17 April, 2016

Grandma's 90th birthday

(not actual postman)

This is a true story that happened to a client of mine...

Date: 14 days before grandma's 90th birthday
To-do: order a family photo album online (ETA 10 day's time), book plane tickets to Athens (where grandma lives)
What happened: confirmation of photo album order (ETA 10 day's time) to arrive at my office building, flights booked

Date: 4 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: no album

Date: 3 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: no album

Date: 2 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: no album

Date: 1 days before flight
To-do: hopefully photo album arrives
What happened: postman comes through the door of my office without package. I break out in tears and tell him about my Greek grandma's 90 birthday and pictures of her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren (who she has never seen). Postman slightly overwhelmed. Asks me when I am flying out tomorrow (12:00). Asks me for my home address.

Date: 0 days before flight
To-do: given up on photo album arriving
What happened: Postman arrives in his private car (it is his day off) with package. He had gone early morning to central sorting warehouse and found package and drove to our home to deliver it to me. I break out in tears and give him a hug. Postman slightly overwhelmed.

09 April, 2016

Photo/story I

Write the first thing that comes to mind when you see the the following photo.

cc Anders Lejczak

A businessman
With thinning blond hair,
Grey beard, and sporting a pair of
Stylish metal-rimmed glasses,
Stands on the edge
Of the subway platform
And stares down
The tunnel wondering if
His tango partner’s new dance shoes
Are going to give her blisters.

26 March, 2016

Gesture of kindness

A good friend of mine told me this story recently and I thought it would be good to share it with you during Easter weekend.

It was a Friday afternoon and Aalia received the news that she didn't get the job she had interviewed for the week before. Crestfallen, she walked through the city aimlessly trying to find some ray of hope in her heart. None.

Eventually, she goes into her local grocery store to buy some food for the weekend. As she stands in the checkout line, she notices, but doesn't really notice, the young man in front of her looking at her.

The man goes through the check out and selects a bouquet of tulips from the display at the cashier counter and pays for his goods. After he has packed everything into his backpack, he turns to Aalia and gifts her the bouquet of tulips with the words, "A little sunshine for you".  

15 March, 2016

Perfect design

What is your favorite perfectly designed household device or tool? Explain why.

Cable tie is the perfect tool. It is the shark of home repair. It‘s design has not changed since its inception.  Thing that I have used a cable tie for:
  • Hanging curtains
  • Temporarily repairing a muffler in my car
  • Fixing my bra
  • For sealing heavy duty garbage bags during a move
  • Building a cardboard fort for our children

13 March, 2016

Meeting one of my heroes

Managed to go to one of my favourite museums in Hamburg to see an exhibit of one of my favourite artists (heroes). It was fun meeting him, if only through his work hanging on the walls. Christoph Niemann has wit, talent, and an amazing capacity, through his art, to make people stop and think and usually laugh.

 If you are in need of a lift out of the winter doldrums, or you know someone who needs cheering up. Buy one of his books and enjoy the beauty of the Every Day.

The exhibit is really small, but there are a few benches to sit on and spend time with his work. Yesterday, I did just that and then I started watching the faces of the serious museum goers light up and become soft with laughter as they walked around. Such a good way to spend an hour on a cold grey Saturday afternoon.

10 March, 2016

What do you see?

This exercise is also from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal. Just draw six circles and write down what you see.

Then the same procedure with six triangles.

27 February, 2016

1 + 1 = 3

This exercise is from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal. You must list or name two objects that add together to make something completely new (e.g. flickr + video = youtube).

19 February, 2016

To children who know their parents

Recent conversation with my son...

Him: "I went to see the movie "The Revenant" this week".
Me: "What did you think? Is this the film for which Leonardo DiCaprio will finally win an Oscar?"
Him: "It wasn't bad. Just thought that if there is ever a film you don't want to see, it is this one."
Me: "Too suspenseful?"
Him: "Not really, it is just one of those "No Chance In Hell" films you really don't like. There wasn't one moment when you think... this might turn our all right."

I was touched by the conversation... how well he knows me, how well he makes it funny to have a mother who is chicken to see a movie without hope.

Who tip jar would be filled first?

This exercise is from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal.

The idea is to name two persons from somewhat comparable backgrounds or professions.

Then put their names on a label of tip jars.

Which jar do you think you tip in?

Which of the jars do you think would fill first?

07 February, 2016

My heros

This exercise is from Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal. There were empty picture frames and I filled them up with four of my heroes.

Josephine Baker: multi-talented, multi-lingual, fiercely courageous, and magnificently curious

Jane Austen: fundamentally comic, historically significant, and phenomenal storyteller

Mary Magdalene: historically ambivalent, Apostle to the Apostles, and loyal companion

Hildegard von Bingen: hardly know what to say about her because the largeness of her life cannot be contained. For those of you who do not know her... she was a Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.

04 February, 2016

Like being in the middle of an ad

Early this morning as I was getting ready to meditate, I looked out our living room window and there was this delivery truck shinning light out into the dark street. It was like being in the middle of a advertisement.  

23 January, 2016

Word cocktail

One of the creative exercises I wrote (and did) this week is the following:

Draw a the outline of a blender on a piece of paper. Take another piece of paper and write all sorts of words, a) to a particular topic, b) you like the meaning of, or, c) how they sound. Cut the words out and place (glue) them into the blender. Describe what your word cocktail tastes like.

This is my creative endeavour:

My meditation cocktail includes many nuanced words from over the past 30 years of my mediation practice. I have spent endless hours drinking in and digesting their meaning. So my word cocktail tastes comfortingly familiar and tantalizingly unknown all at the same time.

17 January, 2016

10 Things you need to make a perfect cup of tea

  1. Excellent quality of water (spring or Volvic)
  2. Right temperature (black=boiling, green=160-170°C)
  3. Excellent tea leaves (buy at tea shop and not grocery store)
  4. Use beautiful cup (my current favorite above)
  5. Right measure of tea (too much and tea will be bitter)
  6. Warm up cup before pouring water
  7. Always put tea into pot or cup before pouring water
  8. Brew for the right amount of time (3-5 minutes or to your taste)
  9. Time to enjoy it slowly
  10. Good comfy corner with a view

15 January, 2016

Are you non, or are you anti?

Oh, does Marlon James' words travel deep within the heart of matters. What a question to ask, am I non or am I anti? It doesn't seem a brave choice when asked in this matter. It only makes sense to be anti.

10 January, 2016

Who am I?

In this week's creative exercise you are asked to choose the five words that best describe you as a person.

Here are my words: problem-solver, introvert, engineer, storyteller, sailor


I believe there are two types of persons in this world. Those who spend a lot of time and effort talking about problems and all the reasons they exist. And, those of us who try to fix them. Sometimes I lose patience with people who go on and on about the problem they are experiencing. I just want to know what the problem is in 10 words or less and then they should just step aside and let me fix it!


Many people think being shy is the same as being introverted. It’s not. Shy people are shy of talking. Introverts just wait to be asked a question before talking.


I am the third generation of engineer in my family. My son is currently studying engineering and will be the fourth.


Robert Mckee, the legendary screenwriter, believes all business is about persuasion. He says the best way to be persuasive is to tell a story. I often find it useful to tell my business colleagues a story than it is to overwhelm them with too much technical information.


My father was an avid sailor and so we were a sailing family. Sailing taught me a lot about being self-reliant and also, what skills you need to develop to become a good crew member. It's more than a fun past-time, it's a life's philosophy. When I first get to know a new friend, I often ask the question of whether I would like to be marooned on a deserted island with the person. If not, then I inwardly take a small step backwards.

03 January, 2016

5 Things... better and worse...

I'm a great fan of Stephan Dubner and James Altucher's podcast, Question of the Day. Its short, sassy, and, at times, rather provocative episodes are fun to listen to.

My son recently asked the family one of their recent questions:

What are the 5 things you do better than most people and what are the 5 things you do worse than most people?

Here are my answers:

Better than most

  • draw or make simple visualisations
  • remember stories people have told me
  • a master at small talk (or getting people to tell stories)
  • good at making and keeping friends
  • finding a simple solution to a complex problem
Worse than most
  • singing
  • absolutely no sense of direction
  • can not multitask
  • great at worrying too much
  • letting go of things that I need to distance myself from

29 December, 2015

At least one more year

So, it is official... I am committed to writing this blog one more year. Last year I didn't blog very much, this year has been even more of a struggle. Somewhere in between I decided if I didn't manage to meet last year's quota of posts or do even better, then I would discontinue writing my blog.

It wasn't something I wanted to do, since somewhere this fall I celebrated my ten years of writing yumyumcafe. Yet, if a blog is not active, it doesn't make sense to keep it alive. So, I felt a little bit of relief today when I managed to exceed last year's quota of blog posts by one .

My new strategy is to share with you some of the creative stuff I do on the side.

Maybe I will even get around to sharing some of the projects I am doing with the immigrants and refugees who have come to Germany on mass in the last years. These activities are really where my heart and mind are these days.

To all a Happy New Year!

28 December, 2015

What happened here?

It was a cold and grey day winter today. I took this picture of the deserted pumpkin on a terrace table at one of my favourite cafés. How do you think it got there?

  1. A wandering Halloween pumpkin left behind a baby
  2. Cinderella danced until dawn last night
  3. A sulky teenager ran away from its pumpkin patch 

What do you think? Send me your suggestion?

27 December, 2015

Stack of books

I've been doing a series of creative exercises these last months. The inspiration to do this came from working on Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist journal. It's absolutely fabulous way to spend some time in the morning.

I like the idea of doing some creative work every day because I believe creative solutions require creative thinking. And secondly, creative thinking does not necessarily stem from innate talent, but primarily grows from practice.

Thought I would share with you in the next while the results of some of this creative work. These exercises are simple, fun, mind-expanding and heart-felt. They will make me smile, laugh and sometimes wonder at my brilliance. Hope you enjoy.

This exercise from the Steal Like An Artist journal is fun.

I took a stack of books from my bookcase and drew a sketch of them. Then I made up a poem using the words in the titles.

What am I doing here?
On Noah's ark.., a lonely
Anthropologist heading to
Mars, or is it Gaglow?
I sit, on the black hill
Of some foreign land,
Innocent of the tiger
In the grass, seeing only
The angels and insects
All the while writing letters
To a young poet I met
A long country year ago.

(The source of the exercise is referenced to Nina Katchadourian)

26 December, 2015

Creative listening

In the last year I have been doing a lot of different types of creative stuff. It started out as occupational therapy during my recovery from a bout of pneumonia. Suddenly, there were endless hours of the day to sleep restlessly, sit quietly, and move around our apartment slowly.

I spent most of this time of recuperation listening to audio books and podcasts. I found it difficult to concentrate, which partially had to do with my sorry state of health, but it also had to do with my mind’s endless wandering. It’s surprising how long it has been since I just sat somewhere doing nothing, but listening to someone tell a story.

So what I did was buy myself a coloring book for adults. It didn’t take long before I was hooked. What I discovered about this (pre-)occupation was rather marvelous.

I used to listen to audio books or podcasts to make some mundane task (housecleaning, sorting paper, clearing out cupboards) seem less boring. Now I color books so I have an excuse to listen to something beautiful, fascinating, wondrous, and uplifting. It is a far more pleasurable way of creative listening.