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):

Vitamin A, C, calcium, potassium and iron

Antioxidants, iron and potassium

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

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

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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Summertime in Winter

In the midst of winter, when we’ve had snow for so long that the cold & white has become a habit, I remember warm summer days… Summer in a country where there actually is summer right now: Chile.
During my years in the Netherlands I met my friend Claudia, who did environmental studies far from home: she was originally from Colombia, but her family had moved to Chile for work. We immediately bonded and became close friends. My earlier experiences with people from Latin America had already been very positive – I just loved their openness, enthusiasm and generosity. So when Claudia invited me to her sister’s wedding in Santiago de Chile I couldn’t resist but to jump on a plane a fly half way
across the world.
This first trip to Chile – two more were to follow – was far too short for the long haul flight, but definitely worth it. It felt a bit like coming home: I adored the people, the climate, the beauty of the country, and the soft way in which they spoke Spanish ☺
The wedding itself was a stunning experience on a roof terrace in the middle of the capital on a mild summer evening, with amazing people, good food, great music, dancing, and refreshing Pisco Sours, my absolute favourite local cocktail. I felt so privileged to have
been invited!
Apart from visiting Santiago, I got to see many other beautiful places in Chile. Claudia’s friends invited us to their places at the Laguna de Aculeo in the mountains (Cordillera de la Costa) and to the seaside resort Algarrobo. To experience the Pacific Ocean in all its might was an overpowering experience for me who was used to the calm and discreet Baltic Sea. From Algarrobo it was not far to the most incredible of national poet Pablo Neruda’s three houses: the one in Isla Negra. One day I will dedicate an entire blog post to that enchanted place…
Food in Chile is very varied and of excellent quality. Some of my favourites were empanadas and bocadillos, machas (clams) a la parmesana and other fantastic seafood (as a vegetarian I just had to make exceptions ;-), plus the best avocados ever – they grow naturally there. And of course I have to mention the fantastic Chilean wines! I tasted many different varieties and one of my favourites ended up being unique carménère grape, nowadays extinct in Europe.
Yes, I still have a dream: to return Chile – for a longer period of time, to really explore this stunning country.

The endless beach at Algarrobo

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The Alphabet of Things I Love

A Alps
I love the strong beauty of the mountains and deeply enjoy living surrounded by them
B Botanics
Learning the names and features of plants I come across makes me appreciate them more
C Caponata
One of my all time favourite dishes, a Sicilian vegetable dish with, among others aubergine, my favourite vegetable
D Dream work
Since my youth I’ve been fascinated by dreams, their oddity, symbolism, and ”meaning”.
It is most interesting to keep a dream journal
E Edible wild plants
You’d be surprised how many of our common weeds found around your house are edible and even have medicinal qualities!
F Family & Friends
We all need family and friends to find our space in the world, to develop and thrive
G Gardening
Sowing, caring for and harvesting flowers, herbs and vegetables makes me feel close to nature and wonderfully alive.
H Hiking
“The mountains are always calling and I must go”. Hiking is life! ☺
I Ice Cream
A lifelong passion. When travelling through the US in 1977 I tried all of
Baskin & Robbin’s 31 flavours
J Joyeux Soleil
The name of my little timber house here in the Val d’Hérens, Switzerland.
My home & my castle
K Knitting
Enjoy it especially in winter time, curled up in my couch, with the flames dancing
in the fireplace and a cup of tea…
L Love
Love, all the shapes it comes in, is what makes life worth living
M Music
From Albinoni to Zucchero, across centuries, styles and genres – the perfect mood enhancer
N Nuts & Seeds
As a long-time vegetarian I adore nuts & seeds, not only because of their nutritional qualities. Have you tried this Nutty Chocolate…?
O Old school clothes
Vintage clothing! Wish I had saved more from my earlier years and my mother’s dresses from the 50’s – such details and such elegance
P Perfumes
I adore all the smells from nature (flowers, fruits, and herbs), but also man made perfumes (Hermès’ Un Jardin après la Mousson)
Q Quinten Quist
Main character in one of my favourite books (and movies!), “The Discovery of Heaven” by Dutch author Harry Mulisch
R Reading
Books have taught me so much, kept me company, made me laugh and cry e
ver since I was a little girl.
S Sea
One of nature’s most amazing features: the sea. Spreads so much vitality, both when it’s strong and rough in autumn or warm and welcoming in summer. Oh, the Caribbean….!
T Tenderness
Too little of it in the world. Tenderness is not weakness, but a soft force that makes ourselves and others come alive.
U UniQlo
Favourite Japanese brand of clothes – even though I’m (almost) off the consumerism track 😉
V Vegetables
From Avocado to White Cabbage, I almost love them all (sorry, okra, can’t get used to your texture), but aubergine is still my absolute favourite
W Writing
Writing is my creative space, my lifeline, and my main channel of communication
X Xylophone
Who can resist the soft, wooden sounds of an oboe or a xylophone? Not me.
Y You
You – the Other(s) – are as important to me as the air that I breathe
Z Zodiac signs
Guessed it? Mine is Libra, always in search of beauty and harmony –
and avoiding confrontation.

A nice drawing project! This poster found @wallart.nl

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A Cup of Something Hot

On winter mornings, still warm from bed, cuddling up in a blanket at the breakfast table when it’s only 12C in the room. On winter afternoons, stuck in the house while the freezing rain falls outside, or on winter evenings, when the fire in the chimney fails to ignite properly… These are just a few occasions when a cup of something hot is
exactly what you need.
I choose one of my carefully selected extra large big mugs (I prefer them slender and tall, not too thick around the edge, and preferably with a lid to keep the contents warm), and then I decide on what to fill it with.

Hot chocolate
Ever since I was a child I’ve hated milk. Learning that most adults cannot properly digest milk because of a lack of the enzyme lactase fully explained why. Nevertheless, I love hot chocolate, as long as it doesn’t taste like milk 😉 So mine is made with lots of dark cocoa powder, some dark chocolate, a pinch of flour (to make it creamier), and a teaspoon of sugar. Often I make a xololatl (Aztec chocolate) inspired version, adding a tiny pinch of chilli or a Christmassy version with powdered cinnamon, clove and ginger. It is heavenly, so I save it for Special Occasions or when guests visit ☺

Green tea
Back in the seventies, my Japanese student dorm room friend introduced me to green tea and I instantly became an addict of genmaicha. I still love it, but since then my range has broadened, and besides the exquisite (and very expensive) Japanese teas like sencha or bancha, French tea store chain Palais des Thés has some very nice flavored green teas, of which the thé du Hammam always fills me with warm happiness.

Oolong tea
This kind of tea is neither green nor black, and also one of my big favourites. A home-made version of it is the so-called “Ivan Chai”, which I made out of willow-herb leaves
last summer. Try it, it’s a stunner!

Herbal tea
You can use an immense range of plant parts for herbal teas, everything from aniseed to yarrow and I sometimes make mixtures. The “pectoral tea”, a mix of ¼ Tsp of fennel seeds, dried thyme, and chopped licorice root, is a winter favourite, good against dry mucus membranes, when you’ve got a cough or other chest problems.

So, whenever you feel a bit tired, chilly or out of sorts: warm up some milk (preferably a non-dairy variety, like hemp, oat, or almond milk) or put the kettle on and make yourself a hot cup of something fragrant, comforting and restoring ☺

( This blog post was inspired by a little contest on the Instagram account of @unterseecafé, a group of illustrators, to draw your own cup – see below!)

My elf cup, with lid and all💚

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