GIVEAWAY: A Mi-Bra

This giveaway is one for the ladies (or guys in need of some brownie points)!

My innovative friend Carolina Baker (who wrote a guest post on LLO last week and who I’ve also interviewed for the blog) designed a wonderful product called a Mi-Bra.

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It’s a sports bra made with organic cotton, so it’s comfortable to run in, but the best thing about it? It has a little pocket at the front which will hold an iPhone, keys or an Oyster card.

Carolina is giving one away to a lucky LLO winner, so if you need some new motivation to get fit, all you have to do is:

1.) Like LLO on Facebook

2.) Like Carolina’s Facebook Page

3.) Let us know in the comments why you’d like a Mi-Bra!

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DEADLINE: The deadline is midnight on June 26th when a winner will be chosen at random from the comments.

Spread the word and good luck! 

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A Year and a Half in London: A Guest Post by Carolina Baker

A guest post by Carolina Baker who can be found on Facebook and writing in her blog, Falling to Fly

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This month marks my year and a half of living in London and surprisingly, it’s starting to feel a bit more like home. Maybe this has been a catalyst for the new risks that I find myself taking on an almost daily basis. Some may seem small, but life changing change starts with small, daily, changes.

Here’s how my life has become more London based than ever before.

Daily Java Jolt – I used to be a daily Starbucks fanatic. Until, I discovered the deliciousness that is Monmouth Coffee. I was enthralled by the smell, the care, the queue, and the taste of their coffee. A few weeks later, Evan introduced me to Taylor Street Baristas  and I was also hooked. Since giving up Starbucks altogether, my effort to visit different places around London has doubled. I’ve exposed my taste buds to wonderful things like salt beef bagels, salted caramel cakes, and organic mountain eggs.

Meetup.com – A few weeks ago, I was restless, I wanted to meet new people, and I needed inspiration. I took the plunge with Meetup. I found a great writing and reading group, and I immediately signed up for their events. Before I go any further, I need to confess that even though I come across as extremely confident, meeting new people and putting myself in situations where I have to interact with strangers scare me. The days of the events, I found multiple excuses not to go, (“I have to get on the tube,” “I’m tired,” “It’s raining,” “work delayed me”) and the only reason I didn’t listen is because I bartered with my fear. I told my fear that I only had to show up. And we both agreed that the act of showing up was pretty harmless. Once I was there, speaking to people was pleasant.

Yesterday, I even got my writing critiqued and the feedback was positive. And a fellow member asked me if I was going to stay after for a drink. I declined, but made a promise to myself, that next time, I will stay and socialize. On Thursday, I’m having lunch with a fellow member who is also itching for life change. I’m proud of myself because I’m the one who reached out and I am the one who organized the date.

A great consequence of traversing London for these meetups is that I’m becoming more comfortable finding my way through the city. First time visits do require a printed google map, but I can usually rely on memory for any meetups that come afterwards. I’m also enjoying checking out new venues (shooting star pub, tidbits, and Timberyard) that I probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon on my own.

I guess my first year in London was all about healing myself and my finances, and for that, I needed to keep my focus inward. I had a simple routine that included walking to work, exercising, working full-time, and travel. Since taking care of the fundamentals, this year’s focus is about exploring my home city and meeting people that inspire me to propel my life to the next level.  In doing so, I know that my ties to London will always remain strong, even after Evan and I leave the city for South America.

Listen to a Londoner: Carolina Baker

Carolina landed in London in November, a bit bleary eyed and nostalgic for what was formerly home. She’s Colombian American and loves Chai Lattes. During the day, she works in finance and at night she can be found blogging at GirlHabits or working out at Crossfit Thames.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here?
CB: I’m originally from Bogota, Colombia, but consider myself a Colombian American. I went to high school in Bogota, and lived in Boston, Connecticut, and New York for the last ten years. I moved to London in November and my husband brought me here. He wanted the experience of living and working abroad, and while I was a bit resistant at first, we took the plunge when an opportunity presented itself. Evan moved over in August and I joined him here in November.

LLO: Tell us about a fun night out in London. Where were you and what was memorable about it? 
CB: I think one of the most fun nights out in London was when we went to the Christmas Market in Hyde Park. The hubby and I drank some mulled wine, listened to a band play some amazing covers, and just chilled amongst the Londoners. Although it was very cold, the atmosphere was lively, relaxed, and buzzing with the holiday spirit.

LLO: Best part about living in your postcode?
CB: The best part about living in my postcode is that I don’t have to use the tube to get to work and I get to walk by the water on my way to work every morning.

LLO: Is there anything you miss from Colombia or America? If so, what is it? If not, is there anything you’d miss from London if you left? 
CB: From Colombia, I miss the warmth of the people. Latin Americans are very warm, hug-oriented, happy people. We’re also louder than most Americans and Londoners combined. :o) From America, I miss my family, the work culture, the way my barista used to make my chai latte, and my favourite food place near the office, Press NY. Mostly though, just my family and the fact that New York is full of Latin American Immigrants, so I feel at home with the majority of the population.

I think from London I’d miss the little things; the fact that people are more adventurous with their fashion, that we can drink on the streets and not get arrested,  the borough and Portobello Markets, and the proximity of about two dozen other countries.

LLO: What was the biggest challenge (no matter how trivial) you have faced so far as an expat in London and how have you coped?
CB: I think my biggest challenge was remaining happy on a day-to-day basis in spite of  having to adjust to a new culture, work environment, and way of life. Coming to London was more my husband’s choice, so it would have been easy for London to be harder than it was. I focused on building a life around things that mattered to me, and that’s how I coped. I showered my family and friends back home with love, I took a trip to Morocco with my mom, I’m spending quality time with my husband, I visited family that’s scattered across Europe, I found a gym that’s similar to the one back home, and I reached out to people that have similar interests.

LLO: In three sentences, what little observations have you made about London life that you didn’t expect before you arrived?
CB: Even though Londoners aren’t as warm as Latin Americans are, they really love to socialize.  A Londoner can tell you one thing and mean something completely different. And my favourite observation so far? That it doesn’t rain in London all the time.

LLO: I’m coming to London for one night only and want to go out for food and drinks, but not in a touristy area. Where would you send me? 
CB: If you want to spend out, I’d go to Gaucho Tower Bridge as they serve the most amazing empanadas, steaks, and have some killer apple martinis. If you want to keep it more budget friendly, I’d send you to Wahaca on Wardour Street , a very good Mexican restaurant that offers many delicious dishes (the ambience is also very lively).

LLO: What’s your ideal way to spend a free Saturday in London? Is there anywhere you’d like to explore or visit in London that you haven’t gotten to yet? 
CB: I adore the markets here, so I would send you to have lunch at Borough Market and then to peruse the people and the knick knacks at Portobello Market. There’s nothing more enjoyable than buying a £5 pound duck sandwich and passing it down with some Prosecco.  And there’s no better place to people watch and find amazing accessories than Portobello Market. I would like to explore the fashion side of London a bit more. While I know it’s extremely expensive (one of the reasons I’ve stayed away), I can’t wait for summer when I’ll have to start dress shopping for my brother’s wedding. I’m open to any and all suggestions from your readers.

LLO: Tell us about your fabulous website, Girl Habits. Why did you start it, what’s it all about and why should we all stop by and check it out? 
CB: I started GirlHabits because I had a fabulous idea to create a sports bra with a pocket (mi-bra – http://www.girlhabits.com/?page_id=60 ), and I needed a home on the web. GirlHabits also houses my blog, which has awesome interviews with other amazing entrepreneurial women. As I venture out into the freelance world, I plan to also use GirlHabits as a platform to house my professional and personal writing.

You should check it out because I offer the mi-bra in the UK now, and because when you’re in need of a daily dose of inspiration, it’s the perfect place to go.

LLO: What has life in London taught you about yourself and the people around you so far?
CB: I think that life in London has taught me that there is no right way to live, and what makes London so special is that everyone is so different. In the States, you can get very caught up in the progression that others expect of you (college, job, masters/MBA while working, marriage, mortgage, babies). Being in London just reaffirms that choosing different is okay and extremely satisfying.

The people around me have taught me to be more accepting of accents that I don’t understand, customs that I’m not familiar with, traditions that I have no knowledge of, food that I’m not accustomed too, and communicating styles that I haven’t been exposed too. Nothing is necessarily better or worse, it’s just different and that’s what makes it so worthwhile.

Thanks Carolina!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Guest Post: Carolina Baker’s Letter to London

Written by Carolina Baker who landed in London in November, a bit bleary eyed and nostalgic for what was formerly home. She’s Colombian American and loves Chai Lattes. During the day, she works in finance and at night she can be found blogging at GirlHabits or working out at Crossfit Thames.

Dear London,

The hardest thing for me upon arriving was feeling foreign.

Your baristas in Canary wharf didn’t know me, so they just took my order without smiling or even nodding. Your employee’s jokes I didn’t understand, so I just nodded my head and tried very hard to not space out. Your people’s wardrobes of grey and black didn’t match my own, so my pink coat and pink bag were very ill-matched. Your food was different and a bit bland, so I spent ages choosing what not to eat for lunch. Your General Practitioner made me go see him three times to get my blood test results;  Your people really like to say no; Your letting agencies took their sweet old time with our rental; Your people don’t really like to talk loud; You aren’t home to many Latins, so as a Colombian, I felt different in a loud and exotic kind of way.

But now, your baristas in Canary wharf are starting to warm up to me. Nobody can resist a smile, a “have a nice day,” a pink coat, or someone who orders an Iced Drink for long. We chat about how cold it is outside (really?), and how happy we are that it’s Friday, and that to me, is what I call, progress. Even though my wardrobe hasn’t changed and neither has your peoples’, they are starting to understand me as a bubbly and bright American. I found a way to get your people to talk and that’s by asking question after question, so that’s what I do. Your food hasn’t gotten better, unfortunately, but I’ve narrowed it down to having eggs for breakfast and an iced chai (no water!), a chopped salad for lunch (in which I’m only allowed one egg…), and cooking something from Waitrose for dinner during the week, and trying out random restaurants on the weekends; (Wahaca is a winner; Mestizo restaurant is…not). But your Crossfit Thames is quite amazing and reminds me of my brother every time I go work out; it’s like a home away from home. Your GPs I haven’t gotten used to, but they are teaching me the importance of patience, as there really is no better way to deal with a different medical care system. Your people respond well to being challenged, something that is completely unexpected. And I still talk loudly when given the opportunity. I smile whenever I hear Latin Spanish on the DLR, on the tube, or on random London Streets.

And while it’s important for me to have you feel like home, being here is more monumental than creating a routine that is fulfilling. You feel like an open door, inviting me in. You are a breath of fresh air; a brand new perspective. You are patient with me as I stop idolizing my past and start treading lightly on my present, and with more purpose on my future.  You are introducing me to people and situations that will alter the course of my life, and for that, I’m forever grateful. You are showing me that choosing different is better than not choosing at all, and that sometimes, it’s necessary to jump and feel what it’s like to free fall. Your ground is sturdy and its caught me quite a few times. And you know what? I’ve managed to brush myself off and get back up again.

So before I forget, I thank you. For taking me away from New York and for showing me a new way of life.

Warmly,

Carolina

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If you’d like to guest post about London for LLO, drop me a line: stephanie.sadler@hotmail.co.uk