Strengthening the resolve

The season to be dysfunctional jolly is here, once again. Gaudy decorations are sparkling away tirelessly and recipes are nagging to be tried and tasted.

giphyCelebrations to usher in the new year are being planned, finalised even.

So let’s begin planning the year ahead.

In very much the same way 2017 has sped past, 2018 won’t be holding back.

Resolutions

It’d be a great help if you still have the tattered 2017 New Year Resolution list lying around somewhere. Or filed away in some folder instead of sticky-noted to the screen like it was on the 1st or 2nd of January 2017.

Helpful because this is how you get to review your progress. Step back from your frantic year-end meetings and marvel at your progress over the last 330 or so days since you made the necessary amendments to your habits.

Or you get to list all of the new ways you’ve failed yourself and make a mental note to try different ways next year.

Whichever the case, reminiscing triggers some of that glassy-eyed fervour that helped you make the list in the first place.

Righting the wrongs

Scanning the months of the year, you might find that some of the listed resolutions were forgotten in the frenzy of surviving 2017. Presidents were elected and comfort food was needed. Social injustice continued to rise and gym memberships declined.

These things happen. ‘S called Life.

You might also find that some of the listed items were (unintentionally or not) completed. Partially completed is a win, seeing as its only November and you have just over 3 fortnights to make that mad dash down the checklist.

This would give you ample practice for next years marathon. Maybe two days a week (in 2017) going through your now updated list of resolutions might give you the stamina you need…?

Solving the reward system

Monitor each step taken into the abyss of progress. Steep valleys, laced with the nectar of blossoming success stories reveal themselves as private evaluations become publicly observable. That job you can finally apply for, now that you’ve finished that course with the endless paperwork…those non-stretch pants, untouched since they were bought because of the traumatic political climate (and the maelstrom of doughnuts and various carbs).

These effects of you being dedicated to your resolutionary checklist become their own reward. The more of them you get, the more you’ll want.

So be careful, 2018 might find you more competitive if you start winning it over this year.

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Its a bean, its a plate…its Super-food

Before becoming a vegetarian, I scoffed at the bean family with more contempt than I knew what to do with. Now, the same humble bean sates me like no dead animal ever did…

Aside from its versatility in the kitchen, the extraordinarily affordable white kidney bean that I cooked for my supper has brought me a certain kind of peace that’s hard to express.

As the beans were boiling (with some bicarbonate of soda to help them soften…alternatively, you can boil them and freeze them to help break down the cell walls if you’re worried about thiamine loss), I thought about the drought that Southern Africa is going through and realized a few things.

Food is always a blessing

In today’s fast paced world of faster food and fast corruption, its easy to get distracted from the moments that really matter. The moments that bring life to our minds and hearts through our incredibly efficient resource extraction system, our stomachs.

In a world where CEOs claim that water isn’t a human right and crime takes precedence over health, we have to make our own decisions when it comes to sustainable living. Sustainable in terms of understanding the blessing that food is, respecting its sources and doing our bit to make sure that this blessing is shared with as many people (including rivers and animals) as there are on this planet.

Happiness usually starts with food

However you choose to define happiness, however you choose to create it, the bottom line is, you have to have balanced meals that let you experience life.

My criminally healthy breakfast this morning most likely played a big role in my ability to handle the challenges of the day. The joy that I got from each bite gave me waves of gentle, positive energy that kept me smiling through moments that would usually leave me faithless.

Sure, food isn’t the only component of my happiness but it is the go-to starting point for developing the emotions that eventually lead to this mystical, magical thing.

Food is and always will be art

Now I get that this is a bold statement to make. Heaven forbid we end up evolving to live off vitamin pills and retain water for easier planetary escapades. Even if that happens though, the way we’ve evolved to taste our food signifies an almost sacred bond with this planet we’ve come to call home. We’ve grounded our consciousness to this physical space in a tantalizing way.

As we mature, our palate is complemented by the visual experience and every day, new dimensions of experience are being added. Restaurants with ‘atmospheres’ and million dollar recipes, kept secret for years, powering brands and multinational corporations.

In the end, our tether to life is the food we eat and this is our greatest artwork.

Bean food is good food

Getting back on my high vegetarian horse, it feels good to let go of the ethical dilemma that comes with not eating other animals. The weight of that action, lifted off my shoulders has made for ever more peaceful nights and decisive action in so many other aspects of this short life that I’m choosing to live.

Now, as I step into the Internetosphere to find out more about bean flour, I wonder what our species will come up with next.

Dried beans might be a good space meal…no?

White Kidney Beans: Nutrional information

Livestrong: Cooking with dried beans

Totes McOats

I’m a huge fan of innovation. I love the sparks of future that pop up when I do exciting new things…today, I decided to innovate my breakfast with a popular but ‘boring’ grain:

Oats

I usually cook Jungle Oats in milk for about 10 minutes, add some honey and butter for flavour and call myself a master chef because it tastes so good.

Today, craving pancakes and learning to cater for different needs (innovation always serves a purpose), I decided to try the gluten free method: Oat flour.

According to the experts out there, oats are nutritionally superior to wheat. Bursting with minerals and other body enhancing supplements, this grain does what wheat does…but better.

Freshly ground in a painstakingly wiped down coffee grinder, the flour was pleasing to toss about, so floury. The sense of accomplishment was undeniable. I literally felt like a productive member of society, grinding my own grain in my little urban farm. My excitement dwindled slightly once I started combining the ingredients. The course texture grated against most of my panic buttons. I knew this mixture would be too heavy to give me the usual fluffiness from wheat pancakes but I soldiered on. The euphoria of a healthy breakfast was in sight and I wasn’t about to let a minor visual disappointment get in the way of my future temporary bliss.

Folding the stiff egg whites into the mixture calmed me down and the butter warmed me up to the reality of oat flour pancakes again. Letting the mixture rest (this is probably when I added waaaay too much Stevia), I scooped up some of the heavenly double cream yoghurt that would balance the tart fruits with my pancakes. Hedonism on a spoon, I promise.

The pancakes

As the last pancake cooked, I wondered about making an entirely new batch, with normal wheat flour and actual sugar. I decided to push forward with my innovation, instead of giving up like I usually do.

As it happens, they were more than edible. The strawberries and other fruits introduced the new, ‘odd’ taste. Layered flavours and textures coated my breakfast experience in a way that I hadn’t expected as I made the pancakes.

This helped me understand a little more about innovation. How to incorporate new ideas into traditional methods and learn to accept unforeseen results as a consequence. In hindsight, I don’t know why I expected the pancakes to turn out the same as they usually do.

If they had, it wouldn’t have been innovation, would it?

Totally…

Nutritional values (oats vs wheat)

Calming or starving?

Being in this society is a highly stressful activity. More and more, i find myself resorting to food to keep me stable and calm but without enough exercise, its impacting my amazing physique…

When it comes to my emotions, I’m not the best at dissecting and understanding what they mean. Why they seem to pop up at random, drawing me into a web of thoughts that unravel my plans. When I eventually disentangle myself from this trap, my mind is in shambles. The cycle begins again.

 

Quiche, capiche?

I’ve been craving productivity for a while. I struggle to find fulfilment doing the work that I THINK I should be doing. I expect this is because the ‘work’ that I love doing seems selfish. Today, I let myself give in to my ‘selfish’ work…allowing myself the comfort of cooking before the new week begins was worth it.

I’ve never made quiche before. It always seemed like a waste of eggs. I can’t remember the first time I had quiche either. It must have made an impression on me because today, in my panic, I decided that I would validate myself by making this mystical quiche thing.

It was surprisingly easy. Disappointingly so, in fact. Granted, the base didn’t come out as I would have liked but the filling was decent enough. Barring the lack of seasoning, it was a good effort. It is a recipe that I can perfect over time.

Will this become my new comfort food? My new comfort ‘work’?

Being productive (making the quiche) did help me refocus my thoughts. Still, comfort was needed…

Rice and spice

I’m not sure what it is about this combination that helps me find my balance once again. The build up of heat that tingles and glows from within. The countable (but who will..?) grains of rice being crushed between my teeth. It almost feels like the chewing is producing the heat. That some consistent activity is giving rise to some kind of energy.

The stability that I imagine in this state helps me realign myself when times are tumultuous. It could very well be the reminiscing of the Sunday lunches that I was fortunate enough to grow up with. The safety of knowing that some delicious plate of food was there, waiting to welcome the new week.

So to end Sunday off, I indulged in a spicy spinach and rice dish. Loaded with slow cooked tomato and an army of grain, I cherished the moments that led me to my plate.

Buenas noches!

Old habits…

Its been 47 hours (?) since my last cup of coffee. As proud as i am of this achievement, my assignment depends on this double espresso..

The smell alone is stimulating enough for my mind to start electrocuting my body awake. Feeling my focus aligning with the goal that needs to be accomplished, i am empowered. This might be because the first time i smelled (real) coffee was in an airport and the thought of reaching for the clouds can now be acted out as i work towards my ideal future, whatever that is.

An hour or so later…

Assignment submitted!

Yay…

Since i’ve just moved, everything is still in boxes (including all my coffee). Admittedly, that that’s one of the main reasons i haven’t had much coffee lately. Also, my budget has me on the tightest leash so constantly going out for coffee isn’t the best decision to make right now.

Starbucks easter 2017Forcing the lack-of-coffee induced laziness back, i hunted for some black magic and found…

two of these little fire-starters from Starbucks (this post is not sponsored by the brand at all…) after some sugary indulgence from the Easter basket.

The combination of the chocolate and the coffee helped me feel like the looming deadline wasn’t too bad. And it wasn’t.

Inspiration Strikes

Now, i’m wide awake at 1:10am and wondering why exactly we still celebrate Easter and does the “why” have any bearing on the how? I know for a fact that there are hundreds of people in Cape Town, filling their cups with some sweet intoxication.

*disengage thought before FOMO strikes…

Earlier today, i spent some time at the Waterfront, at a place called Haiku. WOW…

Good food, if a little bit pricey. I’ll remember to work on including my audience in the experience somehow next time, for now, i’m letting myself indulge some of my addictions in manageable ways. That sounds awful but as a mostly-functional adult in this world, i’m actually making progress. There should be a term for coffee infused courage. Since its from Mexico, would it be Mexican courage? I suppose the word courage doesn’t work quite so well there, huh. Focus? Productivity?

Drawing used to be one of my addictions. I stopped for a while. It isn’t easy looking at your work and thinking ‘not good enough’, but with magical Mexican productivity and good music…

About 30 mins later …

Photo Apr 14, 1 39 31 AM

Two Pizzas and the Head of a Lion, please

I’d been thinking about tackling some ideas I’ve had about being human for a while. After reading this quote, I knew that I had to take some form of action.

“When you get tired, don’t quit; rest”

Tired could mean a whole lot of things but to me, it’s the heart-searing frustration that comes with putting bucketloads of effort into something that means a lot to me but not achieving the milestones needed to go further. Tiredness is not only draining but also humiliating in a way. Tiredness is a reminder that mortality exists.

Anyway, drawing action from thought, I decided to wander outside my bubble and walk up Lion’s Head. I put on a vest (forgetting that it would cool down later in the day), grabbed my notebook and downed an energy drink and a coke, fighting every instinct to turn back as I walked to the bus stop.

The 107 to Camps Bay pulls up and I’m already feeling clammy in the afternoon heat. Of course, the bus is packed with people and the air is infused with an entire mornings worth of recycled breath and evaporated sweat. God forbid someone get the aircon working.

Practicing my calming thoughts I conjure a thought-bubble, — “I am the Universe becoming aware of itself, I am myself becoming aware of the Universe”

It’s a struggle not to switch to — “I am the Universe rolling its eyes at some idiot” as I spend half the ride debating whether to stand up for a girl to have my seat.

Fast forward to me buying a bottle of water at the foot of the trail. Hordes of people are gathering, ready to perform the sacred full moon pilgrimage that had spurred my own decision to do the same. Talk about a self-deprecating feedback loop. I notice the backpacked, spandex clad fitness freaks and my motivation sinks a notch. I feel like a devolved whale as sweats pours out of me, immediately soaked up by the dark vest sporting an image of a bearded man. My notebook is my only comfort as I grip it tightly.

I go over the reasons I decided to challenge myself and I recall walking this way with my mother. The memory of her is encouraging and I stop for a while at the bench we had soaked in the sight of Table Mountain, some weeks back.

Mother and Nature cheering me on

Momentarily renewed, my trek continues.

As the trail curves into the sunlight, I feel like a ship sailing head-on into solar winds. My ragged breath is drawing attention from concerned hikers but my headphones drown out the sound of everything but Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the summer” — I was anything but!

Finally, I let myself stop for a while. For the first time, dragging my eyes away from the ground directly ahead of me and looking out at the vista that made those harrowing first steps worth it.

Worth every sweaty step

Having never gone past this point, I felt like an adventurer. A Lone Ranger, smiting the allure of angelic calls to give up and walk back down to the safety of the inner city comforts. The wilderness was now mine to behold!

My body began to adjust itself as I forced it to continue. The strain on my upper body lessened as my legs took on their share of the burden. This left me with a surprising ability to look around me as I walked, unhindered by my supposition that I had to watch the ground for any sign of it needing a hug from me.

I’m not saying it got easier, far from it. It did however, become multidimensional. The air seemed to freshen up and the light danced off buildings down below while insects and flowers silently observed the parade of humans.

The further I walked, the more concerned I got that I wasn’t dressed for the full experience. A breeze had picked up and, of course, my anxiety bade that I forget to enjoy it and focus on my impending death by hypothermia. Nonetheless, I kept walking, enjoying the caffeinated thrill and the power that came with it. No way I was going to waste it!

Use your body or lose it

After some scrambles, slips and mad dives for the handholds, I decided rest. I knew that despite my desire to go further, my baggy shorts and inexperience would lessen the fun for myself and anyone behind me who wanted to dash ahead in time for the apparent party up ahead.

This was where I would turn back, until another time.

Shadow of Lion’s Head

I drank most of the water I had with the hope that the bottle wouldn’t weigh me down as I stumbled back. More and more people were heading up and I perfected a balancing act as they squeezed past me. Those moments will forever be embedded in my mind. Gazing down at the steep drop on one side and anxiously avoiding being touched by other sweaty people on the other side, I was caught between a whole lot of air and an awkward, apology filled conversation.

One more contemplation of the city below me and I would be dashing down.

I already knew which pizzas I was going to order for supper and they helped me forget the stench of sweat that had decided to stick to me.

A last contemplation

Resisting the urge to take an Uber home, I allowed myself my humanity and braved the bus. My damp clothes reminded me that I was present and my aching legs thanked me as I sat down gingerly at the back by one of two slightly open windows.

After my decontamination process, stepping back into my sterile environment, I wolfed the pizzas, thanked myself for the outing, knowing that all the calories I’d burned were being replaced.

But who was counting? I had learned that it’s all about the view and the effort. And those pizzas looked amazing and finishing them was effortless.

The Long Walk to Work

Sifting through my earliest memories of time spent with my mother, I found this little gem and the life lessons reflected to me. A lesson of love, given freely to two little gremlins with apparent personality disorders (at the time)…

It’s a typical Monday morning in the 90’s. My eight year old twin and I had come to the conclusion that we weren’t going to school that day. It didn’t really matter what we did, we just weren’t in the mood for that prison camp. Our mother, already late for work and panicking about our decision, made up her mind to take us to work and deal with the situation from there. To this day, I respect the single mothers who, despite the consequences, still take their children to work to make sure they’re safe. Oblivious to our mother’s predicament, my brother and I were ecstatic. We were going on an excursion to town. How exciting!

Leaving the house and shutting the gate behind us, the lock snapped closed, signalling the end of the security of home. We were on the open road, ready for adventure. We stepped onto that road and I remembered that we still had to make our way to the bus stop, just over a kilometre away. The lengthy stretch ahead seemed to mock my resolution to skip being driven to school by my grandfather earlier that morning. My mother’s curt voice snapped me out of developing tantrum and her perfume reminded me that while I was with her, I was safe. I was getting what I wanted, I was spending time with my mother.

After what felt like hours in the desert sun (actually 5 minutes in the shade of a tree-lined suburban road), a car hooted loudly behind us and our mother herded us off the road as it sped by. Watching the tail lights shrinking in the distance, a wave of frustration and anger overwhelmed me as I wondered why I had to mutilate my poor feet and tire my legs walking when others had cars. Not wanting to upset my mother (and achieving exactly that), I took my frustrations out on my brother. The tedium of the walk had bored me enough to forget that I was supposed to be having fun. Paying no attention to us, my mother kept her hurried pace and soon, we realised that we were being left behind. Setting aside our differences for the moment, we united to make sure that we weren’t forgotten. We believed her when she said “I’ll leave you here in the middle of the road.”…when we finally made it to the bus stop, my brother remembered that he had a bone to pick with me (and the world), so he continued the saga…but that’s not my story to tell.

The lessons from Gremlin Avenue were always there but only with years of hindsight am I able to begin comprehending their relevance to my life today. My mother’s optimism in taking us to work, knowing her decision would be frowned upon, is what revealed her heroism to my brother and I. My mother’s commitment to her responsibilities as a parent and to her contract at work forced her to make grim sacrifices but she persevered, just like we did with our short legs on Gremlin Avenue. “Keep moving forward”, a phrase introduced to me years later but demonstrated long before I understood the concept.
My mother’s humble reaction to the neighbours passing us taught me that I had no right to begrudge people for having something that I didn’t. On this planet, I’m only entitled to her love (considering my mood swings, even that’s pushing it). My mother forgave our selfishness, our inability to grasp the consequences of our actions quelled her anger and as she proudly introduced is to her colleagues who fawned over us, my brother and I turned into cupid’s little helpers. Of course, she was also making arrangements to get us the hell out of there before we got bored and revealed the reason we were known as gremlins at home.

The long walk to work was worth all the blood (not my story to tell…), sweat and tears.

I love you mummy.