Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup


The original book was a best-seller

Once you get your head around the writing style – mainly the old-fashioned language – this book is fantastic. I pretty much read it in an afternoon, it was so engrossing … and very unsettling.

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup was published in 1853 and documents Northup’s kidnapping and enslavement. After stating he was a free man from New York, he was beaten so badly by his captors he decided it was better to preserve his life and bide his time. He was sold and passed around between an unfortunate mix of decent and horrific owners (guess which way the balance fell), tried to escape, fought in self-defence, helped others, built things, picked cotton, played his violin at gentrified parties … it’s a life of one thousand men. What he goes through, and how he manages to be free, make for mesmerising reading.

No wonder it was turned into a movie (which I haven’t seen). I’ll be looking out for it now though.

Have you ever been so engrossed in a book, you turn into a zombie? Here are photos Leo took to prove it.


Can’t talk, or even look …


When it got a bit cold, I just rugged up more. No way was I moving!

I wanted to read it fast because not only was it just one of those stories, but I also didn’t want that stop-start reading experience I had with Alice Monro.

Do you think you enjoy a book more when you read it in one or two sittings, rather than a page or two each night? I really like getting my teeth into a book and believe this intensive reading experience plays a major role in how much you enjoy a story.

I’d definitely recommend this book … to be in awe of one man’s fight against injustice.

February 2: Skipping and pilates

The sun came out for a while, so time for 15 minutes of skipping! It’s the first time I’ve skipped in a month. There’s a perfect spot on our terrace which is protected by the roof line. After six minutes, my form started to suffer and with three minutes to go, I was all over the shop. One day I’ll be able to do this! *cough*


Half and half! No excuses not to be able to skip!


The icicle from the gutter run off has melted


The little hill in the distance is the Gurten, one of Bern’s many hiking places (great view to the Alps on a clear day) and home to an annual four-day music festival


It always makes me smile when clumps of snow fall off the little pines

But while exercising, I remembered this was supposed to be today’s workout, from Kristi Cooper … so I did it as well! How incredible is the view behind her? Using the rubber Thera-Band (or a pair of old stockings) for the first time really worked the arms well; having toned arms is a major goal.

All up 30 minutes, which is good. It was time to step it up a bit. The past week or so has been a little lacklustre. Of course I’ve been exercising, but wasn’t really pushing myself. Today it feels like I’m back in the fitfor15in15 spirit.

Then I kinda ruined it all by eating some chocolate 🙂 We’ve often given Swiss Läderach chocolate as presents, but for the first time it was given to us! Thanks Nicole and Cooper. Leo might have to sniff the empty packet! Must. Stop. Eating. Now.


Mmmm … deliciousness …

Wishing you a wonderful day.

The KonMari Method, with gusto!

The past few days may not have been excellent, exercise-wise, but, wow, have I achieved with the KonMari method! Ha! I can’t believe how exciting it is (yes, I am slightly mad!). Freda from livesimplysimplylive (this link should work now!) has been doing a Friday Fling to declutter her house using The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This best-selling book by Marie Kondo, and Freda’s achievements, have inspired me to begin ridding the house of excess stuff (hopefully) once and for all! I say it with gusto! ‘Cause I want it to be so! Aha!

Minimalism is something I’ve been interested in, and semi-practising, for years. Walking The Camino in Spain in June 2011, or “A long walk with a small backpack” as I call it, was one of my first steps to living with less. The idea for that trip formed in January of the same year, when I couldn’t find my grandmother’s tablecloth. Weeks of searching high and low in my two-bedroom rental house resulted in no beloved cloth, but I did come across a whole heap of stuff I didn’t even know I had, had forgotten I had, knew I had but had never used, had no need for anymore and so on and so on and … it was so bloody overwhelming!!

It didn’t take long for a creepy feeling to take over – my belongings owned me instead of me owning my belongings. It was like the house was choking me. The weight of all that stuff was stifling. By Google-searching ‘declutter’, I found Francine Jay’s book The Joy of Less, which I still refer to now and then. Her website is also a regular read. She inspired me to start getting rid of the unnecessary. After several (borrowed) car trips to the Salvation Army, my stuff was still making me feel claustrophobic. Rather than go nuts and give everything away, I decided to leave it all for a while so I could appreciate what I owned upon my return.

The 10-week overseas trip, from June to August 2011, resulted in me moving to Switzerland before the year’s end. On that 900km walk, I met my partner Leo! Meeting somebody wasn’t really part of the plan, so it was all rather a lovely shock. I lost a tablecloth and gained a partner! How’s that for weird?!

My minimalistic adventures continue here too. We live in a small house which restricts what we can bring in – it’s a little slice of heaven. But fast forward three years, and I seem to have acquired enough to no longer consider myself a minimalist. How could that happen? Easily!

The KonMari method says to pile every item of clothing you have on the floor (I chose the bed for ease of access) and when you pick it up, ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?” If you love the item, you keep it, if it gives you nothing back, it’s a goner.

When you see your entire collection of clothes in one place (Kondo says to get everything – coats, hats, undies, gloves, scarves, handbags, you name it), it feels insane. Minimalist? Pfft!


All my clothing piled on the bed


All my shoes lined up, ready to be culled!

Previously, I’d separated all my clothes into the four seasons, using the Project333 method, where you wear 33 items of clothing for three months. Until yesterday, winter stuff was in the cupboard, and summer, autumn and spring in three designated drawers, awaiting the seasonal changeover.

Now, with KonMari, I have nearly all my hanging things for all seasons in the cupboard (apart from some summer dresses in a drawer. I don’t own enough hangers and will not be buying more) with belts (in a box), scarves and handbags on the shelf above the rail. In the larger chest of drawers, where the seasonal clothes used to live, are tops and t-shirts etc in the top drawer, jeans and shorts etc in the middle, and my exercise and walking gear in the bottom drawer.

This system has also freed up one drawer in my smaller chest of drawers (where I have underwear, socks, sleepwear, jumpers etc) for all the things that were getting dusty on the chest top or the little shelf beside the bed. Now my hand cream, nail file, hair brush, jewellery boxes and so on are in the top right-hand drawer, and books to read now live on the shelf, instead of the floor (yay!).


No more clutter on the chest of drawers and almost all the hanging clothes in their place. The garbage bag in the office doorway holds unused shoes

I can’t bring myself to throw away the bag of shoes just yet. I love shoes! If I remember a pair of shoes in that bag after better weather has kicked in, I’ll bring them out. If that bag remains unopened by the end of summer, all seven pairs are going.

Another exciting change is the way the clothes are folded. They’re not stacked on top of each other, like we see in the shops and most of us normally do – they’re laid on their side, so you can see every item easily from the front of the drawer to the back. No longer will there be that forgotten t-shirt at the bottom of the pile! I’m really looking forward to seeing everything I own whenever I open the drawers or cupboard doors. That may stop me from wanting to buy something new, when I’ve seen something like it at home already.


All my long, short and sleeveless t-shirts, in three rows, lying on their side from front to back


All my jeans, trousers, shorts and excess summer dresses lying on their side

Would you do the KonMari method? What do you think about the whole idea? A bit over-the-top? Or a great way to only own what you truly love?

Wishing you a wonderful day.