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

Crisp Eyebrows Are The Best Kind Of Eyebrows

As you might remember, one of my resolutions as part of my happiness project was to get down with all that make-up business, that, until now, has largely remained a misery for me.

So, though I can still not say that I have mastered the art form and make-up tutorials bore me to death, I think I might have made some initial progress, and I’d like to share that with you. So, the beginning to solving a problem is often admitting that you have it and then working with that. Now, the whole make-up thing is not really a pressing problem, but it is one of life’s annoyances. Acceptance done. I also know that I will never enthusiastically spend hours in front of the mirror painting shadows on my face. So, that is already heaps to work with: My make-up should be quick and uncomplicated and preferably not require a lot of skills. Still, if I do make the effort I’d like to know that it is worth it.

As a consequence, I spent my last few days keeping an eye out for make-up and tools that seems like it is made for people like me, people who don’t necessarily know the ways of the trade but want a piece of the cake (aka the benefits). This is what I came up with:

Eyebrow Gel – My friend, who is one of those make-up people, is manic about her eyebrows. And it pays off, they are bloody impressive and make a huge impact on how the whole face looks. However, she uses a multitude of powders and pens and brushes and combs and things that I could never handle. I already know that I’m hopeless with an eyebrow pen (I’ve tried, believe me). So, the other day, I stumbled upon this thing in a magazine – eyebrow gel. It was part of a feature about how to look like a model (whatever that my mean) in five minutes and they mentioned this gel by some kooky very expensive brand. But, when I went to my local drugstore, they did have a cheap version of it. Luckily, it was “one colour suits all”, meaning I couldn’t even make any wrong choices in terms of eyebrow tone.  And, I’m telling you, this stuff is magic. You just kind of put it on your eyebrows (it has a little mascara-like brush thingy), nothing much you can do wrong, and it shapes and colours you eyebrows. YAY! Such success. The only thing that is a bit odd is that the gel dries up and leaves your eyebrows a bit crisp, which, let me tell you is a very very strange sensation.

Lip Stain – Now, same article, same feature, also mentioned lip stain. Now I was instantly intrigued: I never managed to handle lipstick (it just looks odd) and lip gloss is so sticky and annoying. Enter: Lip Stain, which is like a felt-tip pen for your lips, which means it also eliminates any problems that might occur due to the handling of lip liner. Again, I found a cheap version at the drugstore and I now use it all the time. Usually I apply the stain in the morning and then I moisturize my lips throughout the day (they’re extremely chapped and I cultivate a habit of practically chewing on my lower lip…) and it’s all just mighty fine.

Please, I would love to know: What is your make-up secret, your favourite tool, your most-used item?

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

Parrots and Hipsterhood

In my opinion we should not try and describe everything with words. At university especially the scholars tend to ruin great works of literature and pieces of art by interpreting and analyzing them. On the other hand, we normal people often only recognize such great works only if they have been loaded with meaning and cultural significance.

So, yes, today’s shared item is by one of the great artists that we recognize as sch immediately, and no, I probably would not know this painting if it wasn’t as widely known. But it feeling something close to guilt about liking something that many others also like is one of those absurdities of modern day pop culture and although I know that it has affected my behaviour so much that it scares me (the other day I found myself justifying myself for liking a song that they have been playing on the radio frequently for the past year…), I will break with this today just for once and declare what my favourite painting is without having to explain myself or making excuses.

This is it (I love especially the cheeky cigarette): Frida Kahlo’s ‘Yo Y Mis Pericos’

What is your favourite painting or “guilty” pleasure?

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

Why Christmas In Germany Is The Best

As you might or might not know, the main Christmas celebrations in Germany are on Christmas Eve, the 24th aka today. This means that you don’t have to wait as long (perk #1), but even better, it means that Christmas lasts three whole days (perk #2): Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (which is called Christmas Day II here, which I personally find very amusing). The only downside is that advent calendars here only have 24 little doors, but who wouldn’t happily give up a tiny piece of chocolate for a whole day of presents and food.

So we have now established the theme (which you have already derived from the title…): Christmas in Germany and why it is so good.

Where do I start… Well, I guess what I like so much about the season is that it starts even before December begins. From the end of August onward the supermarkets pile up various Christmas-related treats. My favourite: spekulatius biscuits. They’re amazing and ideal to have with tea or coffee.

Then, as soon as December starts (and sometimes earlier) Christmas time begins. Traditionally you have an advent wrath with four candles, one for each Sunday leading up to Christmas, and you light them one after the other (which means that they are all different lengths by the time it’s Christmas, which is VERY annoying and impractical, but I guess it’s a nice tradition).

Then, on the 6th, it’s St. Nicks and no matter what age you are, you leave small treats in the shoes of those you live with. Which I guess falls under the category “show others how much you appreciate them at Christmas time”. There are various other ways to do that: You can give an advent calendar to your boyfriend/girlfriend, give little parcels of homemade biscuits to your neighbours and, of course, buy or make presents for your friends and family. Also, I always find that writing Christmas cards is a great way to stay in contact with those who don’t live close by.

The bestest thing about Christmas in Germany, though, are the markets. Not only are they extremely festive and pretty and nice, but there is nothing better than drinking hot Glühwein (mulled wine) with a few friends outside in the cold.

Merry Christmas!

B x

P. S. Another thing Germany deserves credit for is the Christmas tree. Yes, this tradition started here and then spread across the globe. Fun fact: It was introduced to the English-speaking world by Queen Victoria’s German spouse.