December recipes for life

Only 13 days until the sun will turn. I wait for that day more than for Christmas. Here in Norway the winter is called mørketida, which means “the dark time”. And I came to realize that it is not the cold which is the most difficult in winter (now it is not cold at all), but the darkness. I grew up in Ukraine with cold winters – and I never complained about winters. But I grew up with the longer light day. And here what keeps me down is the light day from 9am till 3am. If we can call it light. Some days feel just light nights, or early evenings. November this year has been amazingly full of light. Little rain, a lot of sunshine. And I kept through thinking: “um, this is not so bad, I got used to Norway”. But December hit me with the short dark days and long darker nights, and I feel like a half of myself.

And this is what I like the least. Not the biting cold wind, or icy streets, or late sunrises, or no sunrises. But this version of myself. I feel reduced to 50%, like I am on the season sale already 🙂 I love that bubbly Marina that I know from summer. The one that is possible in sunnier place even in December. But this one, tired, sick, complaining – this version of myself I don’t like. But let us not stop here. Here I have stopped so many times in my life. I have pitched a tent in this place and lived there for a long period. Until I learnt: this doesn’t work. This doesn’t help. And if I don’t want to go down that road again, I have to find something that helps.

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Bye-bye, November

I always make sure to walk through the flower market on my way from work. It is there even in the late evening hours, flowers keeping strong in the cold. Today I haven’t seen the usual orchids, and those red and pink beauties, today there were small fir-trees and wreaths with pinecones. Their message was clear: November has moved out, December is now in. At this very moment the church bells chimed through the square, making everything feel like a cozy Scandinavian fairytale. And I was thankful that I didn’t plug headphones in my ears like I usually do.

The Christmas lights hang across the street, and every time there is someone reaching for his phone to snap a picture. Christmas music sounds from the shops, and I think: “Nice try to make it all look cozy and nice. When it is biting cold, and the streets are icy. And the dark hours are more than the light ones”. Then I hear a kid passing by talking joyfully about “the yummy pancakes”. In that moment I envy that kid’s energy. Where do they take it in this dark period? I usually never have this feeling – but now I would like to see the world with the kid’s eyes. No Monday blues, no winter blues, no knowledge about melatonin and serotonin and their effect on our mood, no longing for another place I have seen in December, that was full of sunlight and singing parrots. Just eyes wide open, with the reflection of the Christmas lights in them, and touching the Christmas tree set up in front of the church – which must appear just the size of that church in his eyes. Not afraid of the ice on the streets, but sliding cheerfully on it. And not thinking about the distant sunny place – just living in the moment.

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A Window of Opportunity

I am so grateful for the conversation on the blog! Sometimes I read the blog posts that say: “thank you for 1000 views!”. There are people celebrating the number of new followers and the number of views. Sometimes I find myself also caught up in the numbers game. This is the world we are living in. But I really enjoy when I don’t care about the numbers (I also found that less time on Instagram helped to beat that habit :)). I would not mind 1000 views too, but I’d better exclaim: “thank you for those 2 comments you left under my post!” They are more meaningful to me than numbers. Because they sparkle a conversation, they help me think and change and grow, and that is so precious (which maybe great number of views provides too, I just lack the experience of it :))

November is not an easy month for blogging. It is getting darker, the days are so grey and so short. My inspiration gave me a lot of ideas some weeks ago – and disappeared for a while. Then again, I got caught up in writing about interesting subject on my blog in Russian. And what makes me come back to this blog, in the times of low statistics and poor light conditions,  is those meaningful conversations. Thank you for them, dears!

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Dream Book Come True

I received the book at last! It just took me a couple of months waiting 🙂 Apropos waiting. I find it a great way to prolong joy and happiness. It depends on the type of waiting, of course. But what bothers me is the fast-paced culture we are living in, when everything must happen pronto: fast food, fast fashion, 4G network, 24-hours delivery. Isn’t it crazy how quickly we get used to the speed of things, which would take long time – just a decade ago? And I wonder if with all the bonuses of speed and comfort there are side effects. I find, there are. We get stressed, impatient and ungrateful, when we take the fast delivery for granted. While I want to come to the old-fashioned truth: “Waiting for things is as happy, or maybe more happy, than receiving things”. As we move into the holidays season, it is easy to understand. It is not the Christmas Eve that makes us so happy, but also all those weeks of preparation, hearing Christmas songs, joyful expectation that make the season so priceless. I would not hop directly to the December, 24 now – would you?

So I decided to view waiting for this book as an exercise of joyful expectation. And I enjoyed every bit of it. And, oh, another bonus – the book tastes so much sweeter after all those weeks of waiting. The book I am talking about is “A Paris Year” by Janice MacLeod. I was writing about how she seems to capture my dream of Paris and make it true here. I made a wish for this book for my birthday in September, I made a research about which bookstore in Oslo sells it and got a gift card for it from my friend. Some time after my birthday I joyfully (hopped) walked to that store – and found that the book was not there. Neither was it possible to order it in the online version of that store. So I walked out, sat on the bench, made an order on Amazon – and got an estimated delivery period of almost 2 months. Uii. I could choose the faster option for sure, but I thought: ok, this is a present, it is not something you need urgently, so you can wait and find happiness in it. And guess what – that was worth it. Whenever I would think of the book, I would feel happy. And when it finally arrived last week, I even waited a day to unwrap it. I find this version of events even luckier than if I had found it in the store on that very day.

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Autumn Fruit and Flowers

In my part of the world the winter has moved in. Oslo has seen its first snow and the minus temperatures. Today we are measuring -5 degrees Celsius. Last week the Christmas lights and decorations were installed and the Christmas markets opened. As for me, it is a bit early to start the whole fuss five weeks before Christmas. On the other hand, those lights and cozy turmoil make these cold and dark days a little bit brighter. With sunsets at 15.40 and sunrises at 8.30 the days are so short. If all the dark hours were considered night, how long the night would be, we wondered. 16 hours right now – and more to come. Thus I justified my sleeping for more hours 🙂 Anyone else here feeling like  hibernating?

In my own fashion of belated posting, I decided to share my finds of this autumn. In October I was looking forward to a photo walk in the botanical garden – and here are the treasures I collected there. Autumn fruit and flowers.

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Love That Saves Our Lives

In the previous post I started to write about the movie “Julie and Julia” and was swept away by the inspiration to share the story that has influenced my life in a profound way.  But there is one more theme in the movie that is worth writing about. The theme of the work that saved their lives.

Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep, falls in love with France and exclaims: “I feel I AM French!” And, oh, I exclaim it together with her. I too love France, and France in the movie is so pretty and lovable. Julia discovers her taste for the French food, and she plunges with enthusiasm into cooking courses, though she has never been fond of cooking before. With this newfound passion she keeps herself busy in the landscape where it is easy to become a boring expat wife with no meaningful occupation. On her way her interest for this work gives her new meaning, new friends, and later it gives her a professional call and even fame. As Julie Powell says it: “She saved herself by cooking”.

Julie Powell is also saved by the love for cooking. And blogging about it. It fills her grey days with colors and tastes, with meaning and enthusiasm. And that saves her also. Giving her a chance to be a writer as she had always dreamt of, giving her new opportunities.

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Stories that Save Our Lives

Do you have a story or a hero that has changed your life? Can you say that some of them have saved you? I think, I have, and I am lucky to have it.

Two days ago I watched the movie “Julie and Julia”. It is a history of two lives, both real: one is of Julia Child, an American lady who lived in France, fell in love with cooking there and wrote a book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. The second one is of Julie Powell who seems unhappy about her work and moving to Queens, so she starts a project of cooking all the recipes in Child’s book during a year while blogging about it. Her story becomes a book too, and a movie, as we see. According to Julie, Julia Child had saved herself from falling into bored expat wife in Paris by discovering her passion, and she saved Julie. While Julie’s husband says: “No, you have saved yourself”.

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