This blue marble

– and yet it spins


The end of the year at the end of the world

lakeleman-3Can a lake be the end of the world? It is round, with shores, and shores mean there is something thelse beyond the water.

Yet this morning, Lake Léman looked like the end of the world. It is large enough to feel like it, too. As if the water that gushes down from the Jura mountains and the Alps continue straight over the edge behind the horizon.lakeleman-4There were no children playing in the water. One crazy lady braved the cold and dove in. Her swim made no sound, and almost no ripples on the water. It was the end of 2015 and the last swim of the year.

When one is sorry in French, one “suis désolé”. When something is desolate in French, it is “désolé”, too. It was a cold morning, but the lady was not desolate about plunging into the desolate waters.lakeleman-2At the end of the world even the swans are hungy. Just like everywhere else. Also the gulls and the ducks are hungry, but they are simply less rude. At the end of the world one needs to be rude in order to be fed.

At the end of a year one can throw oneself in the water and flow with the current over the edge of the world. Alternatively, one can stay ashore and look out for the next  year. All it takes is a sliver of curiosity regarding what is right beneath the horizon. White swans and a good friend are also excellent company when one must choose to welcome yet another year.lakeleman-1(Geneva, Switzerland; December 2015)


101 things in 1001 days

101goals-1Continuing the streak of more personal notes and the conundrum that each new year poses us. Ever tried to make a New Year’s resolution that failed? Ever wished you could do this and try that and go there – without any of the wishes ever coming true? Why do we spend more time dreaming than making dreams reality? Why do we speak of wishes “coming true” instead of “being made true”?

Sometimes it can be much quicker to make a dream come true than dreaming of it – especially if it comes to sending out that dinner invite or booking that flight or concert ticket.

Last spring I spent my nights coloring a coloring book. I also went to the Helsinki Music Center, had an Indian head massage, and finally went to the French Riviera. During this year I have managed to realize my dream of practicing yoga on Bali, of spending a weekend at a spa by myself, and going through my wardrobe. The challenge is called 101 things in 1001 days and is the core of the Day Zero Project.

My list is far from done – but it’s a good start for the first year. Having a list is certainly not the only way to experience new things, but I hope I can inspire you to start realizing your dreams and goals instead of just dreaming of them. Here are mine marked as “done”, one year in:

  1. Host a board games night
  2. Learn to knit socks
  3. Spend a rainy day watching films in my PJ’s
  4. Spend a weekend at a spa by myself
  5. Make jam
  6. Travel to New England
  7. Crochet a quilt
  8. Find a career mentor
  9. Get an Indian head massage
  10. Install a mirror in the hallway
  11. Have a hot stone massage
  12. Go back to Kathmandu
  13. Read my old journals
  14. Clean out my wardrobe
  15. Go to the French Riviera
  16. Complete a coloring book
  17. See a performance at the Helsinki Music Center
  18. Hire a cleaning maid
  19. See a play at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre in London
  20. Find a penpal and write real letters
  21. Eat at a Korean restaurant
  22. See a Broadway musical in London
  23. Read all moomin books
  24. Practice yoga on Bali
  25. Make candles
  26. Get in touch with 2 old friends

+ about 15 other things in progress, such as joining Earth Hour every year, learning how to make limoncello, going to the dentist every year, and paying off my study debt.

Life is not a rehearsal. You are the star of your show, every day, regardless of whether you are up for it or not. Trust me, the past few years I have mainly not been up for it. Yet life has happened anyway. It tends to do that, every day.

Stop dreaming. Start doing. And do kindly let me know if I inspire you to make a list of your own – so I can mark yet another goal as “done”!101goals-2 (Helsinki, Finland; January 2016)

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Intended and unintended goals of 2015; or looking backward before looking forward

lookingbackDo you believe in New Year’s resolutions? I do not. I personally never seem to be able to keep them. A year is too short and there are so many things I want to do that I never seem to manage to keep track of just a few. And life happens, too. Priorities shift. But more about my alternative to resolutions in another post. Today let’s talk about what did happen during 2015. What was planned, and what was not planned, but improvement nonetheless. And so, in spirit of looking backward before looking forward, here are a few things that I made come true during last year:

  1. I went from vegetarian to 95% vegan.
    I have been mainly vegetarian since I was 15 years old. At home I never eat fish but I may choose fish in a restaurant or tell friends who cook for me to prepare fish just because it makes things easier. On Bali I ended up eating vegan food (mainly raw or Indonesian) for 3 weeks just because that was the main fare – and realized what digestion should feel like when you can’t feel it. It was when I got back home and added dairy to my diet that I noticed the difference. I switched from milk to almond milk, from coffee milk in my tea to soy milk prepared for barista use, and left out yoghurts and the occasional pudding. Cheese is the only thing I refuse to quit – but I eat it perhaps once a month only.
  2. I tried Gwyneth Paltrow’s detoxes – and found I loved the food.
    I don’t believe in the concept of detoxes or cleanses – but I do believe in resetting one’s digestive system, portion size, and eating habits. Paltrow’s detox recipes are expensive on the wallet, at least here in Finland, but I found many new favorites that I incorporated into my cooking, such as kale, nutritious smoothies for breakfast, and creative lunch salads.
  3. I found a yoga shala abroad.
    I love my yoga teacher here in Finland. She is a direct student of Sharath Jois, the lineage holder of ashtanga yoga. Yet sometimes it is good to have a second view – and a reason to travel to an awesome place. Prem Carlisi’s and Radha Duplex’s shala in Ubud, Bali, felt just right. A second view was highly useful to help construct a practice suited for a recently injured knee. And well – Bali is absolutely fabulous. I aim to go back in 2016.
  4. I aimed to be more assertive as a leader.
    My family may laugh, but at work I often get the feedback that I am too nice. In the whirlpool that was last year, juggling two jobs and a drug launch, a budget with risk swings in the millions, and 4 countries to lead, I was pushed against the wall to become more sharp in my leadership and succinct in communicating. I think I managed, without becoming unkind. It was a revelation to receive positive feedback from people about how they in fact liked being challenged.
  5. I took the next step in my career and in moving abroad again.
    I was not supposed to stay in Finland for more than 2 years. It has now been over 4 years. Every time I visited London I would sigh and ask myself why, oh why have I not moved back already? So far I have let things happen at their own pace, but in November 2014 I made it clear to my London colleagues that I wanted a job in their office. Only thing was, London office wants me to stay in the Nordics. So now I report to London and consider them my main team, but I still live in the Nordics. I hope the next step in a year or two will be to move back to the UK. Time will tell but I will keep working on this.

Look back before you look forward. It is so easy to ignore one’s accomplishments and only remember failures, as well as focus on new goals. 2015 is closed. How did you live its 365 days?

(Helsinki, Finland; January 2016)

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Proper English tea

fortnummason-1Ah! Florentines! Clotted cream biscuits! Proper English tea! Per kilo if you wish. And all a 3-minute walk from my favored hotel at Green Park. The tea is not quite like English Twinings or Brodies Irish breakfast, but the beautiful jars make up for the missing point or two.

The English have made a wise decision to hog all the best tea to themselves – and export the scraps swept from the floor of the tea processing factory to countries who know nothing of tea. My sister  discovered that Twinings outside of the UK tastes of cardboard, whereas Twinings sold in the UK tastes delicious (same goes in my experience for Taylors of Harrogate). The answer to her inquiry was that “we export tea that caters for the international taste”. Yes indeed – it would, as long as those tastebuds never taste proper English tea served in the UK.

For the past 15 years I have imported all my tea from Holland, Malaysia, and the UK, and when possible, from Nepal as well. But nothing beats the experience of stepping into the Twinings tea shop or the Fortnum & Mason paradise in London. Fortunately my monthly visits to London allow to uphold the sense of luxury – and my tea stock.

fortnummason-2(Fortnum & Mason, London, United Kingdom; December 2015)

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Any given Monday

paris-4Any given Monday one could work. Or one could stroll around lovely Paris. One could slip into the quiet vesper mass in Sacre Coeur, and listen to the priest’s candid conversation about the recent terrible incidents in Paris. One could choose a more secular form of enjoyment and admire the paintings on the Montmartre market.

Or one could simply pause between these two alternatives and enjoy the bleak December sun setting over the city.

Work can wait. This is Paris after, France; December 2015)