Surf The Wave

I went to a job networking event a few weeks ago. I’m constantly scouring the interwebs for inspiring graduation speeches and quotes by people who have figured out the answers to some of life’s questions, and I wasn’t expecting anything to register.

It was one of those rare perfect warm Spring days in London, and all I could think about was how much I wanted to be outdoors enjoying the weather. I’ve turned into a sunflower since I’ve moved to London and nothing breaks my heart like a sunny day spent indoors. But it only took three small words for my attention to snap into focus, as if I knew exactly what I needed to hear and why it mattered so much:

Surf the wave.

I’m a dreamer and a hopeless romantic, so my expectations for everything from a night out to a weekend getaway are always sky high. I think a lot, so I know what I want, what I like, what I need. (Or so I thought.) I’m stubborn and determined – once I’ve set a goal for myself, I will see it through. Nothing usually deters me. I like surprises, but overall I’ve never expected people or life to have anything in store that I couldn’t predict myself.

But that lovely speaker told this group of people randomly assembled on an impossibly hot Monday that whenever life throws anything at us, we should learn to surf the wave and embrace change, whether external or internal. He told us to surf the wave and we would be surprised at what could happen if we did.

And you know what? His advice rang more true with me than any of those fancy graduation speeches.

My life has undergone major sea changes in the last two years. I can now say with certainty that I was wrong in my insistence that life could not surprise me. I was wrong about people, about myself, about the world and what it has in store for me. I thought I knew what career I wanted, which country I wanted to live in, whether I wanted a relationship or not, how to judge if I could be friends with someone, or how I liked spending my free time.

I was wrong about everything.

Well, actually, l take that back: everything I thought to be set in stone in my life changed, and so did I in the process.

Choices are fickle creatures anyways, and you have to keep making them every day. So when opportunities arise and a door appears out of thin air, you have to open your eyes and step through it. Safety not guaranteed, but you can’t stand still forever. It takes more courage to try something new than to keep to the path you thought made more sense. So down the rabbit hole you go, but who knows what wonders you’ll encounter along the way?

I’ve always been a bit scared of people. When I start thinking that every single person I meet is as complex an individual as I am, my brain short-circuits. Everyone is a world of feelings, experiences, cultures, insecurities, wants, needs, joy, pain, ecstasy. It’s overwhelming. So I put people in boxes. I make up my mind fairly quickly and make an assessment so I can decide what kind of person someone is, whether they can be my friend and whether I like them or not. I need to break people down to two dimensions just so my brain and heart can process who they are. If I saw everyone as three-dimensional beings like in my favorite books and shows, I’m pretty sure I would curl up in a ball like Buffy in the empathy episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

I met someone I thought I might not like last year. We were often at odds and I always felt on edge around them. I thought we could not be more different. My journal knows all about what’s happened to change my mind since, but I don’t plan on broadcasting the details online, so you get the short version of this: this person is now one of my best friends. Someone who’s changed me and how I see myself and the kind of life I want. I want to go back in time and shake myself into reason sooner, but then I guess I would miss out on the amazing journey this friendship has taken me on.

The best surprise for me has been that through this person, I’ve discovered more about myself. Seeing your defense mechanism reflected in someone else will wholly transform how you see yourself. I thought I would never be a relationship girl, but I’m only now coming to terms that I want one just as much as everyone else, and that’s okay.

My longest relationship to date has been with a country. I fell in love at 15 and the affair lasted until the summer of my 24th year, when I came home with my entire life packed up in three suitcases and my heart torn into a million pieces. I didn’t think I could be happy anywhere else. I was wrong about that too. I’ve fallen utterly, completely, ridiculously in love with London and England, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than I am today. This city makes my heart swell. The fact that I never saw this coming? It makes it even better. I revel in this love because it’s the best kind – the one that takes you by surprise, changes you for the better and still allows you to be yourself.

And so now I want to surf. I feel ready for whatever life throws at me because I’ve been through so much and come out stronger, better — different but happier.

So, yes, surf the wave – you’ll have to come up from underwater to catch your breath, you’ll be knocked off the surfboard a few times and struggle under the weight of an endless body of water… but ultimately, the only way to keep going will be try again until you ride that freaking wave to your happy place.

Balsamic Tomatoes and Ricotta Pizza with Cheese-Filled Crust (Including Dough) – Recipe

Balsamic Tomatoes and Ricotta Pizza with Cheese-Filled Crush (Including Dough) - Recipe

I woke up a few weeks ago and decided that I was going to cook something fancy. My inexistent food budget could go to hell – whatever came out of my kitchen that day would be pretty and yummy.

It all started with a pack of 6 small, scrawny tomatoes worth .69p from my local Tesco, and the fresh feta calling my name from its lonely shelf on the fridge.

This is also the start of my great love story of 2014: semolina.

Balsamic Tomatoes and Ricotta Pizza with Cheese-Filled Crust

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
6 small or 4 medium tomatoes
1 onion
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
150g of crumbled feta cheese
50g of your cheese of choice (a strong cheddar or stilton will do) chopped into small pieces
Half a teaspoon of oregano
Half a teaspoon of thyme
Half a teaspoon of rosemary
1 pizza dough (recipe below)

Steps

  • Slice the tomatoes. Mix the olive oil with the balsamic vinegar and pour it over the tomatoes. Let them soak for 20 minutes, turning them over throughout to make sure the mixture soaks them evenly.
  • Chop the onion in small pieces. Heat some olive oil in a pan, and cook the onions until they go soft.
  • Set the pizza crust in a 9-inch mold. The dough must be an inch larger than the mold itself.
  • Spread your cheddar cheese around the edge of the mold, and fold the extra dough over it. Your crust is now stuffed.
  • Set the layer of onions on the dough, then set the tomato slices over them. Pour any extra olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes.
  • Sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese over the vegetables, followed by the herbs.
  • Cook for 30 to 40 minutes at 200C degrees.

 

Pizza Dough

Prep time: 2h30 
Serving: One (1) 23cm/9inch pizza

Ingredients:
125g of flour (white bread flour will yield better results, but your dough will still be delicious with regular flour)
125g of fine semolina
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 packet of instant dried yeast (or 3.5g)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
15cl of lukewarm water

Steps

  • Pour the yeast into 5cl of water and stir until well mixed.
  • Add in the olive oil and the rest of the water.
  • Mix the bread flour, the semolina and the salt in a large bowl.
  • Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour in the water, yeast and oil mixture.
  • Bring the flour in gradually from the sides into the liquid. When the mixture is homogeneous, use your flour-dusted hands to work the dough until it’s smooth and elastic.
  • C0ver the bowl with a damp cloth or kitchen towel, and let it rise for two hours. Ideally the sides of your bowl should be dusted in flour or olive oil to prevent the dough from sticking to the sides.
  • Your dough will double in size.

Marie’s Ricotta Torte – Recipe

Ricotta Torte

My grandma is turning 97 this year.

Growing up, she always cooked for my family. Couscous, vegetable and pasta bakes, yogurt cakes, pies, ravioli, tortes, you name it. We went to her apartment for family meals on special occasions, but oftentimes she would get up early and cook tons of food just so my dad could take it home to me and my siblings.

My sister, brother and I fought tooth and nail over the food. An uneven number of raviolis could start a civil war. If my brother took too long to come down to the kitchen for dinner, my sister and I would eat all the ravioli between the two of us and pretend there were never any when he eventually showed up at the table. (We were nice sisters otherwise. I promise.)

My grandma is such an amazing lady. Strong-headed, generous, kind, funny, loving. She’s the kind of person who offers her cleaning lady two coffees with a plate of cookies and fresh fruit every day.

The more I think about it, the more I realize my grandma is my hero. She lost two children and her husband, lived through a war that uprooted her to a different country and left behind a house with a fridge full of fresh groceries and linen hanging in the backyard, and yet she remained the nicest, warmest, most generous person you will ever meet.

She lost so much but kept on giving, always opening her heart to those around her.

My grandma is in relative good health for her age, but I know she’s not going to live forever. I’ve been thinking about my her legacy a lot lately. I’ve always liked cooking and baking, but it only became a huge part of my life in this past year. I’ve made her yogurt cake for years, but the rest of her recipes have remained shrouded in mystery for years — she always made things taste better somehow.

So I’ve given myself a challenge: I will learn how to make every recipe of hers so her cooking and baking lives on through me. I don’t care if it sounds pompous, because I might never get to do anything this important.

So without (any) further ado, here goes my grandma’s Ricotta Torte recipe.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 30-45 minutes

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 puff pastry crusts
  • 500g of Ricotta cheese
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 100g of parmesan
  • 1 small can of green peas, mashed

Steps:

  • Set one of the crusts at the bottom of the pie tin. I recommend using a deep 23cm pie tin. Otherwise, go for a large pie tin if possible, otherwise there will might be too much filling.
  • In a bowl,  mix the ricotta cheese, chopped parsley, eggs, parmesan and mashed green peas.
  • Spoon the mixture on top of the crust.
  • Place the remaining  crust on top of the mixture. Using your fingers, gel together the sides.
  • Using a pastry brush, gently cover the top crust with egg yolk. 
  • Cook for 45 minutes at 200C. (My oven is notorious for burning everything so 30 minutes was enough. When the crust looks cooked and evenly golden, you should be all good).

Veronica Mars, Movie and Co

I’m not gonna lie: my life has been a little messy lately.

But you know what has been cheering me up for weeks? Veronica Mars.

I’m not just saying that because the movie is coming out tomorrow. (Counting down the hours, me? I would never.)

The thing is, when the show ended in 2007, I never thought in a million years I would see my beloved characters again. So the fact the the moviegot made and exists against all odds? That makes me feel like dreams do come true. What more proof do I need, really?

Spanning years and continents… Epic.

Madeleines – Recipe

madeleine_edited.jpeg

I’m convinced this madeleine rivals with the ones from Proust’s childhood memory.

I’ve recently joined the ranks of the unemployed, but just because I don’t get up to go to work every morning doesn’t mean I can’t be productive.

I had a friend coming over for coffee and I thought these would be the perfect mid-afternoon treat. I now have my very own Madeleine-induced memory — a lovely afternoon of real conversation and culinary indulgence.

The recipe below comes from / is translated from this french recipe found on ChefNini.com – a daily source of inspiration and amazing recipes all around.

The magic secret for lovely, spongy madeleines is to swap 30g of butter for 30g of peanut butter. The original recipe calls for dipping them into chocolate — I wanted to enjoy the taste of the peanut butter so I skipped that part.

Yields: 8 big madeleines

Prep Time: 15 mins + 1 hour
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:
  • 1 egg
  • 75 g of granulated sugar
  • 85 g of flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 30 g of butter
  • 30 g of peanut butter

Instructions:

  • Whisk the egg and the sugar until the mixture whitens.
  • Pour the flour and baking powder into the egg and sugar mixture.
  • Melt the butter and incorporate it into the mixture. Add the peanut butter.
  • Leave the mixture in the fridge for an hour.
  • Spread butter on your mold. Sift flour on top. This will prevent the madeleines from sticking to the mold.
  • Spoon the mixtures in the mold. Cook for 15 minutes at 220C.

Priorities

When I was nineteen-year-old, I worked at a marketing agency full time for six months. I was studying business at the time, and marketing seemed like the cool, creative thing to do. Except I didn’t think much of what kind of product I would actually be marketing. I got stuck working on pet food coupons & holiday packaging, and let me tell you something: I am NOT an animal person.

I decided there and then that if I was going to work endless hours and spend the better part of my life stuck in an office, I needed to care about the product of my hard labor. And there came in my logic that since I’d watched more TV than any sane individual my age, I was meant to turn TV from a passion to a life ambition and pursue a job in TV.

It wasn’t bad reasoning per se. Just a little naive.

Fast-forward through the rest of my college education, a Masters in TV/Film Producing, and the last two years of my professional career.

I’m a grown up now. I’ve been on this planet for over a quarter of a century (this is how I make my age sound cool), I’ve moved continents twice, lived in five cities and three countries in seven years. I’ve worked over 60 hours a week and barely earned enough money to make rent. I’ve had an amazing work days where I’ve felt fulfilled and accomplished, like my life had a purpose.

Here’s the thing though. No job can replace a friend, a loved one, a family member, a significiant other, a week of vacation in a new country with your oldest friends. Pouring ALL your energy, hopes and dreams into a job is not healthy. I’m an all in kind of girl, and I didn’t know any better. I was eighteen when I got the idea that a job could and should be my whole life.

It shouldn’t.

Your life is your friends, your family, your loved ones, your new experiences, your night out until 5am speaking to random strangers, your sleepless nights reading a book, your horrible-tasting cupcakes, your favorite restaurant, your cheap flight home for the holidays, your roommates who became your family.

I used to think work should be my whole world. I realized I was wrong. Work isn’t my world anymore — it’s just part of it. A big one, albeit, and one that matters a whole lot. But it’s no longer the sun around which my entire universe revolves. I’m a lot happier for it.

Now there is space in my head for other interests, there’s energy in me for new passions and discoveries.

I’m open and ready. Life can come to me. Or better yet, I’ll chase it down myself.

Being Erika: TV review

beingerica

Being Erica is one of my Netflix miracles.

I was in the mood for something light and fun, and that’s how I stumbled into an amazing gem of a show.

Being Erica tells the story of thirty-year-old Erica whose life is a disaster, from her non-existent career to her messy love life.  She just got fired from her job at a call center when she meets Dr. Tom, who offers his help to her. Turns out Dr. Tom has the ability to send Erica back in time to change her deepest regrets. But in the end, the past doesn’t matter so much as the present: going back in time gives Erica a chance to learn about who she is and who wants to be in the present, and she slowly but surely builds a life for herself — the life she’s always wanted.

This show has so much heart, it burts at the seam of every episode. Where most dramas will skim over emotional issues and use cheap twists to excuse poor behavior, or grand gestures to pardon it, Being Erica digs at the heart of those issues to get the why and the how or human nature. Erica herself doesn’t know who she is when we first meet her, but that becomes clearer with every episode.

One of my favorite things about the show is that it’s not afraid of change, much like its main character. Every season of the show throws new challenges at Erica, and sees her embrace new loves and leave behind ones that no longer belong in her life.

I know it’s the way of Canadian shows, but I can’t believe I’d never heard of the show until I found it on Netflix. I already know I’ll be coming back to it many times in the future – when I need cheering up, when I need a good distraction, but also when I need to believe in myself again.