Tag Archives: blogging

Another Tuscan Day. Another Tuscan Door.

Another Tuscan day, another Tuscan door. This one into the kitchen. Sometimes we don’t know what it is we need until we go on a treasure hunt. In one door or out another. And there are many, many ways to hunt for treasure.

Yesterday I hiked in the bush and up the hill. There was treasure there. I felt the deep joy a hike brings me. Not the flat Dutch walk kind hike, but the gritty, rocky path, up hills, down hills kind of hike. So many good thoughts, ideas and vibes out there on the trail. I miss it. I need to find ways to do more of it.

This month I wrote every day. There was treasure there. All the little daily sprinkles of gold and of course the solid nugget. I’ve graduated from writing here every day to writing 1,667 words (a chapter) a day of my camino story.

I ran every day for 140 days. There was treasure there. I ran through the beginning of and then the quarantine period of a global pandemic. It kept me moving forward. It guaranteed the circulation of the hormones I would need to get through this time and arrive sturdily at the other end.

On a whim I decided to cook a book. This one. Rome. Centuries In An Italian Kitchen. (This photo is my home kitchen not the Tuscan kitchen I’m currently in.) There is treasure in following whims. Would I have been as drawn to Tuscany if I hadn’t begun project The Italian Kitchen at my house? Would I realise the doorway into the kitchen would  be the door I needed to walk into to find a familiar friend. Simplicity. Food has felt heavy for me for a while. I’m not always kind to myself with food. I needed to find a simpler way, a lighter way.

Breakfast was melon with prosciutto. Oh my, this is a spectacular flavour balance. And so easy. Every mouthful heaven. We don’t need to cook like a masterchef contestant to create beautiful food. We can do that too by keeping things simple.

(Sorry for this one Sue).

A belief in something. There’s treasure there. We all have different ways in which we make sense of the world and create our meaning. I look for the coincidences. The synchronous happenings and I do like to wonder what the animals who arrive on my path mean.

I was stung by a wasp a few days ago. I sat on it. Oh la la that’s a painful experience, and then it’s a really bloody itchy one. And I was stung not once! But twice. The second as I shoo it from my stinging with pain butt cheek. I was a bit lacking in direction and motivation this afternoon I went in search of what the arrival of a wasp might mean.

“Wasp symbolism is reminding you that merely thinking about your dreams will not make them a reality as quickly as going out and doing it. In other words, this spirit animal insists that you make a plan. Then you must keep working towards it and let nothing get in your way. Similar to the Snail, the Wasp meaning says that goals require perseverance, desire, and action. Thus you must apply your passion to the reality you wish to achieve!

Wasp symbolism is letting you know that resistance to change by definition, is self-sabotage. Therefore it’s time to allow yourself the notion that all things are possible and that you deserve to have all your dreams come true. The Wasp meaning asks you to be the best you can be!” Spirit Animals.

Now friends I’m a bit tired after a few nights of reduced sleep. It’s rather hot here (36 degrees) for one from the Nth. I know! I’ve gone soft since leaving Australia. And I’m tempted to do nothing. Which is of course completely fine. I already skipped a training run this week. But I had to take note of the wasp symbolism!

Like someone who needs AA I need my streaks. Do nothing about my creative dreams when it’s challenging and it’s a slippery slope. I need to keep the fire burning. If I don’t I fear it will all simply fall away. I need to be accountable. The streak has proven in this phase of my life to be the key for me. It takes me beyond simply thinking about the dream.

So I fired up the keyboard. Snapped a photo of the kitchen door and popped in here to write. From here I know I will continue moving in the right direction because the writing is part of the plan, it’s the work I need to do to realise the dream.

Also I’ve been undecided about ending this streak because I still need it. I need the rhythm, the process, the courage it takes to try, the risk (to find my limits) and of course the treasure.

In writing here today the simple answer (the treasure) appears. I will simply do either or. Write here or write a chapter. I need both doors to remain open. One where I write a story from the past and one where I write a myself into the story of my future.

Thanks for being here. Silently and sometimes with comments. Both are fine. Both are appreciated. You are appreciated. There are never expectations. I hope my whimsy today reminds you to go digging for treasure if you’re in need of some magic.


The Simplicity Of Tuscany.

It all begins when the shutters are opened and the morning arrives into the room. Waking with the sweet luxury of not knowing or needing to know the time. There was a hint it was later than it felt but only if you looked. Sun visible through edges of the window frames. Each day here in Tuscany I’m reminded of  a certain way of living, of choosing a life of simplicity. Of where I can cut back further.




Three meals. Fresh salad. Vegetables picked from a jar. Meat finely sliced. Mostly local. Perhaps not the avocado. All three with the same condiments. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Italian), Balsamic Vinegar (Modena, from the closest province) pepper and salt.

I ask you this question … if you could choose two condiments other than salt and pepper what would they be? For me these two are it. The excess on the plate is soaked with local day old bread. Hard because preservatives are not added.

An afternoon aperitivo to relax into the time between when the day is finished and the evening starts. Another day of writing. A chapter added. Twenty eight to go. I can do it though. I showed myself. Today is the 30th day of blog writing, little letters in your inbox.

Not all days are smooth there was a double wasp sting last night. Me. Painful, I share this with you. Painful. Glad for ice treats in the freezer to numb the bites. Watch where you sit in Tuscany I warn you. All resolved now, just the mozzie bites still itch.

Once I publish this post the evening will begin. The time to tidy, organise, sit, chat and eat. It’s a bbq tonight. The music will play and the joking about when mum sat on a wasp, screamed and ripped her clothes off will begin!

I am glad for simple things. For a live of simplicity.  For having the courage to let go of the guilt I used to feel when I used my time to write. It’s a beautiful hobby and it is this hobby that brought this dream of simplicity to us.








The Good Busy.


‘Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than emperors.’ – Mary Cantwell

What’s in a day of pottering? Hmm where can this tale go I wonder? The truth is I spend the day in the garden with busy hands and a busy body. Lost in a hard day’s work without really thinking. My mind in the garden, the jobs and the possibilities of this tiny space. Intoxicated by the smell of these tomato plants and the the sun on my back. They smell like the the ones you buy on a vine. My poor tomato plants who were sitting in a holding zone, in pots too small for them, growing without a stake. They’re a little wonky, hopefully they’ve still a little resilience in store and I’ve re-potted them in time!

Perhaps a cup of tea and my tale will come I thought. Into the kitchen, tea pot on and a Barry’s Irish tea bag in my favourite cup. It’s proper black tea, big mug kinda night. In the window sill I see my orchards have also outgrown their pots. Can you see the new roots sprouting out into thin air?! And wouldn’t you know it, here is where a gardening tale arrived.  It’s a simple reminder that we grow out of things. Taking care of plants is not so different to taking care of ourselves.

I’ve mentioned before that it’s time to end my #runstreak because I want to train with more intention. I want to train for a half marathon. I can’t do that if I run everyday and ride a couple of times a week, it’s too much! I’ve grown into the fitness to run a half marathon and into my new cycling hobby and now I’m too big for the pot I’m in. I need to change it. Otherwise I’ll respond like the tomatoes and grow all wonky, or the orchards where there is no space for new roots to flourish.

We need to adjust our space just as we need fuel to grow. Oh did you notice the pizza oven was lit in the first photos. Tonight’s was a pretty heavenly one. Some leftover olive, feta and mint salsa from last night, artichokes, porcini mushroom, rocket and burrata cheese. I spent the whole day pruning, planting, sweeping, shifting pots, enjoying and dreaming dreams about our tiny garden space. We are growing together, my garden and I. And it’s hungry work giving yourself to the garden all day. Or does the garden give itself to you? Perhaps we meet in the middle. I think we do.

I used to find fairy houses and fairy doors in the garden from the daughter who now regularly calls me a hippie and gives me the eye rolls! Lol. Today I found her stash of moon water. There is also one that belongs to her best friend. The garden is truly full of magic, truth and enchantment. It’s a place for daydreams and the good busy. Tomorrow, I’ll replant the orchids and refresh the herb planter after I take my morning’s ride amongst the canals and the windmills. And tomorrow I won’t run. After 140 days, I’ve outgrown my runstreak. I’m repotting myself!






Travel To Learn Some More. Stop. Process. Reflect. Grow. Repeat.

Travel To Learn Some More. Stop. Process. Reflect. Grow. Repeat.

I was talking to a friend recently about travel and how we hope for our children to experience it in this way. When I hiked the camino I was in awe of the young people who had decided to take the time to go for a long walk. Equally, I was in awe of the newly retired walkers who were walking. Both of them were walking to take the time before what comes next.

I know we can’t pick up and travel right now but I guess I like the idea of this time to travel into new ideas and to perhaps explore what we feel curious about, what grounds us, what takes us home inside, what sets off the fireworks under our skin. Granted we are on our summer break so I have this luxury of time. As much as I thought I could write during quarantine – no way. Home school took all my free energy! Well home schooling the 8 year old did.

The sequence though, I love the sequence. While my friend and I talked about it in relation to travel I think it’s life. And travel is something we do at home and afar. It is travelling further with our mind, expanding our horizons, hearing new opinions, connecting deeper, learning the ‘somethings’ that grow us.

When I look back to my time of quarantine I kept my fire going by running everyday. It was in this time that my learning happened. It was here I grew, here where my view of the world and myself began to change. The running wasn’t the teacher, it was the travel. The vehicle – the movement, the space, the reflection in the quiet stillness that allowed my mind to open combined with the releasing of the tension with each hard step.

Unless our minds are open it is difficult to learn, to reflect. And without the travel I would have sat in the same cycle I started quarantine in. I was a bit pissed off actually. Annoyed with some people and their attitudes and behaviours. And I was also scared of extending myself, of seeking the next phase of my learning and honestly I wasn’t sure how to or what to try next.

It isn’t comfortable to always have an open mind. Shit no. It’s far more comfortable to drink, scroll, eat, binge, try to control, lecture, buy new things, sit in guilt, judgement, pity, blame, whatever, you know basically numb your way through your own discomfort and fears. Who doesn’t need a bit of numbing sometimes. And all of these are cool things right!

We learn, get inspired by and catch up with others from the scrolling, binging and we enjoy the eating and the drinking and new things are nice. It’s also good down time! Who wants to think ALL the time. It’s only when these numb’ers become glutenous pursuits that they are dangerous. And yes for the record I believe travel can be one of the great glutenous pursuits. Just as I believe chasing wellness can be (stories for another post).

Now, guilt et al. they aren’t fun, down time things – they are creeps. Creeping in to hold us back. But  the numb’ers and the creepers in my experience they work together.  Deal with the numbers and you can face the creepers. Face the creeper and boom you can grow. Perhaps sometimes we just need the nothing, to travel the path with the unknown answer. Then when we’re not busy numbing we can face the blockers – the creeps.

I have my vices, my cycles, my preferred modes and creeps to keep me still and safe from discomfort. They’d love nothing more than to hold me back from honest reflection, from thinking about why things are pissing me off and of stepping into new things or trying harder with the stuff scares me.

Cruise cycles, we all find ourselves in them, aren’t we always in one cycle or another. They are normal. There is a time for stopping in cruise mode, for a while. Until it’s not. Until you’ve exhausted where you are, when you’re done in that place and you need to learn some more. To peek out wider and to grow a little. And this peeking, this travel doesn’t always have to mean getting on a plane. It’s just travelling somewhere different in life, it’s doing something differently.

This corona journey still continues for us in our different countries and in different phases. Of course what I write, my opinions and how I experience this time comes from my perspective and experience. I’m a middle aged, white woman in a healthy relationship with (generally)  happy kids. I have agency, choices and privilege. I like not being invited to things and I love nothing more than a free agenda. Our income hasn’t been affected and none of us have yet to experience illness from the virus (that we know of). We experienced quarantine with a great degree of freedom here in The Netherlands. I also love a bit of self growth, to understand where I’ve been and to continue to seek a gentler more meaningful way. All of these things give me a security which makes reframing this time easier. I understand that.

And so from my personal experience.

I like to think travelling this corona journey has made me a better person. That it has taught me to see and hear people not only from my perspective but from theirs. I hope I have become a little less judgemental, a little more appreciative, more understanding and that I’ve been reminded to be more empathetic, more sympathetic. I hope I will be better at putting myself in the shoes of others. Those in trickier situations and also those with whom I share my everyday life. I hope I am more forgiving. I think if I’m more forgiving I’ll be kinder. And kinder is something that matters.

I also hope I am courageous enough to try harder, to step up, to be myself without fear. I’ve learnt that not every battle is worthy of my energy. I don’t want to hide behind the numb’ers and the creepers that keep me small. Just you know when I need that time! The time to sit on the couch to eat chocolate and do nothing but watch a series.

Lol I know! But seriously, I hope I can be this person, my deepest, wildest self and I hope I can hold onto the better person bit while I’m going there. So when you ask where in the world do I want to travel. I’d say there, from here. Writing everyday is a step in that direction for me. It is also a combination of the process and reflection part of my learning from this corona journey. I think I am passed needing to stop. And already I’m travelling some more trying new things to learn new stuff.

We’ve all travelled through 2020 in an unexpected way, all of us on the trip, the tour bus to the great unknown. But none of us are experiencing it the same way. Who knows how this corona time will pan out, where it is going and when it will end. All we can to is travel it, learn from it and hopefully grow into what comes next. I hope you’re able to find a way to keep your fire going, to travel slow, to find the space you need to see a little light, enough to allow the sparks to flicker and guide you towards the learning, the laughter, the what it is you need from this time and the coping. And for those of us who have the privilege, the safety and the freedom to feel life in a joyful way let’s be kinder together. Because it’s all in the BEING really isn’t it.










As With Many Of Us, Corona Changed Our Plans.

I once worked with midwife whose name I can’t recall. Let’s call her Jane. Jane used to take three months a year to cruise the waterways of the UK with her husband on their canal boat. They purchased the boat after a friend of hers had passed away. Her friend had just retired and had BIG plans for retirement. Jane decided she could no longer wait for retirement, she needed to start living her retirement plans now.  

Recently, ok is last year recently? If feels like all sense of time is skewed right now. Is last year going to be knows as the pre pandemic era? I do hear people talk about the ‘before corona time’.  Anyways, last year my sister in law Mary visited. We were out in the woods and as an older couple hiked past us with their day packs and poles, she said ‘I see Max (her husband) and I as those people when we’re older.’ We both chuckled a little and she said ‘we may need to actually start hiking’. 

A big part of our moving away from living the corporate, busy Sydney life and into this quieter, simpler village life was to not let life pass. It probably wouldn’t have mattered where we were living, the hustle just wasn’t us. We’d taken the wrong path. We wanted to keep life simple, decluttered. We moved here with about a 3 x 3 m amount of ‘stuff’. Nothing left in storage and no desire to again feel like our commitments and stuff owned our life.

And yet there are the realities of life in that we do need commitments! We need somewhere to live. Sometimes we need a car or in our case a garage full of bikes, surfboards, tents and a SUP!  Our kids play sport, go to school. And we need to work. Our life will never be that simple that we don’t need to work nor would we not want to work.

As much as I dream of the life of Chris and Ana on their self sufficient mountain farm in Andalusia. (Driving Over Lemons – a brilliant escape armchair journey). I know this is not us, it’s not our reality. There are four kids, a job that needs city/airport access and let’s face it not a real enough desire to live on the land. 

As with many of us, corona changed plans. After three years abroad we were due to visit our family and friends in Melbourne over Easter. Thankfully, I hadn’t booked our flights as I’d been watching this new virus weave it’s way into Europe since February. My main reason for not booking was I didn’t want to risk bringing it home to my parents. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the borders would close and that not coming wouldn’t be our choice.

As time went on and summer drew closer we realised that our summer camping surf trip to France was not going to happen. The borders are open, so yes we could go, but sharing ammenities  just doesn’t seem wise at this time. And for the past five or so years we’ve tried to create a life we don’t need to escape from. So there is no desperation to HAVE to go at any cost. 

However, we do love the experience, the adventure and the off grid time for our kids. Ergo, the return of that old chestnut dream of ours – to buy a campervan or not to buy a campervan?! Could we? Should we? I am a bit of a leaper as you know but buying a campervan means a type of permanence, doesn’t it? As my husband reminded me ‘nothing is permanent, you proved that when it took you six months to offload everything in Sydney’. 

Argh but security, getting older, what if the market crashes and we can’t sell our house here, we’d never get back home. But what if it doesn’t? What if we never move home? We don’t have a plan anyhow. And we’d always have a camper to live and retire in I guess. Having sold our home in Melbourne I am nervous about where best to ‘invest’. I’m not driven by making more money but I don’t want to lose it!

Can you guess which post on my blog is getting smashed at the moment? This one!

So You Want To Campervan In Europe With Kids. 

Ha! We were ahead of the curve with our van-lifing! ;)

We started searching, ready to leap, but also nervous about jumping too fast. We looked at a private one and even had a mechanical inspection. There were a few niggles I had about the purchase so we didn’t follow through. It’s the barefoot investor I tell you! He taught me to grow up a little. It’s his alpaca story that plays on repeat in my head. ‘Every dollar you get should go first into protecting your flock’.  (You can read the true story of the two alpacas here).

We started expanding our search and found an ex-hire company that sells low km, almost new vans. They replace their fleet regularly. We almost bought one but missed out. I wanted to be sure we were not overpaying so I tried to drive down the price. And someone else didn’t! C’est la vie.

A wise sister in law said to me when I had my first baby ‘it’s a series of phases’. This wisdom has guided me well, not just with babies and children but in life. Life is flux. We spend our time transitioning from one phase to the next.  This is guaranteed. How well we transition is how well we prepare. Naturally, there are things we can’t prepare for. I dare not think of this predicament I’m in where I can’t just get home if needed. But, I do think about what we are doing now and how valuable this time is in preparing us for where we are going. The next phase. 

We are mountain people, we are beach people, we are lake people, we are adventure seeking, new language, new cultural experience people, we are food and wine people, we are travelling people. A campervan is an investment in how we live, the things we want to do and the places we wish to see. It gives us freedom. We can be self sufficient in that we can carry what we need. We are far more likely to get to the Baltics and to Scandinavia in a camper! With four kids we can’t afford to fly, stay in hotels, hire cars etc for weeks on end. And to be honest I no longer wish to fly. I really do have plane shame. I’m trying to save my flying for trips home.

I guess our buying a camper is a little like living how we want our retirement to look. Or maybe not. Maybe it is more about living how we wish to live in this phase of our life and it sits nicely with our values. Packing up our kids, putting our hiking boots and road bikes in for mountain climbs, our SUP’s for the lakes and our boards for the oceans. We love the nights where we sit together on our camp chairs with the adventure glow, our bodies tired as we sip a local wine and indulge in regional cheese.  

Our camper dream won’t be realised this summer. Everyone is out in the hired campers but our time will come. We’re sure now. We will take the next step in ‘living’ this European Adventure. Ironically, continuing as it started, in a camper. It seems we’ve needed a phase of nest building before transitioning into this next time. Where from our nest we can explore and adventure our way across Europe.

For now though we have a leisurely summer ahead with no plans. Loads of  time for me to write all the stories. A time to ride out and live this transition as we move towards our next phase. A time to enjoy our  verdant Dutch village  life nestled in amongst lakes and trees. A time to breathe in this moment where we stopped to create some security and stability for our flock.

We are lucky, we haven’t had corona impact our employment. I acknowledge this makes it easier for us to live without the added stresses many are experiencing in this time. And we are trying to direct our purchases to supporting those in small business who have been affected harshly by this pandemic.

I don’t long to travel far from home right now, it’s not the time. But like Jane I’m not waiting. No, I’m not waiting for life to start after all this is over. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be on my bike. (keeping sane in between, feeding, washing and cleaning for the masses in my house) Practicing for when I’m retired and I can ride each day in the mountains of the Pyrenees.  Or not! Who knows where the living now, not the waiting will take me. Hey Mary, go get those poles out and get hiking! ;)