On Matcha Tea

For a week now I have been drinking and testing Matcha tea.  Matcha is traditionally Japanese and a powdered green tea. The leaves are grown in the shade (shaded growth produces more chlorophyll and theanine) and covered for three weeks before harvest. Then the veins and stems are removed and air dried and finally ground on a stone grinder into a fine powder. Matcha is a antioxidant powerhouse, a natural weights aid, a great way to detox and a mood -enhancer. I drink a cup in the morning with my breakfast sometimes.

This is what you need to make your tea the traditional way: 

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(A drinking bowl, the Matcha tea obviously, a bamboo whisk and a bamboo scoop)

The Japanese have some great traditions I believe. One is their tea ceremony in tea preparation, the tea drinking and serving. The Matcha powered I purchased is an organic brand called “Garucha” Matcha. Upon opening the little container (a little pricey: Euro 16 but you only need 2g for one cup), the green power is described as bright green with  a sweet grassy smell. There should be no clumps! [Thomas].  Traditionally, a bamboo scoop is used; called a chashaku, however I just used a regular spoon. Measure 2g of Matcha powder into a tea bowl and then add a bit of cold water and mix with a bamboo whisk (known as chasen). Whisk until you get a creamy consistency. In the meantime, boil some water, then let it cool off to approximately 70-85 degrees Celsius or 158-185 Fahrenheit. Again, this is the traditional way to prepare this tea. 🙂 Add the water. Now whisk this mixture really fast for about 1 minute.  There should be a little green foam on top of your tea.

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Now drink your cup. Matcha can be bitter – like wheatgrass in a way. You can add some almond milk (check out my recipe to see how you can easily make your own).

Matcha contains L-theanine, an amino acid known to relax the mind. This works kind of like a mood-enhancer. Some drink Matcha to assist meditation, because of the amino acids in the tea that may create a calming alertness over time. These amino acids are also the reason why the tea is so bitter. Matcha is rich in fiber and nutrients. It also provides vitamin C, zinc and magnesium. If you drink it regularly it can lowers cholesterol and blood sugar. Do you like to drink green tea? Drinking one cup of matcha is similar to drinking 10 glasses of green tea in the aspect of antioxidant content and nutritional value. Awesome no?

Enjoy.

On Linseed oil

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I have heard of and seen Linseed oil before but never used it. Until a couple of weeks ago when I attended a very informative lecture by Anna Burkon (Facebook: Ganzheitliche Ernaehrungsberatung Anna Burkon) on the “bad stuff” in Junk/Fast Food as well as many tips on how to eat and stay healthy. Anna also mentioned Linseed oil and how good it is so I did some serious reading on it. I am using the Linseed oil she recommended (shown in the picture above). I found this book which gives you a good overall few on the oil: “Leinoel macht gluecklich” by Hans-Ulrich Grimm. (there are some great links on youtube  so check him out).

Linseed oil is also known as flaxseed oil and is made from the dried, ripened seeds of the flax plant. It is yellowish in color.  There are substances in this oil that promote good health because of the richness of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an essential fatty acid that seems to be beneficial for heart disease. ALA belongs to substances called omega-3 fatty acids. The oil is also found to have considerable amounts of vitamin E which is good for the immune system.

For good health a right ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6 fatty acids in the diet are required. In an article on linseed oil I read that “the ideal ratio is around 1:2. The average diet is more around 1:20 to 1:50, with way too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3. The ratio present in linseed oil is about 4:1. So linseed oil is a good source of Omega 3”. The key is to consume a small portion of linseed oil every day because of all the great benefits it has.

More specifically, this is what this “gold” does: 

First, it is good for the heart and it may help to protect against certain cancers; however, not everyone agrees to this issue. It can control high blood pressure by inhibiting inflammatory reactions that cause poor circulation or artery-harding and lower cholesterol therefore reducing the risk of heart disease. It may also reduce inflammation in the joints, kidneys and skin and may lessen the severe joint swelling from gout. Linseed oil can also control gallstones, hemorrhoids and constipation because the oil is very high in dietary fiber. I have used it when I had an upset stomach and I felt better. (Just one tablespoon is enough and I drank a cup of water after).

Linseed oil is also great for sunburn, acne or eczema. I was on vacation recently in Barcelona and guess what? Sunburn! I took some Linseed oil and put it on the sunburned skin. My skin healed faster. The oil has just overall skin-soothing properties. Which leads me to the next great thing about the oil. It promotes healthy nails and hair (hello women!!). If you have read the post on my hair routine you know that I wash my hair with water only. This oil made my hair shine even more and contributes to hair growth. Low level of omega 3 fatty acids cause the hair to dry out! My hair is literally growing like weed. It is also good for the nails to stop them from splitting or cracking.

Linseed oil might minimize nerve damage that causes tingling or numbness. It may treat menstrual cramps, female infertility or even menopausal symptoms. It might fight male infertility and impotence and prostate problems.

How to use Linseed oil: 

Linseed oil should never be heated (heat destroys the ALA so put the oil on your meal after you cooked it. It should be kept in the refrigerator (cold and dark place and in an upright position – even leave it in the carton) after you opened it. Light is the biggest enemy of the oil because it would start a very fast reaction between the ALA and oxygen.  You should use it within a couple of weeks after opening. Should it develop a weird odor (anything but nutty) throw it away. I bought a small bottle first. Glass bottle, no plastic! Just to see how I like it and to try it out.

Use it for example: In stores it is available in liquid form but I have also seen capsules. I know the liquid form and will write about this one only.  Use it plain. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of it to a glass of water and mix with a spoon. The nutty flavor is great. You can also use it as mentioned on any cooked dish.  Sprinkle on salads, pasta or dips; cereals or yoghurt. For the best absorption take the linseed oil with food or water. You can also mix it in smoothies and other drinks.

I have some Canadian followers so this a brand I found.

canada flax

Body Image.

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“Treat your body like an instrument—not an ornament.” —Gary Thomas

I came back from my meditation/yoga class tonight and have been thinking about healthy body image. How can we find a healthy body image on a daily basis? Many obsess over it, complain about their physical appearance and spend money on diets – new diets that come and go. Some even consider plastic surgery. What do you see when you look at the cover of a “beauty” magazine? Women with perfect hair and skin and how to get the same results in no time. Men who promise a 6-pack in 2 weeks and to loose 30kg in 4 weeks.

How can we care for our body without being obsessive? Everybody is unique; obviously, and we only have this one body. This alone should let us make more healthy choices.  We need our body to accomplish things in life – daily essential things.

This is what I do – just some tips.

The key  for me is to hydrate. The body needs water to function. I feel it almost instantly if I have not had enough water (at least 3 liters a day/ 8 glasses a day). I will get a headache quickly. As mentioned in previous posts, any type of soda that is loaded with sugar is not sufficiently hydrating the body. 🙂 I am usually not eating meat except my mother’s chicken soup. (to die for!). But if you do like to eat meat try to make it the side dish and add more veggies to your plate. Of course plenty of fruits as well. Leave out sweets, artificial sugar etc. Whole wheat instead of white bread. Sleep is also important. I am a night owl or better, I am using the free time when my son is in bed to get things done. However, rest is best. I try to get 8 hours of sleep to function properly throughout the day. I do love to drink red wine. (hello? Married to a Frenchi!) I believe, drinking a glass here and there is ok but I try to limit it. Nobody is perfect.  Also no smoking. I used to smoke a pack a day and I quit cold turkey four years ago and feel so much better after. No junk-food or microwave food. Read the labels. Take the time and cook something. Isn’t an apple “fast food”? 🙂 Exercise. You do not need to run a marathon. Start with walking at a faster pace for 30 minutes every other day. Yoga, Pilates…. the options are endless. Do not compare yourself  to others. You are you!

How to: Veggie Rolls

I always loved these little appetizer veggie rolls at Thai/Sushi Restaurants. So it was about time to play around and make my own. They are very easy to make and can be pre-made for a party, as an addition to any dinner or lunch or just as a fresh snack.

You will need:

your choice of vegetables, thinly sliced: For this recipe I have been using carrots, cucumber, avocado, romaine lettuce, arugula, parsley and red pepper.

rice paper (I used “Real Thai Rice paper) and water to soak them in

Instructions:

First, soak rice paper. I filled a bowl (larger than the rice paper) half full with warm water. Then dip 1 rice paper wrapper in the water. Let it soak for approximately 60 seconds. It is supposed to be soft enough to roll without splitting or falling apart. Remove from water and lay flat on a plate. The veggies have to be sliced in thin stripes and placed lengthwise either in the middle of the rice paper or toward the edge. If you place the veggies in the middle it will allow you to fold both sides of the paper inwards. I like placing them toward the edge.

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It is a bit difficult to roll the rice paper in the beginning  but if you hold the veggies in place while you roll the paper as shown in the picture above it will work fine. Done!

There are so many dips you can serve the veggie rolls with. For this recipe I used Tamari which is a gluten-, and wheat-free soy sauce that is naturally fermented. (Brand: Shoyu Soy Sauce). To add a little spice to it I used Wasabi.

Enjoy!

Are you healthy?

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I think it is clear that it is important to be healthy and fit. Without health you have nothing. It is just a big goal to be healthy and to pay attention on how to become and stay healthy.

I have it pretty easy when it comes to healthy food. I have been growing up surrounded by it. My mother was always on some sort of vegetarian/vegan/bread-baking – let’s try-somthing-new-trip. I enjoy many foods but I can also just give up anything in a second when I am focused. When I decided that I wanted to stop eating meat I just stopped –  I just did, applying little effort. I also stopped drinking coffee for some time. When it started getting in the way with my pregnancy and my yoga classes. I am not totally crazy – I do enjoy a nice cup of coffee with some almond milk now and then. 🙂

As crazy as it is with my love for my cup of coffee I believe that one gets just used to certain foods. This can be a bad thing if you need the pizza and bar of chocolate at night on our couch. Being used to any taste is not good at all. It is also not good to have a couple of energy drinks (e.g. Redbull) a day or even a few cans or cups of any soft drink. Try to cut out as much of the artificial sugar as possible. If you are thirsty drink water. Simple. And if you drink water only for some time you will find the taste of those sweet drinks just sickly. You will taste the chemicals for sure. Yes, there are chemicals in your soda.

The good thing is that your body and your tastebuds have the awesome ability to adapt in the new direction so you will find the bad stuff not so tempting anymore. For example, I am not eating any type of “regular” chocolate and sweets anymore. The first three days were a torture but the body heals itself and it made me just eager to find alternatives. There are a plethora of raw food chocolates out there for example or just some dates and figs if you get the sweet craving. The body is getting better and better of letting us know what we should and should not eat. The healthier we eat, the less we are able to eat the bad food.

The best about this adaption is that you do not have to do this transition  at high speed. I am lucky to adapt to the food changes quickly as mentioned; however, you should do it slowly. If you start slowly to head in the direction of eating more healthy food, you will slowly but surely lose the cravings for the junk. Being healthy is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your family.

How to: Basic Homemade almond milk

This morning I made  fresh homemade almond milk –  a very simple recipe that I would like to share. I try to avoid drinking cows milk and have been buying almond milk in the store once in a while. Reading the ingredients listed however made me search for alternatives.  I purchased the book “Going Raw” by Judita Wignall and found this incredible easy and quick recipe to make my own almond milk. It tastes so much better – I would describe it as lighter than store-bought almond milk and more natural. And this is what I want to achieve. Back to nature 🙂

I believe that almond milk is a great alternative to cow’s milk/soy milk/goat milk etc. and is easier to digest and very rich in magnesium.

For my basic almond milk I used: 

1 cup soaked (145g) almonds

4 cups of water (950ml)

This is all you need! And of course a blender. I use a Vitamix.

Directions

Put almonds in a bowl and soak them for about 8-12 hours, or simply overnight. (Soaking nuts releases “enzyme inhibitors”, and allows for great digestion. Strain the water the next day. Now add the soaked almonds and the 950ml of filtered water to the blender and blend on highest speed for approximately 20 seconds.

Now wrap a clean kitchen towel over a medium sized bowl and pour the mixture through the towel.

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As simple as that! Now squeeze and tighten the towel and you are done! This particular receipt fills a 1L glass bottle. You can store the almond milk up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Shake well before you use it! The leftover almond pulp can be used for baking or smoothies. Put it in a sealed container and store in the fridge. (stays fresh for several months).

Enjoy.

On my husband

The other day my mom had the baby and I was out in the city.  I got a latte, got my bangs trimmed and spent a luxurious amount of time at my favorite bookstore. I even met a friend and we had red wine and a salad. She has been telling me that she already has problems with her boyfriend whom she is dating for a couple of months only. But she still talks about baby names that she picked out and the marriage date and bachelor party. She said that being with him is more comfortable than being alone.

She also asked about me and my husband. Soon four years into our relationship and now with a kid – “how is it all going?” she asked. Thankfully I can say better than ever. Even though the mission in Mali is hard on both of us. Not being together for a four to six week stretch is tough. When my phone makes the old familiar “bling” noise when he writes me, I feel like 15 or 16 again. Happy, nervous, what did he write? The feeling when we first met, the warmth, the instant comfort and the feeling to have met the other person already at some point in life is awesome. There is no one else who makes me feel this way. Anaïs Nin says in Henry and June:  “There are two ways to reach me: by way of kisses or by way of the imagination. But there is a hierarchy: the kisses alone don’t work.”

How can I put it? Things are never boring with Jean. When we laugh we really laugh until our bellies hurt. When I think about how Jean and I met, I have to admit that my life changed instantly and how close I was to not meeting him at all. Just funny circumstances and a scarf. And what if I had not met him? If I would have left my apartment five minutes later? Would I live in New York now? Married to someone else? Kids? (But surely not a child as painfully handsome as Joel). Single? How would my career have turned out? Would I be as happy or even happier?

In his arms I felt from the beginning like I sparkled, like the possibilities are endless. I felt loved, as is. No show – just real! Our story may be unremarkable to anyone else but it is our special story. We had bad times, terrible times, and sometimes they have been both of our faults and sometimes not. We have been through promotions, firings, though several moves already, through personal differences and many stupid decisions, bad haircuts, bad clothing choices and also some bad habits.

Then we said” “I do”! in front of our enthusiastic wedding officiant. (“Yoouuuuuuuuu…….!”). We rented our first house together; we moved. We had our baby together, we have hosted parties at our house, we have cooked meals and most importantly we have never stopped even for one second loving one another. I am grateful for Jean and for the past four years. Our story is my favorite. And of course: to be continued.

Patience.

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

How many times have we heard the saying “Patience is a virtue”! So far in my life I always had this feeling that I would miss out on something if I am not fast enough or if I waited too long. So I need everything as fast as possible obviously. So I raced through most of the opportunities and choices in my life not paying attention to any details. I used to constantly rush through life to achieve and get big things (that are “oh so important” in this materialistic world).

What really important is – is life itself but I did not pay attention to that. What do we learn when we grow up these days? We get something – then we have it, use it and throw it away because it either does not work anymore and we want something faster and better. This makes me feel empty in a way. What I still have not learned was the true purpose and meaning of patience.

So for me I took up writing at a young ago. I always wanted to write. I wrote my little diary when I was a kid but usually thinking to take writing further I am too scared and it is too much work to even start something in the first place – even if it is a blog. Not even talking about writing a book for instance. And then who would read it? There are so many other writers out there. So many who do a better job than I would ever do. I was scared of the amount of commitment and work to just start sitting down in the first place and write. I told my inner self for so long that it will take me forever until I come up with something of value. Or maybe I would never come up with anything.Then I have to mention that English is not my first language. German is.

I sat down one month ago and started writing this blog. I just started and I felt a building impatience. I deleted posts again, I rewrote, edited, deleted. It was constantly like this. Every time I felt I improved a bit I would get angry again and delete the post all over because I thought it was just bad. My body and brain worked independently. I saw myself as a failure. I so wanted to write something of value. Then again, what is “something of value”? If I post anything, it is now valuable for me. However, these feelings of criticism, anger and fear scared me. My husband always was patient and told me to start a blog and do what I love but I kept deleting my posts.

I know that it takes repetitive practice to get better at any skill. Though all these years of deleting things on a blog, crating a new blog, throwing aways writings, I discovered patience. Patience takes practice and it is hard – and is definitely not a virtue. I believe that patience is really to have trust that it all will work out in the end and about having some inner strength and to face your fears and stick to your guns. I gained some confidence slowly and my writing adjusted to some style I liked… I am still working on it a lot but I am able to publish it here now and feel good about it.

So gradually it is getting easier through patience. For me it is easy to just type and type but then I read it all over again and it seems without a concept again. There are perfect moments now that I feel pride and joy when I read what I have written because I learned to write better through patience and a lot of practice and even a lot more reading. And just like this another door opens to a new understanding of life. Rushing around does not get me anywhere. To write anything fast or even just to write something because of this and that does not make any sense. I lost enjoyment and patience of the moment and then did not write anything at all. This way we also miss our feelings, experiences and our individuality to create anything of value. The picture of a turtle comes to my mind now. Moving around with a nice steady natural pace, sure-footed and constant slow moves. Well now, all I can say is that I  love to write and and I am patient enough to master the skill even better and enjoy the journey which is the most important thing.

I have been practicing patience and it has dispelled my fears and it steadily drives me forward. It gives me new ideas, pushes me towards new goals and this makes me more appreciative of the journey and makes me feel more confident. Maybe patience is a virtue but we have to find our own path or route to understand it fully.

Looking up to someone

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“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”

I believe that it is important to seek out others to learn from and to admit that you do not have all the answers. I look for motivation, examples and guidance in others constantly. I love to read and I do so most of the day when I find some time with my 1 1/2 year old son. Continuous learning is important to me.

The way my son looks at my husband most of the time I believe that he just admires him. That he is encouraged, challenged and enlightened at the same time. With me it is a different story. I am around him most of the time so we are “used to each other”. My husband works in Mali and he sees him every four to six weeks. My son looks up to me as well but still different than he looks up to my husband. They have this strong bond that is just so amazing to watch. Almost as if they learn from each other – while looking at each other.

On a daily basis I choose my mentors and sometimes they choose me. It is just important to seek out for others with qualities you love and respect for your life. A good example is the relationship I have with my husband. I do not take him for granted. I am observant,  learn from him and he is my best friend. I love him so much and I look up to him. What he has done for our family is amazing. My son should have been in daycare by the time he was seven weeks old. But my husband took up on the UN mission in Mali so I am able to stay at home with my son and raise him myself. I am looking up to my husband on a daily basis for so many things. He makes me feel strong when I am weak. He gives me unconditional love at all times and he is there for me always even though he is not physically here. He is my mentor and teacher in many ways that I still need guidance.

Well, sometimes the mentors are person – sometimes they are professional. Or both! Sometimes the relationship is formal or informal.  We have to keep in mind that we are human beings who are made up of many many complex pursuits. We should always seek out to find people who are successful in a field that interests us. How they achieved it, how they maintain it, how they do in their personal life and in the working environment. Also reading books about a topic of interest, then learn about the person etc. Constantly reading 🙂

From my life experience I can say that I have learned that those who accomplish the most have done so with humility in their heart. On a daily basis we pursue influence in ourselves, in our families and in the world. We are supposed to learn form one another. I believe we cannot live and navigate this live without any mentors or anybody to look up to. It is important to admit that you do not have all the answers at times. Pride comes before a fall. Reject prideful arrogance. This arrogance will always prevent from reaching the full potential in life and work.

I know that if I want to make the most out of life I intentionally have to seek out others to learn from. “I know that I know nothing” right?

Complained enough?

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“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” —Tom Wilson

First of all, life is not perfect – it never will be and it never has been. To realize this as “Mrs. Complaining-all-the-time” is pretty awesome indeed. To understand this fact we can actually welcome a great number of possibilities. We know it deep down to be true that life is not perfect! So the question here is, if I know this to be a fact, why do I still complain all the time about its imperfections?

I am not alone here. We all do complain about the traffic, waiting for something, on something, the weather (too hot- too cold), too much weight, about tight clothing lateness and the prices of everything. The list is just endless: complaints about crying babies, spouses who are doing something we do not like, neighbors. Have we become a society of complainers? Well, and if we do complain, do we get a positive reaction? Any circumstances we complain about really? Almost never.

Our natural response is most of the time to express feelings of resentment, dissatisfaction, pain even boredom. I myself have to work on this because there are too many negative outcomes to these reactions. (Ask my husband). What does all the complaining do? It breeds and feeds usually a negative response and a negative attitude. If you gossip with someone for example it draws the attention to all the negative circumstances and aspects around you. I know what I am talking about because I have done it too many times. All this complaining never results in joy and feeling awesome – you just sink more and more in misery. And this impacts everyone around us. What complaining does? It creates more negativity! Misery just loves company. It just makes us feel better in the moment to complain and the more you focus on the “problem” and draw even more attention to it, it will direct more “negative” people towards you too.

This is for you Jean: “Complaining does not change a situations! Taking action does”! 

I believe that it is just ok to not be comfortable at points. But one does not have to complain all the time about the same things over and over because it emotionally and physically brings you down. Further, it is unattractive. Go to work and spend time with “negative people” and listen to their complaints. It is unenjoyable and annoying because usually there is this self-centered emphasis. Then I usually  feel like a victim as well. Blaming others, constantly blaming others that I feel better is usually what we do.

I figured out for myself that complaining less shifts the focus to the positive. It even makes you glow – makes you feel more at peace and content. How can we complain less? Good question!

I figured out some points for myself and would love to share them. I am far from perfect of using them but I try to apply these points daily.

Firstly it is important to know your triggers. When are you complaining the most? In the morning, late afternoon, evening? With your spouse? At work? With colleagues/friends? Try to avoid triggers/trigger words, even certain people. You should not surround yourself with negative people anyway.

I heard myself say many times: “I will never ever complain again/or gossip”! This usually never works. I just try to be mindful of particular situations and try maybe to go one day without complaining. I just concentrate on this one day and for me it works. There is also this slight difference between complaining and helpful criticism. Of course there will be times when it is appropriate to complain when something wrong has been committed for example.  Always ask yourself if the situation can be somehow resolved. If not, the complaints are useless.

It is important to know who you are talking to. Who is the audience? Can this person help me solve my problem or is there an interest in coming up with a solution for me? If you need to complain do it briefly and see how the other person reacts. Is the person helpful?

Many complain to validate their worth to others. For example they tell you how busy they are, and they do this and that and nobody notices it, and they work all these long hours and do so much more for their boss or job.  These things are usually said to subtly communicate their importance. Trying to impress others with complaints usually does not work either. Well if you need to do it at least you won’t have any friends in the long run or friends of importance.

The most important thing for me now is that I have to first consider alternatives before complaining. I used to never consider that there is a different way, a different approach. And of course the fact that this is an imperfect world. Life throws us curveballs once in a while and let’s us deal with situations we do not expect or we have not planned. Out of experience there is always pain, trial and trouble. But this is okay. This is life. This makes it interesting. My mom usually says: “The world does not revolve around you”! Discomfort in any way should not surprise me and I am not the only one experiencing it anyway. 

Usually complaining does only spread negativity and sparks conflict. I am happier without it and I try to move forward and embrace the positive instead.