Sunday, June 29, 2014

What I know for sure about losing a job

Losing my job threw me into uncertainty (not my favorite place to be). I felt lost for months, wandering around in my soul, trying to figure out “what’s next?” I believe in fairness, equity, and justice (see ) and wallowed for a while in “it’s unfair land”. How could the funding for my program be cut? Blah, blah, blah! 
However, I also strive for an attitude of gratitude, and noticed that some aspects of my life were way more relaxed without working full time. I kept going to the gym in the morning, but didn’t have to set my alarm clock for 0-dark-thirty (a military expression for VERY EARLY). I wasn’t rushing around like a maniac after work to run errands, or pile them all into a Saturday…grocery store, post office, laundry, anyone? I finished the book club book ahead of time!
I had time to appreciate the beauty in our world. I used to go on nature walks on weekends, and multitasked throughout. Last year, I brought a backpack to a local park, so I could do 3 other things while on a walk (sit on a bench and write a letter to a relative who doesn’t use e-mail, etc.). This year, I sat down and talked to a frog for a while. Now, don’t worry, the frog didn’t speak back to me in English, but I heard a volley of croaks and bellows echoing across the pond, and as my eyes adjusted to the dim shadow under leafy reeds, I saw another frog that I missed at first glance. 
In the past, the term “analysis paralysis” applied to me; well, I guess it still does. But the Authentic Happiness questionnaire listed it as a strength, in that I think things through and don’t jump to conclusions. Should I take a job at a 30% cut in pay? Am I desperate enough yet to accept a position three times the commuting length I had before? Let me get some advice from a career coach, and some staff members at the local Career Center. I am now open minded to a new career for myself as a life coach! I am glad to teach one class at a college to build my skills.
My strength of honesty didn’t make it entirely easy to ask for help. But I’ve always preferred to talk about the elephant in the room than ignore it, so mentoring is welcome. I connected with other adjunct instructors for advice, and willingly shared my frustrations with fellow coach trainees, who gently guided me to new ways of thinking. If I feel like I have too much time on my hands, how about increase my volunteering? Look for a new book group closer to my new home (but keep driving to the wonderful book group where we used to live). Get a free personal training preview session at the gym and try new classes (zumba, water aerobics, anyone?). Take a crafting class. Join Toastmasters to boost my public speaking skills.
Losing a job has not resulted in 100% fun, but I know for sure that it has provided me with new opportunities. I felt useless and disoriented for a while, but that does not mean that I am a worthless person. I’ve improved my networking skills, learned how to use the on-line education tool called Blackboard, and sat by the pool for a few minutes after working out at the gym- a luxury I never had on a regular basis while working full time.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Almond flour/Hazelnut flour chocolate chip cookies

It’s been a while since I’ve done any interesting cooking or baking, so I decided to use some of the unique flours I have and freeze some cookies for upcoming road trips. I know that in general, you can substitute part of the regular flour called for in recipes with specialty flours, but I searched on-line for hazelnut flour recipes, and discovered with tons of gorgeous choices! 

I had toasted hazelnut flour and toasted almond flour, so I made two batches, one with each type of specialty flour and chocolate. Regrettably (?), I had stocked up on a variety of chocolate chips, so I had plenty of half-bags to choose from (Mr. Spice’s doing!). The adapted the recipe is as follows:

Brown 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) by heating it over medium heat in a small pot until it’s a golden brown color. Stir in ¾ cup maple sugar*. Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla. 
In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup whole wheat flour, ¾ cup toasted almond flour , ¼ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon baking powder and 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon. Fold into liquid ingredients. Add 2 tablespoons skim milk or a bit more if the dough is quite firm. Fold in ¾ cup white chocolate chips. 
Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 9-10 minutes. Cool on wire racks. *I’ve been getting maple sugar from my co-op, which sources it from Square Deal Farm in Vermont.
For thin bars, press into 9x13 pan, or for thicker bars, use a square baking dish. I forgot to time the bars, but used the touch test to check for done-ness (press very gently and when it feels mostly firm to the touch, they're done). Please note, these are deliciously healthier cookies, with a special nutty flavor. They are not your average fluffy cooky, but I'm glad about that. Just a head's up that they are a bit denser and unique!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Off the Beaten Path: Hamburg, Germany

Some of my previous travel posts have barely scratched the surface of the location, and I’d like to start sharing more in-depth photos and tips. May tourists travel to Bavaria, and though I don’t have anything against Octoberfest, and really like Neuschwanstein (the famous castle), here is a city that is in a great location, depending on what you are looking for. 
If you love organ music, or any classical arts (ballet, opera, museums), Hamburg is a phenomenal place. This is the first photo I’ve ever hesitated over putting the blog name on! You can also climb some church spires for wonderful views, but the photos are marred by bars/fencing over the openings.
I especially enjoy dining outdoors in Europe, and am amazed at where cafĂ© tables are fit in…how about on a bridge over a canal? If you’ve never tried Apfelshorle before, it’s very flavorful apple juice pre-mixed with a delicate carbonation. It may sound weird, but it tastes wonderful. My favorite remains Bitter Lemon (preferably by Schweppes); too bad I can only consume so many of those each day, as the versions sold in the US are not the same.
Hamburg restaurants and harbor-side snack bars serve excellent seafood, though I couldn’t get a nice photo of my mini-shrimp sandwich, called “Krabben-salat”. The mayonnaise yielded a gloppy look, but I always have one wherever I can, even at the airport! Instead, here is a photo of a walking path along a brook, with evidence of the ubiquitous bicycle riders in Europe.
Finally, many residents love their gardens. I’ve never seen a market before with bins of bulbs! You decide how many of which variety, buying them individually or at a discount for 10 of the same. Hamburg has great public transportation, urban activities, and suburban room to breathe. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How growing up as a third culture kid changed my life for the better

Have you ever hear the term “third culture kid” before? I’ve lived in three countries so far, and am grateful for learning about the world at a young age. From  You know you’re a Third Culture Kid when the question “Where are you from?” has more than one reasonable answer. From  You may feel like a global nomad because you live in one culture, and you feel a sense of belonging where you live now and where you grew up. Elements from both cultures are blended, resulting in the third culture. 

I lived in Germany as a child because my father was stationed there with the U.S. Army. We lived off base and I attended German schools and made friends with German children. My experience was that it is easy to learn a second language as a child.

In high school, I took French. The French Club went to Montreal and Quebec, so I worked at Burger King to earn half the fare, while my parents matched me dollar for dollar! Here is one of the Jr. Spice cats “helping” me to prepare for a trip to France (and more), years later.

I studied during junior year of college in Vienna. I’m still amazed that my parents trusted my judgment and waited for postcards as I travelled to 10 countries that year, including Russia using a Eurail pass and a shaky Aeroflot plane. I didn’t feel especially brave, but tried to use common sense and travel with friends. 

Finally, upon graduation, I started a social work job where many employees and clients spoke Spanish, so I took a continuing education class and can get by in Spanish. This gave me increased confidence to vacation in Spain, Panama (more) and Ecuador (more).

Living in numerous countries and getting to know people who are different from me but equal to me has taught me that the world is a small place. I believe that all people and nations have rights to individuality and to contribute to the wellbeing of our planet.

I encourage you to read “Military Brats” by Mary Edwards Wersch for more information. Children who move are able to make friends and adjust to new situations for the rest of their lives more quickly than others. There may be mixed feelings about relocating, but with a sense of adventure and some fun, it can be a positive situation.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Cooking and nature videos- your opinion, please!

I’ve taken so many classes this spring that I can’t remember which one suggested that blog viewers like videos. I had taken a 42 second video of cranberries popping while making this recipe, but thought I might be kind of nuts to do so. If you viewed the original post, would you like to view and hear this video? 
The local (seasonal) swans nearby are curious about people, though I never bring any bread for them. They eat plants in the pond, but this video does not include any cute swan antics, just peace and birdsong. Is 50 seconds too long or slightly boring?
 It never occurred to me to record a waterfall…I must be a luddite. I’ve always loved hanging out in nature, and was annoyed when Mr. Spice stood around for a long time fiddling with camera settings. He was trying to figure out how to record the waterfall on his DSLR, so I said “well, the iphones can do that!”
In a future travel post, would you like to see a panoramic video of the location? Is 46 seconds too long, too short, or just right for a nature scene like this? More cooking videos? Thanks for any feedback!