Be There for the Elderly

It is now been 8 months since my mother passed away. At the age of 89 the day she left us did not come as a surprise, but of course it was still a great loss. Apart from being the mother of my brothers and me and the favourite “Oma” of all her grandchildren, she was an amazingly positive and inspiring woman, who left a void that will always remain. Living far away from her my visits weren’t as frequent as I would have wanted, but I did what I could to keep in touch: daily telephone calls as long as that was possible, and later I wrote letters and postcards to her.
All around me, members of the older generation leave one by one, and that reminds me of how important it is to care for the elderly, be they close family members or people I meet where I live. As so often in small villages, the average age here in Mase is quite high: several of my friends and acquaintances could almost be my parents. I highly enjoy their company, the peace they emanate, their broad knowledge and, yes, their wisdom. Spending time with my older friends helps me to slow down and be patient and I am always grateful for being reminded about that.
I am well aware that the older people are, the more you need to seize the occasion to spend time with them or simply to let them know that you think of them, so I grab each occasion. If I’m not in a hurry to catch the bus I always stop for a chat when I meet my elderly friends in the street or in the grocery store and returning from my hikes I sometimes do surprise visits to them. At first they might be embarrassed by not having cleaned up their living room or showing up in an old sweater, but once they realise that I couldn’t care less about such things, they’re always happy to have some company and someone to talk to about their worries or problems or to simply share a cup of coffee with.
I’m not much of a “telephone person”; instead I’ve decided to write at least two cards or letters per week, one of them to an elderly person. It’s not just because I look forward to receiving cards or letters in my own letterbox, but simply the pleasure of knowing that a little written greeting will make the receiver happy, especially if it’s an elderly person.
Make a list of all the elderly/lonely people you know and decide to call, write, or – best – visit one of them within the next two weeks. Perhaps you can even make it into a
recurring event?
Your reaching out will be very appreciated and you will make a real difference in their lives. As they will in yours ☺

Don’t wait too long to visit

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Sunny Mood on Rainy Days

All my life I have resisted any kind of dependency. Many years ago, just as an example, during a trip to India, I got a bad headache because I did not get my morning coffee. It made me realise that I was addicted to coffee and I immediately quit drinking it regularly.
The latest facet of needing something (to be a certain way) has been “weather dependency”. If the weather was grey and rainy I often got into a grey mood. So I asked myself: how can I avoid being dragged down by “bad” weather? How can I be happy despite compact grey skies, heavy rainfall or any kind of unwanted weather?
First of all I’ve trained in not wanting or rejecting any weather. Unfortunately not yet translated into English, Dominique Loreau’s book “Aimer la pluie, aimer la vie” (“Love Rain, Love Life”) has been an inspiring guide along the way. The author is fascinated by rain and she has listed literary texts, poems, haikus, and music that have accompanied her through different kinds of rain. She shows how loving rain can change your perception of the world and open you up to accepting whatever life brings. A small quote: “In rainy weather, the intimate contact with nature reminds us of this truth: every phenomenon is transient and in constant change.”
I also worked out some strategies to remain in a sunny mood on rainy days:

Visualise the sun behind the clouds. I close my eyes and feel its light and warmth inside, and how it still nourishes me despite the thick clouds.
Learn to see the beauty in the kind of weather I instinctively rejected. Even if I have to push myself, I dress up appropriately, grab an umbrella and go for a long walk. Soft shades of grey move like fairy mist and little raindrops glitter like pearls on flowers and leaves. The smell of rain on warm asphalt makes me close my eyes and smile. I thoroughly enjoy the freshness of the humid air, breathe it deep into my lungs and return home full of vitality and joy!
Feel the happiness of vegetation. I go out into my garden (if you don’t have access to one, go to the nearest plant in your street or local park) to see and feel how the vegetation thrives, knowing that rain is just what it needs to grow strong and beautiful.
Write a happy card to an elderly person or a child. I put all my love, care and positivism into it, writing a kind or funny message, perhaps even with a beautiful poem or quote about rain. It makes me happy to know that it will spread joy to the receiver.
Pamper myself with Rainy Day Pleasures. Perhaps I’ll have a fragrant tea in my finest cup, light my favourite incense, wrap myself up in the softest shawl I own and read a good book, or diligently do time-consuming things like cleaning up photos from my cell phone and computer, sorting out clothes I no longer use or even clean out and organise the book shelf or spice rack.
Make special plans for the next sunny day. Once the sun is out again, we shouldn’t just take it for granted, but consciously enjoy it. I might plan to take somebody out for hike (or a bicycle ride), to have a glass of wine at the restaurant’s terrace, or to prepare a lovely lunch salad and have a picnic.
Prepare a favourite meal. I have made a list of easy, favourite meals, fulfilling and tasty, that make me happy inside out. Lentils with apricots, Avocado pasta, a fragrant soup, and of course, the famous and oh, so delicious Banana Bread.

Do you have any specific strategies for turning “bad weather, bad mood” into “whatever weather, good mood”? I’d love to hear about them and perhaps even add them to my list!

Grey drizzle in Mase

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Crispy Crunchy Knäckebröd

Some weeks ago I blogged about this season’s favourite soup and I think a soup needs to be accompanied by some nice bread. Most often I serve my beloved sour-dough bread, but a homemade crisp bread is also an appreciated alternative.
This recipe comes from a good friend back in Sweden, home of the knäckebröd , and every time I bake it, it disappears in no time since it’s also great as a healthy snack in the evening.
This crisp bread has a wonderful taste of corn and seeds and it is a favourite of mine since it’s also really simple to do. The hardest part is flattening it out, because the thinner you make it, the crunchier and yummier it becomes. I use a soft dough-scraper for the perfect finish!

Corn Crisp bread

1 dl sunflower seeds
½ dl sesame seeds
½ dl linseed
> 1 Tsp salt
(plus other spices, e.g. turmeric, fenugreek, nigella…)
2 dl corn flour (chickpea or buckwheat flour work well too, but give a different taste)
½ dl sunflower oil
1 ½ dl boiling water

Preheat oven to 150°
Mix all the dry ingredients
Pour over oil and boiling water
Form a dough
Flatten the dough out on parchment paper with a soft dough-scraper
Bake 30-45 min – or until golden

When cooled off your whole house will be filled with crunching sounds and the smell of happiness!

*Crunch crunch!*

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Flower Power

Flowers makes us happy and I think even clothes with flower prints spread jollity. They are not serious or elegant, but they manifest a joy of living! Flower prints might be regarded as a little ridiculous by those who want to be cool, but to me they feel happy, relaxed and show that you have a positive outlook on life. Wearing plain black might be practical and chic, but to me it does have a “mourning” touch, and it is quite harsh against lighter complexions.
I like all kinds of colourful and happy prints, but as a fervent amateur botanist I find that flower prints are a wonderful expression of nature and poetry, carried along in big cities and other not very “natural” places. Seeing somebody with a colourful flower print shirt always makes me smile. Why? Perhaps because flowers are like the stars of earth: their beauty just makes them (and us!) shine. Flower prints remind me of somebody sweet and delicate from my childhood, somebody who is long gone. Perhaps they makes me smile because the person in flower print clothes dares to stand out and takes the risk of being regarded as a bit cheesy or frumpish. Such a person openly displays his or her love of flowers and nature, doesn’t take herself all too seriously and reveals a little playfulness. Life might be heavy and grey, but we can still do our best to spread some lightness and joie de vivre around!
After years of dressing far too seriously to fit into the corporate world, I am now the happy owner of two pairs of flower print trousers (one for spring, one for autumn), a skirt and two shirts. They are still quite discreet and not strikingly colourful, but they are a good start on my way into Flower Power Land!
Do you – man or woman – have any clothes with a flower print, at least a scarf or a tie…? Wear it tomorrow and feel how it lifts up your spirits!

Slipping into this shirt always makes me happy!

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Your Health is Your Capital

Luckily we do not know what the future has in store for us. Despite a healthy lifestyle we might fall seriously ill tomorrow or have a severe accident next month, and there’s nothing we can do about that.
What you CAN do is to treat your body (and mind) well on a day-to-day basis. That still has the greatest impact on your health. Nowadays a “healthy lifestyle” has become a full-time occupation for many – almost a kind of tyranny – but you can keep things simple and stick to a few basic rules:
EAT WELL – Eat when you’re hungry, and in portions that are adapted to you size and lifestyle. You are what you eat; best choice is pure products (as little ready-made as possible), locally sourced. Refuse to buy products that have travelled across the globe, e.g. apples from New Zealand (unless you live there)! Avoid white wheat flour and sugar as far as possible, and watch out with the meat…
MOVE A LOT – Make it a habit to do morning exercises (prepare a little program, adapted to your personal needs, e.g. a weak back). Spend time outside! Whenever possible, walk or bike instead of taking the car or bus and eat your lunch in the nearest park as soon as weather allows it.
SLEEP ENOUGH – To have a good sleep you need to move your body and get physically tired. A simple evening walk after dinner can do the trick. Good sleeping habits are key: regular times for going to bed at night and getting up in the morning. Avoid screen watching (TV, computer or cell phone) directly before going to sleep. Constant lack of sleep is a big threat to good health.
MIND MATTERS – Meditation might sound difficult or boring, but you can start small: try five minutes per day, sitting on a chair, concentrating on the sensation of air entering and leaving your body through your nose. Walking meditation is an excellent alternative for the restless 😉
DO WHAT YOU LOVE – Working full-time leaves little time to do what we love (best case scenario: your work is what you love most!). Still, try to find at least one hour or two a week to paint, build ship models, work in your garden, play with you children, knit or play the accordion – simply indulging in a hobby. Your soul needs it.
And last, but not least:
BE HAPPY! – Don’t take life –or yourself – too seriously. Bad things happen, but they should not define us. Don’t dwell on the negative things people say or do. Smile as soon as you catch yourself with a serious face and spread happiness around with small,
friendly gestures.

I feel that certain parts of the body need extra care, and these details I find
especially important:

TEETH – Bad teeth have many unpleasant side effects (infections, stomach problems, bad breath, and difficulties to eat) Apart from standard oral health (brushing teeth and flossing them) oil pulling is a great thing to do. It takes 20 min each morning, but you can prepare your breakfast or lunchbox at the same time. After practicing oil-pulling for some years I only need to visit the dentist once a year for a regular check-up, and she always praises my oral status.
FEET – Even if you don’t believe in reflexology, standing or walking on your feet for hours each day already implies the importance of taking good care of them. After washing my feet in the evening, I give them a through massage with some nice, perfumed oil (lavender, rosemary or peppermint). It makes such a difference for tired feed and for the general well-being! Check out trigger points for different parts of your body here.
SKIN – Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and it deserves some extra care. Once a week I do a proper dry brush, from head to toe, and I try to use as clean products as possible for its care: almond, coconut or sesame oil, good quality aroma oil, shea butter and beeswax, and I do my own creams (blog post will follow!) but a good quality ecologic cream with as few ingredients as possible is fine too. Remember: much of what you put on your skin actually enters your bloodstream, and you don’t want nasty chemicals and E-numbers that are found in most ready-made products in your body!

Mens sana in corpore sano

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Different Places, Same Life

A couple of times per year I leave my mountain paradise to visit family and friends in different cities across Europe. I am always quite excited about these trips; first of all because I’ve been missing my loved ones so much, and secondly because the hustle and bustle of city life can be stimulating. I do love my simple, monastic life up in the mountains, but at times it is nice with a little more “action”.
In the beginning when I dressed up for civilization I seemed to switch over to a different mode: faster, more impatient, and less conscious. I fell back into old habits, but I also tried to adapt to the different pace. When I returned home I had to adapt back and that often threw me off track.
It became clear to me that even when I go to a city I must not return to “city mode”, but I can remain in my own slower modus vivendi. Today, when I go to a city I will make an effort not to fall back into the old habit of rushing around. I actually can move more slowly and consciously through a crowd without bothering anybody and I can relax in long queues and patiently wait for my turn, taking the time to observe the variety of people I find so fascinating.
I have learned to remain in full awareness despite a hectic rhythm around me. In my slower, smiling mode I am able to enjoy the surprising people, colours, smells and shapes that I come across. Relaxed I stand in the crowd, trying to catch people’s eye or waving at little children, and I feel immensely grateful for having quit the rat race and for living at a more down to earth pace.
When you slow down you notice how rich and multi-faceted life is, how much you can experience and learn from everything and everybody around you. You just have to stop running around like a crazy chicken and instead take your time to really be with what you encounter in your life.

One of my favourite cities – Santiago de Chile

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Soup Season

Even this year’s amazing summer came to an end; autumn has arrived bringing chillier mornings and beautiful shades of yellow and red replacing the variations of green. With some regret I’ve had to switch summer’s eternal shorts to trousers, and dig out the
woollen cardigans.
It’s not that I don’t like autumn – I actually adore it! After the intense summer months there is a certain calm about this season and up here it is just incredibly beautiful. Crisp skies and vibrant colours make it easy to cope with cooler temperatures and more rain. I just have to adjust and pack away my summer habits until next year. Fresh salads and frizzy rosé wine enjoyed in the shade of the trees in my garden have been replaced with warm soups and hearty red wine inside the house, next to the fire.
I am an absolute soup fanatic, and have gathered a large amount of fabulous soup recipes throughout the years, but I’m always up for trying something new. From one of my favourite chefs, the talented Valentina (@vdepertis on Instagram) I recently got this recipe, and it just has it all: it’s uncomplicated, involves standard ingredients, and is quick & easy to prepare. On top of that this fragrant soup has the most wonderful taste of an autumn day in the woods and is very fulfilling. Here’s this autumn’s Big Soup Hit:

Mushroom and Chickpea Soup
Serves four
1 can of chickpeas (400g)
30 g dried mushrooms
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, pressed
2 branches of stalk celery, finely chopped
½ Tsp. chili powder
1 Tsp. dried thyme
1 Tsp. sugar
9 dl water
1 dl cream
2 cubes of stock / 2 Tbsp. of stock powder
Mash the chickpeas with a fork or mix them roughly with a hand blender and put them in a bowl.
Crush the dried mushrooms roughly between your hands and add them to the chickpeas.
Heat oil in a pan. Fry onion, garlic and celery.
Add chili powder, thyme, and sugar and let it sizzle for a moment.
Add the mashed chickpeas and mushrooms, water, cream and the stock powder into the pan. Let it all simmer for 30 min., stirring now and then to avoid sticking.
Serve with some chopped parsley (or other herbs of your fancy) and a nice sour dough bread.
Enjoy your trip to Soup Heaven!

My ticket to Soup Heaven

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Village Life II

I spent my childhood and adolescence in a small village and I ended up hating it.
I constantly felt observed and commented, having to play a role I had not chosen myself and that I was not happy with. Besides that, it was awfully boring. As soon as possible – right after high school – I left and returned only when visiting my parents.
Four years ago, after living my life in different European cities, I suddenly felt the urge to move to the countryside again. That decision actually came as much as a surprise to myself as to my family and friends! Somewhere along the way I had just started to feel fed up with all the hurry, noises, shops, and cars in cities and developed the need to move closer to simplicity and nature. To breathe fresher air and to live among people I recognised when I met them in the street.
When I moved to St-Martin in the Swiss Alps, I knew nobody and had to start from scratch socially. It was not the first time I did that so it didn’t worry me, because I knew that if you are just open and interested in others you always succeed in weaving a social net, even if it takes a little while.
I must say that people are very open and friendly up here, and even if I will forever remain a foreigner to the other locals, they are quick to acknowledge me with a smile. The second or third time I come across people in the village street or at the little food store we start greeting each other, and soon after we will stop and chat when we meet. Nowadays I often get spontaneously invited over for a coffee or glass of wine (after all, we’re in canton Valais! 😉 and I have them over for a glass or a meal, since I love cooking for more than just one person.
However, a village stays a village, and of course people keep an eye on each other. I’m pretty sure there is some talking going on about me behind my back (“All alone up there?”, “No husband?”, “Hiking every day?”), but there’s a positive side to their curiosity, too: if something would happen to me or if I’d have a serious problem, most of them would help me out without hesitation.
In a village you are not anonymous to each other. I recognise Madame Fournier and Monsieur Beytrison when I meet them outside the bistrot. We acknowledge each others’ existence by greeting each other and we show that we care by asking “Ça va?” and wishing each other a “Bonne journée!”. That is exactly what I have come to appreciate in living in such a small community: I know who the people that surround me are, we exchange little friendly comments, we try to cheer each other up if the other seems sad or offer a helping hand if they look tired. After all, that’s what life is about, isn’t it? To care about and be there for each other. “Man is a social animal”, Aristotle said, and yes, it’s good to know that you are not alone.

The Village Street on a sunny Tuesday in September

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Dear Writing

Dear Writing,

Ever since I was a child, you have always been there, like a faithful friend. In those days I sporadically kept a journal, wrote lots of notes to my friends during classes, and loved essay writing. My teacher once said I had the talent to become a columnist at a paper ☺
After school and university I continued being an avid writer of letters until e-mails replaced them. From time to time I held some kind of journal, but unfortunately not during the times when I really would have needed to “write things off”. I still had not realized your healing power – or perhaps I wasn’t brave enough to see certain truths
face to face.
I am ashamed to say that you did not properly re-enter the scene until thirty years later, when I prepared for my “Big Leap”. At that time I questioned my whole life and everything I was doing – and not doing. Suddenly I realised that it was you I wanted to explore and that, after all these years, I finally had to give you the special place you deserved. I understood that you are one of the pillars of my long sought after creative expression. Today, after building up a proper relationship with you again, I can see that you are also my biggest source for self-knowledge. It is when I sit down to write that insights come to me, as if the hand’s movement over the paper (or the fingers’ movement over the keyboard) starts off thought processes, open up blockages and make me see things clearly.
Finally I have realised your importance in my life. You help me to live authentically, because through you I learn how to express my innermost essence. But as we all know change is the only constant in life so I regularly redefine myself. To work with you, dear writing, is the way to do that for me.
It may sound presumptuous, but I see myself as a “writer”. Not in the sense of producing books, but in the sense of being a person who writes because she feels the urge to do so. I write both to find the way IN (to discover my deepest needs and wishes), and to find the way OUT (trying to convey insights and inspiration to others).
Dear Writing, thank you for not giving up on me when I neglected you, but pushing your way forward to finally make me realise your importance in my life. I will not let go of you again. As long as I am able to write I will continue to do so. No matter if by hand or on the computer, even though I feel it is important to keep up writing by hand, since that seems to create other synapses in the brain. I will continue to write every day, even if I have to push myself to it.
Finally you have gotten the space you deserve in my life, and I realise how crucial a regular and loving relationship with you is. Thank you for helping me grow and develop as a human being and to share my world with others.

Lots of love,

You can create anything in writing!

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Herbal Body Oils

My region, the Val d’Hérens in the Swiss Alps, is a very specific biosphere with an
amazing variety of plants, many of them medicinal herbs. The more I learn about these herbs, the more I want to use them. The easiest ways to employ medicinal herbs are to either dry them and use them for herbal infusions, or to make herbal oils.
For herbal oils you can use either the plants’ leaves or flowers – or both – and add ecological oil. If I can get hold of it, I prefer to use almond oil, otherwise sesame oil works well. Both these oils have a discreet smell and good qualities for the skin.
You should pick leaves or flowers for herbal oils at midday, because then the amount of etheric oils in the plants is the highest. The flowers are used as they are, but if you use the leaves you should rinse them and let them dry thoroughly. Then “crush” the leaves between your hands or chop them, which allows them to better let off their beneficial components. Fill the leaves or flowers into a small, sterilized glass jar and cover them with the oil of your choice. Put a lid on the jar and let it stand in a sunny place for a month, shaking it every other day to allow the oil to really penetrate the herbs.
After four weeks filter off the plant remnants and fill the oil into small, sterilized bottles, best if made of coloured glass since the contents are sensitive to sunlight. Then store your bottles in a cool, shaded place, e.g. in the refrigerator.

I have used the following plants for herbal oils:

Lavender is said to have a calming and relaxing effect, and to be good to cure insect bites. It is very suitable as a massage oil.
Peppermint has a cooling effect. This is also suitable as a massage oil, but can also be used in the kitchen (enhance your tabbouleh with it!)
St.John’s wort oil is good for burns and bruises and relieves muscle tension.
Arnica oil treats muscle ache or rheumatic pain, and is efficient to treat insect bites.
Rosemary When used as massage oil or diluted in a bath, it can relieve aches, cramps, or a stiff neck. In the kitchen it can enhance your salad or certain pasta dishes.

Nature’s healing power is immense, and being able to tap into a part of it feels wonderful.
I don’t know how much of the positive effect of herbal oils is due to the famous placebo effect, but I don’t really care. I trust in the knowledge of our ancestors who already used them – and on top of that I simply enjoy what nature is giving me.

Arnica oil in the making

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