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Starting Our Balcony Garden

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Jonathan and I have finally started our balcony garden! The carrots, basil, and tomatoes are germinating, with plans to add paprika, courgettes, carrots, radish, and spinach in the coming weeks. We would like to grow as many of our own vegetables as possible, and I am lucky enough to have a close friend with a thriving balcony garden to get advice from.

In addition to the seeds and planters, we got a home growbox. This allows us to moderate temperature, light, and humidity so that we can grow plants out of season. Berlin is a wonderful city, but it’s not an ideal environment for some of my favorite veggies! As a minimalist, I struggled with the volume of ‘stuff’ I needed to get this garden going, but growing my own food is an important step towards zero-waste and the act of tending to the garden is a great stress reliever so I think it’s worth it.

Now that the seeds have germinated we will transfer them into their containers (carrots and basil in the open air, tomatoes in the growbox) and hopefully, after 12 weeks of loving care, our first batch should be ready to eat!  The unit does cost some energy to run, but since our home is powered with 100% green energy I am not too concerned about a negative environmental impact.

Although it varies plant to plant, the general cycle is something like this. Germination phase (in a small container, or using the paper towel method) 10 – 20 days, plant and cultivate for 3 months, pick and eat. Once we have a healthy and thriving crop we are going to experiment with cloning our plants rather than buying new seeds.

I can’t wait for the first batch!

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The Best Vegan Pho in Berlin

My partner and I love Vietnamese food, and nothing beats a bowl on hot Pho on a cold day. I decided to compile a list of my favorite places to grab a bowl in Berlin, not only because it was deliciously fun, but also because I had a few disappointing Pho trips before finding these gems so I thought I should share my experience!

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1. Cat Tuong – Kastanienallee 89, 10435 Berlin

Cat Tuong is a quite relaxed restaurant near the Mauerpark in beautiful Prenzlauer Berg. This is by far the best Pho broth I have ever tasted. I’ve consistently had great food and great service here, at a good price.

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2. Chen Che Teehaus – Rosenthaler Str. 13, 10119

I’m cheating here because the vegan soup they offer is not a traditional Pho, but extremely similar with a bit of extra spice. Chen Che is one of the most beautiful restaurants I have visited in Berlin. Although it is not all vegan the staff are knowledgeable about dietary needs and sensitivities. I highly recommend trying some of the huge selection of teas and the black rice and coconut pudding.

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3. Soy – Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 30, 10178 Berlin

Probably the most well known all vegan Vietnamese places on my list, Soy is really accessible from Alexanderplatz. The food is incredibly tasty, and while it’s more expensive than some of the other choices on my list it is still very affordable compared to food prices in other major cities.

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4. 1990 Vegan Living – Krossener Straße 19, 10245

Located in trendy Friedrichshain, this is the most stylish restaurant. The food is tasty but not as flavorful as Cat Tuong or Soy. It’s still good food, but a more ‘westernized’ take.

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5. Zen House Vegetarian – Kantstr. 71 10627, Berlin

This cute little restaurant has high quality, delicious food at a very reasonable price. If you go for the Pho I highly recommend treating yourself to a few pieces of black rice sushi or some green tea ice cream as well!

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Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island) Berlin

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In the southwest part of Berlin, past Wannsee station and a bus ride through the woods lays Pfaueninsel. This magical little island is one my favorite spots in Berlin, far away from the tourist crowds and busy Berliners.

This island functions as a nature reserve and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s is free to enter, but you are obligated to pay 4 EUR for the ferry to the island. Trust me, this is great value for money! The sense of peace you get here is priceless.

Coming on to the island, there are numerous paths and turns so you won’t get stuck with a group. We spent the majority of our time alone, only meeting up with other day-trippers at big intersections or attractions like the castle or enclosed bird pens.

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Peacocks roam free, but there is also an enclosed section for (as far as I could tell) mating birds, and other birds like pheasants and Silkie chickens. Additionally, there is some exotic flora left over from the House of Palms that was built in 1831 (but sadly burned down).

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They also have a designated picnic area, food stall and toilets on the island, which keeps the place clean and is the kind of organization that I really appreciate! I’ll be back here with friends and family visiting Berlin.

If you make a day trip, I highly recommend stopping at Corsini right next to Wannsee station for some delicious food. J and I had a vegan sweet potato burger with truffle mayonnaise that was incredibly delicious.

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Currently Loving: Netflix Shows

Jonathan and I aren’t party animals, there are nights we enjoy concerts in dim Berlin venues, but there are far more evenings spent snuggling on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and Netflix on the projector. Below are some of the shows we’re currently enjoying, they all center around people who are passionate about how they are living their lives which is both heartwarming and inspiring to us.

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1. Abstract: The Art of Design – this series tells the human stories behind some of the most exciting designers working today. It will make you laugh, cry, and feel inspired to be more creative in your day to day life.

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2. Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories – This is a series of stories about day to day people told through their favorite dish prepared in the small and tucked away Midnight Diner in Tokyo.

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3. Chef’s Table – This series follows chefs from all around the world, and looks into what pushed them to reach the top of their field and what makes them unique.

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4. Samurai Gourmet – This over the top, tongue-in-cheek series follows a recently retired Japanese businessman Takeshi as he celebrates his new found freedom my enjoying the gorgeous food and drink of Japan.

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5. Tales by Light – This series follows photographers on the journey to get the perfect shot and looks at what drives them, and the lengths they will go to tell their visual story.

Digital, and back again. My books.

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About two years into minimalism, I reduced my paper books from hundreds to less than five.  I donated most to charity and bought any I still wanted to re-read in digital format.

Living in an 8sqm room, or out of a suitcase, this was an ideal situation, but now that I have a 65sqm apartment I revisited some initial concerns and made a few changes to my library.

I enjoy fiction as digital content, but non-fiction suits me better on paper. I think this is because when reading Terry Pratchett for example, the story flows from the screen into my imagination, whereas when I am reading Ray Kurzweil discussing the complex intersection of technology and biology or David Graeber on the history of bureaucracy, I need to slow down and think, flip-back, highlight passages. Although there are functions to do this on most eReaders, it is not satisfying to me. Photography books and graphic novels are also far more satisfying to read in paper form.

Additionally, I have never been happy with the way the e-book business works. Essentially when you buy an e-book you do not own it. You pay for access to the book which can, in theory, be revoked at any time. This might be acceptable if the cost was much lower, but the digital price and print price are often the same or higher if you are looking for an older book that could be bought secondhand.

Sites like Scribd are an interesting option, but it’s just not good enough yet. When I pay EUR 8.99 for a Netflix account I get unlimited access to their library, When I pay EUR 9.99 for Spotify I get unlimited access to music, but for about the same price on Scribd I only get 3 textbooks and 1 audio book per month and their library does not contain many of the titles I am interested in. I would be delighted to have a world library that I can subscribe to, but at the moment it just doesn’t exist.

I’m always happy to pay artists for their work, but when I purchase digital content that does not require natural resources, manufacture, storage or shipping I expect the savings to be passed on to the customer. Call it an eco-discount.

Another issue is reliability,  I’ve experienced glitches on kindle while traveling where all of my downloaded books vanish and I can’t access them again until I have a good wifi connection.  This is pretty upsetting on a 23-hour bus ride!

Recently I decided to slowly build up a paper library of my favorite books. The books I refer back to a couple times a year. The books I love loaning to friends. This new library will never be as big as my old one, and I will still consume digital content, just with a balance that works better for my current life.

Note: I buy as much as possible from Verso books which works to give you greater control of your content. 

Question: What is your favorite way to read? 

 

 

Vegan Eats Berlin – brammibal’s donuts

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Today J and decided to take a trip across town to try out brammibal’s donuts. This is a fairly well known vegan spot, so it had been on my list for a while and did not disappoint.

In addition to donuts, this cozy cafe sells breakfast plates, french toast, and grilled cheese sandwiches (all vegan). I am pretty excited to go back and sample their savory options in the near future. The space was fairly simple and clean, with a Berlin hipster vibe.

All of the donuts we tried were great, they obviously use high quality ingredients and put a lot of  work into researching unusual and tasty combinations, but the biggest surprise was the strawberry and basil one. It was like a pesto doughnut, in the best possible way!

As a bonus, depending on what day you visit you may find either the Turkish Market, or a Flohmarkt on the street outside. We still a stroll through this on the way back and saw gorgeous handmade clothing, jewelry, art and airplanes (among other things!).

brammibal’s donuts – Maybachufer 8, 12047 Berlin

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The Things I Stopped Buying

Beauty products.

Don’t get me wrong, I still buy hygiene products, but I’ve massively reduced my potions and lotions in the bathroom. I challenged myself to not wear any makeup until I was happy with my natural face. I think it’s important to feel connected to your skin in order to keep track of your overall health. Now I am happy enough with my skin that all I use is some mascara and a tinted lip balm and I am good to go!

My partner and I share a vegan-friendly shampoo (Sante Bio-Orange & Kokos) and body wash (Lavera Bio-Orange) which doubles as a shaving gel, and I use Hask hair oil on my hair afterward rather than a conditioner. I finish with Lavera Soft Creme on my face and body.

Sales or Discounted Products. 

Unless something has already been on my wishlist for quite some time (sites like Camel Camel Camel can help you track price drops on items you are interested in) I do not buy on sale. I realized that 9 times out of 10 I regret the purchase, so by breaking the habit of buying on discount I ended up saving more money overall.

Souvenirs 

When we travel or attend an event (gig, museum) it’s normal to buy a souvenir or even bring them back for your friends. There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe how much I don’t need a magnet from my boyfriend’s cousins trip to Florida. These days I skip the gift shop and only make travel purchases if there is a specific local item that I planned to buy before the trip.

Packaged Meals 

When I first moved to Berlin I was overwhelmed with all the vegan products available in stores. I bought a lot of stuff to try out, but many of them were overpriced meat substitutes that ended up hurting my stomach and skin for very little taste satisfaction. A minimalist approach to food – having a collection of staple items that I can mix and match for endless healthy meal combinations – helped me get my health, complexion,  and finances back on track. I also buy local and in bulk to reduce packaging and pollution caused by transport of products.

What items have you stopped buying? 

Fionna & Jake

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On 07.05 my partner and I made one of our dreams come true by adopting two sweet little kitties, welcome to the family Fionna and Jake!

Living in temporary accommodation and out of a suitcase the for the past few years, the thing I missed most was having animal companions. In the past, I’ve had cats, dogs, a rabbit, hamsters and even a lizard and having a single species household just doesn’t feel complete to me. It’s easy to become lost in our ‘human world’ and forget the variety of life we share this planet with, living with non-human animals reminds us of our wild and feral roots.

Finally, I have space and stability to offer a good home again, the opportunity to help some kitties in need came to us quickly. These two were living with an older woman nearby who was no longer able to care for them, and the timing was perfect for us to welcome them into our space.

Right now they are still settling in and getting confident in the new environment, but I will be sharing more about how I manage minimalism and pets in an upcoming blog post!

Thanks for reading!

 

April Favorites – Minimalism, Ghosts, Miyam Bialik.

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Documentry: Minimalism is finally available on Netflix in Germany (so I assume other EU countries too!).

Music: The Ghost in the Shell OST is due to be released on Vinyl if your aren’t into vinyl and don’t want to spend money check out the Ghost in the Shell (2017) OST on Spotify or YouTube, I didn’t care for the live action film but the soundtrack was incredible. I particularly like the Steve Aoki remix.

YouTube Channel: Miyam Bialik isn’t new on YouTube, but I want to mention her channel anyway. She is a strong and smart woman who posts some great stuff, like Why Language Matters.

Shop: Geitenwollenwinkel is a vegan eco-friendly shop I visited in Amsterdam during VidCon.  Not only do they have great products from companies like People Tree and Matt & Nat but they also make their own line of super comfy basics. I picked up a bra and sweatshirt that have been worn non-stop the past two weeks.

Activism: My partner and I supported the March for Science in Berlin on April 22nd and Fashion Revolution April 24th – 30th.

Website: Radio Garden lets you tune into radio stations all around the world from a beautiful interactive map. I found some interesting Greenlandic music on here!

 

 

Minimalism and Kindness

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One of my hesitations starting this blog or posting YouTube videos was the comments. Every single one of the bloggers and vloggers I follow receives hate comments from people who don’t think they are doing minimalism quite right.

I don’t like to make blanket statements about what minimalism is, in general, it looks different for everyone because life looks different for everyone. However, I do think I can definitely say a few things that minimalism isn’t.

Minimalism is not a trend to show off how little we own.

Minimalism is not a title of superiority to be flaunted over others.

Time is our most precious resource, many of the actions of minimalism focus on taking time back from our busy world. Hateful actions and words are a waste of our time and energy.

Several years ago I lived in a 30 sqm white apartment stripped bare of any nonessentials. No plants, no physical books, no photos, no art. Nothing. Although I learned a lot about what I don’t need, I also learned about the things that do add real value to my life.

Physical books are better for my eyes and help me read more. Plants boost my mood and clean the air. A small collection of vinyl records and a record player increase my enjoyment of music, and inspire me to move and dance. Customizing my furniture with artwork rather than keeping a plain white aesthetic makes my home feel like…home.

I strongly encourage conversation about minimalism, but always remember that it is a tool for happiness.  If someone decides to bring negativity into the conversation, be kind to yourself and brush it off.