Week in Review: Quality over quantity

… and here we are on Monday again.

When something’s fun, do it again. Or: never change a running system. Or: everybody likes positivity. That’s the somewhat long-winded way my brain chose to say one thing: I’m jumping aboard the Week in Review train again, once more talking [for the most part at least] about the good happenings only.

Thanks to Meg for inventing and hosting this fun little party to start our Mondays on a happy note.

Week in review

During the past week I …

Published a post I’d been meaning to write or a long time. If you didn’t get a chance to read it yet, I’d really be interestedd to hear your thoughts on the topic, whatever they might be.

Baked more Christmas cookies. Actually even the same recipe again and – bad blogger that I am – forgot to take pictures. I’ll make an effort to keep some aside the next time and snap a picture then. For now, I’ll borrow the original recipe creator’s.

Met up with the friend I mentioned the other week for another cooking date. We chose this recipe by Minimalist Baker [yes, also again; I simply trust in their recipes being winners]. No picture because we ate with her husband again and I didn’t feel comfortable enough to whip out my phone around him. Modifications we made were: using frozen pre-chopped kale that we cooked with pepper and vegetable broth so it ended up resembling German-style kale rather than the way Dana suggested. And: using locally grown Japanese sweet potatoes. Now if you’ve been around for a while you might remember me expressing my dislike of this vegetables before. Still true for the orange ones. But Japanese? Wow! Sign me up! Unfortunately, my friend bought them on a recent trip and I won’t be able to buy them around here. If you haven’t tried them yet but can buy them were you are: do it! Coming from a former sweet ‘tater hater here, that’s saying a lot ;).

More than the food, though, I enjoyed spending the afternoon talking and just being around a friend, getting a change of scenery. We already loosely set a new cooking date which I’m already looking forward to.

Had a full-on examination of my health [as in: blood test, cardiogram and, ahem, handing in an urine sample] at my new GP’s office. Oh do I not like having my blood drawn. Sleeping the night leading up to this? I wish! But it was worth it because the results were good, iron and vitamin B12 levels fine, too [these weren’t in the past]. However, my vitamin D levels are not where they should be. Hence getting a prescription.  And as such …

Started taking a vitamin D supplement. As somebody who tries to avoid taking medication whenever possible, this alone didn’t suit me. When I pocked up the prescription drug, however, I noticed it containing gelatin. Not cool. Hence why I put off taking it for a little bit but then finally reminded myself of this: yes, it sucks. But is me being 100 % vegetarian/mostly vegan worth risking my health? I know this is a struggle others might face, too, and think that health always needs to come first. As hard as it is to wrap my head around this: no animal is saved by me not taking these pills and staying in a nutrient deficit.

Spent some time with P.. My sister, her husband and the little one were in town for less than 24 hours so it wasn’t a long visit but seeing my favourite little boy was wonderful still. Even if just for the excitement of finding he can now pronounce my name [it’s a somewhat difficult one even for some adults].

Met another friend at her parents’ house on Saturday night. We went to school together and she’s now living quite a bit further away so we don’t get to see each other often enough. Following a long phone conversation earlier this week already, we still talked for hours while snuggling with her cat, Oskar. Having these friends that – no matter how much time has passed since the previous meet-up and how far they live away – always get you and that you can lead the deepest conversations with is one of the biggest gifts I can imagine having. Long-winded sentence but I think you get what I mean?

While certain things didn’t happen as planned, work wasn’t the most amazing and self-criticism was high again this week, the overall memory is a good one. Especially writing down just the positives, I’m reminded of all the good in life and the warm feeling of happiness I soaked up while once more breaking out of routines I’ve gotten too used to. And as the title suggests, this week was another reminder that quality matters more than quantity: While both the get-togethers with my friends as well as my sister’s stay were way too short, the brightness they brought into my days made them seem like so much more.

Now it’s getting late [Sunday night] so all that’s left to say for me is:

Happy Monday!

Happiness-inducing today: P. being ridiculously cute. Yes, annoying aunt moment again.

 

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Tell me some achievements from your past week!
When do you usually write your Weeks in Review?

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Self-doubt, serving sizes and Snickers

With Tuesday being a national holiday – German Unity Day if you’re curious – and my whole office given a bridge day on Monday, I’ve been entirely confused about what day it is this whole week so far.  Tuesday was my Sunday and today feels like Tuesday when – hooray! – it’s Thursday already. Weekend, I can smell you already.

Some thoughts I’ve been having lately that didn’t seem to legitimate their own blog posts for today’s Thinking out loud. I had no plans on posting today but then dared to let my thoughts run free so this is indeed very random. Might also be because I’m running on too little sleep …

Serving sizes. Just a little reminder that they’re not to be taken as set rules. So many people seem to feel bad for eating more than the recommended serving size of certain foods [and; judging from Instagram posts; try to play it cool by stressing how they ate more than the serving size because #badass – well, no, just a normal human being following his intuition]. Truth is, neither food companies nor bloggers, cookbook authors or restaurants know what a serving looks like for you. Case in point: the cooking date turned four-hour chat/cook/eat session I had at a friend’s house on Monday. We tried this recipe for Cauliflower Rice Burrito Bowls because said friend had never tried burrito bowls and the dish sounded intriguing. But: serving four people? Or: four people with our – if you’re asking me pretty normal – appetites? Definitely not and we already used more ‘rice’ and guacamole as well as yoghurt on the side. Between the two of us and my friend’s husband having a small bowl, there was barely anything left [and only because I wanted to be polite leaving her some leftovers plus my stomach signaling no]. Post-lunch snacking needed to happen after I returned home. It was really delicious either way, though my stomach really really hated me for both the bell peppers and the onions in the dish. Major ouch.

Cha cha Hamburg fried noodles

Maybe it’s just my subjective impression or are once popular blogs disappearing/slowly dying by the dozen these days? Browsing some German blogs I used to visit more frequently just a couple of years ago, I found a lot of these bloggers no longer being active and some of the blogs even deleted. The same seems to be true for some formerly very popular international bloggers. Seeing the posts of people who used to receive dozens of comments per post now get a mere handful makes me sad. Genuinely sad. Sad because theirs are/were among the blogs I’ve been following for the longest time. Sad because they deserve more readers valuing their posts. The quality of their content, creativity of their recipes hasn’t decreased so: what is it? Where have the readers gone? I’m figuring Instagram plays a role in people gravitating more to it but … to this extent? really? If you are any wiser than me here, share your thoughts. And while we’re on the topic …

Over the past few months, I know it must have looked like my blog was dying or I intentioa. Posts became more and more rare, infrequent and the whole blog less personal. To say this saddened me a little would be an understatement. It wasn’t intentional, either.  If you’ve been reading for a while, you might know I’ve been working in a field different from my originally chosen one and looking for one in the latter. For a long-ish time now. Anybody who has been in this situation before will know how hard and disappointing the searching game can be. It definitely is for me. What else it brought, though, and increasingly so, has been doubt. Doubt in my abilities as writer. Doubt if I’ll ever find a fulfilling job again. This eventually lead to me doubting my blogging skills, too. If you saw my drafts folder, you’d shake your head at the amount of posts lined up yet not making it to the blog. I’m writing these lines late on Wednesday night. and hope I won’t regret pouring my heart out here tomorrow. And I’m not looking for sympathies. Just trying to explain and at that maybe even understand myself a little more. Sometimes it takes writing things out to truly figure out your life.

Admitting to a problem is said to be the first step to overcoming it. So this is my first step. While I don’t have another post lined up for this week – even the one you’re reading is a very spontaneous one – I’ll make a bigger effort to get back into the game.

Ending this post on a happier note because amongst all the self-doubt in my head, a colleague’s request brightened my day a little. She’s getting married and asked me to make a few batches of my healthy Snickers Truffles to serve after the ceremony in the registry office [the actual marriage isn’t until next year]. The fact alone she still remembered these – it’s been quite a while and she was on maternity leave for a year, only returning in September – made me smile and I’m feeling honoured to contribute to her wedding in even such a small way.  Okay, that feels too much like self-promotion so over to you:

Tell me what’s been on your mind lately – the good, the bad, the in-between!

Happiness-inducing today: The somewhat odd remark/compliment (?) an older client gave me upon leaving the office. It’s those little things …

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No questions today but just any thoughts you have on the topics above.

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Let’s talk about Instagram.

Something has been making me sad in the world of Social Media again*. Jumping right in: I’ve been dabbling around with Instagram lately and noticed something … If it was just the occasional person I wouldn’t give it much thought. Yet: I see it happening left and right all of the time. Literally every time somebody posts a picture of themselves – aside from ab shots or body builders/fitness IGs – it comes with a semi-joking caption like ‘okay, ready to loose a few more followers again’. Or in the case of several people even – and this made me sad – the excuse of ‘hope it’s okay to post this.’ Am I the only one who gets thinking about our focus and priorities here?

Here’s what I noticed. And yes, I double-checked. Triple-checked. In short: I kept an eye on this during the past few weeks to make sure it wasn’t a mere coincidence within a few profiles. Let’s take the example of a random profile. What goes on in your mind if you see that a package of storebought pasta gets [decidedly] more likes than the pictures of the [subjective but yes] sympathetic couple behind the account?

Source

* Please note that I’m not generally a sad person :).

Are we really more interested in seeing food picture after food picture than the people behind them?? Their interests? Their hobbies? Quirks? Random things that made them smile?

Along those lines is the issue of people asking their followers what they’d like to see more of. Sorry but really? If I asked and the most popular answer would be ‘monogram-styled bowls of oatmeal and selfies’: would you change your feed and stop posting pictures of your garden/family/whatever else you like to share? Just to please others? Win followers? Loose yourself [allow me to be a little drastic here] ?

No. If somebody enjoys my pictures and captions I will happily welcome them among my followers and check out  their profile in turn – that’s the way to build community. The ‘mission’ shouldn’t be to post for others but yourself.

my Instagram feed
Blog for yourself. Post on Instagram for yourself. Share what’s on your mind or important to you. Like minded people will follow. The remainder? So what. As you might have already guessed I’m not somebody you can ask for ‘S4S’ or ‘f4f’. Nope. If that’s your goal than au revoir, mon ami. We won’t be #instafriends anytime soon. Actually,  about that term friends… you know my take on this.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want anybody to follow me. But like I mentioned some time ago in regards to blogging I value quality over quantity. The most important and best part of both blogging and Instagram to me still is the community.Even if a picture didn’t get many likes yet a few people commented sharing their thoughts and opinions that would matter so. much. more to me.

On a last note I’m not judging people who treat Instagram differently than me. To each their own. All I’m hoping to do is remind whoever is sad about a small following or unsure why their pictures don’t get as many likes as others: it’s not about you. You are great the way you are as is your Instagram account.

 

 

Happiness-inducing today: Starting a great new book and reading outside in the sunshine.
Tell me whatever comes to your mind: Do you agree? Disagree? What are your experiences?

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Who are your friends, really?

179

That’s the number of friends I currently have according to Facebook. 179 – really? I’m saying this not to bemoan the fact most people have easily twice or three times [or even more] as many friends but to say: all of these are my friends? I doubt it [out loud today].

I’m aware there’s a lot of talk about the up- and downsides of social media out there already. One of these is the change in our perception. What is a friend, really? Yes, I could go all old-fashioned and look up the definition in a dictionary. Obviously,I did – online, needless to say.

Even this definition is too loose for my preference and understanding of the term already. It’s easy to call pretty much everybody a ‘friend’. Anybody who went to school or college with you? A friend. That person you met on vacation years ago andexchanged numbers with, now texting every once in a blue moon or through short comments under each others Facebook pictures? A friend. Anybody you got to know growing up and don’t exactly hate? Talked about as a ‘friend’. But:

How many friends do we really have?

If you deleted your Instagram account, logged out of Facebook, Twitter and whichever other social network – how many friends would you still have? People who are interested in your life beyond pretty pictures, funny cat videos you shared or the information they can find scrolling through your Facebook profile.

A walk with a friend can brighten my day in no time.

Not only being the word fiend that I am, this change in our definition and use of the word friend makes me sad. Still, it has become so easy to call everybody we’re in a too-difficult-to-explain relationship with a friend. I’m not shunning anybody for using the word ‘friend’ lightheartedly and maybe a little too often. My point is to encourage myself and everybody reading to recollect who are your real friends. Get back in touch through a call, a good old-fashioned letter or even a visit.

Letter

Yes, I might have to pull out my phone to remember that one or the other phone number or address [okay, most of them because my brain needs it ;)]. But the connections I have with those people are deep. They are the ones who don’t mind how much time has passed since you last met – instant connection the moment you meet again. The ones that don’t just leave a quick Facebook comment on your birthday but call you. The ones who surprise you with random texts or snail mail – just to ask how you are or talk about this and that. These people are golden. They’re friends.

 

Happiness-inducing today: Bursting out into a dance spontaneously when a good song came on. I surprise myself sometimes …
No questions today but whatever comes to your mind on the topic.

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Eight Characteristics of True Friends

Friends are one of life’s biggest blessings. Do you know how many you have? And no, I don’t mean just quickly skip to Facebook and have a glance at the number showing there. We’re talking about true friends. The topic’s been prominently on my mind lately thanks to a lot of those wonderful individuals supporting me all throughout so let’s get Thinking out loud. Before you read on I suggest you put on some good music, specifically Carole King’s ‘Where you lead’.

Thinking-Out-Loud

 

True friends are interested in you even when you’re not yourself.

Don’t we all feel like the least fascinating person ever occasionally? Unless your ID reads Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus and you consider yourself the centre of the universe it’s likely you’ll have those mini life crisises. But a good friends are genuinely interested in what’s going on in your life and ready to listen even if you’re having a Debbie Downer day. They’ll cheer you up and show you that you’re wonderful just the way you are.

True friends make an effort to stay in touch.

Even if you’re bad at it and forget to mail or call them regularly they won’t grieve you about it. Which would technically be another point: they’re forgiving. No resentfulness and this is another one high on top of my list with many of my friends. Sorry to everybody who continously has to wait for my mail replies forever. It’s not about you but me [duh!].

True friends accept you the way you are and stay loyal at all times.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky. I won’t lie: I can be a snarky, moody – in short: not the person you’d want to be around. And don’t we all have those times? Friends accept and like you with all your ‘flaws’. They overlook them or – see above – have the courage to tell you to stop the bitchy ways and realize what you’re doing.

The truest test of a friendship for me is being able to go through thick and thin. The good and bad times. On either side.  Not just listening to your worries but entrusting you theirs, too. I’ve lost contact with several people from school over the years and wondered what I’d done wrong. In the end, I realized the majority of those friendships hadn’t been deep enough. When both try to keep up a happy-go-lucky sunny attitude never admitting to doubts, insecurities and asking for help a friendship can exist – but it won’t be one to count on in rough times.

True friends are brutally honest.

They tell you what you need to hear not what you want to – because they care. It can hurt to have somebody tell you the truth but think about it: Somebody who just tries to please you won’t point out any points of improvement or tell you the colour of the dress you’re wearing makes you look pale [doozy]. I know for myself I wouldn’t have gotten where I am – not just in terms of fashion  – if people had approved of everything I did at all times never criticized me. A true friend doesn’t intend to hurt but help you.

True friends don’t always have time. They make time for you.

We know it: Life gets insanely busy for all of us. A true friend finds the time for you even in a tight schedule. Whether lending an ear on the phone, via texts or coming over when you need it*.  Time is a gift and a real friend will happily give it to you.

 

Source

 True friends are trustworthy.

This one might seem obvious but I’ve sadly made experiences that proved me wrong. Hence why I appreciate secrecy among friends even more these days. If a friend shares something with you – be it about their cat, stress at work or the name of their secret crush – you keep to yourself. Easy, no?

 True friends help you without any expectations in return.

That doesn’t mean you can’t – or shouldn’t – return the favour. Life and at that friendships thrive off the good old rule of give and take.  But if you are a true friend to others yourself you already knew and did that.

 

True friends encourage you to follow your dreams in life.

You want to travel the world even though you’re currently still living at home and can hardly do the laundry or cook yourself? Even though you don’t know how in the world you’ll be able to fund that trip? Friends believe in and will cheer on you. And they might even offer to teach you basic cooking and life survival tips …

 

 

Say it with me once more: True friends are one of life’s biggest blessings.

 

This obviously isn’t an all-encompassioning list by any means. Some friends might fill all of the criteria above, some just one or none of these but others.

In the comments let me know characteristics of a true friend to you.

 

Happiness-inducing today: An actually funny comedy segment on the radio. They’re usually  sub-par so I was positively surprised.

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Small [talk], big [happiness impact]

Hey there and happy Thursday! It’s time to think out loud again and because everybody wants to be happy that’s what we’re going to chat about today. A seemingly unsual way to find happiness-inducers in the most random places.

Thinking-Out-Loud

While browsing Mind Body Green recently I came across a short note saying small talk with strangers could make you happier. It didn’t catch my eye because it was news to me but actually as it’s something I’ve been doing for years and now there apparently is scientific proof of it, too.

I’ve mentioned before how I believe in destiny. I’m convinced it wasn’t coincidence I walked to the little open public book case located around my corner at that very moment another lady was scouring the display. Placing the book into the shelf I’d noticed a copy of a book I’d read and enjoyed a while back [Enzo by Garth Stein if you’re curious*]. Noticing her searching glace I spontaneously offered to give a recommendation. She was happily surprised and encouraged me to tell her. We ended up chatting about books for a while before we parted ways again – her with a new book she’ll hopefully enjoy as much as I did.

Despite usually not being the feel comfortable entering a room of strangers on a party I oddly enjoy chatting with strangers. The encounter I mentioned above will probably become one of my favourites. In case youre wondering: another one in that category was when I interned in Hamburg and talked to a blind man on multiple occasions. I’m not quite sure how we first got into a conversation but he was on his way to the theatre and we spent the time until I had to leave the subway chatting about favourite theatre plays.

Another time a random conversation turned out to be very lucky was on a train once more. I overheard two girls talking about vegan cheese, chimed in and – long story short here – found out one of them was about to move to the city I lived in. She wasn’t too happy about it but we exchanged numbers and have met several times since. At first for a little exploration of the vegan shopping and eating opportunities but also at the cinema or theatre. Because diets don’t define people.

Great places to meet others:

the gym: You already have the common topic of fitness but by just [politely] chiming in on others’ conversations or even commenting on a completely random topic like the weather [you’d be surprised by some of the fun conversations I had starting with this one!]…

subways/ trains/ busses: Especially if it’s a longer journey people traveling alone might actually be happier to have a conversation than you’d probably guess. Also a great place to start out if you haven’t talked up strangers before because – on short journeys – you have the bonus of leaving soon after any awkward conversations and never seeing the person again.

the supermarket: Nobody enjoys waiting in those busy ‘rush hours’ when half of the city is running errands. Why not strike a conversation with the old woman in front of you? Or the mum waiting in the opposite line? She might be happy for you distracting her little one from begging for all the sweets at the check-out [in most cases they really are].

 

You might not always lead deep conversations debating philosphical questions in all or any of these cases above. But I believe we [should] have a space in our brains for random bits and pieces of ‘just because’ information. Knowing the name of the dog an old man is walking along the street around the corner of my apartment every night, a random girl at the gym’s unusual place to find running tights [thanks for that!] or the names of the supermarket cashier’s daughters? It’s not vital information for my life but just makes my environement feel a little less ‘strange’ and anonymus. Plus it will make both sides happier because that’s what connecting with others does. We weren’t meant to be lonely.

If the idea of connecting with strangers still seems,  well, strange to you think about it this way: What else is it we’re doing in the blog world every day?! Ask a blogger if connecting with others online makes them happy and you will hardly hear a negation. From book recommendations [like the one above*] to more serious conversations about topics I hadn’t even talked about with friends or family before – I’ve had awesome conversations with former strangers now friends [or blends if you will]. Forget what mum told you as a child and go talk to strangers*. Or: potential friends to be.

*We’re obviously excluding any kinds of scary or pervert people waiting for you in some dark corners. Why are you even hanging around there??

 

Happy Thursday and happy talking to strangers!

 

Happiness-inducing today: An e-mail I received earlier today.

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No questions today but I’m curious to hear any thoughts, experiences or advice you have on the topic!