Friday, September 26, 2014

Sharing Beauty and Peace

To dear Val and my dear readers,
I apologize you for my long, long absence from this blog and also I would like to express my gratitude to Val for allowing me to keep writing my part here.  As Val mentioned in her post, I created another blog in Japanese in April, although I have not been able to update it yet, due to a family problem.  The main reason I started the Japanese blog is to share the concept of "Beautify and Pacify", FACE TO FACE.

Sharing positive thoughts and viewpoints is valuable, especially in this confusing world.
Having read all of Val's recent posts, I really reaffirm my connections with her.  I found myself nodding my head as I read each post.  Beauty and Peace ARE always here, in an every single thing we do in our everyday life, and it depends on ourselves whether if we find them and enjoy them or not.  I really feel them through taking care of my mother who has been in the hospital.
As Val and Nancy say, every choice we make IS the key to make our world beautiful and peaceful.
I hope to continue to move on to our/my purpose, both on this blog and on my Japanese blog.


Lastly, I would like to share some photos with you from an event called Children's Day (or sometimes Boy's Festival) in Japan, which is held on May 5th.  It was for celebrating boys but now it has become a day to celebrate children in general.  The event has already passed and though my photos are not timely, I did tell you I would talk about it just before I took my long absense, so I'm glad to be able to share these photos here.

On Children's Day, dolls for boys (patterns after warriors and heroes) are set up (abpve photo).
Also, if you come to Japan in May, you will see carp streamers  everywhere, flying in the blue sky.  Carp have the strength to swim up waterfalls. So, from ancient times, parents have prayed for the success of their children in life.  Traditionally, the event was for boys, but towards girls or boys, the thoughts of moms and dads have been the same: Happiness, good health and success... They all come from their deep LOVE!!!


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Run, run, little mama

That is somehow what I could tell myself, so often.
These days I've had a lot more work... at my work!
And that feeling of frustration has started creeping back...
Like I already mentioned , I was on parental leave for 3 years. And although I had the opportunity to experience how undervalued the status of stay-at-home mum is, I couldn't care less, and it was probably one of the best times of my life.
Back to work, I'm feeling, these days, how hard it is sometimes to be obliged to work out of my home (even if I like my job) when I know I am missing on a few things at home precisely.
My job is great, but it is also time-consuming and brain-sucking. It weighs on my mind and more than once, it keeps me from doing these extra activities, this homeschool work, these fun and entertaining expeditions that I know would be great for my kids.
Run, run, little mama...
Try to squeeze in as much time as you can, open up as much brain space as you can, to fulfill your kids' needs, to expand their views and knowledge, to take care of their health and ensure that their minds and bodies are blossoming the right way. The right way for them.
I could do more.
I love doing more.
I love doing nothing, too, with my kids. Gazing at the sky. Talking silly. Singing.
That is a luxury. Finding time to read with themat night is awesome. It is worth it. It is also so hard to find that time, when there is still work to be done. And sleep to catch up with.
There is always something else/more to do.
The race is hard, sometimes.
And the strangest thing is, I love it, and I dread the day when I stop running.
So run, little mama, run.
And be still, whenever you can, so that the race is swifter, and the time is sweeter.
A special thought tonight, to all the mamas, of all colours and ages and places.
They're all the same. They mean so well. They do so much.

Friday, September 12, 2014

You've got to know where to look

In this blogging community, there is a handful of blogs I love checking up on. There is my friend Sachi's blog (she recently shifted to Japanese and alas, my Japanese isn't good enough yet!). There is Nancy's blog, there is Kami, there is Kristel, Nikola. And a few others, dedicated more specifically to cooking or handcraft.
They all tell a story, full of sweetness, passion, ups and downs, inspiration. In them I see beautiful women, this kind of real beauty made of resourcefulness and sensitivity.
I love checking on them regularly, like checking on a friend to make sure eveything is fine and hear about the latest news from their life.
Wait...there is also Kelle and Rachel. This week, these two have posted something that rings a bell and finds a way into my own heart, because it is my inspiration, the touchstone of my blog.
Your life is beautiful, Rachel says.
Loving, even when it's hard, is the payoff in parenting, Kelle says.
I read those two posts and saw the same thing: there is really a lot of beauty in our lives, but sometimes it is not exactly what we would expect it to be. Sometimes it is there, behind a huge messy heap of daily chores, or in the early rain. Sometimes it is at the very root of what we could get tired of. Because it just needs to be seen and accepted in a different way. Because stress and hurriedness act as the most opaque screen ever....and when you stop and do open your eyes, it all starts flowing and overflowing.
I believe it really requires us to stop. Stop in our tracks, even if we don't have time or don't feel like it.
Though I never was in touch with Kelle or Rachel, though I think they never saw any of my comments, I am dearly attached to their blogs. There is a part of their life that graciously meets mine: the way they constantly surround themselves with beauty, a beauty you have to look for sometimes, or just embrace some other times. The beauty of the instant, in the way you can grasp the moment, yes, this tiny little moment, even if you're having a bad day. This moment of grace, of love, this little snippet of pure joy that's asking to be cherished and remembered.
As Kelle and Rachel, and Shannon, reminded me, yet again, beauty is not automatic, it isn't always easy, it is what you decide it to be. YOU catch the moment. YOU create the beauty around you. I mean the beauty of life, of course...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thirteen reasons why cooking can make you happier

 I've always been fond of cooking. But as in many relations, there have been ups and downs. Times of intense activity, and times of pure neglect. When I was a young girl, before studying in England, I didn't care too much about health, fitness, long culinary preparations. While being a student in England, I totally gave in. I snacked on Twix and melted cheese, not caring about all the other food available, never cooking. I occasionally tasted local dishes, but on a daily basis, I was a barbarian! I don't regret it. It was part of my youth, a time of freedom and carelessness. I came back to France with ten more kilos. I didn't wear the same size of clothes, my cheeks were chubby, I was happy. When I met my future husband, I started eating too much, somehow competing with his much larger appetite and stomach. And I put on weight again.
Yet I have always loved cooking and caring about food. My mom offered me a book when I was eight: la cuisine des petites filles. And I passionately cooked each and every recipe, including the slightly tricky ones. I was so grateful for this precious present! It was colourful, surprising, gratifying.
I have always loved cooking for people too. I believe that this part of my life spent alone in my own flat, as a senior student, led me to less cooking because there wasn't someone to share food with, most of the time.
I have always loved arranging dishes, making them look pretty. And I have always been a lover of good things, good food included! ;)
Several moments in my life enhanced and developed my taste for food and its cooking correlate. Becoming a mom was the most important. It started with these little carrot purees I started making for my teeny tiny babe. And it kept developing as my baby kept growing, and as my family increased in number.

Having a family made it different. Cooking reached a higher level. I became more aware of the impact of food on health. When I was on parental leave, it reached a higher level still. For the first time in my life I had several babies to take care of, and time to cook real meals. I also had a much tighter budget. So cooking from scratch became a must. And I was stunned each day to see how happy it made me!

Now the babes are growing, I am back to work, my husband still has a strong appetite, and I have acquired enough experience to feed my whole family with care, with a reasonable budget, fresh products, abundantly but reasonably, while always keeping in mind the importance of health and pleasure that, I think, are inherent to cooking.
I'm happy to share here thirteen reasons why cooking has changed my life for the better.

1) Cooking is sharing.
My kids know how to cook. My younger ones love peeling veggies and spending time in the kitchen with me, throwing things in boiling water, cutting, pouring, washing...

2) Cooking is fun.
Manipulating textures, dealing with colours, seeing food transform, making combinations. It's a bit of science class mixed with playing house! Not to forget the immense pleasure of tasting the result of all these makings and experiments! Cooking favours creativity and washes stress away.

3) Cooking means intention. It means taking care of oneself and others. In a medical sort of way. In a mommy's sort of way. In a gardener's sort of way. It makes me happier. It means doing something with intention, and this might not be far from what Sachi wrote about: honmono.

4) Cooking preserves health.
I've enjoyed reading The hungry planet. The more you cook, the more you realize the impact on your health, and on your planet's health. Since I started cooking from scratch and making a real effort to keep processed food at bay, we gradually stopped going to the doctor. After a few years, we realized this stunning reality: we are rarely sick, and recover very quickly from colds. We are more energetic, we pratice more sports than before...So much time and money saved since we stopped being sick every now and then, especially in winter time. This is really worth the effort.

5) Cooking enlightens.
I have learned so much, not only about the actual process of cooking, but about the way food is produced. From agriculture to economy, from philosophy to geography, food partakes to so many different fields of interest. Add to this all the cooking associates, like oenology, wine tasting, but also chemistry. I have a whole collection of cooking books that I keep jealously on a shelf in my living-room.

6) Cooking means playing an active role in economy, through the careful choice of what you buy. It means you can have more control on what you eat. It can even mean you refuse to eat food that comes from animals that were ill-treated. You can stop eating vegetables and fruits soaked with pesticides. Cooking more consciously, I eventually bought my own chickens and extended my vegetable patch.

7) Cooking is educating: myself, my kids, my husband. It means discovering and enjoying new flavours, it involves the curiosity of tasting food from other countries. Discovering rare vegetables, exotic fruits, new dishes. Being respectful of our bodies, our environment.

8) Cooking develops organizational skills: planning, choosing recipes, adapting them to the number of guests and to the time of the year (a nice warm soup in winter, a sweet fruit sorbet in summer, veggies of the season...). Calculating amounts, quantities, proportions, distributing, freezing, preserving. It has a snowball effect. The more you cook, the more efficient you become.

9) Cooking leads to better eating. And this involves not only the amount of vitamins you will absorb, but also the quiet time you will spend together sitting at the table, sharing jokes and anecdotes, anticipating the pleasure of eating a meal prepared with love. If you cook, you might eventually ditch the overload of industrial, processed food that has become part of our daily lifestyle. You might slow down and take time to enjoy the process of giving food to your body. You might relax and feel gratified and grateful.

10) Cooking is love. It shows love. It shares love. It is family. It is friends gathered together.

11) Cooking is celebrating. It means Christmas. Thanksgiving (an event we don't have here, but I am slowly integrating it in my family's culture). Birthdays...

12) Cooking helps you lose weight (or keep your weight stable).
I once read this book and was struck by how true this might well be: traditional French cuisine may actually lead not to overweight, but to a stable, healthy silhouette. Though this is gradually losing ground in France, our traditional way of eating implies several courses, smaller portions, a little bit of everything: entrée, main and side dish, cheese, dessert...A meal cooked from scratch, with some variety, will lead you to eat more of everything and less of one thing. Hence a healthier lifestyle, a safer check on vitamins. I am a fan of French cook Cyril Lignac, because I think he's unpretentious, reasonable in his advice, and wise in his approach. Like him, I think young people shouldn't be forbidden to have a quick snack, but should be educated and slowly guided toward fresh, home-made food.

13) Cooking is beauty. Shall I say more? It is beauty on the outside. It is beauty on the inside. Sometimes both, sometimes not. How does it matter? There is the beauty of all the work involved in the preparation. There is the beauty of showing it, like a declaration. And sharing it.