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This was my favourite web content this July (great to read, hear, watch any month of the year)

I discovered Roads and Kingdoms as I was looking up Anthony Bourdain’s body of work left behind. I was trying to find out who edited the intro to Parts Unknown, his travel & food series. The introduction is so multilayered and absolutely amazing, if you haven’t seen it ever and are interested in seeing a great (really great) video edit then click. (The intro sequence that I am referring to always starts about 60 seconds into the beginning of each episode.)

But back to Roads and Kingdoms, we can talk about Anthony Bourdain again soon.

Roads and Kingdoms in their own words: “Roads & Kingdoms is dedicated to a simple idea: the more you know, the better you travel. We use talented local journalists, deep storytelling, and the good things in life—food, music, booze—to inform and inspire about destinations around the globe. R&K won the 2017 James Beard Publication of the Year award and is a winner of SATW’s Best Travel Journalism Site award. We focus on useful information for armchair and aisle-seat travelers alike.

The late Anthony Bourdain was our first and only investor, our spirit animal, our guide to so many things. continue reading

DO click right through to Roads and Kingdoms, you will not regret it but thank me! They have some of the best content that I have seen online in so long and where have I been to not know of them sooner! And: Where have you been? Let’s know interesting things.

Dispatched by Anthony Bourdain:

Roads and Kingdoms front Page:

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What I loved about this documentary: Well it’s informative and nothing snazzy but information doesn’t need to always be snazzy, does it? I enjoyed learning about the history of this building.

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Music I discovered: Paris Combo

Here is the first music video that I saw of theirs and it is so wonderfully lively and enlivening, quirky, happy sounding, but I admit I don’t speak a word of French, so I don’t know what it is about.

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ALMOND MILK (seriously do it! d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s when you use it how I do anyway. I suppose I better add my full morning ritual breakfast recipe some time soon! So that you can actually taste the amazingness that I am tasting daily!)

I enjoyed learning how to make your own Almond milk. This was the shortest video that I could find. It is super easy:

Turns our fresh almond milk is AMAZING. I make enough for 3 days worth of breakfast porridge for 2 with about 1 cup worth of almonds (? I need to double check that). We can’t stop making mmmmmmmmmm sounds when we have our breakfast now. YUM!

This is what I do:
1 part almonds that have been soaked overnight (!) + about 4-5 parts room temperature or cold water, more, less water it really is up to YOU. Blend finely. Pour through a cotton cloth that rests in a strainer into a bowl (squeeze). Transfer to a glass jar and put into the fridge until needed. My gosh is this stuff tasty when used in place of milk. What to do with the leftover, dryish almond ground? Press into a storage container and keep in the fridge. Make anything edible with this, add 2 teaspoons or more to your porridge. You’ll tank me later. DELICIOUS!

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This documentary about families in China. The cost of providing for one’s children, the cost of our global economy, too? It is food for thought. I recommend looking up more documentaries about this theme. I have seen some very strong ones in the past (better than this one, more comprehensive) but this one makes a thought provoking start. Do watch it and tell me what went through your mind as you did in the comments?

NOT a perfect documentary but a good thinking prompt. We found it left many questions unanswered for us, some information felt incomplete and could also at times be misleading. BUT what can one fit into a short documentary? To answer all the aspects that were left short would require our attention span for a whole day and who has so much time. Just use your mind when watching anything anywhere anyway. And look up the gaps as needed. (I probably say something similar to this about most information that I find in the world: it is always going to be incomplete as completeness requires ALL the time in the world.)

Fear of letting go, digital storage space & Freedom

I am not sure where all the things in my life come from, somehow I manage to accumulate additional suitcases filled with more stuff than I use, but which I also have a hard time letting go of. I tell myself that I am frugal. But this doesn’t really work in my favour.

This tendency to hold onto.. isn’t this really a form of hoarding? Even if I still have space to breathe and my hoarding doesn’t quite manifest in the true crazy person hoarding, I still feel that I have a problem letting go of things.

If belongings stop me from being free to follow opportunities or new ideas then surely I do actually have a real problem. So what’s going on? Why this fear of letting go? I always come up with great reasons why I need to hold onto this and that, and often the reasons are really solid, make great sense and are difficult to argue against.

However, in my heart I know that no matter how good the reason for holding on, the reason for letting go is better, letting go allows something to happen in my life that fear of letting go doesn’t.

All this wisdom is of little use unless I implement it, too. I’ll ponder on what is holding me back another time but next up is the issue of digital stuff.

My digital life is about as bloated, if not more so, than the life of my physical possessions. I seem to forever struggle to clear my laptop hard drive. Today I again had a warning from my mac that its storage is almost full. Oh, no, not again. I actually ran out of storage space on my external hard drives, too.

I will once more give in, purchase a couple of new hard drives. I always buy 2 external hard drives to be able to set up a mirrored backup system, I can explain why I do this and why you should, too, another time. Keeping onto digital files and storing them on external hard drives isn’t so bad, but now that digital files are larger and larger it is becoming an expensive habit. I estimate that I will need about 12TB storage space a year total from now on (double that for the mirrored backing up system). That sounds like a crazy amount! But I deal with a lot of images and video files and as I mentioned above I have a serious problem with letting go of things. So I hold onto most digital files, when really I should make it a regular habit to delete what is of no use to me.

It made more sense 10 years ago to hold onto each photo, I took fewer and my memories were more remarkable than they currently are. Or maybe that, too, is just a perception.

I like 4TB Western Digital for hard drives, they seem like a decent price point and a reliable brand. That doesn’t mean they are never going to fail, all hard drives may one day fail (or may not). Actually this brings me back once more to why I use a mirrored backing up system.. Ok I’ll leave this standing as is, but here is the hard drive that I will buy. I am planning on getting 2x 4TB red hard drives this time, as I already have 2 identical black Western Digital hard drives . I recommend these drives to all of my friends. I used to use the rugged Lacie drives, but in America they seem much more expensive than they were back in the UK, which is why I now use Western Digital (WD).

 

You can also just click on the picture of the hard drive that you would like and it will take you straight to Amazon, sometimes the red drive is a little bit more expensive than the black, which for me is worth it because I have multiple drives that are identical and it makes it easier for me to be able to just grab the right one in a rush, without even needing to read a label. If you want to save about $10 then you can click on the black drive and usually those are cheaper. For hard drive labelling I just use masking tape or anything else that is sticky and can be written onto with a permanent marker.

 

If you use the link to the hard drive that I am getting and purchase one for yourself, then I should let you know that this link is an affiliate link. It will NOT cost you anything extra to use the link, yet I gain a small percentage reward for bringing you to Amazon today. There is no catch and the recommendation is genuine: I use WD drives and am feeling confident that they are a good product.

We are petsitting again

After a several month long break from everything caused by an intrusive health issue that sent me to a Chinese Medicine Doctor while I waited to eventually to have surgery we are back! Petsitting was never really meant to be a career move, but here in San Francisco it really is a sort of low hanging fruit of income options when life allows the flexibility with regards to taking the time out to visit or stay with somebody else’s pets.
We are starting to build up repeat clients, who will give us a call before asking anybody else to look after their pets.

Over7Seas_Petsitting_cats_SF

Petsitting through Rover & by word of mouth.

To get started with petsitting as a ‘side-hustle’ we recommend using Yahoo Groups, neighbourhood message boards & Rover. Build repeat clients over time. If you would like to start petsitting using the booking agent Rover then you can follow this link to become a petsitter: https://refer.rover.com/s/Birgit5

I will get a bonus from Rover if you sign up AND book your first petsitting appointment within 90 days of signing up. Do read about the way Rover works, they take 20% of your fee and the host also pays a small booking fee to Rover. But despite this I still really value the platform. It has helped us earn $1000 over Christmas and New Year, a time when it is common to spend more than we earn. I think it is a great way to spend the holidays when one hasn’t got many family commitments. But petsitters are needed all year round. We get calls when people take a spontaneous weekend trip, visit family for a wedding or for other personal family reason, sometimes people have work trips or had a last minute cancellation from a friend who was going to look after their home and pets.

Over7Seas_Petsitting_SanFrancisco

A picture of our current petsitting engagement. We document playtime & feeding of the pets and send daily pictures to the pet owners to let them know everything is going well during their absence from their home.

We use Rover exclusively for housesitting petsitting & pet-visiting. We don’t take the pets to our home but stay at theirs. We don’t participate in the Rover Dogwalking at all, we don’t want to get too involved with dog walking. Ultimately Jason and I have careers that we are trying to build but our Rover experiences have been positive and welcome cash injections.

It is important to state that petsitting in somebody else’s home is a REAL job. We take on a lot of responsibility and we conduct our service very professionally. We don’t short change the animal or their owner. We now charge $60 per day/night stay but to start with we initially charged only $30-$35 for a regular night stay. Yes, of course $35 for a 24 hour period is not good money, but if, like us, you have a flexible work schedule, then it makes sense to take the $35, work from home if I was going to do that anyway, and take the dog for a walk 2-3 times. We only accept what works for us. This means: usually only medium sized dogs not large ones, but sometimes we say yes to a big labrador, it always depends on our schedule and how we get on with the pet owner, too.

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We try to captures attractive pictures of the pets that we petsit, I think of it as added value for the pet and home owner. I recommend presenting pet updates nicely.

 

This is definitely a big tip: ONLY accept booking requests that work for you. If you are not feeling comfortable with the owner, turn this opportunity down. This ensures that your Rover petsitting experiences will be predominately positive.
Above I created lots of links to the referral link, every link in this document opens the referral window. If you sign up and also use Rover I will get a bonus (an Amazon gift card). You can then in the future also recommend Rover, but please only do it if it works for you. We really benefitted from being part of Rover, I would not recommend it otherwise. If you create an amazing profile, with great pictures showing you, you with somebody’s pets and with a strong write up answering the questions pet owners might have before feeling comfortable to request you to take care of their home & pets. Create an ambience of trust. And then BE trustworthy and professional. Don’t say yes to everything, take it slow. And over time you will build a good portfolio and make a nice little extra income, which might help you take a holiday or see the dentist or create a savings buffer for a small emergency in the future. I highly recommend it!

 

My letter to Bloglovin’ about their inadvertently facilitating human trafficking

Dear Bloglovin’ team,

I have 2 people ‘following’ me on Bloglovin’ who clearly advertise the sale of females for sex in their Profile description.

This is one of the two ‘followers’ that I have on my profile with Bloglovin’ :               “Ashley Bartel
http://www.sеху.xxxxx (URL address altered by me)  rеmаrкаblе уоung wоmеn livе аds соmраrаtivе sех аnd sех in thе аbsеnсе оf оbligаtiоn is lоокing оut fоr уоu thеn.”

I sent you another email about the other person.

What shocks me is that I noticed the person, whom I am reporting in this message, starting following me maybe a week or two ago and I didn’t have time to figure out how to report this. I hoped and actually assumed that Bloglovin’ checks their content often enough to find and ban profiles like this. I thought hopefully somebody else will report this issue.

It is shocking that maybe 2 weeks later NOBODY else has reported this. And I think it is largely due to the absence of a report this user function on your platform. By omitting this (maybe you re short of staff and hope the problem will go away by itself?) you are giving a free advertising platform for human traffickers, the users of their services and the crime of forces sex, abuse and use of women as objects. Not offering an easier way of reporting this makes you inadvertently complicit. Yes I would go as far as that. Not because I think you express any personal support for the crime but you are facilitating the advertisement of it.

Could you please make it easier to report crime, every other platform at least has a repot hate speech / spam option. Spam doesn’t describe the magnitude of the problem but is a start. At least the content gets removed.

In your ‘what can we help with’ scroll menu you should have a ‘report abuse / spam / harrassemend / crime’ option.

Thank you for taking this seriously.
I will finish my message here and leave you with a couple of URL addresses about trafficking and sex trade. Since the adverts that I am seeing on Bloglovin’ specify ‘young women / girls’ I will focus at least one link on this target group.

Please take more action than only deleting these two accounts.:

https://polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/sex-trafficking

https://technologyandtrafficking.usc.edu/report/human-trafficking-online-cases-patterns/

https://biometrica.com/sex-trafficking-america-children/

http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/20/us/sex-trafficking/index.html

hotline for help: https://humantraffickinghotline.org/states

https://www.freedomunited.org/freedom-university/

https://www.americanbar.org/publications/judges_journal/2013/winter/human_trafficking_and_internet_and_other_technologies_too.html

“The internet facilitates access to victims and is being used to facilitate the sale of sex.”
http://www.nhregister.com/connecticut/article/Sex-trafficking-moves-to-social-media-to-find-11330629.php

70 Percent Of Child Sex Trafficking Victims Are Sold Online: Study
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/25/sex-trafficking-in-the-us_n_5621481.html

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I would like to also add that I DO really enjoy using Bloglovin’ , my concern about the lack of reporting options isn’t intended to beat down the entire platform. They are amazing. I follow my favourite blogs through this one platform, not needing to click on multiple open tabs or entre lots of URL addresses nor do I need to clog my email inbox, everything is right there in one view on Bloglovin’ . I recommend it. I just wish they took their responsibilities serious enough to not require prompting to create a report function of the obvious lack of misuse of the platform ..

Wildfires close to San Francisco : information resources (fire locations, air quality, health prevention tips)

List of information sources about the California fires, air quality & preventative actions for your health. :

The air quality in the Bay Area (San Francisco) and North Bay Area (Sonoma, Napa) today is in the red and deep red zone:

https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_city&zipcode=94110&submit=Go

From an official government page in case the air quality declines further, preventative actions to take:
https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=aqibasics.pmhilevels

Here something about breathing masks, it is recommendable to use them, the smoke particles are microparticles that are harmful to lungs and health:
https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/334-353.pdf

Where you can buy breathing masks (check the link about breathing masks above before buying): This is a link to masks on Amazon, select the quickest delivery option in case the fires will continue to burn for a while longer. Protect your lungs.

Here updates directly from Sonoma:
https://www.facebook.com/CityOfSonoma/

The active wildfire map, where you can check where there are active wildfires in America, updated frequently:
https://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=df8bcc10430f48878b01c96e907a1fc3

 

 

The air quality in San Francisco is already in the RED zone. This means that it already can cause noticeable health reactions. However don’t panic: keep physical activity to a minimum, stay indoors as much as possible. As a tourist: these are the days for museum visits and spending time in cafes and aquariums.

In the North Bay the air quality is in the DEEP RED zone = very bad, it is strongly advisable to not expose yourself unnecessarily. Many people will notice negative effects on their health at those levels. Use the first link in this post to enter the postcode of where you re to check your aibquality and read all the links to thorough information.

RED::
AQI: Unhealthy (151 – 200)
Everyone may begin to experience health effects members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.

DEEP RED:
AQI: Very Unhealthy (201 – 300)
Health alert: everyone may experience more serious health effects.

Money saving tips from a frugal person:

#1 is my newest tip. A coupon website that seems brilliant!
I found out about ‘Honey‘ today. It is a website that searches the internet for money off coupons, use of the website is free of charge and from the research I have done so far it looks like there is no negative hook.

So I feel confident sharing the sign up link with you. Follow it and check if your an find a coupon the next time before you buy your regular brand new shoes. These codes seem to not be limited to clothing. So go explore! Save money. But don’t buy things you don’t need!

joinhoney.com/ref/1ktfzl   Check it out before using it, but it seems like an amazing tool to me. (I looked them up on Reviewopedia )

#2 is another money savings tip and this one is thoroughly tried and tested by myself and several of my friends is: Transferwise! If you use my link to sign up and make your first international transfer then you will get your first transfer for free and I will get a brownie point, too. I feel really good referring you to them because we saves at least $200 this year sending money from the UK to the USA with Transferwise rather than Paypal. I still use Paypal a lot because it is so convenient but not for international money sending anymore.  (I get brownie points only after you have made a transfer.)

https://transferwise.com/u/birgitd7

Also Transferwise now offers a borderless bank account! It can hold multiple currencies. This will be really useful if you live between countries, travel a lot, perhaps receive payments in several currencies.

 

Levitation practice in San Francisco

So where is this story at now? Well. We are part way through home sitting, watering plants, keeping the place safe, feeding cats and giving them time and attention so that they feel well… And how is all that going? I think ok.

I have my first German language students, taking 2-3 classes per week each, which is a huge, giant, levitation inspiring, relief.It has been a while since I have had such interested students and it feels incredibly rewarding.

But then there is the annual housing conundrum, the issue that always causes the break in our make-or-break life in America.. (You might know that I have had a green card since about 2013, or was it 14, and since then, even more than before been trying to make a go of living here. This year was the year where I made the big announcements that “I AM MOVING TO AMERICA”.. So here I am.. But really it is all as uncertain as it ever was. But the world is changing and we need to, too.

Today I checked in on an Airbnb listing that is just horrendous: a tiny shack for $2357 (I kid you not, Jason wouldn’t believe me but you can check it for yourself here).. You have to see it to believe it. It didn’t have a proper bed but a weird single mattress home-built contraption; I am not high maintenance by any standards at all, but for that amount of money: get a bed sorted will you..  It just made me mad and cross.

Cross because that is meant to be an acceptable deal and by any logical, rational, sane conclusion it just is not even borderline acceptable. I would be satisfied with an exclamation of “well but you don’t need to rent it” IF there were affordable options anywhere on the market that were acceptable. When I say affordable I am already thinking $1200 for a little room, or $2000 for an apartment with 2 rooms (not 2 bedrooms, just 2 different rooms, where the second room is not a toilet or bathroom, so we can once in a while have some privacy. ..)

Oh and then today I got pickpocketed! They stole my hosuekeys. Such a pointless exercise. I am so annoyed. It means I will have to spend $88 + the cost of 3 extra keys ($2 each) to make up for the loss and to guarantee that the home we are housesitting is safe. Jason says it’s safe and I shouldn’t worry because I took so many detours and stops on the way home I can guarantee that nobody followed me. Oftentimes on the way home I was the only person on the street, then I stopped at 2 different cafes, not once going to the house where I was locked out because I noticed that I was locked out before stepping of the empty public transport.. So I went to another cafe to wait for Jason to come collect me by car.. Between the point of being pickpockets and finally getting home were so many stops and several hours.

How am I so sure it was pickpocketing? I passed through a part of town that is just notorious for this. And even so I thought I had my wits about me (having twice before in life been stolen from by ingeniously talented pickpockets) I could just feel something isn’t right but nothing seemed to be gone until I realised that it was … I suspect they pulled on my key string hoping that this would be attached to my wallet, which was right nearby but probably more difficult to clasp..

I am going off track entirely aren’t I?

Well, it ruined my day that’s all I say now. And it will cost me money I can only afford with great difficulty at a time when there isn’t enough to cover our essential costs.

What next?

I don’t know. How can we live here? I feel this is such a waste of time, except for my lovely German Students. But I feel there is so much struggle and putting things on hold and moving back and forth between housesitting and petsitting just to bridge the times in which we are unsure how to find adequate housing.. And really it feels like lunacy. EITHER we stay here and suck it up and option a) get some sort of office jobs where one pay check pays the cost of a room (seriously! That can’t be right) and the other person covers food.. or b) we buy a bus and live in that. But it is dangerous here.

I mean really dangerous. People are desperate and I don’t know what is going on but since arriving here 3 weeks ago (maybe less!) I heard of a 71 year old man being shot when a thief stole his camera on Twin Peaks, earlier this year apparently 2 other tourists got shot. Then they found a body on Bernal heights Park the other day! Then today 3 people got shot dead in Dolores Park, which is a neighbourhood – community park where hipsters and families go to hang out. It is almost always busy with people. 3 people just died there today. And there was another shooting today somewhere East of Golden Gate park, but near it, the person was only injured, luckily.

So I am literally too scared to take my camera out to take photos, which is so defeating the point of being here. I am meant to move my photography forward and create a business for myself. It all seemed like such low hanging fruit and then : puff.. Now I feel like such an idiot with all my camera gear here and I am literally NOT ever taking it out of the house.

I am not sure what to do right now. Stay here? I like my German Language classes a lot but where will we live? With a bunch of 20 year olds who are in all day play mode? I was, why shouldn’t they be? But it’s not where I am at right now.

How would we cover rent for a room for $1800, they pop up here and there, when employment here is easy come easy go, with no real securities?

Tell me, do you believe in me and think I can levitate here? 

Aka will I sink or will I float?

A part of me is already in a wild flurry and wondering if I should run as fast as I can before it all goes bad again.. Losing the key today made me feel like it was already going bad.. But then.. It’s 2 German lessons and I can pay for the lock to be replaced.. But then.. we needed that money for very basic living essentials..

Can I levitate here with so many weights dangling off me? 

Daring to embrace New Horizons

My partner Jason and I have lived a peripatetic, nomadic life, straddling the far western coast of California and the West Coast of Great Britain. Growing the roots of our relationship in an ever changing plant pot.

Our 8 year anniversary is coming up very soon. It will make exactly 8 years since our first kiss, under the grand finale of Venetian fireworks at the foot of one of the two famous columns on the even more famous St Marco Square. We could have no idea that from this one, unbelievably romantic moment so much happiness and struggle would emerge. Neither of us had any plans of spending 8 years in regular intercontinental movement, not spending one whole year in any one place. We only once managed to spend a completely uninterrupted 13 months together, for a seemingly endless number of years we survived long geographical breaks, the longest lasting 5 months, twice! (But then again, we also know of course we only had 8 total, so it can’t have been THAT many years.)

We needed a lot of patience, endurance, faith, stubbornness and perseverance to make it as far as we did. Not that being together is difficult at all but the real challenges are how to maintain any kind of career while subjected to the rules of immigration regulations. And just because we could technically stay in one country doesn’t always mean that the person having to leave it all behind is ready to do so yet.

Everybody always says: ‘Just make a choice’. ‘Are you not tired from all this moving around?” “Have you thought of staying in just one country?” .. well.. I won’t even begin to answer. I always have to hold back my inner lioness and snarky modes.. Duh, of course we would love to stop moving, but it isn’t always that easy!

But let’s backtrack!

8 years!

I am about to embark on a major expedition of facing my obstacles, moving countries requires untold courage as incidentally does ‘giving your dreams’.. They always make it sound oh, so, easy in those blogs and blogs and articles and motivational memes. But following a desire to be somebody specific, breaking into a career that doesn’t just work out ‘just because we are following our dream’, incredible amounts of daring and research and study make for a better chance of reaching set goals. But honestly, who has ever set up their own business!? Fair enough, when we were 20 and had no care in the world and effectively the world just winked at us and it was ok to not do things exactly properly, but that’s a different story isn’t it, once you reach your mid 30s, or let’s be honest, your 40s and beyond!

Of us it is expected that we do things ‘properly’, do business by the books, register the correct things with the correct offices, jump the paperwork hoops and in short be a grown up or face some serious financial consequences if we goof and ‘had no idea’ how accounting / filing taxes works. It’s somewhat unfair that people think that just because we are a little older we ought to somehow a) know what the hell we need to do and b) are any good at it.

When instead of socialising with friends you find yourself sitting at the computer spending 2 hours learning how to batch rename you image files, when you have another one of those ‘aha’ moments where you realise you just filed the last 5 years of images in a really stupid and difficult to process way! Knowing you are now an adult and better sort your mess out.

Hang on, what was I actually planning on telling you today!?

That’s it: I am moving to America. This time properly, or at least relatively properly: I’ll be getting my paperwork in order this time. All those things I have successfully avoided these past, nearly 8 years, of relationship with my American love bug! Getting my own bank account, sorting out a valid driving license so that I can finally get around a bit more independently without always having to wait for Jason to have some time off, maybe integrate into local life a whole lot more than I have done in the past and last but not least, because it is almost the most important: I have no choice anymore, I must find the courage to do what I love; even if I worry that I might not be good enough.

There will always be somebody more amazing than I. In the meantime I have skills to share and passion for projects to develop.

San Francisco, I am moving back. Just 7-10 more days. Not sure which day I will hop on the plane yet. Let’s see.

So very soon I will return to America!

I can’t quite believe just HOW soon I will return to living in America!

HOW did this happen? Remember back in the years before I met Jason? Back then I had just absolutely no interest in the Americas. And then whoosh, I got swept off my feet and piece by piece of me got slowly reeled in like a fish on a tasty worm-laden hook…

I am also completely hooked on the books by Isabelle Allende, many of which taking place in the early days of discovering and establishing life in South & North America. So many stories of immigrants, so many courageous women in the pages of her books!

And now, now I have a green card, now I am preparing to envision my life in America! I am still bewildered by it all. I know it’s been a slow and gradual process and maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I thought I’d just go visit, stay a little while, go back to Europe and that would be it. Little did I realise that my engagement with America was to gradually deepen and grow. Whatever will be next? Will I one day call myself American even!? I never had that intention, it just sort of happened..

Our plans are not fixed, we are still in flux, the place where I keep my belongings in Liverpool is still FULL of my things, no matter how much I sell, it seems that always MORE and more things still emerge and I can hardly tell the progress made so far in shedding surplus possessions.

Maybe it isn’t helping that I am still buying books! This book by Arundhati Roy is next on my list.. But then I keep making excuses.. ah it’s only a book.. That will fit on the bookshelf, it won’t take much space in the suitcase,… right?

Transferwise surprised me today

Have you heard of TRANSFERWISE ? It is a company set up by two EU citizens who lived in London to make international financial life easier (so relevant for people like me who have an intercontinental romance and work on 3 continents!). Those guys got annoyed with the high cost of sending money home.
So they set up a company that allows us to send money using a true exchange rate. Not those appealing looking great exchange rates that then however come with high service costs, nor those free transfers that come with terrible exchange rates. After some time of using Transferwise I found that I consistently save money over using Paypal or bank transfers.
Anyhow, I should tell you about them in a separate post, because right now I don’t have the time to go into it, but I’ll write a post to tell you about my signing up process and what I needed to do to sign up for the just launched BORDERLESS ACCOUNT. (Sorry about the capitals, it’s just super exciting to me!) The process was easy but I’ll talk you through my experience anyway, in case you are unsure and it helps you.
But now to the lovely touch I experienced while dealing with Transferwise
…Today I received a personal email from one of the advisers at Transferwise letting me know that they not only verified my identity and allowing me full use of my brand new borderless bank account but also included a personal message letting me know that they had a look at my art work and enjoyed ‘Dungbeetle and Sisyphus’ as well as the more whimsical illustrations of sheep portraits.. The woman who wrote to me is lovely!
I think I 💕 this company already! Her message left me with a giant smile on my face. Excuse me while I herd up all my friends to let them know just how good the service so far has been!
yay!
FIRST TRANSFER FREE!
If you use the link below to sign up with them then you get the first transfer free of charge.
 
I price compared yesterday :
if you are sending over $120 anywhere in the world then you will save money compared to any other form of money transfer that I know of. If you are only sending £50 once in your life it may not be worth it, but on £100, that’s about $120, you will save money and it is very worth signing up for!
 
I thought I better confirm that I am not sponsored by them, I just REALLY like the idea of this company AND they customer service so far has had a personal touch. Of course that will be hard to maintain as they grow and expand, but what a good way to start a new bank account! 

*If you use my referral links: As a first time user of some of the platforms you will save some money and simultaneously benefit me. Sharing links like this is called affiliate links. I get a bonus from the company that I share with you. I will only ever share a service / company that I use myself, benefit from and trust.

 

My art work that Transferwise enjoyed.

The world needs delicious snacks

This is one of the most tasty and simultaneously outrageously healthy snack treats that I have ever made. And here are the necessary ingredients:

• nuts (any nuts, mixed is great, with pecans is fantastic) – lightly toasted (if you have the patience)

• dates (pre-soaked in hot water is fantastic, but if they are medjool dates or other soft types then don’t worry too much about soaking, but have some warm water to hand to help loosen the mixture as needed)

• ground green cardamom (unless you don’t like it, then skip it)

if you like: ground nutmeg, cinnamon, chilli, perhaps you are a fan of aniseed?

• the all important HIGH QUALITY 100% coco powder (not the one that has dairy mixed in with it if you can avoid it, but in the end: take what you can find) This Organic Fairtrade Cocoa Powder by Green and Blacks is the one that I use because it is both organic and fair trade, but the company has been bought out and if you can find something more ethical than this then that would be fantastic!

If you like: grated coconut flakes

• Grind the nuts: either in an Electric Coffee Grinder, a pestle and mortar or crush them layered between sheets of baking paper (and a towel over that) with a rolling pin (may get messy but don’t let that intimidate you)

• Mix the dates with a little water to form a paste

• Mix this paste with the crushed / ground nuts & a couple of tablespoons of coco powder (“don’t skimp, don’t be a shrimp”, as Jason likes to say) and the spices you decided to use to form a doughy consistency. Add more coco as desired.

• When you are able to wrestle the paste / dough into ball shapes you a re ready to roll them in a layer of coco powered or if you like you can roll them in finely shredded coconut flakes for variation; but coco powder is simply the best! Just sprinkle some coco powder generously onto a flat plate and roll each nut ball in the coco.

• Then they are ready to be set aside in the fridge to set a little and store as long as you can resist eating them.

ENJOY

Q: How much should I grind/crush the nuts? Experiment: however you like really, but small enough for them to allow themselves to be formed into ball or brownie shapes.

 

( Nutritious Brownie – Coco – Truffle – Snack – balls )

(If you see an advert below this line then this is not from me, I am currently using a budget version of the wordpress service, and it can be that they occasionally add adverts to the bottom of my posts. Could you let me know if you see these and if they are bothering you? I may consider upgrading my account some time and then there will not be any more adverts. I can never see if there will or won’t be an advert, so your help in letting me know will be really appreciated))

 

What I read this month / Bookclub #1

Just a quick recommendation. Yes, you guessed it, I will include an affiliate link, but sincerely these books were amazing and I would love you to enjoy them, too.

A couple of weeks ago I read Isabelle Allende’s The House Of The Spirits and  The Japanese Lover. Both books gripped me and I couldn’t put them down. I didn’t realise until I had already read Portrait in Sepia that this in fact was the last in a series of books by Isabelle Allende, books which quietly referred to each other once in a while, with extended families and acquaintances who sometimes reappeared in the sidelines in one book or another. The order I should have read them in apparently was as follows:

1 – The House Of The Spirits

2 – Daughter of Fortune (Oprah’s Book Club)

3 – Portrait in Sepia

I read these books in reverse order and that worked out just beautifully for me. I feel that reading them in this order gave me the discipline and patience to read The House of Spirits all the way through, it required some more of my attention and resolve to complete. Not because it was lacking in content but maybe because I sometimes missed fragments, it seemed like a mean editor stole small sections of the story from the writer. The book covers the lifetime of it’s key protagonists, not all reach the end.

When I finished The House Of The Spirits I needed more and finally just gave into temptation and bought The Japanese Lover, which was just so, so, so much to brief. What will I do now? Has Isabelle Allende written more books since The Japanese Lover ? I really hope that she did. But I know that there are a few more in the back catalogue for me to enjoy, hide in bed for as many days as each one requires to complete reading. Oh and then every time the eagerness to reach the next page, only matched by the anxiety that one of these pages will be the last.. It’s somehow like life. Always so impatient to reach the next moment, sometimes missing this one or the one before due to rushing to much.. And then one day there won’t be more moments and won’t we then wish we had lingered a little more?

Lingering is something that is really hard for me at the moment. I have little alone time, little absolute privacy, I share my life with my (utterly and completely) wonderful partner and while I wish for a little more solitude I again am missing a moment that should be pleasure, should be savoured, who knows what tomorrow will bring? It is so very hard to yield to the moment and be just here, not anywhere else.

What will I read next?

P.s. If you purchase any of these books after clicking to Amazon then I will receive between 1-4% as a referral fee, it will not cost you any more than the standard price.

USA links as promised:

1 – The House of the Spirits

2 – Daughter of Fortune

3 – There seems to be no US / Amazon link for A Portrait in Sepia, which is a tragedy! You MUST try and read this wonderful book!

4 – the latest book I read: The Japanese Lover

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