Saturday 28 February 2015

Hang loose

Result of my experimenting with the manual camera settings

My office

Good morning friends! I'm sitting here with my cup of Vanilla Macadamia Kona coffee, in a bikini, gazing out at the palm trees and listening to the Mynas chattering away. It has to be said: life ain't too shabby. As mentioned in my last post we are currently on the Big Island of Hawaii with Richard's mom. Sitting here and reflecting on life, I am glad for all the experiences I've had so far that have prepared me for this vacation: My happy pills keep me calm; my job in the hospital has provided me with plenty of exposure and understanding of the elderly; and my revived passion for yoga is reminding me to take deep, cleansing breaths. A lot

Seriously though, it's a lot better than I thought it would be. I'm practicing my patience skills, and have set myself a series of tasks for this trip:
Use the manual setting on my camera as much as possible. As expected, it is quite tricky, and I get a lot of pictures that are useless; but there are also happy accidents like the first one I posted here - completely overexposed, but I like how it turned out nonetheless.
Do yoga. My passion for yoga reignited when I found Kino MacGregor on YouTube a couple of weeks ago. She is so cute, positive, and most of all, incredibly fit! I adore her, and I'm determined to master the handstand this year. Incidentally, yesterday at the beach I people-watched (is there anything better to do at the beach? I didn't think so), and this beautiful girl in the most fabulous tassled, yellow bikini strolled past, and then popped into a perfect handstand right there at the beach.
Gosh, I was envious. Also, I have a bit of a crush on her.
Get into the island spirit. I'm practicing the laid-back attitude islanders are famous for, and it's going well!

With all these little projects and the gorgeous surroundings, living as a threesome is (almost) a breeze!
Hang loose!

Sandy toes
Testing the water
Crashing waves
Mother and son

Shaka, brah!


Tuesday 24 February 2015

Unsolicited advice + Let's grow together {Link-up #8}

Out of the 55 days of this year, we have had German guests on 30 of them, and still counting (18 more to go). This is more than half the days! Needless to say, I'm exhausted. 

As you may know, I am German myself and lived the first 23 years of my life there. It's what I know, it's what I used to be, it should be completely natural and familiar to me. 
However, it isn't. Not any more. Furthermore, even when I was still living in Germany, there came a time when I realized that I didn't feel at home in my own home land, which is quite a startling and, frankly, horrifying realization - if your own country doesn't feel like home, then which one will?
In my case, I found my happy ending in Canada, a place that felt familiar to me as soon as I set foot on her soil. 
Alas, this is a story for another day. 

Today I want to share a few observations I have made not only during the 30 days, but throughout the years with our German guests:

Unsolicited advice
Germans love to share their wisdom, because they are a helpful people and like to educate the ignorant (i.e. Rich and myself). You don't even have to ask for help, they will give it to you with no prompting! If they are to be believed, there is lots of room for improvement in our lives:
We should sell most of our animals (we have too many).
I don't have the right kitchen equipment - for example, the peeler I use for peeling potatoes is wrong.
Why don't I work full-time? I should work full-time. Why only work 4 days/week when you can work 5? My slacker-ways are very un-German.

Germans value honesty. It is a virtue that is underrated in North America, based on what I've learned from my old-country relatives and friends. All that being nice to other people is fake, telling them how it is is the only way to go. And don't sugar-coat it either, be blunt about it:
"You don't have good bread here." All the bread is bad, and that's the way it is. 
"Oh, so you are cleaning today because you invited guests?" Well yes, I am, but am I the only one thinking it's rude to point it out? I may be a touch sensitive about it.
"Your houses aren't built very sturdy, not like in Germany." Made in Germany beats all.
"It looks much better here than usual, I can tell that you had help." Criticism disguised as a compliment is a classic.
"Your oven needs to be cleaned." Ouch, the truth hurts. 
"You are too old to ride horses." Uhm, nope, don't think so. You are never too old to do anything you like doing.

Even though brutal honesty is the policy when pointing out the errors in other people's ways, when it comes to their own lives our families play their cards close to their chests. "What's going on with us is nobody's business" is the motto I grew up with, which pretty much goes against anything I'm doing on this blog. While I fully respect people's privacy and do my best not to violate it on here, I do not understand the need to keep everything from everybody. To me, sharing bits and pieces of your life helps to unburden yourself, makes you feel connected, and forms foundations on which friendships are built. Keeping everyone at arm's length will make you feel very isolated and alone.
I did not start feeling confident and at ease with myself until I started to open up about my insecurities and learnt that I'm not the only one having them. While that may not be the right route for everyone, shutting yourself off from other people is the worse option of the two, as I have witnessed time and time again.  

Being frugal is another quality highly valued in many of our German friends. It is an admirable quality, one that ensures that most of our German acquaintances have paid off their mortgages, don't owe credit card debts and live firmly within their means. The cost for that is high though: I know people who never go out to restaurants, don't travel, and constantly fight with their spouses about money. My goal in life is to experience and see new things, and doing that costs money. If that means that I will pay off my mortgage slower, then so be it. Not being able to travel, seeing a show, trying out a yoga class or going out for a nice meal with my husband once in a while for the sake of saving money is not my idea of living life to the fullest. The worst is when people are stingy towards other people - just don't. Some of the most generous people I know are the ones who have little, but they share with others what they have. Those are the kind of people I look up to, and the ones I try to emulate in my own life.    

My way
We are in the fortunate position to know people who figured shit out. They found a path in life that works for them, and now they are convinced that's the best way to live life. Oh, you are doing it differently? Let me show you how you can do it better! (The unsolicited advice strikes again.)
Don't get me wrong, I see the temptation of doing that: The way I live my life is nice and dandy for me, and why shouldn't everybody live on a farm with too many dogs and a guy they dropped everything for? But believe it or not, people are different, and to many our way of living might be abhorrent. I try to understand and respect that. (Well, respect it at least. I do not understand at all.)
Please, please stop telling us that our yard is too messy, all those animals are too much (this is a common, constant point of disbelief to all of our guests), that not having regular meal times is disagreeable (we like it that way), and that my dogs smell.
Our house, our rules - I thought that's the whole point of being a grown-up?
Obviously, I'm not talking about all Germans. I don't know you all. So don't take this as a generalization. 
I may or may not be exaggerating.
I am German myself, so some of these (all?) may include myself. I sincerely hope not, but nature and nurture are both working against me. Rats. 

I'm curious: Do any of you expats have similar experiences when you go back to your old country or have guests coming from there to visit you? Please share in the comments!

Now it's your turn! Link up your latest post and find some new blogs to read!

Farm Girl


Saturday 21 February 2015

Don't let your dreams die

Can you use up bravery?
Does a person only have a limited amount, and once it's used up, it's gone?

Sometimes it seems that way.
Sometimes I feel like I was brave only once, and now I am too scared to take the leap again.
Even though I know how great the reward can be.

I also know how great the risk is.
How much work it is. 
How much doubt there is. 
How impossible it seems.

Is all my bravery gone? 

I'm stuck.
I catch myself talking about the things I want to achieve, but I'm not doing them.
It's easier to just talk about them.
You don't have to do the actual work; you can do the fun part, the dreaming and imagining, without having to face the cold, hard reality: It's damn hard. It's boring. It's tedious. It's not glamorous - it's frustrating, makes you want to pull your hair out, and seems like such a huge task that you will never master it.

So I'm talking about it. I talk about it every day.
Words are cheap.
Actions speak the truth. And there isn't much action going on towards my dream.
It's so tempting to tell yourself to be content with what you already have in life; so many people would kill to have what you do! And I do tell myself that, and I am grateful.
And I go to work, do my job, enjoy it, go home. I hang out with my husband, laugh with him, talk to him, love him. I watch TV, go for walks, do some yoga, read books.
But it's always there, at the back of my mind.

I think about it constantly.
And I know I'm not the only one.

Taylor described similar feelings in her moving post about dreams:
"I was pretty blue in January. I blamed it on winter and Chicago and just a bunch of other poor-me stuff. But then I realized I was sad because I'd let go of the joy of dreaming, of working toward something so crazy unattainable that most people think I'm unrealistic for even attempting. And I am, but whatever. That's what keeps me going."

Then Helene talked about the 5 books that changed her life. Any post with that claim catches my interest, and I wasn't disappointed - I learned about Paulo Coelho.
Now, I had heard of him before (I'm not completely ignorant), but didn't know any details.
Here's what Wikipedia taught me:

Paulo decided as teenager that he wanted to become a writer. Believing that a writer was meant to be misunderstood, he behaved in a way that made his parents so worried that they had him admitted to a mental institution. After escaping three times and finally being released at the age of 20, he enrolled into law school, but dropped out after a year. After travelling for a while, he started a successful career as songwriter.
After walking the 500-plus miles of the Santiago de Compostela in Spain at 39 years of age, he decided that despite his life being good, it was still missing something: "I was very happy in the things I was doing. I was doing something that gave me food and water - to use the metaphor in The Alchemist, I was working, I had a person whom I loved, I had money, but I was not fulfilling my dream. My dream was, and still is, to be a writer."

Paulo left his lucrative career in songwriting to pursue writing full-time.  
The rest, as they say, is history: He has published 30 books, been translated into 80 languages, and has sold more than 150 million books in over 150 countries, the bestselling one being The Alchemist (which I started to read immediately, and - well, let's just say, it deserves its impeccable reputation. I'm enthralled!).

Summing it up like this is, of course, almost criminal, because it makes it look so easy. And I'm sure it wasn't.
He had been dreaming of being a writer for over 20 years before he started to actively pursue his dream. 20 years!
All those voices are powerful:
The ones telling you that you have so much to be grateful for.
The ones imploring you to be grateful for what you have.
The ones insisting that you should be "realistic".
I have no idea if Paulo had similar voices in his head, but I suspect he did. They are omnipresent.

So here is the choice I have to make: I can keep thinking about it, but not do anything towards making my dream become a reality. It's the easier option for sure, because it doesn't involve any hard work.
Or should I stop dilly-dallying, stop with the lame excuses, buckle down and get to work?

This post already answers the question, doesn't it.

I don't know what makes me want to be a writer so much.
Maybe the desire has always been in me, deeply buried. There is something about writing that makes me understand life - and myself - better. It seems that I need to type the words out, see them take shape in front of my eyes, before they make sense to me.

The actual act of writing thousand and thousands of words, to weave them together into a story that is worth reading, is so incredibly hard. The blank screen is mocking me constantly - the thoughts in my head are struggling to get out. I keep changing my mind what I want my story to be about, I keep changing titles, I keep starting over and over.
This has to stop. It feels like self-sabotage to me, and of course, it is - it's the fear that I may find out just how inadequate I am as a writer.

So here is what I'm going to do: I will set out to write a shitty first draft. That's what all the books are telling me, and it seems completely doable. Wish me luck!


Thanks for listening.


Thursday 19 February 2015

Style: If life gives you grey skies, pose in front of a lemon-yellow wall

I'm currently living with not one, but two farmers. Yes, it's true: my mother-in-law has arrived in town. It's day 3 and so far, so good. No fights, no disagreements, only minimal stealthy eye-rolling on my part - things are going swimmingly!
The thing about farmers, even hobby and retired ones, is that they cannot stop talking about the weather. Their lives were ruled by the weather for so many decades, that this habit is impossible to break. So we talk about the weather a LOT here lately. Which means that every rainy day seems a million times worse than it is, because it has been remarked upon multiple times.
"Ach, it's so ugly out there today."
"The weather here is no better than back home." (I beg to differ, it is; but I kept my opinion to myself. It's only day 3, too early for silly weather debates.)
"Mirija (that's what she calls me, never by my real name, Miriam), today is a lost cause, it's so cold and rainy."

The only course of action? I sat them both down, poured them a stiff drink, and retreated into my office. Everybody wins!

I also moved my photo shoot inside, because it was quite grey and rainy (she wasn't wrong about that), and had some fun with bubble gum and bright colours. Which, incidentally, was the original title for this post, before I tried a word play on the whole life, lemon and lemonade spiel.
I may have had a stiff drink (or two) myself by then, but I will never tell.

Top: ModCloth (no longer available; similar); pants: Aeropostale (old) (similar); booties: Target (similar); toque: gift from friend (DIY)

Linking up with Rachel the HatFashion Should Be Fun and A Labour of Life


Tuesday 17 February 2015

Lady Grantham's best one-liners + Let's grow together {Link-up #7}

Maggie Smith as Lady Violet Grantham (source)

Guys, I almost didn't make it this week. Three things happened that rattled me:
1. My mother-in-law arrived yesterday for an almost-one-month stay ( 25 days exactly, but who's counting).

2. I finished Gilmore Girls. So.many.emotions. Most powerful of all: A profound feeling of loss. What will I do with all my newly-free time now? I miss them already.

3. We just finished the 5th season of Downton Abbey (we borrowed the DVD from our friends). Once again: So.many.emotions. I don't want to give anything away, so I won't. Just one thing: I cried. I'm also PMS'ing, so there's that, but I'm almost certain I would have cried without the hormones as well.
Such a good show! 

I'm a huge Downton Abbey fan. The characters, the setting, the story - it's all so good! I'm not quite ready to say goodbye yet, so I decided to share some of Lady Grantham's best quotes today. She's the queen of subtle, yet biting comments, and is one of the main reasons that make this show as awesome as it is - if you have watched the show, you know what I mean, and if you haven't - I pity you. Also: Start watching asap!

"I am a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose."

Lady Grantham to Mrs. Crawley: "You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal."
Mrs. Crawley: "I take that as a compliment."
Lady Grantham: "I must have said it wrong." 

Mrs. Crawley: "How you hate to be wrong."
Lady Grantham: "I wouldn't know. I'm not familiar with the sensation."

"If I were to search for logic, I would not look for it among the English upper class."

"Don't be defeatist dear, it's very middle class."


"Vulgarity is no substitute for wit."

"All this endless thinking, it's very overrated. I blame the war, before 1914 nobody thought of anything at all."

"My dear, a lack of compassion can be as vulgar as an excess of tears." 

Are there any other quotes you love? Can't wait for season 6!!

And now, let's link up!

Farm Girl


Monday 16 February 2015

Epic (and wildly unrealistic) spring to-do list

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen my recent infatuation with spring. The last few days have been positively mild, and my spring fever has broken out in full force. I realize that it is only February, but nature doesn't care about our silly calendars, and has decided to bless us with gorgeous weather. I'll take it!

Each year around this time I get the urge to tackle some new challenges. New season, new me - or something like that. I compiled a list of everything I'm into lately and what I have added to my always-growing, epic to-do list. I decided to go big or go home, so a lot of these items are insane quite challenging. But so what? It was a ton of fun thinking of crazy and challenging things to do this spring/summer, and if I only achieve a few of my goals I will be pleased as punch.

(Pleased as punch - where does this phrase come from? Why is punch pleased? Because it has alcohol in it? Is it tipsy? What about non-alcoholic punch - is it just as pleased, or less so? So many questions.
Why am I talking about this? Did I have punch? No, I did not. This is insane. I better stop now.
Sorry about that.)
Geez, that distracted me. English, you are a wonder and a mystery to me. That's why I love you!

Anyway, let's move on to the list, shall we?

~ Spring cleaning! This needs to happen today because my MIL is arriving tomorrow. No better motivation!

~ Kitchen make-over Tori from Wear. Wag. Repeat. posted her amazing kitchen make-over, and I'm completely in love with it all. Our cabinets are in desperate need of some TLC, so I've decided to paint them with the same colours: white on top, black on the bottom. 

~ Go zip lining! My friend and I are planning to go to Whistler some time this spring to go zip lining. I have gone once before in Germany, and it was equally terrifying and thrilling. Okay, I admit it, it was way more terrifying than thrilling, maybe 80/20 - but such a rush that I felt high for the rest of the day. Can't wait to do it with her!

~ Become a yogi master
I'm totally back into yoga. I used to practice regularly a couple of years ago, but then I fell out of practice. Now I'm back (thanks to Mary for her Insta-inspiration!), and I'm obsessed with mastering the handstand. Obsessed! It's my number one fitness goal this year. Will I ever have total body control like the incredible yogi girl in the above video? I'll keep you posted! ;-)

~ Be a money-saving ninja I secretly started this project six weeks ago: no unnecessary purchases (I haven't bought any clothes at all!), eating out only on special occasions, trimming bills wherever we can. My husband and I are determined to pay off as as much debt as we can this year, so saving is our mantra. So far, so good!

~ Improve my photography This one is an ongoing project, and one that I enjoy tremendously. I want to focus on mastering more of the manual camera settings this year, and simply strive to take the best pictures possible.

If you take all of the above into account, my days will soon look something like this:
After starting the day with the little yoga flow number we have witnessed above, nbd (Oh yes, it is. It is a big, frickin' deal. I am a nutcase.) I will have coffee in my freshly painted kitchen. Then I will go on a few quick adventures, be brave and fearless. After that I will head out and take fabulous pictures for the blog, accompanied by fabulous words, for fabulous posts that will attract the attention and approval of thousands. They will approve so much, in fact, that they want to pay me for my work, which means I can pay off all of our debt and stop the no-clothes-buying rule. Because it is a sad rule.
This will totally happen, right? Right??

Do you have a spring to-do list? Any goals/crazy dreams you want to accomplish this year?


Saturday 14 February 2015

Spring means babies

Guys, spring is in the air! The dogs and horses are shedding, the frogs are croaking, and the first blossoms are blossoming. No matter what the groundhog or calendar are saying - spring is here(ish)!

Our first lamb was born mid January, and a couple of weeks later two sets of twins arrived. I love babies!

"I am lamb, hear me roar!"
"I'm not afraid."
"See ya."
"Snack time with my sis."
Dad with his four latest children (3 girls, 1 boy).
"I'm pretty."
 15 baby bunnies! 

Happy Valentine's day from our little farm!


Thursday 12 February 2015

Style: Love is in the air

In honour of tomorrow's Valentine's day I re-enacted a cheesy little love play. Somebody had to do it. 
Honestly though, I am not a huge fan of this holiday and boycott it every year. No overpriced flowers for this girl! 
To me it's a day that causes more disappointment and fights than any other, which completely defies its purpose. Too much pressure, too forced, and who made up the rules anyway? I like to show my love whenever it suits me, any day of the year.  

Because I do love love (a LOT)! Heart eyes forever.
"I hear love is in the air! I'm so excited!"
"Oh, hi there! How you doin'?"
"Hey! Where did he go?"
"Oh, he left flowers. So romantic!"
"They are beautiful."
"Will you be my Valentine?"

Top: Winners (super-cute Valentines-top here); skirt: Target (similar - and it's 20% off!); tights: Target; shoes: Old Navy (very old - similar)

Linking up with Rachel the HatFashion Should Be FunHelene in Between and A Labour of Life

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