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No bullshit advice to me and all my fellow gym haters.

A year into my gym membership and I visited the place less than 15 times. How do I know? Because I promised myself to get new running shoes as soon as I hit this number. Never happened.

Here’s why.

Evidently, rewards don’t work.

If I don’t eat sweets for a week, I’ll buy myself a new dress. That’s all fine and dandy but try another week with this approach. Worked again? Great! Now try once more.

The chances are you’ll fail. Fall right on your face, just like I did with my promise of new snickers gig.

Reasons? The moment you create a reward, you give birth to its twin brother: punishment. And we all know how we react to punishment, right? We scream and run (no pun intended!).

So my “I’ll wear my comfy and cool new shoes if I go to the gym 15 times”
equals
“I’ll end up wearing the nasty blister-producing old fuckers If I don’t”.

What does this communicate to my gym-hating brain? Marta, this ain’t choice. You have to WORK!

Yep, exactly what I don’t want to do in my spare time, do you?

In no time, from enthusiastic “hello gym habit” you move to “bye-bye any interest”.

I can stick all the lovely “should’s” and “have to’s” right up my ass.

There are expressions that have meaning and expressions that lack it. Unfortunately, “should” and “have to” belong to the latter group.

And yet, if only had I collected one quid for every “should” and “have to” I uttered in my pre-gym-going days… I’d save myself an impressive stash of coins.

What “should” really tells my brain is this: “Marta, you don’t want to, I know. Oh well, just force yourself then!”

But hey, that’s not all! “Force yourself” is equally vague.

Let’s think about it for a second.

I imagine forcing myself to go to the gym. Closing my eyes, getting the picture. Got it!

What I still miss in my masochistic vision is:

what am I actually choosing to do here?
when am I choosing to do this?
how?
and
where do I choose to start?

Did you notice the unsubtle use of the key-verb “to choose”? Well done, you’ve just discovered the key to your “I should” type of procrastination habit!

The moment you choose to do something, the difficulty of the task loses its strength.

The example we’ve all been waiting for:

I choose to go to the gym – suddenly the chore is light,  stripped of all the drudgery.

It even sounds like music to my ears!

The best bit? I don’t need to enjoy or love going to the gym. All I need to do is to prefer it to the consequences of not going.

Here’s how it happened to me:

I woke up one day with a great deal of pain in my back. I thought: “It’s a bit early to treat myself to a disability. I will need a healthy back for a bit longer”.
Bam! The penny dropped. I put on my gym clothes and went for my first workout in months.

I knew I hated the gym music, the sweating, the cold weather outside and the boring exercises. But it didn’t matter. I chose to consciously commit to my project.

The bad news? This trick won’t work if performed only once. If you’re like me, your personal “should’s” and “have to’s” will march back into your head at the first occasion for a blip.

How do you greet them? With good manners of course!

1 You make sure you notice their arrival.

Hey there “have to”, how’s it going?

2 You smile.

3 You make a decision to accept the way things are, not the way you think they should be.

My legs hurt (not “my legs shouldn’t hurt!”).

Developing muscles takes time (not “I should have some visible muscle by now!”).

4 Or let go of it.

It’s all your choice.

Does this really work for me?

I choose to go to the gym. I go more often and reach my goals quicker.

In the last 30 days I hit the gym, for a one-hour workout,  21 times.

Now, did I buy my new cool running shoes as a reward?

Have a guess.

/Want to explore the subject? Interesting reads:
For Best Results, Forget The Bonus by Alfie Kohn
Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-free Play by Nail A. Fiore/

tree house stuffedmice

Hey, we’re neighbours: The Tree House.

This is a house I walk by daily. It’s hidden in a green alley and all I can see is its mirror structure. Last year I had a proper look at it – as much as I was able to, it’s surrounded by walls and trees – and my fascination grew even stronger. And just when I decided to find it online – the internet can be magic! – it turned out it’s for sale. Only one million pounds and half a million more and it can be mine!

OK, back to reality. Let’s have a proper look at this beauty, shall we?

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London, zone 3. And not even the properly nice part of it. And here we have this living room in which you can feel like modern Thoreau. Well, the house is situated in a Conservation Area called Albion Millenium Green (apparently one of 245 Millenium Greens across UK – protected areas created in 2000 to keep green, peaceful breathing spaces in urban parts of the country).
So much light and green coming from outside. Love it!

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This is so so good. I want a patio like this. With maybe one or two potted plants. But mainly the plants that’d been there longer than at least one generation of humans. Yes, please!

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Uncluttered kitchen and this island that doesn’t look like a typical island. Plus a hood in the ceiling. What’s not to like? Well, the chairs and the dining table would need to be replaced with something lighter – but that’s totally doable, right?

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The beautiful oak zig-zag staircase and more light. Glass and wood is such a good combination here. It feels warm and inviting. It makes perfect sense (and this is coming from a person who really, really can’t stand glass).

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Eek, the bathroom… not too sure about it. Same with the bedrooms (why, oh why these ceiling lights and lampshades?!?). Beautiful light and beautiful spaces, the rest could be improved. But then again, with under-floor heating everywhere and four-star rating under the Code for Sustainable Homes (6 is the highest)… what more could anybody want really?

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Coming home and seeing these reflections must crate a good feeing inside.

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Yes, dear Tree House, we’re neighbours and I think you rock!

Architect: Ian McChesney
Images by Rightmove and Design Milk.

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Shop Update: Rejection Of Perfection Instant Download Print

Something different than paper notebooks!

Remember when I said I needed to have something about perfection leading to rejection on my wall? So I designed a print that has one main purpose: to keep me away from perfectionism. Of course these hand-written words have millions flaws and every time I look at them I think “this could be better” and “oh no, this line is just so wrong”. And you know what? I actually like it exactly because of its imperfection. The way it was meant to be. Already printed and up on my wall but I think I will actually have it properly printed and framed soon. Here’s to little sentiments!

This is instant downloadable print. You can have it any size you want as it’s fully scalable. And it comes in two colour variations, too. Boom!

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stuffedmice london honey

London Honey

Oh, this honey business. Right after we moved to a place with a garden, we started looking for ideas how to use it (yeah, typical freshman’s enthusiasm). Putting a hive in was high on our list. But a year has passed and we did very little with our green space. Other projects – there are always other projects – got in the way. I could say we were too lazy but the truth is, we had other priorities.

I find the concept of producing honey very alluring. I possibly learnt it from my grandma who always insisted on locally made honey and whom I’d bring a jar of this amber sweetness from all my travels when she was still around. It was very hard to find something my granny would enjoy when her senses started deteriorating. But honey remained the best treat.

All this is why I immediately fell in love with Barnes & Webb. They make saving bees and producing honey their priority. But what’s super cool is that they allow Londoners who have a bit of outside space to become bee keepers. The best part? They do all the work involved. What it means is this: you want honey from your area, you contact Barnes & Webb, they visit your place and see if it’s bee-friendly. If it is, they install and manage two hives for you. Time goes by and, with a lot of hard work done by the bees and a bit of luck, you end up with raw honey from your balcony, terrace or garden. Plus, you get a share of the harvest. Isn’t that just awesome?*

Of course, the labelling system of London Honey is what attracted me to it first. It’s not that it’s clean and pretty (which it is!) but which Londoner could resist looking for their postcode among these jars? I lived in N16! I worked in EC2 and N1! It’s silly but when you immediately make that connection, you’re more inclined to buy, no? This honey is not “produce of more than one country”. You know (almost) exactly where it’s from and it’s possible you have good memories associated with the place. You can buy it, share it with others and with every consumed spoon think “this was made by busy bees right where I used to live”. Crazy, right? So how amazing it’d be to produce one with SE26 on it!

What do you think? Honey from which postcode would you buy?

*If you’re not into renting bees, you can also adopt them.

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All images by Barnes & Webb.

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Mindful Photography Workshop In Devon

Any holiday plans? Some time ago I was asked if I’d be keen on teaching another mindful photography workshop in Devon. Of course I agreed immediately as I really enjoyed preparing and leading the previous course.

Next month (Monday 4th – Saturday 9th May 2015) you can join me for a week of Being Through Seeing – Mindful Photography workshop in Sharpham.

Together with a small group of other photography and mindfulness enthusiasts, we will be exploring the ideas of:

mindfulness through photography
extending the mind’s eye with the lens
self-reflective photography
the art of seeing
finding inspiration in our surroundings
technical photography skills
and finally
mindfully using Instagram and VSCOCAM apps

This is an updated and improved programme of my last workshop. It’s designed to encourage every person to take photos mindfully, no matter what age and level of technical skills. We don’t focus on quantity but seeing and so every daily task we work on has a limited number of shots we’re asked to take.

Unlike before, this workshop will be in a secular setting. There will be daily meditation (45 minutes of zazen every morning and evening) but no Buddhist teaching. Instead, we will pay more attention to contemplative photography and having some time off.

This workshop won’t take place at The Barn but in Sharpham House – a beautiful, Grade I listed building situated near Totnes. Based on a thousand-year-old 500 acres farm, overlooking a vineyard and river Dart it’s a perfect place for practicing mindfulness and photography. All participants will have a separate room, eat homemade vegetarian meals prepared in line with sustainable practices (seasonal, with produce sourced mainly from Sharpham House’s kitchen garden and local food suppliers) and wish time stopped still:)

I can honestly say it’s the best way to recharge batteries while learning something new. Up for it? There are still free spaces here.

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Last photo credit: Geograph.

Revisiting Romania: Portraits From London (exhibition)

Saturday morning and off we went to our local farmers’ market. And because it’s stationed on the grounds of a museum, I wanted to see an exhibition called Memories of China. It turned out to be a total disappointment but we caught, on its second last day, a photographic exhibition by Ion Paciu called Revisting Romania: Portraits From London.

These two images and especially their captions resonated with me most:

1

Anamaria Marinca – actress

I consider London my home now. I was 25 when I came, and my first impression was one of wonder. I believe that assimilating to another culture is always an enriching experience. It taught me patience and the glorious lesson that I occasionally may be wrong. But I do miss my family in Romania, and I always wear my grandmother’s engagement ring.

2

Andrei Zamfirache – IT worker

I moved to London last year after graduating from Glasgow University. It was rather tough in the beginning but having a good place to live and a stable job has helped. Having left Romania seven years ago, there isn’t really much I miss. Going back is strange. You know you don’t belong there any more when the first question family and friends ask is: ‘So, when are you going back?’

You can see all images from the exhibition here. All images by Ion Paciu.

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Studio lately

The wall is not that empty anymore! When you’re not sure what wall art you want, stay being unsure. I decided to go with what I know – keeping things I need to look at / to be reminded of / to be nagged about exactly where I will have to look at them. And so the wall is super ugly and fantastically practical. I will talk about it in more detail soon.

Less mess – although it actually doesn’t look like it in one of the photos. It’s been a productive and organised month, this March. (But wait a second, where’s my birthday gift voucher I had on that pile of papers under my desk?) I’m back to studying something new from April so it was necessary to get everything in its right place.

A sofa dream. I saw this small yellow sofa online and it looked like one that’d be great for the studio. I want to buy it. Can anybody tell me not to do it, please?

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stuffedmice reads 2015 wild swans

2015 Reads – 4 – Wild Swans by Jung Chang

Wild Swans is considered Chang’s best book. I preferred her story of Cixi.

Of course I learnt a lot about the more modern history of China. And the story of three women caught up in unbelievable events kept me glued to my sofa for hours on end.

But the most important lesson I learnt is this: life is too short for reading about evil.
And because of this, I won’t be reading Jung’s later book: the story of Mao. At least not this year!

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Shop update: Waves and Angles

Waves and Angles – two new collections that I will be slowly adding to the shop. Three notepads of each have already been listed.

They’re connected like cause and effect. Waves, with the transparent paper for the front covers, wavy shapes and pinky pink pages led to the black covers, straight cuts and dirty pink pages of Angles.

Visually, they’re the most delicate designs I’ve ever created and looking at them it’s hard not to think of weddings. But this was not my intension and I hope they will find other uses, too.

PS
From now on it’s Etsy and Etsy only. Let’s keep things simple.

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The Tiles of Lisbon (2/2)

Not sure if you’re ready for some more but, as promised, the second batch of Lisbon’s tiles is here (you can see the previous post here).

What is it about tiles that fascinates so many people? I’m not sure. For me, it’s the repetition, the fantastic idea of decorating floors and buildings with puzzles, and the magic of turning dust (clay) into beauty. What is it for you?

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Blogging commitment

This is a very backstage post about blogging, my plans and commitments that relate to this space. It’s been a long time since I started stuffedmice dot net, many thing have changed both in my life and among bloggers since. Right now I need to clarify certain aspects of my idea of blogging in order to move forward.

PURPOSE

The purpose of this blog is to share things that inspire me, things I’m working on and have already done (in another word: life). It is also to seek out makers and shakers, learn from them and share it with you here. It is not to preach, teach how to change lives and promote anybody’s products or business. And so…

SPONSORED CONTENT

I removed all links that have been sponsored (there were fewer than ten of them) and won’t post any links that are part of affiliate marketing. Why? Because of my simple wish to keep this space advert-free, without any hidden agenda and promotions. The only products I promote here are the ones I choose to promote because I sincerely believe they’re worth it. And yes, I do and will post about my own products / services here – they are part of the “things I have done” bit.

FREQUENCY

This winter I had more time for blogging because of having been between contracts. I really enjoyed and needed it but times are changing and I know I won’t be able to commit as many hours to writing in the months to come. Work, handmade products and new challenges I’ll be embarking on very soon will leave me less and less time for here. To keep this space alive, I commit to post minimum twice weekly for the rest of the year. There, I’ve said it:)

COMMENTS

Like many bloggers, I decided to use a third-party commenting system. I’ve signed up to Disqus some time ago, as a commenter, and can definitely see its advantages over the in-built WordPress commenting system. More than anything, I like the ease with which it enables quick replies to any comments. I know it can be off-putting to use a system that requires registration but I’ve decided to give it a go and hope you will too.

Here is is. My blogging plan for the rest of the year. All that remains is to put it in action.