blogging, Finland, nature, reading, travel, well-being

Sunshine Blogger Award

The Sunshine Blogger Award is peer recognition for bloggers that inspire positivity and joy.

Thank you Wendy! Happy Midsummer πŸŒΏβ˜€οΈ from the Northern hemisphere!

My heart is warmed and confidence boosted by this award for which I was nominated by my wonderful fellow blogger and author! You can find her inspirational and fun blog here: Wendy Megget

I was so flattered to receive this award at such early stages of blogging! The timing was perfect to lift my spirits, as I hadn’t been on wordpress for quite a while since my last post. I had to take care of some loose ends in the UK, so flew out for a brief and busy visit. Then the headache that had started there turned into a very long migraine after I returned home to Holland. I felt a bit down as I had only recently started my blog and then had to take to my bed with curtains drawn, so couldn’t keep up the momentum as I’d hoped. I’m back online now though and eager to start writing again by answering Wendy’s questions!

The Rules are:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post/or on your blog.

Below you will see my attempts to answer Wendy’s questions:

1. Who is your loudest cheerleader?

It used to be my grandma, but now she is 95 and her dementia has gotten worse, so she isn’t quite the same although she tries ❀️ Now I would say my husband offers the most encouragement and seems to think I’m capable of almost anything I put my mind to, even though I’m quite aware that I’m not πŸ˜‚ It’s nice though that he has faith in me. Funnily enough I wouldn’t call either my grandmother or husband ‘loud cheerleaders’, as they are both typically quiet Finnish people 😊 Despite being less vivacious with their praise, what they do say in their typically calm way, I believe is heart felt.

2. What was your first pet?

My very first pet was a tiny golden hamster who I loved dearly as a little girl. In fact my love for it was so deep that when it came to the end of it’s short life, I was inconsolable and cried all night. The next day my mum let me stay home from school, as I hadn’t slept much. I remember that we had a little funeral for him with my little brothers and mother. I even made  a small head-stone from a pebble and we buried him in a tissue box under the apple tree in the back garden. Although this was many years ago I think I remember it so vividly because it was the first death I’d experienced (albeit of a tiny little pet).

3. Where is the most breath-taking place you have ever been?

This is difficult!!! Several places came to mind for very different reasons… Sorry I’m struggling to choose, so I’ll mention two πŸ˜‰

One of my favourite places is Lake Como, which is a glacial Alpine lake and third largest in Italy. It is just gorgeous and sumptuous with the back drop of mountains and the clear sparkling lake surrounded by elegant, although sometimes slightly run down villas. As a place Como just exudes history and effortless glamour, but also relaxation. You can still find peaceful places to dine and admire the beautiful scenery. It is, however, wise to avoid peak season due to tourists and traffic as the Como area is understandably very popular. Photo from Bellagio which is a beautiful little town on Lake Como

This is from Northern Lake Como where it’s windier so sailing and windsurfing is very popular

The second place very close to my heart is actually in Finland where you can still find unspoilt nature. I have spent many happy summers of childhood in the archipelago of Kustavi and have arranged three-week long holidays there more recently too. The longer stays I think really allow us to put work out of mind and fully de-stress. This level of peace and natural beauty is no longer easy to find in Europe. I just love the forests and islands and feel so lucky to go back there to recharge my batteries as often as I can. I don’t think we can overestimate the therapeutic effects of this type of ‘quiet’, which is truly void of most man made noise.πŸ’š

This is a photo from the top of a bedrock hill on a tiny island in Kustavi looking out over further islands of the archipelago on a windless day.

This is from a boat ride in the archipelago

4. If you were going to be stuck on a deserted island with one book to read for years on end, what book would you take?

If I were to be practical, I would take a functional medicine and nutrition manual to help me stay healthy while I have no access to health-care!

If, however, I were to take a book that is dear to me I would take Tove Jansson’s Summer Book. This is a lovely, little and simple but deep book written in a very descriptive and mindful way.  If allowed I would take both the English and Finnish versions just to make sure I keep my two important languages active while in isolation. πŸ˜‰

5. What is your favourite appliance or tool?

My immersion and normal blenders are very important, as I make lots of smoothies, soups, pesto, humous, nut & bean pastes! The immersion blender will actually come on holidays with me, as I’m lost without. Often holiday rental kitchens are poorly equipped, but I want to ensure I can enjoy  cooking using local produce.

6. What is your favourite dessert?

This question is soo tough, as my response is dependant on mood and season (and how virtuous I’m feeling πŸ˜‰)! So at the moment I’m loving Strawberries. Even though the season started quite a while ago in the Netherlands, I’m definitely not fed-up yet! I love Britakakku a traditional Finnish summer cake usually made with strawberries. It’s a messy looking casual cake (often the best kind I think), which has alternating layers of delicate sponge, whipped cream, merengue and strawberries sprinkled with lightly toasted almond flakes. It is delicious! I try not to eat too much sugar and have problems with lactose, so I make this as a treat perhaps once a season, otherwise I just enjoy abundant strawberries as they are! I usually make this with lactose free organic cream and unbleached sugar. If I don’t feel like baking then Eton Mess is my go-to easy English dessert, which is basically the same as Britakakku minus the cake and even messier πŸ˜‚  I believe it’s definitely good to have treats sometimes! πŸ“

Above picture is from a popular Finnish cake blog called Taikakakut as I didn’t have a picture of my own and wanted you to see what I meant by Britakakku!

7. What was the most embarrassing moment of your life?

I have several that are too embarrassing to share in public. I’ll mention one which is in-line with a generally recurring theme for me: public speaking and presentations. I’ve had many presentations throughout life. They’re unavoidable when you do a PhD or apply for positions, but they definitely take me out of my comfort zone. One example was in my final year of high-school in Finland, when we had to give a presentation in Finnish class and the teacher chose to use a strange and ‘cruel’ format. We were asked to all stand in a circle with each student taking turns standing alone in the middle and giving their presentation with no notes. It was terrible! I completely froze like a rabbit in headlights and could barely remember my name. I remember hoping to never ever again see any of the other students from that course  afterwards!

8. What is the closest you’ve come to being famous?

I’ve never gotten very close to being famous… The only thing I can think of is that my PhD is printed and available in the British National Library, but that I understand is the norm for a successful PhD thesis. Oh, and the only other thing I can think of is from when I was about 16 and participated in a fashion-show which was televised πŸ˜‚ The silly things we do when young! So all in all fame has pretty much evaded me and as an introvert I’ve never actively pursued it.

9. What is the strangest thing you’ve done?

Well, in addition to the above mentioned fashion show?! πŸ˜‚

10. What is your most precious possession?

My home (co-owned with my husband & the bank πŸ˜‰) is important to me, wherever it is at any given moment. As I mentioned above, I’m an introvert and also a homebody. According to the ‘a homebody is a person who enjoys the warmth and simple pleasures of being at home’. That’s me – I love nesting! My first priority when I move is to create a sanctuary, which I can use as a base to explore my new surroundings and recharge my batteries when I feel tired and depleted from all the new experiences in new environments or new countries. 

11. What is your favourite emoticon and why?

🌿This is my current favourite! I think it’s because I’m really finding nature so healing right now, even more so than before. It may be because I spent the past few years living in big cities. Even though Amsterdam is a very beautiful city and has pretty parks, it’s extremely busy and the population density is high. There are so many people on the narrow streets and canals either on bikes, foot or boats. Extreme tourism adds to the pressure the city is under, but it’s understandable why people want to visit! Prior to that I lived in Wiesbaden in Germany, which is also pretty and although not as big nor as populated as Amsterdam, there are too many cars in my opinion. Germans absolutely love their cars! I hated this, as not only does it make it noisy if you live anywhere near the busy roads (and I did), it also made it more polluted. Now I live in a little village not far from Amsterdam surrounded by nature. Each day I feel so grateful for the woods, lakes & heathland on my doorstep. 

So now it’s my turn to nominate some blogs I really like! I think some may already have received this award, but you are still on my list because you have brought me joy and I would love to hear your responses to my questions (but no pressure). The blogs below vary in content, but what they do have in common is that they bring me joy and inspiration!

Julie Krupp

Improve My Wellbeing

Kirsteen Titchener

Love my Sprouts

My Scandinavian Home

Dream a Little Green with Me

The Wellbeing Blogger

The Manhattan Food Project

Kirsin Book Club

I realise that some of you may not participate in awards, so there is no pressure to join in 😊

I have 11 Questions for my nominees:

  1.  What are you the most grateful for?
  2. If money were not a restriction, where would you live?
  3. Would you choose to have two (or several) homes if you could? Where and why?
  4. What country would you like to travel to next?
  5. Which room in your house is most important to you?
  6. What is your favourite meal to cook at home?
  7. What is your favourite literary genre and/or specific book(s)?
  8. What do you do to recharge your batteries if you’ve had a tough day?
  9. What is your favourite outdoor pursuit?
  10. What do you do to stay healthy?
  11. Do you have a spiritual practice? If you do, can you describe it? 

bibliotherapy, psychology, reading, self-help, well-being

Reading therapy

Over the years I’ve often recommended books as support for psychotherapy sessions. In fact, sometimes when problems are not too severe, books can provide sufficient support with no need for one-to-one therapy! A few years ago The New Yorker wrote an article about ‘Bibliotherapy’, which they defined as ‘a very broad term for the ancient practice of encouraging reading for therapeutic effect’. There are a broad variety of self-help books out there written by mental health professionals, which many of my patients have found very helpful. Actually, when I worked in England, the local library services stocked books that we recommended. This was wonderful, as it wasn’t necessary for people to buy the books and it allowed them to try them before investing their hard earned cash. So books ‘on prescription’ is a real thing, whether it has been set up with libraries or not! I plan to collate a list of therapeutic books onto my website, which I know many of my patients have found helpful.

Truth be told, books can be very beneficial to our well-being even if they aren’t purposely written as therapeutic resources. I’ve loved reading ever since I was a little girl and it really did allow me to gain perspectives and experiences, that I wouldn’t have had otherwise and I found this incredibly supportive and comforting. For instance, a good novel can offer us a break even if things are a bit stressful in our lives. A good story can even provide us with one of the least expensive holidays to be found! They can take us to far away lands or allow us to even time-travel by providing portals to a past world or an unknown future. How else could we experience an eighteenth century parlour, where sputtering candles and crackling firewood are the only sounds we hear?

Books can put us into the shoes of others and provide new perspectives. By immersing ourselves into the lives of characters, we gain experiences our own lives would otherwise not provide us with. Different world views become more familiar to us, which allows us to develop a more flexible thinking style. Good books can even help us understand ourselves and our own feelings better. They can help us name and understand emotions that we are struggling with, but cannot quite decipher. The characters of a story can hold mirrors up to us, which may help us clarify issues about our own identities. By delving into the hearts & souls of the characters we meet, we can even find ways to manage difficulties and solve problems in our lives. Stepping into the shoes of a character for the span of a book, can even enhance our ability to empathise with others in the ‘real world’. Finally, when we read about characters going through things we relate to, we’re reminded that we are not alone. This can help alleviate feelings of isolation, reduce distress and lift our mood. So it’s clear that books can be powerful tools for cultivating our well-being and therefore it’s important to choose wisely!!

Please don’t be put off the idea of books even if you have trouble reading, or have been diagnosed with dyslexia. There are so many wonderful audiobooks available today that we are spoilt for choice! In fact I enjoy text AND audiobooks for different reasons. I like winding down before sleep with a good ‘old-fashioned’ paper book, if I’m commuting an audiobook can help me shake off the dust of my work-day and I sometimes use the Kindle app on my laptop if I’m on vacation. My taste for books is very broad, from historical novels to science fiction, autobiographies and health/science books to mystery and detective novels! What types of books do you enjoy reading? Or do you have a book you’ve found especially helpful?