Let it be Christmas



I love Christmas. I try to avoid the whole consumer dash that comes with it these days, and I’m also not that big into cheesy decorations. But I love the fact that there is something to look forward to during the dark time of the year. I like to have the house all cosy and decorated, and the comfort of old family rituals.

My sister sent me our favourite christmas calendar this year, especially from Switzerland. It’s the one we’ve had every year for a few years now and I was so chuffed to have it here with me.

Even though I’m always looking forward to December, this year I’ve been slow in getting into the holiday mood. Our car broke down a few weeks ago and that was just the tip of the iceberg of a ton of organisational stuff that we have to think about at the moment. I’m quite seasonally sensitive and I don’t have a lot of energy to spare during winter. So having to take these life-defining decisions and then getting unforeseen complications on top of it has been quite challenging. 

I know I haven’t really talked about it much on here, but since I stopped blogging regularly, I’ve started a few new jobs. I finished my yoga teacher training in May. I’ve had so much fun starting to teach my yoga classes. I’m still learning of course, but I’m loving it. I would never have thought that yoga – and especially teaching yoga would turn into such a great passion for me.

I also work as a nanny four afternoons a week. I look after two kids aged 3 and 5. They are very sweet and I like spending time with them. But as always, it is also very demanding. It has been challenging and interesting to discover and grow into the role of a nanny, which is very different from that of a teacher or nursery carer. But I always feel that spending time with young humans allows me to grow together with them. And for that I am always grateful.

I have been teaching quite a lot of yoga lessons over the past few weeks. I teach two classes regularly. One of which is one that I organise myself, and that has – to my surprise and utter delight – grown a small core of regulars that show up almost every week. What a joy! The other class I teach is at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. It is a class I teach for the hospital staff and that is organised through the national health service, which I think is a really cool thing of them to do.



In addition to those two classes, I am helping out at a studio of a friend at the moment, teaching classes whilst she is on her maternity leave. It is very different to teach in a dedicated studio space, with background music, lovely scented candles, and luxurious props for every student.

Then there are one-off gigs, like worshops and taster classes at events, that I surpisingly get to do not too rarely either. These occasions are always a lot of fun because most people attend without a lot of expectations and are very open to try new things. At the same time, they are hard because I never know what to expect. Also, I’ve been lugging huge bags of yoga mats, blocks, blankets and other material around the Glasgow area, I like to say it’s the flying yoga teacher’s workout.

So yeah… I’ve had a lot on my plate recently. I’m beginning to feel… worn out. Stretched too thin over too many affairs. My notebook is a mess of lists and daily to-do’s and my diary is my closest friend. I’m feeling tense and worried most of the time, and I haven’t really been able to start feeling cosy and christmas-sy.

It’s been easygoing around our group of friends too – we only had a “Thanksgiving” dinner at the beginning of December! It was amazing. Andy’s sister shot a duck and two pheasants and Tref and I said because she’d shot them herself and they were wild living animals we would see nothing wrong in eating them. So I ate meat for the first time in like three years or so. It was very nice. I’m still sticking with vegetarian though.


Above is just a silly picture I took one of the many times that the guys are derping about. They are like 13 year old boys when they’re together… yes, filthy humour and bad puns included, only that they are much too old to feel embarassed about it… it makes me giggle.

This week I finally got the flat straightened out and I put up an advents wreath and a little bit of decoration. It’s not much this year, but I like how it came together. I tried to stay within my limits and not put too much pressure for perfection on myself. This year, there are just other priorities.



The thing that in my mind always seals the change of a season is my altar. I redeorate it at least for each of the 8 holidays throughout the year, which helps me stay in touch with nature’s rhythms. In winter, I enjoy having a clean, simple space that makes me feel quiet.



Of course because it is christmas time, it is also a special time for the kids. Our afternoons together are quite short and often not easy to plan, but I try to squeeze as many festive activities in as possible. I tried to plan ahead and make a pack of prepared materials for every day, but of course that didn’t work out. I got way too much stuff and way too many ideas. I guess it’s better that way around.
Last weekend we had people come over on the 6th December to bake Grittibänz with us – it’s a Swiss tradition to eat these sweet white breads on St. Nicolaus day. Everybody had a lot of fun designing their bread guys.

We also had an impromptu raclette! Because we don’t have the traditional table grill, we tried to improvise. We remembered that on Swiss winter markets the raclette is usually served like this: The surface of a hug hunk of cheese is melted by an upright gas heater, then scraped onto a plate of potatoes and pickled onions. It’s a bit like a cheese Doner.

So we got out the cook’s torch, and started melting…


It worked pretty well once the cheese was heated up. Nowwhere as fast of course, and the scraped portions were fairly small, but that was ok because people could just get themselves more whenever they liked. We call this version the “buffet-raclette”.


Today I’m finally feeling like I’m starting to wind down, and things are settling. My to-do lists are getting shorter. The big things that had to get done this year are organise, papers handed in, forms signed. All that’s left now really is christmas stuff like wrapping presents, making little Christmas gifts for my students in my last yoga classes next week, preparing some sweetie packs for the neighbours… and packing our stuff for our two week holiday in Switzerland. We are looking forward to it like mad, we both really need a good chunk of downtime and lazy days before we are ready to start out on the next part of our projects next year.

I hope you are starting to get nice and cosy, and if you aren’t, maybe this picture of a sleepy kitty will help. <3

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A visit from the South

I was trying to think of a witty title, but living in Scotland, most visits are naturally coming from the South, sigh…

Anyways, a couple of weekends ago, three of Tref’s oldest friends made their way up from the South of England to visit us. John and Rich brought their wives, so that made the party even merrier.

A weekend filled with fun card games (I was introduced to ‘spoon’), drinks, and lots and lots of food of course. 

We’ve been eating way too much fondue this year… and the season isn’s even over yet!

Spoon is brutal! It’s fun but it *will* result in injuries… so if you ever ask me to teach you, be prepared!


Rich brought his real life (*gasp*) photoalbum from a trip to Morocco that they took when they just finished school. Isn’t it great to see their happy faces, sharing all the memories?

We did manage to get out for a little stroll so the visitors could see something of the city.
Later on, as we wandered down Byres’s road, we got talking about how the most touristy thing to do in Glasgow was probably to eat a deepfried marsbar.

Deepfried everything is Glasgow’s speciality according to people who don’t live in Glasgow. Apparently you can actually get what is called a pizza crunch – pizza folded in half, battered, and then deepfried (it is rumoured that you can even choose to get cheesy fries and gravy on top). I must admit that I have never seen one, and I don’t really want to. It might be true that you can get these things here … but I think it is more a result of the demand than of an actual intrinsic tradition.

So we did have to do a lot of searching, but finally found a chippy that was willing to fry a marsbar for us if we got them one – which we promptly did.




We shared the bar between five people. It was surprisingly nice! I could definitely have eaten more. But I’m quite glad I didn’t, because I would probably have regretted it.



But I’m glad I tried it because it has been on my “to do in Glasgow” list for ever, and it feels good to cross things off.

The weekend was over all too quickly, but we already made plans to congregate again – at least now everybody who knows us has a reason to travel to the United States!

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It’s a party

I’ll admit it, I’m not a party person, never have been. But I’m way too lazy and too intimidated by crowds to enjoy more than the very occasional night out.

I do love to dance, however, and to have a good time with friends. I also looove to dress up and the music that gets me dancing is the music that my parents used to listen to when they were young.

So when our friend Leanne called for a 20ies-themed dressup dinner for her birthday, I was very excited.

I think it was my favourite dressup party ever. Some of the costumes were very funny, others imaginative, or improvised. But they all made for a great atmosphere.


The boys just all looked amazing. I wholeheartedly believe that a hat, a nice shirt and a pair of braces makes a man x1000 more attractive.

(Except maybe in this pic…)

(Here’s the romance, there’s the bromance.)

Girls look good in hats’, too of course!


I got to take some balloons home, which made me very very happy!

Sadly there was no 20ies music. The place played rock’n’roll which definitely wasn’t bad, but there was no space to dance, so we did actually – grudgingly – leave after dinner.

A tired protester! 

He’s a man of many hats!

 I hope you enjoyed the pictures, I just wanted to let you know what I’ve been up to. That’s ot all of course, but most of the things I’m doing these days is not stuff for blogposts – too unphotogenic. I try to post updates whenever I can but writing a post, especially with lots of pictures, takes a really long time and I’m super busy with organising stuff these days, so I just have to take a couple of hours every now and again when I can.

Take care! xx

 

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Winds of change

So I’ve been living in Scotland for almost 1.5 years now. It feels both much longer and shorter than that. It always does.

I can still imagine our first visit here. It was one of the worst storms ever. Maybe a sort of prophetic symbol for the time that was to come.

The past 2.5 years have been turbulent to say the least. From living in the South of France, to moving back home to Switzerland, to coming to live over here, it has been both wonderful and tough for both of us.

I personally am very grateful for this time and I feel like I was granted growth beyond my imagination through this journey.

I know that a lot of the quite big changes over here I haven’t talked about on this blog, because I didn’t feel capable of putting everything into words, out of fear of smashing all the precious things that were growing in my life. I hope that now, after a solid few months into everything, I can start to make that up to you.


But now, we are also already looking at the next step, the next chapter. The winds of change are blowing, and we are both eager to move on.

We both finish our current jobs early next year, and we are planning on leaving Scotland in spring.

Tref has a new job in Yale, Connecticut. His visa is still being processed, but at this point we are quite sure it will come through and that he will be able to start his new research project – which he is really excited about – soon.

It feels really weird to type this out so matter of factly here, after keeping things quiet and crossing fingers and dreaming and making plans and getting excited for quite a long time.

I am already beyond sad to be leaving Glasgow, a city that I have learned to love more than I ever imagined. But, of course, I am also super excited to move to the U.S. and start a completely new chapter and explore a different culture for the next few years.

We are wading knee-deep in paper stuff and all the little things that have to be organised now, like getting rid of our car, flat, getting all our documents sorted, organising the move, and thinking about things we want to do before leaving Europe…

And enjoying everything that we have here as much as possible as long as we can!!

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A hut adventure

I’ve been holding this post back a bit mainly because I was waiting to get my hands on my friend Stef’s awesome pictures. So sit back people, this is something to look at.

In the UK, Halloween or Samhain falls really close to another traditional holiday called Guy Fawkes or Bonfire Night which is celebrated on the 5th of November. As you could imagine, it’s all about bonfires, and people also light a lot of firework.

We wanted to get away and celebrate somewhere nice, but after last year’s Halloween camping, we opted for something a bit more sheltered.

The hut is tiny, but it’s got everything you need. Cooking stuff, an oven, space to roll out camping mats, and even a cuddly sofa. It fit seven of us very cosy.

And the scenery is amazing:

We made an awesome fondue with British cheeses for dinner. Funnily enough, all my friends seem to be people who love food and cooking… it is very practical!

The next morning…:

Some people are grumpy when they have just woken up…!

It was rainy all weekend, and we were lazy, so we didn’t do much during the day. But it let off long enough for us to make a fire for grilled lunch.

And we saw an awesome double rainbow!!

It was great to have a warm and dry homebase, so the weather didn’t really bother us at all. We knew we could play around outdoors a bit and then snuggle up in the warm hut again later.

This guy kept us nice and warm in the evening:

We played munchkin (if you’ve never tried it, you totally should. It’s an awesome game. Make sure to play with people with a jolly sense of humour though!), and ate more awesome food.

And then it was finally firework time!!








Aren’t those pictures awesome? I think on some of them it looks as if some spirit or faery was flying around the trees. It felt very magical. It was also very cold. We took care not to fire any rockets that would leave pieces of wire or other stuff behind in the wild that could harm animals.

I love to look at the pictures and imagine that we are all having a magical party in some sort of faery forest.

We also played around with sparklers a bit:


(I tried to make a heart shape, but it looks more like a butt)

We were all very sad to have to pack up on Sunday. It is so nice and quiet out there, after a few days, you never ever want to go back to the city and the roads and the cars again. But we’re planning on going back very soon.


If you like the pictures please visit my friend Stefan’s page on photocircle to see his stunning landscape and aurora photographs. If you want to purchase a print, all the money goes to charity, so it’s a really great cause to support!

 

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Purple hummus recipe

Some people have asked for the recipe to make purple hummus. I thought on here would be the easiest platform to share it with you all – and also a good opportunity to write a blogpost after taking a hiatus this summer.

The basic recipe that we use for our hummus is very classic. We don’t measure our ingredients, we just add them to the blender and then mix until we find the right balance of flavours. Everybody has different tastes anyways, so make this yours.

2012 snapshots (180)

Classic hummus:

~1 cup cooked and drained chickpeas
~2 cloves garlic
~0.5 cup tahini (sesame paste, you can buy it in organic stores)
~0.5 cup good quality olive oil (we use olive oil as the main liquid in this recipe, as opposed to other people who add water which makes it somewhat less heavy, but also less flavoursome in our opinion. But because the olive oil doesn’t only add texture but also flavour, it is imperative that you invest in good oil. Cheap oil is bitter and can make your hummus inedible).
Salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste

Mix all your ingredients in a blender and then transfer to jars or plastic tubs. You can freeze the hummus so it’s easy to make big batches in one go (as cleaning up is quite a chore).

Once you’re familiar with the basic recipe, you can start experimenting with ingredients. The main things that define hummus are a pulse base, olive oil, tahini and lemon (in my opinion – you might add garlic to this list).

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Purple hummus

In the purple hummus, I exchanged the classic chickpeas with black turtlebeans. I also added cooked purple cabbage to the base which gives the hummus its lovely color. I left away the garlic because I didn’t have any, and I don’t think it did any harm. I added rosmary instead and think it all fits together very well.

~1 cup cooked and drained black turtle beans
~1 cup finely sliced and cooked purple cabbage
~ 2 tbsp finely chopped rosmary
~ 0.5 cup good quality olive oil
~ salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste

Mix. Fill into jars. Add some sprigs of rosmary, pepper, and a dash of oil to the top to make it look pretty. Take pictures and boast about it to all your friends.

And don’t forget to share! :o)

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Ramadan – retrospective

I kind of wanted to write down a few thoughts about how ramadan went for me, but never found the time to do so. Now it is, then.

I stuck to it for two weeks – so about half of the 28 days. Then I had to stop.

I only did two full ramadan days during that time, meaning that I did not eat and drink from sun up to sun down. I realised I could not deal with the lack of water – it was making me sick. So I started what I called the kid’s ramadan regime: I would eat a normal breakfast after getting up, and drink water and herb tea during the day, then have a fast-break meal after sundown.

Trying to gulp down an enormeous bowl of muesli at 4am… oO

But even so, it was very very hard for me, and I didn’t really cope well. I was fine during the first half or so of the day. But from about 3 or 4pm on, I was just so out of energy that I could not really think clearly. All I wanted to do was sleep, and maybe do useless things like browse the internet, but I even had troubles concentrating on that.

Of course besides feeling not too great that meant firstly that my days were super duper unproductive, and secondly, it wasn’t clearing my mind for spiritual practise at all as I had hoped.

So I realised the fast was completely beside the point, and after two weeks I decided to call it quits.

I would still like to try spiritual fasting again, but next time I would probably try and do it within a dedicated setting, like a retreat, where there is support and guidance, and a spiritual structure so I don’t have to spend energy on these things too much.

I’m glad and grateful to have had this small inside into islamic culture though.

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Holding on

Sometimes, all it comes down to, is holding on to something.

To a smile, maybe, or the covers of your bed.

To a vision, a passion. Or just a box of cookies.

To hope, and light, and lofty ideas, or a pack of tissues.

eyes

Holding on is not always heroic, rarely graceful. It involves ugly tears that will not do well on canvas, a heart that breaks a million times, a soul that is too confused to even look up for the light. If it means doing nothing, talking nothing, thinking nothing, for a while, sometimes a longer while than anyone could ever justify. And being so scared that nobody could ever respect your smallness. Maybe it means hurt, until you realise that it is yourself that is causing the hurt, and then, still not being able to stop. It means hate, and dark clouds, and shadowy valleys and looking out the window and seeing a world turn on without you, so fast and big that it makes your innermost soul cringe with fear. It will also mean cowering in a corner and trying to dissapear by curling into a ball of unworthyness.

Oh, yes, it will. But however ugly and wasted and useless the days may seem, floating by endlessly, you are holding on. Because you are still here when all you want is to dissappear, into a blue and peaceful cloud, forever. You are still here, and all your dissappearances are temporary. That is why you are a hero. That is why your scars are nothing to hide from the world. Because you held on to whatever you could when you needed to.

And then one day you looked up and you said. “I found a tiny bit of love, right here.”

And then you got up, slowly, on shaky feet, and you took a tiny step, and you gave it another try.

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Ramadan

Trev and I decided to observe ramadan this year.

There are a few reasons for this, at least for me. We have a few friends who celebrate ramadan, and as it is especially hard up north in Glasgow, it feels kind of nice to emphasize with them. We are always up for any types of challenges like this one, but first and foremost, for me, this is about spirituality.

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Ramadan is a time for muslims to try and grow closer to God through self discipline, experiencing of personal limits, intense prayers, and charity. (As far as I understood). Although I am not a muslima, I do definitely see the use and potential of such a period of intense spiritual focus. The abstinence from food and water during daylight is supposed to cleanse and purify the body and mind in order for the heart to listen closer to God.

Frankly, I have no idea yet if I will make it, and I did try and ease into the schedule by just abstaining from food and drink from normal breakfast to late dinner time on the first couple of days. Today is the first day that I got up before sunrise and cooked a huge breakfast (had to force it down as I am not a breakfast person at all!) and drank one liter of water in preparation for the day. Now it’s evening and the sensation of hunger is not as bad as it was in the early afternoon, but I am very thirsty, tired and distracted. I’m not sure how well I will function with this regime if I had to do any focused work. But I guess I will find out in time.

Muslims are asked to pray five times throughout the day and there are special prayers added during the month of ramadan. I’m not observing those prayer times or prayers because I don’t know enough about them to perform them, and from as much as I have seen, I would probably not be comfortable with them because their wording clashes with my personal spirituality.

So I am praying and meditating on a more personal schedule, and it definitely feels like a very special time. It might be a bit unorthodox to dedicate ramadan to the Goddess, and to chant ‘Hare Krishna’ and ‘Om Shanti’ on your mala beads, but for me it works.

The month of ramadan lasts for 28 days, so there will be plenty of time to experiment, and maybe write some more on the subject.

Ramadan Mubarak – Blessed Ramadan!

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Summer Solstice camping

 

For Summer Solstice, we went camping on the beach this year.

The previous week had been gloriously warm and sunny, but Scotland wouldn’t be Scotland if the weather had been perfect for our little outing. So we started out with rather grey skies and a few showers during our drive to our destination.

Spirits were high anyways, everyone was looking forward to spending two days outdoors. On the ferry:
After about three hours of driving we parked the cars, put on the packs and shambled off into the woods.

After some scrambling through forests, bogs, and clouds of midges, we finally arrived at a decent camping spot and put up our tents. It was already late and we quickly gathered some wood for a fire.

Geoff doing magic.


We spent both nights huddling around a fire, trying to escape the assault of midges, and marveling at the beauty of the night sky. It didn’t really get dark, and the sun peeked back up over the horizon almost as soon as He dissappeared around 3am.




I had never been this far north ever in my life, and I am still awe-struck by the experience.





A campfire and lots of time means lots of cooking of course. All in all, we had tons of food and ate really well, although our water situation wasn’t quite that good.




During the day we went exploring, the guys hiked to fetch water from the next beach that had a little stream, cut fire wood, and people went swimming in the sea (except for me because I’m afraid of getting cold and also not a big fan of jellyfish ^^).






Cooking breakfast. Everything was full of sand, scratches from scrambling through the forest, sticky midge-repellent, and midge bites. Somehow though, we still managed to have a good time. Miraculous!





Almost ready to go. After breakfast on the last morning, a huge, threatening raincloud rolled in and we all packed our tents in a hurry, getting everything wet in the downpour (if you’ve ever camped you know what a pain it is to pack up in the rain!). Stupidly enough, the rain stopped after just a little while. Andy, who’d slept through the rain, was the only person to pack up a reasonably dry pack. Duh!

We walked a longer, but slightly less boggy route on the way back to the cars on the Sunday. Coming back home from camping is almost as great as going camping in itself and we were all sure happy to have a nice shower, wash the remaining ticks out of our hair, and slather ourselves in aloe vera gel against the itchyness of the midge bites.

We’re already planning the next trip!

Pictures by the fabulous Stefan Glatzel. <3

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