Monday, 6 October 2014

I'm off to the Big Apple!

katie and ellie in haystacks
Hello friends,
I’ve got some exciting news: I’m on my way to the U.S of A!  I’m going with my little sister Ellie (there we are playing hide and seek in a haystack) to visit our dear friend Helen who ran away with the circus and has been touring the East Coast for the past year.  Their final stop is in New York, so Ellie and I are hopping across the pond to explore the Big Apple together and give Helen a REALLY BIG CUDDLE!  That’s Helen and I having a good cuddle when she came to visit me in France.

melon et kattee
You might recognise her as the very lovely person who is wearing my Hoop-la Scarf.  Which reminds me – shop announcement! – That for the whole of October, all Hoop-la Scarves are 50% off!  The gorgeous colours of autumn made me so happy, I had to celebrate and offer something to you.  All orders placed now will be made at the end of October, and sent out at the beginning of November, so it’s a great chance to treat yourself or a friend, if you’ve had one of these on your wish list…Head over to the shop now!

Harvest hoop-la 2

I'm joining Shannon Trindade on her 30 days writing challenge.

I love this illustrated list of 10 Foreign Words that we don't have in English.  I often go 'ahiki' and am guilty of 'tsundoku'.  I do enjoy a spot of 'wabi-sabi' :)

In September I wrote an article for online Berlin magazine, Rosegarten.  It's a little story about reclaiming time, called Time is Life Itself, and Life Resides in the Human Heart.

I'll meet you back here at the end of October, to report on my New York adventures, and to bring you a guest post series of bicycle stories!

Over and out. X

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Shipyard of Gdansk

On our first night in Gdansk, our host Piotr gave us an alternative tour of his hometown.  We drank a lot of vodka and snuck into the Gdansk Shipyard.  He kept pointing out “the historical cranes” which looked spectacular under the glow of their disco lights.  I wrote a short story about our little adventure. 

Historical Cranes 

Night had fallen over the shipyard.  The historical cranes were illuminated by floodlights whose beams couldn't reach us as we scrambled through a hole in the wire fence.  Somewhere to our right - the sounds of heavy machinery in operation, sparks flying as metal grinds metal.

Creeping across the dusty ground, as a pack of three: Izzy and I and our Polish host Piotr, who we have known for all of three hours.  In our minds we are tip-toeing stealthily across the over-grown wasteland between the road and the shipyard, but in reality, this is an illusion created by the shots of too-sweet vodka we guzzled heartily around town.  Piotr insisted on showing us “Polish hospitality” by marching us from bar to bar, just long enough to empty a glass and move on to the next.  Every time we tried to pay, he solemnly raised his hand in a gesture of silence.  It felt less of a social bar crawl: more a preparation for the night's adventures.  Our veins coursing with Polish fuel, over-confident and over-balancing, we crash around no-man's land towards the docks.

Behind the looming, empty industrial buildings, we spy a yacht – bright white and gleaming in the water.  In the sea!  We stagger towards it, like drunken moths to the moon.  Our hands reach out to touch it, feel a rising urge to board the vessel and climb its mast...we catch ourselves just in time.  A fine boat like this wouldn't be left unprotected and we know we aren't alone here.

We turn our attention away from the yacht to inspect a pile of large cable spools in the shadows behind us.  Two abandoned warehouses create an alley along which we creep, under the cover of darkness.  At the end of the alley, we swerve out between the buildings, under the gaze of the yellow security lights, for too long, we are too bold.  Not far behind our scuffling comes the crunching of heavy boots on the gravel path.  Bright flashlights criss-cross our path, causing us to leap into the waist-high weeds in an alcove between two brick buildings.  The smashed windows send my mind to imagine, for a fleeting moment, earlier days when this shipyard started the movement to bring down Communism in Eastern Europe.

The fast-approaching flashlights cast our shadows high across the brick walls like three skinny giants with our heads in the black clouds.  We crouch down, our silhouettes disguised by the shadows of the weeds.  Years of playing hide and seek as a kid taught me that people can sense eyes and faces, so I close my eyes tight, pursing my lips.  My body curls up small and I hang my head towards the ground. 

A sharp crack as a heavy boot crushes a piece of glass under foot, loud, close, the lights bright on the road.  Don't look up, I tell myself.  Don't shine the torch round the corner, I silently plead.

The footsteps stop just in front of my hiding place, and even behind my tightly closed eyelids, I am dazzled by white light.  I stay crouched a moment, like an ostrich with its head in the sand.  I pretend that with my eyes shut, I am invisible.  But if I can see the light, the light can see me. 

Izzy and Piotr in light


shirt on a pole



cable spools

peeking through

Shipyard alleyway

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Happiness of Pursuit

  The Happiness of Pursuit
Chris Guillebeau is a writer, entrepreneur, traveller and all-round nice guy.  So nice in fact, that he sent me a copy of his new book.

Chris is an avid world traveller and amazingly had visited every country n the world by the time he was 35.  On his travels he found that there were so many people following amazing goals and personal challenges that he decided to write a book about them all.  The Happiness of Pursuit.

He meets some folks who walked great distances across countries and continents, just to test their limits.  Other people turned their hobbies into quests like Thomas Hawk's mission to shoot and publish one million photos, or Phoebe Snetsinger's bird watching passion that has taken her around the globe, where she sets new records in spotting new species. 

The story of Meghan Baker and Adam Warner warmed the cockles of my heart.  The young couple  met and fell in love whilst working in Korea.  Meghan had a list of life goals, one of which was to get married.  When they found out that she was very ill with cancer, the couple married, and when Meghan passed away, Adam coped with his grief by continuing to pursue her goals.  He said that by following her goals on her original list, he felt like Meghan was with him - “Every time I mark off one of her goals, I think Meghan unintentionally chose goals that would make anyone a better version of themselves.  I feel like I grow with each notch.”

I especially liked how Sasha Martin took steps to embrace travel and culture with a six month old daughter and responsibilities at home.  Sasha started her project of “Stovetop Travel” where each week she cooked an entire meal from every country in the world, following the alphabet for 195 weeks.  By the time her daughter was 5, she had tasted a meal from every country around the world. 

The book reminded me of pursuits, quests and adventures that I have personally known and loved, from planting my first seedlings and eating fresh produce every day, to building our van and living in it in the Alps.

The Happiness of Pursuit chronicles the unlikely and unusual goals that people all around the world have set themselves in order to challenge and test their own limits.  I found it so exciting to read about how other people live their lives, and how incorporating challenging scenarios can lead to happiness through personal education.  It's a very inspiring thing when someone you know does something difficult, and conquers their own challenge.  The Happiness of Pursuit is a book about lots of people you don't know who all do excellent and inspiring things...and it's brilliant.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Books: A Baker’s Dozen

Lots of people have been sharing their book recommendations, so I put together a Baker's Dozen list of my paper friends.

Read or Die
 1. Papillon by Henri Charriere – Charged for a crime he didn’t commit, Henri is imprisoned in a high security prison in French Guyana.  Despite his hard circumstances, he refuses to let his spirit be crushed - I loved this book for being the ultimate bid-for-freedom adventure story.

2. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks – I read this as a teenager and it opened my mind to deliciously dark, macabre stories and the amazing writing of Iain Banks.

3. Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes – every friend I know who has a copy of this book refers to it as a personal bible and keeps their well thumbed copy close to their heart.  It is a wealth of Jungian psychology told through folk tales and every time I read its pages I feel like a wild wolf woman.

4. Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg – A book about creative writing, shared through the lens of Zen.  Full of excellent advice about writing without judgement and “showing rather than telling”.  It’s mini-chapters explore different approaches to writing and Natalie’s positive words constantly cheer you on. 

5. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – another book on writing and how to break down projects into manageable chunks – bird by bird.  My favourite quote from this book is “The Gulf Stream will flow through a straw provided the straw is aligned to the Gulf Stream and not at cross purposes with it.”

6. You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap!) by Tammy Strobel – I love my friend Tammy’s debut print book in which she shares her stories about downsizing, simplifying and living in a tiny home.  What started off as a personal memoir turned into an investigation on happiness – and Tammy concludes that less is more.  I concur.

7. This I Know by Susannah Conway – This book wanted to be carried around, savoured, and have me to scribble in its margins.  Once suitably annotated, I passed it to my best friend Helen, who dutifully took her blue biro to it – turning it into a long distance love-letter between me and her. 

8. Saturday by Ian McEwan – A masterful novel that tells the entire history of a family through the events of one day. 

9. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – This is actually a play, but is so readable that it’s like reading a novel.  Every time I read it, I am howling with laughter at the downright silliness of its characters.  A HANNNNDBAGGGG?!

10. Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer – If the film is the cinematic interpretation of the story of Chris McCandless, then the book is the long hand documentary version of the closest we can get to the truth of what happened, as well as an investigation into other adventurous individuals.  The book and the film compliment each other well.

11. Sophie Hits Six by Dick King-Smith - Sophie was the original heroine of my childhood, and her tomboy character inspired me to want to grow up to be a “Lady Farmer”.

12. Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh - Harriet is responsible for me carrying around a notebook everywhere I go from a young age – observing, documenting, pondering, and writing writing writing.

13. The Book of Life by Andrew Jackson - The sub-line of this book is "One man's search for the wisdom of age" and was heartily recommended to me as being a "very Katie book" - it certainly is! - Andrew and his wife Vanella give up their successful jobs to travel the globe meeting its oldest inhabitants, and see if they can learn a thing or two from them.  It's a fantastic quest, and a brilliant tale.  

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Conversations: YogiYogini

Today’s Conversation is with Kara Wirt, an old friend of mine.  Kara and I have known each other since we were tiny young ones, running through the forest together, shouting and screaming, smearing mud on our faces and building dens in the trees.  These days, Kara runs a successful yoga business called YogiYogini, and still runs through the woods – although I imagine with a little less screaming and mud on her face…but you never know :)  Here i'll be asking her all sorts of questions about bendy bodies, tasty treats and happy hearts.

Kara Wire
Who is YogiYogini?
YogiYogini is the name I go under for my yoga classes and health food blog. Yoga is the union between mind, body and spirit as well as between male and female energies. A Yogi is a male practitioner of yoga and a yogini is a female practitioner of yoga, which is why I chose this as a name.  As well as the physical practise of yoga, there are a whole range of elements that I try and acknowledge with YogiYogini – primarily the importance of food and eating healthily. Its all about balance.


What did you do before YogiYogini and what path led you to where you are now? 
Whilst studying Psychology at University College London, I became aware and inspired by the strong connection between a healthy mind and body. Previous to that, I trained, raced and coached for Upper Thames Rowing Club.  I also love adventure racing and have completed an Ironman competition and a 'London to Brighton' endurance run.  These things showed me my naturally competitive and determined nature, as well as my understanding of the human body and mind.  I worked as a personal trainer and professional coach in London for several years before choosing the path of Yoga which allowed me to combine all my interests and skills.  I have also had the opportunity to teach yoga to children with Autism, I found this incredibly creative and rewarding.   In fact all the children I teach love yoga, and we have an amazing time creating stories with the yoga poses.

Your delicious vegan recipes are a big part of your website, how did you come up for the idea for this, and why is it important to you to share food ideas? I adore food! Everything about it! I want to be able to share my passion with everyone – including those with allergies or restricted diets. That is why most of my food is vegan, gluten-free and low sugar/natural sugars. This way I can celebrate gorgeous fruit and veg, nuts, beans grains and seeds with all the important people in my life and hopefully inspire others to make delicious healthy food choices. It is about nourishing your body with vibrant foods and great flavours.


Tell us about your yoga teacher training.
I trained with Frog Lotus International in beautiful Bali. I have a good knowledge of anatomy from personal training, coaching, studying sports science and psychology – so the training part was fine for me. However, understanding the history and the philosophy of yoga was a real challenge. Bali was a fantastically spiritual place to learn in, the best thing about it was all the wonderful people I met on the course and in the local area, the Balinese people in particular were very welcoming and helpful.

Downwards Dog!
What does a typical day in the life of YogiYogini look like?
Wake up, yoga, run with the dog, superfood breakfast, go out to teach, cook up some lunch and blog/video it, then admin/ yoga classes in the evening. It’s different every day but lots of cooking and yoga!

Bali Yoga reflection
What advice do you have for those who would like to set up their own business/ start practicing yoga/ become a yoga instructor? You learn from your mistakes so just jump in and give it a go. A good tip is to keep your day job to guarantee an income whilst you're starting out, and then allow the business to grow organically. Yoga is often quoted as 99% practise and 1% theory – so whether you are trying yoga for the first time or setting up a new business, actually 'starting something' is a good place to start!

What do you do when you're not coaching rowing/ yoga instructing/ whipping up vegan delights? 
I adore getting out into nature – it's so important to me. I don't think I've ever been unhappy walking through a forest or breathing in fresh air! I also love spending time with family and friends. The future holds more of the same – more yoga, more recipes… I love teaching workshops to help people spend time on their self development – whether it's aimed at healthy bodies, healthy eating or healthy minds - it's something I am very passionate about and is a constant goal for me in my personal life as well as for my business.

Find YogiYogini online:
Make delicious food
Take a class!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The August Break 2014 Round-Up

Last year’s August Break got me hooked, and I was so happy for August to come round again so that I could join Susannah and other photographers around the world to spend a month exploring our worlds through our lenses.  The prompts and mini-lessons that plopped into my inbox every day helped me to notice more of the small details around me as I tried to capture them in a creative way.

I loved seeing the huge range of responses to the same prompts and my Instagram feed was filled with beautiful photos.  Here are my favourite snaps I took last month.  I’ll leave it to you to decide which photo goes with which prompt. X

IMG_3839   IMG_3865   IMG_3836
IMG_3874    IMG_3947  IMG_3960                 Berghain shadows
Tram lines   Guilty Pleasure IMG_4040 Bike Love

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A Polish Adventure: Gdańsk

Gdansk abandoned building
Silhouettes on bench with moon
Katie and Piotr monstres  chicken face
Gdansk colourful buildings
Friendship rings
Making Fire
Izzy and Piotr golden hour
Fire Camp Friends Fire Camp Friends2
Piotr Happy Fire Camper
Fire Camp Friendz          Piotr and his lovely hat
Ten forty two to Hell
From Łódź we hitch-hiked north to Gdańsk, and two lifts later we arrived at a campsite 100 metres from the beach.  We dipped our toes in the Baltic Sea and experienced 24 hours in the very bizarre setting of a Polish holiday campsite!  Luckily, our next Couchsurfing host, Piotr, was able to meet us the following day.  He turned the meeting into a fun treasure hunt, sending us a cryptic text saying “Go to the biggest church on the planet at 5pm.  Send a raven.  Look out for the orange trousers!”.

On our first evening with Piotr, we discovered he has a liking for drinking beer, vodka and non-touristic explorations.  He took us to a sweaty little cafe in the heart of Gdańsk to fill up on Pierogi Ruskie (delicious Polish dumplings, filled with cheese, potato and onion “Russian style”) before we crashed around town, meeting friends and sampling every variety of sweet flavoured Polish vodka.  We learned from Piotr that words beginning with the letter “F” in English are particularly beautiful in sound and wonderful in meaning.  His favourite English word is “forsaken”.  I wrote him a very short story: Faraway, five forsaken freedom fighters fiercely faced forever.  As we listed more F words, we broke into, and got kicked out of, the historic shipyards of Gdańsk (a short story telling more will appear in this space soon) and to cap off the night we discovered that Izzy is not the only wordsmith in the house – turns out Piotr is a published Polish poet.  As midnight struck, we had the great honour of hearing Piotr read his own poems, in his own language, at the moment that he turned 30 years old!

The next day, Izzy and I dived into the Gdańsk market which was full of handmade and traditional Polish wonders.  We bought each other a handmade silver ring, pledging our friendship to one another.  When Piotr finished work, we took a bus to the outskirts of town, and walked across a wooded wasteland to where a Fire Camp stood (the switch-around of the words is so sweet that I will never again call it a camp fire!)along with all Piotr's friends to celebrate his 30th birthday. We stayed up all night, sipping vodka, singing songs and making new friends around the orange flames.

Some bloody idiot (oh, it was me!) had booked an early Polski Bus from Gdańsk to take us back towards Berlin.  I ended up having to leave my amiga Izzy behind - she got hit by a heavy hangover, but I managed to navigate to the bus station and boarded the 10:42 to hell.