From the kitchen: Vegan coconut lime mousse

I bought silken tofu out of curiosity and was unsure how to prepare it. This recipe, from the German producer Taifun, sounded promising and simple, so I picked it and prepared small mousse jars:

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I used lemon instead of lime, and whipped the soy cream without stabiliser (if you don’t have it, use a small quantity of starch instead), and it tasted great. This jar is the last one of the six I made, and after a few days it was still firm and light.

I topped it with wild cherries in syrup (Amarene Fabbri):

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… and it vanished like magic 🙂

Stereoscopic vision (lack thereof)

I am reading Oliver Sacks’ “The Mind’s Eye” and I first want to say that I am fascinated and soothed by how Sacks talks about some of his patients – with humanity and empathy. It is difficult for me to explain how reassuring it feels to always be treated as a human being, who deserves respect and consideration: physical and mental issues can bend your life in unbearable ways, but the person, the “you”, should remain out of their reach.

(It sounds easy to say, and I feel I am not entitled to talk about it because on so many levels I am healthy and functioning; but as I have experienced how temporary malfunctions have hit me hard, I feel guilty for having been so weak, ungrateful and doubtful about my recovering potential, when others face permanent changes in their bodily abilities and fight so bravely.)

Back to the book. I started Chapter 5 “Stereo Sue” with expectation and curiosity. Sue (Susan R. Barry) grew up stereoblind without relevant difficulties, but at the age of forty her sight process worsened in a way that she seeked professional help, started vision therapy and surprisingly acquired stereo vision at 48 years of age – against all odds, because it was (is still?) commonly considered that stereo vision must be acquired within the first 3 years of life.

I was so touched by her story that I kept reading page after page, speechless, breathless. I cried when she described her old way of seeing the world and her former issues, because I recognised my daily life. Stereo blindness is not a rare condition: many people (5 to 10% of the population, according to Sacks) have grown up without acquiring stereo vision but developed a bunch of alternative ways of estimating depth and distance of the people and objects around them, and most live normal lives.

I am unsure of what to do. I must say that my stereo blindness interferes with several activities (driving a car, playing ball games are extremely difficult for me, among other things) but enhances others (drawing from real life is easier: I see it flat already, and I even guess how hard it is to draw for people who see in 3D!). However, I would hate to see myself as “in need to be fixed” and that stereo vision would bring me “closer to normal”. I am aware that I am missing a piece of functionality that most have, and that most make good use of, but I also feel that it’s not that crucial for me to get it too. I would hate to get stereo vision to get a step closer to how others perceive the world, just because my way of seeing the world couldn’t be understood.

Sacks himself lost stereo vision  after an operation to his right eye, and considered it a net loss of functionality – that his perception of the world was changed for the bad and the false – I understand his conclusions, but they are not mine; I have always functioned differently, and that should have equal dignity. I was grateful to Sacks for his admiration for all the clever workarounds that Sue was putting in place – he admired her ability to use other senses and ways to compensate for an ability that most people give for granted.

I want to let these thoughts simmer for a while. I am for sure excited to discover that it’s possible for me to gain stereo vision, but I want to think well about the motivations that would lead me on that path. In the meanwhile I keep sketching.

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From the kitchen: pumpkin slices and bread

Short post about my recent kitchen activities. Let me start with butternut squash slices:

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It’s a very simple recipe. Slice the squash in slices around half cm thick, sprinkle with salt, chili, nutmeg, thyme, oregano and oil, and bake at 170 degrees for around half an hour, or until the skin starts to wrinkle and the edges start to brown.

It is nice to cook a meal (or part of it) in the oven, because there is some preparation to do, but most of the time you are free from cooking duties, except from monitoring the oven very closely:

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And last, my bread #24, with the best crust so far:

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I baked it in a casserole dish, on top of an upturned casserole dish which stayed in the oven from the start and is therefore already hot. I think I’ll keep this setup, given its great results!

Ma fenĂȘtre sur la francophonie dans le monde – my window on French spoken around the world

[This is a double-language post, that starts with French.]

New-Map-Francophone World

J’ai rarement l’occasion de parler français Ă  Berlin, non par manque de compatriotes, ni d’Ă©vĂšnements en français, mais plutĂŽt par une sorte de timiditĂ©. Mon français Ă©crit se porte encore assez bien, mais je parle avec un accent belge/italien assez fort, et il m’arrive de chercher mes mots un peu trop souvent. J’ai pensĂ© de rafraĂźchir mon oreille en Ă©coutant de la radio par Internet, en forme de podcasts. La beautĂ© du français est sa grande diffusion dans le monde, ce qui m’expose Ă  diffĂ©rentes cultures et accents. Je partage ici ma petite liste de podcasts (que les Canadiens appellent joliment baladodiffusion):

J’aime Ă©couter les voix de Radio Canada, car elles me permettent d’imaginer mieux la vie de ce pays pour moi lointain, mais Ă©galement si proche grĂące Ă  la langue commune. Les problĂšmes sociaux et politiques ont des racines propres, complexes, que j’apprends Ă  voir en superposant les rĂ©cits des invitĂ©s comme les couches de peinture d’un immense tableau. Le mĂȘme m’arrive en Ă©coutant les histoires de PolynĂ©sie, terre de rĂȘve et de conquĂȘte pour qui vient de loin comme moi, mais terre des ancĂȘtres et de vie quotidienne pour ses habitants.

Écouter est mon Ă©cole de respect et d’attention. La radio est comme un livre vivant, oĂč les mots se suivent sans mon intervention. Ma tĂąche est de le suivre et de comprendre, sans pouvoir les arrĂȘter pour poser une question. La magie me prend quand je me sens comme un bout de bois dans le courant d’un fleuve, je vois ce que le fleuve voit, Ă  sa vitesse.


I have little chance to speak French in Berlin, not for lack of fellow speakers nor of events, but for some sort of shyness. My written French is still quite good, but when I speak I have this strong Belgian/Italian accent, and I have to stop a bit too often to search words. Therefore I decided to keep my ear trained by listening to French podcasts from around the world, in order to experience different cultures and accents. I share here my list of podcasts (that French Canadians nicely call baladodiffusion):

I like to listen to Radio Canada voices, because they allow me to better figure out how is life in that country, so remote for me, but also so near thanks to the common language. Social and political problems have their own complex roots, that I learn to see from the combination of the guests’ stories, that become combined like the pencil strokes of a massive painting. The same happens when I listen to stories from Polynesia, the land of dreams and conquest for someone who comes from far away like me, but the land of elders and of everyday life for its inhabitants.

Listening is my practice of respect and attention. The radio is like a live book, where words flow without my intervention. My task is to follow them and try to understand, without the chance to stop for a question. Magic grabs me when I feel like a log in a river’s current, I see what the river sees, at its same speed.

Landscapeito n.2

Landscapeito” is John Muir Law’s name for mini-landscape drawing (by adding the Spanish diminutive –ito). John succeeded in motivating me to draw more often, because this technique offers a few goals at my arm’s (or pencil’s) reach, but yet challenging enough to make them interesting. Even more important, his video gave me a lot of tips on how to spot mistakes myself, and how to avoid them in future drawings. I am so grateful that he has shared the mental paths that he uses during drawing, because it makes me confident that my own way can lead to better results.

So here is my second landscapeito:

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I liked his suggestion to start with only three levels of luminosity of a single color, before using the actual colors of the landscape. The first step is using a pencil and create three shades, from light to dark. I thought that it would be simpler if I used felt pens and chose three fixed shades of a single color – in this case, blue. So out I went and found a cute little corner near the river. I started with the lightest blue and used the two others in sequence. I took time to understand which shade to use for each area, and I am quite satisfied of this first attempt, even if overall it is too dark. I actually used a fourth color, and that too has made the picture too dark.

Today it rains, so there are no chances to draw outside – but stay tuned for more landscapeitos!

Spring morning with squirrel

It was a fresh spring morning, a bit cold, the sun shining over the trees. I arrived at the meeting place half an hour in advance and stood outside the gate in silence, looking around.

At some point a red squirrel approached jumping from tree to tree, saw me, looked more disappointed than scared, then resumed its jumping, climbing and watching around. I followed it with my eyes and ears (it made short scratch noises when its claws grasped the hollow bark of the pines) until it hopped away of my sight.

I quietly stood some more time, watching occasional little chirping birds. At some point Sabine’s car turned around the corner. She waved driving past me, and parked a little further down the street. There was still some time before everyone showed up. Sabine walked towards me and we greeted each other. She said that she drove past Andi walking, but didn’t give him a lift as she knew he prefers to walk. We basked in the light of the sun gently rising and enjoyed the moment of quietness before the start of the meeting.

Few moments after, Andi appeared at the end of the street. We smiled at each other and I watched him getting closer. Few metres from Sabine and me, he stopped square and watched intently up a tree. He mouthed to us: There’s a squirrel! and smiled while watching it hopping and running along branches. Sabine and I, who couldn’t see the squirrel, observed him with a slight smile. His awe and curiosity were so pure that he looked like a child.

When the squirrel jumped away of his sight, Andi turned to us with a big smile and walked towards us. We greeted each other with soft affection, as usual. In these occasions, I feel that we three are special to each other, as we have the same way of looking at the world with deep attention and admiration.

Source: Flickr

(inspired by this Tumblr post)

Comic: my depression as a tiger

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Transcript:

I feel I’m living with a tiger.

She controls me when I’m alone. She waits for everyone to leave, then she attacks. That’s why I try to be with friends, but it feels like they are my hostages. When they are there, she lays down in a corner, and I feel almost normal.

But sometimes she attacks them too, and I feel that I put my friends in danger, while trying to protect myself. Therefore I stay alone more often.

When I sleep, she sleeps.

She usually likes listening to music.

Some things that look great to others sometimes annoy her a lot. She’s quite unpredictable. That would be OK if she weren’t so strong and dangerous.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life trying to distract her enough to have a few minutes alone.

I don’t want her to be in control.