10 Steps Closer to Happiness

Things we can try and do for our wellbeing right now

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1. Acceptance

Suffering is part of life and is the one thing we have in common with everyone else. Accepting the sadness doesn’t mean agreeing with it or not trying to prevent the cause for it from (re)happening. It simply means allowing it to be what it is. You shouldn’t define all your life based on one sad event. Just allow things to be what they are, don’t deny or resist, accept the past as it was, and let it be part of your human experience.

I’m not writing this lightly. As someone who experienced full-term baby loss a year and a half ago, acceptance is the hardest part for me. I guess, that makes it the most important too.

2. Mindfulness

Look through the window at the beautiful sky, hear the distant bird song, enjoy your comfy sofa, taste your coffee. How many times, while we are in lovely comfortable surroundings, we let the chatter in our mind stress us out and worry us. “She said”, “he said”, “I could’ve”, “I should’ve”, “if only”. It doesn’t stop. We exhaust ourselves –  we exhaust our bodies and our minds. And all we need is to take a deep breath. Clear the mind. Look around and be in the here and now.

We’ve had bad experience. Reliving it again and again makes the experience worse and we suffer for longer.

Right now, you are safe, you are fine. No one is here to get you. Get yourself gently out of the past/imaginary future threatening situations in your head and be in the real moment. Breathe, ground, relax.

3. Heartfulness

Too often people rush doing things. They concentrate on the end result and may have a negative attitude. Don’t. Put your heart in it!

This is your life and this action is part of your life. Make it meaningful, make it count. Stop multitasking and actually pay attention to the things you are doing. Start things with a good intent. Listen to the people who talk  – don’t prepare your response/ don’t judge/ don’t think of a counter-argument. Listen and understand and you will gain so much more.

4. People – the good and the bad

I’ve read many times how important people are for your happiness. All psychologists seem to agree that a good social network of friends and family makes you a happier person. That’s what’s pushed me to work hard and maintain my relationships. But in some cases, I knew in my heart they weren’t worth the hard work.

If there’s mutual respect; if either side is contributing their time and positive intention; if you make each other laugh; if you support each other in the tough times; if you don’t let each other down; if you can have a meaningful conversation; if there’s less egos and more lovingkindness – you are onto a winner!

However, I realise now if the relationship is hard  work – it isn’t likely to get better. You occasionally get friends/family who don’t make you happy – they hurt you, you cannot rely on them, or even, they are simply not fun to be around. These people are a negative influence and damage your wellbeing. The relationships can turn poisonous and beyond repair. You know, you are better off without that in your life.

5. Self-compassion

There’s plenty of research proving self-compassion goes a long way. All you need to do is to be a bit more aware of your self-criticism and work towards being kinder to yourself. We have all done it – we criticise ourselves, blame ourselves, we can be rude to ourselves in our minds. We wouldn’t be like that with a friend, but we think it’s OK to be very strict and critical with ourselves. Well, that is not making us happy.

The kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you become with every one else, so it is far from a selfish act. Just try to be more forgiving with your faults, accept making mistakes is the essence of being a human, acknowledge them and encourage yourself to do better, without being critical.

6. Savour

Life is full of beautiful, happy moments. Good things do happen in our every day lives. Notice them and make memories of them. Savour them for as long as you can.

A life with happy memories is a happy life.

7. Gratitude

We all have heard this one. I love the suggestion for people to write down two or three things that they are grateful for at the end of each day. This is  not to say that you have it better than others. It has nothing to do with comparing yourself to others. It’s not saying you have been ungrateful person, and you don’t appreciate the things you do have already.

This is about making a point of your gratefulness for your own sake. Spending time cultivating the warm feeling of having good things going for you. Saying ‘thank you’ will make YOU feel better and happier. You don’t owe it to anyone. It is in fact, an indulgent, selfish thing to do.

8. Walk

I genuinely believe this is the best medicine for the mind and for the body. Walking is good for a wide range of people, regardless of fitness ability or age. Just go out and walk as often as you can. It’s free and it’s the least demanding leisure activity, which brings great rewards. It is what clears the cobwebs in your head and keeps the body fit in a very gentle way.

9. Sleep

Seriously, get yourself some sleep. Sleepless people are grumpy, inefficient and dull. I’m sure you have plenty of reasons why you couldn’t catch your sleep, but every one around you will be thankful if you actually just made time for it!

10. Eat well

I’m a self-confessed foodie, so that had to be included here. Good food makes you feel good and we all know it. When you eat junk food, you most likely blame yourself afterwards, your body craves important nutrients, while fighting to get rid of unnecessary fat, sugar and toxins. A good balanced diet with the right ratio (3:1 carbs to protein), including fresh fruit and vegetable might just help that smile stay on your face for longer.

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Are You Eating Healthy?

 

          There is a very exciting movement of young people out there who are super conscious of what goes in their food. Looking back, there’s too many of us who probably overdid a bit on processed foods, as we would reach for a bowl of cereal for breakfast and serve shop-bought pasta sauce with our supper. A lot of foodies are now all about plain porridge and fruit, sugar-free chia pudding, gluten-free baking, matcha lattes, meat-free burgers, and plant-based milks. It’s all so exciting with so many options of things to make and eat. New things that weren’t around in these parts of the world before – I had never heard of macca and teff until now, have you? – are suddenly part of all recipes!

As much as I love giving these a go and making as many different things as I can, I have to admit the change is happening rather fast for me. I’m not yet a convert of ‘healthy’ eating and I do see it as a bit of a fad. My issue is the lack of research into the various healthy alternatives. For example, the coconut oil is used as a healthier option to butter, but is it really? Apparently, coconut oil is actually the most concentrated food source of saturated fats. What makes some people so confident of its health benefits – where is the scientific proof?

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Stinging nettle from my local park for a yummy risotto 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I do know a bowl of fruit is better then a bowl of candy. But, I wouldn’t go as far as to say honey is definitely better than sugar. They are both sugar as far as the body is concerned and they are processed by it in the exact same way.

And thinking of all the gluten-free fixation. How the bread has suddenly become a baddie?! I do appreciate some people cannot eat gluten, and that’s fine. Just like those who cannot have peanuts. I understand. But, suddenly so many people have dis-announced the gorgeous bread and completely cut it off their diet. Even those, who can eat it with no side effects what-so-ever.

I have to mention the social background to this. There is an obesity problem out there, which causes real health issues to people. And I accept there is plenty of unhealthy processed foods in the shops, and sugar could be addictive and cause serious damage. However, claiming milk is not good for adults and wheat should be avoided at all cost is just a step too far for me. Surely, it’s all about balance and common sense.

A dozen doughnuts in a row – No!; never taste a Krispy Kreme in your life – Noooooooo!

You feel you overate – eat less during the next meal and, may be, take longer to chew your food.

You feel, you are getting chubbier – start moving a bit more.

You love having sweet treats – make your own so you know exactly what you are eating plus cooking/ baking can be a real calorie-burner.

Of course, try your best to be healthy, as health is the most important thing. But may be don’t mistake ‘healthy’ for limiting your diet and depriving yourself. The cliche is a cliche because it’s the truth – it is all about getting the balance right.

Anger v Snowdrops

What makes one angry and bitter.

What makes someone walk past a cute baby and grunt.

What makes your eyes darken, your heart pounding, your face cold like stone.

What makes one struggle inside.

What makes you think of the other person’s struggle.

What makes you see their pain is your own.

What makes you warm and calm.

 

The Lace Scarf Saga

How gorgeously tempting is a lace scarf! There’s something so elegant and sophisticated in its delicate, ethereal nature. Making one with your own hands must be quite up there on the most-rewarding list for any knitter. I have been itching to start one for such a long time. I remember last winter, I was knitting a pompom hat and I was so eager to finish it so I can start my first attempt at a shawl.

In all honesty, even though I like to challenge myself with new projects,  lace knitting didn’t seem hard to me. I figured it must be a doodle. Huge holes meet big needles – I would be done in no time, right?.

Wrong.

A winter later, I still have this guy hanging around, unfinished…

 

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So near, yet so far. I’m in despair.

I do more undoing of the knitting, then actual knitting. All is going well until suddenly the stitches don’t add up! And then you just know it will take you ages to find the mistake and, even loner to fix it. This is not like any other knitting. You simply have no idea where you are up to most of the time. It is pretty tough!

I just yearn for a new smaller project. I walk past my yarn stash and play around with fresh ideas on my mind. So many things I can make. But I cannot abandon my blue friend. Because, if I do, I just know this will be a forever unfinished story.

 

Le Petit Macaron

 

Magic happened in my kitchen a few days ago. I succeeded at French macaron making for the first time. At nothing have I failed so many times, as at trying my hands on these particular meringue cookies (well, that and my driving test). On the positive side, as we know, when you fail at something a couple of times, the subsequent achievement brings unmeasurable pleasure.

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Macarons can be challenging to make, to say the least. Small variations in technique cause big difference in the final macaron and it is so important to use the right for you recipe. They are totally worth the extra effort and patience, as there is nothing quite like a French macaron.

I started my home-made macaron adventure the hardest way (naturally!) by following Pierre Hermé’s instructions – the famous master pastry chef and chocolatier. He uses, what I now understand to be called, the Italian meringue method and that involves a hot sugar syrup and sugar thermometer…

Well, it was a tad tricky for a complete beginner like me. I don’t doubt that there is much to be said about making them the authentic way, but imagine my joy, after failing so miserably, when I discovered there is another way.

There are plenty of recipes on-line to chose from and some with very good, foolproof instructions. My advice would be, if you are a novice like me, try and avoid the Italian meringue (hot sugar syrup method) altogether for your fist go at these.

 

Home-made French Macaron – The Easier Way

I. The ingredients

  • 100g ground almonds 
  • 180g icing sugar
  • 100g egg whites
  • 1/4 ts cream of tartar
  • 40g caster sugar

II. Briefly, the method

I made the meringue first by whisking the egg whites and adding the caster sugar with the cream of tartar. Then I folded this into the remaining dry ingredients – icing sugar and almond meal. I piped circles out of the resulted batter onto baking paper. Left for about half an hour until they formed a thin skin. Baked for 15 mins at 160C.

III. The bits I was extra careful about

  • Sifting the dry ingredients to make sure I end up with a fairly smooth macaron
  • Not over whisking the meringue – stopping once you have your stiff peaks
  • Being gentle with the mixture – air is good, moisture not good
  • Pre-marking circles on a template to use under baking paper to get even cookies
  • Tapping the baking sheets on a table after piping the circle to flatten the points

IV. Notes for my next time

All ovens are slightly different, as we know. Mine is very old and somewhat temperamental.I better take them out of my oven quicker next time, as they shouldn’t be changing colour when baking.

I will add more colouring (I used red colour paste and added this to the meringue before mixing with the almond ground mixture). The colour fades after cooking and we could all do with more colour in our lives!

I am eager to try different flavours. I love pistachio macarons, so it will be awesome to manage to make those at home. The ones I made this time around didn’t have any added flavour, except for the cream in the middle, which was a simple (but still yummy) raspberry cream.

 

The end meringue cookie was all-around winner. I was told they taste as good as the ones you buy from bakeries. The longer you leave them in the fridge the better they seem to taste as well. They get to the perfect consistency of a macaron – a little bit crisp but soft and delightful – a day after you made them.

Thanks for reading and have a day full of sweetness.

Lots of Love, Sx

Beetroot Cupcakes with Coconut Cream

My first cooking post on this blog is the making of Red Velvet cupcakes from Madeleine Shaw’s cookbook Get The Glow (see it here). This is my go-to cookbook these days. I find it so versatile with so many great ideas for really easy and healthy food (Thank you, Madeleine! ♥).

I have to admit, my first attempt at these cupcakes was a bit of a disaster. Looking back, I think I added more bicarb then I should have, as they just exploded in the oven out of their little cupcake cases. My other theory is that they don’t work very well with ground almond, which is what I used before instead of flour. The recipe calls for buckwheat flour OR other gluten-free flour, so I thought I would be alright with ground almond, but they took much longer to cook and even though they tasted delicious (if you love almond!) they were rather shapeless.

Needless to say, I was challenged straight away to give them another go and am I glad I did!

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What I used for the batter (I halved the ingredients in the original recipe, and still ended up with 12 cupcakes!):

  • 125g Rice Flour (or any other flour you’d like)
  • 3tbs Cacao Powder (Raw Cacao is more intense in taste, so I’d use less of this)
  • 1tsp Cinnamon
  • 1tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 100g Butter
  • 125g Brown Sugar (or Coconut Sugar to keep it healthy!)
  • 1 Beetroot, grated
  • 1tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 small Eggs (or 1 large)
  • 75ml Coconut Milk

 

I mixed it all together and ended up with a very light batter. Divided the mixture between 12 cupcake cases and baked at 160C pre heated oven for just under 20 mins.

What I love about these cupcakes is that you get to sneak in a cheeky beetroot in them! The beetroot is meant to act as a natural dye to give the red velvet effect – not sure you can tell by looking at the end product. May be, just.

The Coconut Whipped Cream is so easy to make. You need to remember to place a can of coconut milk (400ml) in your fridge overnight, so the creamier part has a chance to separate from the coconut milk. Drain out the liquid and whip the cream a bit.

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Mind you, this is no butter cream! I am not a fan of the taste of this on its own. The recipe suggests adding cinnamon (1/2tsp) which improves it substantially, but some additional sweetener wouldn’t go amiss either.

Top your cupcakes with your guilt-free cream, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon and voilà! You are joyous and satisfied!

Lots of Love, Sx

A Blog is Born

Hiya! Welcome to my brand-new blog.

This little corner of the internet will be devoted to all things home-made and handmade.

If you are a big foodie or a fan of knitting, crocheting, and making things in general, stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ll be coming back. If you have any tips to a newbie blogger or just want to say ‘Hi’ back to me, please leave me a comment!

Lots of Love, Sx