Noooooooooooooooooooooooo, I am not going to shut my blog down! (Not that this would mean the end of an era, anyway.) The news is that I finished my diploma thesis!

I still cannot believe it. This project has been a constant companion in my life for the last 1 1/2 years, and until recently, I honestly did not think I would ever wake up one morning and it would be gone. Today, it was that day. I finished it last night and already sent it to my supervisor, so he has something to read on his flight back from New Zealand.

I also cannot believe I wrote almost 39,000 words on test validation. This is the largest thing I have ever made myself so far, and it shall mark the end of the time in my life when I had problems to bring things to an end. The thesis showed me that I actually can.

The smileys are having a big party now.

This week, we have the carnival all over town. Traditionally, the carnival marks the beginning of the 40 days of Lent – the word “carnival” is said to derive from Italian “carne levare” (remove the meat) or late Latin “carne vale” (goodbye, meat). (On a nutritional sidenote: I am not into things like that anymore, anyway.) However, meanwhile, it mostly means a lot of celebrating and partying (accompanied by the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol), particularly in the western, middle, and southern parts of the country. For somebody who comes from northern Germany and has not grown up with these traditions, it is a culture shock indeed.

I usually stay at home on days like these, but today I had an early-afternoon appointment with two friends at the institute, to bring our research project forward. This was exactly the time when the parade would take place in the inner city. So, the city was completely stuffed with people who wanted to see the wagons and catch the candies which were thrown from them. It was a hopeless endeavor to get through that crowd.

~ just looking at all those people fulfilled my (already somewhat non-existent) need for social exposure for the next couple of months ~

I had to sneak through the side alleys and approach the institute from behind, to get there at all. On my way there, I shot a picture of the river for you.

~ the trees on the hills are still winterly poor and leafless ~

At 3 pm, the whole city was drunk already, and thick walls and double glass windows did not suffice to keep the noise out that came from the street. Also, the basses were so loud that the whole building was vibrating. But three psychologists who are on a mission would not be stopped by anything. When we finished our meeting at 5 pm, the parade was over, and the inner city looked like a battlefield. I happily serve you the leftovers.

~ this is not snow, it is confetti! ~

~ these used to be the traditional carnival candies, I know them from my childhood already – so lovely they still exist! ~

So, I have survived the carnival for this year. What about you? Do you have carnival traditions where you live? Do you like street festivals like this, or prefer to stay away from them?

One statement you hear a lot (or even most often …) in the context of healthy eating is to “eat everything in moderation”. You can probably tell from my cheeky post title already that I have my concerns with this statement. Please do not get me wrong: I am sure this statement is meant well, and I do not at all want to offend anybody advocating it. But to be honest, telling me to “eat everything in moderation” makes my toe nails roll up (German saying). You could also tell me, “Just be normal!”, for a similar effect. Let me tell you what I think is so problematic about this statement.

(By the way: This is your chance to visit the bathroom or get yourself some tea / coffee / water / wine now, because as always with my just thoughts posts, this is going to be a long one.)

A good starting point is to take the whole phrase apart. Like this: “eat” – “everything” – “in moderation”.

I will begin with the “eat” part. Principally, there is nothing bad about a recommendation that tells you to eat, particularly not when we are talking about healthy eating, but also in general. Not to eat (at all) would be a very bad idea, no? I also do not have a problem that this “eat” comes as an imperative, since we are discussing a recommendation here. So, the “eat” seems to be okay. Moving on.

“Everything” is a little trickier. What exactly is ”everything”??? Well, basically, “everything” can actually be anything – including light bulbs, a chair, your pillow, a brickstone, your left arm … Go figure. But since we are still moving within the context of eating (and context is important to make sense of a statement), I will be nice and limit this “everything” to anything commonly refered to as “food”. This again gets us to the question what “food” is.

~ they look funny, but … umm … seriously?? ~

You may remember that, a while ago, I made a post on what food actually is. In that post, I came to the conclusion that food is nothing per se, but that the meaning of “food” has to be actively constructed. (And there are several, sometimes contradictory notions of the concept of “food” existing in parallel at different levels of perspective, such as the levels of society and individuals.) Depending on how you interpret the term “food”, the recommendation to “eat everything in moderation” has diverging meanings. However, it remains problematic nevertheless.

On the one hand, you may define “food” as everything commonly considered as food. This means, “food” is everything (more or less) edible that does not kill you immediately after swallowing it, and contains a certain amount of calories. In this regard, it makes sense to recommend moderation, in so far as “food” also contains a couple of rather unhealthy things that should indeed be limited (or probably not be consumed at all – but that is another story, since we are talking about moderation here, which allows a little bit of everything). What is problematic here is the “eat everything” part of the recommendation, because literally, this means you should also eat the unhealthy things to some extent (but not too much of them, mind you).

On the other hand, you may define “food” as everything your body can thrive on. This means you narrow the term down to “real food” that serves to nourish your body and fuel you with energy. In this regard, “in moderation” is the problematic part of the recommendation, because why should you be moderate about what your body wants and asks for? This would mean you would deprive it of what it needs, no?

So you see, I have my concerns already. But we are not finished yet. You can assume the most problematic part is still to come … Also note that we have a nice increase of “problematicness” (just made up this word) with the “eat everything in moderation” statement. (Just a sidenote.)

You will have supposed already that the particularly tricky part is the “in moderation” part. Let me say I am not opposed to moderation in general. Moderation is related to balance, and balance is a very nice thing and, as far as I believe, also very important with regard to happiness and well-being: Nothing is good when driven to the excess. But I am also a psychologist, and this is why I am sensible to and aware of the fact that it matters how things are framed. For instance, the same statement can be perceived completely differently, depending on whether it is expressed in a way that encourages you and opens up a range of possibilities to you, or in a way that limits you and the options available.

To my mind, the word “balance” has a positive connotation, because it means something I consider valuable and beneficial to achieve in my life. However, the word “moderation” has a negative connotation, because it reminds me that I have to be careful not to overdo things. In other words, “moderation” (for me) is an euphemism for restriction. It actually is restriction in disguise. This is triggering for me because I am a very easy victim of reactance: I always want what I am not to have. (Do you remember reactance? I have covered that in a post as well, because I find the concept so valuable in understanding human motivation and behavior.)

However, to do justice to the term “moderation”, we have to differentiate it further. Moderation is not bad per se. But there is “active” and “passive” moderation, and this makes a huge difference.

Let me start with the nicer one, which is passive moderation. This means that you do not have to consciously control yourself to be moderate, since your body tells you to be so, somewhat automatically. Believe me (as somebody who did not believe this anymore herself, but miraculously relearned it during the recent 1 1/2 years): The body is capable of regulating its nutritional needs by authentic hunger and satiety. The word “authentic” is very important here, because there probably are certain foods that leave you hungry half an hour after eating them, or make you want more and more, the more you eat of them. But this is not actual hunger, just a blood sugar roller coaster reaction. All foods that actually nourish you will keep you satisfied for a couple of hours after eating them, because they give your body what it needs and do not mess with your blood sugar levels. These foods are, most likely, vegetables, healthy fats, protein sources, and probably whole grains and fruit (if you are not overly carb-sensitive). From these foods, you can eat until you are satisfied, and do not have to waste one thought about moderation. Imagine you just finished off a steak or a big slice of roasted tofu with a generous serving of mixed salad, sprinkled with olive oil and some nuts or seeds. Do you feel like having a second serving of this? Probably not, because the body cannot handle protein to an infinite extend, and the fats coming with a dish of this kind also contribute a lot to satiety, not to mention you are filled up by the veggies.

On the other hand, there are foods that taste good but make you want to eat more of them, so you have to stop yourself before feeling satisfied, applying active moderation. These foods are likely to be of the sugar-overloaded and simple (“white”) carb-heavy kind. Next to the sugar-fat combo that seduces you to eat more, foods of this kind usually do not have a lot of volume, so your belly will not notice it is filled up sufficiently until you have finished off the whole package. If you include things like that into your diet on a regular basis, moderation might in fact be an adequate recommendation, because otherwise you might end up eating nothing else. However, it also means constant vigilance.

~ why not just relax about food? ~

To be honest: I do not believe that it is a good idea to regularly eat things like that in the long run. The reason basically is that I am a lazy girl (I cannot mention that often enough ), and I want to invest my cognitive capacities into something else than pondering whether or not to eat a cookie, given I aready had some chocolate with my breakfast and am probably going to have a little dessert after dinner. I also dislike to feel uncomfortable, so I do not like to stop eating before I feel satisfied, and then struggle through those infamous 20 minutes the body allegedly needs to perceive satiety signals coming from the tummy, while tigering around (another German saying) in the kitchen and piling up food stress. I have done that for many years, and it was enough for this life and all the ones to come.

Instead, I want to really enjoy eating. I want to eat without counting bites or calories internally, or asking myself how much of the food I should leave on the plate not to appear overly self-indulgent. I want to eat my favorite things seven days in a row, if I feel like, without feeling bad and worrying about not having covered the whole range of “everything”. I want to think about food and eating in terms of enjoyment, satisfaction, and nourishment, and I never want to feel I have to restrict myself again. In a nutshell: I do not believe in moderation.

Maybe it is just me, tending more to the extremes than to the middle. So, this might not apply to everybody. I can very well imagine there are people who go well with the moderation recommendation, but what concerns me is that the recommendation is framed in a way that it seems to be for everybody indifferently. At the same time, it seems to express that those who do not go for moderation do something wrong. However, I do not think this has to be the case. Rather, everybody should follow the way that is right for her or him, may this way be about moderation or driving things more to the edges.

A regard in which eating everything is often especially worshipped is eating disorder recovery, and I want to devote some thoughts on that particularly. I have read on many blogs and in many comment on blogs that people who are recovering from an eating disorder often desperately adhere to the principle of eating everything again. This is okay, because in eating disorder recovery, you have to overcome a lot of food fears, and often also have to gain weight back. Eating everything again helps with that. And it is also true that the only way to overcome your fears is to confront them. In this context, that means: Eat the cake, chocolate, cream dessert, cookies, pizza, or whatever. I have done the same, and it helped me to overcome my food fears and gain the weight back.

However, at some point, I had to realize that this strategy probably does not work in the long run, because eventually, you have to establish a way of eating that is reasonable on a day-to-day basis. Just for me, I can say that the principle of eating everything in moderation is counterproductive in the long run, because it binds me to observing my intakes and measuring my servings of certain foods, and keeps me obsessive. I think I would not have been able to make progress with recovering, if I had not decided to go with real food at a certain point of my life. Again, this is me, and it certainly does not apply to everybody. Especially in the beginning of eating disorder recovery, it is essential that you overcome your food-related fears and expose yourself to them. Therefore – and this is very important! – choosing to follow a special diet is probably not helpful in the early stages, until you have cleared up all the psychological mess surrounding food. At a later point, it may be helpful, though. Remember, only when you are fully committed to recovery, and health is the driving motive behind your actions, you are ready to make responsible choices about turning away from certain foods again.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, but focusing on a selected range of foods that I know (from researching and trying it out) nourish my body and make me feel good, now gives me a greater freedom with eating. It allows me to throw moderation – or restriction – overboard, because I do not feel a need to control myself anymore. It does not make me feel like limiting my food options, because for me, the things I do not eat are not what I consider as being food for me, from a nourishment perspective. It also made me more excited and curious about discovering different foods. I now eat to fuel myself, and what I eat are things I really enjoy. I get the feeling of satiety during eating already, and most of the times, I do not even want for a second serving. But if I do, I can have one without worrying about it, since I know my body will want it for a reason.

Do you know the story of the very hungry caterpillar? This one used to be one of my favorite books when I was a child.

In the story, the caterpillar suddenly develops an enormous appetite – therefore, it is the “very hungry caterpillar” – and starts eating its way through all the leaves it can find out there (and also through almost all pages of the book). It does not waste a single thought on moderation, it just eats because it feels the need to eat. And it eats nourishing, caterpillar-appropriate food, to finally pupate and then become a beautiful butterfly. Maybe we should all become like the very hungry caterpillar a little more.

So, what comes out of this in the end? Well, I think we probably do not have to abandon the “eat everything in moderation” statement completely. But I would adjust to this one: ”Eat real foods until you feel satisfied, and eat the rest in moderation to your own responsibility, or not at all.” And my friend Rufus just made the great suggestion to make it a little more geared to individual needs, like this: ”Eat your real foods until you feel satisfied, and eat the rest in moderation to your own responsibility, or not at all.”

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

A few days ago, it happened that I was given a blog award. Thank you so much for this!

This made me happy for several reasons: It does not happen every day that you receive a blog award, and I feel honored every time when I am chosen. This time I feel especially honored since the blog award I got is meant for rather small blogs (with less than 200 followers) that are somehow special and worth reading.

But, most importantly: Have you ever seen such a cute blog award?

~ my new mp3 player ~

I bought this one from my Christmas money, when my old one was starting to establish a habit of showing nervous tics. An mp3 player is a vital accessory for me, because it helps me to leave the house by keeping the noise overload at bay when I go by tram or walk down the pedestrial area in the inner city. I love this one because it is pink and has this cute flowery design.

~ Percy ~

Percy is a little plush turtle I got from a very good friend for my last birthday. He is not actually pretty, but he has the most lovely and trusting eyes imaginable. From the moment I saw him for the first time, he had a place in my heart, and he has been constantly accompanying me in my pocket since then.

~ my Ma’s Mii ~

When I got a Wii, the first thing I did was making Miis for my family and closest friends. These Miis show up frequently when I play, and I am happy every time I see them. I have a very special relationship with my Ma, so it makes me particularly happy when I see my Ma’s Mii. And it really looks like her.

~ my gecko felt bag ~

I got this felt bag for Christmas last year. It is handmade by a northern German craftslady who makes these bags which have covers you can exchange. So basically, you can buy a bag and then get different covers and change them according to your liking and daily mood. My mom picked this green gecko cover for me, and scored a 100 % hit.

~ my flower carry bag ~

Another new bag! This one just arrived on Monday, and I love it a lot. I always wanted to have a nice carry bag I, and finally found this one. I like the flowers, and it has a lot of space for storage, which is perfect for somebody who tends to carry around a lot of things, just in case.

~ PlayStation Portable with games ~

I am a little nostalgic when it comes to video games. I love these old-school role playing and strategic role playing games, and my favorite ones I have played through 10 or more times. Now I can replay them on my PSP, while being curled up in my rocking chair or laying in my bed. The graphics and dialogues have been overworked in a very nice way, without destroying the feel of the original game. And since 2012 is my year of playing, I really enjoy this.

~ banana fresh box ~

This one is not for me, actually. I sent it to my Ma for her birthday last year (along with tea, spices, and homemade almond butter stuffed into the meanwhile emptied Happy Bee Manuka honey jar Stephanie had sent me a while ago). This fancy banana fresh box will hopefully prevent my Ma’s beloved bananas from getting squeezed in her golf bag. Note that it has breathing holes for the banana, so this is really fancy.

~ Chopin’s piano concerto #2 ~

This is one of my favorite piano concertos. When I listened to it for the first time, I immediately knew that I wanted to be able to play it. Last year or so, I could play half of the first movement, but then I focused on another piece I prepared for the annual recital at my teacher’s home, and recently refreshed a couple of yet other pieces, abandoning this wonderful piano concerto. Now I dug it out again, and although I have to work on some passages again, I am happy that large parts are still in my fingers.

~ my piano ~

Forever, unchanged.

Which are some of your favorite things, of lately or in general?

I hope you all had a happy and smooth transition! I started into the new year with a new haircut , a sinus infection , and some plans and wishes for the upcoming year . I am very excited about this next part of this year because this year will bring a lot of changes in my personal and professional life, with me finally transitioning from studying to working life, and many of my friends certainly or probably moving away and scattering across the planet.

My last New Year’s resolutions were centered around getting eating and nutrition right, finishing my studies, improving my piano skills, caring better for myself, educating myself in areas of interest, and keeping up blogging. Looking back it is time to strike a balance.


I can happily say that I did pretty well on this one: During the course of the past year, I more and more developed a sense of which foods to eat (in which proportions) and which foods to avoid to feel healthy and energized, and so I start this year with a feeling of knowing how to feed my body.

Moreover, my stomach and gut have recovered after cutting out dairy, gluten, soy protein, sugar, and “white” carbs, although it took many months, and I could carefully widen my food spectrum and reintroduce foods that used to give me cramps before – legumes, brown rice, and kale. I am looking forward to continuing this adventure into the world of real food. This is the kind of experimenting I like.


Ahhhhh … Not finished yet. In the end, everything took much longer than expected, and due to having (several) side jobs – research assistance work in two departments, statistics tutorials, and piano lessons – I often did not have sufficient time and energy to work on my thesis as much as I would have liked to. However, 100 pages are written and re-edited already, and additionally, there already exist an extended references list and several appendices and graphics to insert in the end.

I think there are about 30 to 50 more pages to write, due to the large amount of statistical analyses I conducted with the data, and then the whole thing will finally be finished. With the final exams still to come afterwards, I will need some more months to graduate, but that is okay.


This one was fine as well – surprise surprise! Admittedly, I did not start to play Bach as I wanted, but I learned a couple of new pieces and refreshed some old ones, and also my technique and touch have improved a lot. Things I found very challenging in my first years of playing come rather easily to me now, and I also learn a lot and take great pleasure in teaching piano lessons myself. Based on principles of learning and memory psychology I know from my psychology studies, research into piano practicing and playing techniques, and the knowledge and experience of my wonderful piano teacher, I have developed a quite unique style of teaching which focuses on how to practice with efficiency, and also contains elements of tai-chi (inspired by my own piano teacher) and mindfulness practice. This teaching style I then adjust regarding to my students’ individual needs and current state of playing, and I am happy to say that they enjoy the lessons a lot and learn very well.


I got better with this, but there is still room for improvement. Overall though, I have learned to relax and to handle stress better. My bathtub may or may not have played a major role in this …

Anyway, I still have to listen more to my body when to stop. Especially by the end of the last year, there was a lot of work and social events going on, and I ended up with a migraine shortly before going home for Christmas. This is the ultimate sign that it is too much. I also think that I may have developed something like a body memory for exhaustion over the years, so I have to be careful not to slip back into that state of burn-out I have been in until less than two years ago – I tend to be more susceptible to exhaustion now than earlier in my life, but I know that, by learning myself well and applying good self-management strategies, I can be productive at a high-quality level. Saying “no” more often, and learning to let go of my ideal of perfection and not to feel responsible for everything, seem to be the next steps into the right direction.


I have not done this to the extend I would have liked, but to some extend. Thankfully, due to my profession, I somewhat have a warranty for constant learning, but I would like to widen the scope and read more about things which are not on the current to-do list.

Topics which I have deepened my knowledge on are psychometrics, social cognition, language and communication, self-concept and identity, motivation, and nutrition. However, some more reading in general would be nice …


As you can see, this blog still exists, and I am happy to still be in contact with my beautiful blogging friends. A big thank you again to all of you, because without your help, I would have never been able to collect so many participants for my diploma thesis study!

On the other hand, my post counts of the past months and my very reduced blog-reading and commenting almost fill me with shame. Now that I have more time for blogging during the holidays, I realize again how happy it makes me to be a more active part of this wonderful community.

* * * * *

So you see, the balance of last year is a little mixed, but rather positive overall. It is time to announce my plan for the new year! (You may have guessed it from my blog title already …) In a nutshell, it is this.


Why work-play balance and not work-life balance, as it is usually called? Well, playing is important for a healthy and fulfilling life! Moreover, playing contains activities you take pleasure in, while life can very well be nasty sometimes, regardless of whether that is related to work or not. And work can also be satisfying, actually, if it is work that suits you. But in this juxtaposition, on the “work” side there is everything that has to be done, while on the “play” side there is everything that is voluntary and fun. I could also have called it “should-want balance”. However, both sides are a potential source of happiness, but in different ways: Happiness coming from the work side is satisfaction due to getting things done, while happiness coming from the play side is joy due to engaging in blissful activities, just for their own sake. The balance is important to experience both kinds of happiness in life.

Most of my life, the scales always inclined towards the work side, and playing came short given everything that had to be done. From now on, I want to try my best to keep the scales more balanced, what means: More time for blissful activities!

The idea for this, I have to admit, does not originate with me but rather with my family. As it were to give me a broad hint, for my birthday this year, I got a package from my parents and grandmoms containing this.

This is a Wii, a PlayStation Portable, and games. When I opened the package, my first thought was, “Where shall I ever take the time from to play with these?” And at the same time, I had an eerie feeling something was not at all going right in my life, and the presents in front of me were telling me what it was.

A few days later, I set up the Wii. It was a weekend evening, I had worked on my thesis for a couple of hours (which I usually do on the weekends because the weekdays do not tend to leave me enough time to get something done on my own things), and was being in this unpleasant condition of being too exhausted to relax with a book or at my piano, while it was still way too early to go to bed. When feeling like that, I cannot even watch TV because having to sit quietly makes me more nervous and tensed and gives my hyperactivity and tics (weird, I know).

Anyway, I started with making Miis, these little characters you can build on the Wii, and two hours were happily spent creating myself and my family and closest friends. Here is my Mii.

~ my Mii visiting the Fuji mountain in the Wii Party world traveling game ~

Then, I started to play Wii Sports Resorts. It was great fun, and it made me happy that all my family-and-friends Miis were also around all the time.

~ catching Ma during skydiving ~

I soon discovered my love for cycling, archery, swordfighting, and – above all – tabletennis. From then on, I played for an hour or two every evening, and made some very exciting discoveries: First, I realized I actually exercised – after 10 minutes or so of playing, I was in t-shirt and boxers and still sweating, and my arm muscles were stiff (so I started to strategically switch games to grant them some rest). Second, and even more important, my exhaustion went away: While I would have just dragged myself through a dreary evening before, too tired to be able to make use of myself, I had finally discovered a way to actively restore my energy – playing. Afterwards, I was refreshed enough to practice the piano or read a book before going to sleep. So, the point of the story is that devoting more time to playing actually makes me more productive, energized, and happier overall.

What are your plans and wishes for the new year? Do you play enough?

You probably know that I do not eat out very often (for money reasons …), and if I do, I usually order a mixed salad with roasted chicken. The annual Christmas dinner of the personality psychology department, however, is an exception – the professor is not only very kind and generous, but also an absolute foodie, so he always invites his whole department (the secretary, research fellows, PhD students, student research assistents, and the retired professor) to a very nice restaurant, and lots of delicious food and good wine are enjoyed for sure.

This year, the dinner took place at the restaurant in Heidelberg, and two weeks earlier we all received an email with a link to the menu (unfortunately only in German) so we could pick our dishes. I had to translate half of the menu from “Gourmet” into German … (Thank you, Google! ) I am sorry I did not picture all of the dishes, but I pictured at least some of them, and so I am proud to present you my first gourmet food parade!

The dinner started with the entrees some of us had ordered, and this one enjoyed next to me gave me food envy.

~ sautéed scallops with spinach and pine nuts ~

Others had pheasant mousse with truffel splinters on madeira jelly with lamb’s lettuce and brioche, or lettuce salad with chopped walnuts and requefort cheese. Everything looked very good.

Then, there was the main course … It took a little longer until the food was served because everything was freshly made, but the waiting was absolutely worth it, and meanwhile, we indulged in conversations and sipped on excellent wine ordered by the professor – red and white, according to liking. I only had the white wine, and it was just as I love it: dry and light, with a gentle, slightly mineral taste.

Of the main course, I pictured most of the dishes enjoyed that night.

~ turbot fillet with truffles and ribbon noodles on creamy savoy cabbage ~

~ spined loach cutlets with tomato basil sauce and ribbon noodles ~

~ goat cheese ravioli with tomato basil sauce ~

~ sliced duck breast fillet and chestnuts in cognac sauce ~

~ roasted pheasant with savoy cabbage and crispy potato puffs ~

The chef was very nice and brought me just roasted fish and a side of sautéed vegetables, without any gluten or dairy in it (for allergy reasons), so I could totally enjoy this dinner as well. This was my meal:

~ roasted spine loach and sautéed vegetables ~

I think this was the first time I had spined loach, and I was really pleased. The flesh was nicely firm and had a wonderful flavor. My friend (who also works as a research assistent) gave me a bite of her pheasant to try – another first-time experience – and I liked that one as well. It tasted nicely game-y and was wonderfully seasoned.

Desserts ordered where little cones of mousse – chocolate, passionfruit, or gingerbread mousse – that came with a garnish of different fruit.

~ my friend’s mousse au chocolat ~

During the course of the meal (that took several hours altogether), lots of good and inspirational conversations were had, and we also had fun rearranging the table decoration and building little artworks from it. Structure nerd, anybody?

~ as you can imagine, I loved the Smiley ~

~ I made this whirl galaxy ~

I am a little sad this was my last Christmas dinner with the personality department – my contract runs out by the end of December and I will not extend it since my parents can give me a little more financial support for the last months of my studies, and I want to go into another direction with my own research later. Anyway, I would not have been a student research assistant anymore by the end of the next year due to graduation until then. But the time I worked in this department I have always enjoyed, and it will not be forgotten.

Do you come to enjoy a gourmet dinner on occasion? If yes, what was the most awesome thing you enjoyed so far?

Hi friends! It has been a week again since I updated my blog … Time just flies by, and as always when I am busy, I feel somewhat detached from real life and not being able to catch up with the things going on around me.

On Tuesday, I had my birthday (), and while I am waiting for my friend to send me the pictures she has taken, I will just show you some of the things that have happened here during the past weeks.

The trees have staged fireworks of colors …

… and then, everything in nature turned inwards and became tranquil and mellow.

For some time, there was a free place in my friend’s office at the institute, and I had the possibility to work there. It was the first time that I had this kind of office experience, and although I was a little concerned in the beginning how I would sustain several hours a day there and still have everything at hand I need eating-wise (not a problem when I work from home with my fridge, stove, and blender just a few steps away), but it went very well. It was nice to experience this separation of working and living space, and of course to have chat and food breaks with my friend.

~ office meals ~

I very quickly got into the habit of preparing meals in advance when I came home in the evening, so I would have something I could take the next day. Several of those recipes I want to post in the time to come because they were really nice, and I am actually quite surprised that I still come up with so many recipe ideas … But the more I cook, the more creative I get.

~ fresh boxes with bean stew ~

One thing that makes me happy is that my tummy is still improving, and after successfully reincorporating legumes again, I now tried brown rice for the first time in months, and this time I could eat it without getting the dagger-in-my-tummy feeling immediately afterwards – what is nice because brown rice is pretty much the only gluten-free grain I really like so far. So it seems that, due to cutting out gluten, casein, and soy protein, my body is gradually recovering, and I can eat things again that would have always been followed by heavy pain before. This does not only refer to legumes and brown rice, but also to vegetables such as kale and savoy cabbage.

Therefore, I will just go on with this kind of diet, and leave you with a couple of pictures of meals enjoyed recently.

~ roasted chicken with onions and kale ~

~ adzuki and green bean stew with winter squash and basil ~

~ lemony fish with spinach and cilantro ~

~ chicken, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage with gingered miso sauce ~

~ steamed fish with fresh tomatoes and cilantro ~

~ adzuki bean and carrot stew with cherry tomatoes and parsley ~

~ turkey and celery in herbed tomato sauce ~

~ roasted chicken, onions, and lamb’s lettuce on tomato salad ~

Do you feel that your cooking and eating has gotten much more creative since you started blogging?

Here I am again! Work load, exhaustion, and finally getting sick have kept me from blogging during the past days, and I feel in need of a holiday! Actually, I have not had a real break since Christmas last year, because my jobs and studies are keeping me busy, and I also worked on most weekends because those are usually the times when I finally come to my own things. The progress with my thesis is not as fast as I would have liked, due to all the other stuff on my schedule – organizing and running experiments for my student assistant job, statistics and piano teaching, social life – that affords its time and partially also drains energy.

Since it is not possible to take a couple of days off in a row, what keeps me going is island hopping: To stay calm within troubled waters, it helps to have little islands of peace where you can anchor every now and then, whenever you need it, and find some recreation and tranquility of mind that fuel you to tackle the next episode of your life story.

I try to have island time every day, at least two or three hours, and if there is an opportunity, I may even have a whole island day. So today, I am just showing you my favorite islands.

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This one is perhaps the most important island for my mental and spiritual health because it not only relieves my mind from the ongoing clutter and chatter but also serves as an emotional outlet. After an hour of piano playing I feel refreshed and content, and it also makes one of the columns my sense of self is grounded on: When things do not go so well in other parts of my life, the piano is still there and gives me happiness.


I am very sensitive to sounds and noises and hear everything more intense and also hear a wider range of pitch compared to most other people. When I was a child, I noticed my dad coming home before he entered the house, because I could hear from the inside how he stepped on the door sill and burrowed into his pockets for the keys. I could hear what my parents were talking about in the dining room two levels deeper while playing in my room above. I wake up when the flower next to my bed drops a blossom. You get the idea.

Therefore, being in the city with all the people hustling by, sitting in the tram or in a train with scraps of chatter filling the air, or working in the office against the backdrop of keyboard tapping, mouse clicking, and the noise from the main street coming up through the windows, is very tiring for me and gives me a headache.

Music helps with this and works as a protecting cocoon I put around me: I basically change hundreds of simultaneous, competing, and irregular noise sources against one constant, predictable, and pleasant source of music, and that is the whole trick – fading down the world around me.


Since I have started mindfulness practice almost two years ago, it has become a reliable source of energy that is available anytime. I usually spread moments of mindfulness practice throughout the day to prevent the stress from piling up, and this works very well.


This is a new one: Until recently, the idea of lying down on my bed or even taking a nap during the day has seemed rather unattractive and deterrent to me. Now I do it. Just 10 minutes of lying on my back, feeling warm and comfortable, and relaxing all my muscles works wonders.


Thanks to mindful eating practice, I am finally able to enjoy my meals and experience meal times as recreation times. Whenever possible, I do not eat while doing something else anymore, but take 15 minutes or so for just enjoying a meal, and I feel that the food agrees with my tummy much more. Additionally, I am still very careful to stick to compatible foods what basically is lots of vegetables, a lean protein source, healthy fats, reduced carbohydrates, and little sugar.

~ office lunch: lemony turkey roast with tomatos and parsley ~

At home, this is very easy, and on office days, I usually take a lunch box with food I have prepared the night before, along with a bottle of almond milk and a big thermos bottle with tea.


I am taking more and more pleasure in cooking and trying around with various ingredients and seasonings. Cooking is creativity, and when I cook, I like to go to my spice shelf and open some jars and sniffle to find out which flavors might go well together, or I just compose everything in my head.

~ two boards of my spice shelf (there are more …) ~

By now, I have developed the habit to set up a stew, a pot roast, some kind of goulash, or a big pan with several servings of stir fry in the evenings, so I always have nice food at hand I can pack for a lunch box.


I am no person for heavy exercise – jogging, biking, weight lifting do not make me happy. But I need my daily moving. Earlier in my life, I used to do yoga regularly – the sun salutation, directly after getting up. I loved it because the alternating bowing and stretching of all muscles and joints really made me wake up. But then, I got an elbow joint inflammation – due to eating foods on a daily basis I did not know I was allergic against at that time, and this gave me chronical inflammations for many years, some of them being in my joints – that resulted in the mucosa producing free joint bodies which against shredded a nice part of the cartilage. Since then, my elbow joint has been a constant source of concern, and I cannot burden my right arm anymore. So, walking is my favorite kind of exercise now. I have always liked it, because it challenges my body without draining my energy resources, and it is so meditative. So I just decided to make walking my favorite kind of exercise.


Real friends are the people who just like me how I am. I do not have to pretend anything when I am with them, I am just perfectly alright. If I am tired and exhausted and not at all entertaining, they still like me. They care for me and want me to be well. They leave me on my own when I need it, but they are constantly there for me. I have a handful of friends like that, and that is perfectly enough. You know, friendships are about quality, not quantity. Spending time with my friends feels like stroking my heart.

~ dinner with friends enjoyed the other night ~

We talk, cook together, enjoy a glass of wine, or watch a movie and discuss it, and the most important thing is that we mutually respect and appreciate each other. There is criticism sometimes, but it is aimed at getting to know oneself better and being more content and in peace with one’s life. Or to just sustain and get through the things that are challenging currently. I am blessed with these friends.

* * * * *

So, these are my islands that keep me from being gripped by the drowning flood of life. What are your islands?

It is Yogi Tea wisdom time again! And my wonderful blogging friend was the first one to send me a picture of one of his favorite mugs, so this one is featured on here today. (More are to follow!) Here is what Andrew told me about that mug:

“This is a picture of a new mug my lovely daughter bought for me for my recent birthday. The story behind the picture is that it is about “Monkey News” a segment on the Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant & Karl Pilkington (British comedians) podcasts, which we both love. It would usually have a nice hot, strong black coffee in it.”

This is such a lovely idea! And the fact that there is a monkey printed on it very well suits the circumstance that Andrew posted the most lovely zoo pictures on his blog not too long ago.

On my side, I can contribute another animal mug to go with this. Here you can see my little (it is really quite small!) birds-and-trees mug I bought in Lübeck when I visited my parents the last time.

And of course we have some Yogi Tea (and wisdom) in it!

The teabag tag says, “Knowing others is clever. Knowing yourself is wise.”

I totally believe that. The long years of being insecure about myself, and wandering around without being sure what exactly to do with my life, or which people were compatible with me (an vice versa) are not forgotten yet. From my personal experience, I can say that learning myself has helped a great deal to figure that out. You see, it is not about being like this or like this, it is just about being who you are. As much as I love to think of personality as a process rather than a state, I still believe that everybody actually has an authentic inner nature or core self that can hardly – and does not need to be – changed. Nobody can live against his or her nature in the long run, so better make your peace with it, and then get the best out of yourself within the frame you bring with you. If you know yourself and accept who you are, you will be able to pick from the world what is good for you, and put yourself in a position where you can flourish. Not everything is for everybody, it is rather about finding the right fit for you. And whatever that is, it is okay, because it is okay who and how you are.

Do you feel that you know yourself?

Do you remember my favorite orchard trail along the mountains (which are low mountains, admittedly, but they are mountains)? My neighbors own a garden half way up the mountain side where they have fruit trees and grow vegetables. When they recently went for a vacation, they gave me these before they left.

~ leek, lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes ~

~ more tomatoes ~

~ some of them looked very funny ~

And then, I received a package from my parents that was filled with vegetables my Dad had grown in his roof garden.

~ hokkaido squash, white bell peppers, more zucchini ~

~ green beans ~

So you see, this kindness got me directly into veggie heaven. And home-grown vegetables also taste so much better!

Which kinds of veggies have you eaten home-grown so far? Did you notice a difference?