Multitasking, is that really such a good ‘female skill’ to have?


Everyone today talks about the need to multitask, and the fact that in particular women are natural ‘good multi-taskers’.
In our post-modern, digital society, multitasking is ‘the way to go’.

1. Washing the dishes while supervising children’s dinner and cooking the meal for next day (yes I have done that in the past, with what I have called ‘tremendous speed’)

2. Taping on our smart phones while walking down the street (I see so many people do that, constantly, every day despite it being bloody dangerous!)

3. Checking on google maps for directions while pushing a buggy and frantically trying to hold a toddler in tow (me and many other mums do it regularly, trying to get to a playdate or birthday party in the middle of an unknown common)

4. Talking to family members on the landline while checking emails on the mobile (and loosing track of what is being talked about in the conversation; they didn’t notice, did they?)

5. Doing our online shop on the app, while finding recipes and ordering a gift for a 3rd birthday present (that’s called not wasting your time).

We make lists. We use apps. We work hard. We entertain ourselves. We read a lot (blog posts, social media updates, ebooks, books). We have a social and family life. We have kids. We commute. We write blogs. We take photographs. We have wider interests.

The list can be even longer, if I was to include the whole range of tasks I complete most days.

This is the kind of fast-paced life we live, where our attention is continuously divided between numerous tasks, presented to us in rapid succession and sometimes even simultaneously.

While women perform better than men at multitasking and prioritising in particular ‘in stressful situations’, as numerous studies have reported, women tend to downplay their multitasking abilities while men tend to overplay them.

However, the truth is that the more we multitask, the more we make mistakes.

Our brains are not that well equipped to deal with constant interruptions and distractions that take our attention away. It even seems to be counter-evolutionary.
My husband regularly reminds me that I am ‘putting too much on my list’, an inflationary process that ends up with some randomly selected items, dropping off my list. And the ‘to-do’ list becomes a ‘wish-list’. What was the point of the list, in the first place?

Concentrating and completing one task at the time, can sometimes be much more efficient than trying to do, three other things at the same time.

For example concentrating on pushing the buggy and holding the toddler in tow, without also holding the phone and causing it to fall and break (that would be a disaster, right?)

So in fact I think, multitasking can sometimes be unproductive, especially on competing tasks such as checking email while on a phone call or walking. But for certain tasks it can work, such as commuting and reading, or pushing the buggy and running.

Personally I am growing tired of multitasking. 

I am going to start scanning my lists for competing items, remove them from today’s list and add them on to a new list. This way I will end up with a number of lists, based on priorities, but at least, I will lead to completion one list at a time.

Good at multitasking? Maybe, not so much for me finally. How about you? Are you good at it? How do find the right balance?

Some visual examples

Multitasking, is that such a good 'female'

http://youbabymemummy.com/the-list/the-list-45/

http://honestmum.com/brilliant-blog-posts-16th-july-2015/

My Little Star Is 1!


This is the first video on the blog. What a better occasion than my little boy’s 1st birthday!!!

He had the most incredible birth, in a relaxed environment at home, a great way to start a life’s journey.

He has been an amazing little baby to have and to cherish.

And now he is 1! He can walk, has 8 teeth, he can throw balls and he loves his brother, Edward.

This is a snapshot of Elliot’s last 6 months’ journey.

http://youbabymemummy.com/vlog/moving-pictures-3-home-movie-linky/

Why I miss being pregnant?


Alright, to be honest I don’t miss it so much.

In particular the physical side of it, getting big, tired and out of breath. Oh and I forgot, feeling hot and having bigger feet.

I read a great piece of advice, to buy shoes one size bigger. I did it and it made my pacing up and down the Northern line, much smoother

But there are two things I do miss, a little, in fact a lot.

The special feeling of having a little human being growing in my tummy and the superior mission, of looking after this fragile little creature.

Responding to that superior mission, I did so many special things that nurtured the baby but also myself.

A healthy diet. Although I was careful, I was not too obsessed in terms of risk, so I did eat smoked salmon, which is allowed in the UK. I also washed my salad only with water, as opposed to rinsing it with vinegar, as they do in France to reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis… I know, a bit too much…oh la la!!

Having a daily rest after work or at weekends.

Lots of relaxing baths. I loved soaking in the hot water, with lovely Sanctuary Spa products, relaxing music, candles and all.

Sleeping on the left side, especially after week 32 is thought to encourage the baby to position itself in the OA (ociput anterior position which means baby’s back against your tummy), one of the optimal positions for birth.

Hypnobirthing for my first and hiring a doula for my second.

I spent a lot of time reading about the physiology of birth. I read how the signal of pain from contractions, is transmitted to our brain and especially how a different signal, the “I can cope with this” message after going through a contraction, reaches the brain even faster, causing what is known as “altered perception of pain”, or in simpler terms less pain. Dimmed lights, music, massage can help getting to that state and once there, it is easier to continue labour, feeling encouraged and euphoric.

I did reflexologie sessions as both my babies were late. Having your feet massaged is amazing, I loved it.

Swimming regularly.

I took homeopathic remedies. I swear by colophylum for a quick and efficient labour. I took it for a week, after my due date with baby nr 2 and I believe it made my labour faster: 2 hours 15 minutes of active labour and a baby delivered at home, with my husband and paramedics in the last 15 minutes.

Perineal massage with almond oil. I swear by this as well, for reducing the risk of tearing.

Sex, more than now. I don’t know how that makes me and my husband look? Like tired parents of two boys, 1 and 4 year olds??

Daydreaming.

Listening to yoga nidra relaxation tracks from the Yoga Nidra Network.

There aren’t many other experiences as intense as pregnancy or giving birth. They are all consuming. Once you’ve been there it’s never the same afterwards.

That is what I miss the most, the intensity, the overwhelming euphoria from giving birth and having a new baby and all the other special things I did.

Now, if I did more of these other things, perhaps I would not be tempted to start all over again?

Why i miss being pregnant

New Year celebrations, as they used to be in Albania and how it is today for me in England


New Year celebrations are a big thing in Albania, much more than in the UK. This is because of the communist past where Christmas could not be celebrated and instead all the efforts and the attention were on New Year. We had Father Christmas (wearing the same red suit and a white beard) but he was ‘Babagjyshi i Vitit te Ri’ meaning the ‘Old Man of New Year’. So he would come on New Year’s day and give children presents. He would also represent the old year that was about to end and in a popular children’s theatre the old man is replaced by a young man, who brings along the new year and also hopes and a new start for everyone.

My son standing by our Christmas tree in London

My son standing by our Christmas tree in London

We also had the tree but again not the Christmas tree but New Year’s tree. And on New Year families would celebrate together, cooking big meals and turkey, and the traditional homemade bakllavas and kadaifs (sweets of turkish origin in Albania but very engrained in the culture). The main blocks of Christmas celebrations were there but under a different name and happening on a different date.

An Albanian speciality which remains popular is the festive New Year’s eve TV programme with songs and comedy sketches that would accompany families’ dinners until the early hours of the morning. And also the fireworks a modern addition, where almost everyone will fire fireworks from their balconies or terraces at midnight on New Year’s eve.

Our representation of New Year was wider than just the year’s end, as it incorporated all the Christmas imagery but with a different meaning and messaging. And it had the positive message of the start of a new year that would bring excitement and joy.

Communists don’t celebrate Christmas!

You may not know this but Albania is the only country ever that has banned religion and made it illegal. The communist leader Enver Hoxha persecuted and eliminated thousands of priests and religious activists in an effort to eradicate what Marx called ‘the opium of the people’ when referring to religion. Of course this was a criminal act that caused the death and sufferance of thousands of people and it remains a dark moment of our history.

So being a child in communist Albania at Christmas time was a curious thing. My grandmother was religious, with the Orthodox church and she was also born in Corfu (from Albanian parents who had immigrated in neighbouring Corfu from the south of Albania).

She had two important dates in December, the 14th of December the date of celebrating the patron of Corfu, Saint Spyridon and Christmas day.

Llukumadhe look a bit these, made by my mother

Llukumadhe look like these, made by my mother

For the first she would cook ‘llukumadhe’ a type of pancake that we would eat with a lot of sugar until we (children) would feel our bellies exploding.

For the second we would have a family dinner and she would burn candles in secret. Of course we couldn’t say anything to other people about these events as this could compromise my grandfather’s position (he was a military doctor that had studied in Russia and fought with the partisans) and consequently everyone else’s (his children, my mother’s, father’s etc.). So we had to be quiet and secretive about it.

As a child I was never encouraged to believe in Father Christmas as it wasn’t part of our beliefs. Babagjysh, the old man of New Year was a positive, religion-free figure that brought hope, a new beginning and happiness and as a child I had some feelings for him.

Christmas is back in Albania

Since the change of regime in Albania in the early 90s, religions are no longer illegal. For historic reasons before communism, people in Albania followed three main religions – muslim (brought in by the Ottoman invasion in the beginning of the 15th century), orthodox (introduced in Albania earlier as part of the Greek Church) and catholic (even earlier with the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church). So after the ‘communist religious blip’ we are back to where we were before, with most of the population being muslim, a smaller percentage catholic and an even smaller one orthodox.

Because religion has not had a very strong role in people’s lives in Albania, Christmas as a religious celebration is celebrated by a minority.

The occasion however as a general public holiday and festive day is celebrated in a different way, for example a Christmas evening booked at a restaurant with live music and a lot of dancing (dancing is a strong part of Albanian traditions).

The long journey to Christmas in the UK

I try to be weary of generalizing and I know not everyone is the same and the ways people celebrate Christmas in the UK can be different. But for almost everyone and judging from conversations and what people say on social media, Christmas is a big ordeal!

It is a big occasion when families get together and there is a lot to organise from the shopping list, to the christmas menu, the list of presents, decorations for the house, the tree, christmas music etc, etc. And there is the whole christmas branding, adverts, lights, supermarket offers, retail sales, etc. It is quite easy from an outsiders point of view to associate Christmas with commercial opportunities (for businesses and consumerism for consumers). But behind that there is a genuine element of spending time with your cousins, brothers and sisters etc something that doesn’t happen often.

My son is the youngest one and this is one of his favourite activities, going for a walk with the dog, his cousins, parents and aunties and uncles

My son is the youngest one and this is one of his favourite activities, going for a walk with the dog, his cousins, parents and aunties and uncles

Even my mother who since I started living in the UK has attempted to learn a bit of English following a ‘Learn English’ book for children said that she read in her book about a little boy who said ‘I love Christmas as it is the time when I see my cousins, who I don’t see very often, only once a year’.

So there is the family spirit and it is the one I have appreciated the most in my last 4 English Christmases.

New Year celebrations in London, candles and Hawaiian theme party

Our New Year celebrations this year in London, included a Hawaiian theme party

When it comes to New Year celebrations, New Year has less importance and is often spent with friends organising themed parties where everyone dresses up in the chosen theme.

Hawaiian party decorations in our flat in London

Hawaiian party decorations in our flat in London

New memories similar to the old ones

Without wanting to sound nostalgic I feel that although it is in a different time and space my son’s memories of Christmas will be quite similar to the ones from our New Year’s celebrations.

What he loves the most is seeing his grandparents, their dog, his cousins, being with everyone around and spending that leisurely time in each others company.

For me, my best memories of New Year were similar, the spirit of everyone coming together, celebrating and having some special food and special time. Presents were never a strong part and I hope we manage to teach that to our son, that Christmas is not about the presents only. This may prove hard as for children naturally the unwrapping of presents on Christmas day is at the heart of the excitement but we need to try our best to emphasise the importance of the company of each other, instead.

My cousins and I had our favourite activity during New Year celebrations – playing with cards and betting small amounts of money. The excitement of winning (and misery of loosing) was what kept us playing until our banks were empty. The other one was on 1st January, we would go around to our relatives houses to try some of their baklavas and also be given a small amount of cash. This was part of the tradition and we would have it every year. After doing the round of the houses we would sit down at a cafe and enjoy an ice-cream or some other sweet, in a ‘civilised way’ we would call it, like our parents would do.

I am sure my son and his cousins will have their own stock of memories built over the years.

After all that is what Christmas and New Year (in the Albanian way) are about, spending time with your cousins!

My son and his cousins playing a game of closing their eyes before opening some of the presents

My son and his cousins playing a game of closing their eyes before opening some of the presents

Christmas day 2013 walk; my son with his younger cousin; is a special photo for me that best conveys the joy of Christmas

I have included this post as part of the Daily Post theme – Happy, happy, joy, joy as this post is all about happiness at special times of the year, Christmas and New Year.

Albanian traditional costumes at the British museum


My ‘photo a day’ project has slowed down (quite considerably given that I haven’t posted a photo a day for the last two weeks) and instead of posting every day I will be posting photos that I take when I can.

Doing such a project should be fun and not stressful so I will not be harsh on myself. If I cannot do it every day that means I cannot do it and will perhaps start again when I will have a bit more time (when is that likely to be? 🙂

In the meantime I will continue my photography work, posting on the blog and writing about other things that I do as usual.

So this post and the photos are from a day of celebrations for the Albanian Independence Day which is on 28 November 1912. So this year was Albania’s 101 year of being independent from the Ottoman Empire. Albania became independent later than its neighbors as it was particularly difficult for my country to organize a strong opposition to the ottomans but also to territorial ambitions and plans from its neighbors in alliance with the big powers of the time (Russia, Austro-Hungary, France, Britain, Italy) to divide Albania between its neighbors.

But as a typical fairy tale (really?) it all ended well and our patriots declared the independence in the southern city of Vlora. The actual borders were not definitive until 1920 and in actual fact Albania lost significant territory in the south to Greece, east to Macedonia, north to Montenegro and most importantly all of Kosovo, to Serbia. That’s why as weird as this may be Albania is the only country (in the world?) that is surrounded by Albanian populations on all of its borders.

That is history and on to the present modern day, Albanians celebrate this important national day quite pompously in Albania and in different ways in other countries where Albanian communities live.

The Albanian community in London organised many celebrations, lead by the different community groups such as Shpresa programme, Nene Teresa, Ardhmeria etc. The one we went to was organised by Ardhmeria in collaboration with the Albanian ambassador in the UK. The author of a book about the war in Kosovo was also invited and presented his book ‘Flying with kites’ which can be bought on amazon for those wanting to learn more about the conflict.

And finally the photos I took of beautiful Albanians that live in London wearing Albanian traditional costumes. But also of other people attending the celebrations.

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20131217-143341.jpgI have posted these photos on Facebook before so they will not be new for my friends there. I wanted to share them on the blog too with other blog friends.

Let me know what you think.

Delicious Albanian dishes from amazing Mrizi i Zanave


Three beautiful and delicious dishes from Mrizi i Zanave, in the village of Fishte, near the city of Shkodra in Albania. This is a hidden gem in the countryside, a restaurant that cultivates its own produce or sources it from local farmers. The restaurant is very popular and it attracts a clientele from the capital. The chef has worked in Italy and decided to start his own place back home.

The first two dishes are a selection of starters, including a pie with spinach and corn flower, feta cheese, grilled aubergines and deep fried flowers of courgette in batter, a selection of pickles with pickled peaches amongst others, homemade fruit syrup and cloves of garlic.

The third dish is lamb shish kebabs, with potatoes and fresh porcini mushrooms from the mountains of Puka, further up north.

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Just looking at this makes me want to go back to this place. If you’re in Albania and you’ve never been, don’t wait any longer. And If you haven’t been to Albania, well maybe it’s time to think again?

A friend as written an excellent review of the place Mrizi i Zanave, the subtle savour of culinary delights of Northern Albania

 

The daily post at wordpress.com today was about Food for the Soul (and the Stomach) and I chose this post as one that perfectly addresses the theme.