Saturday, March 19, 2016

Recent Reading, recent Knitting

Spring is on it's way...
Tomato Plants slowly emerging

As if having a job and doing a PhD wouldn’t give me enough to read, I have been reading like crazy during those last weeks. Maybe, because it has helped my dealing with my sugar addiction to read again and again why it is so bad for you and what you can do to eat healthily instead.
One book that was a good read, but definitely no life-changer for me like “Thrive” was “Pretty happy” by Kate Hudson. I have noticed her wellness / health-approaches through all the ads for her company “Fabletics” that was shown to me on facebook due to my interest in Yoga and wellness I guess. “Pretty happy” focuses around self-love and how to attain it. Sports and nutrition are – not surprisingly – two key elements of feeling great for her. Her nutrition is based on some ideas from Ayurveda, the idea of keeping the level of acids in your food low. I do not completely agree with her concept of nutrition, but she basically says what I hold true: eat mostly vegetables, reduce intake of meat and dairy and keep your fingers from processed food as often as possible. Most interesting for me and what I will definitely take out of the book for myself is her inspiration to put your thoughts / progress / ideas into a “drawing board” or in my case, a journal. I used to write into my journal a lot during my teenage years and it has always helped me a lot. Thanks to Kate Hudson I want to make journal writing more of a priority again. I have started to write into my journal again and there are so many topics I still want to cover. Like everything about our LeanIn Circle and the massive development we have seen there... So many thoughts! Journaling can really help you to cluster your thoughts and see connections where you haven't seen any before.

Catching Ball in Grafenberger Wald

The other book I recently bought is “The Stash Plan” by Laura Prepon and Elisabeth Troy. I have always liked Laura Prepon and admired her work. We have a quite similar body type I think which is why her story of finding a good way to eat to help her to feel awesome spoke to me. Her coach, Elisabeth Troy, a wellness coach, something quite unheard of in Germany I think, impressed me with her concept of integrating Traditional Chinese Medicine into our Western world and applying it to all kinds of clients. Some people might believe the ideas of Meridians as energy pathways inside the body to be humbug, but as I have been relieved from my weekly migraine attacks by acupuncture, I cannot not believe in the concepts of TCM. Troy believes the liver and goal bladder to be crucial to our health and it makes sense if you read about the liver’s task in your body. To make a long story short, I recommend you read the book or check out some of the interviews with Laura and Elisabeth on Youtube to get an idea of what the book is about. I have been making my own beef broth only yesterday and I can definitely say that at least one member of the household absolutely loves it, which is Lisek as he gets to eat leftover bones.

We had another LeanIn Circle meeting the other day and this time I had prepared a kind of workshop on attentive listening, which had been such an eye-opener during my mediation course that I just wanted to share this “gift” of listening. People might think it is easy, but if you are a very outgoing person, always used to share a lot about your life, it can be tricky. The “rules” for it are easy enough, (give the other person your full attention; do not interrupt, ask open questions to get a better understanding of their problem, and that’s it. Do not talk about yourself, just listen.) but it can be a challenge, I can tell. It gets easier after a while and last session’s conclusion was: you always have to “tune in” consciously. Do not get used to it and do not do it all the time, or you and your point of you will get lost, but use it as a tool to make others feel better and to relax a situation. I loved how the others reacted to our little exercise and how much all of them also took out of the workshop.

Next to reading, writing, workshops I have also done some knitting. One of my favourite presents of my 30s birthday was definitely the burgundy red supersoft Merino yarn that some friends gave me for it. Up till now I did not dare to make anything from it, as it no project seemed special enough. And you know what I am doing with it? A plain beanie. Dah! I could have started much earlier. 

Don't you just love that colour?

But to have still some of the great looking yarn for more special projects I ordered some online, so that I do not have the feeling to “waste” all of this special yarn. I am crazy, I know.
To follow the pattern more easily, I adjust Washi tape to the part I am currently knitting.
I also started some stockings in a Norwegian pattern, but I just found out that I do not have enough of the same yarn to finish them. I love the pattern though, so I started the pattern anew and took more of the beautiful red merino wool. The pattern takes me some time to knit it, which is why I have only started, but I am looking forward to owning two beautiful warm knee high socks I made myself. 

The first attempt, I didn't figure  I had not enough of the orange yarn to finish at first. Plus, the pattern is not very well distinguishable,,,

So, I went back to the beuatiful red yarn. The pattern comes out much better.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

International Women's Day

A woman is like a tea bag
 – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her into hot water ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

A little while ago – it has been over a year now – a good friend of mine founded the “Lean in” Circle Düsseldorf. I have written about “Lean In”, it is a book by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of facebook, in which she describes the pitfalls for women in the workplace and the reasons women often don’t make it to top positions in companies. Instead of only blaming the patriarchic system of our society, Sheryl shows that a lot of reasons for the way the world is what it is today lie in our behavior as women. And it is true. I have read the book and I don’t know how many times I nodded and thought “True, this is exactly what I do.” By reflecting, I slowly realized how often I turn myself into the inferior at the workplace. 
Furthermore I have always been someone who preferred to work with men instead of women. Why is that? I used to have a horrible female boss, but have gotten along fine with all the male bosses in my life, which led me to the conclusion that I didn’t want to have a woman as a boss again. Utter stupidity. Plus, I now understand my former boss much better and regret how I used to judge her.

Women in the workplace (or wherever, even on the streets) judge each other. All the time. I am no exception. Either I feel superior – by the way I talk / dress / even about the stuff I shop at the grocery store compared to other women – or I feel insecure by the way the other women talk / dress / buy great stuff  - and then I feel an even bigger distance between us. “Lean In” opened my eyes here. If we do not work together as women and appreciate one another, how will we ever change society and make it more equal? It shook me to the core and made me see a lot of conflicts and insecurity around me in a different light.

While I was at university I had the feeling that there was no gender gap that would concern me. Naïve as I was I saw the female professors, leading our department, being just as powerful as the men, never thinking about the fact that, e.g. all of the secretaries were women. Once I was out in the business world, I started to feel that something was not right. Men, even my superiors in the jobs, could make sexist comments and it seemed to be tolerated by everyone. It felt very much 1960s to me. Disillusioning. 

I am deeply grateful for the change my friend Amanda brought into my life and actually the life of all of the women who have joined the Düsseldorf Circle. We meet on a pretty regular basis and the appreciating atmosphere, the sharing and the feel of support for each other can be uplifting and make me feel quite powerful. It feels like this could be the beginning of something new and important and although I am often tired when I go to the events in the evening, I always take so much out of them that it is worth the effort every single time.

We are covering topics from as broad as happiness to as narrow as attentive listening. It’s all in there. And all of the women attending have their own special skills, ready to share them and to learn from one another. It feels a little bit magical. Even if this sounds weird to you, you should go and try to join a Circle in your city and who knows, maybe you will have the same amazing experience. Maybe you won’t. And you know what? This would still be ok.

And it is awesome that it is ok…

Listen to Sheryl Sandberg in her owns words here 

Check out Emma Watson’s approach to the topic. Such an amazing woman! 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Knitting is a great way to keep you busy while craving chocolate...

You can never have enough puppy pictures...

Yesterday it has been three weeks of no sugar. I am holding up quite well, although I have experienced some craving those few last days. I often suffer from PMS and this time it hit me especially bad. I am proud that I didn’t give in though. I just ate a lot. And I mean a lot! But not the sugar that my body was craving. Usually I have no self discipline whatsoever on those days, I basically run to the supermarket and put everything into my shopping cart that is loaded with sugar, chocolate and caramel. I managed to stay away from the stuff this time, but it was hard. Saturday morning I did not only have the worst kind of cramping, but felt really sick and could not eat at first. It was worse than usually, but maybe I had some kind of infection at the same time.

Yesterday, while at the supermarket, I was tempted by the “industrial sugar free” isle and took home with me those two babies. They cost a whopping 3.50€ per piece, but I wanted to give myself a treat, so I did. The chocolate is sweetened by coconut-blossoms, so not really sugar-free, but at least no processed sugar. I ate a little piece of the coconut flavoured one and it was MAGICAL! The good thing was though, I was satisfied after the little piece and did not need more of it.

Ombar you get it in German drugstore dm. Yummie!

I have noticed several things about my brain and mind while being without the usual candy-dose: they are working much better! I am less tired, less moody and my memory is much better. Furthermore, I am motivated to move, to run, to do Yoga, to take the dog on a long walk. (Ok, I won’t deny, the awesome spring weather those last days has helped big time, too.) In one movie I have seen they tested the effect of sugar on the brain. The hippocampus, responsible for memory function and personality has been proved to be damaged by too much sugar intake. I used to be forgetful all the time, I forgot things that I had said and done, events that should have had a huge impact on my memory. My memory loss proved to be so profound that Mr. Schön was sometimes really worried (and also annoyed) about living with someone having the memory of a goldfish. Maybe it is just wishful thinking and knowing about the effect on the brain, but I have the feeling that my memory has gotten much better and I am more able to focus on one thing at a time. (By the way, Mr Schön got infected with the idea of sugar-fasting, but he has decided to indulge on weekends. I am proud to say that so far I have not been tempted, even when he was sitting next to me, enjoying chocolate.) A nice side effect, I have lost a pound per week since I started sugar fasting, without ever going hungry. To further motivate me, I read all I can about sugar and nutrition. This new German book is a lot about the body chemistry while digesting. Very interesting, but not always so easy to understand for a laywoman. 

Knitting is a great way to keep yourself busy in front of the tv if normally you were snacking. I don’t know about you, but I am terrible with all my projects, I almost never finish them at once, so you can find a lot of UFOs in our flat, Unfinished Objects. Elephant socks almost finished for our neighbor, a big shawl, a half-finished cardigan… Finally I took up the work on one cropped cardigan again that I have knitted ages ago. The back seemed to be way to broad, so I got frustrated and let it rot in a corner of my knitting basket. A few weeks ago I found it again and a friend suggested to knit a collar on it, tightening it. I did that yesterday on my way to work and hey, it doesn’t look too bad. The colour is a really beautiful deep red, and the fabric is surprisingly soft, so it would have been a pity not to finish it. On the way back I started with the missing sleeve, the last part of it and by tomorrow it is going to be finished. I like the style of Bernadette in the Big Bang Theory and wanted to have a small cardigan to put over dresses. Voilà! My next project (new project, ahem…) is going to be a Miette. ( I have always wanted to make one, but so far was too lazy to follow the English instructions. A friend of mine, she is Australian, has bravely started to knit a German pattern, as though it is really hard for her, all the abbreviations of the German knitting terms, so I feel like an idiot, shying away from an easy English pattern. Miette it is. Then I will have one more nice cardigan to wear on my dresses.

My cousin’s wife wrote to me yesterday, that they badly need a new hat for their son, as he loves the hat I made him so much, he refuses to wear anything else. By now the old one is pretty drawn already, plus too small, so I started with a new one yesterday. I had written the pattern myself, it is not complicated at all, but apparently, little Lukas likes it a lot, so I also tried to find matching colours, hoping he will like his new hat just like the old one. I also started a new one, in different colours, so maybe they can wash one while he is wearing the other one, but kids know what they want and maybe he does not fancy the new orange/yellow one, which I admit looks a bit crazy.  It is, of course, a big compliment that he loves my knitting so much J

A copy of the hat that Lukas loves so much
Will he like the bright orange? I don't know... 

The pattern is really easy. It came to me after talking with Mr. Schön about how digital "code" consists of only 0s and 1s. 

Two friends of mine on a stroll last Sunday

Lisek of the leafs