Yellow & Green: Chickpea “Omelette”

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I have had this horrible aversion to eggs recently.  I think they smell like a combination of wet dogs and dirty feet.  Not to mention the fact they are chicken periods.  Well, enough of yucking your yum and I’ll get to the tasty part.

This breakfast staple was made with gram flour (made with chickpeas and available in all major grocery stores as it is a staple in Indian cooking), parsley, and onions.  We got the recipe idea from this blog.  Here are some other ideas of flavour combos to try:

Italian:  parsley, basil, and tomatoes

Mexican: Cilantro, cumin, and mango salsa

Japanese: onions, mushroom, cabbage, and soy sauce

Sweet:  nutmeg, cinnamon, peanut butter, strawberries, maple syrup

🌈Steph

 

 

Red & Orange: Holy Bologna!

It was really difficult to find a rainbow in Bologna because as you can see from the photos, it’s a really red and orange city!  After all, it is the home of Bolognese.

Even though we spent less than 24 hours in this town, I could see the appeal of living in this Italian city surrounded by lush parks, hip eateries, and covered walkways.  It was altogether spectacular and I would recommend the city for anyone who loves food.

I really have nothing more to say about it, because again, I was only there for a few hours, but I could tell this city has lots of charm and much more to offer!

🌈 Steph

Rainbow in the Lakes

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In the middle of May, I went to the Lake District (again).  It has now been three and a half years since our first trip in February of 2014, but now I have learned a new appreciation for the Lakes, and yes this Island on which I live.

The shapes and the colours of the Lake District change so quickly with little notice or expectation that every hill pass and curve in the trail evokes a curiosity that needs to be quenched.  What’s it like on top of that peak?  What’s down that gulley?  Where does that trail go?  With hours of nothing to do besides walk, there is the freedom to follow a sheep’s path or scramble up a cragg.

The area around Keswick and in the neighbouring valleys were blanketed with bluebells, newborn lambs, and lots of rainbow rocks.  After laying down three of my rainbow markers, with the help of some good friends, a real rainbow appeared right in front of us!  It was if we had performed the sacred ceremony of the rainbow and evoked its powers!

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🌈Steph

Florence, Italy

 

My first impression of Florence, after just arriving from Venice, was one of chaos.  While Venice offered up relaxing side streets and long leisurely walks free from noise and car pollution, Florence seemed a bustling metropolis where one wrong step off of the narrow sidewalk could leave you in the hospital.  My feelings of malaise surrounding this big Tuscan City quickly faded when we discovered the hidden gardens on the “other side of the river” and the quaint town of Fiesole, just a short bus ride away from the town center.

As the Lonely Plant guide said, “One of the best things about Florence, is leaving it.”  So we headed to the village of Fiesole, which stands proudly on top of a hill, popping out of sweet smelling trees and buzzing insects.  Here are some photos from our perfectly strenuous hike to find the launching point of DaVinci’s first flying machine:

By the time we got back to Florence that afternoon, I was feeling much more positively about the whole city, and although we had planned to leave agin the next day and go to a different Tuscan town, we decided to see the sights in the city instead.  The gallery below shows some highlights from our sightseeing over the next four days.  All of the things I show here, are things I would recommend doing.

 

Click on the Gallery below and read the captions for some good times!

In addition to the above and the obligatory eating and drinking, I would highly recommend the Galileo Museum for anyone who does not like museums and has no interest in history.  It’s amazing.  Here is a map of what the world used to look like:

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Until next time,

🌈 Steph

Venice and the Veneto

As we approached Venice by plane, I could see the islands spread out in the blue lagoon.  There was a fog that was just dissipating and the plane looked as if it was going to land right in the water.  After collecting our bags, we had the choice of taking a the public water bus which chugs along at walking pace, or to take a private water taxi from the docks.  Hmmm….

Now lets take a pause here for a moment.  In my traditional method of travel, I would try to save every penny possible, opting for cramming myself onto the public bus, even if it meant standing up for an hour and 20 minutes.  But new me is all about the water taxi.  New me is about setting a budget for a trip and sticking to it, not just going on a trip and trying not to spend any money, that doesn’t even make sense.

So you’ll know by now we opted for the private taxi.  Woo Hoo!watertaxi

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Whizzing away from Marco Polo Airport

On our first full day in Venice, we went to a fabulous restaurant down an alley (see photo gallery) and it’s where I discovered Prosecco was invented in Venice.  We also visited the Peggy Gugenheim museum, which was a must-see and wandered for lots of hours.

Our second day in venice we ventured to the far off island of Burano, which is a rainbow island of world famous risotto and lace.

Venice is not one of those places you can just show up and eat good food.  Some research is required as Venice is so touristy it has been compared to Disneyland.  Now, this was not my experience, but we had flagged all of the good food and bar stops to avoid eating reheated rubbish.  Other Recommendations:

The oldest paper store in Italy:

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Have a tiny glass of wine and the local tapas called cicheti.

Drink an Aperol Spritz, it was invented here.

The theme of our trip was walk, drink, eat, repeat.  The only bad part about Venice was leaving.  When can I go back?

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🌈  Steph

24 Hours in Paris

 

16:30 GMT:  Get on Eurostar to Paris

20:00 CET:  Arrive in Paris Nord and travel to Marais

21:00 CET:  Dinner at Le Petit Fer au Cheval with old friends

00:00 CET:  Travel to Franklin Roosevelt and gather midnight picnic items

00:15 CET:  Sneak into office building and climb to the roof overlooking Eiffel Tower

01:00 CET:  See light show on Eiffel Tower (last one of the night)

01:30 CET:  travel to Ibis and go to sleep by 2am

08:00 CET:  Wake up!  Get dressed!

09:00 CET:  Breakfast on the Champs Elysées

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Sign in front of Christian Dior

10:00 CET:  Slowly make way from Champs Elysees to Le Jardin des Plantes along the Seine

11:00 CET:  Explore garden and slowly make way to the Latin Quarter stopping at record                             shops and the Roman Coliseum along the way

13:00 CET: Lunch followed by a trip to the BonsBons shop

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Le BonBon au Palais

16:00 CET: Make way to Jardin du Luxembourg and share a bottle of Rose among friends

18:00 CET:  Wander through the park and catch some sun

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Boating Lake at Jardin du Luxembourg

19:30 CET:  get back to Gare du Nord to catch the 20:15 train back to London!

🌈 Steph

 

 

 

Books of the Year

It was the year of reading for me.  I don’t think I have read so much since I was younger and read a Nancy Drew Mystery every week!  This year was a mix of book group choices, Booker Prize Finalists, and classics; trash that I’ll be donating straight to Oxfam and treasures that will be prominently displayed on my bookshelf.  With the long commute and the short, dark days, what a perfect time to reflect on the books of the year.   I have given each book and rating out of 10 and a brief description.

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This saga of life in post-war Naples was fascinating and addictive.  I tried to pace myself and savour each of the books by taking breaks in between, but I always ended up just reading them one right after the other. 8/10

book1

 

Many men’s lives are followed for a brief point in time and throughout different stages of the lifecycle.  Prep school boys on their first trip to Europe.  A rich yacht owner who is suicidal.  A guy cheating on his wife.  Who cares?  I sure didn’t.  In fact, I cared so little that I read almost about 30 pages until the end and gave up.  That close to the end and I gave up, because I really didn’t care.  2/10

 

 

book2One of the funniest, satirical, and poignant novels I have ever read.  I was laughing out loud and also taking a long, hard look at myself and our society.  One of the reviews on the back said, “You get smarter as you read this.”  I totally concur.    I attempted to read all of the Booker Prize finalists this year before the award was announced.  I was crossing my fingers for this guy, and he won.  First American to win ever and totally deserved.  9/10

 

 

 

 

book3

 

A mother and daughter go to the South of Spain in order to seek out specialized treatment for the mother’s psychosomatic health problems.  I loved every minute of this in-depth look at a unique and twisted relationship, especially the surprise at the end!  8/10

 

 

 

book4

This novel is revolting, disgusting, foul, and hilarious.  I would sometimes start gagging while reading it on the way to work.  Good thing I had an empty stomach.  I would also exclaim and twist up my face in the presence of strangers on the tube.  I have to say this was some of the best writing I have read in the last five years just judging by the physical reactions I had to Eileen.  She’s the character of the Booker Prize List this year and I would recommend to anyone who likes very dark humor.  This was one of our book group reads and most people hated it.  8/10

book5

I still don’t know if this book is based on a true story or not.  It is presented as one man’s attempt to research his ancestry in Scotland only to find that one of his relatives murdered some people (can’t say who so as not to spoil it) and then got sentenced to death.  Whether or not it is real, it is such a creative idea from the way it’s written to the order of events and the tone.  Another Booker Prize Finalist well deserved.

 

 

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Have you ever read Jane Eyre?  I don’t think it’s what you think it is.  9/10

 

 

 

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I thought I wasn’t going to be able to understand Tess, but actually, everything in it is relevant today.  Maybe it’s me, but I felt like it was really random.  Life would be going on very easy and then something really horrible would happen with no build up.  7/10

 

 

 

book8

Was intrigued to read this book group pick translated from Turkish.  I got really confused and nothing really happened.  Unfortunately I quit about 20 pages from the end.  Oops.  5/10

 

 

 

 

book9

This is complete trash.  It’s sexist, racist, and egotistical.  It’s not well written  This was also a book group read.  One of our members wrote ten pages on why this is the worst book ever written.  Unfortunately I was on a plane finishing this very book while the discussion was happening and missed one of the most controversial topics of the year.  I can understand why it became a bestseller, but I can’t figure out for the life of me why it won any awards.  3/10

 

book11

It has been almost a year since I read this in February and I think I’m still trying to make up my mind about this book.  Kate Atkinson can sure write a good story and with this prequel to Life After Life she goes above and beyond.  I think I’m just personally tired of reading about Britain in wartime.  But honestly, this is a great novel, as is Life After Life.  No need to read them together though, it’s just better if you do.  6/10

 

 

book12

A fun spy novel.  By fun I mean the typical misogyny, hard to follow and remember plot lines, and a real sense of gratitude to not have grown up in communist Russia.  5/10

 

 

book13

I did it.  I read it.  Just like half the population.  As I was reading it I was thinking, “geez,  they don’t need to write the movie script, they can just copy and paste from the book.”  Then I went and saw the movie and thought it was really good.  i also have to say I thought this book was good too.  It’s trash, but kind of complex and real in the sense of the theme and the heroine’s struggles.  6/10

 

 

book14

I love stories about cults.  My favorite is Man Crazy by Joyce Carol Oates, but this one comes in close second.  Really interesting easy read.

7/10

 

 

 

book15

Bill Bryson can be so mean.  There’s a whole chapter in here where he publicly humiliates a McDonald’s employee who did nothing wrong.  That said, I learned a lot about how Britain has changed since his days writing this and it did make me love it here even more.  5/10

 

 

 

book16

 

Every once in a while when I’m walking by the charity bookshop I will stop in and buy a book.  I always look for Agatha Christie.  They have these really fun mass paperbacks from the 70s that we don’t have in the US.   I found this one over the summer and read it in my nifty IKEA lounge chair on the back porch in one afternoon.  This is a really good one and it also happens to be an excellent episode of Poirot.  7/10

 

 

book17

Go ahead, judge it by the cover.  Another book group pick, but I have to say I really enjoyed reading this bizarre tale of a woman whose husband is being investigated for… (can’t say or it will spoil it.)  Fun trash.  But then if I think about it, it’s really messed up to this reading this is fun.  5/10

 

 

 

book18

 

I’m in the process of reading Middlemarch, one of the longest novels written in English.  I love it.  However, I needed a bit of a break over Thanksgiving and happened to pick up this little gem about a French Canadian detective in the small town of Three Pines trying to solve a murder.  And guess what?  It takes place on Thanksgiving.  (Probably Canadian Thanksgiving, but whatever.)  6/10

 

book19

Sequel to the above but it takes place on Christmas.  Features satirical commentary on health and wellness movements, three old ladies who live together and bicker all day, and curling.  What more do you need in a good murder mystery? 5/10

 

 

 

book20

Fab book of short stories.  Creepy, funny, and weird.  Highly recommend!  8/10

 

 

 

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One of the best books I’ve read all year.  The descriptions, the characters, and the relevance of the novel are reasons to go buy and read if you get the chance.  9/10

Winter Retreat 2016

 

 

Back in September I had this premonition that I would want to be alone for a few days as soon as school let out for the winter break.  I made a reservation at a retreat center and timed it perfectly so I could leave directly from school on December 16th, get on a train, and head straight to the countryside for a weekend of alone time.

The retreat center is called Witherdens Hall and is located about 20 minutes from Canterbury near a small village called Wingham.  I started out the day with a reflexology appointment, that I was able to have right at the retreat center!  (Staying in pajamas until noon anyone?) I’ve never had a reflexology appointment, but it was so amazing and one of the most relaxing experiences ever.  After that, I spent the sunny day walking from village to village, bird watching, and avoiding the shots from the pheasant hunters.  I wrote and read a ton and did about four hours of yoga over the course of the weekend.  I made my own meals in the fully equipped kitchen and completely unplugged.

I have to admit, it was a bit scary.  I think we all think to ourselves that having all of that time alone would be nice, but it is quite tempting with the first ping of loneliness to turn on the TV, text someone, or check Facebook.  What’s really amazing is if you don’t answer that loneliness right away, great creativity can emerge.

I highly recommend a winter retreat for everyone.  You can even do it from your own home (which is what I usually do). You can read a suggestion for a winter retreat, as well as retreats for other seasons in Sara Avant Stover’s The Way of the Happy Woman.  I personally used some of the suggestions, but tried not to set a schedule and just go with the flow.

Blue: ATP world finals and public shaming

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It has finally happened: I’ve made it to a tennis tournament.  We’re sitting in the 3rd to last row and I need glasses desperately, but we’re here all the same!

Attending a tennis tournament at the o2 centre is like going to an NBA game: there are fancy lights, popcorn for sale in the stands, deep-voiced and dramatic announcers, and cheesy sound effects.  The only difference?  The crowd.  Tennis crowds appear civilized on the surface, but when the time comes, they’re out for blood.

If a spectator produces even one decibel of sound or a small amount of illumination many players will refuse to serve, looking to Chair Umpire for support while the camera man hones in on the perpetrator, projecting the image on the big screen and thereby subjecting the poor fellow to public humiliation.  I mean, this crowd will hold back when it’s time to cheer for 40-Love, but when there’s an opportunity to publicly shame someone, they will let loose!

I used to think that the perpetrator (who shall hereby be referred to as “camera guy”) should know better.  I would assume the worst and conclude that camera guy deserves it.  But I realized at the last match a whole range of circumstances that could explain the “rude” behavior of camera guy.

  1.  It could be the person’s first match.  In fact, seeing the look on the guy’s face as the camera zoomed in on him…I think it might have been.  He was shocked and confused about what was happening.
  2. The person may not speak or read English well. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve made mistakes in foreign countries because I couldn’t read the signage or understand the person talking to me.
  3. They really just want that social media photo.  So even if 1 and 2 aren’t true, who cares?  Public shaming doesn’t work to change people’s behavior, it just breeds anger and hate.

This culture of public shaming is out of control, the most famous case being Justine Sacco.  Do you really think that “camera guy” is going to leave the match thinking, “I’ll never do that again.  Gee, I’m sure glad I see the error of my ways?”  Just like a child put in time out in the corner is not thinking about how to do better time, but instead bubbling up with anger and shame, so is camera guy.  Who knows what he’ll do next?  Lash out and someone who cuts him off?  Yell at an unsuspecting waiter?  Hate breeds hate, and booing at someone who just came to watch a tennis match is hateful.

It’s no better than a bunch of kids clapping loudly at a classmate who dropped his lunch tray in the middle of the cafeteria instead of offering to help him pick it up.  Grow up tennis fans.  I’m going to try and do the same.  The last thing we need are more bullies in this world right now.  Take it from Roger,

🌈 Steph

 

 

 

A rainbow a day

My friend Robyn asked to join for my Sunday cookfest where I cook some meals that can be refrigerated and prep some of the veggies for meals later in the week.  Here’s what happened this weekend when I was trapped in Muswell Hill because of bonfire night with lots of spare time on my hands.

I heard when I was little that one should try and eat a rainbow a day in fruits and vegetables.  I’ve also heard that we should be consuming 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  I’ve also heard that we have to actually eat them, not mix them up in smoothies.  I’ve also heard that it’s bad to eat raw vegetables because it’s hard on the digestion.  I’ve also heard it’s bad to eat cooked vegetables because all of the nutrients get blasted out.

In the last year I have decided that I don’t care about any of this.  All of this advice is disguised as being about health, when actually the root of it is about being skinny.  As someone who is involved in forwarding the Health At Every Size movement, I see how lots of things in our society are designed to make us feel bad about the way we look and encourage us to “take control” over what we eat through a series of books, pills, potions, and regimens.  This is not sustainable over time, as people who set unrealistic goals for themselves will fail and then hate themselves even more.

Now that I’m done with that tangent, I will say that what I’ve decided to do is become more intuitive with what I eat, savouring flavors, colors and textures, and actively ignoring any advice I hear about food.  I, like many, was relying too much on the advice of others and not enough on my own intuition.  The result is that I have thoroughly enjoyed discovering the world of vegan and sugar free cooking.