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.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A Polish Adventure: Łódź

czesc hitching to Kustrin
coach hitching
Mariola and Izzy
double doors
bronck swing
gate satellite dishes
gas station
Woodge - WOO!
dzazuu pipes
Off - deckchairs
graffiti drawings
grand building   manufaktura
little high window
nowhere now here
wall ferrets

Cześć friends!  Izzy and I left our camp at Fort Gorgast and waited for what seemed like FOREVER for someone to pick us up and take us the short 7km across the border to Poland.  Once over the border,  we were preparing a sign so that we could hitch to our next destination, when a fun young couple pulled over and offered us a lift before we'd even stuck our thumb out!  What a fantastic welcome to Poland - to meet people so generous and thoughtful within minutes of arriving in the country.  Poland is definitely the land of hitch hiking – everyone we met was very friendly and we never waited long for a lift.  We even managed to hitch a lift on a 52 seater air-conditioned coach!  Hitch-hiking in Poland was extra fun, because not many people spoke English, and Polish words have way too many consonants in a row for us even to hazard a guess as to how to pronounce our questions, so we may not have learnt many concrete facts about our drivers, but we did manage to make a lot of people giggle – most of all ourselves.

When we arrived in Łódź (pronounced “woodge”) our couchsurfing host Mariola, picked us up and whisked us off to dance to some seriously cheesy euro pop at a beach party in the city centre.  She was the perfect host – so friendly and generous and always had time to show us somewhere fun in her city.  She was so great that we didn’t even mind when she kidnapped us to watch El Perro in an amphitheatre…..the film was in Spanish with Polish subtitles!

Izzy and I spent two days meandering the gridded streets of Łódź, which had been described as “the Manchester of the east”.  This comparison puzzled us until we arrived and found ourselves in a city of slowly decomposing industrial buildings, whose history and purpose fascinated us. We spent some time admiring the independent shops full of handmade treasures, and tasting local craft beer in Off Piotrkowska.

In the centre of Łódź is the epic Manufaktura – a palace of entertainment, culture and modernity which boasts shops, cinemas and art galleries – all housed in gigantic ex-factory buildings.  Surrounding it are smaller roads which support crumbling grey buildings – a stark contrast to the majestic red brick of Manufaktura.  It’s as if parts of the city had been forgotten about, peeling away in steady decay.  The apartment blocks look partly inhabited and partly in a state of abandonment, and we imagined the lives of the people who lived in them.

We’d only been in Poland for two days, but we got the impression that the people are intrinsically optimistic – as if things hadn't been so great before, but are now looking up.  When we arrived in Gdańsk, explaining that we’d come from Łódź, everyone looked at us like we were crazy, asking what on earth we had wanted to go there for – but as Mariola expained, Łódź is in a state of change, at an intersection of old and new.  Mariola and her friends seem to be quietly loving their city, as if it were Poland’s best kept secret.  Perhaps it is.  I thought it was ace.

For the next destination on our Polish adventure, we headed north to Gdańsk.