This is the newest post in the series: 365 Thought Provoking Questions to Ask Yourself This Year I mentioned in my first post. I was excited about it and I still love some of the questions, but some of them are daft. So, to make things a little harder, this month I will answer 100 questions in 10 words or less. I love this challenge and I hope you’ll enjoy reading my answers. It was hard to answer using only 10 words. I skipped one because I wanted to talk more about it, so that is in the next update.
1. Do you ever celebrate the green lights?
Not really. This is what I meant on daft questions.
2. What personal prisons have you built out of fears?
None, the notion of prison is too harsh.
3. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?
Go on a very long hike.
4. Why are you, you?
I’m me due to past experiences and born characteristics.
5. If you haven’t achieved it yet what do you have to lose?
What I achieved so far.
Last month I answered to 28 Provoking Questions from the list of 365. As this month has 31 days, I’ll answer to 31 more questions. I hope you don’t find the post too long, there are a lot of questions.
01. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
I hope I would have said as much as it was necessary and also I hope I would have done as much as it was necessary.
02. If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?
Eat your veggies! Just joking, I don’t know, why is there a large group of people, maybe they are gathered to talk about something else and me mentioning veggies would be strange.
03. If the average human lifespan was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
I can’t answer this question. I chose to live my life considering my lifespan is 70-80, so my choices reflected that. The whole world would have been different with a lifespan of 40, like it was a couple of hundred years ago.
04. What do we all have in common besides our genes that makes us human?
We have so many things in common, even when we don’t agree, the “why” behind our actions can be the same.
05. Which is worse, failing or never trying?
Those Facebook memes aren’t always right. It depends on why someone would like to try or should try and, of course, the thing they are thinking of trying. Never trying sky diving is better than failing at it, isn’t it?
Although trying to hand feed the wild geese is a great idea, do try it.
06. If you could choose one book as a mandatory read for all high school students, which book would you choose?
I asked my husband his opinion, what I would say and he said exactly the book that I would choose. I prefer not to say which one because it’s not a novel and the reason to pick that one isn’t exactly to promote it.
If some questions will be too personal, I will avoid answering them or I will answer vaguely. But the purpose of this series I’m starting is to look more in depth of things I might avoid. Knowing the why and asking the question is the first step into solving a problem.
1. When was the last time you tried something new?
When it comes to food, I try new things weekly, recipes or ingredients. When it comes to activities, I learned how to make my own perfume and I enjoyed that a lot.
2. Who do you sometimes compare yourself to?
I make an effort not to compare myself to others. I don’t know their story and how they got where they are. As a blogger I might compare myself with other bloggers, or I compare myself with high-school colleagues and I do that when it comes to work. As soon as I realize I do that, I stop and I try to take a step back.
3. What’s the most sensible thing you’ve ever heard someone say?
I don’t know. At the moment I have as a background on my laptop: Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.
4. What gets you excited about life?
Traveling with my family, my work, cooking.
5. What life lesson did you learn the hard way?
All life lessons are learned the hard way, or they wouldn’t be life lessons.
6. What do you wish you spent more time doing five years ago?
Nothing really. I just moved to UK and everything was new and exciting. I was visiting the city and discovering new ingredients and recipes. It was so exciting.
7. Do you ask enough questions or do you settle for what you know?
I ask many questions. I’m very interested in discovering the WHY behind the actions.
8. Who do you love and what are you doing about it?
I love my husband and our dog. I should do more about it, more special moments, less arguing over stupid things.
9. What’s a belief that you hold with which many people disagree?
Some of my beliefs would be quite controversial to disclose on my blog, so I will refrain from that. One I talked about is being vegetarian. At the moment there are more people eating meat than veg*ns, so it’s something the majority of the people will disagree.
10. What can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?
This is a very interesting question. The first thing that I though of is that now I am happy to make decorations with fondant. I was scared to try it, because I wanted to be perfect. When I stopped being scared, I tried it and I loved it. Funnily enough, I think the decorations I made look perfect.
11. Do you think crying is a sign of weakness or strength?
Neither. I don’t like revealing my feelings in public, so I almost never cry if others can see me. I can’t say I cry often though.
12. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
If it’s something I believe in, I don’t care if others will judge me. They might judge me either way, but it’s my life and I must be the one happy with it.
13. Do you celebrate the things you do have?
Yes, it’s a part of being happy. I’m not a naturally happy person, but I know that and I know how to put myself in the position to focus on the happy things. Celebrating the things I have is a part of it. For example, we celebrate the day we bought our home.
14. What is the difference between living and existing?
It’s a huge difference, obviously.
15. If not now, then when?
Good question. Well, let’s try now.
16. Have you done anything lately worth remembering?
It’s work related, so I’ll not get into details. I was so happy and proud when I saw the results, a special moment.
17. What does your joy look like today?
Going to see something new, having a laugh with my husband and walking with the dog.
18. Is it possible to lie without saying a word?
Yes, of course.
19. If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow this person to be your friend?
I think this is the most important question from the whole lot. I don’t know, but it’s a question I will ask myself monthly and hopefully answer will be a longer and longer time.
We know we should be kind to others, but being kind to ourselves makes us egoists, doesn’t it?
20. Which activities make you lose track of time?
Reading and cooking.
21. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
22. What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?
I’m not sure if regret is the best word, as I love what I’m doing, but I would have loved to be able to practice what I studied at Uni. I also think it’s a shame I be even more organized.
As for regrets of not having someone in my life, it wasn’t fully my choice. Even if I pushed someone out, it was their actions that brought us to that point.
23. Are you holding onto something that you need to let go of?
I think we all do that.
24. When you are 80-years-old, what will matter to you the most?
I don’t know, I’m not in that position.
25. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards and just do what you know is right?
I don’t think there is ever a time to stop calculating risks. I also don’t think there is a time to not do what I know is right. I didn’t feel this way 10 years ago, but I was 10 years younger and less mature.
26. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
Well, 5 when I’m playing with the dog or picking up Disney JPs because they are cute. I can also be around my age (hopefully less) when I’m dressing smartly. And around Mary Berry’s age when I’m baking the perfect Victoria sponge.
27. Would you break the law to save a loved one?
This is a strange question. The law doesn’t always depicts the moral values that any of us might have. For example, would I speed up while driving to get my husband to the hospital if it’s nobody on the streets and it’s safe? I think most of us would say yes. I’m not sure I would say yes because I don’t usually drive and I might get ourselves killed before we reach the hospital.
I can say I think I would break the law, if it’s in accordance with my moral values, to save a loved one.
28. What makes you smile?
The dog makes me smile every single day. My husband makes me smile, cooking makes me smile, my work makes me smile.
I’m not sure if the title “Why I’m celebrating Valentine’s Day” is the best one, as I’m celebrating with my husband, obviously, so I should have included him in my title too. He has the same reasons as I; basically, it’s fun, there is chocolate and/or cake, a special meal and cards.
Last year in late January and early February I had a couple of discussions with friends about Valentine’s Day. Some said it’s a commercial day, all about buying, other said that it should be: “Valentine’s Day EVERYDAY”. Well, I can’t disagree more with both points. There are cards and gifts for everything, from V day to Christmas, moving to a new house, Halloween and so on. I don’t see why is that a bad thing. Every relationship is different, we rarely buy things for each other for anniversaries or Valentine’s Day, that is what works for us.
The second point, of “Valentine’s Day EVERYDAY” adds so much pressure on a relationship. I can’t expect my husband to bring me flowers every single day for the rest of our lives, we can’t have pink/red cakes and drinks/cocktails every single day and we do disagree sometimes. On top of that, we are busy with work and life, without having to build a house extension for all those flowers and working out a couple of hours each day to burn all those extra calories from the cake.
I hope you, my reader, are impressed with the stained glass biscuits I made, recipe will follow on CookStyle, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
1. Special moments. I strongly believe that a happy marriage (relationship) needs special moments. This is, in my mind, the reason to celebrate anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. I mentioned anniversaries because we do have a lot of those: the day we’ve met, our first date, our 1st wedding, our 2nd wedding (2 months after the 1st one), the day we moved in together. We also celebrate the day we took Festus, our dog. I know when it’s 4th of February that is the day we moved in together, I can’t just ignore that, even if we are away with work, we can do something a little bit special.
We’ve been a couple for 14 years, we moved houses, countries, changed a few jobs, got pets, we’ve renovated both homes we bought. Anniversaries and Valentine’s Day too bring back happy memories from years ago and we also make new memories for years to come.
One time, for Valentine’s Day, I talked with a friend of ours. He said he is not celebrating V day because he doesn’t seem to find a reason to do so. I told him only one thing, that his girlfriend might actually like celebrating it. He and I made reservations at a restaurant in the countryside and all four of us went there for dinner. The restaurant wasn’t busy as it is far from the city, it had some heart confetti on the table and a chocolate heart. Next day, our friend told me it was a fab idea, his girlfriend was happy and it was a lovely evening.
2. Cards. I love cards. I spend a lot of time looking in shops to find the perfect one and it’s a thing I like to do. All the cards I receive in an year are going in a drawer and, after Christmas, I put them in a zip bag and they go on top of the cards from the last years. I’m not sure what happened with the cards I had before, they might be in a box in my in-laws’ loft.
3. Food, food, food. Another reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day is the food. I love preparing special meals or going to new restaurants. My husband isn’t as excited about special dinners because, if I cook, we might not even know how an ingredient or two are called. I do that, I get strange things to cook and, most of the time, I love them. Of course, we also have dessert, cake or cheesecake in a jar type of dessert, maybe biscuits and chocolate… maybe more than 1 dessert.
For Valentine’s Day we usually stay at home. I love cooking and we might prepare the meal together, as my husband is a great cook too. The only downside is that he is more traditional when it comes to food; he likes to know the names of both dishes and ingredients. Cooking together is part of the fun for us.
In this post I’m going to talk about diet and, more precisely, why I’m never going to say no to cake and pasta and bread and all the things I like. On January all the ads with “indulgence”, “treat yourself” and recipes for fatty Christmas foods are gone. Now it’s time for “New Year New You” and “getting fit” and offers on healthy snacks and workout DVDs. I believe that the shops and supermarkets are only responding to what people want and what they are looking for. I don’t believe that. I don’t think there is a time to indulge and there is a time to… well, not eat anything you like. I think I escaped going round in circles by not saying no to cake and when I say cake I mean every food I like.
This slice of Victoria sponge is from a couple of days ago. Loved it.
For Christmas I prepared a lot of food, as you can see in my Christmas menu and I received chocolate as gift. Well, I ate the Christmas pudding in January because it was too much food during Christmas, I’m yet to open the chocolate I received then. I had no wish to overindulge because I always eat what I want.
I remember a few years ago reading something like: “if you are going on a diet, at some point you are going to get off a diet”. It’s true and I say it doesn’t work. Restrictions are only going to build up frustrations and that will lead to overeating when the diet is over or, most likely, at the first birthday/holiday/occasion.
The hard truth is that most of us will put on weight if we eat more than we need to. Of course there are people that have health issues, I’m not talking about that. Luckily, I don’t have any health issues, so, for me, any weight I put on or loose comes down to how well I’m balancing my diet to my lifestyle. So far, in the last years I did ok. I have the same weight today that I had last year in January, 3-4 pounds more comparing to January 2015 and 2-3 pounds less comparing to January 2014. During the summer, I usually have a few pounds less and now I’m hoping to get to that weight and maintain it during winter too. The only reason for this fluctuation is that I burn less calories as I have more work to do, I have less time for workouts and we have shorter outside activities as it’s colder.
When it comes to food I’ve made this mistake once, to change all the food I was eating and bring it to a healthy standards no matter what. I stopped because I was getting bored and I had no time due to changes at work. I put back some of the weight as the food I was eating had more calories that I needed. Now I’m achieving a happy medium I would say. I eat cake, like the one in the picture, but I will try to make it as healthy as possible without compromising the taste. It’s a Victoria sponge, it has loads of butter, but I used a mixture of wholemeal and white flour, I put a shop-bought strawberry jam with the first ingredient in its ingredients list being strawberries and not sugar. I used whipping cream instead of double cream as it has less fat and didn’t even consider the option of buttercream. I will also try to eat it as early as possible, for example after lunch and not after dinner. Small things that, in my experience, have a significant impact.
Because I cook and bake at home, I have a lot of flexibility. I’ve reduced the amount of sugar and fat I use in cooking, gradually. Now, after a few years, my husband and I can’t eat some of the things that are available in the supermarkets and some restaurants. I can’t eat chocolate spread because I can only taste the sugar and it’s not nice, I can’t drink sugary drinks and most desserts. I don’t enjoy any of those things. It’s not a restriction and it didn’t start as a restriction, but as a way to eat more healthy and I reduced the amount I was consuming.
If you want to try something new, that might really change your life forever, is not to refuse yourself anything. If you want cake, eat cake, if you want chips, eat chips. Try to discover better ways to enjoy them, like in the mornings or for lunch or eat a smaller portion. If you can, make it yourself with wholemeal versions, replace the animal fat with 1 spoon or two of oil and add some grated cheese on top if you want to. For pasta and rice, think of less fatty sauces and recipes, add some mushrooms. I love this kind of vegan pasta with all sort of veggies. Sometimes I would add some cheese on top, but most of the times I would eat it as it is. My husband prefers pasta like this too.
Another thing I do is to balance what I’m eating in a day. If I had a soup & sandwiches for breakfast and pasta & cake for lunch, I would make a stir-fry for dinner, with loads of veggies and spices, but very few calories.
Do you eat the cake? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Today marks 5 years since I first set foot on British soil and now I can’t imagine ever wanting to live anywhere else. Last year I’ve made a funny list of 15 things I learned as an expat in UK, the year before I wrote about how I’ve changed a little and three years ago I talked about feeling at home. Something I’ve noticed that, through the years, I’ve started talking more and more about me as a Brit. Does it matter that I’m not born here? I don’t know and I don’t think it matters. For me, how I feel matters more.
I love my life here and this year I was keen on talking about why. I always struggle with this posts because I don’t want to leave the impression that life in Romania is bad in any way. It’s not. Most Romanians love their lives there. I just prefer to live here, it’s more suitable for my style, to my approach to living and my beliefs. It gets too serious, so lets switch to my:
10 reasons Why I love UK
1. The weather! I might have mentioned this before (100s of times). I can wear my shoes most of the time. I love that. The same applies to clothes. I’m used to a wider range of temperatures, so the Liverpudlian weather is pretty much a Spring/Autumn type of weather all the time.
It doesn’t rain.
2. FOOD. Chips, I love chips and not those thin French fries, pies, roast carrots, houmous with all sorts of additions like roasted peppers or mint and asparagus, Brussels sprouts, risotto, curries, cheddar, soups, lemon meringue pie, sticky toffee pudding, banoffee pie, scones, mince pies, Eton mess, salted caramel, Christmas puddings and Victoria sponge. Not all are British per say, but I discovered them here.
Another thing I love about food is that I can get so many different ingredients that I never used before, some British, some oriental: Rhubarb, chard, winter melon, parwal, plaintain, purple yam, black beans.
3. Having fun. There are so many amazing things we can do here, like driving an F1 simulator, going to a 200 year old pub or a castle, a beautiful tearoom or an old mill.
4. The landscape is beautiful. I’m one of those persons who finds boring a landscape with a blue sea and a white beach. At the same time I can admire for hours a windy coast with a dark looking water and rocks. I also love the green hills with sheep or cows dotted here and there. The hills are still green in winter. The canals are beautiful all year round and it’s very relaxing to walk along them.
5. The literature and the music. I read Byron as a teenager (I was geeky, I know). I also read Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters. I will also read modern novelists like Mary Balogh or Sophie Kinsella. My favourite song is Imagine. To mention a few: Elton John, Queen, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Amy Winehouse, Adele.
6. Beautiful cities and villages. I love Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester, York, Conwy, Powis and so many others.
7. Tea. I didn’t use to drink tea, now I tell my husband we should get a new flavour of tea. From flowering tea to the traditional Earl Grey, I love tea. I can’t imagine how I lived so many years without cream tea.
8. Helpful neighbours. They will pull your bin in the garden if you are not at home. They will take a huge parcel if you are not in. It’s fab.
9. Bird feeding. I fed geese in The Netherlands for the first time, many years ago, and I loved it. The birds are quite keen on getting food and they will take it from our hands, that’s so cute. It’s one of my favourite pass times.
10. Outlander and Game of Thrones. I don’t need to cross the border to see the filming locations. It’s true it’s quite a hassle to get to Northen Irland as the ferry takes a lot and it’s the only way we can get there with the car. But, that being said, I hope we’ll go there in the next couple of years.
With Christmas fast approaching, I had a look online for pros and cons about the Christmas trees. I decided to write about my views on this matter. As a child I had real Christmas trees and my mother switched to an artificial one as I got older.
My husband and I, when we moved together many years ago we bought our first artificial tree. That was before our wedding and we kept the tree until we moved to UK. When I was going through the things we had (a lot of things, as we had a full 2 bed flat filled with furniture and white goods and all sort of small and big things), I asked my mother if she wants the tree. The tree was ok, not amazing, as we didn’t have a lot of money for this, as we finished Uni and had not-so-well-paid jobs. My mother was happy to take it because, while she has lovely Christmas decorations for home, she needed one to decorate an office that is used only a few hours each week. So, the tree we got 11 years ago is still used every year and it looks fine.
This is how the tree looked like the last time we used it. Festus was 1.
We also had one year a real tree, as a second tree, with roots that I wanted to plant outside. It died before I got the chance to plant it. It was very upsetting.
After moving to UK, in the first year we’ve decided to get a small real tree with roots from a supermarket. It died. As it was the second time it happened, I was so upset and I’ve decided against getting one with roots, unless I’m well prepared to look after it.
In 2012, the following year, we got our current Christmas tree, an artificial one. It looks great and it doesn’t shed a lot. By the looks of it, we might use it for another 10 years without any issues. In addition to that, this year we’ve got a couple of garlands to decorate the staircase. Last year we had tinsel and I think it will look better with garlands.
The thing I was wondering is how eco-friendly the artificial trees are. The discussion is not as clear as one might think. It’s true that, eventually, after years of using the tree, it will end up in a landfill somewhere. But, as the same time, the number of real trees I would have bought during the years would have a similar effect, maybe even worse. The real trees, unless they are bought from a local farm, are transported and that adds up to the carbon footprint they create.
Another thing to take into consideration when it comes to real trees, is how they are farmed, soil erosion can be an issue. Other things that will affect the environment are pesticides and fertilizers, used especially in climates that aren’t great for this kind of trees.
What you do with the tree after Christmas can have an impact too. I store my tree in the loft, but a real tree can be shredded and used as natural fertilizer. If it’s not recycled, it’s worse than keeping it in the loft.
After carefully considering all the pros and cons. I’m very happy with the artificial tree that we have. When eventually it will not be suitable, I think I will get a real tree from a local farm that has recycling service after Christmas. I’m not sure if I’m prepared to go through all the hassle of having a real tree, with a lot of shedding and that we can’t have it from early December, as we like.
If you have an artificial tree that you want to change, think of ways how to use it: donate it to a local charity or use bits of it for the following Christmas for decor. Small twigs can be added as decor on Christmas gifts or wreaths can be made from the branches.
Do you prefer a real tree or an artificial one? I would love to hear your thoughts.