Happy Valentine’s Day

Although the history of St. Valentine is murky and unclear, Valentine’s Day is a wonderful tradition. A day of romance and love, and an opportunity to express our feelings.

Having been raised in Germany, I don’t remember having celebrated Valentine’s Day, but it has since become popular showing that Germans can be romantic!

I truly enjoy Valentine’s Day. My husband has always made Valentine’s special, and I have many fond memories. This year, like so many before, he will cook a delicious meal for me, and I am so touched by his effort and skill. I still remember the Bouillabaisse he prepared for me some years ago, one of my favorite dishes from Southern France. I don’t know what he is planning to prepare for this Valentine’s Day, but am sure it will be remarkable.

I will make Steve my special Valentine together with our little Romeo, who will have his first professional hair cut on Valentine’s Day! He doesn’t need to be reminded to love. He freely gives out affection, and as long as someone wants to be kissed and loved, he is your boy! He truly lives up to his name! I will also include my dear friends and loved ones. My life wouldn’t be the same without any of them, and I am so grateful. What would a life be without love? The Sahara Desert with endless sand comes to mind.

It seems that with age the expression of our feelings becomes more subdued and subtle. The exuberance of younger years has been tempered. But the intensity of our feelings hasn’t changed. In our hearts and minds we still are the young woman or man being loved and loving back. We can remain young despite some wrinkles and less energy. It is what we feel and think which defines our age, not our looks.

Enjoy being a Valentine. Show your love to others and it will come back manyfold. There is nothing more powerful than love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com


Staying Balanced

It is quite difficult to remain focused and balanced these days with all the tension and controversy sweeping the world. We can easily get side tracked by emotions which then increase our stress level and cause us to feel unhappy and out of balance. Avoiding news can help, but most of us like to stay informed and severing ourselves from current events is not the solution. So how can we remain balanced and aligned?

One way is to watch, listen and evaluate what we see and hear in accordance to our own value system. We accept or reject without getting emotionally involved. We remind ourselves that we most likely cannot change what is happening but that we can choose how we react. Sometimes it is very difficult to be just an observer, especially when it affects or offends our core values. But getting upset and pushing against what is happening, doesn’t change or solve anything. It only affects our wellbeing and brings us unhappiness.

This choice of how we react and what attitude we adopt presents itself in every aspect of our lives. Learning it in one area will make it easier to apply it in others. Having struggled with serious health issues for years, I had to make a decision if I wanted to remain balanced or to focus only on the inevitable. I decided to remain centered and although there are moments when it is more difficult than others, I have maintained a positive outlook. We all have certain burdens, like health challenges, difficult relationships, loss of a loved one, or being unemployed, just to name a few. It is up to us to decide how we look at them and what attitude we adopt to handle our issues. No matter what is happening to us, we can remain strong, positive and hopeful. Connect with your inner being and have faith that compassion, love and empathy will prevail.

I like to see the world in bright colors, and I believe in the good of everyone and everything. But that is not always easy, and sometimes I have to repeat my mantras frequently during a single day. I breath slowly and deeply, and the unwanted emotions gradually disappear. Once my balance returns it feels like a burden has been lifted. Do my disturbing thoughts come back and try to make me agitated again? The key word is “try”, for as soon as I am aware of it, I start my breathing and mantras. Remember the saying “that which you resist persists”. Fighting the unwanted thoughts just makes them stronger. Be patient with yourself. Rome wasn’t built in one day, and quieting your mind will take time as well.

Staying balanced means keeping your emotions on an even keel. To achieve this, we decide that no matter what comes our way, we will stay strong and avoid any emotional turmoil. Not only will we make better decisions, but we will also be happier and healthier.

Life is what you make it!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

Happy Birthday, Romeo!

And many, many returns. We wish you a healthy life filled with joy, love, fun and lots and lots of toys. Oh, how he loves his toys! Romeo never gets tired of playing and fetching. He is the happiest little guy, and my heart fills with love just watching him. Sometimes I imagine how it would feel to live like him, enjoying every moment to the fullest, always being in the present and loving unconditionally. I am striving towards this dream, life just gets into the way sometimes.

He enjoyed his second birthday on January 6th to the fullest. A new toy, a special gourmet dish prepared for him by his mummy, and a nice, exciting outing. Life is good! We love him so much, and I am sure his siblings joined him spiritually in his celebration. He doesn’t know that another birthday gift is waiting for him. A new haircut! He will go to the groomer for the first time to get a new look. I am sure he’ll love it. He is so rambunctious that all that hair gets in his way. I cannot wait! Just in case you don’t remember how he looked as a puppy, I added a photo of him at about 4 months old.

He is an exceptionally curious and inquisitive little dog. When we brought him home as a little puppy, he was intrigued by labels. Any label! Do you know that chairs generally have labels under the seat? Well, I never paid attention to it, but our little Romeo made it his job to remove them. We have quite a few chairs, and most of the labels are gone. It doesn’t hurt anything, and it was amusing to watch. He is still fascinated by labels, but now we have to be careful not to leave anything laying around with a label because he immediately goes to work!

Romeo is a lover and lives up to his name. If you love him, he will love you, and he will shower you with kisses. He is our first boy, and I wouldn’t miss this time with him for anything. The moment I saw him at 6 weeks old, I knew he was our boy, and I cannot imagine my life without him.

I love you, little sweetie!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

Happy New Year

Standing at the threshold of the New Year, I feel nostalgic and excited at the same time. I am looking forward to writing a new chapter in my book of life reflecting lessons learned and new dreams.

When you lift your glass and toast to a happy and healthy New Year, don’t forget that you want to start a fresh New Year, not one burdened with unresolved issues. Find peace within, love and forgive yourself, and then forgive the people who hurt you. You can do this in various ways. I like to relive my year, make peace, and then visualize a blank page waiting for me to begin the new chapter in my book of life. I see myself surrounded by love, compassion and empathy, and my heart is filled with the same feelings for others. My goal is to love, laugh a lot, and not to sweat the small stuff. Remember the serenity prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change
 the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

Reinhold Niebuhr

The beginning of a New Year can be a continuation of what is, or it can be a fresh start. Maybe your 2018 just needs a little tweaking, a commitment to change a few things to make you happier and more fulfilled. Starting a new chapter in your book of life is a great opportunity to look at yourself and the life you live. If you are satisfied and happy with what you see, then congratulate yourself on your achievement and enjoy 2018. But many of us would like to make some changes. If so, don’t procrastinate but don’t be overly ambitious. Keep in mind that any resolution you make becomes a journey. Success will come to you as long as you stay focused on your goal and believe in yourself.

Imagine your book of life with all the chapters you have lived and all the blank pages waiting for you. There is great wisdom in your book of life and much more to be added.  Always remember that only you can be the author of your book of life. Be kind, patient, and confident that it will be a great year, filled with good health, lots of joy, and happiness.

Wishing you “einen guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr” (Happy New Year)!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Founder and Author of NotJustCooking.com


Holiday Season

My heart is filled with gratitude this holiday season, and I am enjoying every day. Advent is bringing me happiness.

The holiday season means different things to everyone, depending on religious beliefs and origins. It is a great time of the year to show our respect and acceptance of diversity. Maybe we can even participate in a new kind of celebration, if the opportunity presents itself. Broadening our understanding allows us to grow, and that is always beneficial.

I was raised a Catholic, and my mother instilled in me that Christmas is a time to give and to share. For us it wasn’t about gifts, since we had very limited funds, but about the spirit of Christmas. And, she taught me that there are always people who have less than us.

In Germany, the holiday season started with Advent. Then, on December 6th, “Sankt Nikolaus” and “Knecht Ruprecht” came. When I was in Kindergarten, they both physically showed up, “Sankt Nikolaus” had a golden book with the names of the “good” children and “Ruprecht” had a sack on his back where he stuck the “bad” children. The anticipation and fear was great, and I remember how terrifying it was when “Ruprech”t put a boy, who was considered “bad”, into his sack and walked out. We all hoped to be mentioned in “Sankt Nikolaus” book which meant we received some sweets and a pat on the head. At home, we put a shoe outside hoping that it would be filled with sweets and chocolates the next morning. A little story: one year I thought that maybe I could put a boot out so that I would get more goodies. Well, the boot was empty the next morning, and I was told that greedy children are not rewarded.

Christmas time was magic for me. My mother, who was an incredible baker, somehow managed to bake the Christmas cookies without leaving a trace behind. When I came back from Kindergarten and smelled the aromas of baking, she told me that the angels were making Christmas cookies and then she showed me the sunset sky. I believed her explanation and that the pink sky reflected the fire from the ovens of the angels. We didn’t have much, but magic was free, and I will always be grateful for this gift since it stimulated me to use my imagination.

Christmas Eve for a German child was about the Christkind (Christ-child) who brought gifts. The tree was put up on Christmas Eve and my mother was able to keep it secret. She decorated it and lit all the candles, and then we were called in. It was magical and I still remember how my little heart was pounding. We didn’t have a television, but my sister and I listened to the radio in the kitchen which featured programming for children to increase our anticipation and excitement.

There were few gifts in our family, but delicious home baked cookies were brought out and my sister and I each received two oranges. It was special because in my early years oranges were a rare treat. Before we went to midnight mass, my sister and I had to choose something we received that day to give to people who had less than us. I always took one of my oranges, which was a big gift since I didn’t know when I would see another one. I can still remember the big basket at church where everyone deposited something for the ones in need. It was a great lesson which I never forgot.

For me Christmas is a special time to remember the ones we love and to tell them how much they mean to us in whatever way we wish to express our feelings. It is also a time to make peace, to forgive, and to have faith in the future.

I have shared my childhood Christmas memories and hopefully you cherish wonderful seasonal memories as well, of Christmas or any other celebration you observe during the holiday season. Times change, and I am sure German children celebrate differently now. But I am grateful that my mother taught me at a young age that giving is more rewarding than receiving, that being greedy is nothing to be proud of, and that beauty and magic can be created from very little. Yes, Christmas is special for me, and I am still just a little girl when I see the shimmering lights and feel blessed that I have loved ones with whom to share.

I wish you a happy and fulfilling holiday season.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com


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