 🙂

What you’ll need:

  • SCOBY + a generous amount (2 cups minimum) of starter tea or already fermented raw and unflavoured kombucha.
  • A clean brewing jar, my boy got me a 3.5l jar from Pick n Pay (for my South African friends)
  • 12 black tea bags
  • 200g white sugar
Finished tea ready to brew!

Place your SCOBY with the starter tea in your jar. In a pot measure 3 litres of water and bring to the boil. Place all 12 tea bags and the sugar in the water and allow to brew. I leave my bags in right up until I’m ready to pour it into my brewing jar. This means I end up with a very strong booch brew. If you wish, you can brew the tea for 5 minutes and remove the tea bags. Once the tea has cooled, pour it into the brewing jar, cover with muslin cloth and your lid and let the SCOBY do its thing. You can allow your tea to ferment anywhere from 7-14 days, this is called the first fermentation. I then begin my second ferment (where all the fizz can multiply) on day 8, at this point you can choose to flavour the booch that you’re going to bottle. Removing it from the jar that contains the mother SCOBY, slows the fermentation down and will keep you from ending up with kombucha vinegar. My first ferment, I whizzed up 500g of frozen strawberries with the juice of 1 orange and half a lemon and poured about 100ml at the bottom of each bottle and then topped up with kombucha. I then placed these bottles in a corner hidden from the sun and started drinking after 3 days.

Baby SCOBY growing from my first batch, time for a SCOBY hotel…

This time I made a green tea and lemon syrup by combining 6 unfermented green tea bags with 3 cups of sugar, the juice of one lemon, and water. Let the whole lot simmer for 30 minutes. Once the syrup had cooled down, I poured a generous quantity at the bottom of each bottle and topped up with my kombucha brew. I prefer the Tetley tea bags as its green tea in its best and purest form (not sponsored ha-ha). It has just the right taste of earthiness but is mild and doesn’t overwhelm the taste buds. I do have doubts as to whether I’ll be able to taste the green tea in this brew as when I tasted the syrup, the flavour was quite mild. Experimenting with flavours is my favourite part of the kombucha making process and I can’t wait to see…taste what I brew next!

Helpful links:

Cultures for Health

Dr. Axe

The Cultured Foodie

In Review: Mini LUSH Haul

Recently LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics launched a couple of new products. These included five new hair conditioners, which have since gone off the grid, and a host of other bath & body goodies! The LUSH junkie that I am, of course I wanted it ALL of them but it would have been ridiculous for my bank balance to suffer so much damage in one big swoop. I settled for a few items, some of which my dear boy surprised me with for my birthday last month.

J’s Mom Okra is the conditioner that was described as being best suited for afro textured hair. The minute you open the bottle you’re hit with a peppery fresh smell that lingers in your hair long after you’ve rinsed it off.  J’s Mom’s Okra contains castor oil which is great for promoting hair growth and sealing moisture, something that afro textured hair needs loads of, okra gel for slippage when detangling (with this conditioner, I’d recommended very light finger detangling), lavender and rosemary oil amongst a host of other great ingredients. The first time I used it was as a light leave-in, which was recommended on the LUSH UK website, I discovered that the product contained little green bits, which I’m assuming is the okra gel. These pieces flake off easily but this was a factor that ultimately led to it being struck off the leave-in conditioner list. I desperately wanted to love it but ultimately it came down to the fact that there are much cheaper conditioners that do the same thing for less. Overall rating 6/10

Yog Nog Perfume was the purchase I was most looking forward to. In my almost 2 years of working at LUSH South Africa, Yog Nog remains an iconic smell that I wanted in every form possible. I went on about it for days when I missed out on the Yog Nog body lotion, but lucky girl that I am, my boy ended up surprising me with this for my birthday. The smell is sweet yet not in an overwhelming way. There’s a spicy undertone that warms your nose as you spray it. Once it settles on your skin, the smell transforms to warm butterscotch scent that reminds me of my boy each time I miss him. The perfume has great staying power, I could still smell it on my clothes hours later, as well as on the areas on my body that I had sprayed with Yog Nog. Overall rating 10/10

The high hopes that I had for Yog Nog perfume, trickled into the shower jelly. Sadly I was bitterly disappointed. I have used LUSH shower jellies in the past and most of them lather and clean pretty well while leaving your skin subtly perfumed. This one took quite a lot of rubbing to get a lather on it. I tried a washcloth, a shower loofah, a body brush and while each of this helped in getting a smidgen more lather out of the jelly, it was a rather disappointing purchase. The smell is true to the Yog Nog scent, however it does not last. Overall rating 4/10

I wasn’t ready for this jelly and how disappointing it was 😦

Hard-core LUSHIES will be familiar with the HIWTK and It’s Raining Men scent. Caramel undertones boosted by freshness from the citrus essential oils used. I was hoping that Noni I Washed the Kids would smell similar, if not completely identical to HIWTK shampoo bar. When I opened the tub I was underwhelmed. While the smell was similar to HIWTK solid soap, the citrusy elements of this lotion were overpowering and produced a smell not entirely reminiscent of the toffee and sweet undertones present in other products from this range. As a body lotion, it is moisturising, my skin felt supple to the touch and lightly scented for hours. This along with Yog Nog shower jelly are purchases that I wouldn’t repeat. Overall rating 5/10

American Shower Cream is  only a tiny bit edged out by Yog Nog perfume when it comes to my favourite items. To me this is one that they got spot on. If you’ve used American Cream conditioner before, the smell is exactly what you get in the shower cream. A small quantity lathers up beautifully and cleanses your skin without stripping it of its natural oils. The strawberries lend a fruity undertone that is balanced by the clary sage. My only regret is not having more of these babies on hand, which I may or may not remedy… Overall rating 8.10

Mental Health Matters

Instead of writing this post, I should be working on the final changes on my slides for my presentation later this week. The changes are not that many, yet I find myself here undeniably stuck, uninspired. Sad without a reason to be sad. There isn’t anything out of the ordinary bothering me, my health is good. My family’s health is good, yet for about a month now, I have been unable to shake this feeling off my spirit. A feeling of indifference, a numbness that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I try to make an effort to tend to my mental health but since the start of the year it is something that I have neglected. The meditation and daily Bible reading that kept me as mentally healthy as I could possibly be, gradually got replaced by deadlines and more deadlines. My physical and mental fatigue is at an all-time high. I do believe that some of this is due to not having taken a break from work during the festive season in order to stay on top of deadlines. Now, it would seem that my mind & body are close to reaching their deadline. I am functioning but I know I could do better. The manifestation of this mental imbalance has led to me experiencing greater anxiety. I’ve felt this on a larger scale at work where I’ve been doubting myself an unhealthy amount and performing for approval. I am the most junior in my office and at times it has led to me feeling inadequate, underqualified and pretty much like a fish out of water. It has led to me reading too much into comments made by my boss and in some ways has been a hindrance to my improvement.

Now that I’ve noticed this, it’s time to get back into a routine where I prioritise my mental and spiritual health. I am in the process of drawing up a routine to ensure that every hour of the day is maximised and used as best as it can be. I downloaded a weekly planner from Savvy Spreadsheets, laminated it and will be writing down the things I will be doing on a daily basis.

  • I have gone back to journaling as I find that this was the best way for me to express my emotions and release them without fear of judgement. My favourite place to get stationary is Typo, they have the cutest items that you didn’t know you needed.
  • Reading. During my time, working as a product & brand trainer at LUSH South Africa, my then trainer Georgie Hopkins gave me a book by Patsy Rodenberg called ‘Presence’. I was a nervous ball of energy when I first met Georgie, one was because watching her train LUSH staff, you could not help but be captivated. She is a ridiculously good trainer. This coupled with the fact that being a trainer kind of thrusts you in a position of leadership, the introvert that I was, could not handle that. I learnt a lot from this book and I’ve realised that it is by reading that I learn the most about myself and how to maximise my personality to get what I want from life in a healthy way. I am going back to this book to rebuild some of the confidence I have lost.
  • I will be meditating for 15 minutes everyday. My favourite meditation app is 10% Happier. I find it to be fuss-free, practical and very applicable and easy to follow. I like to call it the meditation app for intellectuals. No chanting or ohm-ing, just connecting with your thoughts and learning how to manage your emotions and not the other way round.
  • Bin the negative self-talk. This one is probably the hardest to do. For every negative thought that comes in, replace it with a positive thought on something I can do well.
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Yesterday I saw a friend of mine filming her friend up in a coconut tree chopping down coconuts. He was also sawing off a few dead palms and he said something that really got me thinking. – The dead palms draw a ton of resources from deep within the roots in an effort to stay alive. In fact, it can starve the rest of the branches and eventually compromise the whole tree. – But if you prune the dying palms, then the ones still alive and the rest of the tree will flourish. – Our consciousness operates in much of the same way. – If we use up our valuable resources to feed unproductive thoughts that don't get us to our goals, we are wasting valuable energy. – And if those runaway doubts, fears, insecurities, and grievances keep being fed, they suck up all our energy and life force eventually leading to the demise of our dreams and goals. – But just like pruning the trees of the coconut tree, we can lop off the thoughts and feelings that no longer serve us and redirect our vital resources to feeding the thoughts and feelings that put us in direct line with our dreams and goals. – And when we do that long enough with consistent action it bears fruit. – When we've invested literally tens of thousands of hours in patterns of thought and behavior it can be almost impossible to unwind that on our own. – That's why I just opened up a handful of one month laser focused one-to-one coaching spots to help you do just that. It's designed to help you identify whats holding you back, get to the root of your current challenge, and set and attain 3 crystal clear soul goals this month. – If that resonates with you, just DM me and we'll set aside some time to chat. It's priced so those who are committed can easily afford it. – Chat soon 💜🔥🤙🏽

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The next few months will be challenging and I know that the only way I’m going to survive is by prioritising my mental health. My current state of mind has reminded me that we never finish working on our mental health, healing is not linear. It should be something we work on as consistently and frequently as physical exercise…it is probably more important than physical exercise. I refuse to live according to the cycle the world has created of working to the point of burnout, that is not living. I love this post by Kristina of the wildly popular blog ‘Fully Raw Kristina’. Growth happens in waves and maybe that’s just what I’m going through right now.

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Sometimes God breaks your heart to save your soul. 🦋 We all go through tough times, and sometimes it feels completely debilitating and devastating. The truth is: without rain there can be no rainbows. Difficult experiences allow us to truly appreciate what we do have and how far we’ve come. These times build character, integrity, wisdom, and strength. I know it’s not always easy to see the positive when you’re in the core of it, but trust that you are protected and loved. It’s through the notion of learning to pick ourselves back up that we gain not only self-respect, but also compassion, forgiveness, and self-love. Also keep in mind, sometimes the things we want most are not the best for us…or are not meant for us. Perhaps there is BETTER that is yet to come. Growth happens in waves—I say this from personal experience. Faith. Time. Some things haven’t worked out, but still may turn out better than we could have possibly imagined. 🙏🏽💕✨ I send you love today for all the good things coming. I love you. 🦁🐞🐛🦋🐬🍉✨ ✨ 📸 @cashgotwings ✨ ✨ #inspiration #motivation #waimeacanyon #waimea #vegansofig #vegansofinstagram #hawaii #girls #life #health #healthy #vegetarian #confidence #positivevibes #womenempowerment #positivity #happy #rawvegan #mountains #canyon #travelphotography #travelphotography #travel #traveler #sunset #fullyraw #vegan

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I came across the featured image for this post on Pinterest, I hope it helps, I will definitely be using it!

Get to Know Me Tag

Inspired by Sharon of In the thick of it, I was inspired to do the ‘get to know me’ tag. This tag is probably one of the most popular ones on blogs/vlogs. The first one I did is a very cringe-worthy video on YouTube back in the days when I was a dedicated vlogger…one of my goals this year is to go back to vlogging. If you’re so inclined to watch that video, I’ve made it easy for you by embedding it in this post.

Here’s the 2019 updated version, if you’re a blogger and end up doing this tag, please let me know, I’d love to get to know more bloggers. I’m tagging Jordanne from ‘of a Glasgow girl’. I love Jordanne’s blog and she’s the biggest supporter of other bloggers that I have encountered and I love reading about her experience as a mother. Tag you’re it Jordanne!

What is your middle name?

This question should really be what are your middle names? Ariel Vanessa Isomba Lo Mama (yup, this isn’t made up!)

Share your favourite subject in high school.

I loved (and still do,) English and Biology.

What is your favourite drink?

I had this drink at Salsa Mexican Grill that had rum and coconut in it. It was delicious!!! I forgot the name though, when I go back I’ll update this post.

What is your favourite song at the moment?

I have two, one is ‘Awesome God’, an oldie but an eternal goodie by Michael W. Smith. The second is ‘all my love’ by George Ezra.

What would you (or have you) name your children?

The boy and I joke about this all the time but for a boy Basil and for a girl Violet-James…I’d better get to the birth certificates first!

Have you participated in any sports?

I did cross country, netball and believe it or not in spite of my height, even basketball in high school. Now I’m a CrossFitter and long distance runner. My body does not cope well with inactivity.

What is your favourite book?

Hands down the Bible.

What is your favourite colour?

Cobalt blue, it just works so well on my skin tone.

What is your favourite animal?

I’ve been stuck on this animal for years…dolphins!

What is your favourite perfume?

LUSH Vanillary and Rose Jam…heavenly!

What is your favourite holiday?

Easter. I love the religious symbolism to it and it’s always a reminder to remember Christ’s sacrifice for me.

On a scale of 1-10, rate your childhood.

I’d rate it a 10 because my parents did the best they knew how to.

Have you been out of the country?

Yes I have. The United Kingdom 🙂 Congo, does waiting at the airport in France and the Netherlands count?

Do you speak any different languages?

Oui, je parle Francais!

Do you have any siblings?

Yes, three sisters (one unfortunately no longer here,) and one baby brother.

What is your favourite store?

LUSH, I looove LUSH!!!

What is your favourite restaurant?

Stacked in Cape Town, they have the best breakfast menu.

Did you like school?

Read this post and you tell me if I liked school…

Who are some of your favourite YouTubers?

Not YouTubers but channels, I love watching Elevation Church, Life Church and Transformation Church on YouTube. The rise of influencers has led to the rise of disingenuous personalities and I find that being centered, or trying as much as I can to be centered on Christ, goes a long way in keeping me authentic.

What is your favourite movie?

‘Kate & Leopold’ is a favourite! I could watch it over and over again and never get sick of it! ‘When Harry met Sally.’ is also a favorite, I’m a romantic at heart.

What are some of your favourite TV shows?

Chopped. I love watching such talented individuals making a meal out of obscure ingredients. I don’t know how I’d cope in the ‘Chopped’ hot seat.

Chips or chocolate?

Chocolate, I loooove chocolate. I have the worst sweet tooth.

What phone do you have?

An iPhone 7, it’s alright. I can make calls so that’s good right?

How tall are you?

1.59 cm.

Do you have any pets?

Unfortunately not.

There we have it folks, you’ve made it to the end of this post. As I said in the beginning, if you end up doing this post let me know. I’d love to get to know you!