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!

Sponsored Video: Wash Happy with Samsung activ dualwash

How to go from washing misery….

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to wash happy!

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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 :)

Sponsored Post: World Baking Day – Making The World’s Happiest Cake!

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It’s World Baking day today! Who are you baking for? We were successful in making the World’s Happiest Cake (recipe in my earlier post).

Maya loves to bake and was more than keen to help out with mixing, chopping, grating and squeezing. The cake baked while she napped and I iced it. She was then thrilled to present papa with a slice of cake that she’d made “all by herself”.

Kiran lost interest right around the mixing part but was happy to race his cars around the mixing bowl and we had a lovely morning baking instead of watching cartoons on Youtube, which is becoming a far too frequent occurrence!

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What makes this the World’s Happiest Cake? It certainly put a smile on Made’s face to come home to freshly baked cake made by his little girl! (Recipe was created by Blue Band!)

Whatever you make, baking is a therapeutic activity – the repetitive actions of mixing and focusing on measuring can help your mind to relax and de-stress. Baking also gives you a great sense of accomplishment and if you bake for someone else you get an extra happy boost from doing something nice for another person.

World Baking Day is a great opportunity to get a bit of stress relief from everyday life as well as spending some quality time with your family and doing something special for a loved one.

Who are you baking for? Don’t forget to share with hashtag #worldbakingday, check out the WBD website and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest

This post sponsored by Blue Band for World Baking Day but all thoughts are my own :)

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Kiran is 3!

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Yes I know I have been a sorry excuse for a blogger lately. I really don’t have any excuse except to say my life is totally consumed with childcare and cleaning right now and my energy levels are at an all time low so work, blogging and anything else don’t get much time.

Anyway 3 months late is better than never right? So here are some photos from Kiran’s third birthday. I decided not to have a party and instead we took a day trip to the zoo. Kiran got a remote control car and a buzz lightyear and was pretty thrilled about it.

Kiran at 3 is just about the sweetest thing ever. He’s only really started talking properly in the last 6months – a year and comes out with the funniest things. He says “some prize” instead of “surprise” and “dis gusting” instead of “discusting” (dis gusting, dis not gusting). He is obsessed with Cars and Lightning McQueen (like a queen), charging around shouting “STUPID MAN!” and will happily sit in the dirt with his cars playing and singing by himself for hours.

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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

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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

Bamboo playhouses, cubby houses, forts and hideaways

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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!):

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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)

 

A Tribute

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The above photo was taken at my leaving party before I left the UK to go travelling. It’s not a perfect photo – my eyes are closed and there are some notable people missing but it still makes me smile to remember that night as it was the last time I got to see all my friends together. People often ask me if I miss the UK and if I’ve thought of going back and my answer is always the same: “I only miss my friends”.

When you travel 8,000 miles away from home it’s inevitable that you’ll miss out on some important occasions – I’ve missed out on weddings, babies being born and countless birthdays, nights out and fun times. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would be faced with the loss of one of my oldest friends so early in our lives.

Today is the funeral of my friend Andy (or Boxit as I and many others knew him best) – he’s the one on the far right. Next to him is his girlfriend Sue.  A couple of weeks ago I’d been ill in bed all day and hadn’t logged onto my computer. When I finally did that afternoon and pulled up Facebook, I had two messages from my friends saying that Boxit had been killed earlier that day in a motorbike accident.

I still think even now my brain hasn’t properly processed this information – it’s easy to almost pretend that nothing has changed when he was so far away and our only contact was online but today is the day all my friends back home will be saying goodbye and I can’t be with them.

So instead I wanted to do a little tribute here for Boxit who was always a wonderful friend to me and is part of many happy memories from my youth. We’ve been friends since we were 16 when we used to hang out at college – Boxit, Neil and Roy (middle of photo) were in a band together and I’d go and watch the practices, often sitting on a windowsill behind Boxit. He was the drummer and my position was precarious as sometimes a drumstick would fly away in his enthusiasm. Usually he’d gradually speed up through the course of a song so that Neil and Roy were sweating trying to keep up by the end.

We all had a lot of fun back in those days, before we’d started jobs and settled down. Digging around my old computer archives I found an old website we made for a “2 week party” that was at my house while my mum was on holiday (you can stop reading now mum!). We had so many laughs during those 2 weeks that I didn’t want it to end. I’m contemplating uploading that website now so anyone who was there can have a laugh (and you can see what websites looked like in 1998!)

Later, Neil and Boxit  were my first flatmates – we lived together in a tiny upper flat in Gosforth. Me and Neil would catch the bus or walk over the town moor to uni and Boxit would go to work and then we’d all meet up again in the evening back at home. So much craziness went on in that flat – I remember getting so drunk on rum that I couldn’t find the door out of my room and was bashing on the wall for someone to let me out. One night Neil and Boxit went out with Roy and Ben and came back with an American rock band (Karma to Burn), who they invited to stay overnight. Our tiny flat was full of sweaty men and Neil was sick on the bass player.

After staying in the flat for a year we moved into a bigger house (that we called Boozle) with more friends and the fun continued.

Boxit was a guy of few words – I can’t say I ever had any deep and meaningful conversations with him – but he had a huge heart and was generous with hugs. When I was upset over some drama in my life and literally crying on his shoulder, he’d tell me there was no point in being sad so “just be happy!” – he really loved life and made the most of it.

While I hadn’t spent much time with him in recent years due to us all growing up and settling down (and me moving to Bali obviously), we still stayed in touch and he continued to be a positive influence on my life. Only a year or so ago he saved my crashed hard disk full of important files and photos by telling me to put it in the freezer over night.

So Boxit will be missed – deeply, sadly and forever by everyone close to him but especially his partner Sue who is expecting his baby girl in December. It’s a tragedy that he’ll never get to meet his daughter but his little girl, Eliza will get to know her daddy through the happy memories of others.

When I was looking through photos after I got the news that he died, I realise in every photo he looks just the same – wild hair, wide eyes and crazy smile and this is how I see him when I close my eyes, in boots and black jeans, just the same as when we were 16. I’ll be saying a prayer and raising a glass today to my old friend – goodbye, wherever you are x

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