Posted in Minimalism, Moving, Travel, Writing, Yoga

Love people, use things*

My daughter brought my attention to a concept called minimalism last year, through a film called ‘Minimalism-A Documentary about the important things’.

At the time we were just about to move internationally again, the movers were booked, I had already done what I thought was quite a lot of decluttering (and minimalising, I suppose, although I didn’t use that word), yet after watching the documentary, I looked around my house and went, ‘Ah, man! It’s too late this time around, I don’t have time to get rid of any more stuff!’. The concept resonated with me, however, as I looked around and wondered how on earth we had managed to accumulate so much stuff.

We moved in, unpacked some things, donated quite a bit straight away (I was quite proud of that) and got on with accumulating more stuff.

Fast forward less than a year later, and my husband and I are about to move again (our kids are both at university, but we still have all their excess stuff as well) and this time we are downsizing; our new house is significantly smaller than any space we’ve lived in for the last 20 years.

We have arranged to store some of our extra furniture, 4 or 5 larger items that definitely won’t fit in this new house (#theminimalists would say we are ‘hoarding’ our excess furniture; hoarding is a synonym for storing)… and as for the rest of our belongings, I am doing my usual clear out. Now, if you know me, you know that we’ve moved house quite a number of times. Many of these have been international moves. I clear stuff out every single time.

We once stored most of our belongings for three full years, having taken with us only what we were allowed, which amounted to clothes and some personal items to make it ‘feel like home’.  We actually came back with more than we’d left with, and when we got the rest of our stuff out of storage, we spent the first two weeks unpacking it all and saying, ‘Why did we keep this?’ before carefully storing it in our new home. (I know, I know…)

Wow. I didn’t realise I was quite as bad as that until I wrote it down. I now realise am a hoarder of cooking utensils and equipment, cookbooks, shoes, socks and underwear (WHY???) just for starters. I have more jute shopping bags than an entire small village would need, because I hate having to buy or accept plastic bags when I’m shopping, and I regularly forget to bring my own bag. We currently have 7 different ways to make coffee, never mind teapots we have never used. (One of them is just so beautiful and I am worried it will leak.) Is it useful? Probably not, the last one wasn’t fit for purpose, so we exchanged it with the potter. We thought it was a fault in the glaze, but I bought my parents one as well, and theirs leaked too…SO, if it probably doesn’t brew tea without leaking all over the table, why are we keeping it? You see, even with the regular clear outs, we have so much that we neither use nor need.

I have been listening to The Minimalists podcast this week. The concept of minimalism resonates well with yoga, mediation and mindfulness to me – to move all the excess, all the extra stuff out of the way (physical or mental) so you can focus on the important things, that’s what yoga, mediation and mindfulness are all about. Leading a deliberate and meaningful life, clearing out the stuff that’s not useful, or doesn’t add value. In yoga, I ask myself, ‘What is blocking your progress in that posture?’ In other words, what is stopping you from achieving what you are setting out to do. It can be a physical blockage like an injury or a mental blockage like fear or stress. I think it’s the same with our lives. What is important to you, what are you passionate about? Are you doing it, practicing it, spending time enjoying it? If not, why not? Move all the excess out of the way, the things that aren’t useful or adding value to your life; they are blocking your view of what’s important.

I have just put 10 cookbooks, one coffee machine, a popcorn popper and a pair of purple suede fur-lined FitFlop ankle boots into the donation box in my living room. I am not sure how I feel about that yet.  I will sleep on it.

Let’s be clear. I’m not solving the world’s problems by donating an ugly pair of footwear.  Also, cookbooks are useful. As long as you, you know, use them. I enjoy browsing through them, although I must admit that I have never cooked a single recipe from many of the ones I own. The ones I am (tentatively considering) donating (or recycling, let’s call it minimalising) are ones I haven’t even opened since they went into storage almost 5 years ago.

I could probably find most of the recipes from those cookbooks online these days. I could also scan recipes, borrow cookbooks from the library, or buy them from charity shops and re-donate when I’ve used them.I won’t be short of recipes just because I no longer own 10 Jamie Oliver cookbooks. Can you tell that I’m trying to convince myself more than you? We’ll see what happens in the morning.

I digress. You see, that is one area of my personality that highlights an issue. I’m clearly a hoarder at heart.  The words, ‘Oh, I’d better keep it just in case…’ feel very familiar. One look in my wardrobe would probably flag that up.

So we are trying baby steps here. I have already donated novels we’ve both read, (though not reference books that we will use again, not maps and my dear husband has an obsession with anything that says ‘Wainwright’ or ‘Edward Abbey’ on the sleeve…you do what you can). We’ve done a clear out of old DVDs that we won’t watch again, and most of our CDs went years ago.

I’d like to free up space to make more space and time for people and experiences and writing and just being and breathing and yoga.

Kitchen cupboards are next. How many coffee cups does one family of four need? At a rough estimate, I would say (forgetting the ones the kids have taken to Uni with them) we’ve currently got over 50 mugs (and some ‘proper’ teacups with saucers as well). Don’t get me started on plastic travel mugs that neither keep the beverage hot nor allow you to drink it in the car without dribbling coffee down your blouse.

On The Minimalists podcast, they said that someone had said in criticism of them,’Oh, these guys say they are minimalists, they haven’t gotten rid of anything important!’ And that is the point.  You get rid of the excess, so that what remains is useful (or essential), adds value or brings you joy. I’ve added the ‘joy’ part, but I guess that falls into it adding value to your life.

Before he left the house this evening, as I’m preaching all about minimalism and clearing out the clutter, my husband looks up and says, ‘Do I get to stay?’ To which I replied, ‘Of course, my darling, but maybe not all your sports equipment that’s been festering in various storage spaces for the last 25 years.’ Actually I didn’t say that, I’ll let him wonder what’s missing when we move in.

I had a rather parallel conversation with my parents last week. They moved 16 years ago, and still have packing boxes that they haven’t opened. My mother still knows exactly what is in them, mainly because they were all the things that my dad decided to keep, ‘just in case’.  They were the ‘if there’s room in the container, throw them in’ items.

We’ve not got that luxury this time- the new house does have a smallish loft for storage, but no garage, a ‘summer house’ and potting shed but no real storage shed to speak of, which in itself may pose a problem. Here’s a little brain teazer: We are a family of four; between us, we own 6 bikes; one member of the family doesn’t own a bike at all.  How many bikes does my husband own? Answers on a postcard! (I tease him about his bikes, he teases me about shoes. We all have our weaknesses.)

Right, I’m off to advertise all of our furniture on Gumtree, wish me luck.

IMG_20180317_221154508 (1)
My Mother’s day card from my husband. Says ‘shoe hoarder’ all over it. Mine are more likely to be sturdy ugly boots, but they don’t make a card for that apparently. 

P.S. Lifejackets are useful, please wear them. Probably not necessary unless you are in water.

P.P.S. The lifejacket picture is for my parents, and my sister. They will understand.

*Quote from The Minimalists Podcast 



Posted in Writing, Yoga

“Wordless” Wednesdays

My husband, daughter and I discovered a fantastic café in York last weekend called Rowntree Park Reading Café.  We noticed a poster advertising ‘Wordless Wednesdays’, when ‘all users are welcome but encouraged to respect those who wish to sit quietly and enjoy a coffee, read a book or perhaps work on their laptop’ (I’m paraphrasing, having not written it down word-for-word).

‘What a great idea!’ we said. ‘Let’s go this week.’  She is currently working on a report related to her degree;  I need to work on my very disjointed, disastrous ‘manuscript’. A change of scene seemed like a good idea, to offer us a bit of inspiration.

We set ourselves up for it well; we cycled to a 7:15am Yoga class at Yogabomb (excellent, thank you, Laura), got a spot of breakfast at Pig and Pastry (love that place!) and then wandered down to the cafe to enjoy a peaceful couple of hours of work.

Unfortunately, the staff at the Reading Café had failed to add, on their in-café poster the crucial words:  ‘Term time only’.  I found this on the website after we got home.

During school holidays it should be renamed ‘Rambunctious Wednesdays’ or ‘Lego Wednesdays’ or ‘Mum and loud children Wednesdays’.  Wordless is NOT a word that could be used to describe our experience in this otherwise extremely pleasant space.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud their encouragement of family time, books for children and the activities they offer. It is in a lovely location in Rowntree Park, overlooking the pond (and ducks); they serve great coffee and there are books available to borrow.

‘This is the noisiest cafe I’ve been in in a long time,’ my daughter says with a smile. Children are crying, a mother is reading a picture book aloud (VERY aloud), and giving a loud non-stop commentary about all the things her children are doing wrong. Generally everyone in here is being extremely WORD-Y instead of wordless. Though very busy, the Pig and Pastry was much calmer and quieter, probably because the clientele were all adults (parent-readers, please do not be offended, I am a parent myself – it is simply an honest observation).

We shall return another time, either during the holidays (with no intentions of working), or during term time if we ever get the opportunity. For now, home seems much quieter, even with our very own ‘judgy’ dog and extremely needy/noisy cats.

Note: on the shelf behind me was a novel titled Killing in the Café by Simon Brett. I think it was best that we escaped before we could consider its significance.

Photo courtesy of


Posted in Cumbria, Hiking, Italy, Travel, Yoga


I know I haven’t posted for a while,and I apologise. Life has become very hectic since the start of  September – I am working full time (but very local, which is great) whilst at the same time studying a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Dharma Yoga in St Germain en Laye. It’s wonderful but busy.

I have other goals which include writing, exercise outside the yoga studio and the most important one, looking after my beautiful family.

On that note, I feel compelled to share a snippet of the last two wonderful weeks I have just spent in the bosom of family. (Did I really just use the word ‘bosom’?)

In a very decadent move, we took the full two weeks of the school holiday off, being the last ‘school holiday’ in which we will have offspring in school – our youngest will be on study leave and racing toward his A levels by the time Half Term hits in May. End of an era, perhaps.

We were fortunate enough to return to a tradition we had to abandon for a few years whilst we lived to faraway, which is a week with an extended group of family and friends in a holiday cottage in the Lake District in the North of England for a week of hiking, talking, laughing, eating and drinking (and more laughing). The group shifted and changed over the years as some friends would join us for a week, maybe return for a few years or never again (we get lost A LOT so it’s understandable ) but there was always a core that extended to 14, including 3 generations of our family.

Our traditional group was missing one core family this year who had other commitments, making our group 10 this time  – but I do hope they’ll make it again as their absence was felt.

The weather was magnificent, the house had the most wonderful view of the Langdales and we enjoyed reconnecting with friends and family who all live far from us. In addition to all that, our kids (now aged 18 and 21) still want to come with us; not only do they come, they embrace the experience with enthusiasm (except for the getting lost part).

From Silver How looking across at Grasmere
I didn’t say it was warm.


The father-in-law, AKA ‘Doobs’. Still climbing to the top of stuff. 

To top it all, the day after we arrived, we attended the glorious wedding of dear friends in Glenridding, at the Inn on the Lake. John was ‘joint Best Man’, he didn’t just place himself in the official photos.

It was a truly magnificent day of celebration; the weather, the bride and groom, the setting, the wedding guests. It was perfection.

Spring wedding on Lake Ullswater

Congratulations Nobby (sorry…David!) and Katy.  Thank you for letting us share your special day.

When our Cumbrian week was over, we said our goodbyes and three families headed in separate geographical directions, all having been fortified by the scenery, the sometimes bracing walks and our friendship.

But it wasn’t over yet. I did tell you we took two weeks off. We had a ‘house swap’ in the bag, as fellow Homelink-ers had visited our cottage last April;  we had decided to cash in our week with them in Trabia, Sicily.

View from the terrace

This was the view from our terrace. Not bad, eh? Shame I didn’t take any photos in the sunshine!

One week is simply not long enough in Sicily, but we tried to pack as much in as we could. It is a stunning island, the people are friendly and helpful, the driving is terrible.

We visited the town of Cefalù, which has a long sandy beach and distinctive twin-towered Cathedral, all nestled beneath the impressive Rocca di Cefalù. We climbed to the top, and got some lovely pictures from the summit, but I somehow didn’t manage to capture a picture of the rock towering over the town. Here is an an image I found online, taken from the water.

Photo courtesy of

Another day, we drove over to Scopello and walked in the Zingaro Nature Reserve, to the most stunning beach.

We watched a Coast Guard rescue, which was quite exciting (I’m not being callous, the injury seemed to be only a twisted ankle, so nothing critical, though painful I’m sure).

There was more, so much more. We visited mountain villages, Castelbouno and Pollina, which had an ancient amphitheatre. We were treated to a bit of Shakespeare (thanks, Jack).


We visited a fishing village, my favourite bit being the sunken ship in the harbour that they just left there. Oh, and the swordfish I had for lunch. Delicious.


I am now home, and feeling very fortunate to have experienced all of this with my family.  Shame we can’t rewind and do it all again, but that would be greedy.

I will, however, be self indulgent, and share a few more pictures.

Yoga with a view
Cupid’s fountain


Portocello Harbour




Posted in fitness, altitude, Uncategorized, Yoga

Yoga, hikes and a Bobcat

Not all at the same time, you understand, or even on the same day. It could have been, though. Had our hikes been less populated, I may have been tempted to strike a peaceful balance beside Snow Lake or on Rattlesnake Ledge (ooh, maybe not up there, actually. Bit scary. The ledge, not the rattle snakes. There aren’t any rattlesnakes here, or so I am assured). The bobcat was a bit of luck, and not at all what I expected to see in the back yard.

I’ve lumped them in, because they are my most interesting thoughts over the past few days.  No other reason. I could have labeled the post ‘Sunday – Tuesday in Sammaish, WA’, but would you be reading now? No, I didn’t think so. So here’s what we’ve been up to.

We moved from Olympia to Sammamish on Thursday night to take advantage of a house exchange we’d arranged through Homelink International. Great idea, we’ve got use of a local couple’s house for a week with no exchange of money.  They will visit our cottage at a separate time, all signed and sealed in our exchange agreement. If you’ve never considered it, I recommend it. This is our fourth exchange and we’ve got another one imminent in Sicily.  Leave me a message if you’d like more information – it’s a really cool way to travel to different places and often you can use your hosts’ car as well.

On Sunday morning, Megan and I did a Hot Power Vinyassa class first thing, (more about that later) and then we all set off  on I90 to the Alpental Ski Area parking, and headed straight uphill (with the masses) to see Snow Lake. It’s just over 7 miles round trip (up and back the same route) 1800 feet of climbing, highest point was 4400 ft.

The effort was worth the views, most definitely. If I had to give a future hiker advice it would be get there early and avoid summer weekends. Autumn might be a lovely time to go, midweek and after the kids all go back to school!

Unfortunately, on Sunday there was a scourge of loud, rather obnoxious people intruding on any peace there may have been – the hike was beautiful otherwise. A particularly loud group were shouting and doing cannonball jumps into the lake off a rock –  generally showing off to each other and disturbing the tranquility for everyone. Shame, as it was a beautiful spot.

On Monday we drove Megan back to Olympia to work (boo!) and back to Sammamish. A full day’s driving before 10:30, with a nice little break in the middle at our favourite breakfast spot in Olympia,  New Moon Cooperative Cafe , a really great little independent cafe in Olympia, excellent breakfast at sensible prices, wide choices available for meat-eaters and veggies/vegans alike. Highly recommend it if you’re in the area.

‘Where’s the bobcat?’, I hear you ask. Well, on Monday evening, we’d returned to our temporary home, and I was sitting on their back deck (facing the house for some reason) when Jack suddenly pointed behind me, and there, not 10 metres away, was the bobcat. I think I startled her (looking at photos, we think it was a female) and she trotted into next door’s garden. She didn’t go far, as my husband spotted her sitting under a tree next door. She started heading back towards us and then she spotted us again and legged it into the woods behind the houses.  Behind us is a small thicket and behind the trees is another close. It’s surrounded by houses, this area is wholly residential, a sort of commuter town for Seattle. She must have walked through multiple suburban gardens to end up in our back yard.

There’s a regional state park about two or three miles away, it’s only 600 acres but they do have black bears and bobcats so maybe she’d gone for a bit of a stroll herself. Checking out the domestic pet situation over here. I grabbed my iPhone (not the greatest tool for hastily snapped photos of moving wildlife, but it was all I had handy) and these are the rest of the pictures I managed to take.

I know – I’m no David Attenborough, but it’s all I have for you, folks. If you don’t like it, move along!

As for the yoga – as discussed in a previous post, I’ve been trying to fit more yoga into my life and after a pleasant first ‘hot yoga’ experience at Corepower Yoga in Seattle, I thought I would try the local one here which is Hot Yoga Experience. I’m not sure what they used to heat the studio at Corepower, but here they use far infrared to heat the room to 103°F which is the equivalent of around 40°C. They had a special offer going, so we signed up on the spot!

Not sure exactly what I feel about ‘hot’ yoga, compared to ‘normal temperature’ yoga – the heat definitely helps to warm up the muscles, much quicker than during a regular class. I felt more flexible and able to hold the postures in the heated room, and didn’t feel faint as I thought I might. But the sweat! Oh dear! I don’t know if sweating really helps with toxins or with yoga, and there are conflicting opinions about whether or not you burn more calories during ‘hot yoga.

It wasn’t why I went so I’m not really worried about that, but there was one article I read that suggested that, because you are abnormally warmed up, there was more danger of injury as you work beyond your natural limits, and push further into stretches or postures. So far this has not been the case for me, though just the act of going inside to an extremely hot room, when the sun is shining outside is kind of unnatural. However, I have a special introductory offer, limited time to use it and if left to my own devices I might only manage 30 minutes of gentle yoga per day. So. I went.

Today we wandered up Rattlesnake Ledge and the views were also worth the effort. It was only 4 miles round trip, and not at all steep. Lots of humans at the top again, but better behaved today 🙂

I’ll add a few pictures of that as well because it was a glorious day, and the return (same route again, not keen on those really) took us back down to the shores of Rattlesnake Lake, which proved to be a lovely spot for a quick swim before heading back to base.

That’s all for now. I am camped out on the back deck, waiting for my friend to come back. Here, kitty-kitty-kitty.