Interview with a Minimalist: Ksenia

Somedays, some posts, I worry that I’m a broken record. I just keep saying “minimalism isn’t about stuff, it’s so much more” (with emphasis on the emotional, psychological and interpersonal benefits of minimalism).

I’m passionate about minimalism, but not because it means I have a sparse, stylish, tidy home that is as white as possible. No, I don’t have any of these things. Minimalism – living with less – is really about voluntary simplicity and slow living, mindful acquisition and unburdening. In my view, through minimalism, the paring down of our possessions and commitments (and everything else), we come to know ourselves very well. We don’t have the distractions that keep us from sitting idle and reflecting on our lives and the people and things that surround us. When it comes to stuff, and often minimalism starts at the basic level of stuff (yes, decluttering is the gateway), parting with things we thought we needed, but find we don’t miss, is instructive. We learn about ourselves, our habits, our dependencies.

Paring down material possessions opens the gate to a bigger minimalism (irony intended). This is the minimalism that unburdens us of the things, ideas and ways of thought that do not serve us and allow us to spend our time, energy and money in better ways. (Personally, I try to take this a step further by dispensing with ideas, practices and things that do not serve the community and planet well. Emphasis on ‘try’, because, well, I’m far from perfect.)

In crafting this series of interviews with minimalists I sought to debunk the perception that minimalism is a visual aesthetic, or that it is a narrow, prescriptive lifestyle. I’ve purposely chosen to share as many photos of minimalists outside their homes (outside the context of things they own or don’t own), to show the joys and freedoms that come with a minimalist lifestyle, to show that minimalists live in a wide variety of ways. What is common to the minimalists I speak with (and choose to feature here) is that they have experienced massive improvements in the quality of their life, their enjoyment in living, by voluntarily reducing the number of things, people and commitments they are responsible for.

Today, I have an interview with Ksenia who views minimalism as part of her spiritual journey. She recently went on a decision detox, where she undertook a personal experiment to minimize, that is, to apply minimalism, to decision making. I found this absolutely fascinating and asked her to share. Below you’ll hear about Ksenia’s minimalism journey, the benefits it has brought her and her family and perhaps some inspiration for your own unburdening.

Dear Ksenia, let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?

My name is Ksenia. I was born and raised in Latvia by the beautiful Baltic Sea. When I was four years old the Soviet Union collapsed and Latvia became independent. The fall of communism brought radical changes to all the spheres of the society and opened doors to many influences from the West and from the East. My parents where among the first to embrace changes. They raised us in a beautiful home surrounded by nature in a yogic environment that was unusual for that time. Our family traveled to places that most Soviet people couldn’t even dream of visiting. My childhood had profound influence on my perception of the world.

I moved to the United States 10 years ago where I live with my husband Daniel and my son Anton. These days I am a stay at home mom and I love it. My passion lies in the realms of creativity. I love embroiding, crocheting and drawing thangka (Tibetan spiritual artwork).


What part of the world do you live in?

I live in New York. I met my husband during a trip to England. While we were deciding on a place to start our life together, the Universe sent us a lucky green card lottery win. And so we moved halfway across the world to NYC.

How many children do you have and what are they like?

I have a son, Anton. He is a curious little toddler with endless energy. He always moves and spends his days dancing and singing.


I was intrigued and inspired by your recent Instagram post about minimizing decision making. Can you tell me more about this?

I always felt mentally exhausted from all the irrelevant decisions I had to make every day. What should I eat for breakfast? What should I wear? These thoughts would come to my mind in the mornings when I was still in bed. I never liked to feel rushed and I always dreamed of days that will start with meditation and a long cup of tea. When I came across the theory about decision fatigue I was blown away. Research shows that our brains are capable of making only a finite amount of choices a day. Every additional decision, no matter how small, exhausts our “brain muscle” and consequently weakens our ability or desire to make a right choice.


And so I decided to go on decision “detox”. My patient husband approved of this experiment. We started making weekly food plans, started making budget, we decided to eat the same thing for breakfast, quit shopping except for necessities and chose to restrain from entertainment. The list goes on.

This practice turned out to be very liberating for me on many levels and I am excited to see where it will take me in the future.


I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you? And, in what ways are you a minimalist?

Minimalism above all is a part of my spiritual journey. I believe that I am a visitor in this world searching for love and light, I am here to grow and to learn. I don’t want to spend my days around artificial things that are not really important. Minimalism is not a style for me, it is a tool I use to free my mind from the distractions of the world.


What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

Minimalism helped me discover a new state of mind, that shines light on all areas of my life.


What is your story, how did you start on a path toward a minimalist lifestyle?

It all started from my trips to India. When I first traveled there four years ago I was in awe from the simple life people lead there and felt that we are missing the point in the West. I attempted to mimic this simplicity in my life, but I didn’t reach my minimalist Nirvana at that time. Last year I was lucky to spend another six weeks in India. While I lived in the ashram I was following a strict ashram schedule. I was amazed that I was able to do all the things I am desperately attempting to do in my everyday life with very little effort. I had time for meditation, for work around the ashram, for socializing with friends, for Anton and even for reading. There were several things that stood out to me immediately, one, was a limited amount of possessions I carried with me and another had to do with a steady ashram routine.

Upon my return I was determined to project ashram lifestyle in Himalaya’s onto my own life in NYC. And so I dove into simplifying once again.

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

Yes, it definitely is. When we were preparing to welcome Anton into this world we were dreaming to do this as gently for the environment as we could. We asked friends and family not to shower us with abundance of baby gadgets and we restrained from buying toys. However it didn’t turn out exactly as we hoped. Anton was becoming more overwhelmed with each gift he was receiving. I knew I had to do something about it. I decided to trim the amount of toys he had to one box of quality toys that went along with our parenting philosophy. We removed all media entertainment from him, stopped excessive socialization with other toddlers and cut down on his scheduled activities. He was left with unlimited time in the park to explore nature and with a lot of my undistracted attention. My goal was to conquer overstimulation. It took about a week for all of us to get used to it but it turned out to be a great experience. Boredom turned into imaginary play almost instantly, single-toy-at-a-time created unbelievably long attention span for his age and his vocabulary expanded tremendously. Now looking back, I am so glad that I found strength to go full force on simplifying his busy little life.


Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?

  • Buddhist and Hindu thought on non-attachment.
  • The Minimalists, I had pleasure of seeing their new movie. These guys are simply incredible.
  • Instagram, it has been my source of inspiration from environmental minimalism, people like you { thank you Ksenia! } and reginenordz make me try harder every day.
  • My guru Haidakhan Baba, he placed Simplicity in the center of his teaching. Without him I would not have started on this path.

In what ways/areas do you struggle with keeping things minimal? What is your weakness?

Minimalism didn’t come naturally to me, I went through many struggles while I was letting things and ideas go. The biggest challenge was in the area of my creativity. I was parting with my old art projects, with yarn I didn’t use for crocheting, with oil painting supplies I didn’t see myself returning to since becoming a mother. It was very intensive time. The experience was similar to deep self analysis. I discovered that I attached many emotions to things that brought me joy in the past, like a dress I wore when I was pregnant or gifts I received from loved ones and no longer used. Separating emotions from objects was a break through for me. I feel that I have reached a happy place right now, but I probably still have too many books on my shelves and too many jars of delicious herbs in my tea cabinet.


Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?

My husband was very supportive of my search for meaning through voluntary simplicity, but when I was loading our car with donation boxes for the third time he asked me to slow down a bit. It has been a while since that time and recently he told me that he is finally feeling positive effects of minimalism and is willing to dive deeper into this process.


What have been some unexpected experiences (positive or negative) you’ve had with minimalism?

I was able to embrace my inner introvert more. I used to feel all sorts of feelings when I needed to take a break from an outside world. Minimalism taught me to say “No” and not to feel guilty about it.

What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?

It is hard to give advice because everyone’s life and circumstances are so different. I would suggest to stop things from entering your home first. Stop shopping and take some time to reflect on what you own and what no longer serves you.

Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?

No particular goals this year, but our vision for the future is to live in our own small home surrounded by nature, homeschool Anton and travel a lot.


***

Thank you, Ksenia, for sharing and inspiring! Readers you can follow Ksenia’s world over on Instagram @ksenjaisa

POPULAR POST: Best Books to Get Inspired and Informed about Minimalism

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Interview with a Minimalist: Claudia

Minimalism recently crept up on me, it was lurking in the shadows, subtly suggesting itself. Or, maybe it’s always been there, but without a name or firm identity I couldn’t recognize it. Perhaps, now that the term ‘minimalism’ is popular and applies to a lifestyle – a way of life – rather than just an art historical movement, aesthetic sensibility or home décor trend, I can more easily recognize it as part of my life. I think about my childhood, my personality, and my intense need for mental calm, my need for order and simplicity in my surroundings because clutter in the outside world has always meant clutter in my inside world. It’s never been simplicity / less / minimal for the sake of simplicity / less / minimal, but for what these enable: a sense of peace and calm, and, ultimately, a sense of freedom. Freedom from things, unnecessary decisions, emotions and thoughts, maintenance work, stress and strain.

In talking recently with Claudia (interviewed below), I was reminded of another early start on my minimalist path: yoga and my related study of non-attachment, drawing from Tibetan and Buddhist thinking. I initially thought I’d talk about that in my introduction to her interview, but I’ll leave that for another time, because she dropped this one on me: “The process of becoming minimalist itself is minimalism.” Thank you Claudia! I won’t dissect this from every angle but want to suggest a few things to think about.

Minimalism is a perspective, it’s not an end state. It’s a process, a path, but we don’t arrive. In this light, minimalism is a lens through which we make decisions (“one pair of rain boots is all I need”), it doesn’t decide for us (“I can’t get rain boots because I already own 50 things, and 50 is the limit”). Principles ground our decisions, ground our practice of minimalism, but they do not dictate. In fact, a minimalist dictatorship could be quite dangerous. That is, care has to be taken to not go too far with minimalism.

So…don’t give away your last mixing bowl if you make pancakes every Sunday, unless you want to mix the batter in your rain boots.

When we begin applying minimalism to our lives it can be a challenge because we are used to holding onto things, ideas, emotions, obligations; but once we get started it’s easy to keep going. Our minds shift from “less is good,” to “less feels great”. But we need to be careful to not take things too far or to be too rigid with our rules; we need to re-evaluate along the way. Less for less’s sake should never be the goal. Minimalism is a process, it has ebbs and flows, rhythms and phases; it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

For those of us on the path, we are always on our way, we are always arriving, but never there.

In what follows Claudia shares her experience and insights related to minimalism – there are many delicious nuggets to savour, please take your time. In recent months, Claudia has been a huge inspiration to me, as I walk along my path, with her open mindedness, encouragement, and worldly wisdom. I know you’ll enjoy reading this interview and I encourage you to pause, ponder and share with others.

Dear Claudia, let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?

I was born in Cuba, the daughter of an ex-political prisoner. We were granted asylum in Peru and later in the United States, where I was raised amid the Cuban diaspora in Miami, Florida. Unsurprisingly, I became an early advocate for human rights, joining Amnesty International at 15 years old. I earned a BA in Psychology and International Affairs and an MA in International Studies with focus on human rights, refugees, and migration policy. After graduate school, I worked as a program coordinator assisting individuals who suffered from torture and other forms of persecution in their home countries secure asylum in the US, followed by a brief stint in a consulting firm before welcoming our daughter. These days, I’m a stay at home mom and while I look forward to one day returning to a career in advocacy, I’m enjoying this new stage in life and the immense rewards and challenges that come along with it.

What part of the world do you live in? 

NYC [ New York City ]

How many children do you have and what are they like? 

I have a 12 month old daughter named Eleanor. She is joyful, curious, daring, and strong. A real charmer and people person. While intensely observant she also loves to explore and is always busy, but never fails to find her way back to my lap or arms. She gives the sweetest bear hugs and I love that she is independent but still so connected to us. It’s been amazing, though bittersweet, to see her hurtle through milestones – she is such a force. We are utterly in love with her and feel she’s given us an immense sense of fulfillment.


I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you? And, in what ways are you a minimalist?

I’ve made a commitment to living with less (even when my means allow for more), living sustainably, embracing mindfulness, choosing with care, and prioritizing experiences over the tangible. This translates to a smaller home and fewer possessions; less wants and more reflection; and being as conscious of the mental clutter as the physical. In practice, this has led to perpetual evaluation. I’m always, by habit now, taking stock of what I have and trimming the excess by identifying what I can do without – whether it be possessions, time commitments, or even expectations and goals.

I believe minimalism is much more than an uncluttered home, capsule wardrobes, and Scandinavian design. To me, minimalism is freedom – from attachment, from obligation, from possessions, from draining relationships, from frivolousness. It’s about eliminating excess and living with intention.

The process of becoming a minimalist itself is minimalism.  

What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

How liberating it is.

What is your story, how did you start on a path toward a minimalist lifestyle?

My husband and I went to a museum on our first date. There was a traveling exhibit of Tibetan monks working on a sand mandala. The work was beautiful but painstaking and I was taken aback to learn that once finished, it would be swept away rather than preserved. Years later, during my graduate studies, I spent a month in India working with Tibetan refugees and was once again exposed to this non-attachment philosophy. Tibetans believe attachment to be one of the three root causes of suffering. The combination of Tibetan monks, the humbling foothills of the Himalayas, and having successfully lived off only what I could carry in my hiking pack left an undeniable impression. While I had always been prone to de-cluttering, when I returned home I truly embraced minimalism on more than a purely aesthetic level and began the journey of reassessing and refining my needs and wants – physical, emotional, and otherwise – accordingly. That was over six years ago, and each year since I’ve felt lighter and more empowered as a consequence.

I know many people come to minimalism through circumstance – already overburdened by excess they can’t control and desperate for change or otherwise forced to downsize due to finances or other environmental pressures (like moving from the suburbs to the city) – for me, however, there was no breaking point, no line in the sand, no forced hand. There was just introspection and a desire to evolve past unhealthy attachment, whether it be to a thing or an idea, in order to focus on what and who matters most to me.

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

Absolutely! I would say that minimalism along with the Montessori method, the two of which I find often overlap, have been most influential in my parenting style. From the beginning, it meant rejecting ‘more’ and ‘bigger’ as cornerstones of parenting. We opted for less of everything – ultrasounds, interventions, baby gear, expectations. We never owned the majority of what our consumerist society has declared “must haves” for infants and new parents, and have thrived regardless. People are often taken aback when they come to our home and see no exersaucer, no chests brimful of toys, even no crib (for the curious, we’ve embraced cosleeping and a Montessori floor bed instead). As with everything else in our lives, our approach is quality over quantity. Her toys, which are limited in quantity and selected with great care and thought, are put out on her shelves a few at a time, spaced out, and rotated often. We avoid screens, prize open-ended play, and so forth. More importantly, I reject the idea that childhood has to be busy or encroached with academics. I believe there is more to be gained from exploring a fallen leaf than flashcards.


Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?

One of the Tibetan monks I volunteered with in India told me how in the south of India, people would cut holes in coconuts, fill them with sweets, and tie them to a tree to lure monkeys. The monkeys would come, fit there hand through the hole and grab at the sweet, but now, having made a fist around the sweet, were unable to pull the hand back out through the hole. The monkey wouldn’t think of letting go of the sweet, and so it held itself prisoner and would ultimately be captured — all because it didn’t think to let go. That parable has stuck with me since.

I’ve also found a great deal of inspiration from the works of Henry David Thoreau:

Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify, simplify! … Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.

…and Leo Babauta’s blogs.

With regard to parenting, I recommend Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne [ my favourite too! ] and The Anthropology of Childhood by David F. Lancy – which is a dense, academic title but offers invaluable perspective.

In what ways do you struggle with keeping things minimal? What is your weakness?

Digital clutter – articles bookmarked for later reading, news subscriptions, and an ever-growing photo library. Digital clutter is easy to overlook because it’s not tangible and doesn’t take up visible space, but, as with all else, the more you have, the more upkeep it requires. My digital clutter stresses me out and I work, seemingly tirelessly, at reducing it, but it always feels like an uphill battle.

Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?

While my husband is not as intentional about minimalism as I am, we’re largely on the same page. Although he occasionally hangs on to a few smaller things, like old t-shirts, longer than I’d like, he embraces living small and is incredibly supportive of my passion for minimalism.

What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?

As with the sand mandalas, it’s in the process not the product.

Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?

I want to document less, which can be quite a challenge as a new parent in the digital age. Also, while we recycle, repurpose, compost, and shop locally and “green”, I believe there is still more we can do as a family to live sustainably. Inspired by the zero waste movement – which I see as an extension of minimalism – I’m hoping to continue to reduce the amount of packaged goods we bring into our home.

Thank you, Claudia! So much to think about. Readers you can find Claudia on Instagram @thearroyos. [ update October 2016: Claudia closed her Instagram account ]

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Inspiring Mother: Morgan Brechler of Born Wild

Morgan Brechler daughter horse beach

When I was in my early twenties a classmate in graduate school told me about her friend: “She’s 28, married, has two kids, a full time job, and a home. She’s so together!” I remember thinking “Ya, she does sound together!” And then thinking, wouldn’t that be great to figure out a way of getting my life set up like that, not because that situation is an end in itself — that a partner, kids, job and home, would complete me — but because that meant I would be stable enough in life to travel and go on adventures. Meaning, it would allow me to be luxurious with my time and money and spend both on experiences. Growing up, I knew that education and jobs wouldn’t fall into my lap. I knew I had to work really hard, every year at school and every summer at full time at job (from when I was 14) if I wanted a chance at having some sort of financial stability, and knowing that even hard work is no guarantee. Financial stability, I thought, would enable me to be frivolous with my time. Frivolous meaning: that I wouldn’t have to be actively educating myself (in a conventional sense) or earning money to be able to pay for school and later for my living space. So I never travelled or adventured.

I don’t regret this (I find regret to be a useless state) but I do look admirably toward people who took the leap and adventured despite not having all their ducks in a row. Morgan Brechler is someone who I have followed on Instagram for a few years. She is young, adventurous and free spirited. I wouldn’t say her ducks are out of row, as you’ll read she’s accomplished quite a lot in her two decades, but what I absolutely love about her is that she never put her adventurous spirit on pause. She thrives on adventure, is a self-described nature groupie, and has never denied herself these parts of herself.  Read on, because I know you’ll enjoy hearing from Morgan about her passion for the outdoors and how this has shaped how she is raising her daughter.

Morgan, please tell me a little about yourself.

25. Nature groupie. Intense soul. Total scorpio. I work for a landscape design company, Creative Environments. Also, attending school for my degree in Urban Horticulture/Sustainable Agriculture. Don’t ask me how I make it all work. Because I have no idea!! Family time, yoga, holistic organic plant based living, rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, all the good stuff. Loving love.

Morgan Brechler and Hadlie daughter Arizona

What part of the world do you live in?

The desert, Arizona

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

Hadlie is my only daughter, coming up on 5 years on this planet.. a soul much older. Wild spirited, beautiful, strong-willed and one of the most stubborn little girls I have ever known. Unless we compare her with 4 year old me, I might have had her beat back in my day for stubbornness. I suppose it’s safe to say she’s definitely my mini me!  She’s intelligent, beyond her years and brings endless smiles and happiness into our life.

Hadlie Morgan Brechler Born Wild Project

Do you have a favourite quote or words you live by? Favourite books?

I will share a favorite from one of the latest books I read;

We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.

― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

What are your core family values?

We really try to foster creativity in Hadlie and ourselves. Being free-thinkers without boundaries is important to us.  We encourage Hadlie to use her imagination to its fullest which allows her to be comfortable with being her true-self.

Respecting Mother Nature is a big core value our family strongly believes in. Allowing Hadlie to connect with nature and to be very aware of her surroundings. Instilling the importance of taking care of our earth and protecting it so it can be around for us and future generations to enjoy.

Openness, and the ability to feel emotions fully. Which falls under communication. We try to over-communicate on everything. I don’t want Hadlie to ever feel like she has to work through her emotions alone, if she doesn’t want to. (Sometimes, alone is best though). If she’s upset about something, we get her to talk about those feelings. Instead of shutting her out and sending her to her room.

Ultimately: love yourself. love earth. love all living things.

Morgan Brechler Born Wild Project Hadlie

How do you spend most of your days?

Most of my days right now are spent working and going to school. I am fortunate enough to have a job I love, surrounded by people I love even more. Down the road, I would like to have some more play time and I think we are well on our way to figuring that out. I feel like we have a good balance going right now. We push our adventures hard on the weekends and after work, for now.

What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Sharing happiness. That sounds cheesy, and really I am sure the expected answer from me is something along the lines of  “anything outside.” Which, is, yes, a big part of it! But truly, anything that we share happiness in. That could be grocery shopping, hiking, cooking, our dance parties, climbing or cuddling up and watching some good ol’ Netflix. We have A LOT of fun together.

Morgan Brechler Hadlie Free Climb Rock Free Lining

Last year you started the Born Wild Project? What is it about?

The Born Wild Project is a film series: we want to share our stories and inspire parents along the way. I feel deeply passionate about the importance of getting outside with your children and want everyone to know how capable they are of living this lifestyle. From the new mom, who has never been on a hike before, to the experienced adventurer.  It will develop more beyond a film series, eventually.

Born Wild Project Hadlie Morgan Brechler Arizona

What are you passionate about?

I find passion in a lot of things. I am passionate about being a mother, a lover, a friend, a human.  My love, Jared, is so passionate about life; I have never met anyone who is so happy, positive and loving. He truly does not give energy into something unless there is a passion that runs deep;  that is something rare.  Most people settle and find contentment in life. With him, life will always be much more than that. As partners, as parents, as friends, as lovers we will always chase our passions together and never settle.

Morgan Brechler Arizona

What inspires you?

I find inspiration in the people I surround myself with. My friends, each and every single one of them are so different. Each on their own personal journey that is amazing, passionate, successful and truly, deeply happy. I am so grateful that I am able to call so many inspiring, creatives my best friends.

Morgan Brechler Yoga in Cave Arizona

What are your dreams for motherhood?

My dreams for motherhood are to simply, be the best mother I can be. Hadlie deserves the world. I dream that I am able to raise her well enough to never doubt herself, to always be filled with self love, love for others and to find her own deep, real passions in life. To be fully, completely, satisfied with the life she was given as a child and for the life she will continue to create on her own, as she grows into a woman.

Morgan Brechler Hadlie Born Wild Arizona

Thank you Morgan! Readers you can find Morgan on Instagram @morganbrechler and over at Born Wild.

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Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids

On New Years Resolutions, Yoga, Self-Care and Travel

Since my early twenties I haven’t been much into New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions, yes. But once a year, on a specific date, no. When I was practicing yoga intensely in my early twenties I found an excellent studio, at the time it was one of only two in town that offered a holistic approach to teaching yoga. What this meant was there was a good sprinkling of other lessons within the classes aside from physical practice.

In one practice, when we were approaching December, my instructor brought up the topic of New Years resolutions. Seemed a bit early to me to be talking about them, but inhale, exhale, I listened to his words. Until this time, I had always made a few New Years resolutions each year. However, on this day, what he said was “If you decide you should do something, don’t wait to do it.” He continued “If you know something is right, that it’s good for you, that you want to set an intention for a full year toward it, then it’s pretty important. Right? So why are you waiting another month, week, or day to start?” He was so right! If I know in my mind and heart that I need to do something, change a habit, dedicate myself to a new project that’s so important that I intend to resolve to do it, well, then I shouldn’t neglect it for another day. I need to start now! Since that day, when I’ve come upon a moment of resolution, I’ve not let myself delay.

Because of this perspective, I haven’t been one to write a long list, or even a modest list, of resolutions each new year. I just start on them as they present themselves. Of course, I’m not perfect, I don’t implement my resolutions perfectly, but I think you get the point of what I’m saying: Don’t delay. Nevertheless, being present on social media for the last two years, I’ve read and heard a lot about other people’s resolutions and reaffirmations, and I can’t help but reflect on myself and what I can improve, what I need to change, how I can do more good with my energy, when I read these.

And so, in the context of social media and conversations with a new friend, Erynn, this year I made a few New Years resolutions; one’s I hadn’t made before. First, travel more. I don’t have a budget for travel, but this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t dream. And it doesn’t mean I have to travel far. It could be travelling to new places within my city. But putting the intention out there is important. Second, take better care of myself. No one will question how much I care for my children and family. I’m wholehearted and unconditional, I give them as much as I can every day. I love to. But in this mix I don’t take exceptional (or even good) care of myself. My friend Erynn who is organizing a Yoga Retreat in May, helped me re-evaluate how much attention and care I give myself. I need to be happy, healthy and balanced to be a good mother. But, truthfully, I am a good mother (I’m riddled with self doubt in most aspects of my life, but mothering is not one of them). However, I’m not the best role model when it comes to taking care of myself. In falling in love with mothering, I let my yoga practice slip, reduced to a very light practice, sometimes going weeks, months, without stepping onto the mat. I realize now that I wasn’t modelling the type of self-care I hoped my children would one day exhibit when they left our nest. The environment in which children grow up, the patterns and habits they observe over time become their baseline. I decided that I needed to shift my baseline of self-care if I wanted it to have an impact on them before they left home. So this year, in 2016, I am returning to my regular yoga practice and running more often, and generally taking better care of myself. I’m also going to travel more, even if it’s only within my own city.

I wanted to share an interview with my friend Erynn. Erynn is a creative entrepreneurial mother who maintained her passions in the midst of raising four children. I’m always inspired by women like her. How did she do it? Erynn has a passion for travel and humanitarian work and fortunately found a creative way to combine these interests with work and family time. Erynn runs a high end travel company, but also runs Tropic of Candycorn a great information resource for people interested in travelling with families, especially the more adventurous types of travel. I hope you enjoy hearing from Erynn – I especially love that she knew early on that she wanted to prioritize experiences over stuff! Go Erynn! And I hope that travel and self-care are part of your ambitions for 2016.

Erynn, please tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

I love raising my four daughters. Before children, I served as the President and CEO of a humanitarian organization helping impoverished South American communities. I traveled a lot and loved meeting different people in many cultures. As my husband and I awaited the arrival of our first child, we swore we would continue to make travel a priority. We started a boutique travel company that designs custom trips for top-tier clients. I find the most joy traveling with my daughters and inspiring other families to go places together.

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What part of the world do you live in?

I live in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of the United States.

How many children do you have and what are they like?

Rather than list their unique qualities – because they are each so different and special, but changing constantly – I’ll share their names and how you would know who is who if you met them for the first time. Cora is 11. She would be the first to engage you in conversation, which would typically have a lot of smiles and giggles involved. Hero (age 10) would give you a steely gaze at first, disappear into the pages of a book, and then engage your son or daughter for hours of physical play. Philippa (age 6) is a sprite for whom you will willingly offer anything sweet you may have brought with you. Finally, Minerva (age 3) will listen carefully to everything you say so long as you don’t look directly at her. She will occasionally interrupt our conversation with hugs and kisses on my cheek in order to secure my attention.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

What are your core family values?

We value time together – near or far. We value an exploration of the world with open hearts. We value learning and experiences. Above all else, we value kindness.

Kindness is the trait I hope to instil most in my daughters. I do not want them to be naïve, or docile, or even sweet. No. Sweet people, especially women, can be taken advantage of. What I want is true compassion—for them to be mindful of others and to understand a wide range of life circumstances. I want them to barter fiercely for something, but leave a little more behind than what was agreed upon. I want them to see the beauty in different ways of life, compare it to the life they have, and then create something new based on their own ideals. I want them to reach out to others and make a difference, and then allow people to reciprocate.

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What do you love to do as a family?

We love to spend time together. We love to experience things in nature. We love to read and bake and have tickle fights. We also love to travel. Travel has a way of condensing life lessons. We decided early on that we would rather buy experiences than stuff.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

What are you passionate about? And what inspires you?

I love the world and I love people. As an introvert, it’s sometimes challenging to reach out to others, to allow myself to be vulnerable. When traveling, you’re in a constant state of vulnerability – new places, new people, new languages. It can be very overwhelming. Before we make lasting friendships, I typically spend a few days observing people in their own environment. Witnessing what makes them happy inspires me. It’s always the simple things.

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Can you tell me about your work as a travel planner?

I think so. It’s kind of a weird gig. Ha. Ten years ago, I co-founded a boutique travel company called Mosaico Travel. We provide custom travel to top-tier clients. Most people, especially in the US, have short vacations. Time is their most precious resource. They want vacations to be special, but they don’t have a lot of time to research the best places and activities for their family. Getting to know people and designing something that will become part of their family heritage is very rewarding for me.

However, I miss my humanitarian roots. I love it most when I can introduce some of my travel clients to the communities that I have served and loved. These experiences always end up being what they remember and cherish most.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.comWhat is Tropic of Candycorn?

As Mosaico Travel grew, I noticed something that concerned me. People wanted to travel, but they weren’t sure how to make it work well with children. Unfortunately, as a culture we tend to focus on the difficult parts of raising children: painful childbirth, sleepless nights, crying babies on the plane, etc. Although I admit parenting requires resilience, I have found it to be incredibly rewarding.

I began answering questions, even from very seasoned travellers, about what they should bring or do on a vacation with kids. They didn’t understand how I would travel with my daughters (often without another adult) for weeks at a time and love it!

Although I consider myself a private person, I began to share. I wrote stories that I hoped would inspire. I wrote tips on how to make things easier or less intimidating. I wanted to create an online resource, Tropic of Candycorn, where people could come and learn from our community and discover what works for them.

Most of all, I wanted travel to be accessible to a wide range of families, not just the top-tier. I know that most children’s happiest memories will be away from home and I want those memories to be spent together.

Tropic of Candycorn Interview Erynn Montgomery Travel with Kids on www.hippieindisguise.com

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Top three places to travel with kids and why?

Oh wow. I’m not sure I could narrow it down. We love places where we can explore in nature, relax, and have fun. And eat ice cream! I often get asked the question, “Where’s the best place to take children?” My response is usually a variant of “wherever there are children.” Some places are easier than others and some destinations are better geared for individual families, but if the local children are happy, healthy, and safe, I think it’s a destination worth considering.

Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. Most places on your bucket list are safe enough that you’re considering them. If a destination doesn’t make you a little nervous and a lot excited, you might not be trying hard enough. Go for it!

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You’ve organized a retreat catering to moms. Can you tell me more about it?

I would love to. This motherhood thing is awesome. But it can be exhausting too. I realized I was giving everything I had to my children, my husband, my work, and had little (if anything) left for me. As I began to talk to other mothers about my struggle, I discovered I was far from alone. We jokingly said, “Someone needs to plan a vacation for moms.” I got some lovely, genuine women involved who I knew needed a break – a way to recharge themselves so they are better prepared to care for the people they love.

The retreat is a way to replenish body, mind, and soul. There will be daily yoga and surf lessons. There will also be daily workshops geared to inspiring mothers: letting go of fears and insecurities; making magic every day and inspiring wonder in  ourselves and children; owning your expertise and sharing it with others; living simple, beautiful lives full of meaning and mindfulness.

It will be from Monday, May 2 – Saturday, May 7 at the JW Marriott Guanacaste in Costa Rica and we would love for any mothers who need this to join us. It will be the most epic Mother’s Day.

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Did your priorities and life goals change once you had children?

Not drastically. I always enjoyed helping and serving people, which made my transition to motherhood easier since that’s the bulk of the work.

What’s next for you, do you have any fun projects or vacation planned?

My oldest daughter turns 12 on April 2. Long ago, before we realized how quickly our children would grow, we told them they could choose a parent-guide and a destination for their 12th birthday. They would be required to work within a budget, and plan their adventure with some parental input. When Cora realized that I needed to attend a work conference in Switzerland in mid-March, she asked, “Well, if you’re already in Europe, then your airfare doesn’t count toward my budget, right?” She figured out that she could take a direct flight to Paris to meet me. She shopped for the best price and then nervously stood by as I finished the payment. We’re both excited. For Cora, it’s a right of passage – learning to navigate the world with more independence. For me, it’s a chance to spend one-on-one time and create memories that I hope will buoy us during the teenage years.

We’ll be sharing a travelogue on Tropic of Candycorn about our experiences including a daily breakdown of how she’s working within the budget.

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What are your dreams for yourself as a mother?

I dream of raising four women who become strong, independent forces for good in the world. I hope to embrace my imperfections so that they can too. Ultimately, I want to leave this world a bit better than I found it.

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Thank you Erynn! Readers you can find Erynn on Instagram @tropicofcandycorn or on Facebook here.

THERE ARE STILL A FEW SPOTS LEFT IN The Tropic of Candycorn YOGA & SURF RETREAT IN COSTA RICA, MAY 2-7, 2016

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Empowering Motherhood: Inspiring Mother Tiff

It’s been a while since I’ve shared an inspiring mother. Tiff is a stay at home mother, yoga instructor and birth doula. I started following her because I loved how she incorporated yoga into her everyday life with a toddler. I’ve personally struggled with getting more than a few sun salutations done while my children are around. Sen loves yoga, don’t get me wrong, but it’s all partner yoga or him leading the practice. Somedays I just want to flow through 20 salutations without interruption.

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When Tiff started sharing her second pregnancy on Instagram I was totally inspired by how she shared, in a very humble way, the beauty of pregnancy and how deeply empowering it can be to carry and birth a baby. I never expected the birth of my own children to be transformational or empowering but they were; however, I never figured out a good way to share my story. Tiff shares in an natural, inspiring, yet humble, everyday way. She doesn’t present herself as superhuman. She puts forth a vision of birth and mothering that is both aspirational and very attainable by reminding herself and women of what we’ve always been capable of. Thank you, Tiff, for sharing, you’ve no doubt inspired many women to trust in themselves, not only to birth and mother a baby, but to trust themselves, period.

What part of the world do you live in?

Southern California

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?  

Two daughters – Nora Jane (3 yrs) my bright, wild, spirited one, & Violet Lu (born Oct 28) sweet, cuddly little darling.

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What are your core family values?

Love Yourself. Love others. Have patience. Notice the beauty in each moment. Be grateful for all of life’s abundance. Take every life experience as an opportunity for learning and growth.

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How do you spend most of your days?

Our little family is happiest when we are playing in the waves, so we spend most of our days at the beach; soaking up the sunshine and salty air. I really feel connected with the water and swimming in the ocean has always felt like a spiritual experience for me. My girls were both born in water, so I think it’s safe to say they feel the same.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Get out into nature, explore new places.

What are you passionate about? 

I am passionate about yoga- practice & philosophy. When training to become an instructor (while pregnant with my first daughter), the natural lifestyle really resonated with me which is why I chose to have a natural home water birth with my daughters. After having my first beautiful birth experience, I became inspired to share what I felt so deeply to be true: pregnancy is a sacred and beautiful privilege, and birth can be a wonderful and enjoyable experience as our bodies are made for it!

What inspires you?

I am inspired by others who follow their passions and have the courage to share their gifts with the world.

Did your dreams change once you had a child?

Absolutely. Giving birth changed me and empowered me to embrace motherhood in a way I hadn’t ever imagined for myself. I became very passionate about the birth process and our body’s natural, innate abilities and felt called to help empower other women and mothers in their own pregnancy and birth journeys.

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Photo by @tophography_

What are your dreams for motherhood?

I want my girls to know just how much they are loved and to teach them to truly love and accept their authentic selves, as well as others. And that life can be anything they wish to make it.

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Thank you so much, Tiff! Friends and readers: you can follow Tiff on Instagram @namastetiff and watch the most beautiful, empowering birth video ever here (outside USA) or here (USA).

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Inspiring Mother Jo

Today I’m excited to share an interview with Jo, who writes the most delicious recipes over on her blog Nurturing Kitchen. I very rarely share recipes or post food photos here or on my Instagram account, not because I don’t love to prepare meals, but because my food photos are terrible (I blame my iPhone and the dingy yellow lighting in our home and not my lack of skill…ahem).

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Our food choices and what we eat are important. They speak to our values in terms of health, tradition and the environment. I have wanted to give food a bigger place on this blog, but my photography has been holding me back. However, in the interest of sharing healthy, plant-based recipes, I decided to approach Jo about contributing a recipe, since her food is delicious, healthy and beautiful. As we got to chatting over email, Jo shared bits and pieces of her parenting and her way of life and I loved everything I heard, I knew that I wanted to share more than just a recipe from this lovely inspiring mother, so I asked her a few more questions and pulled together this interview. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing from Jo and her approach to nurturing her girls through nature and wholesome food.

As a side note: If anyone is interested in contributing a recipe to the blog, I would be happy to hear from you, please send me an email. My only stipulation is that the recipe is vegan and that you have one photo (or more) to go with it. And all the credit goes to you! Email me at hippieindisguise1@gmail.com

What part of the world do you live in?

We live in the south-east of England, on the outskirts of the lovely city of Norwich in our little patch of Eden surrounded by woods and meadows. We are just a short drive away from the city, but it feels like we are tucked away in the countryside where our home lies. I’m proud to say I have lived in this sleepy village my whole life, having travelled a lot I always enjoy coming ‘home’ to this place of ours.

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How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I have two girls, Fern who is 2 and a half and Cerys who is 3 months. Fern is a nurturer through and through. She is always caring for things, from her ‘babies’ to bugs, flowers and nature treasures. She naturally holds, kisses and touches every living thing with such care and love. She likes to cook with me and loves her food! She’s always pretending to make something. ‘Pancakes mama?’ ‘Would you like tea?’. She loves being outdoors and getting her hands dirty too, always helping me in the garden and caring for her own patch of earth. Recently she has gotten more and more into drawing and painting. She is always creating and caring with her hands. She adores her little sister who is the most easy-going baby I’ve ever known. It is as if she has always been here with us, and she accepts all of the craziness of our busy household with the most charming of smiles.

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What are your core family values?

Giving gratitude is something I practice daily and it has helped me through some darker times in my life. Ending each day with an appreciation for the seemingly insignificant things which have brightened our day brings me an inner peace which I like to share with others and is a practice I personally value greatly. We value nature-time as our greatest gift and teacher as a family, so showing our appreciation to mother nature is something we do as often as possible, through our daily actions and adventures we take. I would say that our outdoor surroundings define a lot about ourselves, from the way we socialise, the way we get our food and the way we storytell. Having respect for nature is something we show daily through caring for our plants, visiting our neighbouring woods and rivers and giving gratitude to our food, the sun and the rain. Over all things, though, is to love. To do all things with great love and have enough love for yourself that you can spread it out into the world. Self love is something I wish to show my girls, in the hope that they grow up with confidence and acceptance of themselves just as they are.

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How do you spend most of your days?

We wake up naturally as a family. We are lucky in that both myself and my partner work for ourselves and don’t need to rush out of the door in the morning, so breakfast is always leisurely and eaten together. I like to get up early and practice some yoga before the others wake, if possible, then I make breakfast when Fern wakes up so she can help me make smoothies and porridge, or whip up some pancakes. After Geoff heads out to work, we usually head out into our garden to tend to the crops and take our play outside, from painting to den making or caring for our babies. We pick what crops we have ready to harvest to make up our lunch, which usually consists of a pot of cooked grains dressed with lots of fresh herbs and lemon, salad leaves, avocados and either eggs or cooked pulses. After lunch we often head out to see friends or go to our local library and park. After a hearty family supper when daddy is home I often catch up on cake commissions or simply relax with Geoff.  If Geoff is off work, then we will spend the whole day exploring new places, at the beach or the river, picnicking and camping out during the summer. We have just bought an old caravan to make traveling even more accessible to us as a family of four, so are planning lots of UK adventures before the end of this year.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Explore. And eat. So exploring new places and discovering new foods is our perfect day. Whenever we have the chance we will set off somewhere new, hike on an unbeaten path and lay out a picnic feast.We are drawn to beaches and Geoff loves to surf so we often head out in search of waves and I play with the girls in the sand while their daddy catches the waves. A day spent walking, foraging, picnicking and surfing would be perfect.

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What are you passionate about?

Being a conscious consumer and knowing where our food comes from is something I am so passionate about. We live in a society where we have so much choice yet spend less and less time in the kitchen and connecting with where our food comes from. I am all about shopping locally, eating in season and as much organic as possible, choosing small-scale producers over factory farmed goods when funds allow. To make this more feasible on a tight budget, we passionately grow as much of our food as possible, from fruit trees we’ve planted, cut-and-come-again greens, foraging and sprouting pulses on our windowsill. We also trade a lot of food with like-minded neighbours and it’s amazing how much you can receive for free by growing simple plants! I am passionate about sharing my love for plant-based foods for the planet and for our health with others, as I believe that eating less animal-based foods and more plant-based is the key for healing the planet and our bodies.

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What inspires you?

Cliche I know but nature truly inspires me everyday. It inspires me in the kitchen, in our play and in our daily rituals. As a plant-based foodie, I am always looking to what is abundant in nature around us to inspire our meals, like in the first days of spring when the wild-garlic first appears, I’m taking our morning walks down to the river, taking photos with the girls in the dewy woods and gathering leaves before making pesto and bread and soup when we get home. When we are out on family adventures I’m always on the look out for wild edibles. Cherry trees in summer, seaweeds at the beach, chestnuts in autumn and making rituals to induce warmth and nourishment in winter.

Nature inspires so much of what I do, but my biggest teacher has to be my children, They are my constant reminders to live in the moment, explore, examine everything and believe in magic. Living under the guidance of mother nature and my girls has brought me to the happiest and most content time of my life.

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Thank you, Jo, for sharing a piece of your life. Friends, readers, you can find Jo on Instagram @nurturingkitchen and on her fabulous website www.nurturingkitchen.co.uk  

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Connected Living with Inspiring Mother Lauren

Uncharacteristically, Ro and Sen were not cooperating with each other this morning. We were downtown in the busy market and each decision point seemed to present an impasse between them: where to stop for a snack, what game to play in the courtyard, who got to carry the shopping basket. I knew this probably had something to do with the fact that our Saturdays start out anything but slow. The day starts earlier than a school day, with us rising early and hustling out the door to walk Ro downtown to her ballet class. The bustle of the Saturday market probably doesn’t contribute to a calm and cooperative demeanour either.

After a post-ballet snack in the courtyard, which involved no snacking by Sen, and Ro and I awkwardly playing Senny Says while eating our sandwiches, we walked over to the Ottawa river pathway for a splash in the water. Like a small miracle, as the children started forward on the path, their outlook on the day and toward each other became cooperative and positive. The sight of the river, the small changes in foliage and flowering bushes since last week, drew them in and all conflict disappeared. This didn’t really surprise me, I’ve seen this ‘nature effect’ many times. It’s just one of the reasons why I spend as much time as possible in natural settings. Our moods shift, curiosity peaks, and conflicts dissolve.

I also think time spent in nature is important because with an understanding and connection with the natural world, Ro and Sen will develop a strong love for and bond with it. Yes, humans are nature, we are part of nature, but many of us also live very disconnected from the natural world. When I see other parents placing a priority on connectedness with nature it makes me happy, curious and filled with hope. I like to learn from and take inspiration from the ways they connect. I am also encouraged to see what seems to be a growing number of parents doing this, which I think is an enormously significant shift.

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Lauren is a mother I follow on Instagram, who has inspired me in a number of ways. First, there’s her positive, open and kind attitude. Sometimes I feel there aren’t enough people who share her sensibility. I like to think there really isn’t such a thing as being too kind. Second, Lauren runs her own small business making herbal goods for her apothecary, Moon Rise Creek. I’m always a fan of women who have been able to turn their passions into their day job. And, finally, most of all, I love that Lauren places a big emphasis on time in the great outdoors.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading her interview and hearing about her way of life.

What part of the world do you live in?

My family and I live in Southern Nevada, on the outskirts of Northern Las Vegas. I remember the day, while living in Northern California, that my husband received a call with a job offer to move here. My first reaction was to giggle a bit, brush it off and put it out of my mind entirely. Being a woman who thrives off of Mother Earth, the trees, crashing ocean waves, grey overcast days, and rich foliage, I honestly couldn’t imagine what life would look like in the vast high desert of Nevada. After a lot of discussion as to what we truly envisioned for our future as a family, we chose to take this new, unchartered path, and see where the wind took us. As my favorite author Annie Dillard once wrote, “You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” Needless to say, that is exactly what we are doing, finding the beauty in entirely new surroundings and embracing the differences Mother Earth has to offer.

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How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I have two children, Isaac who is 2 1/2, and Noah who I still carry in my blooming belly, who is now 35 weeks along. Noah is a little twisting, twirling, kicking bundle of pure bliss, and we cannot wait to welcome him earth side. Isaac is pure wild fire. He feels ever so deeply, brings complete utter joy to all seemingly mundane moments, has the biggest heart you could imagine, is fierce and determined, has a laugh that is absolutely contagious and is truly our little wild and free boy. He comes alive exploring in nature, climbing as well as jumping on and off everything, loves animals, creating art, shouting at the top of his lungs, dancing in circles, reading bed time stories, and just recently has become a huge fan of camping. He honestly never stops, he is such a “go go go” kinda kid, a mover and a shaker, makin’ sure to always keep me on my toes. I may be completely exhausted at the end of every single day, without fail, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way, he is an energy vortex in the most beautiful way you could imagine.

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What are your core family values?

To Love. Honestly, that is our core family value in all aspects of life. Of course it roots itself into so many dimensions, but that is the best way to sum it all up. Love thyself, love one another, spread love, speak with love, act with love, treat those around you and the earth with love, love the hard, the ugly, the difficult and challenging, the painful, the blissful, the ups and downs, ins and outs. I guess we just feel that living a life with optimism and compassion really gets you quite far, and though it may not always be flowers, rainbows and butterflies, there truly is something special and beautiful about it all. I guess we just try to walk through life with hearts and arms wide open, embracing each moment for what it has to offer, as well as giving what, when and where we can.

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How do you spend most of your days?

During the week when my husband Christopher is at work, we spend a lot of time outdoors, exploring what Mother Earth has to offer us, and just taking in the raw beauty that encompasses the high desert. I also run my own business out of our home, Moonrise Creek. It is an herbal apothecary, botanical skin care, aromatherapy line of handcrafted goods made of plant magic and earthly wisdom. This takes up a small portion of our days as well, and Isaac is often right by my side while creating these goods, making up his own witchy creations. When we get papa all to ourselves on the weekend we like to cozy up and watch movies, go camping and discover what the surrounding areas have to offer, cook together and just get in some solid family time with one another.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

This is a hard question, because it really does change with the seasons, as Isaac grows and with where we are both location-wise and in life. Right now, I would say our absolute favorite thing to do as a family is to go camping. It allows us to connect with our roots, so to say, what really makes us happy. We all love being outdoors, making food over a fire, finding new places to explore, looking up at the stars, and essentially just breaking space from a more suburban life. I guess it reminds us of what we are working towards as a family, living where we do, to save up for our dream of a little homestead where we live a more sustainable life, cultivate the earth, raise livestock and ultimately live a life more connected to the earth right out our front door.

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What are you passionate about?

I am a very passionate individual, the things that fuel my fire a d bring me joy are many. Yet, I would have to say I am most passionate about the earth, and creating a life of stories worth sharing. I try to live an intentional life, one where I feel pride in the decisions I make, and proud of the way it naturally unfolds. In no way does this mean my path winds and turns in a way I have planned, and/or expected, but I try my hardest to make the best of it. I guess you could say these passions fuel that, they drive and steer me in a way that makes me feel whole, like a better person, and proud of the way my family and community see me.

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What inspires you?

Mother Earth. Her undeniable beauty. The way she teaches me so much about myself, my surroundings, my family, my community, emotions, love, passion, growth, death, rebirth, change … I could go on and on. The connection I feel to her is in all of me, every inch, in everything around me, and I feel I can truly see that, and feel blessed to be able to tap into that world of natural wonder. I am inspired by her day in and day out. I find solace, serenity, and peace in her grasp…I feel alive, full of wonder and energized in her presence…and it truly brings me great joy to share this with my all of my boys (Papa Chris, Isaac, Baby Noah & our old soul pup Makkah).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThank you Lauren for the inspiration. Readers: you can find Lauren on Instagram @laurenofleaves. Her herbal apothecary Moonrise Creek is online here and on Instagram @moonrisecreek.

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Living Simply, Living Fully with Inspiring Mother Hannah

When I started planning this series of interviews, I knew I wanted to include Hannah. There is nothing overtly heroic about the way Hannah shares her life on Instagram, and I really like that. Hannah is a humble woman, who has much wisdom and beautify to share, but does not take herself too seriously. Similar to Josie, Hannah’s effect is cumulative.

Hannah shares pieces of her days at home with her two boys, who she homeschools. I enjoy reading Hannah’s simple reflections and reminders to appreciate the things that are right there in front of us, that are too easy to take for granted. When we can appreciate and truly enjoy what we already have, the way our life is already furnished with beauty, like the scent of lilacs or the greening of grass after a long winter, our lives are full and there is nothing left but to enjoy it. There is no pursuit, there’s just right here, right now. Living simply, Hannah is guiding her boys in the best of ways: showing them how to find pleasure in the everyday and nurturing their creativity by leaving them unencumbered by too many toys. By sharing her life through Instagram she’s inspiring me, and I imagine many others, to look closer to home and closer to the natural world to find those things that ignite our imaginations, that quench our thirst for beauty, that complete us.

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What part of the world do you live in?

We live in the US, in the great big state of Texas, in a tiny cabin by a small country town. My husband and I have done quite a bit of wandering since we married and are probably not settled in for good yet, but this is definitely one of my favorite places we’ve lived. One of the first things we noticed when we were new here was the regular sound of braying from our neighboring donkeys (somehow they always sound like they are being attacked by lions, mournful and desperate) and how much brighter the stars look in this part of the country.

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How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

We started out wanting to have about 12 children, but after having two we decided to take a good long break from all that children-having. Our two sons, Duncan and Phineas, are 5 and 4. Duncan is eternally curious, wanting to understand how life works and always asking me questions about everything. It can be exasperating at times but the truth is that I love and admire his thirst for knowledge. I know it will serve him well, and I’m ready to be impressed by whatever he chooses to do with that smart little brain of his. Phineas is my sweet snuggle bunny. When he’s not snuggling up to his mama he’s a man of action! He loves playing with toy cars and riding his bicycle. He’s often outside doing one of those two things, or interacting with the dogs. Dogs are his favorite. He’s got a great sense of humor and a twinkly sparkle in his eyes.

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What are your core family values?

Our faith is very central in our lives. Whatever decision we make as a family it’s always important to us that our spirits remain strong and nourished. We value honesty and kindness, simplicity and groundedness, and don’t take ourselves too seriously.

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How do you spend most of your days?

I spend almost all my time at home. We are a one car family, so when I say I’m a stay-at-home mom, I mean it in the most literal way! Usually my days consist of homeschooling, cooking, cleaning…you know, all the exciting stuff. I’m always happiest when I’m doing something that connects me to the earth. Whether it’s working in my garden or hanging laundry on the clothesline, especially if I can throw music into the mix somehow. There is almost always music playing around our house!

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

Our most  common family activity is going to the park. Another thing we love to do  together (although we don’t get to do it quite as often) is go yard sale-ing or  thrift shopping. A lot of our possessions are second-hand, and it’s a fun way  of beating the system when you don’t have a lot of money. Our house is extra  tiny, though, so I usually have a giant “donation” pile tucked away somewhere so we can keep the clutter at a minimum. Out with the old gently used, in with the new gently used.

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What are you passionate about?

I love beauty. I’m in a constant state of longing to surround myself with beauty. I want to create it in written form, in visual form, in my home, in my yard, and in the sound waves around me. Creating beauty gives me strength and makes me come alive. I also dream of living a life that is in harmony with nature, taking care of my spot on earth and not contributing to pollution. I’ve realized that for our family it’s not an “all in” or “all out” kind of thing, though, but a process of growth – in knowledge and commitment – towards the final goal. If I’m failing in one or more areas to live out my ideals, it doesn’t mean I don’t care or I’ll never be successful. There is always room for growth and improvement, and there is always hope that the growth and improvement will take place if we hold onto our desires.

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What inspires you?

Lots of things! Creative women. People who are dedicated to sustainable living. People who live passionate lives. Pinterest! It stretches my brain and feeds my thirst for loveliness and teaches me ways of living life that I never would have thought of on my own.

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Thank you Hannah for sharing your world. Readers, please find Hannah on Instagram @flutterbyhannah.

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You might also like my post:

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Instagram Book   Confessions of a Minimalist

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Wit and Wisdom from Inspiring Mother Nelly

Today’s inspiring mother is equal parts wit and wisdom. I’ll be honest I started following Nelly because her captions were just too good. She has a great sense of humour and real talent for conveying the hilarious situations and conversations parents and children get themselves into. I would follow her even if she posted photos of white walls with captions. She’s that good. That’s not to discount her photography, because the woman can take beautiful photos.

I’m really glad I got the chance to ask Nelly a few questions about her parenting, her kids and her passions, because (well, besides getting lots of funny words out of her –- my hidden agenda) she shared some wise words too; words that could only come from a parent who is really connected and engaged with their children and is deeply self-reflective. Nelly’s perspective really shows an appreciation for what we can learn from living with and really observing children, in particular with regard to kindness and forgiveness.

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What part of the world do you live in?

I live in a small riverside village on the east coast of England, about an hour from London, along with most of my deeply dysfunctional, big, hilarious, buffet loving family. My village has strong roots in music and art, as well as some keen ping-pongers. It’s basically full of hippies and unintentional hipsters (who could no sooner define the word than they could give up their allotment). I can safely say it’s one of the weirdest places on earth. Also, you’re not worth shit if you don’t have a boat. And I don’t have a boat.

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How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I have two daughters, Cecily (5) and Lorelei (2). I see threads of similarity between them; an innocent awkwardness that they share, but by and large they are very different creatures.

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Cecily is an introvert, a little shy and anxious at times, but very quirky and completely full of love. She has the most beautiful soul; I can’t imagine a kinder person. Every morning she calmly sits up at the table (whilst I desperately try to get us all ready) and quietly makes a gift for someone she was worried about the day before. She chooses art and craft above all activities, quietly gathering things and making small but independent little choices. She can be very misunderstood (quiet people often are) but to me she is a tiger: stoic, brave, both playful and solitary, and hugely protective of people in the face of injustice or adversity.

Lorelei is a whirlwind. An all singing, dancing, laughing, idiosyncratic, strange little whirlwind. She relishes human interaction, eye contact, and is very tactile. She wears her feelings very externally; she’s as bold, open, and free as an ocean; but is weakened greatly at the hands of unkindness, and feels rejection deeply. She brought light and laughter into our lives after some very dark years. She is my little elixir.

I also have two cats, three chickens, and two tortoises. But I like them a lot less than I like my kids.

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What are your core family values?

Kindness and joy are two fundamentals. I want my children to laugh every single day of their lives. We sing and dance and talk silly all day long, even when I’m in pain or unhappy. Having fun is so important, but never at the expense of kindness. We talk always about ways to be kind and caring to family, friends, strangers, the environment, animals…. even to people who are unkind to us. I’m learning a great deal from them too (children are without judgement, and are incredibly forgiving). I applaud their kindness above all else.

Respecting and enjoying who they are, and being patient and understanding with them; are things that both also mean a lot to me, and things that I need to constantly work on; as a parent.

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How do you spend most of your days?

Acting like a bunch of dorks. Often half naked. We read, draw, make dens, dance, cook. We talk about poo a lot. Like, a LOT. Standard. In the summer we do all of the above, just outdoors (I want to say apart from the half naked bit, but that wouldn’t be strictly true). We also see friends most days; we have some real good ones.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

We love snacking, and we love nature, so snacking in nature really floats our boats. Picnics in woods, by the river, at the beach, that’s how we roll. We also love camping (which sits well within the aforementioned favourites). My hope is for us to one day travel a lot as a family too.

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What are you passionate about?

I’m a very political person, so to save you all the tedium of hearing about my various opinions on education, healthcare, equality, the environment, foreign affairs etc, I’ll simply say ‘politics’. I also read like a motherflipper.

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What inspires you?

Cliché alert: my children. Unequivocally and without apology, they are the best people I have ever met.

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Thank you, Nelly, for indulging me with your witty answers and sharing your reflections on parenting.

Readers: Nelly’s blog, poetically entitled Mother, Lover, Wanker, is a must read. She doesn’t publish often, but when she does you don’t want to miss it. You can also follow Nelly on Instagram @nellyrandall.

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Inspiring Mother Kristen: @oldjoy

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Contentment.

This is what comes to mind, again and again, when I think about Kristen, this week’s inspiring mother. I first started following Kristen, known as @oldjoy on Instagram, because her photos capture beauty and simplicity in perfect harmony. Yes, her photos are undeniably beautiful. But, as some of you know about me, aesthetic beauty isn’t enough to keep me interested for long. No, I need layers and depth behind the surface.

What you will find in Kristen’s gallery are mostly photos of her days at home, with her two sweet children. Things are uncomplicated. The days are routine. You will see that they spend a lot of time in bed, equal only to time spent eating cake. Their life is simple and routine. And as you will come to know, their life is full, full to the brim. Kristen, through the reverence she shows for daily routine, for the simplest of things, like folding laundry while watching her baby nap, shows us how these moments are what make life, these moments are what bring happiness, through contentment with the present. There is no striving. There is no lack.

And so, there is depth in simplicity. There is depth in contentment. Living these everyday moments as  the  moments in life, reflects a profound understanding of the gifts of life.

Please read on to hear from Kristen, herself.

What part of the world do you live in?

i live in dayton, ohio, usa. i have lived here for nearly ten years now. this small city is where i met my husband and began my family.

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How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

i have two children and another on the way early august. my oldest child, eleanor, just recently turned seven. my sweet girl is just that … very sweet. as soon as her feet hit the floor in the morning, she is ready to chat, play and create. her energy keeps her learning constantly, but sometimes can bring her a bit of frustration. she is homeschooled and when she accomplishes something, she is ever so proud and ready to tell the world … but when she struggles, she feels it so strongly. this girl could move mountains with her emotions alone. she is brave and forgiving and can give a hug better than anyone else i have ever met.

my second child, wolfgang, is fifteen months old. he is what they would call a handful. the boy is as curious as they come. if you find yourself babysitting him and you wonder, “could he get into that?” the answer is, yes and he most definitely will. he makes us laugh continuously. he loves to dance and blab and discover new things. he will do big things when he grows up. hopefully good things.

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What are your core family values?

our values are simple. speak clearly and honestly. never make the other person wonder what it is you exactly just said. express your needs. express your struggles. ask for help. you can cry alone if you want to, but never feel like you have to. wake up every single day with the goal of being the light in your family’s life. “be loving.” is what my husband always says to us when things get tense.

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How do you spend most of your days?

i spend most of my days at home, with my children. as a homeschooling, stay at home mom … our day to day life is extremely routine. wake up at 7:30am, breakfast, begin school, quiet/nap time, lunch, finish school, another quiet/nap time, play time, dinner, baths, books, bed at 8:00pm. i love our structured life and am very excited to add another babe into the mix.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

my favorite thing to do as a family is spending the day in the woods. if my husband has a day off throughout the week, we will explore a new woods around our area. it feels so good to escape the city for a bit and get some good ole fresh air. the kids are able to explore and run free and my husband and i can walk side by side, hold hands and unwind. it’s so nice. usually we bring our field journals and take breaks to sketch what we find along the paths.

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What are you passionate about? 

i am passionate about being a mother. you probably knew i’d say that 🙂 i have reached the point in motherhood that i just cannot imagine life without my children. they are my sole purpose for living. they are the reason for my happiness. they are the reason i get out of bed everyday with a smile on my face. they are my soul mates.

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What inspires you?

i am inspired by other mothers, absolutely. i am inspired by the women i meet on social media and seeing glimpses of their lives. finding ways i can improve myself, not only as a mother, but as a woman, too. i am inspired by strangers. the people who are completely comfortable in their own skin and it is obvious to everyone around them. i love that. i am inspired by a sunny day. by a really good hamburger. and by a long walk alone in the rain.

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Thank you Kristen for sharing your words of wisdom. Readers, please visit Kristen on Instagram or visit her website, Moonschooling Eleanor.

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