Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year my readers! First of all, I’d like to thank all my readers for your comments and for sharing your updates with me. Although I have not written as much as I would have liked to, some of you have continued to keep touch and in the meanwhile inspired me as well. 
Looking back, 2016 for me was probably one of the craziest, funniest and unexpected years in a long time. There were so many changes going on both globally, in Thailand and within my work itself. Changes to challenge us all. I’m also grateful for all my family and friends. It’s been a year of reunions with friends from times past and a year of unexpected happenings. So much is going on, the question now is what are we going to do in 2017?  
For 2017, I hope you continue to stay healthy, exercise and have some ‘Me’ Time. With those things, we can achieve anything we set our minds to. Stay focused and ‘just do it’ I wish you all lots of success in all you endeavour.

Lots of love from snowy Japan somewhere in between the airport and Otaru.

PS. I’m going to start blogging about Tokyo, Otaru and snowboarding now so keep posted!

Lunch with Chef Cayito

Living in Bangkok, I am fortunate to have so many options for good food.  From street food to the fanciest restaurants, you can find almost anything to your taste and budget.  A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to be invited to savor delicious food by Chef Cayito and days past the taste still lingers on in my memory.  Having good food served beautifully whilst chatting with good friends is an experience all in itself. Experiences to be enjoyed, cherished and memories formed.

What did we have?

We had so many dishes, I had to look at the photos to remember what we ate.  The menu offered us a variety of tastes leading us from one dish to the other.  The first dish was a mix of yogurt and granola with some fruit sauces. ( I didn’t ask what sauces they were, I was too busy eating). It was just lovely and light enough to get your taste buds ready.  French onion soup was next with just the right amount of crunch and flavors. There’s something about warm soup that just seems to soothe and relax the soul. Trained in French cooking in Spain and coming from Mexico, our dishes were a mix of French and Spanish influences.  Grilled octopus and mussels in marinara sauce reminded me of our trip to Spain many years ago.  The sauce was so good I requested extra bread to dip into the sauce.

Main dishes arrived with a light tomato salad to accompany the grilled lamb with raspberry sauce and duck confit.  The grilled lamb was tender and melted in your mouth whilst the duck confit was divine with crispy skin and meat melting off its bones.  Duck confit has always been one of my favorite dishes when dining at French restaurants and Chef Cayito’s version was so good I would have more if I weren’t afraid of rolling out the door.  In case we wanted some more accompaniment, gratin dauphinois followed. A lover of cheese and anything creamy and hot, no matter how full I was, I had room for gratin dauphinois.  Our dessert was a wonderful surprise of light pancakes with strawberries and blueberries to end the meal. Perfect.

There’s something about having European food that always makes my heart smile a little more. It’s perhaps because it reminds me of growing up in Europe and the many trips we’d have enjoying the good food. If you want to sample Chef Cayito’s cooking, you’lll have to find him at charity events.

Sweet dreams readers. I now have to get myself a snack.

Be Kind to Yourself

This morning I had the opportunity to Skype with one of Having ‘Me’ Time’s readers and we had a good discussion about our journey to better health and weight loss.  A lot about the path to better health means avoiding processed, unhealthy foods, sweets or what seems to be almost all of our favourite foods.  It often feels like we are starving ourselves of what we love, especially if that’s how we’ve been eating our whole lives.

What happens when we mess up our diet and fall for that piece of decadently delicious chocolate fudge cake, or that juicy cheese hamburger?   Nothing. Nada.

Many times we are so strict with ourselves that when we fall for that piece of cupcake or donut, we feel like we’ve failed the diet and end up eating for the world.  We throw all our hard work away and lose hope. We go back to our old ways and eat and eat.

My advice to you is this:  Be kind to yourself.  Don’t lose hope and enjoy the experience.

Remember that it’s okay to treat yourself every now and then.  If you crave a hamburger really badly, go out and eat it.  If you want that cake, eat it.  Sometimes having a bite is enough to satisfy the craving. Enjoy it, savour it and then just make a mental note to yourself to work out extra at the gym the next day.  Add an extra session to the week’s workout.

No big deal right?  Have fun being healthy.  Enjoy the experience!

I’ve lost 5kgs or 12 lbs since the beginning of the year and every night I treat myself to some dark chocolate.  I have ice cream and egg tart.  I do, however, make sure that it’s super delicious and worth my extra workout time.

There’s no failing, no wrong in becoming healthy.  It’s a journey that goes up hill, down hill, turns corners and brings you to wonderful new places.  Just keep working at it! Keep on walking down the path. Don’t stop and turn back.

Five years on and I am still working on it 🙂  Step by step, little by little, we’ll get there. Be kind to yourself and be patient.

The Leather Day

This writer of Having “Me” Time has been having some “me” time after a crazy few weeks in a crazy year.  After having just lost my beautiful leather name card holder that I’ve had for over 10 years and being fascinated by Midori notebooks, I thought to myself, why not just make it myself?

The leather name card holder would burn a hole in my wallet if I wanted to replace it with the exact same one. Walking around malls and searching online, I have not yet found one to my liking.  I am picky when it comes to functionality and colour combinations.

The Midori notebooks I love, but hey, it’s made in Thailand!  I’m in Thailand.  It looks like a square piece of leather with a hole in it for the elastic. What could be so hard right?

My journey to leather crafting began.

I searched online, watched youtube, and ordered tools online.  Having the right tools is essential.  I rediscovered the “leather neighbourhood” in Bangkok and made a plan to go. (I’ll review that in another post) It had me excited the entire few weeks. In between meetings or during rests, I would find my mind pondering the many leather projects.  I felt like a kid waiting for candy.

I looked forward to the day I would get to go buy leather.  I was as excited as if I was a kid being told I’d get to go to the zoo.  I’d talk about leather to poor old Alex who so grumpily put up with my ranting. His only wish was for me to make him leather golf club covers.  Of course.

I can’t quite put a name to it, but there’s something about working on leather, using your hands and just sitting quietly designing that relaxes and recharges the soul.  For hours, I didn’t miss the iPad, the iPhone or the wifi.  I didn’t care what was going on in the social media world.  I just focused on on my leather.  I wanted so badly to see the finished product.  Seeing your design come to life.  And when it does, I’m the kid with the ice cream with a big smile at the zoo. Ahhh, the little happiness of pursuing a hobby.

Amazing how little breaks are good for the soul. 🙂 Now I’m ready for Monday. What about you?What’s your hobby?

Book Review: “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo

It’s May and it’s hot in Bangkok.  Thailand broke an all new record for electricity use the other day.  My thermometer reads 36 degrees celsius but yahoo weather says it feels like 45 degrees.  I agree.  There’s not much I feel like doing in this heat except stay indoors, out of the heat and with a good book.

The other day I picked up “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and it has gotten me on a purging spree.   For the last few years I’ve been trying to clean up my stuff, donate things to charity, but still there seems to be a never ending pile of clutter around the house.  I dream that my house would be minimal like that of a hotel room with only the bare necessities. When I travel, I seem to be able to cope well with just the stuff I have in my suitcase, but when I’m home it seems to be another matter.  Sometimes I feel like I want to just throw everything away, but in the end, I never can.

I succumb to thoughts of guilt and talk myself out of throwing away things in perfectly good condition and function.  I downgrade old t-shirts and pants to “stay at home” clothes and end up with a large pile of stay at home clothes which are not comfortable.  My shelves are filled with books both at my house and at my parent’s house. I have almost all the books I’ve bought since I can remember, even those penguin classics since first grade.  I have handwritten letters in shoeboxes from years ago when we didn’t have email and the only way we kept touch with friends was by writing letters.  With books, I’ve been getting better and sharing the joy of reading with friends, but still, I feel overwhelmed with all the clutter.

Then I picked up this book and she makes you feel better about purging things.

Kondo as a whole “Kon Mari” method to throwing things away by categories and concept on how to fold clothes, but what I love most about the book is the psychology behind it.  She eases your guilt about throwing things away.

She says to keep only the things that “spark joy.”  If it no longer sparks joy, then it no longer needs to be with you.  For things that once gave you happiness and now have passed their use, you can thank them for the pleasure it once gave you.   If you have books and things you saved up to one day  read and use, but have not yet gotten to them, then you most likely will not have the time to get to it. Out it goes. If you have folders and folders of old seminar notes that you hardly refer to anymore, toss it out.  Everything you learnt, should be in your head already.

Decluttering your environment also declutters your mind and soul.  I haven’t done the entire house in one go yet as she suggests, as I may need a whole week off (or maybe two if you count my stuff at my parents house)  but just two days and I am already seeing results.  I have more closet space and my study feels lighter.  I need less furniture. I don’t need to buy anymore storage.  I feel great.  I could keep doing this all day.  Alex has to tell me to stop and rest.

I wonder why I keep so much junk. I  tell myself,  “Live simply. Accumulate experiences, don’t accumulate ‘things.’

Happy cleaning my dear friends.   Oh, the book is pretty light reading and can be finished in one afternoon., But if you don’t want to read, she’s on youtube too.

https://youtu.be/w1-HMMX_NR8

Je suis Charlie

It’s 2015 already. Time flies indeed, and especially so when you are older. Before there were predictions that the world would end in 2012, but it came and it went. We are still here, but perhaps what did end is the world as we know it. Mentalities, attitudes and expectations have changed and evolved.

It’s only been a week and a half since New Years, but already the world is at odds with one another. Shootings in Paris, hostages and explosions. It’s like you’re watching an action movie when you watch the news. The only problem is that it’s real life and real people are being killed.

Je suis Charlie. If I were in Paris, I’d be out on the streets.

No matter what, no matter how angry, no matter how wronged, no matter what your motivation, there is no good reason to justify killing another human being. Even more so if that person is an innocent bystander.

Perhaps there are things I do not know and reasons beyond my understanding, but this is my take on it.

Perhaps it’s the effect of modern day life. The focus easily sways towards “me” and to my self interest. Everyone wants to be heard, to get attention, to be noticed. Perhaps to make up for a lack of self love. Everyone wants “instant gratification” as a friend of mine mentioned. Everything at the touch of a fingerprint. We spend more time in school, but less time talking and learning about life. Even less time experiencing life. We experience it online. We spend more time on social media, but less time reading or thinking. We barely have time to be alone with our thoughts. Evenings spent discussing thoughts and ideas are left to a few.

Discussions or differences of opinion are not tolerated. If you think otherwise, you are wrong. You aren’t as good as I am. I know, so think like me.

It’s a sad world indeed.

I have a wish this year and it’s a simple one. I wish that people would stop, take a breather and spend more time thinking about others. Have some compassion. Empathise. Put yourself in the other persons’ shoes. Me included. More meditation this year.

December Giving

It’s December in Bangkok and although we don’t have snow and roughly ninety-five percent of the population is Buddhist, Christmas trees and holiday lights still fill centre city. I love this time of year when people think about gifts and giving. Where the focus shifts from ourselves towards others and we all breathe a little slower. We smile, we reunite with our friends and remember the good times. We wake up happy to the cool breeze of ‘winter’ and take pleasure in the little things in life. We clear up our houses and donate to those who might want it. We notice the people on the street we usually might just pass by. Overall, we become generally nicer people.

I wonder, why we can’t be like this all year round?

It’s hard that’s why.

Modern day living with all its rushes, expectations and deadlines has us focusing on what needs to get done, when it’s due and fixing problems. Our attention focuses on “getting things done” and making sure it’s done well.

I admit am guilty of this.

We forget about the ‘people’ behind all the action, the ‘heart’ behind it all, and we lose a little bit of ourselves in the process.

What are your New Year resolutions this year? I know what one of mine will be to have this joyful spirit of December giving all year round.