2018, June 1

Awkward money questions

I read The Financial Diet (TFD) on a regular basis, and when I noticed one of their “awkward money questions” interview, I figured I’d try to answer the questions myself.

  1. What’s the worst money you’ve ever spent in the name of romance?
    A weekend trip. Even though it resulted in a fun weekend and I enjoyed spending time with the guy, and exploring a new city I’ve never been to… I should not have spent that much while I was basically broke, had debt, and needed to borrow money just so I could go.
  2. What is a misguided purchase you’ve made to “upgrade” yourself?
    The Color Run, last year in my city. I needed motivation to keep running and training, and entering running races was the perfect way for me to do just that. All other races I entered were great and helped me keep in shape and training while also being fun. The Color Run however, was anything but a professionally organized race, and admission was steep for all that it ended up being (the happiest 5K in the World only summed up to 3,5K).
  3. What’s one guilty pleasure you spend on that you know you absolutely shouldn’t?
    Mugs. I love any kind of fun and interesting coffee cup, tea mug or drinking jug in all shapes and sizes. I have more than I could probably use up in a lifetime. I have gotten way better and refrain from buying new ones, but the occasional mug purchase still happens even though I really don’t need any new ones.
  4. What’s one thing you’re really cheap about that you know you should spend more money on?
    Self-care. I think of the cat, the BF, family and friends before I think of spending money on myself. I try to cut my own hair, do my own hair, make-up and nails as much as possible – going as far as borrowing a dress to wear at a wedding, because I don’t wear dresses often enough to justify buying a new one.
    I’m better at it when the BF nudges me to spend money on myself also and at least for special occasions I started getting manicures, and invested in a couple of dresses to have for weddings. However, I will probably cut my own hair until I can still hold scissors with a steady-enough hand.
  5. What is something that 2018 Estrella does that 2008 Estrella would have never thought possible?
    Wiring money into my savings account, and into private pension account every month.

Now I’m curious. What would your replies be to the above questions? Feel free to leave your answers in a comment below.

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2018, May 25

Six Reasons to Smile – Spring 2018

This Spring has been busy. Well, that’s an understatement. I feel overworked, and not rested enough. But at least the not rested enough part also comes from being able to do some work around the house, and also enjoy some great warm weather during weekends.

I participated in the 8th Wizzair Marathon’s 10K race, and came in 118th, placing me in the first quarter of female participants. That’s not bad at all considering I only ran 5-6K races before and only a handful of 10Ks on my own. The winner ran the 10K in 35 minutes, so that is my goal for next year – getting my 10K as near to 35 minutes as possible (if not shorter!).

Aside from starting running regularly again, and as much walking as we can fit into our everydays, the BF and I finally got to take bike rides. We’ve ventured for longer and longer rides, now riding from home all the way to the city and back. That’s a 30km or so ride if we’re not taking detours. With detours we made it to 43km – our longest ride as of yet.
For my birthday, I wanted to go ride our bikes around Geamana Lake, but it was rainy last weekend. We’ve tried it in Autumn, but only got to half the lake’s length on account of it getting dark too early. I want to write a travel article about it, so it’s definitely happening sooner or later this Summer.

The scenes from nearly all my walks, runs and bike rides made me smile. It was hard to narrow it down and choose only three photos from them to include in my collage. The sunset, the poppies, and the black swan.
Talking about that, the black swan is one of the best sightings, ever, for me. I’ve never seen black ones (not even in a Zoo) before going on a run with a colleague in April! I looked it up and they’re not cygnets (which would be grey), they’re fully grown black swans. And so, very pretty!

We tried a sushi place we’ve never been to before, which turned out good. Not spectacular, but it was a nice evening out with friends. We had few evenings out with friends actually, because we did try to spend as much time outside during weekends as possible. Kinda wish our friends would be more outdoorsy, but on the other hand, I do enjoy spending time just the two of us and not having to adjust schedules to anyone else’s needs, so not complaining!

We did some home renovation work, putting down carpet in the living room-bedroom combo, building some doors for our closet so the kitty can’t munch on my shoelaces and tank top straps anymore, and did a major cleaning of the balcony throwing away everything we didn’t need anymore or that was broken and organized the stuff we did keep, like tools and such.

I had a lot of fun, even taking the kitty out on the balcony with me, setting up a pretty little balcony “garden”. I’ll share pics of flowers in my Summer six reasons post though, as most of the plants newly potted are very nice and green, but haven’t bloomed yet. Hmm… or I might write a separate blog post about my balcony garden and detail what plants I’ve got.

Did you smile a lot this Spring? This month? What were your reasons? In case you’ve also captured them on camera, I’d love to see!

2018, May 18

Meaning is dynamic

Meaning is dynamic. The meaning we attribute to an object or person is extremely dynamic, as easy to model as warm silly putty in the palms of a preschooler. People are unstable and keep shifting to ideals and to others. It allows them to be in a state of continuous search, and maybe with some luck – evolve.

2018, May 11

Fiction Blog Tour: Louisiana Catch by Sweta Vikram

Today’s blog post is a stop on Sweta Vikram’s Fiction Blog Tour run by Poetic Book Tours.

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I wanted to read Louisiana Catch, because it seemed like a great book to read where the issues of abuse, grief and personal growth and transformation are well-detailed within a story line. The book didn’t fail to provide just that!

As is with many of the books I read, after starting to read I began to see similarities between Ahana and myself. In today’s World, it is all too easy and almost a given one experiences abuse, in some form or other, on a daily basis. Verbal abuse, raunchy humor, mean comments, e-mails and the alike come to mind off the bat.

Some may say that the novel’s ending is predictable, or that something gets lost in cliches, but I can only imagine since it is so difficult in real-life to navigate the above mentioned, the range of emotions Ahana must’ve felt when faced/being stuck with abuse and topping it off with the loss of her mother.

Moving on is difficult, and you feel like there is no escape. There won’t be sunny days anymore even if you’re already got sunburn for the third time this year. Something as simple as looking out the window can feel daunting and you might close your eyes every time you walk past your bedroom curtain from a certain angle. Even simply talking about such things is difficult, because most of the time we don’t have people around us who truly understand, not having gone through the same experiences.
Grief is personal, and this novel helped me navigate some of mine.

I believe that this novel shows us, in Ahana, a woman who dares to take charge of her own life. We take so many things for granted in the communities we live, we don’t think of other cultures. And we also don’t think much of abse happening in our own homes if it’s not happening to us. I believe that the story here would make people think of who they are letting into their lives, and who they let close enough to hurt them.

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Ahana, a wealthy thirty-three-year-old New Delhi woman, flees the pain of her mother’s death and her dark past by accepting a huge project in New Orleans, where she’ll coordinate the Annual Women’s Conference to raise awareness around violence against women. Her half-Indian, half-Irish colleague and public relations guru, Rohan Brady, who helps Ahana develop her online presence, offends her prim sensibilities with his raunchy humor. She is convinced that he’s a womanizer. Meanwhile, she seeks relief from her pain in an online support group, where she makes a good friend: the mercurial Jay Dubois, who is also grieving the loss of his mother. Her work in the U.S. and the online medium brings the two men into her life, and Ahana learns that neither is what he seems. With their differing sensibilities on a collision course, Ahana finds herself in a dangerous situation—and she discovers a side of herself that she never realized she had.

Louisiana Catch is an emotionally immersive novel about trust and who we project ourselves to be in the world. It’s a book about Ahana’s unreliable instincts and her ongoing battle to determine whom to place her faith in as she, Rohan, and Jay shed layers of their identities.

As Ahana matures from a victim of domestic sexual abuse into a global feminist leader, she must confront her issues: both with the men in her life and, ultimately, with her own instincts. Whom can she rely on to have her best interests at heart?

Published this April by Modern History Press, you can find Sweta Srivastava Vikram’s 268 pages long book, Louisiana Catch, on GoodReadsAmazonBarnes & Nobleand Powells.

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Louisiana Catch is a triumph. In Ahana, Sweta Vikram has created an unforgettable character, strong, wise, and deeply human, who’ll inspire a new generation struggling to come to terms with their identity in a world of blurring identities.”  Karan Bajaj, New York Times bestselling author, The Yoga of Max’s Discontent

“In Louisiana Catch, Sweta Vikram brings life to complex human rights issues of violence against women. Through one woman’s journey to make sense of and ultimately heal, Vikram shows us that yoga can reconnect us to ourselves and that by empowering others we transform our own lives.”  – Zoe Lepage, Founder, Exhale to Inhale

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More about the author:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a best-selling author of 11 books, a wellness columnist, and a mindfulness writing coach.  Featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” Sweta writes about women, multiculturalism, and identity. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nice countries and three continents. Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press 2018) is her debut U.S. novel.

Born in India, Sweta grew up between the Indian Himalayas, Northern Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. Exposure to this vast societal spectrum inspired her to become an advocate for social issues and also to get certified as a Holistic Health Counselor. In this avatar, Sweta is the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife through which she helps people elevate their productivity and creativity using Ayurveda and yoga. A certified yoga teacher, Sweta also teaches yoga and mindfulness to female survivors of rape and domestic violence. She lives with her husband in New York City.

To find out even more and keep up with her writing, visit Sweta Vikram’s website, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

2018, May 4

Recipe of the Month: Five favorite smoothie recipes

We bought a smoothie maker last month, and I’ve been making my own smoothies again.

Our old machine kicked the curb last Summer, and because I had my eye on a NutriBullet, we haven’t gotten around to deciding to get a new one. NutriBullets are expensive, or at least, they’re expensive over here. I could never justify that amount of money for it.
But then we went shopping one day, had enough time to browse and we looked around in the appliances section of the store. I found a “Concept Active Smoothie” blender, which comes with a bottle as well. I added it to my cart, and an extra bottle for it, which totaled to the third of the price of a NutriBullet. (It is really great, I recommend it to anyone.)
I had to admit that I truly only wanted the commodity of having a bottle or cup I could blend smoothies into and be able to put the lid on it and go go go. It wasn’t about the brand itself.

So ever since the beginning of April, I’ve made at least three smoothies per week. I forgot how much better they taste when they’re homemade! And they’re the perfect thing to have pre-run or post-run.

Below are five of my favorite smoothie recipes so far. I usually watch recipe videos on Youtube, but for these, I haven’t really followed any set recipe. I went with blending what ever I had at home at the moment and experimenting with different kinds of milks, since I don’t like dairy milk.

Spinach Smoothie

Blend together some banana, spinach, a teaspoon of turmeric, lemon balm, mint, a tablespoon of Chia seeds, top with rice milk and blend together.

Avocado Smoothie

Add some banana, avocado, a teaspoon of turmeric, dried cranberries, dried Agen prunes, a tablespoon of seeds mix, lemon balm and top with coconut milk and blend together.

Mango & Pineapple Smoothie

Add some banana, mango, pineapple, mint, a tablespoon of Chia seeds, top with coconut milk and blend together.

Blackberry & Apple Smoothie

Add some banana, apples, blackberries, lemon balm, a tablespoon of Chia seeds, top with hazelnut milk and blend together.

Orange & Carrot Smoothie

Add some orange, carrot, mango, a teaspoon of turmeric, a small piece of ginger, a tablespoon of Chia seeds, top with oat milk and blend together.

PS: I didn’t include measurements, because cup sizes differ, and also, I believe everyone’s personal taste should be the base for adding more or less of any of the above mentioned ingredients.

Bon appétit! ;)

2018, April 27

Recipe of the Month: Sautéed Vegetables with Shrimp

I recall first eating shrimp back in 2011 when I went to an Indian cuisine restaurant with a friend of mine. The menu offered a variety of dishes I’ve never heard of before, and I chose Risala Curry with Shrimp and Chili & Garlic Naan. It was delicious.

I also recall growing up and never seeing shrimp – it took a while for it to start appearing in the supermarkets. Then, it took me even longer to actually buy some and try to cook it myself. Finally I gave in, and for my boyfriend’s birthday dinner in 2016, I tried a Honey Ginger Shrimp with Basmati Rice recipe. It was really good.

This Winter, I tried two new recipes. One, a variation on the Honey Ginger recipe above, and the other, I’ll detail below. This is my favorite, so far!

Sautéed Vegetables with Shrimp

250 – 300 grams shrimp, peeled and deveined with tail on
300 grams mixed vegetables, or vegetable of your choice
1 cube butter (a quarter stick)
salt, white pepper, parsley
1 tablespoon oyster sauce or fish sauce

Add the cube of butter to a pan and start cooking the vegetables. I got a mixed vegetable pack which contained peas, carrots, corn and cauliflower. Season with salt, white pepper and parsley. Especially if you’re using fresh vegetables they will take longer to cook, but in either case let them be almost completely done before adding in the shrimp.

After adding it, cook the mixture some more with the shrimp; about 2-3 minutes per side should be enough. I like to place a lid on my pan so the shrimp cooks in the steam the vegetables let out.

Serve with rice or a side dish of your choice.
I might try making Naan next time, I think they’d go nicely together.

Bon appétit! ;)

2018, April 20

Travel bummers can happen, too

While visiting Skopje, FYROM (Macedonia), my boyfriend and I can say that we enjoyed 99% of the experiences and things seen.
What about the remaining 1%? I’m talking about that over on Milliver’s Travels.

Go read my travel article, The lesser delights of Scupi, the Skopje Aqueduct and Macedonian Village , to find out what my travel bummers were.

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