Thursday, March 27, 2014

Inglorious Plastics

It is a glorious day. The sun is shining, I bought myself a reusable cup for coffee and as yesterday, due to striking workers I was forced to go to work (partly) by bike. Which is great: I arrive at work and part of my workout for the day is already done. Excellent. (The good weather helps motivating me, I bet in darkness and rain it would be another story.) The countrywide strikes give complete strangers reason to talk to each other and I have the feeling that everyone is equally proud to go to work by bike. I am planning on taking the bike to work more often, even if there is no strike. As long as the sun is shining. (Well, good luck with that Selina… But yes, I will remember how good it felt and do it from time to time.) As mentioned before, my coffee-intake has risen enormously since I stopped eating sugar. I always felt bad when I got another cup I would throw away. With the reusable university-cup that is over. Feels great. It is astonishing, how much more I think about packaging nowadays. A friend of mine, who even writes a blog about her experience with reducing waste, especially fighting plastic (, undoubtedly has given me a lot of input and thought. But still. I mean my mum always told me off, e.g. for littering the street and made me pick the stuff up and put it into a nearby bin. This worked too well, I could never throw anything to the ground, unless I know it is disposable by itself, like leftovers from an apple, e.g. Now, I would rather carry trash around for hours, before I litter the ground. But not littering your surroundings is not the point of today’s movements. It is the sustainability of products and the avoidance of garbage.I would like to give you a few tips, how to avoid to use plastic (written in a list, of course)

a) follow my example and buy a reusable coffee container, that you take with you also into coffee bars. It is not a problem to let them fill the fresh coffee into your container
b) Always carry a cotton bag with you (there is very small bags you can pack into your purse), in order to avoid plastic bag purchases
c) check your groceries for plastic packaging and try to choose the one with cardboard over plastic (often cardboard-containers have a plastic bag inside nonetheless, so don’t be fooled)
d) Out of milk cartons you can build little lunchboxes to take with you and avoid alu foil or wrapping film, plus they are reusable
e) try to buy fresh fruit and veggies without plastic wrapping, (you should try to avoid packaged food also for health reasons, but that is another story)
f) a market is a great opportunity to shop fresh groceries without plastic packaging
d) collect recipes that do not require any plastic-wrapped products

To show you that it is possible, I will post eco-friendly recipes from time to time. Here is a German speciality, apparently especially made in the south. It is sweet as hell and great. Makes you really full, so don’t make too much.

The German word for it is “Scheiterhaufen”, translated: stake (the one to burn witches on) – The name comes from the layers that build this delicious dish. (We ate it for dinner – and lunch the next day – but you can easily eat it as dessert). Apart from being really tasty, Scheiterhaufen consists of some ingredients which can be leftovers, so it includes a bit of upcycling ;)

You need (for a big casserole dish):

-         7 old / dried rolls, or pieces of white bread
-         1 litre of milk
-         7 eggs
-         160 g sugar (my recommendation: take xylit, or at least raw sugar)
-         160g powdered Hazelnuts
-         60g Hazelnuts (whole nut)
-         1 kg of apples (slightly sour)
-         A little bit of real vanilla
-         70g of butter
-         Cinnamon
-         1 lemon (juice)

Slice the bread (1 cm). Mix milk, sugar, vanilla and egg thoroughly in a bowl. Adjust powdered Hazelnuts. Peel the apples, take out the core, slice it. Sprinkle lemon juice on the slices and then powder them with sugar and cinnamon.

Dip the bread into the milk-mixture until they are soft, butter the casserole dish. Put a layer of soft bread into the casserole dish and then in turns adjust layers of bread and apples, ending with a layer of bread. Put some butter and the whole hazelnuts on top.

Preheat the oven, bake the whole thing for 45 minutes with a temperature of roughly 175° (Celsius). The top should be of a light brown colour. It is best when served fresh from the oven and you can eat it with vanilla sauce or ice-cream if you like. We ate it with walnut-ice cream and it was marvellous! J  The recipe says that as a main dish this amount will feed 4, as a dessert 8 people.  Guten Appetit!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A list a day...

... keeps trouble away.

Do you love to-do lists as much as I do? All the things you need / want / wish to do in order. It's magical. They remind me a bit of the pensieve of Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter novels. Just take a thought out of your head and store it somewhere safe. To lighten your head a bit. Most of my lists do work in exactly this way. I am a cluttered mind and need some extra-storage from time to time. What am I saying? All the time! My desk is always loaded with to-do-lists. On a regular basis they are collected, put on one new list and thrown away.

Sasha Cagen is the best known to-do-listologist. Her blog is full of lists which reveal so much about their writers. ( can be a precise diary of what we did, what we are planning to do and – maybe most often – of what we fail to do. There are a lot of items I have had on my lists for ages. At work these often are tasks that I do not particularly like, e.g. calculations or anything else involving maths and excel. Those two are my arch enemies, I try to hide from them as good as I can. And I am an expert at procrastination, in private those things, wandering on every list are either also involving maths (like figuring out a private form of pension) or take some effort or organizing (like taking part in a burlesque seminar, or learning Italian – I started this, though. Yay for me!) I even have an app on my phone called “do it
"Do it tomorrow"-app
tomorrow”, created for procrastinators like me. Here I write down every single thing I want to remember, it is my virtual knot in a tissue (is that an international habit? In German culture you used to do that if you had something to remember.) Sometimes stuff I have to do for work pop into my head in the middle of the night. And while I used to lie awake and think about it, nowadays I just write it down into my phone and get to it in the morning. (Also I use it to write down every musician or song I hear somewhere and want to check out later on spotify. Great, because now I never feel like I am missing something that might be as life-changing as a favourite new song or singer.)
I love crossing out items on to-do lists. I always make sure to write down even tiny tasks, just to make sure I have short-term successes. Fooling oneself and yet it works pretty well. (The above mentioned app actually has this feature. You can virtually cross out your tasks, great!)

My hitlist of lists (I just love lists):

1. work to-dos (always several at the same time)
2. shopping lists (handy to keep you from buying half the supermarket)
3. pack-list for holidays (reusable)
4. invitation lists (sometimes virtual on facebook, sometimes on paper)
5. goals (usually appears in January)

There is a special kind of list I rarely make, which is a “grateful-for-list”. Psychologists say that these kinds of lists instantly make you feel better, because they help you to focus on great stuff happening in your life. So I decided it is time I write a “grateful-for-list” and here it is:

Things I am grateful for:

1. my smart, funny and loving boyfriend
2. friends
3. family (they have always been there for me which I cannot appreciate enough, knowing they are there feels like a safety net to me)
4. health (apart from my migraines I am a pretty healthy lass)
5. job ( I am doing what I like and am as free as a bird doing it. Plus I love the creative atmosphere of working at university.)
6. DIY (the whole movement tends to give me some hope that mankind is not completely lost plus: it is fun!)
7. Nature (making me feel tiny and grateful everyday. The power a beautiful sunrise or a clearblue sky have over people is magical.)
8. Internet (it might be weird that I am grateful for the internet, but my life would be so different without it. There is so many people in my life I wouldn't have met, including my better half (we met on a party, organised in the net, by couchsurfers, also something I am grateful for) and also detecting new hobbies via the net is a great experience, like blogging or knitting, for example.
9. choices (I did the right thing, studying media science, chose the right job, chose the right place to be with great people, alhtough this seems to be a bit of a repetition)

I bet there are loads of things I have forgotten or I can write down in future. Things I am grateful for might change through time as well. we will see....

Make a list and you will see, you feel better the instant you are finished with it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The WHO puts us all on a sugar-diet!

I have the feeling that my obsession with sugar – on the one hand craving it and at the same time trying to find out how bad it really is for my body – follows a trend that will hit us hard in the next couple of years, maybe even already in the next months. Dr. Robert Lustig is quoted more and more throughout the media, new studies are being made and finally, one big change just occurred a few days ago:
The WHO changed its recommendation concerning sugar! This is huge, people. All those last forty years, when obesity became a problem in the US and politicians requested scientists to solve the problem, sugar has been ignored and fat has been blamed. Why?
This might sound a bit like a conspiracy-theory, but it is a plausible explanation: the sugar lobby is just too big. They pump a lot of money into the government, also into science, and it is no surprise that they saw the introduction of low-fat products as their chance to sell even more sugar and make people therefore more addicted to their products. This is exactly how it worked: fat was reduced in a lot of products, (low-fat yogurt, butter, cheese, there is even low fat lasagne, tiramisu, toffees, etc.) but as fat improves taste, you had to add sugar to compensate for the missing fat. This had two effects: 1st the body does not feel as full as with the full-fat version, craves more in consequence and 2nd the sugar triggers the reward centre of the brain and makes us want more. We can see the result on the streets in everyday life and on ourselves: we get fatter inspite of all the low-fat products. Scientists have criticised the food industry ever since. Check out this BBC documentary, it shows pretty accurately on how the whole process works.

Jacques Peretti gives a very good overview on what the problem with our everyday diet is. Robert Lustig too is interviewed in this documentary. (Lustig’s lecture on youtube got commented by a girl from the US “He is fat himself and shouldn’t lecture us.” (paraphrasing) Obviously, she hasn’t seen the video. Lustig is not lecturing anyone and least the obese people themselves. Plus, he admits that he loves sugar just like anyone else. Which is the curse of sugar: knowing how bad it is, does not help.) Peretti says that the American government and the WHO are dependent on the sugar lobby and will only change their recommendations for sugar once the costs for obesity rise higher than the money gained by the sugar industry. Money rules the world… This apparently is the case now, as the WHO announced new guidelines on sugar only a few days ago, reducing the amount of recommended sugar intake dramatically from 10% to only 5% of your daily calorie intake.

“For an adult at a normal body mass index, or BMI, eating 5% would be around 25g of sugar – or six teaspoons. That’s less than is typically found in a single can of regular soda, which contains about 40 grams of sugar.” (

Things are about to change. And they have to, regarding the rising levels of obesity, the numbers of children suffering from type 2 diabetes and more and more people dying from metabolic syndrome. There are more people overweight than undernourished today, which seems like a joke.

How is my personal war on sugar going? Well, I have mentioned the fruit yogurt I couldn’t resist. Apart from that it is going pretty well. I learned that I should eat more regularly (which could also help me get rid of my migraine attacks.) and that it is much harder, to resist sweet food when I am stressed and everything seems to fall apart. But I managed and I am pretty optimistic of refraining from eating candy till Easter. Apparently though, sugar and especially chocolate is not a trigger for my migraine as I had more attacks already in March than I had in February. But that is a good thing, as I am only damaging my insulin- levels eating chocolate, not triggering any headaches. I also learnt that I cannot live without the taste of sweet food, not unless I move into a desert with no supermarkets and no fruit available.
So I eat plenty of fresh fruit but as Robert Lustig states the fiber from fresh fruit and veggies makes sugar much less dangerous, this is not really bad for you. Just leave away the juice and smoothies and eat the real thing. I also found a new love: sundried tomatoes. They are my candy now and I truly love them. So you can live without candy and it is not too hard, really. In the beginning of April I can donate blood again and I am pretty excited for the results of the blood test: will my no-sugar-diet have any affect on them? 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I have to admit that I caved. In a way. I mean did not eat the list of candy I craved a few days before, including chocolate bars, cupcakes, cookies, cake, tiramisu, toffees, puddings and so on. But bought myself some yoghurt. with fruit in it. And they are almost as bad as candy, but I could not really help it. I suffer severely from PMS and yesterday was that time of month. I guess that yoghurt is kind of a compromise between the stuff I normally buy and the apples I should have gotten instead. Apart from the yoghurt I have also started to eat more fruit again. From time to time, as a treat, I feel like I have to eat something sweet and at least fruit also has a lot of fiber, so it is not as bad as candy.

Apart from that my 17 days of not eating sugar so far have not been a healthy affair at all. I feel like I compensate the lack of sugar with the help of more calories and more fat. I used to eat much healthier, less cheese, less flour, more veggies. But I can't seem to help it much. I read in Robert Lustig's book that often our brain replaces one product we crave with another, if one addiction cannot be satisfied. I am not addicted to bad food, but I cannot deny the satisfaction, salty or fatty food gives me at the moment.

Interestingly enough, shopping is not as horrible as I thought it might be. I got used to not pay the candy section of my stores any attention. (If it is not pms day). I will keep you updated on how the sugarfree time goes on.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sweets for my sweet….

… sugar for my honey: Hello, my name is Selina and I am a sugar-addict. Yes, I confess. There is nothing as hard for me to resist as chocolate, ice-cream and Co. If I didn’t knew it was sabotaging my health I could live on sweets. Pudding, cake, you name it. Everything.
A part of me really likes the feeling to eat healthy food though, so I am interested in getting to know more about nutrition, which is how I found out about Dr. Robert Lustig. He is a medical doctor, a pediatrician with a focus on obesity. During his studies he found out how sugar, fat and obesity intermingle. I know that some aspects of his theory might be debatable, but actually critics have not really had a point when trying to confute him. A lecture he gave on the dangers of sugar is found on youtube, check it out:

Last year, I was fed up with the power sugary food has over me and I abstained from sugar for about three weeks. (Until I found myself on the wedding of a friend with great dessert and cake, but that was ok, I only wanted to show myself, that I do not have to eat sugar on a regular basis.) For 2014 I thought lent would be a good timespan to once again let sugar go for a time. There are several reasons why fasting in lent makes sense: a) it is a defined timespan, so you know when you are about to be released; b) everyone knows about lent, so they won’t ask as many questions; c) you might shape your body a bit while fasting, good for better weather, plus d) I think living healthily in general is easier when the weather is good (maybe due to less stress symptoms).  

So I started on carnival, Monday before last. Sugarfree food also means, no sweet stuff, no xylit, or other sugar-substitutes, especially no artificial ones like aspartame (even more poisonous than sugar). I tried the strategy to let go of every sweet taste, in theory including even fruit. But I didn’t make it. The fruit-abstinence. So I still try to eat more veggies than fruit but once in a while I will eat a pear or a Kiwi. It works well, as the fruit now are like a special treat for me, substituting Snickers and KitKat.
Out of bad conscience I even googled how much sugar a Kiwi had. 9 grams. Quite a lot, I think. A banana 12 g, which I think is little, seeing how on a diet, fruit is ok, as long as it is not bananas or grapes. Well, I enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, craving does not get much better. I thought after a few days (12th day now) it would improve, but whether it is the beautiful spring weather that makes me want to devour ice-cream and cake outside, or other reasons, I don’t know. Maybe it won’t get better. But I made it so far, like a fourth of the time, so I am pretty sure I will make it. But it is hard. Maria, from writes that she didn’t eat sugar in January and that she didn’t really mind. I have great respect for her. For me that seems to be impossible, I think about sugar a lot when I cannot have it.

If you are interested in the body-functions relating to sugar, please read “Fat Chance” by Robert Lustig. I am only half way through, but the insights the book gave me are priceless. I have the feeling that every page is like a bit of a revelation to me. Unfortunately the book cover looks like a diet-guidebook, which is why I am always a bit ashamed when I take it out in public. It is however full of scientific insights and highly political. Lustig detects several mechanisms in our body that can make us obese or also sabotage our health, even if we are of average shape. Insulin-resistance is the main problem, which will make sure that all you energy is stored into fat-cells. While insulin is high, when you are resistant, the leptin in your body, which will tell your brain when you are full and satisfied is blocked. Therefore, insulin-resistant people’s bodies will feel like starving bodies and react like them. They will make you eat as much as possible, mostly fatty and sugary food as they have a high energy-density, and make you move as little as possible (not to loose more energy). In addition to this, stress causes the production of cortisole, a hormone that causes even more energy-storage, saving up for a rainy day, if you will. Dr. Lustig’s approach is very medical and fact-driven, but I think it might be a good explanation why there are more diets and exercise-trends now than ever before, but at the same time more obese people than ever before.

It is definitely true for me that if I have a bad day and feel stressed out by something my craving for sugar gets worse and worse. Yesterday was bad. I had to stay at home because of my migraine and felt useless and hopeless. To tell you the truth I was an inch from calling the whole fasting off and indulging in loads and loads of sugary food. But I resisted. Cooled down and it worked. I was much better in the evening already.
There is a lot to loose besides honour: Mr. Schön offered me a deal: He would pay for vibram running shoes that I wanted to buy for my own, when lent is over, if I make it through the time. In case I don’t make it I would have to pay him back the money for the shoes, plus 500 Euro go to a party I hate like hell, e.g. the Nazi-party NPD. (I found this idea in the book “Drop dead healthy” by A.J. Jacobs, another great read.) Actually it is motivation enough not to give those dumbasses my precious money to keep fasting. Great idea, hm?

I will tell you how it will work out for me during those next 5 weeks. I already learned two things: it is important to keep yourself busy and to always eat enough not to be super-hungry.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Goodbye 2013

Oh no, almost one third of the new year is over and I haven’t written a Goodbye-Post for 2013. I can certainly say that I have the feeling as if 2014 will kick 2013`s ass! So far we have had the most beautiful spring ever, blue sky almost everyday and even carnival was warm and sunny as never before.
Looking back the winter of 2013 was truly horrible. I like snow and ice, but when it is dark and cold for six months, I get depressed. And many others do, too, which is why everyone felt a bit like hungover from winter during the first months of 2013. (Plus I detected a severe thyroid hypofunktion, which had added up to my bad mood.)

The worst thing happening to me in 2013 was certainly the passing away of my dog, Lily. She was suffering from cancer, so it was pretty clear she wouldn’t make it much longer, but it was nonetheless a bitter and very sad experience. With all the horror of the day we had to finally decide to put her to sleep, I learned that death can be a very peaceful experience, as it must have been a relief for Lily suffering severely from the cancer. (I am tearing up as I am writing, I will definitely miss that very special dog all my life.)

Sleep tight, little one.

Canoeing in Spreewald and looking as smart as a future PhD should ;-)
(I tried to turn the picture,
but apparently it doesn't want to be turned)

2013 was also the year of new projects. One of them is my PhD. I haven’t started yet, so it is still on the agenda. But doing your PhD next to a fulltime job proves rather difficult. Especially for a sloth like me… Though I know it will be hard work and will cut into my even now short time of fun with friends and deprive me of sleep, I love the thought of digging into one topic as deep as no one before, becoming the extra-expert and reading and watching tv till my eyes fall out. Oh yes, did I not mention I am a media scientist? Which is why writing my Master thesis meant watching a lot of tv, lots and lots. And going to the movies. Now I can’t think of a better career than one that makes you watch tv and movies. That is why I want to do it all again. Writing my master thesis was one of the happiest and most relaxed time of my life. And when I read the thesis today I still cannot believe that it was me, who wrote it. Not, because it is so great, but because I have forgotten half of it. This year I put the PhD back on the list and have started to read my Master thesis again which shall be the starting point for the new project, plus I made contact with people who have gone through the same procedure (as writing a PhD thesis is not only reading and writing but a lot of bureaucracy, which I hate more than anything in the world. So, I guess from summer 2014 on I will be a PhD student, working halftime and watching television for work. Yay! (Plus I am doing it for my better half, who (and maybe a part of him is telling the truth here) would love to be a “Herr Doktor”. Hilarious.)

2013 also meant a great summer holiday. I have never been a big fan of beach holidays. Staying in one place for two weeks and doing the same routine everyday, no thank you, I’d rather stay at home and go to work. Which is why last year we took two weeks off and decided to make a roadtrip. Around Germany. (That is kind of a bold decision, because summerweather in Germany is highly unreliable and can mean two weeks of rain.) We were so unbelievably lucky and had the best weather. Sunny Spreewald, sunny Berlin. Sunny Hamburg. Sunny Cuxhaven, sunny Baltic sea, Northern sea  and sunny Bremen. It was amazing. We went canoeing in the jungly-looking Spreewald, went to see many great friends in Berlin (starting to really like this city) and watched the sundown in Hamburg harbour. After a ten k-run we took a naked bath in the Baltic sea and when all the camping and sleep-overs got on our nerves, we spent a night in a wellness-hotel. Such a great spontaneous time, without plan, drifting and loving it. 

Last but not least 2013 was the year of DIY. Once you start with projects of Upcycling, reading DIY blogs and talking to your friends about it, it feels like a whole cosmos. Everything can be done. By yourself. This is such a great feeling, I fall in love with it everyday. I started serious knitting and got much more creative and I love it.

This will lead me to 2014: there is a lot to learn. I started learning Italian as I have wanted to like, for ages. And I invited my Mom to come with me to London, my favourite city of all times. I think going on holiday with your mom is a pretty cool thing once you are my age. Plus, she is so eager to learn more English, that is darn cute.
One of my goals of 2014 was : more going to the movies. Well accomplished so far (2 times last weekend) and all of the movies have been great in their way. (I loved e.g. Grand Budapest Hotel and American Hustle), more reading (also accomplished so far. Reading at the moment: Fat Chance, by Robert Lustig. Very interesting, very scientific, but easy to understand book about obesity and sugar.) As there are so many babies born in 2014 – there are always a lot of babies born, but this year it will be a lot I will get to know personally – there will be many opportunities to get better at knitting. I would love to learn some Fair Isle-knitting by the end of 2014. Let’s see how that goes, I will definitely keep you updated.
Let’s have a cheer for 2014, as it has been so good to us so far, hooray 2014!

As some of you may have noticed, my last blog-entry is written in German. As much as I love English and as useful as it is, sometimes it is just easier to write in my mother tongue. One half of me feels like it should be ashamed of itself, having studied English and having spent quite some time in England, I should really not make a fuss about it and just get it done and the other half tells me “It is your blog, you write it for your pleasure, so if German is easier for you then write it in German”.
Considering the internet and it’s multicultural and international dimensions, which I love so dearly about it, I really should write in English. Plus, it helps me to improve my vocabulary.
Germany, or at least the part of it where I come from, the Rheinland, is famous for it’s carnival. It’s a pity that carnival here means 3 ° and rain, but then again it was traditionally celebrated to drive winter out of town and welcome spring, so I guess celebrating it in the middle of July wouldn’t make much sense. Everyone puts on a costume, usually drinks a lot of alcohol and – after a while – loves everyone around them. The music is horrible (carnival Volksmusik, horrible, I tell you) but I love the costume part. All my life I have loved to dress up as a different character, I have been fascinated by fashion (especially fashion of past eras) and –for a few years now – make up. Although I do not wear much make up in my everyday life ( I guess I am just too lazy), I love what you can do with make up skills. You can turn a man into a woman, make a slim person fat and the other way round. Hollywood shows us every single day. Thanks to the treasure of the world wide web you can find make up-tutorials of any kind online, whether you want to look like a Victorian gentleman or Frank’ n ’Furter. My favourite make-up artists on youtube are the two sisters of pixiwoo. Check out their channel, it is amazing what they can do with a brush and some paint:

I found them when I was googling how to be the best Amy Winehouse I could become. (It was my costume for a Christmas party at work. Unfortunately I was not the only one, I think there were 3 or 4 of us. But I definitely wore the best make up ;-) And tattoos! (You could actually get the original Amy-tattoos as stickers)) Until now youtube has helped me with many of my costumes. The zombie-look can be so easy, e.g. Or 20s make up. Mr. Schön and me, we like to host parties and we like to host motto-parties (I know, a lot of people hate motto parties, but we never heard any complaints. And we would let people enter without costumes, but our friends are amazing dressers, when it comes to costumes. Maybe that is the influence of carnival…) For one of our birthday parties (we celebrated the 60th, cause together we were 60) we decides to have a 20s party. I had seen a wall of great pictures from the 20s in a café I liked and I wanted to have one wall like that myself, but with my friends looking as if they were in the 20s. Does that description make any sense? Anyhow, we had a great party. Due to the idea of a photo-wall I wanted everyone to look as genuine as possible and was prepared with make up, stolas, whigs, etc. But the costumes were amazing, one looked more stunning than the other, I loved all their looks!

 When I look at those pictures today I am more and more impressed at what my friends can pull off. They all look gorgeous and I think we should definitely rethink our current fashion style. Maybe it is time that flapper-dresses and dark and heavy eyelids come back. (Truth be told, I really think that gloves should have a comeback, they make every outfit all the more elegant. Plus, most of us have icy hands all the time anyway, don't we? But who am I kidding, I am not even wearing gloves myself, although I think I should. Will try it in the future.)

Although our birthdays are in October and November, we still haven’t celebrated the last ones and might do that in summer, as we have a big balcony which is of not much use in winter (aside from some sad smokers standing outside in the rain). I thought of different options for a motto: either Mad Men, so 60s. 50s. Villains. (did that once, great party) or just characters from film or television. Mmmh…. I haven’t decided yet, but I will surely show you how the costumes turned out this time.