The pursuit of happiness

Henry Ford

“Happiness is the art of never holding in your mind the memory of any unpleasant thing that has passed.” ( Unknown)

Celebrating 1 year living in Brazil, one of my dearest dreams, I gave a thought about the pursuit of happiness – which led me to where I am today.

You may say I am a dreamer, you may think I am futile or that I live in a world wearing pink glasses … I am OK with it. I won’t stop believing that as much as everyone has the right to freedom, we all have the right to be happy.

As easy as it may sound or as it is to say, happiness may though not be so easily reachable. Proof of this, is that  hundreds of articles distilling advice on how to be happy are released daily on the internet.

I am though so thankful because most of my family, friends and entourage are overall happy and content with their life. However, our appreciation of happiness, our ability to feel happy, and our belief that we truly deserve to be happy will vary throughout our lives.

Even if thankfully – little is required to be happy, there may be projects and prospects of happiness that will be harder to reach as we live.

There will be days where you feel like walking on clouds, with a light mind and a light heart, yet there will be days when you will be stuck and feel that you can’t take it anymore, and that you cannot get or deserve what you are dreaming about. That is for those days that I am writing this, should you ever need something to get you out of struggles.

Whenever you doubt about your right to be happy, whenever you lie in bed eyes opened looking at the ceiling, lost in thoughts. Whenever you ask yourself if you deserve what is happening to you, whenever you wrongly tell yourself “enjoy what is happening now because it is not going to last” or “you are not deserving what is happening to you” or “why should you get to experience such a nice life when other people are suffering”.

Whenever such thoughts ever come to your mind, I want you to remember that you are entitled to happiness and that you are the only one who can make it happen.

It will require energy, risks taking, and in some instances battling, but you can make it. Battles does not mean fighting or being mean, and it does not require to hurt others, but it surely means standing up for your cause – always respecting others, and yourself.

There will be times when, as you are about to reach your goal, you may suddenly feel like being at the edge of a cliff, paralyzed and afraid of making one more step forward. Be brave enough, it will pass.

Nowadays, one of the most common reasons for people not being happy or not being as happy as they truly deserve is the weight of their past. We are surely the results of situations and choices made in the past, and even if we cannot erase them from our personal history, nothing and no one is allowed to hold this past against us nor hold us back from being happy TODAY, TOMORROW, because of what happened yesterday.

We are not defined by our past, but we are who we are because of it. 

There will be doubts, there will be fears, there will be ghosts of the past, there will be people “knocking at the door of your conscious”. It is up to you to decide if you want to let them in.

There will be jealous, lost or sad people trying to influence or discourage you from getting what you want and being where you want. No doubts about it… but I would just tell them to go and love themselves and help them getting out of the negative spiral they may be caught in. Though do not let them make you walk away from what is yours, especially because happiness is positively contagious.

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
Buddha

Eventually what Henry Ford said is very applicable to this theme … ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” – Art Williams

Happy Bastille day France

 

Lampion

The national day in France is on July 14th : Bastille Day. The celebration of Bastille day consists in having a Firework and the Firemen dance ball, and every town in the country would have its own. Some are nice, some are as kitsch as possible, but in the end, it is a nice opportunity to get outside and have fun.

As I grew up, I used to go the Bastille days’ celebration almost every year. Even though I enjoyed it, I never really paid extra attention to the event as it was kind of a tradition, almost a routine. As I started working 4 years ago, I did not have the opportunity to go to the celebration. The first 2 years without going were ok… I could live without it. The 2 other years were more painful, as I actually realized it was part of my “French DNA” to go and see the firework with my parents and enjoy that day in my country.

This year I was lucky enough to be free on July. I decided to book my ticket to attend the celebration in my hometown – and it was worth it as you’ll see later in the story. In June I called my parents over excited to let them know that this year we will celebrate together. In my hometown the celebration actually happen on the 13th at night, and consists in : a walk in the streets with , the parade of the firemen, the marching band of the village play on the main square of the village, and FINALLY the firework and the ball.

As the D day arrived, we got ready to attend the firework.

10:30 pm, the show started.  It was a really nice firework: lovely colors, music perfectly in sync with the show. The explosions always make me shiver. I love fireworks.

11:00 pm, the ball started.

I arrived in my hometown12 years ago, and every year since then the same band called “Square root” plays and makes people dance until the end of night. To be fairly honest, the singer sometimes struggles with the tunes or with the lyrics when is come to English songs (but it is so brave of them, and I do admired them when they started singing “In the Navy”….The beginning is not the easiest one for a non-English speaker J ) . I love the ball because there you see people from 2 years old up to 80 + on the dancing. All with very different styles (some with better than others. Though everything goes smoother after several beers.  

Midnight came through. Unlike Cinderella my car did not get transformed into a pumpkin…
Instead, a security guys started to be a bit sweaty as some people entered at the rear of the scene where the musician were, to “visit” the area and get closer to the handbags that were stored in the cloakroom.

00:05 am :  A van with 5 people drove toward the city hall, and stopped. As nobody was allowed to drive in there, the guys started to wonder what would happen then. It was a “false alert”. A 40 + woman got outside of the van, to pick her daughters up.  False alert.

00:15 am :  A new guest joined the party, as a car of policemen arrived to drive around the city and ensure everything was alright.

Meanwhile, the musicians were on fire , playing “Satisfaction”, “Waterloo” and many other hits.That was quite rock ’n’ roll Bastille Day celebration.

After all that I thought it would be over for the day. I THOUGHT.

00:30 am, my parents and I took the car to head back home. A girl in front of us was not walking very still, but despite it, she got into her car. After driving over 200 meters, she ended up driving on the left side of the road (we drive on the right in France). At that point, we knew that she probably did not drink Coke all night long. This was confirmed when we saw the car leaving the main road to drive on the sand path through corn fields, probably to avoid being caught by the policemen. Bold initiative but not sure if this was be a successful one. We shall see.

What to say after such an animated night. The 2013 Bastille Day celebrations were extremely fun this year. As critical and tough I can be toward my country and the people, it felt good to be able to celebrate the national day in France. Special thanks to my parents for coming with me and making me have such a great time. Looking forward to the next one !

The picture come from the site: http://www.tourisme-en-sarthe.com 
It is a picture of the “lights” we walk with in the streets during the celebration of Bastille Day.

Cooking healthy food : demystifying the myths (2)

Avocado SaladSo how do you feel after eating that fresh homemade Tzatziki? I bet you feel amazing, and you already start feeling the Pamela Anderson (Or Justin Beiber for you gentlemen) growing in you….

As I am very nice, and want to be part of your “transformation”, here is another 5 minutes healthy and tasty recipe: Spinach & avocado salad.

On a more serious note, I am sure some of you experienced the same as I did when growing up: having to eat disgusting mushy soggy spinach at the canteen. (The cook would keep on staring at me and doing dark eyes until I finish the last leave in the plate). Yikes. I can still feel the iron after taste… You know that delicious taste you get when the vegetables have come directly out of the can! Later on, I realized that spinach are actually very good, and can be also eaten fresh (like the recipe I am giving you today). I also realized that eating spinach would not make me have the same arms as Popeye, and I will then have to go to the body pump class on a weekly basis…

You can eat the salad for a light dinner or as a side to a white grilled meat for instance.

Recipe for 2 servings :

2 big handfuls of fresh Spinach leaves,
1 avocado,
1 tomato,
Half a red onion,
1 table spoon of sliced almonds,
The juice of half a lime,
Olive oil, balsamic vinegar,

Turn on the oven, heat at 180◦ Celsius. When hot, spread the almonds in a tray and let them roast for few minutes in the oven until they get a nice light brown color. When done, take them off the oven and let cool down.

Wash the spinach leaves. Dry them with kitchen roll.

Slice the avocado and the tomato..
Slice very thinly the red onion with a mandolin; roughly 2 mm thick.

In a salad bowl, put the spinach leaves. Add the tomato, the avocado and the lime juice.

In a bowl, mix 3 table spoon of olive oil with 1 table spoon or balsamic vinegar. Add a bit of salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Mix.

Drizzle the salad with vinaigrette and toss to coat (quantity of vinaigrette depends on your taste…).

Serve immediately with a slice of toasted sourdough.

Ta-da !

Unfortunately the picture is not mine as I did not think about taking a pic of the salad when I was done… but at least there is Spinach and avocado on it 🙂

The picture is from this website: http://www.heatherlikesfood.com

Cooking healthy food : demystifying the myths (1)

Tzatziki

As soon as Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are over, our favorite magazines, TV shows and internet sites release their first subject of the year: how to look like a mermaid (or a body builder for you gentlemen) for the next summer holidays. By that, you need to read : how to get rid off the muffin top you got last winter after eating jars of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream while watching the full seasons of “Downton Abbey”, you little lazy and weak creature ! I won’t mention the turkey, Christmas cakes, chocolates and other delicatessen you got between Thanksgiving and December 31st. 🙂

Golden rule for this challenge: If you want that amazing body, you will have to eat healthy. Ban all processed foods, cook fresh and tasteful home-made recipes. To help you, a team of nutritionists put recipes together. At that point in time, you are super excited and already see yourself wearing that amazing red bikini, highlighting your nice curves, running on the beach like Pamela Anderson (and you gents, proudly showing your 6 packs, and smiling with the brightest smile ever, ready to make all the chicks on the beach fall in love with you.)

HUM … Well… this was before you and I check the ingredients required to cook those healthy meals! After that, the mermaid/surfer look vanished and became a mirage.

SERIOUSLY, who has at home and ready to be used: chestnut flour, Jamaica pepper, purple potatoes or donkey milk ?

Do you really think that the supermarket at the corner of the street I live sells black tomatoes?

Do I look like a girl who can eat cabbage soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

And you reader, do you have time to cook a delicious home-made fresh spring roll, with a papaya salad when coming back home after an 8 hours working day ? 😉

If you can find and/or do all of the above, I admire you ! On my side, I decided to try easier recipes that require “boring” ingredients (just kidding), because tt is time to Demystify the myths of healthy food recipes. Last week I had the opportunity to try 3 recipes that were very easy and tasty. I thought I would share them with you.

The first one I am going to share with you is the Tzatziki. It is a Greek recipe, made of Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic and fresh mint. It takes literally 10 minutes to do.(The other recipes will follow in future posts)

For roughly 4 people (as a starter, or 2 people for a light dinner) , you will need :

450 grams of Greek Yogurt,
1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and grated
2 to 3 cloves of garlic crushed,
2 table spoons of fresh chopped mint,
2 table spoons of Olive oil,
The juice of half a lemon,
Salt, pepper and smoked paprika (optional, only if you like spices)

1. Wash the cucumber, peel it and deseed it. Grated it to have very thin slices (almost about to melt in a mouthful). Place the cucumber in a sieve and sprinkle with salt. Set aside and allow the juices to escape.

2. Mix the yoghurt, cucumber and mint. Add the garlic, lemon and olive oil to the mix. Season with pepper. Garnish with mint and smoked paprika before serving.

Tzatziki is better when served chilled. Do not hesitate to keep it in the fridge. Sometimes it is even better the day after as all the ingredients infused in the yogurt. I served it with some toasted sourdough bread slices with a dash of olive oil on top.

PS : In all honesty, I am kidding, I am very happy about the food I got over winter, and would not starve myself just because I want to look good in a suite… instead I go to the gym so I can enjoy good food, but remain and look healthy.

The picture in the post comes from the site “Food people want”. http://www.foodpeoplewant.com