Archive | April, 2018

Photo an Hour: 28th April 2018

29 Apr

I have missed the last two Photo An Hour days because I was on holiday in South America. For the February edition, I actually landed in Buenos Aires at 6am and was so excited to be there that I completely forgot. For the March edition, I think we were transferring from one country to another which possibly wouldn’t be so interesting to photograph.

Now back in Switzerland with no distractions and a few helpful reminders on my phone, here is what I got up to on 28th April 2018.

7am: it’s early and it’s quiet so I decide to read some more of my book. I’m reading Crime by Irvine Welsh at the moment.

8am: Making a spot of breakfast: on the left scrambled eggs for him, on the right a vegan “scrambled egg” made from tofu, turmeric, chilli and coriander

9am: It looks like the weather will be nice today

10am: Writing a few posts for my blog

11am: Time for German homework

12pm: Snack time

1pm: Forgot to put the dishwasher on this morning!

2pm: Decided to label all the jars we have in the cupboard so we know what is in what, especially with the different types of flour

3pm: Someone (not me!) has fallen asleep so I will go back to doing some reading

4pm: Time to use the one gadget I have bought this year and go for a run

5pm: Back from run looking like a beetroot but need to do my exercises for my knee

6pm: Homemade dips to have with our grilled vegetables later

7pm: The sun has gone in but the BBQ is ready! All homemade apart from the bread!

8pm: We are watching The Godfather

9pm: We are still watching The Godfather

10pm: Time to write my diary before going to bed

Staying strong

28 Apr

Two weeks into my vegan challenge and I am still going strong. This week has been a bit more difficult because we had a team dinner on Thursday but I managed to enjoy the evening and some food without too much hassle.

I have to say that I generally am feeling pretty good. I am sleeping better but I am not sure if this is because of the diet or just because I am more tired this week and I have slept better. But I have heard that sleeping better is one of the positive side effects of a vegan diet. I don’t think that I have lost weight (which is another health benefit, if you need to lose a few pounds) but we don’t have a pair of scales at home so I can’t be sure.

Anyway, here are some of the highs and lows from this week.

Soups

Soups are one of my favourite things to eat and it is easy to make a homemade vegan soup at home. Last Sunday it felt like I spent most of the day making soup. I made a Gazpacho soup, a Spanish soup that is served cold. Apparently this is one of my boyfriend’s favourites –  who knew? Luckily it got the seal of approval from him but it was fairly time consuming to make. I’m not sure that I would make it again unless I found a simpler recipe. I also made a carrot, ginger and coriander soup using carrots from our garden, which I put in the freeze for a week in the future, and a broccoli soup to eat during the week after work so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time preparing something. I must say that the broccoli soup was delicious. An absolute favourite of mine is Stilton and Broccoli soup which is off-limits but I didn’t miss the cheese at all.

Packed lunches

Taking packed lunches into work has been a life saver because there isn’t a huge variety of vegan-friendly sandwiches and salad available in supermarkets. So long as you plan in advance, a homemade pack lunch is perfect. I made an Italian bread salad to have twice this week at work. It was really easy to make and I even made the croutons for the “bread” art of the salad. It didn’t take any time at all to make and, because the weather has been so warm, I sat outside in the park and enjoyed my lunch there.

Although the choice for sandwiches isn’t huge, I have discovered that there is a vegan range in Coop (one of the supermarkets in Switzerland) which has some really nice vegan wraps. As I ran out of time to make all my packed lunches this week, I tried the hummus wrap and was really impressed by it.

Recipes

The soups and the Italian bread salad have all come from my vegan cookbook which has not only given me some great recipes but also ideas about how I can make substitutions in my own cooking. Some of the recipes are a bit complicated and they require quite a few ingredients but I am slowly building up a good range of ingredients to draw upon in our cupboards. Again with the recipes, as with everything else, you need the time to plan and to make the dishes. I have already realised that I need to find a lot more alternatives or I will find that the diet becomes very boring very quickly.

The first BBQ

Although we can’t grill meat on the grill, we can grill vegetables! We had our first BBQ of 2018 last weekend and we didn’t go hungry. I made a spicy salsa, a guacemole, salad and a huge variety of vegetables. It was delicious! I was keen to try making a lentil burger to go on the grill but Markus wasn’t so keen. It remains on my to-do list and we will definitely be trying it one day soon.

Team event

On Thursday we had a team event at a very nice restaurant in Zürich. Not many of the team know that I have taken up a vegan diet and I’m not sure what they will think when I say that I am doing in voluntarily. There are lots of vegan restaurants in Zürich but this wasn’t one of them. It turned out the only thing I could have was a salad which grilled vegetables. I checked that the house dressing wasn’t made with milk, cream or honey. It was cruel to watch everyone else tucking into a medium rare steak or fish but I genuinely enjoyed what I ordered. I cringed when someone mentioned having a dessert but then I saw that they had a mango sorbet on the menu and it made me smile. The choice available to me was limited but I still enjoyed the evening.

40 Before 40: Challenge #8

25 Apr

I am now starting to get a bit panicked about completing this challenge, which is to watch the Top 250 Films on iMDB. And I have another four and a half years to complete it. The problem is that I need to watch another 160 films, which works out at about one film per week on average. That sounds manageable, right? In actual fact, there are quite a lot of films on the list that I know are going to be emotionally painful for me to sit through because I have no interest in watching them; for example, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which someone once lent me on DVD but I actually fell asleep during them so I can’t honestly say that I have watched them from start to finish.

Also I know that if I don’t religiously watch one film a week, I will end up having to watch films around the clock in order to be able to achieve it.

There is no point in complaining. I set these challenge myself. Here is what I have recently ticked off the list!

24. It’s a Wonderful Life

This was a beautiful and romantic film. I can’t believe I haven’t seen it before. I think this film is on TV every year at Christmas but I never had any interest to watch it. It’s an old film from the 1920s and it reminded me a bit of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Although it was made years and years ago, the themes of the film (corruption, betrayal and economic difficulties) are still relevant today. It was a bit odd to watch this in March when there is so much snow and Christmas trees in the snow but I am now wishing it was Christmas so that I can watch it again.

70. Citizen Kane

This is one of the most critically acclaimed films of all times. It’s the mystery story of a newspaper mogul whose dying word is “rosebud”. The story flips back and forth between different periods of time as a reporter sets about to investigate the meaning of his dying word. He uncovers the truth about the humble beginnings of the wealthy newspaper publisher and his earlier life. The meaning of the word “rosebud” remains elusive but is revealed to the audience at the end of the film.

I feel like I should have enjoyed this film a lot more than I thought I should have. I’m glad that I watched it because of how highly it is regarded and because it was Orson Welles’ first film (who I only thought was an author) but I am not sure that I would make a beeline to watch it again.

99. 3 Idiots

This was a hard film to find with English subtitles. The film is a Bollywood film and most of the speech is in Hindi but it does occasionally switch to English mid-sentence. I thought that all Bollywood films were just about dancing and having fun but there is a suicide in this one, which I wasn’t expecting. The story is about 3 friends who meet in engineering college. The inevitable boy meets girl, boy rebels against the norms of the college and a twist about the identity of one of the friends feature heavily through the film. Some parts of the film had me laughing out loud. Very clever and funny.

214. The Princess Bride

This is a film from the 80s that I have never heard of before but I recognised most of the cast from other 80s films and TV series. My main issue with this film was that I wasn’t sure what the films audience was. It was like a cross between a kids film, a romance and a slapstick. The story itself wasn’t bad per se but some parts of it, especially the animation of animals was really dated. I’m not sure why this film managed to get to this high a position in the list. I personally think that it is taking the place of a much more deserving film.

242. The Help

This was a great film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was about the story of a small town in Mississippi and the ambitions of a young writer, who exposed the racism experienced by ‘the help’ at the hands of affluent white families. Some of the film was tragic and other bits had me laughing out loud. It was based on a true stories and I always find films based on true stories more interesting.

I have now watched 94 out of the 250 films. Slowly but surely I will get there…

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My first week as a Vegan

22 Apr

Despite what most people have been telling me surviving the first week wasn’t so difficult and I am feeling surprisingly good. I was anticipating feeling lethargic and having headaches but so far the side effects that I have felt haven’t been that bad at all.

I was initially thinking that I would blog everything that I have eaten this week to prove that I haven’t been starving myself but I thought that might be a bit boring. Instead I will be blogging about what I have found easy or difficult this week.

So, here is my run down of how my week was:

Breakfast

Since I came back from South America, I have been mainly having fruit/veggie smoothies any way so breakfasts haven’t been a huge change for me. I also had porridge one day made with rice milk – I can’t face porridge made with water – and added some raspberries on top because I normally have a drizzle of honey over the top.

Planning

As it was a bank holiday on Monday, I used the time to set myself up for the week and plan exactly what I would eat. As my boyfriend was away on military service, I knew that the days when I was back home late after German class that I didn’t want to start cooking late and it would be better to have something already prepared. I made some roasted red pepper soup with chili so that this could be warmed up when I got back. I also made some vegan quiches, which were easy to make and very tasty. I met my friend, Mark, for lunch on Tuesday and he sampled them as well, so I have an independent witness.

Eating Out

My new team at work is a bit more sociable than at my previous job and we go for a team lunch every Friday. I was quick to get a suggestion in so that I knew that I would be able to eat something. As the item that I chose wasn’t labelled as vegan, I asked if there were any sauces or dressings on the salad and the waiter was happy to tell me that there was no diary products (cream, milk, yogurt) in it.

Freebies

One of the things I like about commuting in the spring and summer is that there are always freebies handed out at the main train station. This week there were two freebies – neither of which I could actually try. I brought them home with me as gifts for my boyfriend when he came back for the weekend. One of them was Rivella. A pop drink which is made from a milk by-product. I knew that this was off-limited and, for me, it is almost as bad as not being able to eat cheese! The second was an Espresso shot. It was a good job that I check the ingredients before because there was actually milk added. I’m not Italian but even I know that you don’t put milk into Espresso. So no freebies for me this week.

Other People

Other people irritate me most of the time but this week, especially at the beginning, have really irritated me. It seems like everywhere I looked there was someone eating a bratwurst, a McDonald’s or a milkshake. All of which are completely off-limits and have made me obsess a bit over food and the things that I am denying myself. The thing that really took the biscuit (which I also can’t eat!) was when I found out that Friday in the office is bacon butty day. The place where they get them from also has black pudding as well as egg, bacon and sausages. The smell was intense and lingered for most of the morning. But I stayed strong and resisted temptation.

There you have it. One week down and many more to go! #40Before40

#40Before40: Challenge #14

18 Apr

By the time you are reading this, I will have hopefully survived three days on a vegan diet with about another 87 days to go. As a quick recap, I decided that this would be a good challenge for me to undertake because I have previously tried a vegetarian diet for three months and I didn’t find it too difficult. It seemed logical that a vegan diet would be the next challenge.

Also, I read a lot of information saying that a vegan diet is very beneficial not just for animals and the environment, but also for anyone who follows a vegan diet. I’ve been quite surprised by the number of international athletes who are vegan and the number of athletes who are becoming vegan and reporting big gains. Of course, there are lots of Hollywood actors who are also vegan but they try out some weird stuff, so they haven’t  been a source of inspiration.

In essence, the challenge is to eat a vegan diet for three months. A vegan diet means not consuming animal products: no meat, eggs, milk, honey or anything else that was produced by an animal. I have had a long hard think about whether it is cheating to eat product that says, for example, “May contain milk” because it was made in factory that produces milk and this could mean that cross contamination has occurred. As I am not 100% motivated to ban animal products from my diet because of the traditional reasons that vegans do, I don’t class this as cheating. However, wherever possible I will avoid eating the products.

As I have maintained from the beginning, I think this is doable if the right planning and preparation has been made. I have no hope of succeeding this challenge if I decide a lunchtime that I will pop into the nearest supermarket and pick something up for lunch. As a result, I am planning meals one week in advance. I am not so optimistic that I will be able to keep this up for the whole challenge but I will try.

I will be researching new recipes online and in a vegan cookery book that I bought in preparation for this challenge at the end of last year. There should definitely be enough recipes and food ideas that I don’t get too bored or starve.

I started the challenge on 16th April 2018 and I am due to finish it on 15th July 2018. I will be blogging about my experience and how I am getting on with the challenge as I go. I know that a lot of people roll their eyes and groan when someone declares (and it is always a declaration isn’t it?) that they are vegan. So if that sort of thing offends you look away now! Or, you could read on as I complain and squirm about my self-imposed veganism. Whatever you are eating: Bon Appetit!

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Zurich Sechseläuten

16 Apr

Today the city of Zürich celebrates the special and old tradition of Sechseläuten, and as a result, I am celebrating only having to spend a half day in the office!

The Sechseläuten tradition might seem a little bit odd, especially if you wander down to just outside the Opera House at 6pm today and don’t realise what is happening. A snowman will be sitting proudly on top of a huge wood pile. But the snowman will not be smiling for long. At 6pm sharp – this is Switzerland after all – the wood is lit and the crowds will anxiously wait for the head of the snowman, which is packed full of firecrackers, to explode. It is said that the time it takes between the fire being lit and the head exploding will be an indication of how good the summer will be. The faster the time, the better.

The snowman (which in Swiss German is called the Böögg) represents winter and the ritual burning is a way to “get rid” of the winter and get ready for spring.

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After the actual event, locals make use of the embers of the fire and grill sausages and meat before heading home. But only if the weather is good!

While working in Switzerland, I have only been to see the event live in 2016. My first job in Switzerland was outside of the city, so I had to work the full day. 2016 was a disastrous year. It was the first year for the new Bööggmeister (the man who builds the snowman), after the previous one had retired. It took the head 43 minutes and 34 seconds to explode, which was the longest time it has taken to explode on record. The weather was wet and it had rained the night before. When it became clear that the wood was not catching fire, the organisers began to pour petrol on it; otherwise, I have the feeling that we would still be waiting for the head to explode now.

For this reason, and even though I am free to go and watch the event in person, I will be staying away. I already have the feeling that I am a bit of a jinx because of the long time that was recorded in 2016. I will be watching from the safety of my sofa as the event will be covered live on Swiss TV.

Keep your fingers crossed that head explodes quickly and the summer will be good!

This week’s happenings

14 Apr

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have no idea where this week has gone. I have been meaning to sit down and write something for the whole week but I just haven’t managed it. It seems that the week is jam packed full of interesting and not so interesting things to do and the weekends are all go as well.

Here is a quick run down of what I have been up to this week:

German lessons – I’m now back into the routine of having my German lessons twice a week. I am finding this level harder than the other levels. This is probably understandable as this is the last level and the exam is a bit different than the other levels. The usual self doubt has more than once crept into my mind in the past week but it isn’t like I have to take the exam in the next week, so I am trying to keep myself calm. I know that when I do come to take the exam, I will wonder why I found it so difficult to begin with.

Settling in at work – I have now been at my new job for two weeks. It’s been a shock to come back to work but slowly I am getting back into it. It is quite an interesting time to be working for a Russian company, as I am sure you can appreciate. I think over the coming weeks I should be able to start making an impact at work and implement some real changes. It should be the start of some interesting times.

Reading – my fear that my impressive reading momentum would slow down after heading back to “real life” has been unfounded. Of course, I am not reading books within days but I am managed to get through a book or more per week. I also read Gabrielle’s book who I met at the Writing Group on Wednesdays. I was a bit reluctant to read the book because I am not really a fan of romance, but I found myself identifying myself with a lot of the situations in the book. I wonder if I could be cast as the lead role when the film is made?

40 Before 40 – this challenge is literally on my mind the whole time. I am making progress with the reading challenges (see above) but I think that I am lagging a bit behind on the movie challenge. I was aiming to watch a movie a week but I haven’t managed to so far. One of the things that is off-putting is that some of the movies are three hours or longer, so it’s difficult to watch these during the week unless I start watching them as soon as I get home from work. I will endeavour to get back on track with this in the coming weeks. There are also a few bank holidays coming up in May, so this might be a good time to get back on track. Also, I will be starting one of my biggest challenges on Monday, when I will be attempting to eat a vegan diet for three months. I have made a meal plan for next week, as I am certain that planning is the key to this. Let’s see how it goes…

First BBQ of the season – last weekend we had a BBQ. Related to my vegan challenge starting, I have eaten as much meat and cheese as possible this week. I do love a BBQ but, if I do stay on track with my veganism, I should be able to enjoy quite a few more BBQ later in the year where the food is not limited to grilled vegetables.

Bar opening – one of my boyfriend’s friend has just opened a mobile bar and we went to the opening night last night. It’s a cool idea. The “bar” is intergrated into a vehicle so that they can drive to weddings, birthday parties and company events to cater for the guest. The vehicle itself is well made and looks really good. I always doff my cap to people who are willing to take a risk and set up a business on their own.

And that is about it. I am also enjoying the lighter evenings and being woken up from the sunshine coming in through the window in the morning. It is certainly easier to get out of bed in the morning. Spring is definitely here! Long may the sun continue to shine.