Nettle Hummus

My friends say I’m the only person they know who has actually planted nettles in her garden… ! I know they sting, but I just LOVE nettles (and they’re tucked away in a far corner of my garden, just in case 😉). The Swiss herbal expert, reverend Johann Künzle put it this way: “If the stinging nettle had no spines it would have long since been eradicated, since its virtues are so manifold”
1. Vegetables and flowers get stronger and more beautiful when fertilized with
nettle manure.
2. Nettles have so many good health qualities: nettle tea has a positive effect on liver and bile, hypertension, arthritis and may help to relieve urinary infections. It also notably strengthens the immune system.
3. Externally, nettle tonic (prepared like tea) can be used as a facial tonic and as such relieves problems with allergy, acne and eczema. If you have greasy hair or dandruff, try a nettle hair rinse.
In the spring cuisine, stinging nettles are a fresh, wild vegetable with a wonderfully earthy taste. They are twice as rich in iron as spinach, have much more calcium than cow milk and more vitamin C than oranges! You can prepare them like spinach, make a soup or a pesto or why not try the beautifully green nettle hummus below?

Nettle Hummus
Ingredients:
3 dl cooked or 230 g of preserved chickpeas
80 g nettles tips
1 Tbsp. olive oil
6-8 leaves of wild garlic/1 garlic clove, pressed
1 Tsp. lemon juice
¼ Tsp. salt
¼ Tsp. fennel seeds, crushed (facultative)
freshly ground black pepper
Preparation:
1. Pick the top leaves from the nettle with gloves. Rinse them in cold water (can later be used to water your plants!).
2. Bring slightly salted water to a boil. Add the leaves, stir well and let them simmer for 3 min. Pour off the water, but drink it since it’s packed with nutrients. Gently squeeze the remaining water out of the nettle leaves.
3. Mix all ingredients in a food processor or hand mixer to a smooth dip.
4. Drizzle over some extra olive oil, and serve the hummus with bread and/or fresh vegetables.
5. Feel how you are eating spring!

For all GREEN lovers!💚

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Elective Affinities

I have two brothers and we are very close, the three of us. Recently my younger brother threw a party for his even birthday and once again I enjoyed the company not only of family members, but also of lots of good friends that we all have in common. This is a double blessing: not everybody has siblings and not all siblings get along with each other.
However, I don’t have a sister, something I really missed as a child. I longed for someone who was always there to play with (since boys often like to play other games than girls) and someone to share my innermost secrets with. Well, if you miss something hard enough you often end up getting it, one way or the other… In the course of my life I’ve made several very good female friends, as close as to be called “sister from another mister”. In German there is a beautiful word for this kind of dear friends, close as family members: “Wahlverwandtschaften”. It is translated to English as “(elective) affinities”, and means family that you have chosen. With these friends you feel as close and relaxed as you (hopefully) do with your own family. If you, on top of that, even share parts of each other’s history (school, university, clubs & associations, workplace etc.) and know each other’s families the relationships reaches an even higher level.
These kind of friendships might last since childhood, but sometimes they form rapidly: my latest “Wahlverwandschaft” is quite recent, but due to a special personal chemistry and to B’s openness and generosity we shared each other’s lives, feelings, and families
really quickly.
I am old enough to have close friends with grown-up children that I’ve known since they were babies. When a connection is created with this second generation it really feels like a confirmation of true elective affinity!
Are there friends in your life that you would call “Wahlverwandschaften” …?

My chosen sister B., as in Bluebell💙💜

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Bookstore Bliss

Bookstores are my favourite stores! Unfortunately, they are a species in extinction, due the raging e-commerce. Private little bookstores, run by amazingly well-read and well-informed book specialists are hardly to be found anymore, but OK, a big Waterstones is not bad either.
When visiting my daughter in Britain I always return to the local Waterstones and spend hours rummaging through my favourite sections (Mind, Body & Spirit, Poetry, Health & Lifestyle, Food & Drink), book by book. Due to the limited size of my book-shelves at home, I allow myself to buy only one single book (and at home as one goes in,
one goes out), so it really has to be well chosen.
This year I left with a beautiful poetry book: “The Everyday Poet – Poems to Live By”. It was a difficult choice between this rather small, beautifully hard-covered compilation and a much thicker paperback poetry compilation at the same price. At last I settled for the smaller one, because I easily get overwhelmed by too many poems at once, because “less is more”, and because I really liked the approach of the editor, Emergency Poet Deborah Alma. She works in an old ambulance where visitors “take part in a free private poetic health consultation with the Emergency Poet, and within 10 minutes will be prescribed an appropriate poem, verse or lyric”. Badly needed in our world, so lacking in poetry!
Travelling back from Cardiff took me around twelve hours, so I had ample time to read the book, to choose a favourite poem, and to learn it by heart:

There Will Come Soft Rains
By Sara Teasdale
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Such a beautiful book, inside out 💚

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Spring Renewal

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.
Joseph Campbell

In many parts of the world, Christians are celebrating Easter. Originally this was a pagan celebration, and the Christian resurrection is symbolic for renewal and rebirth. (Interested in the origins of Easter? Read more here)
During winter, Mother Nature sheds her old skin, and in spring new life emerges everywhere. Trees are budding and tender, green leaves make their way out. Little flowers spread colourful dots of yellow, purple and white in parks and gardens, and on warm and sunny days you may even spot the first butterflies.
Let the budding/regrowth of life inspire you! Review and refresh your habits, and become a renewed You. As Laozi said: “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”.

Easter egg hunting!

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Dried Fruit

White sugar is not healthy, we know that. Not only is it bad for our teeth and can make us overweight, but it also raises our cholesterol and increases the risk for getting cancer. Plus, it’s highly addictive… Sigh! If you love sweets it is not easy to eliminate white sugar and to cut down on other varieties of it.
For example, I find it very hard to limit fruit sugars. During summer I adore having heaps of fresh strawberries for lunch and another peak fruit experience I long for is when the dark, juicy cherries arrive on the market. In August, I eagerly await the succulent plums, and when fig season is at its peak in Southern Europe, I’m right off to Fruit Paradise…
During winter and spring I mainly eat apples and citrus fruits (if sourced in Europe). That’s also the time when I indulge in dried fruit. Dried figs, mango, dates, apricots, pineapple – you name it. They’re so chewy, sweet, tasty, and you can make lots of great desserts with them: banana bread and energy balls, only to mention two. When it comes to quality, I choose organic and always check on the packaging that no sugar or preservatives have been added.
Dried fruit may have lost some vitamins in the process of drying, but they are still great sources of fibres, minerals and enzymes. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what they contain (bold for a stronger presence):

APRICOTS
Vitamin A, C, calcium, potassium and iron

DATES
Antioxidants, iron and potassium

FIGS
High in vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and foliate.

MANGO
Vitamins A, C and E. They also contain omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids, good for healthy skin and the immune system.

PRUNES
Vitamins A, B1, C, and K. Iron, potassium and a mineral called boron, which is good
for your bones.

Snacking on dried fruit definitely is better than reaching for chocolate, crisps or (overly) salted peanuts. However, since they’re rich in fruit sugar you still need to watch out on the amount you consume.
For outdoor sports enthusiasts dried fruit is perfect to bring along in your backpack: it’s lightweight, high quality energy and a healthy and delicious little treat easily accessible.

Dried fruit, I love you!

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Hand, Head and Heart

Writing (as any other “calling”) is a lot about discipline. I sit down to write in the morning, when my energy is high and my mind feels fresh. Often, however, inspiration is lacking and I just can’t think of what to write about. I sit before the empty sheet of paper, pen in my hand, and my mind just goes blank.
In these cases I simply let my hand move over the paper. Anything that crosses my mind is written down. That way a lot of nonsense comes out of my fountain pen, but that doesn’t matter. If I just continue eventually a flash of inspiration will emerge, and I will have found my subject.
I have often wondered where these flashes come from. Is it the physical movement of my hand, which is somehow linked to my heart and my head…? If I were to search this on the Internet, I would surely find some kind of explanation, but I don’t really want any (pseudo) scientific proof for anything. I am happier with my own visceral feeling that there is a close connection between my Hand, my Heart and my Head.
The fact is that a stream of inspiration is born when I show that I am prepared to work for it. That gives me faith in my own creativity: when I show that I am open to inspiration, it will come. Something will be born from the continuous movement of my hand running across the paper and it will connect to my mind and soul. Body, mind and soul together: the Hand, the Head and the Heart. When they are joined towards the same goal – when I am unified and present – magic happens.
I wonder if it is the same for other people who create different kind of things? Who among you readers that paint, write, draw, or do any other kind of creative work have the same feeling? That even if we feel empty, if we just DO our thing, the connection of Hand, Head and Heart will produce little miracles?

Hand, Head & Heart

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The Tintinophile

As a child I spent some unforgettable summers in Switzerland, at the lake of Geneva and in the Rhône valley. My parents’ friends in Lausanne, at the lake, had children the same age as me and my brothers and one of them was an avid comics fan.
Comics for children/young adults were not commonly known in Sweden in the early 70’s, but in French speaking countries they were already a huge success. Our friend Patrick owned the whole collection of the Adventures of Tintin – an unbelievable treasure! I had already started studying French at school so I devoured these exciting, funny and instructive adventures – and became a Tintinophile for life.
Later I bought the books myself, mainly in Swedish but also in some other of the languages I know. Alas, in English Tintin’s charming fox terrier Milou (my favourite dog ever!) has been re-baptised to Snowy, but even worse is that Tintin himself is called Tim in German and Kuifje in Dutch. As a Tintinophile I strongly object to any other names than
the original ones!
The adventures of Tintin are real classics and I always enjoy reading them over and over again. Not only are they fun and interesting, but also such a pleasure for the eye – I just love Hergé’s simple, yet detailed drawing style. The young journalist Tintin might sometimes seem like a know-it-all, but he is in fact very knowledgeable. He is a sensitive young man, following his feelings and intuitions and he has a big heart (in Tintin in Tibet the Buddhist Monks even gave him the name “Great Heart“). Tintin’s faithful companion Milou follows and supports his master for better and for worse and he has an incredible inner life – Hergé must have been a big dog-lover ☺ Other surprising and stunning characters in these adventures are for example the hot-blooded captain Haddock, the zealous but not very clever detectives Thompson and Thomson (Dupond and Dupont in French), the crazy genius, professor Calculus (Professor Tournesol) and the stupefying opera singer Bianca Castafiore. Of course, there are no real adventures without crooks and villains, and Tintin has to confront malefactors like the evil general Tapioca of the banana republic San Theodoros (there is a good one, too!) and the demonic film industry tycoon Roberto Rastapopoulos, just to name two.
If you wonder what I‘m so enthusiastic about and don’t like reading even rather short stories, you can watch either the two Tintin movies from the 60’s (“Tintin et les oranges bleues” an “Tintin et le Toison d’Or”, with real actors), the animated film from the 90’s or Spielberg’s “The Secret of the Unicorn” from 2011 – even if my heroes don’t really look the way I’m used to there. Once a Tintinophile, always a Tintinophile 😉

From the adventure “Red Rackham’s Treasure”

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Warm Winter Dessert

In winter, when it’s on the chilly side even indoors, I don’t feel like eating cold food. I’ve found an explanation for that fact in the ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicine. This age old holistic science of health determines three different types of elements in a person (“doshas”). Many people have prevalently one of these elements, and become a kapha,
a pitta or a vata
person. I am a vata type and as such, I should try to eat “warm, soft, foods that are well-cooked and well-spiced” during the cold season. Actually, that is exactly what I long for as well. No salads, no cold sandwiches or – even worse – ice cream.
Recently I had dinner guests, and for dessert I prepared an old favourite of mine: the Apple Compote with Rosemary. I found the recipe in an Italian magazine thirty years ago and it has since become a classic. A sweet, yet fresh and pleasantly seasoned dessert, which will feel like a soft, warm blanket over the dinner ☺

Apple Compote with Rosemary
Serves 4
500 g cooking apples (i.e. Boscoop or Granny Smith)
75 g (0,75 dl) sugar (brown sugar makes the dessert look less pretty…)
1 Tsp. dried rosemary or the double amount of fresh, if you find it
50 g (0,75 dl) almonds
40 g butter (if not salted, add a tiny, tiny pinch)

1. Toast the almonds lightly in a dry pan and let cool off.
2. Melt the butter in the pan.
3. Add sugar and make it dissolve in the butter by stirring well.
4. Peel the apples, and cut them into 1 x 1cm dices.
5. Chop the dried rosemary roughly.
6. Add diced apples and rosemary to the butter mixture.
7. Let it all simmer for about 15 min.
8. Chop the almonds roughly.
9. Garnish the compote with almonds and serve lukewarm.

This apple dessert does taste nice with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for all of you who are not as sensitive to cold food as I am in winter 😉

PS Interested in taking an Auyrveda dosha test? Go here!

Tangy and sweet, soft and refreshing – the apple compote has it all! 💚

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Small Space Living

There was a time in my life, when I was “forced” to live in a small space: as a student. My dorm room at university was 10 m² big. Its luxury was that it had its own sink, but everything else was shared: toilets, showers, and a tiny kitchen. But it was the first place of my own, and I loved it! You’d be surprised how many people we could cram into such a small place for a dinner or a party… 😉
Later in life I moved into bigger and bigger places, but they were always apartments. My home in the mountains is actually the very first house of my own – and yet it’s much smaller than many of the flats I have lived in.
Moving into this house was preceded by several waves of decluttering. Already before I left the city, inspired by the amazing book “L’art de la simplicité – How To Live More With Less” by Dominique Loreau, I had started to sort out and get rid of things. Later, when I knew I would move to a furnished flat in the mountains and store my belongings for a longer period, I became more radical. The fact is we often don’t hang on to things, but to the emotions and memories attached to those things.
When cleaning out my motto is: Keep Only What You Use Frequently and/or Love. The hardest things to sort out were my books. As an avid reader and book lover I first found it impossible, but then I decided on keeping only the books I knew I would reread. When it turned out that there was not enough space for all my bookshelves in the little house, I had to sort out even among these favourites. Nowadays I get my reading material from the public library, and if ever I want to own a book the rule is: one in, one out.
That rule actually applies for all areas in life. I just want to own what is strictly necessary (not always easy to define…) and definitely not everything in several versions.
There is just no space for an overflow of things – and I am happy about it: I live much lighter and more carefree with fewer belongings. And yes, the cleaning out is an on-going issue. Every year, when spring is in the air, I open my wardrobe, drawers and boxes and eliminate what I feel has become superfluous. Less is always more.

My beloved small space home

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Strengthen What Is Weak

Most of my friends regularly visit a gym to get some workout, strengthen their bodies, and stay in shape. Living in a remote village without a car, that is no option for me. Of course, I get plenty of exercise through hiking, but that is a very one-sided training 😉
Some years ago I learned that I have a mild form of scoliosis and since my back problems had increased I realised I HAD to do something to specifically strengthen that part of my body. I found some good training programs on Internet and with additional tips & ideas from knowledgeable friends I put together a 15 minutes training program to
strengthen my back.
Unfortunately I am a rather lazy person, so at first I only practiced my little program every once a while. However, during the winter season, when I can’t always hike as much as I’d like to, the urge to move my body made me promise myself (in a New Year’s resolution) to start doing it twice, or even three times a week. Shortly after this intensification I noticed a real improvement. Before I had almost constant pain – not acute, but still – in my lower back. Now I only rarely notice my back, most often it just holds me up straight and strong. My ultimate goal is to do the back training program every day.
So if any part of your body is weak don’t spare it, but strengthen it. With the passing years it will only get worse. If you can, go to a good gym where instructors can tailor-make a training program for you. If not, put together your own program and DO it. What is a quarter of an hour twice a week..? Nothing, really, considering the importance of
your physical wellbeing.

Perfect when you can do your training program outside! 🙂

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