Leon, oh Leon…

Featuring today: The best ever cookbook(s) I have come across so far in my life. Woohoo!

We all eat. It is a necessity, yet it can also be a source of a lot of problems and issues. We eat too much or too little, we spend too much money on food, we don’t eat healthy enough, we don’t know how to cook, we never have the time and energy to cook, and then if we cook we always cook too much and don’t know what to do with the leftovers, … the list is bloody long. And we haven’t even started on actual eating issues.

Of course, now to expect a cookbook to solve all these problems would be foolish, but it can certainly help. More with the problems I mentioned earlier, but if you consider yourself to have eating issues and you consider to buy a cookbook, you’re certainly on a good way (or not, who knows). Anyway, I have found the ideal cookbook for myself, which helped (and continues to help) me out significantly in my day-to-day life.

Now maybe if I describe to you how and why this is true, you’ll also get to know some of the features of the book(s). As you have already established from the plural in brackets, there is more than one book. Basically, these books are written by some people who run a small chain of fast food restaurants in London. Their business idea was to make and sell fresh and healthy fast food that tastes delicious. So when they were successful with that, they decided to publish some of their tried and tested recipes in a book. And then another. And then another.

So, you now already know that these books help me solve some of my food-related problems: It is fast, fresh, (more or less) healthy and delicious. More importantly though: generally, the books feature quite simple meals. Simple not only in terms of making them, but also in terms of their style. For someone like me, who has the taste buds of a child, a lot of cookbooks are useless, because the meals they feature are waaay to fancy. Especially when people think that they should combine fruit with a savoury meal, they have lost me entirely. And this doesn’t mean I don’t love food, oh, believe me, I do. And my taste is very varied: I love classic dishes at home, Greek food, Italian food, Asian food, all of that. But rather rustic, please.

Then, the other major problem I have with cooking and eating is the effort. It just takes so much time till something is ready and so little time for me to eat is once it is ready, so why bother. Well, these books are beautiful. Like truly beautiful. And you don’t even have to be a bibliophile to notice it. Every recipe is elaborately illustrated, the entire book benefits from the ingenious graphic design and it is nice to look, even nice to touch. It all looks so delicious and easy to make that walking to the supermarket over the road and preparing a fresh meal feels like so much less of a hassle.

Now, I almost forgot mentioning the name, although you might have gotten that from the title. They are called LEON and so far five big books (one for vegetarian cooking, one for baking, etc., cost about £20 each) and several smaller books (for things like soups, breakfast and stuff, cost about £6 each – also make great presents!) have been published. This is the website, there are also recipes and videos online. I also know that some of the books have been translated into German, so chances are good they will be available in your language too (which might be more convenient with the measurements).

Please go to the bookshop closest too you and look at it yourself, this is not the kind of book you can check out on Amazon (unless you are absolutely certain that you want it and the purchase is just an annoying formality), you have to hold it in your hands.

Also, do share any cookbooks that lighten up your life day after day.

B x

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Birthday Wishes – The Key To Happiness?!

We’re back to me mirroring Gretchen Rubin’s resolutions during her first happiness project. Today’s resolution is surprisingly simple and straight-forward. Like Ms. Rubin, I’d like to remember birthdays. I’d like to send those I love and care about a card or a message to let them know that I care and also to stay in contact.

During the past few years I have done this sporadically, whenever I knew for some reason that it was someone’s birthday and when I had the time to write a card. Messages were’t really necessary because those people I’d write a birthday message, say on Facebook or WhatsApp, I usually saw on their birthday. School had that kind of convenience.

But, this time I have approached the topic systematically: I have printed a birthday calendar (very basic, but so useful, here), found out birthdays of friends and family –  Facebook and my dad’s phone proved invaluable for this task, I have some cards on my desk and all the addresses on a nice document, so that birthdays can now come. I might also set some kind of tracker on Outlook or something so that I actually remember them, but the groundwork is laid. Success!

I know it is a tiny tiny thing to do, but I also know it will make my friends and family, but especially me insanely happy. Such fun!

B x

The Miracle That Is Miranda Hart

Today we are completely and utterly off topic. And that has a reason. Yes, of course it is the last day of the year 2014 and we can all reflect and make resolutions and kiss the ones we love at midnight. But that is besides the point. There is a last day of the year every year, there has always been and will always be. Nothing to get too emotional about (although, of course, it is a lovely occasion to get teary and melancholy, but all within reason).

What I am talking about today is much bigger. It is the end of an era. And what an era! It was so filled with joy and fun and embarrassments. Today, my chums (you’ll get this soon, I hope), is the day that the final ever episode of Miranda will air. Now of course, you might not know what ‘Miranda’ is exactly, but you have gathered that it must be some kind of show on TV or the radio. Most likely, you will think “oh no, another one of these crazy TV fanatics, go get a life”, and usually I would wholeheartedly agree with you. Not today though.

Those of you who know the sitcom will know what I mean. It is hardly just a show. It is a lifestyle, and what a lifestyle. Tho those of you who have not seen or heard of such a thing ever: Do not (I repeat – DO NOT) go on YouTube and look for a trailer or a funniest bits kind of thing. Please, gain full access to the first season (maybe stream it online illegally, download it from some kind of cloud, buy/loan/steal the DVD, rent it – how would I know how you roll with these kind of things?) and start watching the first episode.

Now you will likely also end up watching the next episode and the next, but no worries, the worst-case scenario is you watching 14 episodes with a length of 30 minutes, which is a mere 7 hours of your life.

I have found someone who shares my enthusiasm for this British splurge on the distant shores: A lady called Carmen Croghan. She describes very well the appeal of the show, but watch out newbies, there are some huge spoilers. Also interesting: You can watch Miranda on hulu and Acorn TV (whatever that may be – rhyme!!).

So the question still open is ‘Who the f*** is Miranda?’. Well, ‘Miranda’ is the central character, a quirky unique and extremely lovable woman in her thirties dealing with the struggles of everyday life and social awkwardness. ‘Miranda’ is also the first name of Miranda Hart, a hilarious 6ft 1in British comedienne and actress, who, incidentally, portrays Miranda in the show and is also the writer and creator.

So although we will be able to enjoy Miranda Hart and her genius mind frequently in the future (she’s doing stand-up, will be hosting a new edition of the Generation Game plus she landed a role in a Hollywood production starring Jude Law and Melissa McCarthy), this sitcom, which is the perfection of her stage persona and so so funny, entertaining, relateable and so so good, will come to an end after today’s episode (there were three seasons – 6 ingenious episodes each, plus one episode on Christmas day, which left us with an incredible cliffhanger). Such sad times. And such NOT fun. But everything must come to an end (although I prefer Brian May’s stance ‘show must go on’…).

I sincerely hope you will share my love for this microcosm of odd habits and I with you all the best for the next year!

B x

Do Good, Be Good… ?

Christmas is over now for real. Generally, that means we stop giving presents and focus on our New Year’s resolutions. But sometimes a wee bit of ‘giving’ sneaks in to this list of goals that we abandon before February begins – we want to volunteer or be nicer to others to make ourselves feel better.

Instinctively, we frown upon this ‘selfish altruism’. But isn’t altruism always also selfish? Anyone who had biology at school learned that animals show altruistic because ultimately it benefits them (I’m thinking vampire bats and boobies). And even those who don’t believe in evolution and instead call upon God(s) for answers do good in order that they get away pleasantly after death.

So, as you might have guessed, especially if you have been following my Happiness Project, I have a personal reason for all this philosophy: It will be part of my resolution. ‘Doing good’ is a broad field, though. And we all have a different image of what it means. My definition, I must admit, is a bit cloudy. This will not be an obstacle, I have simply narrowed it down, following the example of Gretchen Rubin.

I want to be generous. This is something that, in some situations, comes natural to me. I love to give gifts, I love to share music I love with the people I love, and all that. In other respects, it is harder. Especially when I am in a bad mood, I find it hard to give other people their due and ideally a bit more than that. But, fake it till you make it has always been my strategy, which also coincides with on of Rubin’s truths: Act like it till you feel like it (or something like that). Now I am not aiming to just donate some money and make a tick on my resolutions chart, I want it to make me happier and improve my relationships. As a consequence, I will have to learn to let people in the supermarket go first, listen to my friend when all she talks about is her boyfriend (who is lovely and makes her really happy), stop resenting people for changing and moving on and try to think of what I can do to make the lives of the people around me more pleasant.

As you see, trying to be more generous sounds like an excellent exercise for me to be more empathetic, pleasant and kind. When I call it an exercise, it is really an experiment: Will my conscious effort to be more generous have an effect on my unconscious behaviour?

We shall see.

B x

Blogosphere And Wills And Ways

As part of her happiness project Gretchen Rubin launched a blog. This was part of my inspiration to revitalize a blog I had started while without internet (who has an idea like that? Read it here) but not continued regularly – this blog. So now, as part of me mirroring that lady’s resolutions, it is time for me to use this as a pit stop and reflect upon how it is going.

Well, I guess, once you have you blog all set up, all you need to do is write, and, if you’re lucky, there’s people out there reading what you are writing. But, let me tell you, the first steps aren’t that easy when you’re new to the blogosphere (I hope people don’t actually use that as a word in real life), it is pretty confusing. What I have learned: The settings are your friends. Many problems get resolved if you just go through them once from beginning to end.

Apart from that, I am sort of having an odd start into daily blogging, because I started a week before I left uni for Christmas break and I knew I would not have time to write a blog post daily, yet I was not ready to fail my resolution to ‘blog daily’ every single day for over two weeks. So, what did I do? I though of some more or less things I could write about and then I wrote all of the posts in advance, scheduled them and left the blog to itself till I returned to Germany. Well, at least that was the plan. Turns out it’s not that easy to write fifteen blog posts in very little time especially when, like me, you have a tendency to write long elaborate sentences. So I am now halfway into Christmas break and I’ve managed to post daily, although I didn’t really have the time, and am now writing the last few posts so that I can finally lean back and fulfill my responsibilities towards my friends and family.

But, as they say in German ‘Wo ein Wille ist, ist auch ein Weg’ (where there’s a will, there is also a way), and I will manage to keep this one resolution. And I am also extremely blessed to have readers from four different continents (where are you, Africa?!), people who actually read what I write!!!! So, yes, going strong. And I intend to continue this streak.

B x

I Love You The Most When We’re In Different Places

So, after a few days of posts of things I like, I’m now back to reflecting upon my happiness project. As it is still more or less Christmas, I have chosen today to ponder upon a topic that  we all seem to forget until this time of the year: kindness. Okay, I guess that is a stereotype (not sure ‘stereotype’ is the right word though). Generally people who are kind are kind throughout the year and those who are unkind tend to also be so around Christmas.

Anyway, to show greater kindness is a key aspect of interpersonal relations in Gretchen Rubin’s book and I’d really like to show greater kindness in my everyday life. Not only would it make me happier, but I’m sure seeing me less grumpy would also greatly benefit those around me.

I have been especially attentive to this resolution during the last few days, which I spent almost exclusively around my parents. Now, I love my parents, I really do, but we have the kind of relationship that flourishes when we are apart (see picture below). When we spend a lot of time together we tend to irritate each other a lot. Like a lot. This is partly because my parents are very different in their needs and ways of expressing whatever they want to convey, but also because we are all a bit eccentric and egocentric. The whole “being considerate” business isn’t really our thing. And usually, this is fine, because we all have our own routines and friends and everything, but when we are all in the same house for too long these traits clash.

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But I do recognize that our situation would be a lot less tense and more relaxed if we, or even just I, would try to be less grumpy and snappish, but instead show more patience, consideration and kindness.

It might sound odd, but I think sometimes it is harder to be kind to those we love than to strangers. Yesterday, I kept my resolution perfectly in the morning. I countered my dad’s grumpiness by putting on music, making breakfast, laughing at anything potentially funny and generally being so so positive. And it worked. He got less fed up with all the little things and everything was a lot better. Now I am more like my dad, so I can usually empathize with his behaviour even though it might be inappropriate or unkind. But my mum is a whole other story. She seems to run on a wholly different operating system. As a consequence, I find it harder to be patient when she is irritated and I find it harder to ‘forgive’ her less friendly actions.

My strongest enemy on this mission, however, proved to be my mood. In the morning after my shower and my first cup of coffee I was on a little high and being kind and friendly and patient and generous seemed to come natural. But just before we ate in the evening I felt so belligerent that I found it virtually impossible to even look at my parents, let alone smile and be all jolly. And even though I realised this I could not do anything about it. Note to self: Make sure to never be too hungry when around people. Maybe hunger that is the catalyst for these destructive feelings.

I am aware that this is only a tiny fraction of all the different applications that kindness has and I’ll make sure to keep you up to date on my continuing struggle.

B x

Christmas, Poetry And A Teary Me

Many of you will be celebrating Christmas today or will at least be enjoying the holiday and the free time that comes with it. And as I really don’t want you guys sitting in front of the screen all day (read! eat! spend time with your family! maybe even sing?), this will be my shortest post to date (well, we’ll see about that…).

It also contains my present to you! A poem! YAY (at least this should be your reaction)! I know that people have very different opinions on poetry, but I think it’s like music: you’ll like some, some not, and it is entirely up to you what kind of role it plays in your life. For example, although I do appreciate it, personally I do not read poetry on a regular basis because it makes me feel melancholy and often it makes me cry. Not in a bad way, but it does include tears rolling down my cheeks. Which is a tiny bit annoying, especially if you’re on the bus or in a cafe. But whenever I feel melancholy anyways and I seek the sensation of drops of salty water crisscrossing my face, I grab a book and read some poems (Spanish poetry especially cracks me up, can’t say why).

I stumbled upon this poem randomly (it was featured as the Guardian poem of the week, you can read more about it here) and I liked it. Also it didn’t make me feel too teary.

Louise Glück

A Work of Fiction

As I turned over the last page, after many nights, a wave of sorrow envel-
oped me. Where had they all gone, these people who had seemed so real?
To distract myself, I walked out into the night; instinctively, I lit a cigarette.
In the dark, the cigarette glowed, like a fire lit by a survivor. But who would
see this light, this small dot among the infinite stars? I stood a while in the
dark, the cigarette glowing and growing small, each breath patiently de-
stroying me. How small it was, how brief. Brief, brief, but inside me now,
which the stars could never be.

Hope you like it too, and Merry Christmas and all that!

B x