2014 in review and New Year goals

shineMy 2014 guiding work was “grow” and I’m not sure that the year really lived up to my plans – a lot of things went really well but I also felt stagnant in some areas. We didn’t have any huge events this year – no moving house, babies being born or trips to foreign countries but I do think personally I managed to grow in terms of confidence and making decisions for my personal and professional life. I said last year that I wanted to focus more on myself this year – get my health back on track and get out without the kids and I’ve definitely achieved that.

So lets see how I did with my goals from last year:


  • Make $5,000 a month consistently – Umm, no….
  • Make at least half my income from my own businesses (not client work) – Yes! Hooray! Not making as much as I’d like yet but lets make that this year’s goal.
  • Pay off my “small” debt (which is not that small but separate from my “big” debt of student loans and bank of mum and dad mortgages) – see above. no way this was going to happen but at least it’s no worse!
  • Launch 2 new websites – yes! Not the ones I originally planned but still… I’m hoping for many more this year
  • Write an e-book – not yet.
  • Learn to drive a motorbike – YES!!! This is probably my biggest achievement from 2014 and I squeezed it right in at the end of the year. I also crashed it but I’ll leave that for another post.
  • Create a beautiful learning/playing space in our home – not quite. I did improve our existing space though.
  • Cook 12 new meals (one a month and hopefully more!) – meh. No but I did bake lots of bread and a couple of cakes. Meals coming now that I can drive myself to the supermarket!
  • Have 12  family fun days out (and hopefully more) – hmmm…. not sure?
  • Make 12 videos of the kids and our life (a la documenting delight) – ha! no.
  • Go on 12 date nights with my husband (carrying this one over from last year – we managed a few!) - I’m pretty sure we overachieved on this. We even got in a night away without the kids!
  • Visit family and friends in the UK – not yet :(
  • Fill a sketchbook with drawings – all I drew this year were cars for Kiran
  • Get up early and develop a morning routine – sort of. I did this in the last couple of months but didn’t stick to it.

I think looking back 2014 was a good year for me although it felt pretty quiet and uneventful. I weaned Kiran in June and that allowed the possibility of me leaving him overnight and getting out in the evening more without the kids (previously I would feed him to sleep). Now we leave the kids with their grandparents at least a couple of nights a month and get some alone time. We’re also getting more sleep with both kids finally sleeping through the night.

I knew my health had to be a priority last year after spending the last half of 2013 recovering from dengue and I’m glad to say I felt a lot healthier overall this year. I’ve been trying to eat better (although still some improvements to be done there) and I felt amazing when I was doing yoga every day so definitely have to get back into that.

In April I had a bit of a crisis about my work and trying to figure out what I was doing that I wrote about here. In June I ended up going all in and quitting all my regular freelance jobs to concentrate on my own projects. Things have been going ok but this year I really need to push with that and make some proper money.

My Indonesian has also improved greatly and my confidence along with it. I’m finally driving a motorbike (I’ve been saying I’m going to do this for the last 5 years) and that has also given me so much more confidence and independence.

So my 2015 word is SHINE! I have a feeling this will be a great year for us and I’m excited for this new sparkly shiny new year!

15 things for 2015:

  1. Yoga every day (even if it’s just 5 minutes)
  2. More real food, less crap and sugar
  3. Find a bahasa Indonesia teach and progress from conversational to fluent
  4. Stick to my debt repayment schedule
  5. Hit my income goals for the year (haven’t worked this out yet)
  6. Stop shouting at the kids
  7. Teach Maya to read
  8. Get up at 5am every morning (not got off to a good start with this one, haha!)
  9. Make a craft space in our spare room
  10. Visit the UK
  11. Write a book
  12. Redesign and relaunch my blog
  13. Stop being unproductive when i’m using my computer – 60% + productivity in rescuetime every week
  14. Get out of the house more – go out for coffee or lunch at least once a week
  15. Write a million words.

Hope everyone celebrated the New Year in the way they wanted (I fell asleep with the kids at about 10pm and missed everything, haha!) and I wish you all a fantastic 2015 x



Our Christmas


For some reason I was just not really feeling Christmas this year – I think maybe because my family weren’t over this time but I just couldn’t get into the spirit. It never feels very Christmassy here anyway but I didn’t even put the tree up until xmas eve. Anyway we had some old friends visiting over Christmas, which was lovely and we ended up having a nice and relaxing day at the beach club (even if I spent most of the day supervising the kids in the pool rather than talking to my friends!). I really cut down on the presents this year but the kids were thrilled with what they got. We also got 2 new kittens and I got a motorbike (!!!) (more on that later!)

Unfortunately we’ve all been so busy this year (xmas and new year coinciding with galungan and kuningan) that I failed to get our annual family xmas photo :( will have to get a new year one instead.

Hope everyone had a peaceful and happy Christmas and has a wonderful New Year x

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Tinkerlab – A hands-on guide for little inventors

2014-12-10 10.50.09Firstly I have to apologise for this post being so late as I’ve been meaning to review this book since oh… June… anyway all is not lost because if you’re in need of a last minute Christmas present for a child, parent or teacher, this is in stock at Amazon (get it in the UK here and the US here) and can be on your doorstep by xmas eve.

Now onto the book – it’s been a while since I’ve read a book that made me so excited about spending time with my children, ha! In fact the last one that I enjoyed so much was probably this one. This is not just a book of art and craft projects – I have a few of those already and they’re all wonderful but the Tinkerlab book is something special. I’ve been a fan of the Tinkerlab website for many years so I was very excited when I saw that Rachelle was publishing a book and signed up to get it straight away – I wasn’t dissapointed!

The Tinkelab book is full of art and craft projects, science experiments, parenting manual, tips for setting up and organising a creative space and some useful insights into educational theory. The projects range from the very simple (sticking stickers on paper) to complex (making a robotic drawing machine) but every one of them has potential for hours of fun and can be adapted to work for younger or older children.

Some of the other projects and ideas include:

  • Plexiglass painting
  • Foam plate prints
  • Making potions
  • Ice cream in a jar
  • Pounding nails
  • Gumdrop structures
  • Natural dyes
  • Cloud dough
  • DIY light box

Maya had a fun time flicking through and picking out which projects she wanted to do first and she has as much fun looking at the pictures as she does doing the actual activities.

2014-12-10 19.15.01 2014-12-10 10.52.35 2014-12-10 10.52.35 2014-12-10 10.53.03 2014-12-10 10.52.10 2014-12-10 10.51.34You can buy the Tinkerlab book from Amazon UK and Amazon USA

Life Without Facebook


Can you remember back to a time when we didn’t have social media? or god forbid, we didn’t have the internet at all?! I remember well, back in my teens when internet was on a dialup connection that we paid for by the hour (plus the price of the phone call) and was strictly rationed. Now we’re checking Instagram before we even get out of bed in the morning (or is that just me?)

I’ve never been one of those people who spend all day on Facebook – I found it useful for uploading my photos when I was travelling and updating my friends and family of my whereabouts (because I totally failed at travel blogging) and then of course after I had the kids it was the natural place to upload their photos so everyone so far away could watch them grow up.

In recent years I’ve been using Facebook less and less for these purposes and more as a mindless way of filling in time. I’d get distracted by random Buzzfeed articles (I actually had to temporarily block someone who was posting them constantly as it was ruining my productivity) and I’d use Facebook as a way of procrastinating when i should be working or doing something else.

I’d randomly click onto it without even noticing what I was doing and just keep scrolling and clicking mindlessly. Still I didn’t feel like Facebook was a huge problem until I installed RescueTime and realised just how much time every week I was wasting there.

Still, I tried to limit my time there halfheartedly but didn’t really see it was a huge problem. Facebook fulfils its entertainment and social purposes and there’s nothing wrong with that right?

Then at some point 2 or 3 months ago, I realised that Facebook had become poison for me. There were about 3 separate instances in one day or people saying stupid things that wound me up and sucked me in and made me stressed. I spent 10 minutes crafting a response to one of these people, telling them how wrong they were and then i just thought “what am I doing? why am I bothering wasting my time on this?” So I quit – cold turkey.

This was much easier than I thought – quitting is much easier than trying to limit your time. The first month I was terrified to go on at all and when I accidentally followed a link that ended up on Facebook, I’d click off again quickly. Now I’m a little more relaxed – I’ve checked in occasionally to update my blog page and check a couple of things and it’s clear that the hold on me it once had has gone – I don’t sit there for hours but even after reading for a couple of minutes I can see how easy it would be to get sucked in.

I still don’t feel like this is the ideal solution as I know I’m missing out on news and events – birthdays, babies being born etc. but I still have no wish to even load up the site… I’m thinking I might do a huge cull and block the majority of status updates and then maybe check once a week?

I’m also not eschewing social media entirely – Instagram is my network of choice at the moment, though I browse more than I post. Twitter is too frantic and I don’t really use the others.

How many hours do you use Facebook a week? Try a Facebook fast – the results may surprise you!

Shopping haul! What £100 will buy you in Bali

I’m always fascinated with the contents of other people’s fridges and shopping trolleys. I love this book that has photographs of a month’s worth of food in different countries around the world. So when International Currency Exchange asked if I’d be interested participating in their expat challenge, to see how far the British pound will stretch across the world and how much I could buy for £100, I jumped at the chance (you don’t have to ask me twice to go shopping)!

Disclaimer – I bought all this stuff at different times and in different places. I’d never spend £100 in one go unless I was buying furniture or something. We also don’t have much space in our kitchen and tend to buy stuff as we need it rather than doing one big shop once every couple of weeks.

Fruit & veg from 2 different supermarkets (one in Ubud, one in Kuta):


  • Bananas – 17,671rp (£0.90)
  • Red pepper – 9,672rp (£0.49)
  • 1kg Local oranges -12,000rp (£0.61)
  • Broccoli – 10,000rp (£0.51)
  • Granny Smith apples 28,535rp (£1.45)
  • 1.4kg Mangoes 29,635rp (£1.51)
  • Grapes – 25,155rp (£1.28)
  • White cabbage – 12,540rp (£0.64)
  • 500g Tomatoes – 9,000rp (£0.46)
  • Avocado – 8,424rp (£0.43)
  • 500g Aubergines – 5,200rp (£0.26)
  • 1 kg Carrots – 14,000rp (£0.71)
  • Sweet potatoes – 13,000 (£0.66)
  • Dodol (a kind of candy made with coconut cream, rice flour and dried fruit) – 6,194rp (£0.32)

total = £14.19

Store cupboard groceries:


  • 4 cartons of milk @ 16,000 64,000 (£3.25)
  • yogurt – 41,500 (£2.11)
  • honey -63,400 (£3.22)
  • Jam – 51,350 (£2.61)
  • coconut cream – 8,820 (£0.45)
  • flour – 10, 230 (£0.52)
  • 10 Eggs – 15,500 (£0.79)
  • 250g coffee (not pictured) 16,650 (£0.85)
  • bread (I normally make bread because the local stuff is so awful and not terribly cheap but I was feeling lazy) 8,500 (£0.43)

total = £14.23

From market (We don’t shop in the market often – I can’t be bothered with the hassle. But I always get coconut oil there):


  • coconut oil 15,000 (£0.76)
  • cakes 5,000 (£0.25)
  • Mangoes (yes more mangoes! It’s mango season – have to make the most of it!) 15,000 (£0.76)

total £1.77

Random bits and pieces:


  • 20 nappies (Only Maya still wears nappies at nights – she doesn’t even stir if she wets in her sleep and will just sleep on, soaked from head to toe – advice if you have any?!!) – 95,000rp (£4.84)
  • 10 microfibre clothes – 96,000rp (£4.89)
  • Jacket for Kiran – 100,000rp (£5.09)
  • Dress for Maya – 95,000rp (£4.84)
  • Garden trowel – 44,100rp (£2.25)
  • Hair dye – 108,000rp (£5.50)
  • Contact lens solution – 59,000rp (£3.01)

total = £30.42


Dinner for two (Fish with rice and water spinach, 1 glass ice tea, 1 glass wine) – 195,500rp (£9.96)

3 x 5GB internet sim cards @ 60,000rp each (£9.17)

My biggest monthly expenditure (after rent and health insurance) is on internet. I actually have no idea what I’m spending – I usually buy ones with more data on which work out a bit cheaper and I think I’m using over 60GB a month at the moment. Yikes :( I miss cheap fast unlimited internet. Also these ones I get sent over directly from Jakarta because in Bali it costs me 100,000rp for 3GB. No picture because… they’re sim cards – you know what they look like.

Bali Budda splurge! I normally avoid shopping here because everything is so expensive and I spend a fortune (and it’s full of hippies) but it’s one of the few places to get decent baked goods and western/healthy ingredients …


  • butter 45,000rp (£2.32)
  • Balsamic vinegar 46,00rp (£2.37)
  • Local mozerella 46,000rp (£2.37)
  • wholewheat flour (finally!!! been looking for this everywhere although i didn’t check the price before I bought it and I definitely won’t be buying it again. As you can see from my previous shopping, this is 10x the cost of normal flour. Bah.) 96,000 (£4.95)
  • dried apricots 19,000 (£0.98)
  • honey oat cookies 25,000 (£1.29)
  • peanut butter 35,000 (£1.80)
  • raisins 15,000 (£0.77)
  • Granola 25,000 (£1.29)
  • Rabbit not included

total including tax 387,200 (£19.97)

Final total = £99.71

So there you go – how to blow £100 in Bali. Money goes suprisingly fast – I’ve been away for so long that I don’t have any concept of prices in the UK any more but I feel like Bali is not as cheap as everyone thinks it is. Yes maybe if you do all your shopping in the market and live off rice and vegetables and tempe, but that gets boring fast, trust me. Western and imported food is expensive here I think, plus there can be a big difference between shops. Ubud, where I live is now the most expensive place to live in Bali. My sister in law won’t even shop in the local market here anymore – she does all her food shopping at a supermaket in Denpasar where the food is fresher and prices are more reasonable. I try to get down to do a big shop at one of the big supermarkets down south but it takes up the best part of a day and is a real hassle. It’s probably worth it though looking at some of the things I bought there – those grapes would have been double the price in Ubud.

I’d be interested in how these prices stack up against other places around the world (and Indonesia – anyone from Jakarta want to chip in? Erica? Eric? Ha, just realised you both have the same name….

Thanks again to International Currency Exchange for letting me go shopping! Want to see what I can get for £1,000 next? :p


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Can’t believe my little girl is so grown up! Last week Maya turned 4, which she’d been looking forward to practically since the day after her third birthday (she’s obsessed with birthdays!) She got a play kitchen from Grandma,  I got her a play tent/bus (which turned out to be the best present EVER!) and we had a little party complete with my first ever attempt at home made birthday cake! Happy days :)

See Maya’s third birthday / second birthday / first birthday - I love looking at how much they’ve all grown!


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Kiran sulking because I wouldn’t give him an ice lolly because he wouldn’t go in the bath and Maya making letters out of play doh


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I’m just going to stop pretending that I’m even trying to publish these on time any more.

Kiran photobombing in the second shot just cracked me up!

Bamboo playhouses, cubby houses, forts and hideaways


Recently I’ve been lamenting the state of our garden – when we moved in we had grass and lots of plants and then Made’s stupid ducks ate everything and now we just have a big patch of dirt and whenever anything green tries to grow again, Made’s stupid chickens peck it to death or Kiran hits it with a stick to achieve the same thing.

Ugly as it is, it hasn’t made much difference to the kids and Kiran especially likes digging in the dirt and it’s pretty much the only thing that will keep him occupied for longer than 5 minutes. Also now we’re kind of back to basics I’m coming up with some more ideas for making it more fun for them to play in like I wanted to when we moved in and never quite got around to. Our rental agreement is due for renewal and there was a bit of a wobble for a while over our rent possibly going up and maybe having to move back into the family home in the village but i’m pretty sure we’re going to be here for at least another year so I have renewed enthusiasm for renovations.

I love the kids playing in the garden for 2 main reasons:

1. I think it’s incredibly important for young kids to spend time playing outdoors. My mum was involved in a forest schools pilot in the UK years ago and since then I’ve done a lot of reading and the argument for letting kids just play all day in the dirt instead of trying to teach them anything until they’re at least 6 or 7 is quite compelling.

2. It keeps them busy – they’ll happily entertain themselves out there for much longer than doing anything inside and it gives me chance to get some work done without guilt.

So I’ve been looking into a few ideas for how I can make our outdoor space more fun. At the moment all we basically have is a load of container and plastic cutlery for ‘mud cooking’. I just claimed back the little bamboo roof thing that was here when we moved in as a makeshift playhouse but I’d really like to make something better.

One of Maya’s friends has an amazing bamboo fort in their garden, I haven’t got a photo of it but it’s similar to this one (only bigger and better!):


We don’t have room for a playhouse like this (well we probably do but it would take up the whole space!) but it would probably be pretty easy and cheap to get a small bamboo playhouse made up here so I’ve been looking for inspiration:


Ok not bamboo but these willow playhouses are beautiful, but £2,000 plus delivery? Yikes? They do sell similar things here for nowhere near that price but still too pricey for me to want to leave it open to the elements. It’s my dream to one day own a house big enough for a little rattan reading nook like this.


This is a clever idea and I wanted to make a sandpit too, so why not combine them? It would be pretty easy to make in bamboo.


Again, this one is not actually bamboo (having a hard time finding many examples of bamboo playhouses actually) but would be pretty easy to replicate – look at the roof! What a cool idea.


Ok not technically a house, but that giant bamboo ball is pretty cool. Also I think I may have just discovered a new favourite blog – I mean anyone who has this in their back yard must have an amazing blog, right? Check it out.

And of course a good old bamboo teepee is always an option – I love this outdoor play space  – it’s simple but just perfect I think. Teepee, mud kitchen and sand pit with tree stumps – what more could a little kid want?


And I had to sneak in a picture of Sharma Springs here at the end. Sharma Springs is an amazing designer villa near us that’s built entirely from bamboo and looks like something out of a dream. It was designed and built by the same team behind Green School and it’s in a whole village of impressive bamboo houses at Green Village. If I was rich, I’d get Ibuku to build my kids’ playhouse… (that sounds odd as “ibuku” means my mother in Indonesian)



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Maya: a levitating child or an extremely powerful fan? You decide.

Kiran: every now and again I get the buggy out and they have hours of fun pushing each other up and down, pretending to be babies.

Plus a bonus photo of a helicopter just because I like playing with the zoom on my new lens.

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