The Baltic Sea in winter – just breathe and relax!

Most people think of summer when they think about booking a seaside holiday. The beach, cocktails, swimming in the sea while soaking up the sun sounds like a match made in heaven.

And it is, I don’t disagree. But there is another perfect time to book a little seaside getaway, and that time is… November.

The Baltic Sea in Winter
The Baltic Sea in Winter

Of course, swimming isn’t up there on the list of November activities, but there are a lot of advantages when you travel throughout the colder months. Read more


157 Comments

Recent Reads – Mr. Penumbras 24 hours book store

If you are unfamiliar with the „Recent Reads“ series, click here for an explanation.
Short story even shorter: I tell you about books I have recently read (came as quite a surprise, regarding the title, hm?)

Reading essentials

Now that fall is here and the weather has been cold and grey again, I have been in the mood for tea, a blanket and a good book.
Not that I mind a good book all year round, the one I will be talking about today was read throughout the height of summer, but reading when the rain is pouring outside is my idea of a cozy evening.

Mr. Penumbra´s 24 hour book store is one I picked because of the cover from my Skoobe library (I have since cancelled my membership as I was disappointed with the selection they offer) and once again enjoyed a lot.
It was written by Robin Sloan, a 36 year old american writer and IT business engineer, currently living in San Francisco.

Mr. Penumbra´s 24 hours book store



The topic:
Former web designer and long-time roleplaying nerd Clay Jannon starts working the night shift at a very strange 24 hours book store. What is meant to be a filler job to pay the rent fastly becomes a fascinating puzzle:
What is hidden in the „forbidden books section“ he isn’t allowed to touch?
Who are the strange customers that seem to use the books in there to solve an ancient mystery?
And what does it need to get the attention of Kat, good-looking and fiercly intelligent Google girl?

Relying on his former RPG role as rogue he gathers his missing party members (fighter and mage) and ventures deep into a secret society, relying on the modern magic of Google and the WWW to investigate their secrets.

Did I like it?
Yes.
One thing you may not yet know about me is that I have been playing RPG since I turned 14, and even now, a grown-up woman aged 36, I still meet up with some friends once a month to throw some dice and imagine I am a magician.
This book combines mystery, books and roleplaying adventures, and it does in the best possible way. Before you think that only fellow nerds out there will appreciate it (I know some of you are), rest assured that it is a book that even someone who hasn’t read the „Dragonlance“ chronicles (they play an important role in solving the riddle) will enjoy.
Despite dealing with the topics of friendship, eternal life and the growing belief that the internet provides the answer to all our questions, leading us to rely too much on Google and too little on our personal experience, it is an easy read, but one that will leave you with food for thoughts and appreciation of the everyday magic around you.

Who do I recommend it to?
Fellow RPGlers, obviously.
Anyone looking for some adventure in their everyday life. You know it is there, hidden beneath something as boring as your day to day job!
Anyone interested to learn more about how Google actually works. The book provides interesting insight into work flow and the companies ideas.

Anyone else read this one before? How do you feel about it?
And who has tried RPGs (be it classic or computer based) before?

MerkenMerken


Leave a comment

Hidden Gems – Cup & Cake in Queenstown

Don’t you just love it when you discover a new spot simply by accident?
When all you do is aimlessly roam the streets, looking for a bite to eat, no fancy guide leading your steps?
When you decide to go down this small street, peek into the patio, climb these stairs and there it is?
A place full of warmth, laughter and delicious food?
This is what happened when we got caught in a sudden downpour while exploring Queenstown. We were wet and cold, hungry and tired and every place we came across was crowded.
But then we took a wrong turn, walking down a cobbled street and I spotted the promising sign:
Cup & Cake

Can it get much better than that?
Let´s step inside and see.


The „Cup & Cake“ is a small café and take-away with just a few spots to sit, located in the Cupcake Lane (no joke) between Church Street and Seare Lane, Queenstown, New Zealand.

There is a retro feeling to the decoration which can easily be described as a bloggers dream: florals, mirrors and fairy lights, the essentials for picture taking, already provided.
If I had had my makeup bag with me, I would have spend the afternoon snapping Pinterest-worthy product pictures for sure!

The interior. Decoration inspiration everywhere.

To distract you even more, you can watch the lovely stuff prepare the delicacies, add the finishing touches to the decoration and chat about all things bakery.

Tiny red marzipan flowers
But enough interior, lets take a look at what we were really there for: The food!
A giant buttercream wedding cake on display. Additional decoration possible 
One of the many flavors: Banana Chocolate Cupcakes
So after taking a dozen pictures and going back and forth in deciding for a flavor, I finally settled for this:
So yummy

A pot of „Lady Grey“ and a Passionfruit Vanilla Cupcake with Chocolate Chips.

Now for those of you wondering:
Of course I dropped that I was planning to do a blogpost and thus took so many pictures.
They smiled, but I still had to pay for my cupcake. Guess what?
Whenever I get back to Queenstown, I will gladly do it again!

So if you are looking for a cake, branded cupcakes or other sweet treats that are available gluten and dairy free as well as vegan, click here to see what they offer!


70 Comments

Recent Reads – „The summer we all ran away“ by Cassandra Parkin

If you are unfamiliar with the „Recent Reads“ series, click here for an explanation.
Short story even shorter: I tell you about books I have recently read (came as quite a surprise, regarding the title, hm?)

Reading Essentials

This months book is one from the „Pick one random from the Skoobe library“- Category.
I chose it because it was only available in English (so exclusive!) and I liked the picture on the cover.
Talking about an eclectic taste in books…

Meet „The summer we all ran away“ by Cassandra Parkin, published in August 2013.

The summer we all ran away (Picture Source)

The topic:
Domestic violence, coming out, feeling rejected and loosing faith, these are the things you will read about.
Sounds like a depressing, sad, and uncomfortable read?
Well, it isn’t.
In fact it is a page turner, leaving you with a warm feeling and the renewed belief that there is a place for everyone in this world and that things do fall in place in the end, no matter how grim they looked before.

It is impossible to tell you much about the story without giving things away, so I will keep it very short:
Davey, aged 19, flees his violent stepfather and ends up in a strange manor, welcomed by a bunch of other people who live there, never talk about their past and have all been led to this place by a picture of said house.
Where do they all come from?
Why are there so many hidden chambers no one is allowed to enter?
And what is hiding in the woods?

Two stories are told, one focussing on Davey and one dealing with things that happened there several years before he arrived.
Of course they come together in the end, solving the mystery of the manor, but until they do, you are given pieces of a puzzle, one by one, and desperately trying to figure out what will happen next.

Did I like it?
Yes. I started reading it one night and finished it the next, because I just couldn’t stop.
The book left me in tears, made me smile and had me waking Mr. Loca in the middle of the night just to tell him how much I loved him.
Or rephrased in „Youth Talk“ (as this is supposed to be coming-of-age literature): Giving me all the feels!

You see, sometimes taking chances is worth it!
If I were left with the task to categorize this book, it would be hard. Yes, there is Mystery, but it isn’t Fantasy. It is appropriate for Teens (and one of the books I would encourage my daughter to read), but I am way beyond my coming-of-age-years and truly enjoyed it.

So who do I recommend it to?
Anyone.
If you are feeling sad, read it and see that there is still hope.
If you are happy, read it and loose yourself in other peoples way through the dark.
If you are bored, try and solve the case of the lost owner.
If you are into Fantasy, read it and try to figure out what is lurking in the woods.
Or, bottom line:
Just read it. You won’t regret it.

Anyone else out there sharing my love for this book?
And what was your latest read?

MerkenMerken


51 Comments

On my plate – Red lentil soup with fennel

If you don’t know the „On my plate“-posts I do, please check here for some explanation.

In a nutshell, I share with you recipes that are
– healthy (most of the time)
– delicious (at least in my opinion)
– easy (I´m not much of a cook)
and are great for kids.

Please keep in mind: I don’t believe in following a strict diet. Neither do I do Low-Carb, cut out dairy completely, feel the need to eat gluten-free nor do I count calories. 
I am a part-time pescetarian due to the fact that most of the meat we get is full of antibiotics and that the animals suffer to keep up with the obscene amount of meat the western world consumes everyday. Part-time because my husband is a hunter, and I gladly eat the meat he brings home, for I know the game he gets me roamed the woods freely and wasn’t fed growth-inducing hormones.
Feel free to adapt the recipes to your own dietary needs and preferences.

Red lentil soup with fennel

As you can read above, I need a source of protein other than meat (we eat fish about twice a week).
Of course eating cheese and greek yoghurt is one option to make sure you get what your body needs, but for all the vegans, the lactose-intolerants and the cheese-haters (will never understand that…) out there, legumes are the way to go.

So today on the menu: A red lentils soup with fennel!
Don’t be mistaken by the word „soup“ though, this is a hearty and filling stew, made summer appropriate by adding the fennel for some freshness.

It is meant to be a colorful and thus mood-lifting arrangement, too, having red lentils and green fennel, but the lentils I chose this time went from red to brown, kind of ruining the looks, but not the taste.
And the taste is what counts, am I right?

What you will need


The ingredients (2 servings):
– One small onion
– 150g dried red lentils
– 700 ml vegetable broth
– 200 g fennel
– 2 cloves of garlic (less if you aren’t that much into garlic, but I love it)
– Olive Oil
– Salt, (cayenne) pepper and bell pepper powder for seasoning

How to:
– Cut the onion, mash the garlic and stew them with some olive oil
– Add vegetable broth and lentils and cook for around 10 minutes on low heat
– Add fennel (cut into small cubes) and cook for around five minutes more
– Season to taste

In the original recipe (see here) there is a side of yoghurt served to add some more freshness, but I prefer it without that. Just the fennel works very well for me.

As always, make sure to mush or process food for very small children.

Quick, easy and healthy. Another one for the busy mom-on-the-go.

Do you like legumes?
And if so, which is your favorite way of serving them?


66 Comments

Recent Reads – „Skinny Bitch“ by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

If you are unfamiliar with the „Recent Reads“ series, click here for an explanation.
Short story even shorter: I tell you about books I have recently read (came as quite a surprise, regarding the title, hm?)

This time I will share with you a book I picked from my Skoobe library when I was bored.
I picked it because I am quite into healthy eating, it said it was „life-changing“ and a „New York Times Bestseller“ and because I wanted a break from reading fiction.

Reading Essentials

The title itself is quite explicit: „Skinny Bitch – The truth about crappy diets, fat women and good looks“.

The topic as described by Amazon:
Not your typical boring diet book, this is a tart-tongued, no-holds barred wakeup call to all women who want to be thin. With such blunt advice as „Soda is liquid Satan“ and „You are a total moron if you think the Atkins Diet will make you thin“, it is a rallying car for all savvy women to start eating healthy and looking radiant.
Unlike standard diet books, it actually makes the reader laugh out loud with its truthful, smart-mouthed revelations. Behind all the attitude, however, there is solid guidance.

Source: Amazon

The topic as I see it:
Definitely not your typical diet book.
The authors, a model/nutritionist and the owner of a model company, share their view on healthy food, eating meat and diet myths using a language meant to be „girlfriend talk“, but in my eyes borderline offensive.

Did I like it:
No.
For several reasons.

If any of my girlfriends would use this kind of language while speaking to me (or anyone else in my presence), we would have some serious talk afterwards.
The only place I have heard people talk to each other like this is during trash TV shows where people are payed to yell at each other about having sex with their neighbors dog (not an actual topic – I hope! – but you get the point)
If you want to draw attention to your topic, try using the topic, not abusive language.

Going the same way is the whole chapter about eating meat.
Yes, I am well aware of the way animals are treated before they end up being consumed by humans, and yes, it is an important topic that gets way to little publicity.
I am living pescetarian myself 95% of the time, and I salute everyone who has decided to go fully vegan.
But for one thing: Being vegetarian/vegan is NOT about weight loss.
And for another thing: Reading the descriptions they gave in this chapter made me actually gag.
And I am by no means a sensible soul when it comes to written content or violence.
This may be the way it is, but again: Let the topic speak for itself. No need to traumatize a teenager reading your book!

Putting all this aside, just focusing on the facts included, I still have complaints.
The authors do have some good points, like: Stay away from refined sugar, Complex carbs aren’t as bad as some people tell you and Eat more vegetables, but they go on mixing this with things that are simply and utterly wrong!
It is NOT TRUE that eating too much protein will injure your kidneys. Fact is, if your kidneys are injured, they can’t excrete the protein as well as they used to, so you should watch your protein intake then.
And this is just one example.

Now I am lucky to know a good share about nutrition and human bodies myself, so I can filter facts from myths and maybe get some useful information from reading it. But for the average reader, who is neither nutritionist nor physician, and probably from a younger audience, there are some dangerous misconceptions hidden in there.

So if I started living by these rules, I would probably get skinnier.
If I were as strict about cutting out refined sugar, I would probably get healthier.
But if I had to cope with this language any longer, I would for sure become a bitch!

MerkenMerken


38 Comments

On my plate – Vegetable Hot Pot

In the life of every parent comes the moment when you decide to start feeding your child the same food you eat on a day to day basis.

In my life, this was a moment of truth.
I looked at what I had been eating for the last few weeks and suddenly realized that it had been neither wholesome nor nutritious and for sure not the kind of food I would want Little Bean to have.

And if your diet is that bad you wouldn’t want your child to eat that way, you´d better make some changes!

Nutritious, quick and suitable for children was my mission, and being that talkative person I am, I decided to take you with me and share some recipes.

Greens for Spring

First one on the menu: A Vegetable Hot Pot.

Please keep in mind: I don’t believe in following a strict diet. Neither do I do Low-Carb, cut out dairy completely, feel the need to eat gluten-free nor do I count calories. 
I am a part-time pescetarian due to the fact that most of the meat we get is full of antibiotics and that the animals suffer to keep up with the obscene amount of meat the western world consumes everyday. Part-time because my husband is a hunter, and I gladly eat the meat he brings home, for I know the game he gets me roamed the woods freely and wasn’t fed growth-inducing hormones.
Feel free to adapt the recipes to your own dietary needs and preferences.

When I grew up, my mother claimed I wouldn’t eat anything green. Of course that was a major exaggeration, but I was kind of picky with my vegetables.
One thing that I always loved though was sweet corn, so it was an obvious first choice as the main player in my Vegetable Hot Pot.

The ingredients:
– Sweet Corn
– Peas
– Green Beans
– Potatoes
– Feta Cheese
– Vegetable Broth
There are no indications of quantity as I usually just eyeball everything, but if you need reference, two big potatoes for any adult and two handful of each vegetable along with one 250 g feta cheese will get you some leftovers.

Delicious!

How to:
1. Peel and cut the potatoes
2. Boil the potatoes in the vegetable broth
3. About five minutes before the potatoes are done add the sweet corn, peas and beans
4. Another five minutes later (longer when the vegetables are still frozen) add the cut up feta cheese.
5. The cheese will melt and form a creamy, cheesy sauce with the not evaporated Vegetable Broth.

I usually make a big pot of this and take the leftovers to work the next day, as it tastes extra delicious heated up.
This recipe is gluten-free, contains no processed food but contains dairy/lactose.

If you serve this to small children, make sure you mush the peas and sweet corn so they don’t choke on them!

Little Bean loves it, I enjoy the fact that except from peeling the potatoes there is absolutely no preparation necessary and the cheesy flavor makes it the perfect comfort food when it is rainy and grey outside without being to heavy.
Ticks all my boxes!

What are your go-to healthy recipes?
And what is your favorite vegetable?


44 Comments

Tea time – Wax Lyrical and NEOM Candles

Every family has their own rituals, and while they may seem boring or plain while we still live at home, they often turn out to be the things we miss most after we moved out.

At our place, it was „Teestunde“, probably best translated with „Tea time“.
Every day when it got dark outside my mother would brew a pot of tea from tea leaves (not teabags, mind you!), light some candles and sit down with a book. And slowly, one after the other, me and my sisters would join her, either reading or reflecting on our day while sipping tea and enjoying some cookies.
There was no obligation to join, if you were out, no worries, but if you were at home, you were automatically drawn there for a bit of family time.

Scented Candles Wax Lyrical, Neom

I never realized how much I enjoyed that until I moved out.
Suddenly, when it grew dark, no one would make tea and light candles, and after a few weeks I realized I had to do it myself.

Up until now, living on my own for more than 16 years, my husband and I sit down at around six pm with a cup, calling it a day.

The scent of tea gives me comfort and helps me unwind, so I was excited when I discovered this tea based scented candle line by Wax Lyrical in collaboration with Fired Earth (who usually do wall paint and tiles and that jazz).

Each scent has been inspired by a wall paint (the color, obviously, not the scent of paint) and the glass jars are tinted to match that color.

Out of the seven scents to choose from I picked two: Black Tea & Jasmin, in a black jar, and Chai & Lime Blossom, in a cream jar.

While I paid 24,95 € in store, you can get them for around 22 € from amazon.

According to the website, they will burn for 55 hours. I have yet to track my candles using a stopwatch, so I can’t vouch for that, but thus far they didn’t burn down to quickly.

The scent is strong enough to fill my entire flat within half an hour and I can still smell it in the living room the next morning if I burned it the night before.
Unlit, you can subtly smell the candle within two meters distance.

Wax Lyrical Black Tea & Jasmine

Black Tea & Jasmine is described as a „rich oriental blend“, containing cedar wood, clove leaf, eucalyptus, geranium, guaicwood, lemon, patchouli and black tea.
It is a dark, spicy scent I liked a lot during the colder months. Even though the jasmine is noticeable, it is not in a sweet, floral way, but heavy and with a hint of burning wood.

Wax Lyrical Chai & Lime Blossom



Chai & Lime Blossom is described as „soothing scent of warm chai spices layered with fresh notes of lime blossom and bergamot on a base of sweet cocoa and vanilla“, containing lemon, cinnamon leaf and bark, pimento leaf and geranium.
While the sweetness is undeniably there, this candle smells fresh enough to have me thinking of summer, with the citrus sting watered down by the spices.
It is warm enough not to be confused with cleaning agents, but crisp enough to smell of spring, if that makes sense?

Can you tell I struggle with describing scents?

Sneakily added to the above picture is a small NEOM candle in „Real Luxury“, which I received in a GWP by Cult Beauty. The full size (420g, 3 wicks, 50 hours burn time) retails for 62 € here.
This is my first ever NEOM candle, but the blogosphere is full of excitement about there scent range and all organic ingredients, so I am very happy to finally get to burn one.

Neom Candle Real Luxury

Real Luxury is described as „Cashmere blankets and the flutter of the fireside warmth, a precious moment of utter luxury.“, containing jasmine, lavender and Brazilian rosewood.
To be honest, I don’t get the flutter of fireside warmth. To me, this is a candle best placed near the bath tub. The smell reminds me of the soothing blend of oils they use for a full body massage, and smelling it while I soak in a hot tub is the epitome of relaxation.

Your turn now:
Do you like scented candles?
If so, which brand do you prefer?
And what is the thing you missed most after moving out?


78 Comments

Recent Reads – „A person of interest“ by Susan Choi

When I went through my bloglovin feed earlier this year, a lot of people shared their New Years Resolutions.
And apart from working out and sticking to their blogging schedule, the one thing that popped up over and over again was:
Read more!

Whether it was one book a month, a list of classics, or, more You Tube appropriate, reading along with Essiebutton´s „Buttons Bookshelf“ video series, almost everyone was entitled to reading.

I have loved reading for as long as I can remember. And even though I read less books (and way more blogs) than I used to, there is still a long list I recently read.

Reading essentials

The most difficult thing is deciding which books to read.
Many times I read anything my mother gives me. I know and share her taste in books and thus blindly rely on her recommendations.
On other times, I follow blog recommendations. This one is trial and error, but sooner or later you´ll find someone who prefers the same things you do.
And if I am out of both, and stuck in NZ in a Camper-van, just randomly picking one from my „Skoobe“ library will do. This one is more error than trial, but at least the book came for free.

To save you some boring reads, I thought I´d share my experiences with you and take advantage from your recommendations in the comments.
It is all about empowering each other to stick to your resolutions, right?

The first installment features „A person of interest“ by Susan Choi, a contemporary american author, published in 2008.

(Image Source), German Version



The topic:
Professor Lee, main character and professor of mathematics, leads a secluded and lonesome life. When his office neighbor and shooting star faculty member Professor Hendley is victim of a bomb attack, he slowly turns from innocent bystander to suspect and experiences the full impact of distrust and defamation.
And while the reader knows from start to finish that he was not involved in the bomb attack, the things he has done in the past are slowly revealed, and it becomes obvious that he is guilty in a completely different way.

This book deals with several topics.
One is the way our society has changed after 9/11, and how easy weird behavior can be mistaken for proof of guilt.
Another is the struggle of people leaving the place they were born to live somewhere else, trying to understand values and behaviors completely alien to the ones they grew up with.
Last but not least, it describes the way we sometimes hurt the people we love the most, blinded by something we so firmly believe that we are unable to see what we are doing. And how important it is to forgive and let go.


Did I like it?
Yes.
It isn’t exactly a page turner, nor is it an easy read on the go. But the question what really had happened kept me on my toes from start to (slightly predictable) finish.

Now I would like to say that I picked this one because the changes in society after 9/11 is a topic I am really interested in (I am) or that I wanted to read the first novel translated to german by Susan Choi (she won some prizes for her first two, after all), but truth is, my mother gave it to me and I had no clue what I was reading until I was about half way finished.
Thanks, Mum!

How about you:
Did you read this one, or another one from Susan Choi?
What kind of read do you prefer?
Should I keep up this kind of post or does it bore you to death?


61 Comments