Saturday, 10 March 2018

A few updates

I went on a solo trip to Athens in January and it was lovely and life-affirming, like resetting a button in my head. I truly haven't felt like that on a holiday for a long time. I was all set to publish a personal blog post about that BUT then I got commissioned to write an article about Athens using my own material — so I'll wait a little while until copyright and everything is cleared up.

My new happy place: the top of Mount Lycabettus, just before sunset.

Isn't January just the worst month? There's the post-festive comedown, of course, and then in Berlin, at least, sunlight is in short supply, which has ripple effects on everything else. I woke up every morning bleary-eyed, bloated, willing to try out anything that would end this winter hell.
Instead of reaching for my phone and scrolling Instagram, I've started reading a bit of my bedside book in the mornings, but this just makes me want to stay in bed longer. And I've started forcing myself to walk to work, which has made a difference, as it really wakes me up and I can use the time to be "mindful".

February was really cold here; I think it dropped to -15°C last week. I recall last winter in Berlin being very mild. It went by quickly, which is just about the only good thing February has going for it.

Now it's March and I'm waiting for my creativity to make its grand return sometime in the next couple of weeks. Every single March, I go through an existential crisis in Berlin; I consider moving somewhere else. But where? It's really odd. It's like when spring comes, everything feels possible.

Despite all of this, I'm having a good start to 2018. By good, I mean that things are afoot. My social life is in flux. I've made some health changes that I hope will help me get back mental and emotional clarity. I have settled into a good routine at my job at the film agency and don't feel so stressed. I have a couple of exciting side gigs. I also babysit from time to time and it's really fun to go to a different part of the city, as well as taking a step out out of my adult life and reconnecting with my inner child. I am grateful for many things in my life and I almost never stop thinking about that fact, despite the challenges.

I haven't really felt like reading this past month. I manage a chapter here and there. My current bedside read is Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak (so I can say I read a book rather than messing around on apps before going to sleep), and Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge on my Kindle (to take out and about, for impromptu waiting situations). I'm enjoying them so far, but it's not like I am reading as an activity in its own right, more like an occupation I can slip into at idle moments.
Instead, I got myself a Netflix trial for February and have been snuggling up watching Queer Eye, Ku'damm 56, and movies I would never pay to watch individually. I'm considering sticking with the Netflix subscription because it has a good amount of German content, but then... so do the public channels that have stuff online and which I pay a jolly lot of money for three times a year (infuriating, as I don't even own a TV!).

I've also changed the way I look at cooking. I used to be quite lazy, or only cook using whatever was in my fridge. I mean, if you have some type of vegetable/pulse, some pasta or rice, and some type of sauce, you can't go wrong, right? It's a habit I picked up in my student days and it just stuck.
Only it turned out that I was going to my local Edeka almost every day, which is not only annoying and a massive waste of time, but I was also spending more money on food than I thought I was, even if I was just picking up one specific item that I'd run out of. I'm not sure how exactly that money thing works, but it's what happened.

With regard to saving money, my method has always been "whatever amount of money you have, don't spend all of it". And I definitely don't want to spend all my money on food. As explained above, though, it doesn't really work unless you have a plan. I've been reading a lot of frugality blogs, and every single one of them sings the praises of meal planning. I knew about it, of course, but hated how rigid it was. Surely it was for people who spent their whole lives at home — and who had massive freezers? What if I was spontaneously out and about at 6pm, which is when I normally have dinner?

When I tried it out last week, I made a loose plan for the weekdays. I'd make enough for two portions in the evening, eat one for dinner then put the rest in the fridge to take to work for lunch. It was on Tuesday that I derailed my plan, I think, when I ate all the pasta because I was just feeling bleh.
Then, on Wednesday night I was all set to do a quinoa salad for the next day. I left the vegetables to roast in the oven, but I forgot all about the boiling quinoa! It burnt and I had to throw it away (and scrub out the pot). So I made the best of the situation: I kept the vegetables, and on the way to work I bought one of those flavoured rice sachets and ate them together. VoilĂ !

One more thought: what the hell is "nice cream"? Unfortunately, since I follow a few vegan Instagram accounts, the algorithm assumes I want to follow preachy clean-eating blogs, and "nice cream" seems to be the trend du jour. So, I need to reiterate a point I made in my last post.
All ice cream is nice. If you like a type of food, then it is nice. You don't have to make it sugar-free or whatever for it to be nice, because all food should be enjoyed guilt-free. Because of the shitty messages we receive from the media and from other people, we may need to work towards that point — enjoying food guilt-free — and it is true that I've been making it accidentally (it's basically just blending frozen bananas and some other things), but we can't seriously act like calling healthier ice cream "nice cream" is a harmless, cute gimmick.