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My Organic gardening tips – beginners I got you covered!

IMG_20190504_133539.jpgAs an early retiree, it is oh so expected that I take on gardening.

So I did.

Can’t break tradition.

2 essential caveats before I start:

#1: I am no professional gardener or anything of the sort. on the contrary, novice, totally.

But- in my humble opinion- not only does that not disqualify me from writing this post- on the contrary- this only makes me more aware of what a novice gardener fears .

So get ready- this is the real deal- including the frugal side, naturally, since I am not only an organic produce enthusiast but also care deeply for the value for cost point of view.

Why not start at the beginning?

The beginning: summer 18-things are looking bad, real bad

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Harsh summer, very hot, super dry, neighbors building their house and their workers leaving a large construction machine with its engine too close to the shrubs you see in the picture, my drip irrigation system proved to be a total miss- water was leaking and the garden was slowly but surely dehydrating although we turned the water system 3 times a week.

looking bad, I know.

#2: Determination will get you anywhere! end of summer 18-cleaning the territory

As enthusiastic as I was- couldn’t start working seriously with that pair of broken branch cutters.

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Since the cutters are made by a reputable company, a new cutter costs around 100$, so I contemplated my options, knowing that there is no way I can do all that work without those cutters.

So I started looking online and found out you can order new parts via mail for a fraction of the cost of a new one- you only need to get your engineering (no) skills together and understand exactly what each part is called and numbered.

Got through that part (wasn’t easy I tell you) and 2 weeks later-

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Mind you I only changed the upper left part of the cutters (dark grey) and scrubbed clean everything else.

#3: getting to work:

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Step 4: breaking up with the irrigation system- moving to a full proof yellow hose:

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The summer of 2018 was a harsh summer, and as you can see above, our garden suffered from the heat tremendously.

Since I constantly check our water bill, I saw a 200$ bill for May-June 2018, and I was puzzled.

Something was wrong for sure.

So I started checking our water system- every inch of it, and the conclusion was that something must be wrong with the drip irrigation- since the garden was evidently dehydrated though we watered it constantly- or so we thought.

We dismantled the irrigation system and bought this (advertised as) full proof lifetime guarantee hose. and I started watering every day using only the hose.

I can tell you it is June now and our water bill for May 2019 was 20$…

conclusion:

If you care about your garden + water waste+ your water bill:

Either check your water irrigation system constantly to make sure there are no holes and the system is well maintained

or

If you have the time and energy to invest: use a simple hose and water your garden regularly.   but please remember to water in the very early morning hours, otherwise all your good work and precious water will go to waste , once the sun gets to action.

2 Added bonuses to the second method:

#1: you can check up on your plants, shrubs, trees, and vegetables while you are out there watering-by doing so you get a 100% better chance of detecting disease and other possible problems in your garden.

#2: watering your garden is truly a relaxing job, almost meditative. put on some music and enjoy yourself! If you are brave hearted or can’t see your neighbors then use the time to squat! Try one of the squat challenges !

As it turns out, checking up on your garden every day is a 101  in gardening, and I have no idea how we managed to keep our garden (fairly)alive through all those long years I worked.

This is the problem people-

I simply can’t bring myself to recommend the hose system to full time ,out of the house ,working people. this is simply too much- between work, cleaning, preparing food, exercising, resting, not to mention if you have young kids- you know what-even grown-up kids.

So maybe use the famous middle way- combine both methods- use and maintain an irrigation system 1-2 times a week, and water by hand the other times?

The main thing is don’t forget to keep a close eye on your garden, it is a living thing, and cannot maintain itself.

speaking of which:

#5: keep working!( motivating myself -in a harsh tone- I am the boss of me! )

Since my garden was already covered with trees and shrubs- looking for a proper vegetable section wasn’t an easy mission.

The main thing was finding a place that gets enough sunlight- meaning between 6-8 hours of sun each day.

The only place I found was this plot of land, which we covered a long time ago in volcanic tuff- to prevent weeds.

The thing is there was no way to use the soil since it was contaminated with gasoline the previous owners had spilled years ago. somehow the roses we grew there managed, but no way I was going to take a risk with vegetables…

so-

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#6: The solution:

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planting pots.

What a genius idea.

I am not promoting the genius company that developed this thing- because I have no idea who that is- but still- If you stumble upon a troublesome soil like I did- or have only a porch to grow your desired veggies- those planting pots got you covered.

Bear in mind that tomatoes are what is called “heavy feeders” -meaning a single plant of tomatoes needs at least 15-20 liters pot to grow, cucumbers can manage in 10-15 liters and peppers in 7-10 liters.

#7: the soil

I went and bought a designated gardening soil (a lot of it- the planting pots have calculating tables to make life easier for you) and combined it with compost -in a 50:50 ratio.

#8: seeds!

I ordered good quality seeds -a batch enough for 2 years cost 25$ -all heirloom and derived from organically grown vegetables.

Didn’t buy plants from a nursery since I decided I was going to learn everything concerning growing vegetables- from seeds to plate.

A youtube channel that I found very helpful is “the rusted garden”- by Gary Pilarchik.

Here is a link: the rusted garden

#9: seeds to seedlings…..

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Ok listen people- this was not simple for a novice gardener like me.it was definitely hard work.

All I can say is once you go through your first growing season-the second one will probably look like a child’s game for you…

I bought a heating mat, a special light bulb (used a lamp I had on hand)- the light has to be at least 2000-3000 lumens (lumens measure the brightness of the light) and 5000-6500 Kelvin (a type of light- your seedlings need a light that imitates daylight to grow strong).

You need to give your seedlings 16-18 hours of growing light a day- once they germinated. yes- you can shine the light on them at night if you have a spare room where no one is bothered by the light.

Tomatoes and peppers take 8-12 weeks to get to a young plant stage- and during that time you need to water them regularly -to keep them moist but not soggy- and basically monitor them daily.

Yep.

Then when temperatures get to about 20 degrees Celcius outside- you can consider transplanting them outside to your planting pots.

But!

Be careful if there are cats or other animals walking about in your garden.

They tend to believe you set the planting pots with the gardening soil and compost- as a special toilet designed for them. so they will dig up all the soil and all your hard worlk will go to waste.

I bought a simple cheap building wire and constructed a wired cage- to deter cats and support my tomatoes- cucumbers when they hopefully fruit.

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#10: What about that plate?

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So far- we have great cucumbers, a few tomatoes, (I mean really- a few- maybe 3 till now-the rest are still green- waiting impatiently) ) parsley and coriander.

My personal recommendation-

Start with the easiest – cucumbers and green leaves- parsley and coriander. grow lots of these and enjoy your life. the tomatoes and peppers are hard work!!

Remember the sad picture from the summer of 2018?

This is how the same plot looked like in spring 2019.

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Lots of compost, lots of water, lots of maintenance.lots of Love. The Beatles were right of course.

Can’t say it was easy- nor cheap-but if you are into fresh healthy organic great tasting veggies and are not afraid of the hard work- get to it!

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 days as a dhamma server in a vipassana course: what?? ( no preaching or missionary wisdom included)

Yep.

I spent almost 2 weeks preparing food and cleaning the kitchen&dishes for more than 100 people.

No payment.

sure- it wasn’t easy- but I enjoyed myself immensely, and moreover- I shall share my tips on how to – just in case you decide this is an adventure you would like to experience.

Mind you that only “old students”- no- not mature in age and wisdom- but people that have completed a 10 day vipassana course, can apply to serve in a course, so first- read my previous post on my 10 day course- 10 days I consider a beautiful and meaningful present I gave to myself for my 50th birthday last year.

here is the link:The birthday presents I gave myself-part 1

for those of you who are curious to check if this is one of those cases where the sequel does not fall short of the original- here is part 2- that has absolutely nothing in common with this post- except for both being presents I gave myself for my 50th birthday.

The second birthday present I gave myself. (part 2)

so- why did I voluntarily submit myself to 13 days of hard labor and not the best sleeping conditions?

Told you in advance I am not about to start preaching about the benefits of the vipassana technique.

First, because I dislike being preached to, and every time I read or hear someone rambling about a certain religion/belief I simply shut down.

secondly, I did my first course on September 18 (aka my birthday, I believe I mentioned this before), and since I did a 3 day service in gardening, helped around a few weekends , sat every day for at least 30 minutes every time, and this round of dhamma service for 13 days. meaning I am by no means an expert on vipassana, and I think the best thing is to simply look online or read the book “the art of living” by William Hart ( I get nothing from anyone by writing this so).

last thing: I think the vipassana technique is well known, and frankly does not need my humble non-professional promoting attempts to thrive.

Having said all that- do yourselves a favor and read a little about the technique, and should you decide that you deserve some time off your hectic life, consider treating yourself to this 10-day course.

I am a known skeptic, practical and cynical person, ( I believe it is enough to say that until I retired 2 months ago I was a lawyer for more than 25 years….you get the drift), and I also happen to believe that, well, I know best what my problems are, and I will also be responsible for getting myself, with a lot of hard work, out of these problems, or if I can’t find a way out, then I, and only I, am responsible for learning how to deal with them.

So just in case you feel the same way – I totally respect that. (obviously).

I respect that so much that I need to mention that this, exactly, is what I find myself doing ever since I completed my first course in September’ and this exctly is the reason I find this technique so intriguing.

No guru. no religion. no one telling you what questions need to be asked, and what the right -or wrong- answers are.

Just Working very diligently on finding a way to deal with the problems I have.

I spent many years working hard as a lawyer,  raising 3 children and taking care of almost everything- but never had the time- or the willpower, to confront me. myself. ( and I).

Time to Actually sit down and contemplate certain behaviors of mine that other people seem to have a problem with, other behaviors of mine that I have a problem with, and my general wellbeing.

The only tool vipassana gives you is the technique itself. learning to concentrate on your breathing and physical sensations, as a means to reach a stable and equanimous mind.

Being equanimous through every sensation you feel, every situation that occurs -no matter how pleasant -or unpleasant the sensation is- is the key to eliminating much of the suffering you go through because of the ignorant way we are accustomed to behave -to react- to every situation that occurs.

This is a very simplistic and unjust description of the technique, and if this by any chance interests you and you are willing to put in the hard work -sitting and diving into yourself- while maintaining an equanimous mind- well- try this out. as I mentioned the course is free of any charges.

But- and this is an important but-

Since an operation as big as this cannot live off air, contributions are welcomed, very welcomed, and when I finished the course I felt such gratification- that I immediately contributed some money, and decided that I will donate more- by serving in a course.

Serving, by the way, was even more appreciated by Goenka g-the vipassana teacher that spread the technique worldwide, since he contemplated that giving money is a sign of a momentary gratification whereas while serving you show your gratification all through the serving period.

Serving means you make sure that the meditators that come to the 10-day course enjoy a full-time meditation experience, without the need to prepare their own food or clean after themselves.

The food we prepared was vegan -including all the main dishes- and desserts too. vegetarians that eat dairy products could have cottage cheese, butter and yogurt- that were served separately- and not included as part of the cooking routine. imagine how delighted I was, to find out that the center I was ecological and minimalistic as well. so the laundry and all the cleaning supplies were free of detergents, and a special effort was made to reuse leftover food- for example- soybean stew was served on one of the days- the little that was left (it just turned out so good with the cumin)- was turned into soy hummus the next day.

A chocolate cake that turned a bit dry- became chocolate cookies the next day and so on.

I also got to join- like all servers- the meditations in the hall- 3 times a day at least- most days it turned to 4 times  a day-including hall duty- (the meditation hall is open for meditators from 04:20 every morning’ and the servers had shifts -that included opening the hall and monitoring that everything is ok with the meditators- until 05:30 when our kitchen shift began).

Another cool thing is that servers are so appreciated that their meditation cushion is located in the front of the hall, close to the teacher (*to be exact- all teachers beside Goenka g are called assistant teachers or a.t).

The servers are not obligated to “noble silence”- that is the 10-day silence and no contact vow that all participants take. they are committed to “right speech” instead- meaning no-nonsense talk- only work and meditation conversations and a special effort is made to separate genders- as much as possible- we all worked together in the same kitchen and naturally, knives were passed and dishes were washed -but I still thought it made sense – and I am by no means a puritan- because a person comes to the center to concentrate on dhamma work- as a way of showing appreciation to the gift of vipassana he got ( at least that’s what I did) and trying to fit in some internal work too through the 3-4 hours of meditation with the course,  and many times the mere presence of other people -can be a distraction.

I am an introvert- so the permission to speak was something I would gladly give up- I didn’t mind the noble silence at all during my course, but I can imagine that extroverts find it even more distracting to be able to meet like-minded people- and not to be able to chat with them freely.

And a few more things weren’t easy.

I didn’t mind waking up at 3:50 am- this is my usual wake up time at home, but- I go to bed at around 20:00- read and fall asleep by 20:50-21:00.

The problem was there was an evening discourse every evening until 20:00′ and then the servers could join another meditation session- and then the servers would join in the hall at 21:00 (……) for meditation and end of the day session with the assistant teacher.

The assistant teacher was wonderful, and the access to him- for any questions or trouble- was a gift. but I had some serious trouble functioning after 20:00 every evening, after a long hard day at the kitchen…

Another thing is the accommodations…

Sleeping in a shared room was one thing, but sharing the bathroom and showers with 5 other women- well that was a real bummer for me.

I am 50 and an introvert- I believe these two were quite clear -it was definitely not easy for me to adapt to this no privacy -having to wait for the toilet-using a shared shower- thing.

But- on the last day the meditators were allowed to talk again, and many of them approached me and thanked me so much for serving them with delicious food and making their meditation experience so good, that every difficulty was gone with the wind, and I was filled with such joy that makes it possible for me to consider the next time I will serve in a course.

The thing about giving back- is that it actually gives you back- so much more….

enjoy your day-the cooliflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Frugal tip- taking care of your stuff+easy homemade pizza recipe!

For years I treated my stuff as replaceable.

I didn’t take very good care of it because I thought- ok- if it breaks -I’ll buy another.

I was under the impression that stuff is there to serve me while it lasts, and since buying new is always a nice thing (or so I thought) and since I work very hard and raise 3 kids and take care of the house- I don’t have the time to spare /waste on stuff maintenance.

After minimising my stuff , and understanding the importance of frugality combined with mindful minimalism in the environmental aspect, I understood that I would have to change my attitude towards my stuff.

The first thing I did was start reading the instruction manuals/labels/tags carefully before operating or using any device.

In the past, I bought something, took a look at it, and started using it instinctively, thinking why waste time and effort on reading useless manuals .

Turns out there are a ton of important things you can learn from reading the tags.

For instance-here is my calphalon pan. below are the using instructions.

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20190122_145145.jpg 1. hand wash only.

2. for better cooking results- preheat the pan without any oil.

3. after cooking allow to cool before washing.

ok- truth is I would never have done instructions 2+3 hadn’t i read the label.

Another tip is to take a photo of the instructions-labels-warranty and mail it to my gmail -to keep under the products name.

I always keep the receipts, the only thing is I can never remember a year or two later, when the receipt is needed, where I put it….

Sure- you can keep a binder -I did that too- but this leads to heaps of papers -and wasted time looking for the specific receipt when needed. not with gmail/

And no- I don’t have any shares in gmail sadly.

here is another example: my pizza pan.

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(Getting nothing from anyone here -so just buy or not- none of my business.)

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I would never have saved this warranty tag before- but this is a lifetime warranty and why not take a quick photo and save it? and why not read the using instructions carefully before making the first pizza?

Another tip is to remember to clean your vacuum cleaner and fully recharge it after every use. can’t count the times I began vacuuming the house only to find out it stopped working and needs a 2 hour charge ..

Same goes with the IRobot– to keep it running smoothly- clean it thoroughly at least once a month and change the necessary parts every 6 months- it will hold for much longer.

Your washing machine? definitely needs a full check up once a month.

I clean the filter let it run empty with only citric acid to keep from suds building up and clogging it.

*Do your own research -I have no idea if my tips are good for your stuff too- I do know that the basic principle of learning how to take better care of your stuff- can save you a lot of money and replacing time.

*These are all examples- I can think of many more as I am writing this- like pouring baking soda and vinegar with hot water down my kitchen sink once a month, not pouring my coffee to my sink  unless I threw the coffee grains residue to the compost before (seriously- this is a sure way to clog your sink!) , washing my my wooden floors only with a damp cloth and never leaving water spots on it, changing my dish scrubs every week and so on. 

Before I wrap up- I need to  mention laundry regulations..

#1:The obvious thing is to seperate whites from colours.

#2: separate towels and bed linens from clothes.why? because linens are big and have a tendency to wrap a loving hug around all the other clothes you put in the laundry, and the hugged clothes don’t get much of the laundry cycle besides that hug, which to you is pretty irrelevant I should think.

#3: get a mesh bag for your socks. this will save you time and effort gathering those socks – especially the ones that decided that laundry time is their chance to escape their sock spouse. this will also prolong your machine’s life since instead of the beach in Thailand the escaped socks usually find their way to the machine insides or pipes.

#4: read those labels before putting your precious shirts to the laundry machine…

I admit I never buy garments that need dry cleaning- This is too much of a hassle for me and I’ve read the fumes from dry cleaning are quite an ecological hazard- I am not 100% sure about that but since it is so easy to find great substitutes that are glad to be washed either by hand or in the laundry machine, why bother?

I believe I made my point.

Check your stuff for use and care instructions, take good care of it and save yourself a lot of time and money- all the while minimizing your carbon footprint . yay on all counts.

Now it’s time to learn how to make this great pizza at home.

The dough is from “food network”- here is the link- just click.  great pizza dough

By the way when he writes “dry yeast 1 envelope” I am using 1 tbsp of dry yeast .turns great indeed.

For the sauce- 1 canned tomatoes, tomato paste -small , 1/4 cup water, salt, pepper, a little sugar to contradict the acidity of the tomatoes, heat and stir for 10 minutes on low, add basil or oregano if you like, don’t (add) if you don’t (like), taste and cool a bit. this can freeze well too.

Since my household prefers thin based pizza, I had to learn how to stretch that dough to the maximum- I started with a rolling pin and that didn’t do the job one bit. so I started using my hands, and managed to get the dough to top the pan then quickly put the sauce on top.

Now here you have to be careful- since in my experience- thin dough+regular amount of rich sauce =disaster.

But: thin dough +thin layer of rich sauce=success.

Plus- don’t let the sauce wait on the pizza for too long before entering the oven-in my experience- the sauce tends to wet the thinly stretched dough- you don’t want to go there believe me.

About the cheese– well honestly I mixed the cheese I had in the freezer, (not cheap yet not mozzarella) but in my experience the trick is  to top all the leftovers with good mozzarella- it looks and tastes great -so my household members say. (about the looks you can judge for yourselves:)

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By the way- the picture above is one of my pizza’s as well

About toppings- go for it and use what you got- sweet potatoes, olives, whatever.

I always double the quantities, and use 1 kilo of flour -2 tbsp dry yeast and double the rest. it makes 6 medium sized pizzas and I slice and freeze them to be eaten in the next two weeks.

why slice?

Because sometimes my partner/son only want a slice (rarely but happens) and this way they can pop a slice out of the freezer and in the oven for a few minutes- and bam- yummy (or so they tell me) pizza at home for a fraction of the cost.

Really- fraction of the cost.

Try for yourselves.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Simplify it: Organizing my online groceries- part 3

Before we begin- In case you wonder where and when happened parts 1+2 – I am more than happy to oblige: here it is: explaining my 3 weekly online grocery shopping, saving time and money .My online grocery shopping: saving money+big time!(and my quick bean stew recipe for no fresh produce situations)

Organizing your online groceries: preparing ahead and simplifying your cooking!(the sequel)

Ok- now that the mystery is solved, we can relax and wonder why parts 1+2 weren’t enough  to get the concept of buying food. what’s the big deal, you might be asking yourselves.

well- the deal is big. it is very big.

Getting the groceries in a frugal and efficient way and making sure you waste almost no food before you get fresh groceries- is great. it is.

but making sure you enjoy the fresh produce that had just arrived, so you waste 0 money, waste 0 time (ordering then throwing away?? what’s the point? surely you can do something better with your time) and most importantly- prompt yourself and your family members- to eat healthier.

#1: I know for a fact, that when fruits are displayed in my house, they don’t need excess prompting to be eaten, as opposed to fruit hiding somewhere.

I am aware this is not a valid option for summer days -but a few fruits can always be displayed in a bowl where everybody can just reach and enjoy.

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tomatoes are considered fruit FYI

#2: what about those vegetables? 

I know many times my groceries included all kinds of pretentious vegetables that ended in the compost bin after 2 weeks of being sadly neglected.

This is not only a money waster but also -in my case- made me develop an aversion to those poor vegetables – I constantly felt that they were staring at me from their exile in the fridge, thinking I am not worth their effort.

so -my tip is don’t make any plans the day your groceries arrive, and start dealing with them aspirational veggies you ordered – right. now.

for instance- I used to read all about the benefits of pickled veggies, and decide I am going to incorporate them pickled whatever in my diet the minute the groceries arrive. buy a big batch of beets, and turnips, and such, and time just went by and so did my aspirations.

If I take the time and prepare the pickled veggies on the same day they arrive- check on the quality of your pickles, check on the no waste, and check on the no guilt feelings towards them turnips.

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carrots- definitely underrated.

grated them in seconds in my Braun hand blender, added grapefruit juice (I have a grapefruit tree- not wasting that great juice) and dried cranberries.

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0nions- why not?

Pretty+ makes you want to cook.

#3: don’t be shy to display your beans. 

jarsyes it does take some time to get them in the jars but besides it being a feast for the eyes- this increases the chance of you making lentil stew by 79%! and the chances of you making bean burgers by 66%!

20181216_192213.jpg#4: buy minimum condiments- and store them in an airtight jar.

I get that people are taught that in order to cook favorable food you need to have a cabinet -even two- of very exotic condiments.

sorry – in my experience, this is totally untrue,

the fewer condiments you have- in my experience- the greater the chance that you will enjoy using them.

I think people are generally creatures of habit. sure you can go wild from time to time and experiment- but there are so many flavors to experiment with freshly ground black pepper and regular salt+adding paprika- or turmeric, or Morrocan mixed herbs- or soy sauce -vinegar, regular or rice vinegar, olive oil, coconut oil? lemon?curry paste? agave syrup? ginger? the possibilities with basic regular condiments are endless.

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Just don’t hide the condiments in a distant drawer out of laziness- or the chances of you making that spicy whatever- will decrease by 98%.present them proudly in tight jars and enjoy them.

speaking of which: ginger- increase the chances of you using it by cleaning -cutting -and freezing it the day it arrives.

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Any more tips?

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

 

 

 

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Preparing for early retirement: last month at work

So,  early retirement is getting closer and closer.

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If nothing changes- my due date is at the end of this (short) month- February 28.

Being a walking irony that I am, the minute I wrote a mail to everyone at work announcing my retirement and inviting them to a modest toast on the 28th, someone at work told me he had heard that in 3-4 months a retirement plan is going to be published.

Now if this is true, this can potentially mean a lot of money I, of course, will not receive since my date is at the end of this month.

At first, I admit I got angry. then I got anxious, then I sat down and thought about it.

This is a lot of money we are talking about.

Should I try to postpone my retirement?

This rumor can be true- and it can be false too.

In the past two years, every 3-4 months a rumor similar to this one starts spreading among workers.

This could very possibly mean I would try to postpone my retirement in hope for a retirement plan to come along- and just sit there waiting for a year and maybe even more.

Of course, there is also the possibility that this rumor is absolutely true- which would definitely qualify me to be the next Alanis Morissette.

I have reached the point at work, where I simply cannot go on anymore.

I mean- if I had no choice, of course, I would go on, but working over 27  years in the same job- well that is a lot of time doing the same thing.

I have reached a point where I am so burned out, that my mind wonders everywhere but to the job I have to do- and this is not good. at all.

I am also very distracted all around, focus only on myself and my situation at work, I am anxious and snappy at home- and of course at work, and to put it mildly- this can’t go on any longer.

I decided that I am not going to change my plans due to this rumor.

Early retirement is a well thought about decision I made a few years ago, knowing fully well that I needed to frugalise my habits since my income will downsize to 60% of my current income.

I learned to be frugal, saved money, and although I have no specific plans for my retirement- I can’t wait for it.

I know that the common understanding is that early retirement should not be used to escape a job you dislike, and you should learn to deal with your situation until you conquer it.

And yet this is exactly what I am doing.

Another mistake I am making according to common knowledge is retiring with no plans. this- according to many people- is bound to drive me nuts.

While I totally respect that, and it might also be true; I simply cannot bring myself to make specific plans right now.

Mind you I am a very planned ahead person, I make lists all the time, I love having structure in my life and I am not scared of chores.

And yet- no plans.

I mean- I know I want to grow vegetables  in my garden; and I am seed growing for a few weeks now:

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And since I cook from scratch and clean all scratches- plus my exercise routine- and tending to the garden – not only the vegetables but all of it (I have a small house but quite a large garden – this will be time-consuming. And let’s not forget my beloved blog!

I am an introvert, and being alone has never bothered me- au contraire, and while I am not forgetting the possible void when leaving a management position after many years, I have been thinking about this ego downsizing a lot, read here:Early retirement Jitters-dealing with my ego.

I am spending a lot of time thinking about not being a big shot at work anymore, not getting a lot of urgent calls that need my immediate attention, not being needed at all,

This is not easy for me, certainly after almost all of my adult life after university, I spent at a job where I was always needed and busy.

But I am tired now, and cannot go on giving the way I used to.

It is definitely the time to retire early.

even without plans.

One thing I spent a lot of time contemplating was my cell phone.

I got my cell phone from work- including a plan, and now I need to return my phone -or buy it for 320$, and find a new plan.

So I started looking online. and found myself another phone.

A cheaper one, that has all I need- and is highly recommended for its price.

The cheaper phone is perfectly fine for my needs- I  don’t play games on the phone, I don’t write my posts or anything else for that matter on my phone, and I only need it for basic communication with a few close people, and to listen to music on Spotify while I run or work in the garden.

I also need to take good photos for this blog- but no selfies. I don’t like taking pictures of myself. at all.

So after a lot of searching, I decided on the xiaomi redmi note 6, and this is no advertisement since I haven’t bought it yet- and I get nothing from any company concerning this phone- or anything else.

This phone is going to cost me 227 $ including a 2-year warranty. I am taking the 32 GB and not the 64 GB since I looked online and the word was that only heavy users and gamers have an actual use for that 64 GB and regular users can do fine with only 32 GB.

I also looked for a cheap cell plan and found one that costs 5.5 $ a month and gives 10 Giga of use and free interstate talking minutes.

Since my use is limited as I told you, and I have no love for talking on the phone, this should be enough.

Just to be safe I looked on my phone to see how many Giga I use currently so I have a benchmark- and found out I only use 3 Gb a month so 10 should be more than enough.

The last issue concerning my phone and the one that I hesitated about the most, was my phone number.

I have had the same phone number for a very long time. and my phone is 95% work related.

I sat down and went over my contact list, and hand-picked the few people I would like to keep in touch with after I retire. and the people I need to stay in touch with- plumbing, bank, doctor, etc. I don’t think the list holds more than 40 numbers. mind you I have hundreds currently on my phone.

So after a lot of thinking- I decided to change my phone number, and only notify the people who were on that hand-picked list.

This seems like a small and insignificant decision- but if you think about it – it’s like starting a new life completely.

I wonder how it will go.

3 weeks till retirement day.

wow.

enjoy- the cooliflower.

p.s thanks again pixels for a mood capturing photo.

 

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Do you ever stop caring what your parents thinks of you? (heavy personal issues here- beware!)

A  week ago I drove almost 2 hours (each way)  in early morning hours, to visit my mother.

My mother and I have an “interesting relationship”..

I think many women have an “interesting relationship” with their mothers. I am not a psychologist but I know this relationship is a naturally complex one, and research proves it.

read here an interesting article from “psychology today”: mother -daughter relationship

So a few minutes after arriving, I suggested we go for a walk towards the nearby park. my mother is 75 and after surgery, and I strongly believe that physical exercise is crucial for her health.

She looked at me and bluntly said: “i am not going anywhere with you until you put on makeup”. 

At first I thought she was joking. (she has a great sense of humor by the way). when she repeated it – still no smile on her face, and added a  demanding tone to her voice, I realized this was no joke.

This was my mother telling me I wasn’t pretty enough for her without the mask and camouflage of make up. 

(I  stopped wearing makeup since my 50th birthday, (read here why –Why (and how) I stopped wearing any makeup-and a frugal tip!)

Up until that moment, I felt gorgeous .I look at the mirror and smile at my reflection, I go to work feeling good about my appearance, and the whole issue -has stopped being an issue for me for-until those remarks.

I  am 50, for crying out loud -(if you are wondering- I did cry out loud later in my car on the way to work) – and I still care so much what my mother thinks of my personal choices. wow. does this ever stop??

When I was 18 I left home- at first came on weekends, then came on holidays -and since I moved up north- almost 14 years ago- I don’t make the trip that often.

For years I had difficulties enjoying family dinners- although my mother puts a lot of effort and money into the fancy side of hosting: she has expensive cookware and makes many gourmet dishes -but I have genuine difficulties enjoying that food , and for years I didn’t understand why.

Looking back, I realize that my difficulties had/have a lot to do with my unresolved issues with her, issues that led her to say something so offensive- in my opinion- to me.

That got me thinking about my relationship with my kids: am I guilty of the same behaviour? am I letting any of my children believe they are anything short of marvelous?

Should we tell our children our honest opinion about how they look -what they wear- their choice of friends- their school skills?

I mean- should we give them our honest opinion if  they never asked for it to begin with?

Is this our “obligation as parents”?

“If we don’t tell them the truth- how will they improve? ”

It’s been over a week since that visit- and I still can’t stop thinking about it.

I can’t ask my children a direct question -obviously- I can only try to reflect on my relationship with them, and hope that the fact that I honestly think they are the most wonderful human beings to walk the face of this earth– is a good sign that I probably didn’t base my relationship with them on criticism instead of reassuring them that they are wonderful and capable- and therefore can do whatever they wish- even if they sometimes fail.

I have no idea if this is the right way to go – and don’t get me wrong- I’ve had my share of arguments with my children- harsh things were said, and I regret saying 99% of them.

I wish I were a perfect parent, I wish I was that laid back mother earth always calm and relaxed waiting at any hour to feed them with their favourite food and listen to their troubles. I most definitely am not that kind of mother- and honestly I never was.

I work full-time at a very demanding job- lame excuse I know and yet- I almost never waited for them when they came back from school, most of the time I was so tired my eyes closed while they were ranting about their teachers, and I can only say to my defense that I did the best I could.

I hope so.

I hope I never offended them in a way that made them question their choices, their appearance, their partners: themselves.

If you are wondering whether I confronted  talked to my mother about the way I felt -well, no. I didn’t.

I know some may think avoiding difficult conversations such as this one is the wrong way to go, and that you cannot build a healthy relationship when one party has unsolved issues that are repressed .

I am a strong believer in this exact attitude as a general rule .

But in this case-I am hesitating.

I understand some people believe it is ok to give their opinion- harsh as it may be- without sugar-coating it in any way.

Truth is something I value highly, and it seems to be very double-standard of me to be a strong advocate of truth when it suits me- and to deny it and call it unfair and cruel criticism when I am being told something I find offensive. 

Plus- I tend to think that trying to change your parent’s behaviour at a certain age- has a less than 5% chance of succeeding, while more than 100% chance of turning into a major argument involving buried issues from both sides.

I am still thinking about it.I would love to hear your take on this.

the cooliflower.

p.s. thank pexels free photos for a good photo that captured my intention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Analyzing my everyday expenses: reflecting on 2018- part 2

Aspiring towards early retirement , for me, meant adjusting to a different life style- and a  different spending regime- but- and this is the important point I am emphasizing- the change needed to be permanent- not “only until I reach early retirement- and then- the sky’s the limit “.

And why is that, pray tell?

Because if there is one important thing I’ve learned , although by not being a financial wizard of any kind- is that  the power of saving money, is sometimes even greater than any stock-real estate- bank investment. 

Give me 5 seconds I’ll convince you:

#1: Learning to save , and implementing it on your everyday household spendings- is entirely up to you. as opposed to investments of any kind- where you many times need to trust the impossible combination between other people (owning the business or establishment you are investing in) and luck (which , for me; has been a very discomforting thing to trust)

2: The state agents– such as taxes of any kind or shape- that are usually a “good friend” when you try to invest your money  and make a few $, cannot interfere with your intentions to cut back on your expenses, actually- learning to cut back on your expenses has many tax deterrent benefits- for one thing- no VAT …

#3: learning to save is a skill  that can improve your whole conduct– not only your bank account. think about polishing  your decision -making process, your self confidence (as a direct result of gaining control over such an important aspect of our lives- the monetary aspect), and as a side effect- improving your math skills- and brushing the dust off some of your brain cells!

#4: well naturally- it’s cheaper – all investments cost money. you pay the investment company- the bank-the lawyer who writes the cotract etc’. besides the money invested-you almmost never avoid paying for the chance to make more money from your investment. and yes, a lot can be done to minimise these charges- compare and double check before making any investments- you worked hard to earn this money!

learning to save money, on the other hand- is free as a bird. 

#5: and this is the most important aspect , I believe- is that rare are the people that their financial situation improves once retiring early. I am aware that some people pursue other careers, go viral on youtube or get a bazillion subscribers on their blog- but many of us ordinary people will need to adjust to 60% -70% of our previous income, and without making major life style changes, you might end up not managing at all.

I automatically think of another major lifestyle change- that needs to be permanent : change of eating habits towards healthier eating.

Many people get blood test results and listen to their doctor advising  “cut back  on fats/sweets/processed food etc- for a while“.

Many other gain weight and decide immediately to lose 5 pounds pronto by restricting something from their diet for a while.

Same goes to “12 week exercise routine” ‘ and other short term ways to deal with life changing situations.

What happens afterwards?

If you understand that your whole life is going to change- whether it is your income- your health or your diet, then please please take a moment to contemplate the moment after.

Why bother ahead? because understanding the change is about to become permanent and not “until I reach a certain point”- be it early retirement or a certain weight or a particular race- is a huge factor in preparing towards that change cognitively- and emotionally.

Ok- now that I laid my humble opinion on lifelong major changes, it is time to revisit my household 2018 expenses -so as to learn a thing or two- or three- about my spending habits, for better or for worse.

*I went through my other expenses (Amazon and EBAY) in my previous post- Reflecting on my 2018 expenses-read here. 

*Last thing- the advantages of reflecting back on the past year of household expenses are obvious in terms of learning about your decision making, but also- we all tend to calculate certain obvious expenses into our monthly expenses sheet: food, gas, electricity, water, phone, cable, internet etc. when looking back at the whole year -you get to revisit other yearly expected expenses we tend to forget about: such as school fees, car shop , presents for the kids -etc. these are considerable expenses that need to be taken into consideration even on our monthly finance sheet- divided into 12, ofcourse. 

*One last thing- my partner and I divide the household expenses equally- we don’t have a joint account because he doesn’t mind spending money (YOLO and all that s***) -read here how this works for us: Why I believe in seperate accounts.  

So what you see here is not a basic household full  expense sheet: I pay the electricity +internet bill  and he pays an equal amount for water and property taxes. we split the food expenses equally. I pay for my pool entrance by myself (it’s my thing) and he pays for his cable tv ( I don’t watch any television- read here why I believe this is a great decision I made :How to get up early).

We each pay for our apparel, books, etc- and split our youngest’s education fees and aikido classes expenses between us.

You will notice a difference throughout the year- my second kid was home for a few months before going off abroad- and he is an avid carnivore so..also add to this my annual birthday +holiday presents for the kids- 1500$ total.

Let’s start:

January 2018: 830$:

internet- 50$

food-350$

health insurance- 75$

fuel- 200$

phone- 35$

pool entrance card (10 entrance )- 120$

(at this point the electricity bill was once every two months this changes soon)

February 2018:1865$

electricity : 200$ (for 2 months)

fuel- 120$

gas- 30$+20$ toll road (this stopped throughout the year)

food- 350$

surgical procedure – 1000$

internet- 50$

health- 75$(in a few months I will learn that I had to stop paying so much and began taking off some of the insurances)

phone- 20$(soon this bill will shrink considerably- wait and see)

March 2018: 963$

fuel -200$

phone- 42$

food-400$

martial arts- for my youngest- 200$

internet- 46$

health- 75$

April 2018: 4935$

pool entrance- 125$(I will be reimbursed 125$ at the end of the year so )

fuel- 200$

electricity- 125$

food- 400$

health- 75$

vaccinations for guatemala- 15$

internet- 45$

*car for my oldest child- my share- 4000$

May 2018: 767$

food- 500$

internet-45$

fuel- 125$

health-80$

phone- 22$

June 2018:1585$

fuel- 200$

the machanic alarmed: I had to change the tire- 350$

car shop- 200$

health- 85$

internet- 45$

pool entrance- 125$

food-450

electricity-130$

July 2018:557$

fuel-125$

food-600$

electricity- 75$

restaurant- my mothers birthday- I treated- 100$

IRobot parts- 60$ (will be good for another 2 years!)

gas- 35$

phone- 32$

health-85$

internet- 45$

August 2018:672$

electricity- 110$

food- 450$

internet- 60$

phone- 22$

*health- managed to let go finally of some of the insurances- 15$

coffee shop- my middle son insisted on eating something- he is not a frugal person to say the least of it! 15$

September 2018:3967$

food-500$

fuel-125$

new baking oven- the previous one lasted for 6 years and collapsed- 300$- my half

sealing the roof before winter- 500$- my half

Guatemala – 2200$(flights +ninos de guatemala)

school books- 30$

pool entrance-240$

internet- 45$

vet- 12$

health- 15$

October 2018:1370$

food-355$

school payments- 300$

internet-35$ (told you- managed to haggle with the company and lowered the price)

vipassana donation- 350$

martial arts for the youngest- 205$

fuel- 125$

November 2018:650$

food-350$

fuel-120$

internet-35$

electricity-130$

health- 15$

December 2018:946$

food-300$

electricity-100$

health insurance for guatemala- 90$

train ticket to the airport- 6$ (instead of paying a bundle for long term parking and waiting for 45 minutes for the shuttle to the parking lot!)

new entrance door- the previous one almost fell apart…- 400$ -my half

health-15$

internet- 35$

Ok- now for some conclusions:

#1: the expenses are definitely not consistent: some months ended with a total of 557 $ and then there was that month with nearly 5000$. We (OK-I ) tend to forget unexpected expenses happen all the time– this year I pitched in financing a part of my oldest kid’s car,  we had to buy a new baking oven, seal the roof and buy a new door. I also payed for a surgical procedure and had to pay for a new car tire.  when you calculate your monthly spendings- remember those unexpected always come at a bad time and put some money aside ahead. reflecting on my expenses helped me realise that throwing a number based on usual everyday expenses is accountable only for half the actual expenses…(to be real with myself I summed the total amount (11,507$) and divided it by 12 (months)- 959$. this is my bench mark for next year. not my expected 600$ -this is the number I had in mind when going over my everyday expenses in my head.

#2: haggle -haggle-haggle! I haggled with both health supplier and internet supplier and lowered my bills.

#3: money is there to serve us- not the other way round.this year I gave 4000$ so as to buy my daughter’s car. sure- she could go on riding 4 buses (from home to work to university and back home)- but I managed to help make her hectic life a bit easier-and I am very glad I could do that.

#4: buying grocery online saves money! 

#5: Driving On early hours allows you to save money on fuel! (read here how- How I reduced 25% of my electricity and gas bills ( 5 tips and another V for enVironmentalism)

Hope I encouraged you to make your own lists and reflect on 2018- in order to make 2019 even better.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 great simple+natural home remedies for winter time!

Winter time.

I am fully aware that some people are not winter fans. but I certainly am.

As a garden owner- the sound of rain makes me happy, as a fireplace owner- temperature drop makes me happy as well.

Winter does have its downsides, that is true, but careful preparation and awareness can minimise those down sides- and we are all about minimalism, right?

A fair warning: the advice about to be distributed here is old, granny-like, non fashionable, and super effective!!! so if you are all about “what are people gonna say when they see me do this or that”- well then- perhaps you are wasting your precious time reading this post. or change your attitude and start doing what is good for you-even if it not considered “cool” by the “right people”. 

#1: Get a hot water bottle!

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ok I am aware that some people might laugh at this- until you try it!

This is my hot water bottle- fancy, I know.

When I get up at 4 am , in winter time, the first 2 things I do are getting myself a hot cup of black coffee, and-since the boiling water are waiting for someone to make use of them- I fill my hot water bottle- and snuggle  quietly , waiting for my senses to fully wake up so I can start my day.

Don’t dismiss this till you’ve tried it.

This thing can warm you up in seconds, it helps with back aches and stomach aches (warming up the place), sore muscles , etc.

Plus- it’s super cheap. and to maximise its utility simply warm up double the amount every time you make yourself a cup of tea, and when it gets cold- use the water for your plants,, cleaning or whatever.

#2: Always leave a window open! 

 

There are tons of people around me that make sure all windows are sealed tightly as soon as temperatures drop a little. whenever I try to explain to them that this is exactly the reason they are all sick-they allow germs to gave close and immediate access to many people at once without even the slightest chance of anyone escaping due to lack of air- they look at me astounded and say : but its cold! if you are cold- you get sick!”

Well I am no doctor, but I believe it is  basic knowledge that “disease is spread by infection-not by temperature drop” . if anything- as far as I know- low temperatures prevent/delay germs from spreading, since basically germs are fond of warm temperatures-and dislike cold ones.

I am certainly not advocating snow baths or anything- just make sure that wherever you are- there is an open window for fresh air ventilation. even a small window.

And if you are cold- than I would frugally advise on a fire place, or if you don’t have one yet- use tip #1!

#3: wear layers!

Besides it being very fashionable , this is a super efficient way to get warm -(something to do with air being caught between the layers )- and -if temperatures change -you can accommodate yourself by taking off or adding layers as you wish.

#4: keep your feet warm!

This is something I used to always hear from my mother- “keep your feet warm and your whole body will be warm!”- and I must say she was right. about this anyway…

Plus there are such cute socks around- why let your feet freeze?

#5: When your throat hurts- gargle salted hot water.

This is something I did as a child’ did with my older kids, and still do!

It might not be the most pleasant thing on earth -and yet it is effective!

*Checked on-line- it was medically approved too! here is the link to webmd: webmd- gargling salted water.

I put 1 tsp of salt in 1 cup of boiling water, make sure all the salt dissolves , and when possible to gargle- gargle the whole thing .

If you are trying to avoid pharmacy bought lozenges for whatever reason -and I can think of a few- than this is your perfect natural replacement!

#6: Drink a lot of tea! tea will cure anything! 

Well personally I believe this is absolutely true.

When ill -drinking lots of fluid will help you feel better, when cold- it will warm you up. when in need of emotional comfort-this is a soothing cup of niceness, and when adding ginger and lemon- it’s also very healthy. 

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#7: When ill- eat “chicken” soup ( I mean vegan “chicken soup, of course).

I am aware that some people believe that a “proper chicken soup” (meaning made of actual chicken) is necessary for you to get better from a cold , but I believe the benefits are not in the chicken, but in the hot -vegetable containing -fluid, so just make a pot of spicy veggie soup, feel free to add some miso/lentils for extra taste . (if we are on the subject- here is a link to a great recipe by the “minimalist baker” great vegan recipes!-miso soup- the minimalistbaker.com.)

stew

#8: If your back aches- don’t lay still all day! 

I used to believe that when your body tells you it is unwell-you need to listen’ and rest-rest-rest. 

I still believe that is true, but recently I experienced a bad back ache, and when searching on -line I discovered that the immediate total rest in bed I imposed on myself- was in fact delaying my recovery. (just reminding that I am no doctor or chiropractor whatever- use your brain as always to decide whether to use my tips or ditch them. or simply search online for yourselves. just in case -here is my disclaimer)

Apparently- according to what I read- when your back aches, you need to keep it in motion, massage the aching spots and gradually -in a few days- it will get better. when in Guatemala, I had a bad back ache, and it didn’t get better until I looked online for back -ache exercises ‘ and massaged my lower back with the only thing I had that resembled the tennis ball they recommended for massaging- a bar of soap , wrapped with a soft wool sock. I used the bed cover at my homestay as a “yoga mat” -for the back exercises, and after a few days of light exercise and massage- I could get on the 3 flong flights back home…

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*Add tip #1 to your exercises and you will feel much better in even shorter time.

These are the 8 great natural tips for today- feel free to share any great tips you have!

Enjoy and happy new year!  the cooliflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 hour layover in Amsterdam: how to change your point of view and have a great time!(and happy balanced new year!!)

As I grow (older and )wiser, I realise that there is so much truth in the simple & common phrase:”your perspective shall determine your experience”.

Every incident I bump into – or bumps into me- I breathe, contemplate its consequences, and try to look at it in a positive way.

What I learned over the years is simple- bordering embarrassing to share -and yet I will share nonetheless:

If I get myself worked up about something unpleasant that happened , things will generally deteriorate quickly into “a situation” that needs “handling” , “getting over”, and “stop obsessing about”.

whereas if I breathe, try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective- or simply from another perspective- I can mitigate my disappointment-anger-frustration, to minimum, and sometimes- (has happened)- even end up laughing at the whole thing .

Traveling to Guatemala last month, I decided to book all my flights with KLM, a trust-worthy and reliable company, that had the best mixture of :minimum travel time- best price- yet reliable company .

The flights to Guatemala were set in perfect order and timeline: 3 flights with a 1.5-2 hour wait between each flight -just long enough to make sure a slight delay won’t leave you at the next airport and short enough to let you get to your destination in reasonable time. ( by the way many travel companies advise not to book ongoing flights that are less than 2-3 hours from your previous flight, and some airports are so big and confusing- that you thank yourself for following this advice..)

But- the flights back home- from Guatemala- had a 10 hour layover in Amsterdam.

My first reaction was- “what??are they serious? I will be tired, anxious, homesick, unwashed, wearing the same clothes for over 24 hours and crunched up from the previous flights!”

But then I decided to let go of my fixations and try a different angle:

Why not change scenery and enjoy what Amsterdam has to offer? 10 hours is enough to leave the airport , get to the city and see some interesting things!

So I searched on line, and found out that the well-known Rijksmuseum has an interesting new exhibition featuring a talented photographer called stacii Samidin, who photographed many typical coffee shops -a place of refuge, culture and relaxation.exhibition open until january 20, 2019.(entrance fee 17.5 euros fod adults) .

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(this picture is from the rijksmuseum site-wanted you to get a glimpse )

The rijks itself is a very interesting museum, and I spent about 3 hours wandering around and totally enjoying myself.

Then I went to get myself something to eat.

Amsterdam has many options for vegans, and this lovely place is a 7 min walk from the museums. cosy and inviting vegetarian &vegan soups&salads place. reasonable price I believe (I paid 5.60 € for this bowl of very filling tasty hot soup).

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my sweet potato & peanuts & banana soup at “soup & zo” amsterdam- 81 baerlestraat street

*The easiest ( and frugal, of course) way to get to the museumplein (where the major museums are conveniently located very close to each other):

Step out of Schiphol, turn right, and you will see many bus stops. look for platform B 15-19, (bus 397 to the museums), and apparently right there next to the relevant bus stop (B17) there is a small red van- with a nice ticket vendor- you ask for a round trip to the city( museums), pay 10 euros -(please don’t throw your ticket- you will need it for the trip back) and wait maybe a minute or two- and the very convenient bus arrives…

It is a 30 min ride, and the stop is right on the threshold of the museums. now this is why I think taking this bus is better than taking the train.

While I love the idea of a 30 min walk from the train station to the museums, some days are rainy and cold for a 30 min walk, and sometimes you don’t have the extra time for the walk. (and sometimes you are simply not up for a walk).

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But what about my luggage???

How can you wander around with all your stuff ? well you don’t have to.

I paid 6 € and left my now 10 kilos duffel at the baggage storage at schiphol, and enjoyed my luggage free 6 hours in Amsterdam .

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The baggage storage is located at the bottom floor -go to the Information booth between arrivals 1 and arrivals 2- and in front of you -there is a staircase. go down and see the very organized baggage storage. just don’t lose your ticket- this is how you claim your baggage back- take a photo of it just in case. (as you can see I follow my own advice as a way to promote my advice).

I returned to the airport tired but very pleased with the unexpected gift I gave myself- a totally different culture from the one I just had the pleasure of visiting, which made it super fun to visit especially on this connecting flight!

People- life has many surprises up our allies. it’s up to us to either reject them- and get upset and angry -or embrace the unexpected change of plans- maybe you’ll end up getting a great day!

*Ok -I simply couldn’t let you all leave without sharing my version of that super tasty soup I ate at “soup &zo” in Amsterdam.

I have no idea if my version is the way they prepare this soup at the restaurant- but it turned out great and easy to make- so go ahead and try it:

*4 sweet potatoes-peeled , diced and boiled till tender.

*400 ml coconut cream . or coconut milk. or soy milk.

*curry paste- to taste- I like it spicy- taste and decide -but the curry is a must!

*2 large onions -diced

*3 or more garlic cloves- the more the merrier

*4-6(or more- to taste) cups of vegetable stock /water -you can add some soy milk if you like

*100 gram bag of peanuts: I didn’t have peanuts, so I substituted for plain natural peanut butter (yes I did- and it turned out great!)

*3-4 ripe bananas! yessssss bananas

*coconut oil -a few tsp. or canola oil. or vegan butter.

*salt , pepper, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric- use your favourite condiments- add to taste

Start- like all soups start- with frying the onions +garlic+”opening” the curry in the few tsp of coconut oil .add the peanuts and immerse- then add the liquids( veggie stock and coconut cream). after a few minutes- add the boiled sweet potatoes and the rest of the condiments.

Blend everything together with a hand blender- (I have the brown hand blender and I love it- I blend soup while on the stove!).

let simmer -all the while tasting and correcting and blending with a wooden spoon.

when you are satisfied with the taste- give it that extra thing- with adding your smashed bananas. simmer for a few minutes more- and turn off the gas.

If the soup thickens too much while cooling down – add more liquid- water or soy milk if you wish. or vegetable stock.

This freezes really well- just label it or you will find yourself in front of the freezer wondering what that orange thing is.

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enjoy and happy holidays!

the cooliflower.

Continue reading “10 hour layover in Amsterdam: how to change your point of view and have a great time!(and happy balanced new year!!)”

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Reflecting on my 2018 expenses

The end of the year is in my opinion a great time to look back at your expenses and learn a thing or two (or three?) about your spendings.

*This is a part of a bigger picture– of course- reflecting on everything you accomplished in the past year- for better or for worse. the thing about finances is , apart from it being a super important tool to achieve goals (early retirement anyone?) , and a means to make a living, it is an important tool to achieve personal freedom: wise monetary conduct is key to feeling secure and confident in your decision-making process as a whole. maybe someday this will not be the situation but for the meantime it most definitely is..

#Back to my list: This post does not consist of my “regular every day spendings”- such as food, gas, electricity, phone, internet and health.this will be treated separately.

I must admit I was a bit surprised to see that I wasn’t as frugal as I thought I was, but I was also glad to see the changes I had made along the year, that made a difference. a difference in $$$- but more importantly- in my state of mind.

I do not go to stores, and do not pay in cash, so tracking my expenses wasn’t difficult I checked my 2 on-line shopping places- Ebay and Amazon.

Some home items (such as glass containers, face creams – etc) were bought as part of my online supermarket shopping but I have no way of tracking these specific few items a year back- so they will be a part of my food expenses -and treated separately.

The first thing I did, was write down all of my 2018 expenses.

I looked at each and every purchase and asked myself: looking back -was it a necessary purchase? did you enjoy it? would you have bought it again?

The questions were not asked in an inquisitorial tone ( no tone at all, I asked myself those questions -not a sound was heard) but as a way of learning. sometimes we are sure the facts are known- but when checking-they are actually different-the number can’t lie- (although sometimes we wish they could).

I am glad to say that for the majority of the purchases the answer was “yes” for all 3 questions. 80% of my purchases were things I believe I needed, I believe they are a good purchase and I do not regret making them.

This alone was a good sign for me, since I believe that spending money on valuable things is not a faux pas- but simply a way to use that currency. that is, of course- if you are in a monetary situation that allows you to spend that money. if you are in debts or saving towards a goal -then the situation is different .

*I divided my expenses into categories and summed up the total yearly spending on that category:
Apparel:56$ total
15$ =2 white thai yoga pants I just ordered- planning on joining a yoga course and the white apparel is a requirement i cannot avoid. otherwise I wouldn’t have bought the pants-I have enough sporting apparel and see no need to purchase something new just to get my workouts going.although I admit it is super fun to get new apparel…
20$- new slippers. my old ones wore down.
20$- new swim suit. after exactly a year of weekly use- my previous swim suit was becoming transparent. (here is a bit more about my swimming- and why you should consider getting a water-resistant mp3- How Metallica stepped up my game at the pool this morning ).
1$- shoelace buckles a pack of 10. This small thing helped a family member of mine go back to walking in the park after surgery. my family member claimed that “even tying my shoelaces is a big thing for me now so don’t expect me to go out to the park for a walk!”.surely you understand that I immediately ordered those buckles -and that claim was no longer heard.
Garden supplies: 151$ total
20$ -garden spray– made my own insect repellent and sprayed infected plants.
20$ -seeds:
50$ -planting bags (on Amazon- the photo is from their site- so you can be impressed like I was.)

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heating mat for propagating seeds- 20$
seed propagation cells- 4$
25$- planting soil and soil nutrients
12$ propagating light bulbs

Home supplies+miscellaneous:
sheet- 15$-super comfi- love it!
dish washing gloves- 10$-about 4 pairs throughout the year. buying them on ebay was half the price than buying in my online supermarket so.
razor blades- 10$
Labeling stickers+zip lock bags+binder clips+correcting pen+pens+pepper grinder+metal straws+hydrogen peroxide+50 envelopes and 100 greeting cards for diy presents+car wax: 86 $.

(yes I learned how to wax my car -watching a youtube video). (yes I did watch that horrible youtube clip about the sea turtle getting strangled by the plastic straw- stopped immediately using plastic straws).

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yes I did draw this beauty of a cactus myself. michelangelo- beware!

vanilla beans- 30$
Beauty products:

French green clay– for facial masks-10$

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*Foundation +primer: 168$.

Ok. now- almost 75% of these weren’t even opened– I stopped using makeup (read here why and how- Why (and how) I stopped wearing any makeup-and a frugal tip!). I gave away all of my unopened makeup- so looking back buying in bulk wasn’t such a brilliant idea- but then again- I am glad I reached the level of self-confidence that allowed me to let go of all the make up I was using -so looking back- I am proud of myself and ***k the money!

*Body lotion– 20$- not a good purchase- bought a dominant smelling lotion on-line- not going to do this again!
Travel stuff:
Duffel travel bag: 20$ (great buy! spent a month traveling with it – read here why and how I did it How to “travelight” :a month in Guatemala with only a standard carry-on duffel bag??and this is how it looks after that month!)

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5 travel size jars: 4$- great buy!

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Quick dry towel- 4$- took it to Guatemala and have been using it weekly when going to the pool.

*Full disclosure- I just bought a new pan last week on Amazon because my non-stick pan is scratched and the top layer is revealing the under layer. it wasn’t even shipped yet so I was thinking maybe I will slide this to 2019 expenses? I know this is cheating.. so anyway- I researched on-line and the Calphalon pan received the best reviews for its price. since I pay a big amount for shipping- ( yes I am aware this sounds like an excuse for buying more stuff)- I added 2 things (that have been waiting a long time on my list-here is my answer to the lame excuse accusation ) : a pizza pan (baker’s advantage- if anyone is really interested mind you I get nothing from amazon or anyone else plus I haven’t even received the pan yet so) . and a pack of 3 bamboo cutting boards.

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photo of the pan-from the amazon site

Why was this on my list?simply because my partner and my youngest are avid pizza guys, and order pizza at least twice a month if not more. I am a very competitive person and I have strong faith in my cooking abilities ( yes! self-confidence is so important!) and I have been contemplating making a pizza better than the ordered one- to save money and save on the preservatives and additives.

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I loved the holes -the balance between crust and topping is a never ending challenge in home made pizzas!the photo is again from the amazon site

About that pack of 3 bamboo cutting boards. why 3? 1 for veggies and fruit, 1 for meat-I remind you I am the only vegan in my household…….and the last one -the smallest one- for baby bear. no- for onions and garlic and other spicy food -so I don’t find myself eating a garlic tasting apple or an onion tasting banana…..

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these are the cutting boards I ordered on amazon- the photo is from their site. they are called “utopia kitchen bamboo cutting board”

This morning I remembered I made a big purchase not on either sites, and this is a new soda maker-cold water filter- boiling water boiler thing.

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I did a lot of research before buying this, and the decision took me 2 weeks- but I am very glad I made the purchase.

I am a huge believer in drinking as much water as possible (read here why- and how: How I encourage myself to drink more water -and it has nothing to do with any apps! and I convinced myself that we need to drink mostly filtered clean water. we drink a lot of water- ice-cold water, herbal tea using ginger and herbs from our garden, and soda water. I also use boiling water for cooking. my experience with electric kettles involving the very harsh water we have here- wasn’t a success. we had to throw away a kettle every 4 months- a huge expense -not to talk about the pollution..

And yet- I hesitated.

This thing cost 1200$ , a huge amount of money, and I needed to think this purchase over and over again- before iI decided it was the frugal decision to make under the given circumstances.

The circumstances being:

1. we drink a lot of water-and need a water filter. i will not buy bottled water!!!

2. we drink a lot of tea- and need a new kettle every few months.

3. we drink a lot of soda water- so need a soda maker. again- I shall not buy bottled soda!

4. I will not buy another device like this every year-it is very expensive so this will have to last for a few years.

The one I got, has a 4 years full guarantee, the device itself is recyclable, the co2 refill bottles are recyclable too, and in my tiny kitchen- the possibility of gathering 3 deviced into one- well it was a plus. adding the costs of each separate device – after reading many reviews on the companies that sell these products- I decided that for our specific needs- this was a good and frugal device- overall.

So far we have been enjoying this device -and using it multiple times a day, every day, and this is a good sign I think.

You can spend a small amount on many gadgets you end up using maybe once or twice a year- maybe even less- and if you sum the amount of money you spent all of these devices and divide it by the number of times you used them- then compare the result to a device that cost you a lot of money but you don’t stop using and enjoying -well. I think it’s clear which device will turn out to be more frugal and minimalistic.

Think maybe you will make a full list like this too? I can tell you it has been a very interesting list to make, I learned a lot about my decision making process this year, and as a direct result I have many new-year’s resolutions now.

enjoy- the cooliflower.

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How to “travelight” :a month in Guatemala with only a standard carry-on duffel bag??

Yes! finally! a post on how to minimise and frugalise your next long trip abroad!

After spending a month in Guatemala voluntouring, I feel like a total pro on the subject of light traveling- or travelighting”.

*I am sure many have other- perhaps more exciting tips- I promise to put my ego aside for a moment and I will gladly share for the benefit of the universe-so don’t hold back-comment.

But first- why travelight ?

Surely the airplane can carry my suitcases and the cab will get me anywhere- why skimp on clothes? Why narrow my options as to toiletries? Why do you need to turn a fun vacation into a working process??

Ok –no need to get worked up about this- like everything else in life- feel free to do whatever you want.

Want to carry your whole house with you so as not to leave your comfort zone not even for a moment? Enjoy yourself.

Want to waste precious time waiting for your suitcases +pay extra with many companies+ carry heavy suitcases around crowded airports? Great idea.

But- if you wish to learn some tricks on how to manage a whole month abroad with only a standard carry-on- than continue reading.

#1: Get a good travel bag.

This bag is going to carry all of your assets for a few weeks- and might sometimes happen to become overcrowded…(mm it might have happened that I forgot I had a space limit and purchased one too many gifts…).

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Here is my duffel bag- did a great job

*Now as to the old debate –duffel or rucksack- well I think it depends on the nature of the trip.

If you are planning a hike or camping –during all- or most of the trip- well than there isn’t really a question, right? The dilemma starts when most of your trip is staying in one place- but- you are planning a hike or 2 –something around 2-3 day hike max.

Well this is a dilemma –and I think the hike component will win this time, since there is no way you will be able to carry both bags, and no way you can go camping or hiking with a duffel or a trolley.

*If most of your trips are like this case, I think it is better to consider getting a front load rucksack that complies with standard airline carry on regulations (55*35*25 cm/ 21*15*9 inches).

*I searched on line and I think the bag that meets most of the criterias is the Osprey farpoint 40.I don’t own one yet since neither Osprey nor Amazon ship to where I live but I am not losing hope thet 2019 will be the year for me to meet the osprey.

This picture is from their site.

Again- I get nothing from any company-I simply read several reviews online, and this review made a very good impression on me- but as usual-judge for yourselves.

This guy has great advice on many other issues concerning traveling light so just read and learn.

the link: great article from “the carry-on guy “

2.packing cubes!

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These are my packing cubes- got them on ebay a few years ago- still doing a great job. I get nothing from this company-they met my basic criterias – good reviews – good price- so I bought them. turned out they are heavy duty material too!

Yes these are life savers-and cost only a few $ online. Not only do they save (a lot of ) space, but they also keep the clothes from getting wrinkled–and keeps your duffel in order so you can find anything you need in seconds.

Divide your clothes to sections –according to the cube size, and roll like a pro!

I admit I love those cubes so much I even bothered to roll my dirty laundry into them on the trip back. (Yes of course I washed the cubes afterwards- are you serious? It washes so easily and dries in a few minutes)

The reason I bothered repacking my dirty laundry was simple. I tried throwing it to a laundry bag-it wouldn’t fit into my duffel…the only way I could get every thing- including the gifts I bought- into the duffel- was if I rolled my used clothes neatly back to the pack.

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3. Tsa fluids zipper bag: the 3-1-1 rule.

1: person.

1: bag-1 liter size- use a zip lock back- it gives a few inches more –you will need them.

3: 3.4 ounces (100 ml) size container of fluid

*Fluid, by the way- is not only shampoo or night creams, but also toothpaste and lipstick.

I used 5 small containers, which I divided like so:

1. Night cream

2. Natural toothpaste

3. Natural deodorant

4. Facial soap

5. Body lotion

6. I even added a tiny facial mask container- well it was a month-long trip and I enjoyed pampering my face every few days there…

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I also managed to include my day cream-50 Spf sun screen: this double duty enabled me to close the zipper in my zip lock bag and have everything I needed-now that I stopped wearing makeup.

4.Mix and match + quick dry –easy wash clothes only!

All my clothes were easy hand wash and dry on their own in the room while I am at school with the kids. and all of them were basic mix and match solid colors. this meant that no matter what- I had something to wear.

I took my clothes to a close by laundry twice during my 1 month stay- a week after arriving- couldn’t take off that “sitting 24 hours in an airplane ” kind of smell, and the other time after the 2 day Acatenango hike- to take off the “camp fire at 1 am watching a volcano errupt” smell.

My clothes came back shining and smelling great all for 10$.

Between those 2 times, I simply washed my clothes in the sink, with a simple bar of local soap I bought in “la bodegona”.

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If you are wondering why I didn’t buy or bring proper laundry soap- I don’t like hand washing my clothes with powder laundry detergent- It doesn’t dissolve well in cold water -and the Tsa rules about liquid prevented me from bringing my laundry shampoo. at the supermarket I saw no reason to buty a special soap when I liked the smell of this washing soap + I used the other bars in the pack for washing- once my Dr bronner’s soap bar vanished.

5. Bring a refillable water bottle!

Think environmentalism+saves a lot of money !

Now about this Tsa liquid rule at the airport…..

I cannot board a flight -or go anywhere outside my house for that matter- without my water bottle.

But airport regulations make it very difficult to board a plane with more than 100 ml in your bottle.

So- what I found out is that many airports have water coolers after security checks, and those who don’t- well check out if you can fill your bottle from the water tap in the toilets.yes I just wrote toilets.

I did that in schiphol- Amsterdam (great water! cold and tasty!) in Ben-Gurion air-port in Tel Aviv and in Panama , and I am sure many other airports , once you inquire- have that option.please make sure the water is clean and clear for safe use beforehand.even if you are thirsty.no joke here.

6. Orientation at your destination- includes a must trip to the local supermarket.

First of all- this is an interesting place to see local people and local customs. can’t help it- people all around the globe like to eat.

Second- you can try new and different food- in a safe environment. If you are a bit hesitant of trying out street food food, (I am), than the local supermarket can provide you a glimpse at local food and produce without many of the hazards.

Thirdly-this is your oppurtunity to stack on fruit and snacks for just in case situations- and provide food options for situations you feel like staying in and having a light meal.(Introvert anyone?)

7. Walk -walk-walk!

Instead of using taxis- try to get the real feel of the new place you arrived at- and walk around. try going out without your phone-shocking yet possible!

Antigua- by foot!

8. Make a copy of your VIP (very important papers)

put it in your travel bag. and save it in your Gmail account. a copy of your passport, your travel insurance, your E ticket’ your stay voucher, you get the drift.

Enjoy your holiday! the cooliflower.

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Vegan and frugal in Guatemala-my month in antigua (and a side note on traveling alone).נ

As I already told you, I volunteered for a month with NDG -in antigua, guatemala. here is a link to my previous post – Volunteering with Ninos De Guatemala -the whole truth. 

During my stay, I was provided with 3 meals a day at my homestay, except on sundays, so basically I needed to provide for myself only on the 4 sundays I spent in antigua. 

But- being a health enthusiastic vegan, I realized quickly that my homestay-although being super nice and cooperative, were used to serving meat and dairy , and I would have to eat the “sides”. 

Well I am not a “sides” person. I love food. I love to eat.  food is a super important aspect of our lives, and I prepare my meals with a lot of thinking put into the nutritious aspects as well as respecting my tastebuds. 

Where there is a will- there’s a way- I refuse to believe it is difficult to eat healthy vegan food on a budget even when you are out of your comfort home and kitchen, in a foreign and non-vegan enthusiastic country. (non enthusiastic is an understatement- many  dishes consisted of meat or dairy products and the rest were gluten abundant- and I try to avoid gluten if I can. 

MY SAVIOURS WERE THE FRUIT- OH SO WONDERFUL FRUIT OF GUATEMALA. 

Guatemala has great pineapples, bananas, papayas, apples and melons, and this plate was my breakfast every day for a month. 

simply wonderful.

But- at around 10 am- I began to feel hungry again-enter snacks from the antiguan supermarket-la bodegona.

my vegan snacks- 3 bags of almonds, bananas, raisins, prunes, mixed nuts, coffee. total sum- 10$. 

 For lunch – again- la bodegona saved my  a** , I bought 3 packs of red beans, a pack of lentils and a pack of chickpeas, and simply brought it (along with a generous tip) to the lady in charge of cooking in the homestay , and politely asked her to prepare them for me as almuersos (lunch in spanish) from now on.

yay ! lentils! 

On sundays- the first two sundays I was away climbing the pacaya volcano and the acatenango volcano -so I ate my snacks.

on the third and fourth sundays- well…

 I searched on line, and I did find a few places that got good reviews- one called “la bruja”, which is supposed to have great vegan burgers, and the other called “Samsara”, and I swear I started walking towards “Samsara”, but suddenly I realized I walked too far and I am near the lovely “la bodegona” supermarket….

So I got in and decided to have a picnic lunch in my room. 

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tortillas, avocado, bean spread, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, garlic salt, organic apples, grapes.

This is my picnic spread- i spread avocado and bean spread on my tortillas, added tomatoes and sprinkled some garlic salt- and had myself a tasty borrito -like roll. for dessert I ate some grapes. I was left with apples, tomatoes and grapes for the next 3-4 days, and all for 100 Q- about 12 $, the cost of one lunch. 

I realized I didn’t “accidentally find myself near the supermarket”. 

I already told you I am an introvert, and all the while I was searching the web for a good vegan place to eat, I was concerned about sitting in a restaurant on a sunday lunch in a foreign place, and eating .alone

I’m not much of a restaurant person on regular terms, let alone on these terms….

I think I felt so uneasy, I subconsciously led myself to the supermarket, where another option- a great option- was open for me. 

I don’t mind eating alone in my house-office.

I actually prefer it. I love food, I appreciate tastes, textures, colors, visuality, everything that has to do with food. I love eating. I don’t read or watch anything while eating, and prefer to eat alone and fully soak in the complete pleasure to all senses that food brings about. 

What I was concerned about was sitting with no filters- such as a friend or family member-  in a restaurant full of strangers- all sitting with their families or friends. 

I am fully aware this could have been a great experience , but again- since I prefer not to eat out even when I am not abroad, the awkward feeling was intensified. 

This picnic was such a success that I repeated it on my last sunday there.

This is a good opportunity to discuss traveling alone.

I have been traveling alone for a few years now, and I love it. 

I know many people prefer traveling with someone- be it spouse-other family member- friend- group. 

traveling alone is a whole different concept.

When traveling alone- all decision- for better or for worse- are yours- and yours alone. 

You need to take care of everything , deal with every mishap , eat your meals alone- unless you hook up with people along the way- and have only yourself (and Instagram, of course) to share your adventures with.

This means- you have total freedom, and this freedom- can be frightening. 

*I will most definitely not be the first to acknowledge that freedom is a frightening concept. I strongly recommend this book- a classic in my opinion.here is a link- erich fromm escape from freedom ( please try to get this at your local library first- read and then decide if it is one of the “keepers” that need to belong in your home library).

Try traveling alone once- maybe a short trip, maybe not abroad , but try to plan your trip-and execute it- all by yourself. maybe you will make mistakes, maybe not everything will work like a swiss clock- and maybe it doesn’t really matter- because that sense of doing it on your own is intoxicating. 

In my experience- locals are much nicer to you when traveling alone, you are more likely to meet new people, enjoy museums (think about going to a contemporary art museum with a spouse that doesn’t appreciate art. what a  disaster. think about the reverse situation -a disaster nonetheless. when alone- you get to decide if and when you go anywhere, what and when you will eat, sleep, and see. awwww freedommmmmmmm). 

Give it a try. 

So- if you are a vegan -frugal -introvert like me- I hope I gave you some ideas in this post. even if you fall into only one of these categories- or none of them- I hope you enjoyed reading.

It is possible to travel and enjoy healthy nutritious vegan food- in a frugal way! 

the cooliflower. 

Continue reading “Vegan and frugal in Guatemala-my month in antigua (and a side note on traveling alone).נ”

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Volunteering with Ninos De Guatemala -the whole truth.

I am a skeptic.

I do not take anything anyone tells me for granted, I always check- and double check every fact.

When I decided to travel to Guatemala and volunteer with NDG -Ninos De Guatemala- I was skeptic too- and after spending almost a month in Antigua-Guatemala- volunteering and touring (AKA voluntouring), I can give you my own private  skeptical point of view on volunteering with NDG  .

THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT IT.

First- why volunteer? why not just fly to central america and hike-sight see- enjoy good hotels and sit in coffee shops ? enjoy a proper vacation- I mean -If you are spending time and money and the flights aren’t short either- you should enjoy yourself, right?

I agree- you should enjoy yourself. 

The question is- are you happy with the usual way you travel , or are you looking for something else. I dare say- more meaningful than the usual way I used to travel abroad: shopping-museums- sightseeing- hotels- restaurants. 

And please don’t get me wrong- there is nothing wrong with relaxing, having a good time, sight-seeing and museum strolling. actually you can add hiking and other self-enriching experiences to this list.

I am definitely not giving up on these kind of  experiences . 

This post has 2 purposes as I see it: the first is to suggest another way of traveling- after you have read all about the lessons I’ve learned from my month in Guatemala, and the second purpose is to give you my full and true opinion about this specific NGO- should you consider voluntouring in Guatemala .

I want to start by stating a few obvious and yet perhaps overlooked notions: 

  1. voluntouring in my opinion is as selfish as every other trip. the fact that I decided to dedicate the money (and time) I would have otherwise spent on fancy hotels-a thrilling hike or other adventure-interesting meals -fancy museums-to an organization focused on helping others-  is definitely very nice of me- but I still believe that if I level with myself   I will  agree that the giver- in this case me- profited from giving just as much as the recipient of the gift, maybe even more. many studies show that volunteering fills you with good energy, a sense of accomplishment, and overall happiness. 

 

this is Victoria. I mean- isn’t it obvious that playing with her is a gift to myself?

2. Be humble . you will not change the world-cure hunger- or cure anything else for that matter- in the few days-few weeks-few months you will volunteer. 

Maybe if you were a millionaire and were to give millions of $ to charity -you would make a significant difference. but most of us aren’t, and I believe it is important to be realistic about your true ability to impact other people’s lives, otherwise you might end up thinking you wasted your time &money, only because the change isn’t visible.

3.The extent of your sense of accomplishment and making a true difference is totally up to you.

I started volunteering not knowing any Spanish. well maybe  basic level acquired on “duolingo”- which is a good app -but when you need to speak to locals -you find out it’s a bit more complicated than writing your answer in an app….

So basically I didn’t understand a word the kids- or the teacher- said. 

This led to very funny situations involving a lot of hands, drawings, running around and misunderstandings.

For a very verbal person like me- this was a revelation. 

I ended up helping the teacher (wonderful vanessa- I hope all teachers were like her- such patience, quiet handling of the class that consisted of 20 very energetic young kids …I was privileged to help her!) cut cards, glue paper, wrap yarn, draw, help the kids with lunch, clean the class, watch over their free play , participate in soccer games , brush their teeth, and basically- just sit down and hug whoever was in a need of a hug at that moment.

And after the first day- when the kids got used to me- they took turns sitting on my laps- all the kids by the way- even the most shy ones- felt at ease with me after a few days- and whenever one of them was feeling a bit down or lonely or sad- he was immediately hugged and comforted, without many words involved.

So I didn’t end up thinking I saved the world from hunger , and I didn’t find a cure for cancer, nor did I save anything else.

Maybe, just maybe- a few kids had a better time in summer school because of me- and maybe- I was the only one that had a great time. 

I don’t know. 

I do know that volunteering for a few weeks and expecting to make a true difference- is something that may prevent the absolute and true joy of simply being there for someone else, maybe comforting one person, maybe helping one stray dog and maybe help a senior citizen clean his house or get a blanket.  maybe just being with someone  and sharing your good vibes with them is enough as a goal. 

*by the way- in the afternoons I learned spanish with a great teacher named Alvaro in the Cambio spanish school. the income from cambio is donated to Ndg too. if you happen to go there do yourself a favour and ask specifically for him. and say hi from me. alvaro and I had some serious conversations about life, family, anger management, money, goal setting and veganism. (mostly) in spanish. 

4. The co-coordinators at the office of NDG are truly wonderful -and I received a full explanation as to where the donation money was going.

I felt secure and safe in Antigua, my personal coordinator carlota was constantly in contact with me, showed me around, explained what needed explaining , took us to the jade museum, a cooking class and a chicken bus factory tour, and even offered me her personal gear when I told her I was going to climb the Acatenango! 

The donation money -and this was definitely a question raised about some other organizations- was definitely not going to anyone besides the kids in the schools- the office is a small place, no one has a car- except for one- and it is an old truck used to drive to the schools and back.on the same note- please do not have any expectations to live in a hotel or anything like that. my homestay room was basic and simple, it was clean and the food was good -but again- basic. nothing fancy. I wasn’t expecting fancy and I liked my home stay . this is the room and the view from it: 

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mi dormitorio
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the jungle outside my room . spent a few days reading in the sun here

Here is a link to the  NDG site- take a lookNinos De Guatemala

I think it is clear that providing proper  education for kids who otherwise might wonder the streets or work in the fields- is the most efficient way to make a true and real impact. 

This NGO has its heart and actions in the right place. 

This was a truly wonderful experience for me. 

It might be for you too- but please remember to be humble and realistic about this. 

the cooliflower. 

Continue reading “Volunteering with Ninos De Guatemala -the whole truth.”

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Hiking the acatenango volcano in guatemala- usefull tips for beginners

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A year before I turned 50, I read somewhere that a good way to find out what your true dreams are- is to sit in front of a paper- and instinctively draw the first thing that comes to your mind- when thinking about things you wish to achieve.

so I sat down one day, and drew the first thing that came up when thinking of turning 50.

It was a (lame) drawing of a person with a backpack, standing on a hill top.

Then I remembered I made a list a few years ago, named :”things I want to achieve before turning 50″.

I found that list (yes- it is very helpful to be organized and constantly strive towards minimalism), and on that list, sure enough, was a paragraph stating :”take a trip outside of my comfort zone”.

It also said- “learn spanish”, “learn italian”,”learn how to play the guitar ” and “learn how to professionally cook vegan food”.(still working on those..)

This was the beginning of my journey towards the third and final gift I gave myself for my 50th birthday. (here is a link to the previous posts telling all about the first 2 presents I gave myself-and why I decided that giving myself those birthday presents was such a great idea: The birthday presents I gave myself-part 1, The second birthday present I gave myself. (part 2) ).

So I contacted “Ninos De Guatemala”, a non government organization (NGO) in guatemala , and booked tickets through Klm , started learning spanish with Duolingo , and learned all I could online about travelling light.

But this post is about hiking tips for beginners like me, and I believe that a true and genuine beginner has the best tips- since we know exactly what a fellow beginner feels and what are the obstacles to handle-and how to tackle them .

The picture above- the one that looks like a post card- is a picture I took of the Fuego volcano in guatemala. an active volcano, rising to more than 4000 meters high. (very high).

I can tell you that I was very nervous before the 2 day hike (actually- this is an understatement), and that it didn’t help that on the group meeting the evening before the hike, I found out that 95% of the group were around their 20’s, fit , ambitious, and had lots of prior experience hiking in high altitude…….

But- at the end of the hike I felt as if I conquered the world, and since that point on- I couldn’t care less about other people’s fitness level -or youth.

I found out that all my swimming-running-yoga was a great way to be in shape, not only did I keep up with the rest of the group, but I decided strategically that I have to be as close to the guide in the front as possible- in case I get altitude sickness .

I was third or fourth from the guide the whole time, which turned out to be a great decision- I had much more rest time than the people who were the last in line-think about it- at every stop the guide would wait untill the last person arrived, and a minute or 2 later- we started climbing again. the poor person in the back had almost no rest time, whereas I had plenty of time to drink water, eat a small snack, and enjoy the hike.

Now for the promised “Do’s and don’ts”:

* I may be stating the obvious here- but this is as I said a demanding hike. please make sure you are fit enough and in good health to do it! consult with proffesionals- I am not one- just giving some advice here. use your brain when deciding if this adventure is for you or not.

*I believe a good trial hike for you would be the pacaya volcano hike.a pleasant half day hike that doesn’t involve arranging any gear or carrying a heavy backpack. water and some snacks will be enough. the pacaya is considerably easier than the acatenango (our guide said that the acatenanago is considered 6 times more difficult than the pacaya) so if you find that pacaya is too much for you- don’t even think about acatenango….. still-even if pacaya is easy for you- the acatenango may be a difficult challenge so -use your brain.

Do:

1. hike with a good tour company.

This is quite a difficult hike, in high altitudes (summit almost 4000 meters), it gets very cold at night up there (can reach 0 degrees celsius) and you need good gear and a good guide to handle this.

I needed almost everything- from a sleeping bag-sleeping mat- to backpack-overcoat-gloves- flashlight- hat.

the difference between going with the company I went with -that rent me all the gear for free, and other companies that charge for renting the gear, was at first- double the amount , but after calculating the rent cost- there was almost no difference in price- so take the gear situation into consideration when deciding which company to use.

Under no circumstances should you try to do this hike alone- defenitely if you are a beginner. this is my opinion- and I am not receiving a commission from any guides so please consider it a fair warning.

Last year 6 hikers were found dead after loosing their way up on the mountain in the freezing cold night.

2. Pack lightly.

pack only bare necessities.

this means water– I had 4.5 liters and drank another liter at my homestay in the morning, and another liter once we came back.

snacks– nuts, raisins, bananas, apples, that is what I had and it was great.

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a small-sized facial cream with high spf, the smallest and lightest face towel with a few drops of soap already on it- so you can just put a few drops of water and scrub your face and upper body in the evening .in my experience- this is a necessity: the hike is mostly in volcanic ashes that sticks to your face and clogs your pores. do yourself a favour and scrub your face with a towel and a few drops of water.

3.Hydrate properly the day before:

A tip I got from the tour agency I hiked with- to prevent altitude sickness it is very important to hydrate throughout the hike- but equally important is to hydrate properly on the day prior to the hike! * I know many long distance runners know that fueling and hydrating the days before the race is sometimes even more important than race day itself.

4. dont forget to rent a walking stick from the cute kids at the starting point.

The sticks are only 5Q and you won’t regret taking one…it was helpful both on the slippery way up- and on the even more slippery- way down….

5. clip your toenails.

I am trying to remember where I read this tip- but it’s a good one. going down the second day you happen to spend quite a lot of time on your toes- that’s what the elevation does to you. you won’t regret this one either…

6 .take a flashlight and spare batteries.the climb up the summit is done at 4 in the morning, pitch dark.no kidding. The flash light the company gave me suddenly stopped working and this hike in the dark was one of the scariest Things I have ever done.

just take a flash light.preferably a head lamp like this one above. You can thank me later.

Don’t do:

1.Don’t spend your whole hike taking pictures. I don’t think any of your friends- not even your family would appreciate looking at 50,000 pictures of the same volcano -even if it was taken from slightly different angles…try to enjoy the beautiful jungle you are in- and this unique experience of watching a volcano erupt in front of you every 15 minutes…

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2. don’t schedule anything exhausting for that evening or even the day (or two..) after. I was exhausted for a few days after the hike- but felt exhilarated!

enjoy- this was a hike of a life time for me. the cooliflower.

Does changing your mind=failure??

So, I’ve had this “math fantasy” for a long time.

There you go-

Just when you thought you’ve heard every strange fantasy, comes a strange new one and opens your perspective.

The thing is, when I were in high school, I liked the cleanliness of math equations. the fact that there was a clear cut solution. (this is high school math, not higher levels where everything gets complicated).

I was fascinated by the fact that other than the necessary 3-4 sentences , there was absolutely no need to write a mini novel in exams, and that when you get the point- you can relax for a while- because the point wasn’t to cram as much information possible to your poor head, but getting the logic of it.

Mind you I wasn’t the brightest math student -far from it, but- I was on a mission to succeed, because that’s who I was (and continued to be until I became 50 and age became wisdom. well some wisdom , anyway).

So I got a good grade on my math SAT’s , but never crossed paths with the clean equations again.

Because I had never tested this ideal perspective of my math abilities in real life, I kept thinking that once I retired, I will get a university degree in Math,you know- for the sake of pure intelectual interest.

Now this- is a fantasy.

A huge one , too- for me .

For years I nurtured the thought that I am fully capable of jumping to the next mathematics level -and that the only obstacle was time .

Well, now I had (have, I have!) the time, lots and lots of it, and I decided it’s time .

So I enrolled in the open university, to get a math degree.

Now- you need to understand this was totally unnecessary in every aspect:

1.I have no intention of going back to work, even if I did have to go back to work-

2. I would go back to being a lawyer long before I would try to get a job with a math degree, and

3. the cost of this degree was quite high .

But- dreams are there to be pursued , right? believe in yourself? there’s nothing you can’t do?

Emmm……

The beginning was promising.

I was so excited when the books arrived!

I immediately started reading -though the semester hadn’t even started yet.

I was on the top of the world, I tell you.

I spread my books and notebooks all over the place, arranged magic markers in different colors, sharpened the pencils, got on line to buy refills for my uni ball pen, only to find out that buying 12 new pens costs 50% less than buying 12 refills (!!!!!! people! that is so non environmental! I made a point of buying a pen that can be re-used!) and prepared a list for future note pads and stuff.

Great time, really.

But then, I started doing the assignments, (that part was still ok)- and checking my answers,

Well.

I personally was really surprised at my grand failures.

I really thought I nailed it, until I checked the correct answers.

But that wasn’t the worst part:

The worst part was the on line classes.

There I was, sitting shameful in front of my computer, trying to follow the professor’s lecture and not really succeeding, when I realized that about 20% of the class, is made of 13 (!!!)year old kids, getting math credits even before they finished high school! even before 9th grade, for that matter!

The mere fact that those 20% existed wouldn’t have bothered me so much, if it weren’t for the fact that they understood the professor much faster than I did, and kept hurrying her (I swear this happened) with lines such as :”come on, that’s obvious, let’s move on. everybody gets it”!

“HELLO NOT E V E R Y B O D Y!

Of course I didn’t say anything.

Are you kidding me??

I just watched the online lesson again and again, until I thought I nailed it, only to check the answers and find out that, well, not really.

To say this was frustrating would be an understatement.

But even worse- it was friggin humiliating.

There I was babbling to my partner about “the beauty of pure math, that is the basis of philosophy as Plato said, and needs only the sharp mind to grasp, no need for excessive explaining and much talking, only pure logic”-etc, when in fact- clearly my skills weren’t up for the task.

I kept going on, because that’s me-

That was me for so many years- failure is only a temporary state to overcome by hard work!” “if you don’t get it the first time- you’l get it the 300th time!”, “nothing ever came easy for you (that’s true by the way), but you always hung on and kept going till mission accomplished!”(also true).

I grew up knowing that “you always finish a book you started

“you always finish eating from your plate” (I have a lot to say about this-promised myself I won’t do the same to my kids, even if it did mean being really creative about leftovers).(I can tell you I double checked with my kids prior to writing this- in case I was delusional about this, too. turns out they confirmed I never made them finish what’s on their plate, at least that is off my plate when my maternal sins shall be counted ).

And the last one:“you always finish a task you start”.

I can tell you I stopped reading books I don’t connect to- (but still feel a bit queasy about it), sadly- still finish everything off my plate, and up until now- I always pushed through every task.

I think I would have kept on going- if it weren’t for the fact that on the second on line lesson, the professor divided us into on line study groups, and I heard a chat between 2 of my “study mates” (only 3 in that room), chatting about the course.

They were as amazed as I was at the 13 year old’s, but then one of them told the other that “this course is considered very easy , compared to the next advanced courses”.

WHAT?????

No no no.

I can barely keep my head over the water in this course-having to watch every recorded class a few times only to find out I am not really getting it- and this is the easy course????

I immediately turned off the computer, ( it was the middle of the class, mind you), and told my partner I can’t go on.

The next day I enrolled on 2 on line classes -no assignments or exams involved -therefor no degree granted-

One on empowerment in classical music, lectured by a famous conductor, and the other about french art .

At first- I felt relieved.

I could read again, sleep well, rest like a pro, drill holes in thrown buckets, re paint them –

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drag a thrown out table , fix and re paint it- turning it into a nursery workshop-

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You know-

Enjoying myself.

But then, the old feeling crept.

“Seriously? you quit? isn’t that what a loser does? you wanted to quit so you told yourself you can’t handle it, when in reality- you were simply lazy!!

(You can tell I ‘m kind of “tough love” with myself. )

I contemplated these feelings for a few days while meditating.

I think I’m more at peace with myself now.

Mainly because I found multiple justifications, and some of them valid, too.

“I would have continued in “real life”- now I am retired, and have no need for this degree- so no need to put that massive pressure for no real reason”…”I wanted to study music too- here’s my chance, and a gread conductor is lecturing, so!”

Etc.

I love justifications.

My brain’s method of handling cognitive dissonance.

I accepted I failed, I quit, I didn’t follow through-

And that’s ok too.

I think.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

Time to pair up!

I have enough (too much?) time to wonder why pears don’t enjoy the great PR apples do.

Oh wait- before I start persuading you to occasionally switch between the 2, need I remind anyone that I am under no circumstances a registered dietitian or anything of the sort?

Pears are in season now , as apples are, and although they are as nutritious, and as tasty, they somehow get shoved aside, and you never hear anyone say :”a pear a day keeps medicare away”.

All those great apple pies, apple sauces, stews, etc.

And sad little pears? ??

(I do have too much time. this childish talk was never my style. I actually detest it when people do that).

Any way- before writing this, I checked the numbers, to make sure I shall not be misleading any of you on this super important topic:

So- 100 grams of pears contain:

57 calories, 0 fat, 15 grams carbs,116 potassium, 3.1 grams fiber, 0.4 protein, 25 milligrams vitamin A, 7 mill magnesium, 10 grams of sugar and 4.2 milligrams vitamin C.

Whereas- apples- again- those 100 grams, contain:

52 calories, 0 fat, 107 potassium, 14 grams carbs, 2.4 fiber, 0.3 grams protein, 54 mil vitamin A, 4.6 mil vitamin C, 5 mil magnesium, 10 grams sugar.

As you can see-

pears are almost identical to apples in major departments- such as calories, fat, sugar, and vitamins.

Apples have less (!) fiber and a little less potassium, and still- are considered the healthiest fruit alive.

Now- don’t get me wrong- I lovvvvvvvvveeeeee apples!

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But-

I do not like injustice!

So-

Since pears are in season here- thus being nice and sweet (and cheap- makes them even sweeter), I do my best to incorporate them into my meals.

How?

Well, my friends, like so:

1.I swap the apples in my apple sauce- for pears( try it- tastes great!).

2.I add them to my smoothy instead of frozen fruit.

3.I planned on baking vegan cakes with them , but decided not to-because why would I work for an hour on a cake that has flour and oil and sugar in it, when I can take a pear and simply eat it ????

And don’t forget doing those wretched dishes too.

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This here is an “asian pear” that looks- and tastes -like a combination of apples and pears.

Amazing.

The nutritious benefits of pears are obvious-the low calorie+ high fiber +nice vitamin count+sweet taste- make them a win win win in my opinion.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

Yummy healthy post workout breakfast!!

Autumn is here, finally.

Love this short, sweet season.

I guess everybody does, I mean what’s not to like about fair weather, falling leaves, the promise of a cozy winter (things always look better when expecting them- also see- trips abroad: a dream before- many times a disaster during, a dream in retrospect. that’s the beauty of the human brain).

Any way-

I decided it’s time to switch from my banana smoothy/ice cream , to a more heartwarming comforting satiating filling dish.

Before boasting on the super recipe I am about to distribute here (my own invention people!) might I remind you for the 20,000 time that I am no registered dietitian or health anything, just your simple retired lawyer+health enthusiast+vegan looking for better ways to implement plant based protein to my diet.

Back to my wonder recipe:

oatmeal (more) protein porridge, complete with lots of protein (goes without saying), vitamins, minerals and a super satiating feeling.

The best thing is that it is a hassle free meal, that you can make at work too, and requires a minimal amount of dishes to wash!

*I really cannot understand those cooking shows where you see the cooks using a separate bowl for every ingredient, and stirring different pans -that end in the same dish anyway.

I bet they don’t get near the sink, that’s why .

But we do.

So no extravagant bowls and pans and cooking utensils for me , thank you very much.

Minimalism at its best.

Ingredients:for 1 serving :

2 Tbsp ground oats -as in oatmeal.(I grind them with my hand mixer /Vitamix)

2 Tbsp ground /thin bulgur ( if you don’t have bulgur , don’t like bulgur, are allergic to it or if it costs more than 2$ a kilo (this is a great value for money food staple at our house hold ), then swap it for 2 more tbsp of ground oats. perfectly fine.

The reason I added the bulgur, was I was looking for a change, and wanted something filling. the bulgur is super satiating, believe me. and nutritious too: in 100 grams of dry bulgur, there are 357 calories, 76 carbs, 10.4 grams of protein, iron, manganese, and folate.

I admit bulgur contains less fiber than oatmeal (actually- considerably less- 100 grams of oatmeal holds 9 grams of fiber, where bulgur contains only 0.6 grams), but I really love the combination of the 2 , and I feel it is more satiating for me this way.

As usual- do whatever you want.

Here is a proper article on the benefits of bulgur, should you wish to broaden your horizons.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/bulgur-wheat

*3:  1 tbsp ground flax seeds: ( I grind the flax seeds with my Vitamix, and freeze in a mason jar). 

*4: 1 tsp chia seeds. no need to explain why. super food etc. 

*5: 1 Tbsp vegan protein powder

*6: a dash of salt. yes, salt. salt . adds taste, believe me. porridge is an all time English breakfast favorite, and Jamie Oliver says a proper porridge is never complete without a dash of salt, so there you go. or as I used to say- “I rest my case”. 

*7: 1 Tbsp of home made date spread. 

What??

Yep. 

Should you need reminding of this 8th wonder , then here is a link to a previous post where I disclosed the well kept secret of making home made date spread. easy, healthy, yummy, nutritious. do it. 

Cheap thrills: 3 easy money-saving hacks for free!!

*8: 0.5 cup vegan protein yogurt. I am not going to recommend brands, since I have no idea what your stores keep. buy a brand you trust and like, and doesn’t cost too much. 

***The yogurt is a necessary side to the oat bowl, it doesn’t mix in with the rest of the ingredients!

As shown in picture: ( the small container to the left). a mix of yogurt and apple sauce. yummmmmm!)

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*9: speaking of apple sauce: 0.5 cup home made apple sauce!

Should you need a reminder -here is a link to my previous post babbling on the subject of home made apple sauce:   

Apple-sauce instead of what??

*10: a dash of freshly ground nutmeg.

Don’t give me that look!

You know very well I am far from being one of those fancy show offs that require strange ingredients for the sake of showing off.

The thing is, I am telling you– it does make a huuuuuuge difference.

I know it’s easier to buy ground nutmeg, but the smell and taste (ok, its aroma!) of the freshly ground one- wow.

If you have pumpkin spice- I would try it. we don’t have it here, so no pumpkin spice for me.

C’est tout!

Oh sorry- 1 cup of boiling water. perhaps a drizzle of soy milk, for good measure.

How to:

In the bowl you intend to eat in, put all ingredients aside from the yogurt and the apple sauce, mix well, microwave for another minute if you feel like it (though not necessary), and eat -alternating one spoon of porridge, with one spoon of yogurt+applesauce.

This is so good, I just know you will love it.

now to macros:( thank you Myfitness pal app! (no affiliated nothing here, just a simple thank you.)

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As you can see, the numbers are quite nice, the taste is great (sure, I know, to each his own, but some things are just, you know, a joy for every taste pallet ), easy to make, carry as dry goods in a jar to work (separate container for yogurt +apple sauce), just add boiling water , wait a minute, stir and be the center of attention cubicles around the world. 

Oh- and plant based too- did I mention that?

Enjoy- the cooliflower.  

Apple-sauce instead of what??

Apples are a favorite of mine.

I absolutely think fruit are nature’s fancy cakes, and I am risking being labeled as a douch/purist/hippie/all 3 together-and I don’t give a f%^&.

Because-

I am a true skeptic, and almost everything in life-in my opinion , is to be seriously doubted and double, if not triple-checked before implementing or believing.

Everything- except fruit.

Fruits are, well, you already know that, don’t you? the most nutritious, healthy, tasty, nurturing, sustainable, cheap(in season, in the long run and compared to other manufactured sweetened stuff, especially if you consider the significant cut in health care cost).

So?

So- this time I am celebrating the apple season (fall) , and urging you to consider the benefits of apples even during colder weather, when all you want  is something hot +savory. and sweet. 

Since, sadly, I don’t have an apple tree, I buy my apples, along with all my other groceries, on line. 

Now buying on line has many many benefits, especially these days, but it has its downfalls, and since I don’t hand pick my fruits, sometimes the apples come with a bump , that progresses as time progresses. plus- sometimes an apple that looks great from its exterior, is, alas, rotten on the interior. (don’t judge an apple by its cover etc). 

And sometimes people just don’t crave apples as much as they did a week ago-

Any way- there can be a number of reasons why you would have  a bunch of (very) ripe apples that need tending to- asap. 

I buy green apples in my supermarket, specifically for making apple sauce, since I simply love that thing. 

Apparently in my supermarket they cost 30% less than red apples, so win-win there. 

Of course- needless to say- if you have any access to an apple tree- or an apple tree owner, or family member- get going. 

Oh almost forgot the headline:

Apple sauce, among other great benefits -is a great substitute for oil in baking recipes!!

Check me out in case -for some strange reason- you need to check everything anyone tells you (in which case-good job! guess we have something in common).

Here is a link- https://www.asweetpeachef.com/substituting-applesauce-for-oil/

(just picked a site that agrees with me- pick another one just to make sure).

But that’s not all! (oh the excitement. )

Apple sauce is also considered a decent replacement for eggs

in vegan baking.

I have to admit, I usually replace eggs with the traditional “flax egg” thing: (1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp water, after 10-15 minutes it becomes quite smooth and does the job of incorporating and uniting dry goods, but-always up for more interesting options, especially if they add a nice apple’y taste.

If you don’t mind splashing oil around and bathing in eggs, you can still enjoy a good apple sauce, mind you. 

Because fall is around the corner, and, just for instance-  my preferred breakfast  changed from ice cream smoothies, to oat power bowls, with a side of  apple sauce and some vegan yogurt. 

But this seems to have been going on too long -so I’ll just tell you quickly how to get yourself a yummy frugal homemade healthy  apple sauce, and how to keep it on hand for baking purposes:

Simply peel a few apples, cut them, put in a pan, add a little bit of water- just until the apples get settled, a bit of cinnamon, (maybe nut meg?), a little bit of salt, and a few grains of sugar (if you went for the green apple-it’s a bit more sour) or- if you prefer -a pear instead of sugar (yes I mean that- try it!), or some home made date spread, and let simmer for 15-20 minutes on low. then mash it with a fork or don’t mash at all, and store in fridge -keeps a few days. 

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Now- should you want to use it for future baking- 

Then simply mash it up nicely with a hand mixer , and freeze in a silicone mold, then when it’s all frozen- move to bag. 

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For those who can’t see the justification for peeling a good apple out of its perfectly great nutritious skin (I really can’t understand that peeling thing. and it takes time too! what??) simply skip that part, let simmer and everything-but- there is a small catch here– if you want to use the apple sauce for baking, then use the almighty hand mixer ( mine is a Braun one, does a great job, I get nothing for saying that, which is sad, yet true. if you have any other king- use it, if you don’t have one- what??? it is a basic super frugal useful utensil, I use it every day and I mean every friggin day- at least twice daily!) and the result will be a smooth healthy great tasting apple sauce- peel included!

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Enjoy- the cooliflower. 

Why I keep asking myself “why?”

When I was “somewhat of a boss” at work. I attended a management course at the university.

They taught us all kinds of methods to engage workers in the work they are meant to do.

The work they get paid to do.

I know I sound old , but all the while I thought “why do we keep courting our workers and pulling amazing enthusiasm tricks on them and group counselling and stuff when at the end of the day, this is their job, they get paid for doing it, end of story?

Of course I was wrong.

I am well aware of that now.

I get it that people cannot do the same thing every day , even if they do get paid for it, without , at some point, getting super bored and un-happy.

I’m just not sure the instant you get promoted to be a (junior) manager, you automatically get magic powers of a well-being guru, leading your team to joyful happy content working days.

I know I was no guru- that’s for sure.

Any way- that’s completely off point, as usual.

The point was supposed to be, that one management class, while trying not to dose off (told you I wasn’t cut to be a junior boss) the lecturer was telling us about the benefits of repeatedly asking “why”.

It didn’t really sink in at the time, for various reasons , most of them having to do with the fact I was trying to climb the career ladder, while keeping up appearance at home too. (not sure which was more of a disaster, long story short it’s a good idea I retired a few years later).

When I retired, I suddenly had ( have, I still have) a lot of time to contemplate things.

Not that I like contemplating things.

On the contrary.

I’d much rather read a book, cook, (eat- naturally), or work out. I’d rather clean than contemplate.

But, things started coming up and dragging me to think about them.

Freedom is dangerous, no wonder people fear freedom, and hesitate whether to retire early or not.

For a while I didn’t sit to meditate, falsely thinking I am in no need to sit since I am mainly alone and have tons of free time to “be” any way.

That proved to be wrong too-

The mere fact that I retired early didn’t necessarily mean I figured it all out.

I didn’t find “NIBANA” (AKA “nirvana”).

Nevermind.

There you go- work isn’t to blame for everything that went wrong on your path to tranquility. (or- more properly -equanimity).

At least for me .

So I started sitting (as in meditation) again, but the swirl of thoughts wouldn’t stop.

So I decided I am going to defy all ruled of meditation, and instead of only observing the thoughts that seem to hurry and invade my quiet peaceful mind as soon as I sit to meditate-

just go on-

And face them.

Confront those thoughts directly , and ask “why?”

It goes something like this-

“me: sitting”

“thought #1: “I keep feeling uneasy every time I talk to my mother on the phone.”

“me:”why?”

“thought: because I keep saying the wrong thing, or thinking I said- or am going to say- the wrong thing”.

“me:why?”

“thought:because our relationship is complicated”.

“me:why?”

“thought: oh, its been like that forever. nothing new”

“me: why?”

” thought: ….”

(I’m still on it, still have a long way to go).

As you can see, the distance between a seemingly innocent question and matters of hardcore being and childhood Freudian messes- is merely a matter of asking 4 times “why”.

The difference , and it’s a huge difference mind you- is that you ask the “why” in a quiet (hopefully relaxed) state of mind, as you are in a meditating position, (though not properly meditating).

This has helped me tackle some of the most frightening “why’s” -though, I seem to have no shortage of overwhelming disturbing disturbances to keep me going for a long time.

Any way- I seem to have a lot to work on.

The only thing I can say is-be gentle with yourselves.

Kind may be a better word.

The cooliflower.

Perfectionist? sorry- absolutely not.

Last week we were watching some cooking show, and this lady couldn’t finish her dish because she was so meticulous. she couldn’t let anything go. she had to understand every little detail, check and double check all the ingredients, the dish had to come out perfect -or it was a disaster , all in all- the stress was pouring out of her all through the hour.

I personally thought it was hard to watch.

My partner -on the other hand- was very sympathetic.

The reason being- as opposed to yours truly- he is definitely a perferctionist.

He never leaves the house unless he checks, double checks, and checks for the third time- the oven, the keys, the destination, for at least 10-15 minutes.

He sits down in his car-ready to go -and then starts checking if his seat is in the exact same place it was yesterday afternoon when he parked the car.

mind you that change is highly unlikely-since he is the only one using this car- unless an alien decided to visit us earthlings, open his car- of all cars in this universe- and -of all things that alien could do with his time- fool around with my partner’s car seat.

I’m not saying this scenario is totally impossible. things happen.

Then he checks if he put his water bottle in the exact same place he put it yesterday- and the day before, if the mirrors decided to take initiative and move around when everybody is sleeping, etc.

When he decides to do a wood project- he is tremendously talented and almost everything at our house was handmade by him- it takes at least a day of pre-designing, a day of measuring, another day of adjusting the previous design to the accurate measurements, another day to get the exact supplies needed, another day of rest before starting the job- and half a day of actually doing it- since-as I said before- he really is talented.

These are just examples- there are more.

On the other side of the tiny house- there’s me.

I start a project- gardening, cleaning, cooking- at the exact moment the idea pops into my head.

I get up and get going- not checking if I have the exact ingredients ( I am not talking basic stuff- but exact condiments and garnishes. well maybe some basic stuff substitution will happen too- you never know..)

I love cooking, and gardening, and most of the time I like cleaning too- and I refuse to turn any of them into a tedious meticulous chore.

For years the debate at our house was which method is more efficient:

The steady- detail respecting -perfection fan -will last forever version-

or the quick fix -let’s tackle problems as we go along -the important thing is to be done and enjoy the result even if it’s not perfect version. 

turns out there was no real reason to climb so high up that argument tree.

(can you spot our white cat up there? I gave him a big applause for this trick. he was oblivious).

When my partner and I paused the cooking show to discuss my reaction to the cook’s inability to complete the task because of her need to be perfect, he asked me outfront what exactly was bothering me.

“I can’t stand it when people act as if perfectionism is a good thing” I replied. “It got to the point where your’e supposed to list it as your one and only “flaw” in work interviews, knowing darn well that not only is it not a flaw, but actually a virtue in the eyes of interviewers”.

“so?”

“so what is the point of that obsessiveness anyway? everything is temporary, nothing lasts forever, and the attempt to make anything perfect troubles me from the philosophical point of view”.

“really?wow”.

“Yes, wow”

silence. each contemplating his/her actions”.

“you know” he said, “I am a perfectionist too, and I can tell you that for me personally, it’s no virtue, but a real burden”.

“?”(me- still have’t found a ladder to climb down that high tree of righteous “philosophical” anger I developed).

“yep. the time I spend checking and re-checking every move I made, every plan I make- you really think I don’t understand that 80% of it is fruitless? I simply can’t help it. If I don’t double check and triple prepare- I can’t go on with a project. for me it’s kind of an OCD thing almost. not a leisurely pamper of a spoiled “I have the right to be perfect and I will exercise my right here and now at everyone’s expense”, but more “I have a problem and I am trying my best to learn how to cope with it”.

“oh”

ladder wood blackandwhite old
Photo by Khimish Sharma on Pexels.com

“actually”, I said- once safely on solid ground, “maybe this is simple envy I am experiencing…maybe the thought of people actually having the ability , patience and skills to make something absolutely perfect, simply makes me feel inferior, with my “oh I finished that chore 2 weeks ago, procrastination?? you kidding me??done is my middle name!” and so on” .

“maybe”, he said. “you can be happy with what you are, and not get upset with other people’s traits?”

“………..”

“But what will I do with all the free time I will have, if I stop judging and criticizing other people?????

“………..”

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

The day we had a power cut.

So a few weeks ago, all of a sudden, in the middle of the day, a super hot and humid day might I add, everything stopped.

No lights, AC, computers, and the internet -shut down.

Apparently, there was a fire close by, which caused our life to rewind to the ’50s in a split second.

At first, I just sat there, dumbfounded by reality.

When just sitting there became a hazard, since it was so hot I almost got stuck to my chair, I got up- and started pacing back and forth around my (small) house.

That didn’t get me very far (literally), so I sat down again.

I started feeling sorry for myself 3 minutes into the situation, that got me through another 6 minutes of good solid self pitying.

“why now? why not in the middle of the night? who cares if there’s a power cut in the middle of the night? or in wintertime- I would be slouched in front of the fire anyway, but in August??? its probably over 100 degrees, I need to check this out-oh right. no internet. feels like 200 degrees anyway. maybe the ceiling fan. no. they need electricity too- although they had them in the 50s..its so hot inside, maybe it will be cooler outside? hell no, its over 300 outside in the sun. how long is this going to last? is all my food going to defrost? maybe I should eat it all right away so it doesn’t go to waste? but how will I heat it? this is crazy”

This internal ramble could go on for hours if it weren’t for something amazing happening at that moment.

I froze.

A door opened -and from that door- my youngest son appeared. 

He is almost 16, and I haven’t seen him since summer vacation began at the middle of June.

He was home all the time, and so was I- I just haven’t seen him.

He wakes up almost at noon, eats something, and goes back to his cave.

If you are one of those educational lecturers on the topic of “too much internet is hazardous to the brain of teenagers” , I have 3 things to say:

#1: I am not absolutely positive they even have a brain.

#2: he is my third child- I tried this BS of limiting tv time and computer time and all that.

Come on.

Who are we kidding?

#3: I have no idea how this happened, but this kid turned out even more of an  introvert than me , and that’s saying a lot.

Maybe its because his dad’s an introvert too- so 100/100, whereas my mother is a total extrovert, and COVID 19  is giving her the creeps since she misses seeing people. (!)

So if anyone feels like lecturing – go find someone else to lecture to. and good luck with that.

So this son of mine emerges from his room, looking bewildered, and suddenly opens his mouth and says something.

I don’t think I heard his voice since the middle of June, so I was startled.

He looked taller too.

And skinnier, while we’re on the subject.

He said:” there’s no internet”.

Wow.

So profound.

You can clearly see no damage was done to any of his faculties.

I contemplated my response, then just nodded .

At that point he was still optimistic that the power will return shortly, so he just said “what’s for lunch?”

But after I called the electricity company, and heard that they estimated no power until 1 am- he became grim.

He had no idea what to do with himself.

I suggested he read a book- he just looked at me with a look that could mean so many things- none of them good- so I just pretended  I was joking.

Meanwhile, it was so hot inside, things were really becoming unbearable.

If we only had those ceiling fans.

We got through lunch lighting the stove with matches (!) , and found out (the hard way) that in hot and humid temperatures, it’s a good idea to take multiple quick cold showers to cool you off a bit.

When evening finally came, I marveled at books I downloaded to my iPad (yay free digital library!) and was quite content with the peace and quiet that suddenly surrounded us.

My son, on the other hand, was still upset, and even the fact that power was back by dinnertime didn’t help- because the internet wasn’t due to be back until the next day.

My partner took a chance and suggested he watch a classic movie with him- one he had recorded ages ago.

The teenager reluctantly agreed, having no other means of entertainment available.

They ended up having a great time watching that mentioned “classic”: “Rocky 3”- if anyone is interested. I have no idea whether this is really a classic like my partner claims, I thought all those bloodshot eyes and raw egg drinking was quite enough for me so stopped after Rocky 1. I still think shouting “Adrian we did it ” is a classic so if I get a chance- I will definitely do that, and I don’t care what people think of me.

Alas- bonding was nice but didn’t last for long- the next day the internet was back, and since then I haven’t seen my son except for those “what’s for lunch” exits.

Still- it was nice while it lasted.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

The cheapest “renovation” ever!

2 cans of paint ( 2 shades of blue)

20 door knobs (ceramic multi colored -from Amazon)

Cest tout. 

Before-

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After-

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A

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A great trick for lazy bums that the mere thought of taping endless duct tape and spreading old sheets all over the place (which, of course-is the right way to do it, mind you!) makes them wave the whole project off:(I discovered personal experience can benefit you in the lazy area!)

Magic sponge!

I have no shares or affiliated anything here- on the contrary- I bought mine in a 100 piece bulk on eBay, some generic who knows what it’s name is brand.

Before getting all excited here-

Do not use it on: hardwood floors, non stick pans, and generally- when you are not sure how a certain surface will react.

Other than that? simply soak in water, add a few tiny drops of dish soap (that magic frugal cleaning agent, can’t beat it) squeeze those excess water out, and keep close when painting.

I mean really close by. reachable .

It cleans walls-and saves you from having to repaint every 6 months -simply “wash” the walls using the same method as before (soaked sponge, few drops etc).

Dont go wild on the scrubbing though- it looks soft and innocent- but has a kind of scraping quality- hence the great job cleaning surfaces.

I also use it to scrub tubs, kitchen counter, fridge, you get the point. it is basically re-usable- unless you went over board with the elbow grease- in that case the sponge will diminish until total disappearance.

I love the idea of fresh paint-as a way to bring color and quick change of atmosphere into your home.

Sometimes we need change.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

Criticism- can’t take it.

I know, I’m a grown up.

I’m 52 to be exact.

That’s a fully grown up.

Actually , soon I might be entering the “growing down ” phase, that’s how much of grown up I am.

And yet-

I resent any kind of criticism -about me or my kids.

Not other people- don’t be funny now.

Criticizing other people is a hobby of mine.

I am not proud of myself, don’t get me wrong.

Quite the opposite.

I tell myself that this trait is a direct result of my upbringing.

Growing up, I was constantly compared to others- grades, popularity (……..whereas grades were easy to get- friends? well, told you already, introvert….though not knowing what an introvert even meant back then , I preferred going to the library by myself over any other social activity, especially those horrible parties. wow-looking back I can’t help but to feel sorry for young me, unaware of the fact that it is absolutely OK not to follow everything other people do, especially if it involves slow dancing wayyyyyy too close to a 5th grader to the sounds of “I am a woman in love” (B.Streisand +The Bee Gees, wait , sorry- only Barry and robin)).

Any way- the thing was- every grade I got- I was interrogated exactly what grades my friends got, then only was it considered a hit or a miss.

In my (highly unprofessional) mind, this left me with a need to feel superior to others, and, needless to say- a very judgmental caricature.

Oh, and that thing too-

That feeling of tremendous hurt and shame, every time I am criticized by anyone. about anything.

The thing is, I rarely get criticized.

Not because I am perfect-although this absolutely sensible to gather that-

But because I believe it a part of the social contract-to hide your true opinions and criticism, and save it for behind the person’s back gossip events.

Even when I worked, in a public office, I was very rarely criticized by my bosses.

Again- because bosses are taught to criticize “constructively”, plus -during 27 of my 28 years of hard work- I worked really hard, and did a good job I think.

Not outstanding, not brilliant, but definitely a good one, even a very good one, compared to others. (sure- why neglect an old horrid hobby ? sure I compared myself to others).

While on the subject of constructive criticism:

To be absolutely honest- I can’t stand that either.

Once I became “somewhat of A Boss” (don’t get all excited- the system provides names and titles like there is no tomorrow , so everyone, no matter his/her skills and contribution to team effort, can have a chance of being a “somebody”.it keeps the machine working, keeps people at their highest level of performance all the time- because they are told that if they excel- they will be promoted to junior boss/mini boss/almost boss/nearest to boss-and one fine day- they might even become the actual Boss )-

Anyway- once I became somewhat of A boss, they taught all of us “somewhat bosses” the proper way to criticize workers:

Just in case you haven’t heard that before- it is called “the sandwich method”, because you hide the harsh filling ( and, of course-feeling), between 2 layers of undeniably nice and tasty compliments .

Meaning:

When you need to criticize a worker , don’t just go over to him and tell him rught off in front of everybody, or even alone in your office.

This- according to management courses is a total faut pas:

Instead, you should call the about to be criticized worker to your office, and start the conversation with a general compliment:”you are an important part of this team mate!” etc.

Only then- you can say :”this is exactly why I regretted seeing your somewhat decreasing results last month” etc.

Then- when your workers face has sunk to ground level- you put the other lovely tasting plain piece of white bread- AKA the final compliment:”I think highly of you, and so does management” (other bosses-even bigger than your boss), “so I know you will get your act together in no time!”.

Now- I am a sucker for compliments as much as anyone (whoever tells you he is immunized to compliments, simply hasn’t heard the right way to compliment yet), but- as much as I like compliments- they are severely tainted when accompannied with that bitter tasting criticism hiding in the middle of the sandwich.

All I’m saying is-

Just keep gossiping and criticizing me behind my back.

I’ts totally ok.

I have no urge to know everything.

Knowledge is not power.

My back can handle criticizm.

My face- can’t.

The cooliflower.

I discovered I am a double-standard hypocrite.

A few years ago, I went to Barcelona with my long (long) time friend.

I love her, she’s funny, intelligent and I like listening to her insights.

So, we were waiting to board, and she was looking around (you see, one of the reasons I like her is that she enjoys the horrid game of judging people as much as I do), then she said in contempt:” my god, all those people hurrying to the duty free shop as if shopping was banned in their destination.people are so shallow, I tell you!”

I smiled, and said nothing of the 4 stuffed duty free packages she just laid on the floor next to her, containing “bare necessities” as she discalimed a few minutes before.

When we returned, I told my partner about this amusing incident ( in my opinion), when he looked at me and said:

“you do realize we are all guilty of having double standards ?”

“Say what??-no way- not me- I can spot hypocrisy from a mile!”

“Emmmm……you sure about that?

“Absolutely!”

“ok- what about your constant ranting about people who litter and put on loud music with little to no respect for their neighbors?

“What about that?”

“You do realize that letting our beloved dog run leash free is kind of doing the same thing?

“How is that the same? he loved running with us, it was part of his identity, and everybody knows a dog can’t really enjoy his run if he’s tied up!”

“……………………………………..”

“And what about your constant rant about the need to look for truth , your dislike of false mannerisms, of the social contract that claims people compliment each other on various things they know are complete lies? “

“What about that? I stand behind it 100%!”

“Fine- but how does that go along with your complete and utter inability to hear any criticism about yourself or the kids?”

“………………………………”

(Silence- that last one was really below the belt- since not only is that absolutely true- in itself it was, well- criticizing- and as stated above- I can’t stand to be criticized…)

“That’s not fair- as it happens- all 3 kids are objectively fabulous so any criticism would simply be BS!”

“OK, but what about yourself?”

(He really doesn’t let me off the hook easily)

“Well………..it’s because of how I grew up…I was always compared to other people, I felt I could never be enough just as I am…

“Well, maybe other people were raised the same way and have their issues with truth? maybe most people don’t want to deal with the absolute truth of their existence every minute of every day, hence the social contract of false compliments and phony conduct?”

“……………………………………….”

I can tell you I was really upset after this conversation, but- it did make me think.

I though about my habit of judging superstitious beliefs, when in fact- every time someone says something good about any of my kids, I quickly knock on the nearest table as if my life was at stake…

I consider myself a frugal beast and keep preaching about it in this blog on the one hand-

But go to Guatemala, Thailand, India- “to learn about different cultures “-sure- and yet- those were pricy trips non the less..

And while on the subject of going abroad- all of my recycling and vegan frugal conduct- isn’t my carbon footprint -considering those plane trips abroad-the same as every-bodies?

To be honest- I have many more examples, but I don’t need to bore you (or so I tell myself).

Discovering my self deluding double standards wasn’t easy- I can tell you that.

But-

In the long run-

Maybe it will help ease that righteous rage I feel when judging other people.

Maybe.

The cooliflower.