Konmari-ing my house

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One of the things that I struggle with the most at the moment is maintaining a balance between getting work done and keeping the house clean and tidy.

Anyone with small kids will probably understand why this is such a challenge. I can spend 2 hours tidying the house and then the kids will get back and 5 minutes later the place is completely trashed.

In the midst of my struggle I read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo (shortened to Konmari in that way that is so ubiquitous in Asian languages).

I’m guessing you’ve heard of this book by now – strange that a book about tidying should have so many rave reviews and become a best seller but if you read it, you’ll probably understand why.

How you store items is a big part of the Konmari method, particularly clothing. There is even a special folding technique for clothes that I have to say I am still following months later, which is a pretty big deal.

Shoes are also a problem for us – we all have several pairs and they take up a lot of space. We used to have a plastic shoe rack but it was ugly and impractical. So after researching some shoe storage ideas I realised we could use a wooden bench with a shelf underneath, which not only looks much nicer but also provides an extra seat.

Another main aspect of the Konmari method is getting rid of your stuff. Rather than the usual “If you’ve not used it for a year it has to go” method, Konmari recommends only keeping items in your home that make you happy.

I’m actually a big fan of de-cluttering, I find it rather freeing. I believe we can be really held down by our possessions and getting rid of a good portion of them opens up space both physically and metaphorically to let new and better things into your life.

Now de-cluttering when you’ve got kids, that’s a different story. The toys had begun to take over the house. It was getting silly. So one afternoon, sick of yet another time-wasting tidying session, I put 80% of the toys in a room upstairs that we don’t use. I left the doll house, maya’s baby dolls, some animal figurines and Kiran’s cars.

Well I have to say this was rather a success. Rather than missing the rest of their toys, the kids hardly noticed they’d gone. Even better, they played more creatively with the toys that were left and each toy became multi-purpose.

So I have to say Konmari gets a big thumbs up from me and it’s definitely worth reading the book. I’m hoping for a less cluttered, cleaner house and less time spent tidying up in the future!

Trip to the UK: 19 hours on a plane with a 5-year old and no iPad


Ok I’m finally getting around to writing about our UK trip which we took in June. Excuses for leaving it so long? Well my mac was dead for quite a while (after already being fixed in England and ended up needing a whole new logic board) but if you’ve been round here for a while you’ll know what a bad blogger I am so that’s really my main excuse.

This was kind of a last minute trip after my mum offered to fly us out for a holiday. Just me and my big girl (Made wasn’t really interested in going and we decided to leave Kiran at home with him). Maya’s been on a plane before when she was a baby but this was the first trip that she could remember so she was very excited about it.

In fact she was terribly excited just being in the airport – so much to look at and so many toys and books and she insisted on posing for a photo with every single shop display! I actually thought I wasn’t going to be able to get her out of the airport shops and board the plane.



We had a night flight and annoyingly she fell asleep just as we were landing in Singapore. She wasn’t very happy about being woken up and getting off the plane (“are we there yet?”) but once she found the M&Ms shop, she perked up again. I actually thought she was so hyped up she wasn’t going to sleep again but she was out before we’d even reached the end of the runway.


Maya was great on the flight. She slept for half of it and then kept herself quiet playing with the things I’d packed the rest of the time. I was totally unimpressed with KLM who stated on their website that kids got a goody bag with games, pencils, a key chain, stickers and so on. Well we got nothing on both flights. The kids meal was also a complete joke and Maya refused to eat any of it. Luckily I’d packed loads of snacks and things to keep her occupied. We don’t have an iPad, only a kindle fire on its last legs and the battery only holds charge for about an hour so I decided to leave it at home. instead I packed her lots of colouring and sticker books, a magnetic drawing tablet, some plastic animals and snakes and ladders. Everything was a big success and I was glad I’d brought it all as she couldn’t really watch the tv because it was too high and couldn’t be angled properly. On the way back I bought her a knock-off my little pony which she played with practically all the time she wasn’t sleeping.


While Maya travelled well, I can’t say the same for me. I used to fly and travel a lot but I guess I’m out of practice and I found the whole experience quite nerve-wracking. We had a lot of turbulence flying over Thailand on the way out and were right at the back of the plane which didn’t help. I was grabbing the armrests and closing my eyes. Luckily Maya was asleep but she didn’t seem bothered by the whole flying experience anyway, she just didn’t like the loud noises – she was most scared of the toilet flush and I had to let her go back to the seat so I could flush it while she wasn’t there.

The journey back was also pretty horrific. We were delayed on the runway in Amsterdam for ages because there was a problem with the engine and they needed to fix it :-O then we landed in Singapore and during the wait time (everyone gets off the plane, they clean it and you get back on an hour later) a mega storm had started complete with torrential rain and lightning. The pilot announced that he’d have to do a special extra fast and extra steep takeoff manoeuvre which was “perfectly safe”. Of course by this point I was convinced we were never going to make it back alive.

Next post onto what we actually did while we were there!

How to share special travel moments with your loved ones


Sharing is more than caring. It’s a natural need we all have at some level. People also often say that “happiness is only real if it’s shared.” Is that true? Maybe, I wouldn’t go to that extreme. There is certainly some level of happiness to be attained even when you don’t share a perfect moment but to feel true bliss it’s, indeed, true that it is better to be able to share your story with someone. If that someone is someone you know, like or love, that’s even better.

But here you are, in a foreign country where most people don’t have a clue what you are talking about as they don’t speak your language. You’re having an amazing time and experiencing all these new things and you want to tell someone about it, preferably your dear ones back home. But that’s easier said than done usually. Just calling back home is not an option as it would eat up your travelling budget superfast and you can’t really get a hold of folks back home on Skype or Facebook as often as you’d like it. So what do you do? You find a smart way around it.

International Calling Cards

What you need is something that harnesses the power of VoIP, the Internet and the classical phone lines. And you get exactly that when you purchase a calling card (for example Enjoy Prepaid). A calling card will allow you to call back home for an incredibly low rate while enjoying more than decent call quality.

A calling card allows you to call from your smartphone when you have decent Internet access or from your PC if that is more convenient. What’s even more amazing is that you can use regular landlines to make a phone call at the same rates by making use of the special access number and your unique access PIN. This is an alternative to roaming that costs a lot less and it is becoming incredibly popular among travelers, expats and so on.

Speaking your language

There’s something magic in speaking your own language when sharing a travel experience or any experience for that matter. You don’t need to search for your words anymore, everything just comes natural and you can fully express your emotions.

It’s great to be able to just pick up the phone after a great moment and share that with your best friend or your family. Luckily, thanks to readily available Internet access and calling cards you can enjoy this benefit.

Mobile Internet

More and more travellers prefer now to buy 3G sim cards whenever they reach a new destination so they have Internet access and use VoIP services to call home. If you choose to do that too, make sure you ask the providers if they limit VoIP calls in any way or not. Some do, some don’t and it’s safer to ask before buying.

Now you can be more connected than ever. You can not only call back home when you are abroad but you can also call the friends you made all over the world when you return back home. Everything for just a few cents.

Maya is 5!

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Time just goes so fast and she gets big so quickly. 5 seems like a big milestone for some reason – like she’s transitioned out of “little kid” and moving onto the next phase. She’s at school now with a load of new friends and a life separate from my own. She’s learning new skills at a rapid rate and basically teaching herself – she’ll now write pretty neat words and sentences, just asking me how to spell the words. She’s not quite reading as the sound blending hasn’t quite clicked for her but I don’t doubt it will be soon. She can speak 3 languages and can sing songs in Japanese too. She’s an expert at accents and pronunciation and switches into English with an Indonesian accent at school and considers “English” and “American” to be completely different languages.

We got her a Baby Alive doll this year – it was all she’d been asking for for months as she’s obsessed with watching Baby Alive videos on Youtube. She’s named her new doll Emma (I’m fascinated by the fact she gives her dolls very English names, the others being Holly and Rosie). She’s become a real girly girl over the last year after being a tomboy for so long – she loves princesses and Barbies and anything pink and sparkly and will play with her dolls alone for hours. She still likes climbing trees and playing in the mud though.

She wasn’t very well for her birthday yesterday (you can see it in her face on the photos) but she still had fun running around with her cousins. I’ve kept her off school today as she’s still not 100% and running a temperature.

Happy Birthday my little princess xxx

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Taman Nusa Cultural Park

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Apologies if you’ve already seen most of these photos on Instagram, I was just going to leave them on there but then I thought I’d write up a little informational post for anyone visiting Bali and looking into this attraction as it seems to be little known and well worth a visit!

Taman Nusa is an open air museum in Gianyar near the border with Klungkung, about 30 minutes drive from Ubud. Its advertising slogan is “See Indonesia in one afternoon” – a lofty claim! but I think it’s definitely a great taster if you’d like to see some of the rest of Indonesia but you’re just in Bali.

The park is basically a little village of traditional houses from all over Indonesia laid out so you can go and walk around and inside them with locals from the various islands in traditional dress doing cultural demonstrations of handicrafts, music, etc. All the staff were super friendly (my kids were not so sure!) and it was really interesting to see different dances and music from around the county (there was a guy playing really awesome Kalimantan music, I would have been happy to stay there and listen all afternoon.

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We left first thing in the morning and hadn’t eaten breakfast so we stopped in the restaurant first. I was pleasantly surprised at the food as I’m used to overpriced and rubbish food in most of the tourist attractions. While the prices here were at the high end, the portions were massive and we had some very delicious nasi campur while the kids had chicken nuggets from real chicken breast and flung rice all over the place.

2015-09-26 10.53.27First stop after pre-historic Indonesia (basically some fake caves where I may have messed up by suggesting to the kids that we’d see some dinosaurs – they’re still asking where the dinosaurs are!) and a replica of Borobudur, is Papua with these cute little houses.IMG_5927

Maya got a shock when this Papuan guy suddenly came out of the biggest house. I wasn’t expecting him either but he was very friendly :p the kids weren’t convinced enough to get a photo with him though and Kiran eyed him suspiciously while exploring the other houses.IMG_5928 IMG_5934These creepy dolls are a replica of the Toraja cave tombs – the Torajan people in south Sulawesi bury their dead inside tombs hollowed out of limestone cliffs and these doll effigies are put in the front.
IMG_5946 IMG_5937Maya decided she was tired and didn’t want to walk anymore by the time we got to Kalimantan. The lovely staff offered to send a golf cart thing round to pick us up so we could sit and get driven around but we ended up just carrying both kids – gah! I would say this is a good attraction to visit with kids as there’s plenty of space for them to run around and explore but be sure to take lots of water and a stroller or carrier if your kids are young enough for them. Also go as early as possible because it gets really hot walking around at midday!IMG_5941This Minangkabau house was one of the prettiest – I didn’t get to go inside because of the kids wingeing :(IMG_5932They did enjoy playing on this rocking horse on the porch of one of the Sulawesi houses though.

We had a really good morning and I think the 170,000rp each we paid was fair (KITAS and local price, kids were 120,000rp each I think). Tourist price is $29 for adults and $19 for kids, which I think is still a reasonable price if you’re interested in Indonesian architecture and culture.

If we ever build another wooden house, I’ll definitely be coming back here for some inspiration, probably without the kids so I can explore without them getting tired :)

See more info at taman-nusa.com

Go Outside

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For the past three weeks I’ve been working on a new business. Actually it’s an old business but having neglected it for so many years, it was bringing in a negligible amount of cash each month. After floundering for so long, I finally felt motivated and inspired enough to give up all my freelance work and concentrate 100% on working for myself.

Now the pressure is on as I have no other source of income and I’ve basically been working my socks off to do as much as I can in-between chasing after the kids and keeping the house relatively clean. Spending every possible free moment typing away on my computer has resulted in me feeling rather burned out and it’s tricky to stay motivated when I know I won’t even see the results of my efforts for at least a few months.

I don’t take the time to get out and enjoy our neighbourhood as much as I should but it’s amazing what 20 minutes of outside time can do for my mental health. Not just me but also Maya who’s usually tired out and grumpy in the afternoons from her morning at school and Kiran who’s usually woken up from his nap and is groggy and bad tempered.

Approaching the end of September, we’re coming up to my favourite time of the year if we’d been in the UK. I just love the turn of the seasons into Autumn when the nights start getting darker, the leaves are falling from the trees and you can almost smell the chill in the air. I hadn’t thought about it much for the past few years but our recent trip has made me reminisce about my life before and yearn for dressing up in warm clothes, Halloween and bonfire night.

I know I’m overly romanticising though because with that first chill comes bitter cold and rain and sludge and hours and hours of darkness. Where else in the world can you step out of your front door without a coat or shoes and have this waiting for you every single day? I guess eternal summer isn’t so bad after all.

Natsukashii and random ramblings

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Well it’s been quite a while since I posted properly. We’ve been pretty busy since then – first trip back to the UK since Maya was a baby and Maya started school. I’ve been getting used to the new schedule and the eternal struggle of juggling time with kids, work and housework. Housework is pretty much winning at the moment, some days I feel like all I’ve done from sunrise to sunset is clean and wash clothes. Anyway….

I kind of lost the motivation to post here for a while but I’ve been feeling inspired again recently and find myself writing blog posts in my head. I have a lot to catch up on so I may as well get on with it.

Actually I should be working right now as I have two articles due tomorrow and it’s my birthday so I kind of wanted a day off. But today’s just been one of those days, you know the ones where you really just want to stay in bed. Funnily the day before I was feeling really upbeat and energetic and positive about everything and then today I’m feeling so down again. Hey ho, that’s how it goes, up and down like a yo-yo. Anyway I figured the best thing I could do, rather than sit up half the night procrastinating, is get an early night (it’s already 10pm so not really an early night for me anymore but whatever) and start afresh in the morning. Hopefully if I can be productive in the morning it will leave the rest of the day free for fun, or at least the afternoon after my girl gets out of school.

I don’t really have any birthday plans. I’m kind of not in the mood for anything in particular. I did buy a cake to share with Made (whose birthday is the day after mine) and I’m planning to treat myself to a spot of online shopping. Maybe we’ll go out for dinner but being on a school night makes things kind of awkward (gah, school messes up everything).

So it’s funny, since I got back from our little trip to England (and Scotland, briefly) I’m feeling a weird sense of not quite homesickness, but nostalgia and longing that I never had before (this is one of those things that’s expressed better in other languages – natsukashii in Japanese pretty much sums it up). I was always very happy to live in Bali and I couldn’t wait to escape the UK while I was there. Sure I missed my family and friends, Primark, Sainsburys and fast cheap internet but I figured it was worth it to trade it all in for our life of palm trees and rice fields.

I still do feel that but I’m missing things in a way that I didn’t after our last trip and I’m not sure if it’s because Maya is bigger now and able to benefit from the parks and museums and all the UK has to offer and I’m seeing an alternate reality in my head where there are four seasons and my kids are living out a childhood similar to my own.

Anyway, I’m not on the point of booking us all tickets back to blighty (not that they’d let in my husband even if we wanted to, thanks for that UK government) but I’m indulging myself a little by reading some of my favourite and some new British blogs (Tigerlilly Quin / Make Do & Push / Me & Orla)and online window shopping on sites like Cath Kidston and Emma Bridgewater. I figure once I’m rich and successful, I can fill my house in Bali with lots of Britishy things.

I am actually doing some real online shopping too, I mean it is my birthday after all… picked myself up a little reminder of my home town from the Baltic gallery shop (an amazing modern art gallery with an even more amazing shop that you must go to if you’re ever in Newcastle/Gateshead.  We didn’t have time to squeeze in a visit on this trip but we did all go with Maya when she was a little bald baby). I didn’t think much of Newcastle when I was growing up there but the older I’ve got, the more I came to appreciate it. I was glad Maya got to share the experience of getting a train over the river and seeing all the bridges :)

So I’m getting this:


and also some other pretty things that have nothing to do with Newcastle but I just want them (honestly the amount of money I used to spend in this shop when I lived there…) I haven’t quite decided which to choose!

That’s about it for now. More about our trip and other things soon, I promise! I must say, it feels nice to be blogging again :)

How to reconnect with folk back home (or travelling buddies)


Since I started travelling a strange thing started to happen. While when back home I felt the need to go away and escape now I started to miss my family and friends and wanted to reconnect with them as often as possible. Moreover, when you travel or when you live in a very touristic place like Ubud you start to make friends from all the imaginable and unimaginable countries and you want to keep in touch with everyone. Facebook and Twitter are OK but as you know it’s something completely different when you can actually be called or talk to someone on the phone.

One of the alternatives to Skype that I hear everyone is very excited about is the International Calls NobelApp that is available for both Android smartphones and iPhones. You probably thought that it costs a fortune to simply call abroad and that you can’t just pick up phone to call your folks or your friends to ask about some kind of recipe or just to reach out. The NobelCom phone cards totally changed the game as you can use them from just about any phone by dialing an access number, entering your PIN, your destination number and start talking at really LOW COSTS. So you don’t need Internet, which is quite amazing considering that getting really high-speed Internet in Ubud or other parts of Bali is quite difficult.

You can also use this type of apps with your Wi-Fi or with a 3G connection and it works perfectly. The sound quality is actually surprisingly good. It’s nice to actually hear the person you are talking to without the background noise and interference you have with some of the normal calls. You don’t even feel you are thousands of miles away, on a relatively isolated (although very populated and gorgeous) island.

We all have smartphones now and the Nobel app will use your data plan. In most countries you can get a really cheap SIM card with a good data plan and the speed is more than decent. Actually the prices in South-East Asia are amazingly low for this type of service. And if you don’t have a smartphone you can download the NobelCom PC-2-Phone app and use it on your PC. And I love the fact that you can send International text messages as that makes you feel more connected in some way as it’s something you would do more when you are back home.

The world is becoming more international. It’s now easier than ever to call anywhere at low costs without having to have a fancy Internet connection. You can really control your costs and hear the other person perfectly while being heard beautifully. And I love the mobility also. We’re not tied to the computer anymore, we can now call directly from our smartphones or even from any phone we have access to.

It’s absolutely great to travel but you always have some loved ones somewhere else in the world and reconnecting is part of our nature, now you have the tools to do it without affecting your budget.

Sponsored Video: Wash Happy with Samsung activ dualwash

How to go from washing misery….


to wash happy!


When I moved to Bali, my life simplified a lot. I went from living in a house full of stuff to getting along quite happily for a year with just the contents of a small backback.

As nice as this is, there are still some western comforts that I bitterly miss – cold showers get boring fast, even when you’re in the tropics. And especially after having kids, I missed the convenience of having a washing machine.

I got used to hand washing all my clothes but now with a family of 4, it definitely takes up a huge part of my day – I have to wash every day just to stay on top of it and if we’re in the middle of the rainy season, I just give up on anything drying. We do have plenty of laundries here but I feel like it’s more hassle than it’s worth in dropping clothes off and picking them up several times a week plus items often go missing or get damaged.

We did install a washing machine at our airbnb rental and I sneak up there sometimes when we don’t have guests as it’s about a million times easier to throw a load of laundry in the machine. It would make things about a million times easier again if we had our own washing machine here.

And when it comes to washing machines, you can’t get much more convenient than the Samsung activ dualwash. This machine simplifies laundry with a built in sink and scrubber so you can hand wash, soak and scrub before machine washing, all in the same place.

The activ dualwash also has a unique “soft curl” design with small outlet holes, which is kinder on clothes and means they’re less likely to get damaged – I’ve had a couple of pieces ripped to shreds with our current machine when I overfilled it.

There are also lots of other handy features like a built-in error checking system and accompanying smartphone app so you can find problems without calling out an engineer; a Magic Filter to keep clothes cleaner; and an anti-tangle “Wobble technology”, water-saving washing flow.

Laundry is one of those chores that nobody really enjoys but if you watch the video above you might just get inspired to ‘wash happy’ and dance around to the catchy tune while getting your clothes clean!

If you’d like to find out more about the Samsung activ dualwash, checkout the Samsung Facebook page, get home ideas and inspiration from their Instagram account and watch more videos at their YouTube channel.

This post sponsored by Samsung but all thoughts are my own :)

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