Winter is for poetry

One of my favourite poems is “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. I discovered Frost’s poetry as a teenager, when I read the book The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton (which actually was my favourite book at the time). In that book there’s a poem called “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, and I fell in love with it.

Since it’s winter here in Norway, I thought sharing this beautiful poem. There’s a lot you can read in to it, but if all you want to do is to enjoy the imagery it gives you, that’s okay too…

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2018
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2018

Bali, part 5: Last days in Paradise

Unfortunately, my little PC that I had brought with me to Bali decided to act up, so I wasn’t able to blog anymore. A bit annoying, I admit, but not everything is fine again (though I’m writing this on another PC). As you also can see, I have moved. I’m not going into details here, but my blog moved. For various reasons.

So, I celebrated New Year’s Eve at Bali Friendship Café in Seminyak. I was fortunately to be invited to two different places. After attending a CouchSurfing meetup in Seminyak, I got to know some people, which was great. One of the people there worked in a café across from where I was staying, so I went there to celebrate the coming of 2018. It was really nice! Friendly people, good laughs, live music and fireworks! It was great!

Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2017
Live music at Bali Friendships Café on NYE.
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2017

My original plan was to stay in Seminyak the whole time, but after a bit I realised that I really wanted to see ubud as well. So I booked two nights at a villa there, and organised my travel. And I’m so glad I did! Ubud was such a nice town, and i really wish I had more time there. Two days just isn’t enough! However, I did get to finally see some Balinese dance, which I found fascinating. It was so fun to see, and I disagree with those who claim it to be tedious. I suspect those people for not paying attention.

When I had to say goodbye to Bali, I sure hoped I could go back some day! I think I’m in love with the place…

Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2018
My villa in Ubud.
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2018

Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2018
The swimming pool at my villa in ubud.
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2018

Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2018
Balinese dance.
Photo: Mittens and Sunglasses © 2018

Bali, part 4: A visit to Seminyak beach

If you google “Seminyak beach” you find pictures of beautiful beaches with golden sand, amazing sunsets, and a lot of praise. Needless to say, I was quite looking forward to my visit to the beach.

The first thing I noticed was: This beach doesn’t look as tidy as I thought it would. Was it last night’s party, I wondered. I stepped into the water, and it didn’t take long before I was “attacked” by a plastic bag that was floating around in the waves. No, the visit to the beach wasn’t at all nice. There was plastic waste all over the place. In the water, and in the sand.

I must admit that though I was well aware of the problems we have with plastic in our oceans, this was in some ways an eye opener for me. To literally feel the problem on my own skin made it just more real. I know that from now on, I will strive to use less plastic, and I hope you will too.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Seminyak beach: Take a close look…
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Plastic all over!
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Bali, part 3: Visiting Tanah Lot

I had been recommended that Pura Tanah Lot was a “must see” while visiting Bali, so I decided that was something I wanted to do. Via someone I know, I got in touch with a private driver, Dodi (he asked me to mention him on my blog!), who drove me there. Dodi was a funny guy, who had been to Norway and described it a freezingly cold country. Which is understandable, knowing how warm Bali is.

Pura Tahah Lot is a temple built on a rock formation in the sea, and is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. On the coast before it there’s a sort of village, and you have to pay to get into this village. You then have to go through a market before finally arriving at the temple.

The temple is fascinating and beautiful, and I’m really glad I went!

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
The entrance of Tanah Lot.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Inside Tanah Lot.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Entrance to the temple site.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Pura Tanah Lot.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Temple stairs…
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Bali, part 2: Culture, religion and well being

Something I have learnt from travelling so much is that I honestly prefer not to stress too much, and Bali just invites you to unwind and take it easy. You have warm days, even when the rain pours down, so running around really isn’t very tempting.

I love going to cafés, restaurants, and look around. Talking to locals is also fascinating, to get their input on things. You learn so much from it! And Indonesians are so friendly and helpful. I think I might have fallen in love with this island, to be sure!

A visit to Bali and not trying out Balinese massage just doesn’t seem right. Though you can get good deals at the massage studios around the city, I picked the hotel spa. They had a promotion, and it was very convenient to go somewhere so close. The massage was relaxing and nice, and did wonders to my body. It all ended with a small cup of strong sweet ginger tea after I was done.

Religion and belief is very present in Bali. All over the place you find house altars, temples (both public and private ones), statues, and small offerings. The Balinese people are also well known for celebrating a lot of festival, something my taxi driver from the airport could confirm. “We celebrate festivals all the time!” he told me.

The main religion in Bali is a form of Hinduism, and they have a strong belief in spirits and demons as well. The taxi driver told me that like the Hindus in India they believed in different gods, however they thought it was the same god. So there was only the one god, but the god had different names depending on where you were and the situation. Balinese religion is definitively something I would love to learn more about.

When I visited the Nyaman Gallery (more about that later), I had a lovely chat with one of the Indonesian women working there. Of course I had to ask about the little offerings I saw outside every house, and if it was for protection. It was for giving thanks, she told me then. Thanking the spirits, the gods, and pretty much the universe. I thought that was such a beautiful thought.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
One of the many statues you can see around Seminyak.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
You find offerings like this in front of all houses.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Even before I left Norway, I had decided on that I wanted to visit Nyaman Gallery, located centrally in Seminyak. When I arrived, I was greeted by one of the women working there. An exhibition of the street artists Quint was just put up. Quint is an Indonesian artist originally from Jakarta, but he now lives in Bali, and is now seen as one of the most important street artists of Indonesia.

I was given a guided tour around the gallery, with an explanation on who the different artists were, their background and art. The knowledge of my guide, as well as the diversity of the art, really made a good impression, and should you ever visit Seminyak, you really should visit this gallery.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
You can find one of Quint’s pieces outside the gallery.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Bali, part 1: Travel and first days in Seminyak

In July I found out the I had the opportunity to go to Bali at the end of December/beginning of January. After a bit of research, I ended up booking a trip to Seminyak, a city on the southern coast of Bali.

Getting from Oslo to Seminyak is a long travel: Three different flights, and it took me about 26 hours to get here. The whole thing started with delays from Oslo to Heathrow, and I was really worried that I wouldn’t catch my next flight to Singapore. Fortunately, it all turned out good. I traveled by Singapore Airlines from Heathrow to Bali, both very nice planes. The seats were comfy, I had vegan food all the way and all was good. The only thing I didn’t like, was the long wait between meals between London and Singapore. Several hours. Probably because of time difference. We had lunch soon after we took off, and then breakfast just a couple of hours before Singapore. I was so happy I had brought a banana and some nuts with me!

Singapore is one of the nicest airports I’ve been to (and I have been to quite a few). It’s not very large, and getting between the terminals is really easy. I left for Bali from terminal 2, where you can find the “Enchanted Garden”: A small oasis of orchids and a pond. So pretty!

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
From the “Enchanted Garden” at Singapore airport, terminal 2.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Another photo from the “Enchanted Garden”.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Arriving in Bali was a mixed experience. First I had problems with the cash machine (ATM), only to realise I had forgotten to open up for my card to be used in Asia (a security thing my bank has), and then I couldn’t find the person who was supposed to take me to my hotel. After looking around everywhere and making a call from the information point three times, I gave up and took an airport taxi to my hotel. It was slightly more expensive than what I had agreed on with the private driver, but not horribly so. Apparently the driver had been there, so why I didn’t see him, or why he didn’t hear the calls over the information, I don’t know. Important thing is that I arrived safe and sound at the hotel.

Checking in went well, and even though my plan was to sleep when I got there, I simply was’t able to. I unpacked, and while doing so, I found out that I had forgotten my USB cable (that I use for charging my phone) on the last plane. I cursed myself, and hoped I was able to get a new one. However, I was so tired, I decided to have a nap, before heading out to catch one. Fortunately, getting one was easy enough, and when that was dealt with I decided to eat at the vegan restaurant across the street from the hotel. The restaurant is called EarthXpress, and is a bit expensive compared to other restaurants here, but I can deal. I had a really yummy meal: Chia Charm Bowl. The Chia Charm Bowl consisted of chia seeds marinated in coconut milk and agave, and was topped with purple dragon fruit. It was so good, I really want to have this again soon!

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Chia Charm Bowl.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Even though I had slept like a log (at least that’s whet it felt like), I felt exhausted the next day. I decided to take it easy, and went back to EartXpress for breakfast. I gad a Granola Fruit Mix, which was a mix of granola and fresh fruits, and topped with cashew milk.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Granola and fruit mix.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Since I was going to have a relaxing day, I checked out the hotel’s pools. On the top there’s a “Flowting Pool”, which was really pretty, but didn’t really work for swimming. On the ground floor you can find the main pool, so I spent a little time there, which was nice and relaxing. I love swimming, and am in love with my new swimsuit, that looks a little like a dress! I thought I had managed to put on enough sun lotion, and I didn’t spend that much time there, but come evening, I found out my back was really sun burnt! I guess I should have had a sun lotion with a higher SPF than 30, as well as longer arms… Trying to put sun lotion on your back yourself really is a pain…

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
The Flying Pool.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
The main pool.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

I decided to have dinner at a vegan restaurant not far from the hotel called Tasty Vegan. When I got there it seemed to be a bit hidden away, and situated inside a sort of garden. It was a really quiet spot, and it was really cheap too! I bought a dish with tofu, tempeh, and vegetables in a coconut sauce served with rice. It was called Nasi Kare, and in my opinion really nice. I paid just 50 000 DPR (less than 40 NOK / 5 USD / 4 GBP) for the dish and a bottle of water!

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
A pond inside the garden of Tasty vegan.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Inside Tasty Vegan.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Nasi Kare.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

I was not pleased to find out that I was down with a cold when I woke up this morning. I decided to have breakfast at the hotel, and had a simple platter of fresh fruits. After having breakfast, I decided on visiting a coffee place near the hotel, that I found via Google Maps. I was really pleased to check it out, it was such a nice place, and the coffee was really good too! The café is called Koop Roaster and Cafe. After a chat with one of the people working there, I found out that not only do they roast their own coffee beans every morning, but they also own their own coffee farm where they grow most of their beans! How cool is that?

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Inside Koop Roaster and Cafe.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

I went back to familiar places for lunch and dinner. Had a chickpea burger for lunch at EarthXpress, and a vegan steak (fitting for Christmas dinner, right?) at Tasty Vegan. Tasty Vegan is quickly becoming a favourite of mine here in Seminyak, the staff is so friendly, and the food cheap, but good.

I went back to the hotel after dinner, and decided on having an early night.

Book Review: Caraval, written by Stephanie Garber

We all know tha phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Well, that doesn’t only mean the dull looking books, but the pretty looking ones too. Caraval by Stephanie Garber is a good example of a book that is really pretty on the outside, but on the inside it’s both problematic and not particularely good. I picked up Caraval from the library, because there had been so much hype about it on Instagram. Sometimes I think a book being a hype might be a warning sign, but with the book’s consept, which I actually like, I thought it at least had some potential.

One of the first things I reacted to while reading the book was how women were portraied. To be honest, I find it highly problematic that we’re supposed to dependant on a man to be free and happy. Other than that, the characters are fairly flat, and there’s no real charachter devolopment. And the characters were in general annoying, especially the main character, Scarlett. At several occations did I feel like shaking her, because she acted just plain stupid. And often in those situations she was saved by a man, namely Julian. Julian was another character I really didn’t like, as there was absolutely no depth to him, plus he was fairly predictable. So, yes, in general the characters were just too flat, and too annoying.

It being a fantasy book, I would also expect more about the world building. After having read the book, I know just a little more about the world than I did when I started. There’s magic, yes, but other than that, there’s not much description. Even though there’s a map of Caraval on the inside of the book, I never got the impression from how the world look like when I read it, that resembled the map on the inside. The map gave me assosiations to Venice, while reading the book, there was no such resemblance. At all.

This was actually the sort of book I normally would have put away, but for once I finished it just so that I could write a review on it. An over-hyped book like this needs to be taken out into the light and be shown as what they are not as good as the hype tells you it is. Another thing is, that I haven’t gone into here, was the abusive father of the main character and her sister. So consider this to be a trigger warning for that.

If I am to say anything good about the book, it’s its writing style. The language flowed fairly well, and I never felt that it was an obstacle, so that’s a good thing. I hope that the next book in the series (though I’m not likely to read it) will be less problematic, though I honestly don’t think it will be…

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Book Review: Binti, written by Nnedi Okorafor

When I first heard about Binti, a novella written by Nnedi Okorafor, it intrigued me, even though I didn’t really know much about it. Since this is such a short book, it’s a quick read, and even I managed to read it in one day.

This is the story about Binti, the very first of her people to be accepted into the Oomza University, which is the best university in the galaxy. The Himba people, which she is one of, hardly ever leave their home country, so accepting her place is a huge step for her. On her way to Oomza, the space craft she’s travelling on is attacked by the Meduse, and they kill everyone except for the pilot and Binti. The Meduse have been wronged by the Oomza University, and they’re angry… Will she sirvive the trip? And will the Meduse go to war with Oomza or not?

This was such an interesting read. I loved how communication and lack of knowledge about other people not like our own are such central themes here. I also enjoyed how influenced the book is by Nigerian culture and language. It really does give the story something extra for a westerner line myself. It is a well written and exciting book, and I hope to read the next book in the series in not too long! And maybe other books by the author too?

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

The Diverse Reading Challenge

Lately I have been discussing diverse books with my friend Kevin, whom I first “met” on Instagram. We both agree there are not enough diverse books out there, and that we as readers need to show we care and actually want more diversity in literature! With that as inspiration, I decided that I wanted to host a diverse reading challenge.

I want this to be as easy and flexible as possible, so I am not setting a time limit. Nor am I setting a start date – people should be able to start whenever they want. All you need to do is to fulfill each point on the list. You can read the books in whatever order you wish.

I would love it if you posted your list of books as you read them as a comment here, or if you post them on your own blog or Instagram, that’s even better! If you post them on your blog, it would make my day if you link back to this post!

  • Book by a transgender author
  • Book by a bisexual or pansexual author
  • Book by a gay author
  • Book by a Zimbabwean author
  • Book by a Scandinavian author
  • Book by a Japanese author
  • Book by a Indian author
  • Book set in Brazil
  • Book set in Indonesia
  • Book set in Russia
  • Book set in Iceland
  • Book set in Iran
  • Book with a genderfluid main character
  • Book with a lesbian main character
  • Book with a main character with an immigrant background (first or second generation)
  • Book with a main character who suffer from mental illness
  • Book with a character in a wheelchair
  • Book with a blind character
  • Book with a deaf character
  • Book with a character who has ME
  • Feminist non-fiction book
  • LGBTQ+ non-fiction book
  • Non-fiction book on an Asian country (not a travel guide book)
  • Non-fiction book on a Nordic country (not a travel guide book)
  • Non-fiction book on an Indigenous people and/or their culture

I could have made this a lot longer, but that would made the challenge a lot harder. I hope lots of people will parttake!

Are you game?

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 201
A selection of some diverse books.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2017

Elin’s Chana Masala

I simply love Indian food, and chickpeas are among my favourite ingredients. One of my favourite dishes is chana masala, and here’s my super simple recipe. It is, of course, 100 % plant based, vegan, and gluten free. This recipe is meant for two persons, so if you’re four, make a double portion.

1 can tinned cickpeas (ca 500 g)
4 tablespoon rapeseed (or sunflower) oil
2-3 cm piece of fresh ginger
1 red or yellow onion
1 fresh chilli
2-3 tomatoes
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
Finely chopped, fresh coriander (to taste)

How to
Pour the brine of the cickpeas into a cup or a small bowl (to be used later).
Peel the onion and the ginger, and cut the onion into two halves. Cut off the stem of the chilli.
Put the onion, ginger, and the chilli into a foodprocessor, and run until it’s all finely chopped.
Heat the oil in a pot. Pour the onion, ginger and chilli into the pot, and fry on a medium heat until the onion is golden.
Cut the tomatoes (use the foodprocessor), por them into the pot, and bring to a boil. Add garam masala and salt, and let this simmer for a few minutes.
Add the chickpeas, stil well, and bring to a boil. Let this simmer for a few minutes.
At the brine of the chickpeas, stir, and bring to a boil. Let this simmer for 30 – 45 minutes. Stir it every now and then, so it doesn’t burn.
Add the lime juice and the coriander, and simmer for 1 – 2 minutes.

I recommend serving this dish with rice.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2010
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2010