I am grateful for Bananas! They are the perfect snack! They are clean, easy, handy, practical, nutritious,… They are great in so many recipes. You can use them in smoothies, milkshakes, cakes, cookies, stir-fry dishes or just have them dried. Also, something many people don’t know, one banana replaces one egg in vegan baking. Or why not just fry the bananas on a grill. However, the great thing about them is that you don’t have to do anything with them. You can just peel them and eat them. Just like that. Wherever you may be, whenever you might need that extra boost of energy. Just eat a banana. They are the perfect size to travel with. They are a great opener for several jokes as well as many ecological and economical conversations. Also, they are one of my absolute favorite games – in case you don’t know Bananagrams, run to the store right now and buy it! – and one of my favorite Up with People activities. I love being grateful for random things. It makes me realize that I am surrounded by so many things to be grateful for. And I am developing the skill to really open my eyes and see what’s right in front of me. Maybe that’s what I’m most grateful for. Or maybe I just really like bananas…
I am grateful for having spent every single Christmas of my life with my wonderful family. This picture only shows a portion of them, but it represents how we spend them. We laugh a lot, play games, have fun, just enjoy being together. With me being gone for almost three years now, I really value those short periods I am back home to share this precious time with them. In the picture you see my grandma and her five grandchildren, sitting from old to young. I am the one the left, followed by my cousin Julie, my brother Koen, my cousin Melanie and finally my sister Lynn. I love my grandma to death. We all do. She brings joy to all of us. As you can tell. This is picture is very valuable to me. And I am grateful I get to share with all of you. I love you, little family.
I am grateful for my wonderful Friends who became my Family while traveling all over the world with Up with People. Today I got so lucky to combine my Denver Host Family (Mom, Jimbo & Gab), with my Fort Collins Host Family (Erica, Andrew & James) and my coworkers (Sergio and Veronika). They are all people that were first strangers to me, but I quickly called them friends. Now I consider them my family. I am so thankful I got to spend time with them all at the same time. It was a magical moment. Pure bliss.
I am eternally grateful for finding this incredibly delicious Fall Pumpkin Hummus! Oh my! Today I went to the Winter Farmer’s Market in Fort Collins, where I discovered countless neat organizations and individuals who were making a difference in their community. One of these organizations is the Fort Collins Food Co-Operative. The Fort Collins Food Co-Operative is a naturally local grocer’s market, with a goal to serve the people in their community who want to support their local circle of profit through buying locally sourced grocery items. I really like how they explain themselves:
“The Coop is a place where people can reconnect with their food. This is a place built on understanding what we are consuming and why. The ideas of the Coop all come from the people who started the buying club in the 1970’s, the community, volunteers, the people who shop once to those who are in every day, farmers and producers, local businesses and restaurants who buy from us, and from the greater need to create a more positive connection between people and their local community. These ideas were not surfaced by one person or individual; they came from a long history of people seeking out a space where they could together make a difference in their health, local economy and community. The Coop and its members hope to be a part of a larger, long term movement to promote healthy living through a stronger connection to a local economy.”
It makes me so happy to read that. People caring about their community and trying to make a difference. And the results are totally working for me. Like this hummus for instance. Wow. Wonderful. I bought this one, planning to have it for a week. I came home with it, introduced it to my Host Family and twenty minutes later is was all empty… So I wasn’t the only one who just absolutely love it. Also, love the ingredients! I mean, really, love them.
I am grateful for Children and mostly their Nonjudgmental character. I love their honest, open, welcoming personality. When you walk into a room with children they don’t care what you look like, how old you are, how you dress, how much you make or what your beliefs are. All they want to know is two things: Firstly, are you going to smile at me? Secondly, will you play with me? That’s it. And I do. I smile at them and I play with them. And it brings me so much joy. Today, my wonderful host mom Erica took me to the two schools she works at. She is a counsellor, which has always been a job that really fascinates me and according to almost every personality test I have taken that always comes up as an ideal job for me. I got to spend all day with her, walking into classrooms, talking to children, smiling at them and playing with them. The theme of the day was “You’ve got a friend in me”, obviously after the title song from Disney’s Toy Story. The activity throughout the day consisted of giving each other stickers as a representation of your friendship. I got a bunch of stickers and got to give one to every new friend I made that day. The students in their turn got stickers themselves and got to do the same thing. I made a lot of new friends. The picture shows what my sweater looked like at the end of the day. It does not show my smile. It was probably too big to fit onto the picture.
I am grateful for a Healthy Quick Fix. Like tonight. It happens too often in my busy life that I get home late and still have some work to do, so I end up having to fix myself something quickly. However, rather than just opening a bag of chips or a snickers bar, I still try to get myself something healthy. It doesn’t have to take long. Like this mail I quickly gathered. I opened the fridge, found broccoli and mushrooms and knew that that was the way to go. I started steaming the broccoli – which is my preferred way of preparing broccoli – while I sauteed the mushrooms in some olive oil. I got a black bean burger out of the freezer and put it on the grill, while I got some fresh bread out and cut off two slices. When the mushrooms were done, I scooped them onto a plate, after which I put the slices of bread onto the pan so I could let it absorb the flavor. The burger was done in five minutes, so I put it on the bread, topped it with the mushrooms and the other slice of bread. Meanwhile, the broccoli was steamed perfectly ‘al dente’ and all I had to do was pour myself a glass of red wine to finish it all off. Yum. I am grateful for such a meal. But I am also so grateful for myself, for taking the time to do this. Yes, it was quick, but at least I had a nice portion of healthy vegetables. Is it possible to be grateful for oneself? I don’t know, but let’s say I’m grateful for my mindset and my willingness to put some extra work and energy into my nutrition. It was totally worth it. Health-wise and (maybe even more importantly) yumminess-wise.
I am grateful for all of my wonderful friends. And as if their friendship is not more than enough, they also always seem to surprise me with the most Thoughtful Presents. It just happened again today, out of nowhere. I was working at the office and my friends and coworkers Sergio from Mexico and Veronika from Sweden walked in with the biggest smiles on their faces. They had been out of the office all day working. My first feeling was suspicion. I mean, those smiles… something had to be up. But I would’ve never expected what they were actually up to. With a huge smile they pop something from behind their back and there he was: Mr Socks! They had decided to buy me a present. Just like that. For no other reason but the fact that we are friends. How thoughtful! My life is filled with beautiful people with beautiful souls. I am so lucky. And so grateful. This just happened a few months ago as well, when Abby from Missouri and Shelsea from California – my former team – had decided – again, out of nowhere – that they had to give me a present. For some reason they too had decided to give me a stuffed animal. Thoughtfulness all around! We named him Sir Fredrick James Chicken The First. For those wondering: yes, Sir Fredrick James Chicken The First is a chicken. He joined Piglet (I think this one speaks for itself), the very first and only stuffed animal I had with me, which I had gotten as another thoughtful present from my godchild Lara. She was only six years old when she gave him to me. The cutest thing ever. Piglet and Fredrick made a great team from the very first time they met. And now Mr Socks will join the team. What a great team they are! I am one lucky (little) boy.