Sunday, 15 March 2015

Sunday Thoughts

This weekend has gone by faster than you can say "Thank God it's Friday" (unless you use the acronym.maybe.). It's been such a whirlwind, my emotions have gone on more than a couple of rollercoasters and I found it extremely difficult to calm down, relax and just be.
This is never particularily easy for me but the past few days, my heart has been beaing even faster than usual, my mind overflowing with a whole mess of entangled thoughts, hopes and worries.

If I said I didn't know what was gling on, I'd be lying. While there weren't a lot of stressful activities scheduled, some unexpected things happened and it felt as though I didn't havethe time to sit down for a moment to make sense of the chaos in my mind. Reading the book "The Highly Sensitive Person"  has made me conscious of the effects that changes of any kind and the all too common go-go-go way of living have on my physical and mental well-being.
Hell, I get stressed out by not knowing what I'll be having for breakfast the next day, so saying that I'm a lover of fixed routines whould be quite an understatement.
And I've realised that on those days where I follow a grounding morning ritual, incorporating warm lemom-ginger water, yoga, meditation and a long breakfast, my mind simply feels more clear. A calm, quiet mind makes all the difference but is something i cannot always achieve. Though I have found certain things that help clear my head, there ar e days where I'm just running around like a frightened chicken - followed by nights during which I toss and turn in my bed, fall asleep only to wake up again after 30 minutes, mornings where I am wide awake by 5 am, excited and nervous about the day ahead without feeling rested.

I can distinctively remember the last good, long night of aleep I got, the last morming where I woke up only once, at a reasonable time and got up immediatly because I felt ready to start my day. There are few nights like that but as long as they exist, I can hold onto them.They give me hope when I'm lying in bed at 2 am on a weeknight, unable to turn of my thoughts and steady my racing heartbeat.

Yesterday, I read a blogpost on how your affirmations, the things you tell yourself over and over again, ultimately create your reality , how nothing will ever actually change unless you change your thought. It got me thinking, could I really unconsciously be causing my own sleep issues? Was the reason why I often can't sleep that, at the very core of my being, I believe that that's just the way it is and is supposed to be?
My first impulse was to be angry and annoyed at the blogger, how could he suggest that I was the cause for my own struggles? How on earth was I supposed to think and truly believe that I would get a good night of sleep when there where literally hundreds of nights in my past to prove otherwise?
 But then, as I continued to reflect on it, I realised that maybe, he was right and that this could potentially turn out to be quite amazing. After years of believing that my bad sleep patterns where just as unchangeable a part of me as the colour of my eyes, something I simply had to cope with, there was this new possibility that the tool to end my struggles was somewhere inside of me, I just had to learn how tu use it.
Of cours it sounds incredibly simple to "just change your thoughts", when it's most definitely everything but easy. But still, I'll try. If there is even the slightest chance that through this, I'll be able to sleep soundly for days, maybe weeks at a time sometime in the future, then it is worth it. It may seem easier, more comfortable, to remain in this state of constant fear of the next sleepless night, after all it's what I've known for more years than I dare to count. But I am done with letting fear rule my life, I want to take control instead of letting my circumstances control me.

Please do read the article in question (Habit#5) , I would love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Winter Running Playlist

I do not understand people who can go for runs on their own without music, an audiobook, or some other sort of entertainment to keep them distracted. If all I had to listen to for 40 minutes or more was my own breath, I would not be able to push myself to keep going at that point where running seems to cause nothing but agony to my body. A good beat is what gets me started after I step out of my front door, motivational lyrics make me run that little bit faster at the middle of a run and the comfort of an old favorite song reminds me that I've been through this before and therefore will get through it again even if my legs are screaming in pain. 
It might seem counterintuitive, but music actually allows me to think better, drowning out the noise of my own, unproductive thoughts and giving room to new ones. therefore, when I know i have a brand new playlist to power me through my run, I am much more likely to actually get out there and I immediately look forward to those 8 kilometres, no matter what the conditions are.

 These songs have been my go-to choices for the past week and I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I do!

(I've created an 8tracks playlist as well if you don't use Spotify)

Friday, 19 December 2014

Recipe : Sweet Potato, Carrot & Red Lentil Soup

Well, hello there! I believe it has been more than 4 months since my last post and I will not go into much detail on why I haven't been active on here, let's just say that school has been a lot more demanding than I'd expected this year. In between juggling assignments and trying to stay active while also spending some time with friends and family, I'm afraid this blog has come a bit short.
I am not going to make promises I probably won't keep, however I will definitely try to post more regularly on here in the future.

This soup is everything I crave after a cold, busy winter day. It is warm, flavorful, nourishing and incredibly simple to whip up! Red Lentils and Sweet Potatoes are one of my favourite food combinations during the colder months, they are filling and have oh so many nutritional benefits! As a vegetarian, legumes are one of my favourite sources of protein and red lentils are much easier to digest and cook more quickly than their green and black counterparts. 
Whenever I am feeling tired and burned out after a long day of school, the warming combination of these two wonderful orange plants is sure to make me feel cozy and nourished. I whipped up this particular dish on a whim one night last week and was surprised at how wonderful it turned out to be. This is definitely a very hearty kind of soup, so if you want a lighter meal you might want to leave out the chickpeas.

The lighting was extremely bad in these photos and doesn't make the vibrant colour of the soup justice at all. However, I hope you still try out this soup as it really is comfort in a bowl!

Sweet Potato, Carrot & Red Lentil Soup (Vegan)
(serves 2-4 as a main)

1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
small piece of ginger, diced
1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil or ghee
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into ~ 2 cm cubes
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 cup of dried red lentils
4-6 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 cup of coconut milk
salt & pepper

1 can of chickpeas, rinsed

For garnishing:

sliced green onion
pumpkin seeds


Heat the coconut oil in a large pot. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add cumin and turmeric (as much as you like) and continue to cook for about a minute.
Then add the sweet potatoes, carrots, lentils and vegetable broth and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Blend the soup using an immersion or regular blender, then add it back to the pot.
 Stir in the coconut milk and can of chickpea if using, add more water if it is too thick for your taste.
Cook until it has the desired temperature, then add to your bowl, garnish with green onions, pumpkin seeds and spinach and devour!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


"maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds."  Part Five - Justin

Books move something in me that movies or music have never been able to. When i am reading a good story, I am completely absorbed in it, so deeply that my own world seems to simply fade into background noise. Sometimes, even hours after I've stopped reading, I catch myself feeling or thinking like one of the characters, even though these thoughts and feelings don't fit my actual situation. Books give me the ability to shut of my brain and be fully immersed in an activity, which is a state I can almost never achieve. However, there are only few books which have given me this complete sense of being in a whole other universe and affected my emotions even past the point of pressing the off-button on my kindle. The Divergent series, The Rosie Project, The Universe versus Alex Woods, Zutritt Verboten (a german children's book) and now, Wonder.

You can't blend in when you were born to stand out. 
My Name is August. 
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."  
- RJ Palacio

August is 10 years old when his parents think it is time for him to go to a normal school. Born with a facial abnormality which demanded several surgeries, August had been home-schooled by his mother until that point and the prospect of going to a place with hundreds of other kids doesn't seem very appealing to him. Eventually though he decides to go anyways, overcoming his fear of how people are going to react to seeing him. The books describes his first year at school and how it affects himself and the people around him from 6 different point of views: his own and those of 5 other children who are each connected to August in their own way.

Throughout the whole story, you never get a clear description of what August's face exactly looks like. And while the nosy part of me would have needed an exact drawing or photograph to be satisfied, in the end it didn't matter. It wasn't about his appearance but how he and others choose to live with it. This story doesn't end with a miraculous surgery which will "repair" his face and they will live happily ever after. It is much more insightful than that.

Even though the book is written out of children's perspective, it isn't childish. It is intelligent, witty, moving and most of all: it feels real. So real that, with each change of narrator your whole position shifts. You might have felt nothing but sympathy, even pity for August's situation but one page into the next part and all of a sudden, things don't seem so black and white anymore.
It is her ability to completely alter her style of writing with every different narrator that I admire most about RJ Palacio. While yes, she can only try to imitate and imagine the way a child thinks, it doesn't feel that way when you read through the book. She created 6 completely different characters, each special in their own way, while avoiding to make them seem too perfect, evil or nice to be true.

This book is mainly about a kid who seems to have had the whole universe turned against him at birth and yet, the author manages to make me as a reader feel about a 100 different emotions while reading her story, only one of them being pity. If you read anything next month, let it be this book, even if you blieve children's books are only for children (you can always pretend it's your nephew/daughter/brother/best friend's sister's son's).

"I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives." - August Pullman

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

I was looking for a dessert to make for my grandparents when they were supposed to be coming over for dinner and was starting to get a little desperate when I found this beauty on the Green Kitchen Stories blog. It was everything I'd been wanting to make: light, fresh, summery and the flavors tied in perfectly with the middle eastern theme of the main dish. I'd been intrigued to try a frozen dessert like this one for a long time but had never found a good opportunity to make one so this tart got me really excited!

I prepared the tart one day ahead of time as I was working during the day and therefore wouldn't have time to do so the next day. As it said in the recipe that you could freeze it for a couple of days, I didn't think this would be a problem.

And it probably wouldn't have been, if my grandparents had actually come for dinner that planned day but they had a particularly stressful day at the bakery and felt too tired to do so. Hence the cake remained in its springform for another 4 days, until they could make it.

I took the cake out of the freezer about half an hour before I wanted to serve it, but it would have probably taken an hour or more to properly defrost. The crust tasted absolutely amazing, just the right amount of salty and sweet, and I believe the yogurt filling would have been quite dreamy had it not been sitting in the freezer for so long. The flavors were there but the texture was quite icy which made it a little difficult to eat. Everyone still ate their whole slice so I think it's safe to say that we all enjoyed it, despite the iciness of the yogurt layer.

Being the kind of person I am, I probably won't be making this again - there are simply too many recipes out there that I still want to try! That being said, I definitely recommend this cake, and the Green Kitchen Stories blog in general. I could spend hours reading through their blog, every post is filled with so much love and personality and the pictures are to die for - please check them out if you haven't heard of their blog already (which I'm sure you have).

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Life Lessons & Banana Bread

After closing the front door behind me, I headed straight for the kitchen. Almost completely black and therefore perfectly ripe they were just waiting to be mashed and transformed into something delicious: 5 mini bananas I'd bought for this exact purpose a few days earlier.
So i turned on my oven and got started. Liquids and bananas into the blender, dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix it together, let it rest, pour it into a loaf tin. Some flaked coconut on top - done.
All there was left to do was wait while the unmistakeable smell of banana bread slowly filled my kitchen. It's the kind of smell you want to have in a bottle to sniff on when you're feeling down, the smell that hugs you the way a fluffy blanket and hot chocolate does. It's also the kind of smell that makes cleaning up your kitchen a whole lot easier.

The 60 minutes felt much longer than that and I practically jumped up from my couch when the timer finally went off. A toothpick came out clean and I couldn't hold my excitement over how gorgeous the bread looked. Warm, gooey, slightly caramelized banana slices and toasted coconut flakes on top really do make all the difference when it comes to the aesthetics of banana bread.

A quarter of an hour later I decided it was time to take the loaf out of its baking tin and cut myself a slice. I noticed the bottom part of the bread was unusually moist and suddenly, I didn't feel as confident about the outcome of my little baking adventure anymore. The first cut confirmed my doubts: the inside of the bread was still extremely wet and gooey and the texture reminded me of scrambled eggs. I turned the oven back on, put the failed loaf back into the tin and the oven, hoping that 20 more minutes would maybe make it right. Experience said otherwise, the texture was nothing like a banana bread should be and I knew nothing would be able to solve that but I couldn't simply give up on this loaf.
I ended up leaving it in the oven for another 40 minutes and then went to bed with the tiny bit of hope that the bread would be less moist once it had dried. It wasn't.

When I first took that bread out of the oven, I was so thrilled. I couldn't wait for it to be cool enough for me to enjoy a slice, something I'd been dreaming of for over 4 days. I'd bought the bananas, endured the torture of not being able to eat them, reread the recipe I was going to use about 25 times. On my last day of work, I wasn't planning to go out and celebrate, no, I was looking forward to going home to bake. And I love the act of baking by itself more than I'd like to admit but in the end, it still is more about the result than the process. It is the (literal) piece of cake at the end of the road that makes me spend hours in the kitchen measuring out flour, melting chocolate and kneading dough.

So yes, i was disappointed about the way this bread tuned out (or rather, didn't turn out). My first reaction was self-blame ("you must have misread the recipe"), then blaming others ("this recipe simply doesn't work") followed by regret ("why didn't I use the recipe I always do"). However, none of these reactions change the fact that things didn't work out the way I'd wanted them to.

If I had used my usual go-to recipe, I would have wondered whether a different one might have tasted better cause that's the way I am. I adore trying out new recipes and I have to embrace the fact that sometimes, this leads to failure. However, failure simultaneously means progress, learning how not to do something. It also means having to learn to accept that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, how excited you are or how much you want things to work out, they don't. And that's not the end of the world.

p.s. I used this recipe by the way and even though it didn't work for me, maybe it will for some of you. Let me know if it does.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

shades of red

When you take a look around my room, the predominant colour you see is red. Red walls, red carpet, red closet and (depending on the week) red sheets. You'd think the owner of the room must really like the colour red, yet I don't.
I don't own a single red clothing item and I never buy anything red if there are other options (except if that option is orange. I really hate orange.).
While I don't appreciate the look of red, I can't deny the feeling of comfort it gives a room. I feel instantly calmer once I step into my bedroom and I give the dark red walls credit for that.

These are just a few snapshots I took over the past few weeks and quite liked. The jar on the last picture is filled with strawberry chia seed jam, which I really suggest you try, such an easy and natural way to create marmalade (I used this recipe).