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

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

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

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.

Trashy TV and Very Little Time

My plan to write posts in advance has failed miserably. At first, I wrote the posts for the following day, which was not too bad, but now I have about 15 minutes in order not to fail my resolution to “blog daily”, plus my battery is running low. Life is tough (or ‘toff’ as they’d say in Chelsea). But I can do this.

Here we go. Today, I’d like to share my favourite reality TV show. We all watch some horrible TV, or read some horrible fiction or listen to horrible music because we enjoy it, and there’s no reason to feel ashamed about it.

I love reality TV because it gives me the illusion that those characters are real, and therefore judging them and their choices is much more fun. It is also amazing how invested you become in those people’s fortunes. And as it is ‘real’ it feels less pathetic to root for a particular relationship or person. Of course we feel the same way about fiction (please, don’t tell me you didn’t cross your fingers that Lizzie Bennett and Mr Darcy would get together already). But it all feels a lot less definite on reality TV. Such fun.

So, my all-time favourite reality TV show is “Made in Chelsea”. If you haven’t already, please, please watch it.

(I’M RUNNING OUT OF TIME, NEED TO TYPE FASTER)

It is basically about these rich kids in their early twenties in Chelsea (posh bit of Central London), and all they do is hang out in cafes and bars and there’s intrigues and everyone has slept with everything. It is hilarious and so great.

This ad for season 5 is perfect to describe how it all works (in a lovely ironic manner):

So, that’s that for now. Oh, I almost forgot. The close runner up to MIC (yes, acronym for Made in Chelsea) is Take Me Out. I know this is a format that exists in several countries, so please consider that I’m talking about the UK version that is hosted by that horrible and hilarious Paddy (… don’t know the last name and no time to look it up). It is the exact opposite of MIC in terms of poshness, but equally misogynistic and trashy.

B x

University Life, Embarrassments and the Joys of Risotto

So here we are again. It seems like ages since my last post but, to my surprise, it hasn’t even been that long – which means I’m not as bad at blogging as I thought I would be.

Once again my internet is not working (this time it is both the router which tends to forget all the things it should remember and the network (technically I have an allowance of 10GB, but well… I easily used more than twice that during the few days that I’ve had internet this month – which, in itself, i impressive, as internet has been down for at least 2 weeks and I have been away during the weekends and the month isn’t even over yet…)). Sorry for the extensive bracketing. There is a remote possibility that the previous sentence makes little sense, but OH WELL. Deal with it.

Anyway, lack of internet at home is tragic but not deathly, as I am at uni everyday and I can use the computers here. Wich brings me to the next point: finally, finally university has begun! YAY! I have had three seminars already and I’m kinda loving it (but there is also some regret present – I’ll be spending my gap year studying Spanish irregular verbs, researching the Scandinavian Middle Ages and learning how to pronounce all these weird Danish sounds (Hvad hedder du? Hvor kommer du fra? Hvor bor du? Hvad læser du?) and yet again I am very soz for the brackets thingy). Part of the downside is that I will actually have to do things now, presentations, essays, protocols and the like.

What else is there? My social life is going ok, I guess. Still haven’t made lifelong friends, but I now have people I chat with between seminars and I even say ‘hi’ to some in the corridors. Great progress. My coat is still in some girl’s car though. Should probably reclaim that at some point. More exciting: After three weeks of pesto pasta I have now begun to cook properly and to buy ingredients and all that shit! Today’s meal: Tomato Aubergine Risotto (fancy huh? It did take me ages). Oh, more proof of my secret identity as a domestic goddess: I cleaned the bathroom this morning (after having a lie-in, I must admit). Seems like despite some of this weekend’s ferocious choices my dignity has not taken a fall.

Probably filling in the gaps would be a good idea. This weekend (as in, a few days ago – I never now how it works: is that ‘this weekend’ or ‘last weekend’?) I went on a trip to this island called Fehmarn (unless you’re a German surfer or have taken the ferry/train from Germany to Denmark, you probably won’t know it) with a bunch of strangers who also happen to study a romance language or English (which i don’t study, but it’s a joined student council). Basically I got really drunk, vommed everywhere (a game of Jenga was also involved) and took my clothes off (I wish I could say that was the first time that has happened, but it has sort of become the standard procedure…). But then in the morning I surprised everyone by not only cleaning up my own mess, but also helping to tidy the house. It could have been so much worse.

Ok, enough for now, I think. I promise to work on my writing style (brackets and stuff).

B x

P.S. What I do love about Kiel: the skies. Once the sun begins to set the whole horizon is drenched in all these funky and slightly  cheesy colours and it stays like that for at least an hour – after that it’s pitch black.