Welcome to Simply, Mariana


I've been wanting to have a blog ever since I was little. I have always felt like I had so much to say and so much to give...and speaking up was always a problem. Hiding was easier. I've always wanted it, but never had the courage to do something practical about it. I started noticing my passion and talent for writing at a very young age. I remember writing as a way of getting away from all the problems in the world. I have always enjoyed sitting down with my notebooks or blank sheets of paper and just let ideas flow. I used to write about pretty much anything. I would come up with brilliant stories, digging deep into each and every one of the characters personalities. I've always loved details and describing things as accurately as I possibly could. For some reason, I've never gone as far as creating a blog (well....at least not a serious one). I guess I was scared of not knowing what to write about or what people could say. Plus, the whole exposure thing kind of freaked me out a little bit. I think it's time to move on. I don't want to wake up one day and feel too old for this, or wonder why I never even tried. So here it is. My first serious blog!

My name is Mariana, and I am 29 years old...(I sound like an alcoholic!) I grew up in Lisbon, Portugal with my mom and my sister. Portugal is a beautiful country. If you're ever thinking about where you should go on your next vacation, you should probably think about Portugal. People are nice, the weather is the best, and don't even get me started on the food! In the summer, you can go to the beach and spend all day relaxing with a beer, and then have lunch at a restaurant by the beach with a beer in your hand. And if you want a little bit more adventure, you can always go out at night and visit so many bars with portuguese music we call "fado". Here are a few pictures of Portugal:

...Tempted yet?

So let me talk a little bit about my family. There are lots of talented people in my family. My mom is an excellent cook, my sister has been living in Prague for the past five years and is studying to become a doctor. My aunt has a huge talent for writing. I grew up babysitting my cousins and we had a lot of fun every time. I grew up in a house where my mom would cook for both my sister and I. Every Christmas, or special holiday the house would be full of people, and my mom would cook about twenty different recipes. I love everything she cooks. She is particularly great with desserts. I never cooked much, because I was the youngest. My mom and sister would always cook most of the things. But I'm not trying to say I was absolutely useless at cooking. I mean I could cook simple things like a steak or pasta, rice and eggs. But never complicated recipes that involved a lot of steps. I guess in my mind, it never made much sense why people bothered so much about cooking. I mean, just the thought of all that…. Buying all the ingredients, putting all the ingredients together, mixing the ingredients, wait for some to cook and then add more ingredients. I just couldn´t see how this could be satisfying in any way. I was so wrong.

Three years ago I moved to London. Why London? Because ever sinceI went there in 2009 with my mother and sister, I went back to Portugal a different person. So much technology, such great monuments and museums, such great history, and the list goes on. I could really see my self living there one day, and kept dreaming about it for years…all the way through high-school…and university. Not to mention London is a beautiful city. There's something special about London. And also…I moved to study music at London MusicSchool. Music is a very important part of my life, and you will see that once you get to know me a little bit better. My dream is to be able to pay my bills with music, one day. I play guitar and piano, but my biggest passion is singing. But we´ll get to that in a minute. Now, if you're wondering why I would trade a sunny and cozy country like Portugal for the UK, I can give you a few reasons: unemployment, government, bad salaries, no future…should I go on? I mean, Portugal is a great country to live in. Not to work in, not to have a career in. Just to live. If I didn't have dreams….if I didn't have ambitions or I was retiring, trust me, I would have stayed right there. People are nice, food is the best, weather is the best. What more could you want from life? Well...I wanted more. This was why I moved to the UK. To search for a better life. But enough talking. It's time for me to show you a picture of one of my first days in London:

Can you see that happy smile/nervous on my face? Everything was new to me. It was the first time I was living abroad, and I was seriously scared. And…believe it or not, my main concern was the language. I kept thinking ´is my english good enough?´, ´what if I don't understand what they say?` I´ve studied English in Portugal since I was on the 4 grade –American English. At the university I chose to study ´social media and communications´, so more English to study. And then, of course, there was all the TV series, movies and music you just could not run away from. And that's how I got an 99% American accent (the 1% is because I´ve been in the UK for 3and a half years now, so I picked up one or two words or expressions that make my accent sound stupid). But seriously, if I had a dollar or pound for every time someone has asked me ´are you american` I'd be a billionaire by now. Sometimes people hear me talk and ask me if i´m American, but then as I talk they hear certain words or expressions that make them question everything. Haha!

But let's get back to that picture. There are a few things I'd like to mention: first, I was seriously shocked about the weather. I moved to London in March 2013, and in Portugal we were having about 20 degrees celcius on a daily basis. On this day I think it was about 8 or 9 degrees. So you can tell the difference. I was freezing. My hands were cold, my nose was cold, every single bone in my body was screaming in pain. Secondly, can you see that nervous/happy smile on my face? I was so excited and wanted to take everything in as much as possible. After a couple of months I was properly settled. I had my tiny box-room in Bermondsey at a shared flat, and the music course was making me so happy. I had gigs every week, was invited to sing at a venue in Battersea Park, met great people, had a lot of friends. Everything was great except for my health. I saw myself gaining so much weight from all the KFC, Mcdonalds,full-of-fat curries and so on. I never really cooked much. It was easier to just eat out every time because fast-food was so cheap. The first time I went back home to Portugal in the summer break, my family was shocked with how much weight I had put on. I felt miserable. I had to change this and start cooking. And that´s what I did. I signed up with pure gym and bought myself a watch to monitor calories and count steps and established a goal of at least 20000 steps each day, and 1000 calories burned. It took me about 6 months to drop all the weight but I was really focused on bringing back my old self. Some days I used to go to the gym and finish the day with 30000 steps and 1500 calories burned. I also got a part time job to help pay my rent while I was studying. That job became full time after I graduated, and one year later I moved to a bigger house in zone 4, sharing it with my boyfriend.

The first two years in London were great! I was in love with the people once I got the hang of the dark british humour (up until then I considered english people to be as cold as ice). I loved how the platforms got crowded with people waiting for their trains, and even though it was normal for everyone around me, I couldn't help but feel excited every time I heard that "mind the gap between the train and the platform", or"this train is ready to depart". I couldn´t help feeling so small every time I looked at big ben. I was in love with everything! The London eye, the river, the tower bridge, piccadilly...you name it! I thought everything was super crazy expensive, but didn´t bother much about it.´It is the price one has to pay to live in a beautiful city like London´, I kept telling myself. I tried to use my free time as much as possible and do as many things as I could, and I've discovered a great passion for photography. At first, I used to grab my little canon and go to green park, st james park, picadilly, leicester square, and everywhere and just start taking pictures of things. And I fell in love with photography. I always liked photography, but I guess Portugal is such a small country…eventually you will already have pictures of every single monument, building, garden, corner, etc. But London was a whole new world to discover!

And so I started cooking, and enjoying to cook! Even if at first it was simply because of the thought of all the pictures of the food I would be able to take with my camera. But after a while I actually found out I loved cooking, and the passion for photography grew more and more. Here are a few pictures I took, of a few recipes I made:

After two years in London, I was finding it harder to live there. I don't know why or when exactly it happened. All I know is I was stressed all the time, I no longer found the ´mind the gap´ amusing. People annoyed me, and to top it all up, I was working at one of the busiest places in the world. Literally. M&M's World London. People EVERYWHERE! So my routine became a stressful routine. Waking up, rushing to the tube (if I was lucky enough to get on the first one – and even if I did, I would probably go all the 40 min journey smelling the non-existing deodorant odour of all the 50 people around me!) I experienced a concerning level of stress for the first time in my life. My hands were constantly shaking, and I had to give up coffee (except for decaf) because my heart would start racing like a fool. I was annoyed at people. I no longer found Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square to be a reason to thank God every day because I was living in such a great city. The 177 pounds of oyster every month, plus 1200 of rent split with my boyfriend suddenly made me question everything. Is it really worth paying this much to live in a beautiful but stressful and expensive city? I had no time to write, no time to record songs, no time to take photos anymore. I wasn't going out anymore, and even when challenged by my friends to go out, just the thought of going all the way from zone 4 to zone 1 and spending 40 min on the train each way immediately put me off. I was constantly tired – exhausted really – and things stopped making sense. What about my music? When was the last time I had recorded something? I saved all that money to buy a piano, but when was the last time I actually sat down and played piano? A month ago? Woops.

One day I read an article called “London, I love you but you're bringing me down” and it was a wake up call. Yes, it is a beautiful city. Yes, you will be willing to pay the price of it for the first couple of years, but after that, you will feel so miserable, exhausted and depressed you will question everything. I sat down with my boyfriend and we both agreed we needed a change of pace. I was practically on the edge of a serious nervous breakdown and all that stress wasn't helping in any way. I didn't put myself in that situation. London did. We decided to move up north. I moved to Gateshead a month ago. Why Gateshead? Well, first of all it has snow! Haha! I waited 3 years for some snow in London and only saw a tiny little bit for 20 minutes once. It wasn't even enough to settle. If you're wondering what the big deal is with snow, do’t forget I am Portuguese after all. I’ve never seen proper snow. The trees covered in white, and all that….never! I'm dying to see it. Also, my boyfriend and I have been wanting to adopt a cat for a long time now, but our landlord wouldn't let it. And just like that one, so many other houses we tried and visited wouldn't allow it as well. I was told up here it would be different, and it really was. All the houses we arranged visits to when we first got here allowed pets. We chose our house, and we are paying HALF of what we were paying in London for a tiny 1 bed flat. Our house now has 2 different floors, 3 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms and a big living room and kitchen. I can have my own little room for music! FINALLY.

From the moment we moved to Gateshead, things have been working out better in one month time than they have ever in London in three years. I have my music room for my recordings, and…we got ourselves a kitten. We adopted a kitten from a shelter and decided to call him Ozzy. He is adorable and I'm crazy about him, so be prepared, because you will hear a lot about him here. Here are some pictures of Ozzy:

He was so small when we adopted him 3 weeks ago. He was 8 weeks and fit in one of my hands. If you look at the first picture, you can see how he was smaller than my boots. He is now 10 weeks old and has grown so much already. He loves cuddles and he is super spoiled.

How cute is he? Honestly.
But let's move on. So, basically, ever since I've moved to Gateshead, I've been having more time to do the things I love. Like creating this blog, or even having time for photography. I love to travel and see new places as much as possible, and in London, I never had the time to do so. Luckily, here I do. Take a look at my latest pictures:

I absolutely love the colours of the sunset in that first picture. Don't you?

When I first arrived to Gateshead, I went out to visit some places and took a few pictures. Well...a lot of pictures. Also, I went to Alnwick Castle but completely forgot to check the prices online. 20 pounds per person is a bit of a stretch, so I ended up only taking pictures of the outside of the castle. it was a bit disappointing, because we drove almost 45 min each way and I don't even understand how i could have missed such a simple detail like checking the website for prices. Hm...I guess I was being naive thinking it would be free to go inside and check where all the Quidditch scenes from Harry Potter were recorded. Naive, huh? I was thinking ´well, in London most of the museums are free...so this must be as well. `Yeah, right! I still managed to take a few pictures of the outside of the castle though.

I'm loving how quiet Newcastle and Gateshead are when compared to London. There are so many places around here I still want to visit, like the Black Gate or the Tynemouth Priory and Castle. Or the Auckland Castle, or Corbridge, the roman town. I'm also dying to visit The Chapter House Glass Gallery and the Chopwell Woodland Park. They all look so amazing, I can't wait to visit all these places and take my camera with me! I don't feel stressed at all, and this atmosphere is very healthy and just what I needed.

Congratulations if you've made it this far! Don't worry, I'm almost done here. Now that you know my whole story, maybe it will make a little more sense to you the reason why I created this blog. I love to write, I love photography, I love to cook and come up with new recipes…so why not blog about it? If you want to put a name on it, consider this blog to be a lifestyle and photography blog. The reason why I chose this name “Simply, Mariana” is because it will be about me and my life in general. Soon I will start posting updates and recipes, and more photos, so stay tuned! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop me an email at: [email protected]

I'm dying to see where this journey will take me. See you soon!