Sunday, 6 March 2016

Tigers and Coffee and Cake, Oh My!

It was Mr. -is-thinking's birthday the other day and I was visiting yesterday so Mrs. Im asked if I could make a birthday cake to take with me. I decided to try a new recipe and decided to have fun with it! Mr. is fond of cats and tigers, so I decided to see if I could make the cake in the video here.... it wasn't quite as good, but it was so fun I'm sure I'll do it again soon!

How amazing is that?!
Well, here is my version:
I decided to make a Swedish cardamom cake that is really good with coffee.

Fika (Swedish cardamom cake)
Mix 1 1/4 cups of flour with 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 2 tbsp ground cardamom. In another bowl beat 2 eggs with 3/4 cup sugar until they are fluffy. In a pan melt 4 tbsp butter and then add 1/2 cup milk, bring it to a simmer, remove from heat and stir that into the egg mixture. Then fold in the flour mix and put in the oven at 180 C for 30-40 mins until the top is golden or until the cake peeling away from the edge of the pan.

I separated out the batter into parts and dyed it different colours, then I layered it in the tin

Then I put it in the oven for 35 mins and it turned out like this

Once it was cool, I divided up the buttercream and dyed that different colours too, then it was time to get my paintbrush out

I was a little nervous about the icing getting warm and spreading on the train but there was only a bit of spread in the stripes. Next thing was the surprise inside

Ta daaaaa! After all that, it's time for coffee and cake, I think...

Monday, 29 February 2016

Resolution 16

It is a leap year (boing!) and its the 29th today!
Also, today is the day where I finished my New Years resolutions - I said I would do yoga everyday until the end of February (I have) and I also made jam (twice) - hurrah! I started in January with 30 Days of Yoga with Adrienne, who is fabulous, and since then I have been working my way through her other videos seeing what I feel like on any given day

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Follow the Leader

I did one of those silly quizzes online recently, like what type of shoe are you? (Flip flop) What type of dog are you? (Dalmatian) What is your spirit name? (Sky peace in Chinese. Maybe), and I did a personality one and the result was that I am a natural born leader. Hmmm. I was a little uncomfy with that and that got me thinking.
Why does leadership scare me? Maybe I think I'll mess up, I don't have the skills to do that. Or the confidence. Or the bravery. Maybe the only leaders I have seen have been pushy and I don't want to be like that - I learnt young that people call me bossy when I take charge and in a woman in our culture that is seen as tantamount to being unlovable. Maybe all those things.
Some of those things come down to the way leadership is presented and what is required - to assert yourself, to steam ahead of others, to become top dog, and none of that sounds appealing to me.
Listening to Claire Zammit talk about leadership has been illuminating, she says leadership in the feminine paradigm would be more like Glinda the Good Witch or a fairy godmother - where she waves a wand that will bless and actualise the people around her, here the magic wand is the power of connection and relatedness. Feminine leadership is not about doing it perfectly but doing it wholeheartedly. The only difference between women who lead and women who don't is willingness - not that they have the answers, not that they have more capacity.
Well, that sounds much more up my street, but I still don't really know what leadership means in my own context. I don't have drive or ambition particularly, so where do I begin? Zammit says begin with the places in your life where you feel irritated, victimised or disempowered and transform them - what would it look like for me to generate change there? If it was up to me what would I create? If I saw myself as being that powerful, how might I show up that generates an opening for that?
The thing about all this is that this is about collaborating, this is about making the world better, but it's also about power, and I guess I have to get used to the idea that I am powerful, that is the stumbling block for me. And I also think, well, who am I to change these things around me? I have no expertise, no influence. But actually all of us influence people every day whether we know it or not.
So the question is, if I really thought I had the power to change any situation, what would I change? What do I want to create in the world? In essence, what is it I value? Or maybe put another way, what gives my life meaning? Once I have contemplated that then I can take a stand for that in the world.
So many big questions... I think maybe I'll have to daydream over many cups of tea and see where my mind goes to the most and then I'll have some idea of where to start. After that it's then one step at a time and who knows where we could all end up. Maybe I'll end up a fairy godmother after all.... I've always wanted my own wand 😉

Thursday, 18 February 2016


Saramica hosted a Valentines day competition called 'To the Moon and Back' - and I was one of the winners! I got them through the post this morning, it was so exciting!

If you haven't seen her work, go to Sara's website, she uses natural materials to create jewellery - one of my most commented pairs of earrings are some reak acorns covered in brass with pearls in them. Beautiful!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Impromtu Entertainment

I had sign language practice today with a colleague and she said she had to cut it short because she was going to a concert in the music hall on campus and did I want to go? I wasn't doing anything else so I ended up going to see a choir and an orchestra perform pieces in French, I'm not sure what they were about, Louis VIII maybe? It was very fun all the same! I met a couple of the ladies from our admin dept. and I'm set to go for coffee with one of the girls on Friday. Fun! The choir was amazing, and the orchestra were lovely. The performance was only 40 mins, but I really enjoyed it.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Happy Valentines!

Today is a Sunday which means Sunday dinner! All of the housemates are single at the moment so we got to share a nice dinner together - we had melted Camembert with focacia as a starter, pea and mint risotto as a main course and then I made chestnut-chocolate cake as a dessert - which we smothered in custard. After dinner we went to the local pub quiz where our team won! I say our team because I think I contributed one right answer, but hey ho, its the team spirit that counts, right?! I hope you were all feeling the love today xox

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Future is Calling

I am walking through a meadow, the sunlight is streaming down as I wade though the wildflowers. I can hear insects buzzing and there is a light breeze. I am walking in my brown boots, slowly, lightly, smelling the fresh air and being warmed by the sun shining. I am walking towards a light.

As I get closer I am aware of a figure in the light, sitting in stillness, eyes serene. I kneel in front, basking in the light, a different type of warmth. There is something I need you to do for me. What? I ask. Show people the way to love. Be trust and faith in this world. I bow my head and soak in that thought.

I am walking through a meadow, sunlight streaming, the insects still buzzing around the beautiful wild flowers. There is a lady in front of me, standing waiting for me to reach her. As I get closer I realise that she is me, of indeterminate age, she spreads her arms out and gives me a hug. She is wearing a pretty, soft pink shift dress. She looks happy and content and balanced but with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. She looks at me directly, and smiles and says, the most important thing for you to do now is to get your joy back. What you need to fulfil your purpose is joy. Really look at things, slow down, breathe. When you feel joy, you will trust, things will come, doors will open.

If I had that reassurance, that groundedness and grace, what would my life be like? I would be more relaxed, I would worry less, accept myself and others more. I wouldn't have to impress anyone, I could just listen and be myself, loved, cherished and very, very joyful. What do I need to do to show people the way to love? What do I need to be trust and faith in this world? I need to practice being joyful. I say practice because that's what it is, a habit. I will be joyful when I remember, and in time I will become more and more joyful, more and more myself. I think that is what I really want out of life, to fully be myself. As Claire Zammit says. 'There is no competition if the game you're playing is to fully be yourself'.

I will start to create my future here, I will start to grow towards the woman I want to be, like a rose seed stretches to become a rose, like an acorn grows to become an oak. My future is calling me.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Some days....

Sigh. So I felt really achy last night and I woke up today with a bit of a cough and a stuffy nose. This is on top of my gums being silly and an allergic reaction that will not go away. I was miserable. I was scheduled to see the nurse anyway - the blood tests say its a dust mite allergy. But that still begs the question of why the anti histamines aren't really working well. Could it be a form of eczema? Could it be a fungal infection? Who knows. Certainly not the nurse. She basically doomed me to a life of constant cleaning and asked me if I could take up the carpet in my bedroom and put down lino. I asked her for a hormone imbalance test and she said there isn't one and it wouldn't do much good. I came out of the office wanting to cry.

When I spoke to Jules about it she asked if it could be mental. I think it is getting worse with stress but I don't think that is the root cause. So my question to myself is, what is going on? What do I need?

Well, all of this is coming at the same time because I need to slow down and rest. Ok. When I feel into it I think the rash is because of an imbalance inside of me. So what have I learned? That it's easy for me to panic and want to give up....when all I really need is a hug and someone to listen to me. I also need to listen to me too. So yes, I'll go back to the doctor and I'll go to the dermatologist, but maybe while I'm waiting for that appointment I'll rest, give myself some space, go for some alternatives and see what they say. Most of all though I'll tune in more and see what my deeper, wise self has to say about it too and then act on that intuition. Because as much as I trust experts, this is an opportunity for me to trust myself too.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Liquid Lunch

M: I have a random question for you
Me: Hello! Fire away
M: Aw, it's fine, I know you're a busy lady
Me: No, not at all, I'm at home. Actually I have a ridiculously full bowl of soup on my lap
M: Ooooo. D will be jealous, whereas I will be disgusted I'm afraid
Me: Ah, are you not into soup?
M: Noooo, why have liquified food when you're not even an astronaut?
Me: I have secret astronaut aspirations, you caught me
M: Hahahahaha excellent. I hope that wasn't a joke. Tim Peake is making everyone reevaluate their life choices

Friday, 22 January 2016

Becoming Myself

But if I tell people what I need maybe they'll walk away. And if I open up and show them all of me it will hurt all the more when they walk away, or worse when they reject me. These are the stories that I tell myself. Because of this I show people some and keep the rest hidden, then if they go, I say 'it's ok, they didn't know the real me.' I feel this emotion in my heart, all this pain surfaces and aches, disappointment and sadness, rejection and abandonment. A tight ball of hurting energy.

But what is the greater truth here? If I reach out and ask people will help me. I do matter and my needs will be met. But people are not mind readers, I have to ask.

'Deep down there is a recognition that you, me, all of us in becoming ourselves, that by realising the possibility of who we are, that that is a world changing act.' I have always wanted to change the world but I never knew how. Now I know, be myself. In this day and age, that is world changing.

'You need a tribe of support around you. We need to gather our tribe to make the greatest difference with our gifts.' So here I am, grounding my energy into the earth, reaching out to those around me, to my deeper intuition and to life itself and developing the trust that life will catch me if I fall. Don't turn away, don't disconnect, look, see, pay attention, the sweetest moments are yet to come.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Goodbye, Starman

I woke up this morning to the sad news that David Bowie has died after an 18 month battle with cancer. Goodbye starman, your contribution to this world will be sorely missed.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Tiny Wellies and Messy Hair

Sometimes I get this pain in my heart, I feel constrained somehow, my energy trying to break through. Recently I've been sitting with that feeling, trying not to push it away. It feels like 6 year old me, in white woollen tights and little wellies, her curly hair all dishevelled. This is a vulnerable part of me. How do you feel? I ask her. Scared, she says. I can see that you are scared, I say. She leans in for a hug. What do you need? I ask. Love, she replies, looking at me with big anxious eyes. I can see that you need love. I hug her and repeat this again. I can see that you need love.

When I feel all this in my heart, the adult part of me expands, I feel compassion for that small girl in the wellies with messy hair. I don't try to fix it, for now I'm just trying to sit with it, to listen to her. When I finish hugging her, I imagine light coming from my heart, expanding, big enough to wrap around that hurt energy of hers and make her feel heard. In this way I connect and integrate those parts of me that are stuck, that dictate my fears even now.

Some days, on those black dog days, that pain in my heart is all I can feel. I don't matter, I think. I won't get my needs met, I have to do all this alone, it's never going to work out for me. But other days I tap into a deeper truth, behind all the flotsam and jetsam of hurt, the truth that whispers Love is everything, you are finding people who love you how you are, you matter immensely, the world is beautiful. On those days, I pause to look at my life and I realise: I'm not alone now, people love me, Life will take care of me, I matter and I'm completely worthy of love. Those days the little girl inside me jumps in leaves and dances around in joy. Those are the days when my adult self becomes grounded in truth and my light shines brighter and further than before. Maybe every day could be a wellies and messy hair day.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Ride it Cowboy

I've been having an allergic reaction to something for the last week and I have no idea what it is. I thought it might be the new conditioner that I tried, which makes me sad because it made my hair look so great, but the rash on my skin was not so good. Oh well. In the meantime I went into Lush to get more cleanser and got chatting to one of the staff. She told me about the pie that her mum made her for Christmas and it sounded too good not to share.

Hollie's Mum's Vegan Cowboy Pie

one tin of mixed bean salad, with spicy sauce
a small tin of butterbeans
2 sweet potatoes

- Prick the skin of the sweet potatoes and put them whole into the oven at about 180 until they are soft (anywhere between half and hour and an hour). Put all the beans into a pan and heat through on the hob

- When the potatoes are soft, take the skins off and mash the rest of the potato in a bowl.

- Put the beans in a casserole dish and then spread the mashed sweet potato over the top and pop in the oven for about 20 mins until the beans are bubbling.

She serves it with kale, I might try roasted vegetables. Easy and very tasty!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Jam for Tea

I made jam! Look, look! And it didn't caramelise this time, ha ha, it was spreadable, edible quite lovely raspberry jam. Hurrah!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

A New North Star

Sometimes I feel like I don't quite belong in this world and it perplexes me, I'm here but not here and that is very curious. What's wrong with me? I ask in the dead of the night, why can't I be happy like other people? The truth is that I'm not alone, nor am I that strange in this regard, there are quite a few people who don't feel like they fit in the world as it is now, and this is a feeling of change that is building across the world. In the words of Claire Zammit, 'In many ways we need to create structures for ourselves to be able to be ourselves. The structures don't yet exist in the world for us to give our gifts, to make a living in ways that are true to the new values that we are waking up.'

I was talking to a colleague the other day about our spiritual paths, technically they are very similar but I noticed that the language he used was very alienating to me, I felt cut off, left out of the equation. As someone who is trying to understand what I need from my path at the moment I need to explore this feeling. I often feel like I don't belong, that I am on the edge, missing out on the joke somehow. Maybe this experience holds some insight.

Structure. Control. Angular. Hard. Purpose driven. Contained. Perfection. Linear. Focused. These are all words of masculine power, I find they bring up sharp edges and discomfort in me. This is the paradigm of power in our time, someone else provides structure and definition, gives my life order - I start work when classes start and end when they end, there is a regimen. In some ways this structure is important - without structure there are no boundaries, where I end and you begin, where work ends and play begins. It makes me feel safe and protected, something I don't feel much of in this life. But it also constrains me, I am unable to listen - to myself, to nature, to joy. There is no room to play in these structures, no room for frivolity until all the proper work is done.

Emotional. Related. Flow. Surrender. Soft. Nurturing. Love driven. Chaotic. Wild. These are all feminine qualities, the places that speak to me more, the places I belong. I feel less like someone is constraining me and more like I have agency, here I rely on my intuition, on what my body tells me. I have a strong urge to relate to others, to care about them, I feel at home here, in a way that I don't within the more masculine view of power. Indeed, as Zammit points out, if you look up power in the dictionary, it is defined as to do, to act, to accomplish, force, command, control. She says, 'there is not really a word in the English lexicon that would begin to evoke what a feminine version of power might look like. The closest word I found is 'magic' which means to harness the forces of energy'.

Thinking about this has been very important for me, to validate the way I live my life. Many things have happened the last few years and I am low on reserves, being ill taught me that I must live in accordance with my intuition and my body but this is a lonely path in this part of the world and this validation from others serves as a lifeline: I'm not alone! And I'm not even that strange. I'm just oriented in a different power system, I just find value in other things. I believe that the current way of running things, that definition of power has been very important - it kept us all safe, it gave us clear goals. But I also believe that there are other things that are important now, the world is complex and nuanced and needs to be treated as such. Another form of power needs to enter the equation too, a new north star for us to orient ourselves by. What will I be doing in all this? I will try and live a magical life, a powerful life as I have been, to show other people that there is another way of being for all of us who don't fit into the world as it is now. Carving out that space is the beginning of building the structures for us to safely be ourselves. By really being ourselves, we change the world.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year!

I had a lovely, quiet new years eve with some friends - it turned out to be pretty international! Of the six of us, we had one Russian, one Belgian, one who grew up in the Middle East, one German and a one living in Switzerland!

I got there early enough to help with the cooking - we had two Russian salads, and one of the other girls brought a lentil soup - because in Germany lentils are seen as giving you good luck in the new year. I'd brought a carrot cake and someone else brought a lemon cake as well. The food was delicious!

We drank gin and champagne, ate dinner, played with the dogs, watched the German show 'Dinner for One' which is something that is repeated every year on German TV at new year, listened to Russian new year songs and then watched the fireworks at Big Ben on TV to count in the new year. Then we sang Auld Lang Syne, did some champagne toasts, and then went outside which is the Russian custom, where you head out to meet the new year. After that the neighbours came round and we drank more champagne, petted the dogs and finally at about 1.30 all of us who didn't live there headed home. It was a really genuinely lovely start to the new year.

Then today I had lunch with a friend, and headed to Pret to have a coffee and say hi to the barman - he gave me a free coffee! While I was there someone I hadn't seen in a while came up and told me that they were really grateful for the meditations I had taught them and the support I had given them, it was a really difficult time, he is much happier now, but he wanted to tell me how grateful he was at how understanding I had been. That was really surprising, and very moving. What a beautiful start to the year!

Vegetarian version of Herring in a Fur Coat (Shuba)
serves 6

1 large beetroot
2 or 3 carrots
2 nori seaweed sheets
3 or 4 medium potatoes
200ml / 7oz mayonnaise
3 big pickles

1. Peel the veg and put in water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 - 40 mins until the beetroot is  completely soft but not mushy

2. Then grate the veg separately. Arrange a layer of grated potato at the bottom of a baking dish and pat it down with a fork.

3. Spread 3-4 tbsp of mayo over the potato. Cover that with a nori sheet and wet it a bit with a tbsp of water to make it soft.

4. Cover that with a layer of finely sliced pickles, then spread some mayo over that.

5. Place the second nori sheet over that and wet it with some water. On that place the grated cooked carrot and flatten with a fork, and then cover that with 3-4 tbsp of mayo.

6. Then cover that with a layer of the grated beetroot, flatten that with a fork and cover with mayo. Place the dish in the fridge for at least half an hour. You should be able to cut it into slices like a cake.

Olivier Salad
serves 4

3 potatoes
2 salted cucumbers / pickles
1 cup green peas
2 carrots
3 tbsp of chopped sundried tomatoes in oil
4 tbsp mayonnaise

1. Peel and cook potatoes and carrots for 20 - 30 mins over medium low heat until they are soft.

2. Cube the potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and pickles and combine being careful not to overmix.

3. Cook the peas if you need to, add that to the salad, and stir in the mayo.