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My sugar free diet: update

Evil cookies!!Since my sugar free diet is officially over (thanks to evil cookies above), I thought I will give you some feedback. Some of you may know I removed sugar from my diet in March and April which was the longest I survived without eating something sweet. So I am really pleased with that at the least :-).

In the beginning I avoided foods that have added sugar, but I soon realised there were sooo many alternatives available that are almost as good as a chocolate cake! I guess you don't realise that because there are not many cakes like that available ready made. This is why I went mad over pinning hundreds of recipes on Pinterest that are raw and sugar free. I tried few of them myself ;-).

Here came the April and I decided to make it a bit strict. I chose to avoid all types of sugar which if you have any idea is very very hard to do. Sugar (even natural sugar) is everywhere. Fruits are the more obvious, but little did you know even milk contains small amounts of sugar. So I really had to restrain myself. I think what really helped is munching on nuts (which has small amounts of sugar as well in case you wondering). I think I ate so many that I was wondering is I am going to experience some sort of side effects. Thankfully nothing happened and I did not develop any nut allergies (feel sorry for all of those who suffers from it!).

Anyhow, so what are my overall feelings about sugar free diet? I I think it's great if you can stick to it! Personally I think it is simple diet, no special meal planing, all you need to do is don't add sugar to your food or check your food labels. After all if it taste sweet then probably it has high contents of sugar.

Did I loose any weight? Yes, although not much. I lost about 5kg through two months period which is little to compare how much I usually loose on any other diet. I guess I can blame my very slow metabolism after having a baby!

Did I feel more energetic? A lot of people shared with me that they feel so much more energetic after quitting sugar. Well, this did not work out for me. I felt the opposite, very very sluggish in fact. I wonder why? Maybe the hormones (after having the baby) or maybe that was a "cold turkey" I was experiencing.

Am I less of sugar addict? I think yes! I find it much easer to survive a day without a cake. Although I don't say no if the cake presents itself. I also realised that I don't have to eat the cake if its not my type of cake. I remember I used to eat a cake just because I can and because it is sweet (bye bye boring sponge cakes!). I find myself asking, do I really want this cupcake with icing? The other day I learned to make icing rose decoration for a cupcake, I was super pleased I gave it to Joni instead as I realised I would not enjoy it that much other than sugar satisfaction. Almonds are great when on sugar free dietHope you found my story inspiring ;-)

Rasa xoxo

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Sugar free April

Sugar free banana pancakesSo here is, the end of sugar free (almost) March! It was a great success even though I indulged in lots of sugar during Easter. Could anyone resist all that chocolate going around? I think it was a good learning curve and I am up for another month of trying out this "sugar-free" diet, detox, quitting or what ever else you want to call it!

So here how it went... In the very beginning I was expecting cold turkey sort of stage. But no such thing happened, instead I got little bit of cold. Not sure if it was how my body was coping or just coincidence :-D. I mean, don't get me wrong it was very hard to fight the temptation, but eventually I found the other foods to sweeten my life! Grapes are good for example and bananas of course. I tried making banana 2 ingredient pancakes that you see all over Pinterest (the other ingredient is egg), but I found it not very pancakey, instead it felt like sweet soufflé. At the end I added third ingredient which is flour, which made everything soooo much better. It would of course work with any other type of flour or oatmeal if you prefer.sweetened porridge with oats Then I discovered I could make sweet treats that are sugar free! I even created a board on Pinterest dedicated to raw treats, that are of course sugar free. My favourite are these chocolate energy bars that I made in different variations. Yum! Although I did feel sick few times after consuming too many...Sugar free chocolate energy bar Next, I realised I could introduce chocolate into my breakfast. This was getting suspiciously naughty! I was adding cocoa powder into my oats and sweeting it with dates. I felt like eating a cake for breakfast!Sugar free chocolate aots Few weeks ago I mentioned that I was quitting sugar to my sister. It turned out she was quitting it too!! We must be synchronised ;-). She did questioned my sugar substitutions as I was sipping on wine. Turns out that fruit contain sugar! I mean it's natural, but still sugar!

During Easter I fell back even further... I got tempted by chocolate :(. At least I wasn't alone. Nicola said she was having sugar days as well. Once it was over I was actually glad to resume as it made me pretty sick. So I guess it's good, I can see sugar free March was working for me ;-)Oops!So what is my goal for April? Well, cut out all types of sugar. That includes fruits and wine! Eeeeek! Wish me luck! Will let you know next month how it went :-).

Rasa xoxo

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Sugar free March

Hidden sugars in foodAnd where do I begin? My relationship with sugar is a life long! I don't remember at what point I became addicted to it, but I blame my mum that, who often would have something sweet after each meal. Don't get me wrong, in general I enjoy eating healthily, I always love side salads with my meals and I find healthy looking food quite appealing. However sugar is just getting in my way! I heard so many good testimonies about people who completely cut out sugar, but I never considered it was for me. Why? Well... I never believed I could survive without sugar! My passion is baking, how I would do that without tasting?

But something changed my mind last week. While chatting with other mums at one of the socials I go to I realised I was not alone!  You see I always thought that it's ok to eat sweet things once in a while and that it's not effective to completely quit. In reality I found quite opposite. Because once I have a slice of cake I immediately want another slice! I find that moderation does not work for everybody. After hearing another success story of quitting sugar I realised that moderation is not for addicts. I decided to first quit and then see if I can enjoy that piece of cake once in the while. This is where you are coming in to help me. Because I am writing about my plans openly here, therefore I feel accountable to you and I am more likely to succeed. What is in it for you? Well.. I will tell you my story in the end which hopefully will be an inspiration to you.

So what exactly will I be quitting? There are many types of sugar out there and I decided to quit even the most innocent types such as honey and my beloved agave nectar that I drizzle onto my breakfast oats. I also decided to no longer fool myself over organic chocolate, because it still has sugar!!! The only sweet things I may eat in my moments of desperation are fruits and maybe sugar free chocolate (that does exist thankfully!). My plan is to last for at least a month hence sugar free March ;-)Hidden sugars in foodWhich me luck!

Rasa xoxo

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My 2016 resolutions

my 2016 goals!Writing New Year resolutions is my favourite thing to do on New Years Eve! I love it more than celebrating. I did not even stay up till midnight this time, instead I woke up the next morning feeling it's a New Year with new beginnings... exciting! After reflecting on 2015 and realising what worked and what did not I was able to create even better goal plan this year... or at least I hope so. I decided I need to be even more organised and make sure to keep it simple as my life have been turned upside down with little Lukas in my life ;-). This is why I decided to make 5 goals rather than 7. Here they are!

1. Upgrade Friendly Nettle website. Same as last year unfortunately, but I am more determined this year so I am still feeling hopeful!

2. Turn our house into home. As you know we purchased our first family home last year but after Lukas arrival did not have a time to do any home improovement on it yet. Hopefully 2016 is the year!

3. Learn to take better pictures. Again same as last year :(. I do have a better plan for it this year, you just wait and see!

4. Teach Lukas to Swim. Ok, I have few goals hidden in this one! First, I always dreamed of teaching my baby to swim but I also get to exercise with him. Hopefully this will help me to come back to my original shape which wasn't great either after last year's Christmas (I mean 2014 Christmas :-0). Secondary (which is not related to swimming) I am hoping to get into the habit of not overeating so that kind of helps me to get fit. Am I making any sense here?

5. Grow cucumbers :-). I know, this is the most random goal I ever had. This has been suggested by my wonderful mum in-law! At first I thought that's silly, but then I thought it could mean more than growing cucumbers. It could mean doing a little bit of gardening! After all I HAVE a garden this year! Not making crazy transformations in the garden just yet (you know, focusing on my no.2 goal), but growing temporary annuals could be quite satisfying while not committing to big landscape changes such as planting perennials or shrubs.   my 2016 goals! my 2016 goals!I hope you had fun with creating resolutions for this year!

Rasa xoxo

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A colour story for our new home

Creating colour storyI want something exciting to say. We have finally exchanged with our house purchase last week! Anybody who bought the house before know what it means: we will have this house for sure and the date is set when we could move in. Yey!

Ever since we exchanged I have been dreaming how we are going to decorate the house and what alterations we are going to make. I have done this before and it was difficult and long process. But now I am not alone so hopefully we will settle much quicker, although we have baby on the way so I am interested to see how difficult it will be to do at least some DIY.

I have started planning the colours. Why? Because I really really want everything to "flow" in the house and right now I already need to buy few things that will match (such as sofa bed for my mum to sleep in when she is visiting her grandchild). I must admit last time I was decorating the house I did not put so much effort in planning the colour... because I went an easy way and chose neutral colours (mostly white). Yes, I did get many comments that it looked like a hospital to begin with, although I accessorised it with bold colours so it was cute at the end). This time I want to be braver and try darker colours (gosh, I am sooooo scared that it may make the place look small). But I so love those eccentric rooms that I see on Pinterest, so the challenge is on!

So how did I create this colour story? I am very lucky that I have gone to Uni to do fashion. During my course one of the things I have learned is exactly that, creating a colour story for a collection. It is of course very different to creating a colour story for the house, but the goal is the same: to create a set of colours that will be used through out the project (in this case the whole house). Of course I had failed many times before. One instance I remember quite clearly when my colour story looked like a rainbow just because I liked many colours and because I arranged them in colour wheel order. Another thing I learned is to identify what colours are main and which ones are for the accents. For better visualisation arrange the accent colours in small amounts that could be displayed in a item form (such as red lamp in the pic below).  Our new home colour storyThe third advise I can give is to look through some pictures of the house interiors and see what colour arrangement you like (Pinterest or Houzz have been a good source to me). For instance I like the feature wall colour in the pic below combined with bold colour picture display on it.

Lovely picture rail, pic from ilovebokkieI like red as an accent colour but I might try this and paint bigger furniture in red as well. The pic bellow comes from Apartment Therapy.

Bold red accent cabinet, pic from apartment therapyAlthough black is not a main colour in my colour story I would love to have a black board wall where we could scribble things! The pic bellow comes from IKEA website as an inspiration.Black board wall, Ikea kitchen inspirationAnd of course I would love to decorate the house with many plants! The pic bellow comes from My Attic.plant overload, pic from entermyatticI hope you found this useful :-)

Rasa x

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5 steps to basic budgeting

5 steps to basic budgetingAt the beginning of this year I promised I would share a little bit about the budgeting system I use. I hope that this will be of help to you. I have made plenty of money related mistakes in the past and by 2008 I was in debt and my wage was not covering my expenses. This is when I have started budgeting and with a few breaks I have continued applying my method to this day. So if you are completely lost and maybe in debt, I know how you must feel.

So here are my five steps to basic budgeting.

STEP 1. Review your expenses and be honest with yourself! Because you need to have a clear view of your spending before setting an actual budget. See how much you spend for food, rent, transport not forgetting those sneaky annual subscriptions. Write a list of what you spend money on and how much in each category. Try to keep it monthly, so items that are annual should be divided by 12 to let you know how much you should budget towards them in any month..

STEP 2. Set monthly allowances! Once you reviewed your expenses you can start deciding how much you should spend each month in each category. e.g. food, transport or some craft supplies. Don't forget to set some money aside each month for unexpected expenses and even Christmas costs (I know it's little early to think about Christmas but it really helps to have a lump some at the end of the year ready to spend on all those gifts, food, and hosting). When it comes to the lifestyle budget, I would say be reasonably generous (unless you are paying off some debts). Because you need to treat yourself often enough! I used to set a very small budget for my lifestyle and often used to overspend it leading to even quitting budgeting all together sometimes. So it's better to keep your budget then trying to save unrealistic amount of money. Another thing I would suggest is to make a spreadsheet for your budget. It's so much easer to your goals when it is placed in writing! Monthly budgetSTEP 3: Put some money to savings. After you have worked out your budget you can now work out how much you have leftover. Some people say that you should first set money to save and then count your budget. But I think my way is easer, because I believe that it helps to save more when you earn more and then use some of the savings when you earn little. Your choice! I generally set up a standing order to go out each month for saving. Online banking is awesome!

STEP 4: Track your expenses every time you shop. Back in 2008 I had a spreadsheet to record my spendings. I used to collect receipts and then at the end of the day I used to type it all up. Luckily in 2009 I have got myself a smartphone where I could track my budgeting on the spot (The app I used and still use is called "Spend"). As you can imagine my purse got slightly without that bulk of those receipts!

STEP 5: Review your budget once in the while (not only in January). You need to constantly check what you are spending and whether it is less then expected and maybe set a smaller budget. Or maybe there are expenses that you don't have a budget for?5 steps to basic budgetRecently we realised we needed a new budget category as Leia our cat was constantly draining our grocery and lifestyle budgets. We would not have noticed that if we did not do our budget reviews!5 steps to basic budgetI hope you found this useful!

Rasa xoxo

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A year with books

A year with books, 2015One of my New Year resolutions was to read more books. I am embarrassed to say that the maximum number of books (and by books I mean novels) I read in the year was about 3. And 3 is a very small little number. No wonder I so often get stuck for words when I write this blog! So this year I promised to myself (and you if you are taking any notes) to read at least the double, or more if things work out... So basically I have queued up 6 books to read this year. Some of the books have been recommended by my friends over the years, some are from the authors that I love and some are just classics that I should have read long long time ago! So here is the list:

1. "Flora and Grace" by Maureen Lee have been recommended by my dear mum. In fact I suppose to get this book for her but I forgot to take it with me when I went to Lithuania and now it is sort of staying with me until march. Anyhow, I am half way in and I must say the english here seem quite basic and slightly boring. Thankfully the story is interesting and I am really looking forward to know the end of it!A year with books, 20152. "Oh Dear Silvia" by Dawn French going to be a second book I read by the same author. I absolutely love Dawn French and her humour sense! I read "A Tiny Bit Marvellous" three years ago and it almost physically melted in my hands. So looking forward to the start of reading this one!A year with books, 20153. "Two Caravans" by Marina Lewycka have been recommended by Vicki and I have a feeling I will want to read all of this Author books! I have been told it is super funny and who does not like funny? Most importantly the author is Ukrainian so I can relate a little since I am Lithuanian!A year with books, 20154. "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen is an obvious classic. Have watched a movie already and ready to read an actual book. Guess what?! The real reason for buying this book was because the new edition with arty cover is really pretty! Just so you know, polka dots can practically sell me anything :-D. A year with books, 20155. The Undomestic Goddess" by Sophie Kinsella have been recommended by somebody from my knitting social group long long time ago. The cover looks a bit tacky, but I have decided not to judge the book by its cover and give it a chance. Will let you know how it goes!A year with books, 20156. "To Kill A Mocking Bird" is another classic. I did not have a chance to read it at school because the schools in Lithuania don't include this in their reading lists. I suspect it is a bit dark (I could be wrong, I have no idea!), but I knew I need to read this as is referenced so often in other books and movies. So I decided I will have a go!A year with books, 2015I hope you feel inspired today to read or at least set the goals to read this year. If you like any of the books in my list you can of course "steel" them, I honestly don't mind ;-). Come back for my reviews, they might be silly and probably quite unprofessional. But oh well, its fun to share with others what you thought of the book! Wouldn't you agree?

Rasa xoxo

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