Friday, May 19, 2017

Get your life back! Out of your phone!

I grew up without too many technical distractions. We were free to run out in the gardens, ride the bike all day long, play hide-and-seek and read a lot of books, many of them aimed for the adults knowledge. 
As a journalist and social media consultant I appreciate and understand the blessings of 2.0 world, but on the other side, I kept the pinch of freedom that I grew in my childhood that helped me overcome the automatisation and the dependency on various tools. I can go hiking for a couple of hours without worrying who might comment on my Instagram page or if someone is trying to send a message on What's App. As an expat for most of my life and someone that loves to cultivate friendships, I take the blessings of the modern life and appreciate the possibility of connection beyond borders, but I also know that once in a while, the instant conversations can wait because life is happening now. 
This creative book by Ilka Heinemann is a reminder to return to the genuine simple life before the phones were taking over our existence. Simple facts as reading a book, planning your future, thinking about where will you be in 10 years, or a ridiculously creative dot-to-dot exercise can happily replace an afternoon spent looking at your screen. (Did you ever notice how many people are hardly noticing the others while walking, if it is not to stumble upon a pram or an old lady while their eyes are glued on the screen of their phone?)
It is an easy to read book sharing simple tips and even simpler life skills - like writing a love letter or remembering the names of the planets in the solar system or write your own bedtime story or sharpen your mind while solving some mathematical operations. 
If you are thinking about having a new, more meaningful start into life, use this summer vacations to think about the inspiration of this book. Cheers for the new beginnings! 

Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Monday, May 15, 2017

Coconut milk with veggies and salmon

I am using excessively coconut milk, in many sweet and sour combinations, particularly when I am trying to avoid dairy products for the sake of the kosher restriction of mixing meat and milk. 
The coconut milk with veggies is a meal that I am doing once in a while and always using a different combination of seasonal products. To add more consistency, I decided to mix also with salmon, that I fried in a pan with olive oil for about 15 minutes before adding to the mixture and boiling it for another 10 minutes.

400 ml. Thai coconut milk
2 big carrots, cut into rounds
7 cherry tomatoes, cut into rounds
1/2 big onion, sliced
1 yellow paprika, sliced
100 gr. brown champignons, cut into small cubes
1 pinch of normal salt
around 10 leaves of parsley. coriander is even better as it have a different taste and texture
1/2 big zucchini, cut into rounds

250 gr. wild salmon
2 tablespoon olive oil


Warm the milk in a pan at 250 gr. Mix it slowly for about 5 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients, starting with the carrots - which need more time to boil. Stir it slowly.
Meanwhile, fry the salmon for about 15 minutes. When it is well fried, cut it into cubes and add to the coconut milk mixture. Mix slowly with the rest of the ingredients.

Preparation time:
15 minutes

Cooking time:
30 minutes

Serves 3

Bon Appétit!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Smörgåsbord - the Swedish way of eating

Many of us are experiencing the Swedish food as the tasty reward of long hours of IKEA shopping, but obviously it is much more than that. The beautifully illustrated Smörgåsbord offers an extraordinary lesson of food history, providing not only recipes and interesting directions about preparing a real Swedish meal, but also explains basic principles of life philosophy and style. 
Smörgåsbord means a buffet set up with many small dishes, including bread, butter and cheese, cured fish, meatballs. The dishes can be up to 100, but there is a specific order that shall be followed: first, the pickled herring, the hardboiled eggs, the potatoes and aged hard cheese; after, the fish and seafood dishes; the charcuterie, pickles and salads; the warmer dishes, meatballs or gratins; thereafter, the sweet table with fruits, whipped cream, cookies and cakes. 
Plentiness doesn't mean greediness. 'Overloading your plate just make you unhappy'. Instead, you should learn to enjoy life in small portions, one small dish at the time. 'Take small portions and eat slowly', and this direction helps to keep the balance not only in food, but in life in general. 
The book is also rich in recipes, from various types of Swedish breads to how to make sausages and pickles. 
A good read recommended to any food lover and an inspiration for the food writer and illustrator too.

Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Interior design inspiration in Stuttgart: Rolf Benz Store

My trip to Stuttgart included also a couple of short, but insightful searches for some local interior design and fashion brands. Rolf Benz is the most famous in the region, and in the last 50 years, all over the world, for its famous sofas.
The company was created in 1964 in Nagold, a locality in the Black Forest. His main focus was always to offer comfortable, pleasant and multi-functional sofas. In the first post-war decades, the frugality was an important driving force between any creative efforts, but at the end of the 1960s, the West Germany recovered little by little and was more eager to experience a bit of pleasure too. 
The store I visited is located at the ground level of the elegant super-store Königsbau Passagen and display a diversity of interior items, besides the sofas. For instace, those Moroccan-inspired tables are a discrete but colourful add to the home, without taking too much place. In case you don't have enough space for a big livingroom table, you can add some of those tables and create a small setting. Meanwhile, one can use each of them separately for other purposes: as night table, computer table, newspaper table etc.
This goes with the main idea behind the design projects developped by Rolf Benz: creating sofas where you can enjoy the sheer pleasure, relaxing your feet but adapted to different contexts. The sofas can be upgraded to luxury levels, only by changing the covering fabric, adapted either to classical living or to open spaces - including outdoors.  
Many of the furniture presented at the store are following this complex relationship between comfort and elegance. This closet is organised so smartly that you can store your wine glasses and bottles generously - including in a small fridge, without taking too much space from the room. 
Every decade, Rolf Benz developped his concept and therefore nowadays it is considered one of the most successful and famous German brands in the field of interior design. Many of its creations are hosted to architecture museums from all over the world.
The usual prices are medium to high, but it is considered that buying such an item is a life-long investment that can even be passed from a generation to another. 
The visit at the Rolf Benz Store was very inspiring and taught me some important lessons about a famous German interior design brand and concepts.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The first year with the baby

The first year with the baby is difficult and I am not sure that the feeling of insecurity and permanent fear decreases with the number of kids or is rather the result of acknowledging the huge resonsibility of the small being completely depending on us. 
I personally have a lot of funny and scary experiences some of them shared already on the blog, some kept for later. I just remember the need to over check the baby all the time and the fear that for unknown reasons, he might not evoluate the 'right' way. 
My luck was to trust completely my children doctor and also to have access to resources that guided my steps and calmed down my - paranoid - fears. The baby is over a year now and things are - thanks G-d - going in the right direction. 
Dr. Dawn's Guide to Your Baby's First Year is one of those trustworthy companions.  Written by a medical doctor and a mother of 3, this book offers a very easy and practical guidance for basic issues regarding the first 12 months of the baby. It is a fast guide filled with a lot of practical information that can be easily read in-between naps. 
I particularly liked the practical emphasis. Stop considering yourself a super-human as the more you overload yourself the worse for you - and the baby. Therefore, it is a good reminder to not forget to take care of yourself too and seize the opportunity to rest. It also offers first hand information about how to breast feed correctly and how to maintain a good milk supply, dealing with teething problems and developmental checks. You are also introduced to an A to Z of infant ailments and adviced what to have in your medicine cabinet and how to take the proper safety measures at home. 
As a big supporter of vaccines, I appreciated the encouragement to keep doing all the necessary vaccinations. 'Our babies' immune systems are exposed to thousands of allergenes and germs every day. What isn't safe is to leave them exposed to some very serious illness by delaying vaccination'. 
Mr. Dawn's Guide... is one of those books you need to have in your library because it makes your mom's life much easier.

Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Mindfulness for parents, step-by-step

Life with a baby - or more - is challenging, unexpected and, at the end of every day, exhausting. How to find then place in your hectic schedule for the luxury of mindfulness, a concept that I explored on another occasion into more detail?
This book by Amber Hatch offers no only theoretical support  but also many useful practical examples shared by the author, a parent too, and other parents, is explaining why actually parents should focus more on mindfulness, which will help the mental wellbeing of their children too. Through it, better relationships can be built, and 'a little bit of distance' as well as a 'sense of perspective' are given. With an open mind, we can learn a lot from our little ones too, as 'children can act as our teachers in the sense that they show us how to be present'. 
Written in an accessible style, Mindfulness for Parents makes you feel more relaxed about juggling jobs between tantrums and food spilled all over the house. The best we can do is to try 'to meet our baby's needs', Hatch taking out of the picture the obsession that we, as parents, we need to keep the babies happy. Even though you are not too much into spiritual retreats and meditation, you may find a couple of useful and comforting tips, releaving the heavy weight of parenting from our shoulders. 
On the other hand, it encourages to cultivate a peaceful and beautiful house, avoid the consummerism temptation by avoiding to carry on the kids into the shop all round the day, spending more time in the middle of the nature and developing positive qualities such as loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. 
A book strongy recommended to new and experienced parents, in the middle of a devastating tantrum or just trying to find the right spiritual routines for their children. With such books, parenting life is much easier.

Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Friday, May 5, 2017

Lagom, or about living in moderation

Either at work, in relationships, when it comes to your closet or your fridge, moderation should prevail. Not too much but precarious either, this is the Swedish concept of 'lagom', excellently introduced by this book by Clara Olsson. If you never heard about this idea - as in my case, although I noticed to my Swedish friends a certain relaxed and balanced way of being which was missing from my lifestyle - this is the best book to get acquainted with the concept.
'Lagom doesn't claim that you need to quit your day job and travel around the world to find happiness and nor does it ask you to embrace a shallow spirituality. Instead, lagom is found in the small things that make your life 'just right' - it's how you already live, just a little smoother, a little better, a little lagom'.
Following its basic and easy principles, you can aim at a life in moderation, suited to bring you balance in a life too much sometimes under the pressure of too much or the struggle of outperforming for the sake of performance only. If you are an adept of lagom - I love how in the last time European-born lifestyle concepts are introduced to the public discussion, after decades when the Oriental philosophies were preferred without being necessarily suited to the usual Western ways of life - you can expect a better mental health, a higher financial stability, less waste and clutter in your home and more engaged social life. 
I particularly loved how you can better focus on your hobbies, instead of laying for hours on a sofa binge remote-controlling. At work, you can find a better balance between the time spent in your cubicle and the hours with your family. Finding a compromise about the working load can be easier that you might have thought. For instance: 'You might only desire to work hard to earn more money, but by thinking about the reasons why you want more money can still lead to the motivation to push yourself'. 
At the end, everything is about schedule and prioritization and the right focus on your interests. This book can offer you the basic for starting, from tomorrow on, a different kind of lifestyle, less toxic and stressful. It helps you escape the circle of negativity and maintain a healthy and happy state of mind. 'Keeping positive is a skill, which takes time to learn, but when mastered, can be applied almost continously'. 
By creating consistent meditation practices and focus on minfullness, the change is possible. It may take time but this is what happens with good things, they need a long time until they finally settle. But the changes will be always for good.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Sautée mushrooms with onions and tomatoes

I always like my food tasty, easy to prepare and healthy. The more I am experimenting with cooking, becoming familiar with various tastes, the more I am tempted to create my own recipes and diversify my palate.
The following recipe is the result of such an improvisation, using the available resources at home, while trying to prepare a healthy meal for me and the baby.

1 onion, finelly chopped
2 tablespoon raps oil
2 big tomatoes, finelly chopped
7 brown mushrooms, medium size, finelly chopped
1 teaspoon OSEM seasoning
100 gr. butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Mix the ingredients in the pan, one by one, at 250C. Stirr well, allowing all the ingredients to melt together well. If you want the onion caramelized, you can add them first, together with the oil and the sugar and mix with the rest 5 minutes later.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Serves: 2

The result is irresistibly delicious and light.
If you are strong enough to give up the temptation of eating it on its own, spoon by spoon. you can combine it in different equally healthy ways.
I personally made a dish with cauliflower. It goes very well with fish, meat - if you are eating kosher, eliminate the butter or replace it with a non-dairy variant - a base mix for pasta or rice. I can dream about throwing some eggs there too, shakshuka style. It is always a good match for boiled potatoes - French fries can be too oily. Because right now it is the open season, some boiled asaparagus can keep the mushrooms an interesting tasty company.
As it is open season right now, it can be a good company for some boiled asparagus too.
If you want your plate even healthier, add some spinach too. 

Bon Appétit!

Renovation continues

The paints section at Bauhaus, Berlin
The last few days were terribly intense and with daily - renovation-related - challenges. As I promised myself to operate on a very strict schedule, I spent most of my free time - which means, when I am not cooking and taking care of the baby, writing for a living and managing more than 3 blogs and other administrative works, plus sleeping and drinking coffee once in a while - advancing my project. 
It meant a lot of hours spent shopping for various things, such as paint, testing brushes, returning to the store the non-functional items, checking for the best price and improving my technical skills. I wasn't always successful, and some time went waster while being unable to find the right dimensions of pillows for the covers bought initially, or coping with using the wrong cleaning clothes for the windows. Sometimes I realized that I didn't paint properly one specific corner and had to start everything again in the middle of the night.
As for now, after a bit more than 10 days since starting this crazy project - at least for my friends who are still wondering why I didn't hire a professional team to do everything in one day. My answer is that I really wanted to take this challenge and also finally learn on my own, through my own experience, how to manage a home. Learning the hard way is always the favorite, especially when you realize it is about time.
Right now, there are only some small details to fix: changing the vinyl flooring in the kitchen - I know already the model I want to buy; changing the blinds in my room; painting the window frames and washing the windows in my room; changing the shower system and the lamp - those tasks will be kindly assigned to my landlord as we are entering school-related issues and I prefer to avoid any major accident; painting one wall and a half in the living room; changing the curtains in the living room. I have some small arrangements to make on my book shelves, but it is not too much to set anyway. 
After I will be done, I have to start to sort out the very messy situation in my storage room, especially by giving away a lot of things I don't need. But this will be my work the first week after the big renovation is over.
As for now, I am optimistic to have a much modern, cleaner and functional house and looking forward to an extraordinary home - and a storage room too - by the beginning of June!
My next posts will be dedicated to specific issues I encountered during my works, such as finding the right paint and brushes or the right ingredients to have clean windows, or some small interior design tips.
Looking forward to it and keep in touch with good news!