October 3, 2011

inspire: moni

I hope that by catching a glimpse into the lives of real, passionate, active women, you will begin to see your own value and uniqueness in this life.  Please share this with as many people as you can because I believe they will get something out of it as well.

Today we're talking to a friend of mine, Moni, who has continually (and probably unknowingly) inspired me to live simply and creatively in my own unique way.  She has a passion for the culinary arts (in the most healthy way) and a knack for creating a beautifully designed home.  You're gonna love her! 


Tell us a little bit about yourself… 

I am first and foremost a mom and wife. These two commitments have shaped who I am today. I am loyal to and whom I believe in, I do not worry when others don’t agree. Everything I do is centered around Christ, He is my strength and my source of any good in my life. I have always been rather independent, I like to analyze just about everything, think about the big picture, and make up my own mind. (This also makes me a terrible sales person, as much as I dislike being pushed into a decision, I don’t like pushing others, either.) I value generosity, honesty, compassion, and anything that is genuine. I love getting to know people who stick to who they are, who know themselves and don’t conform to those around them. God made us to be individuals, He created us all with specific purpose, and it is my life’s goal to be exactly what God created me to be. This also applies to how we raise our kids!
I love listening to people talk, I think of myself as a caring listener. I have noticed that most people who are hurting, can do much healing when someone genuinely listens to them, even if there is not always have an answer. I deeply care for my friends, I love to see them do well.
I would say my weakness is stamina! I watch in awe at the amounts of things some people tackle and accomplish in a single day! I tire easily and definitely need my 8 hours of sleep at night.

What makes you happy?

About 5 years ago my husband and I went through a rough time financially. We went without pay for months, as other young couples seemingly thrived all around us. I found it difficult to be stagnant, not moving forward, and often explaining to my kids why there is no food in the fridge. I spent about a year emotionally absent from my family, from myself. Then one day, I picked myself up, wanting to put an end to this downward spiral. I started thanking God for everything I DID have. I started with toothpaste… when you don’t have much you have to start somewhere. What would life be without toothpaste (I have nightmares about losing adult teeth!)  I’ll never forget it, and still today, I am thankful for toothpaste. I found joy which is not circumstantial, joy in life even when life is going no where. So what makes me happy? A thankful attitude, a content heart. This has lead me to love simplicity, to love the smallest details of life rather than always hoping for tomorrow to come.

A daily dose of me time balances my day. I have come to terms with it, knowing I need it, and so I make sure I take it. My husband thinks I should take it, too. A happy wife makes a happy house!

A tangible list of my sources of happiness would be:

 - My family – unconditional love is something so powerful, it surpasses everything
 - Cooking – planning, learning and creating an atmosphere of unity around the dinner table, with food!
I dream of decorating daily, and do as much as I can in our home within budget. I love finding good deals, and making something out of nothing.
 - The country – how it smells (when you grow up with manure, you don’t mind it so much), its beauty, how it gives so much to us when we take care of it.

What do you do? 

I am head over heels in love with food. One may say I have passion for the stuff. And even though I seem to cook up far too many flops, I keep going back for more. I write a food blog which is a journey about allowing myself to fail once in a while, about discovering small details that make all the difference, and most of all, about figuring out my place in the vast (culinary) world. I am convinced everyone has time to cook, that simple is (most) often better than complicated. There are days I imagine myself mastering culinary school, but when I truly allow myself to dream, my thoughts drift to funky rubber boots, splattered with muck as I tend my country garden and chase after a plethora of animals and kids.

I would love to say cooking is my talent, but I feel as though I have so much to learn yet. I often pray for God to give me a natural gifting, but then I suppose that would take the fun out of learning, wouldn’t it.

I also discovered a love for writing, which very much surprises me, as I could not keep myself awake during any sort of English classes, ever. Perhaps I don’t like guidelines and rules, thinking within a box. I like to put on paper what goes through my head. I blame this on being bilingual, and a difficulty to express myself verbally (unless you speak both English and German, combining the two is my mother tongue, I may not make sense at all times!) I don’t write hoping people will read it, I just love to put things on paper.

What draws you to do what you do? 

I love nutrition. I love being creative. I need variety. I love shopping. I love learning. I love doing things for others. Cooking ticks all these boxes, each and every day. (I don’t, however, like making people sick, but that has, unfortunately, happened too.)

Tell us a little bit about how you got started doing what you do…

Growing up with a mom who does not enjoy the kitchen, I took to cooking at age 10 as I was tired of the same old potato dishes. I also discovered that if I cooked, I didn’t have to wash the dishes after dinner. I very much disliked cleaning back then, something I can hardly imagine now. I also hated going for walks, now I love both. Funny how that happens.
Looking back at my childhood, and learning about most kids’ diets today, I realize we ate quite well, even if it most often was basic steamed potatoes and vegetables with cheese melted over everything. I have very early memories of walking around our village of 600 people, picking up fresh vegetables from one family, buying milk (which was raw and quite often still warm from the cow) from one of our farmers, bringing egg cartons to yet another lady who kept chickens in her backyard, which she filled with brown speckled eggs in varying sizes. Coming home with a loot we now may call the 100 mile diet (or in this case, the 5 mile diet), I did wonder, at times, what it was like to buy food from a store like other kids did with their parents. Our food was dirty, unpolished, and imperfect.  We ate simply, but now I know, we had the best. (Thanks, mom!)  

In what ways have you excelled over the years and how did that happen?

I have a hard time thinking I have excelled at anything. I still feel as though I am just scratching the surface of all the things I would like to learn. I am not a perfect mother, either, but I have found apologizing to my kids makes me more real to them. I used to fear failure, as so many of us do. It hindered me in trying so many things I wanted to do. I still don’t like failing, who does, but now I refuse to look back Instead I learn from my mistakes and make sure I don’t make that same mistake twice. Refusing to give in to fear was not something that just happened, I had to make a choice not to dwell on yesterday. Fear in itself made me make more mistakes.
I would like to excel in cooking, growing my own food, and raising kids that love God and are content.

In your particular skill, what kind of tips can you offer amateurs or people wanting help in that area?

Learning to cook is something you have to do to learn. Watching Food TV and flipping through cookbooks will only get you so far. I would suggest starting with basics, perhaps choosing a few different items like the perfect roast chicken, spaghetti with homemade marinara, even pancakes. Keeping it simple, using only “naked” ingredients (stay away from packaged foods). Get to know these basic ingredients, understand how they react to heat, moisture and different cooking methods. When you understand food, cooking makes a whole lot more sense and you’ll use recipes less and less.
I am a big advocate of quality cooking utensils and appliances. When you buy, buy quality. Not only will it last, but it will out perform any cheap products. Your simple food will be stunning. Start with a good chefs knife.
This same principle also goes for ingredients. Buy the best your budget will allow. The cheapest can of tomatoes is the cheapest for reason. If you start with a good product, you won’t have to spend time making up for lack of flavor later.

How do you incorporate your skill into your everyday life? Does it flow naturally, or do you schedule time for it?

Oh, I schedule a lot of time! I wish it came more naturally to me! But, again, I love to study, learn, and then reap the rewards for my effort. It’s very satisfying. I read cookbooks like novels. I put everything I learn to use. That’s what I love about cooking – I get to practice each and every day, three times a day. Now that my kids are a bit older, they know when Mama has her apron on, she’s working. Either join forces or find something to do. Most kids love cooking, so I feel fortunate that I can involve them in my passion. My husband loves to eat, so that works out well, too.

Is there anything special you’ve created that you’d like to share with my readers? 

I guess that would be my blog. I love it when people hop on the cooking bandwagon, and eat their best food at home, rather than restaurants.

How have you chosen to use your skill? As in, have you chosen it as a hobby, or has it developed into a business? Do you plan on starting a business one day?

I think about this every day… Where do I fit in? I’ve worked in the food business for many years. But I hate the hours and the atmosphere in most professional kitchens. Besides my goal is to get people into their own kitchens, cooking from scratch! I’ve had several business ideas, like cooking classes, but I need to learn so much more myself, I don’t feel ready in the least. If I were to sell a product, it would be knowledge, not food. But then, I love to pass it along free of charge, sit at a big table with lots of people, and enjoy how food brings us together.

What are your future goals with your particular skill?

It is my dream to move to the country, own a few acres, and be more self sufficient. I have been reading up on communal living, which literally means, “sharing resources”. What I see in my mind so far, is a few families, with the same goal, each building their own homes on a big piece of land, houses spread apart enough to maintain privacy and sanity. We own a large vegetable garden and greenhouse. We grow chickens for eggs and meat. I am not so sure about livestock, but I think goats would be pretty amazing for their milk and cheese. We would use solar energy, and have a community pool and a place to cook and eat together once a week. We would share responsibilities for our grounds and animals, which makes going on holiday a possibility. From there, once I have learned how to keep plants alive (I have killed many a houseplant) and successfully grow quality food, I keep dreaming about a self sufficiency resource center. It saddens me to think most of us have no idea how to sustain ourselves outside of the retail world. (That includes me, too.) I see people either growing food on our land, or learning how to start a garden, and taking that knowledge home. I see children learning about real food, and craving it, rather than lunch out of a cardboard box. I would love to spark a love for simplicity, for its reward, and for community.

What is your "philosophy" in life - what keeps you motivated to pursue your passion in life?

Keep it simple, but do things well. I dream of being that grandma, (I know, weird) that has the cool tire swing, that knows how to do just about anything, that cooks the most amazing meals. And yes, I am just 32 years old. But I love the idea of inspiring others, especially my family, to be the best that they can be, to be that person God created them to be! There is so much satisfaction in that.

Hope you enjoyed today's inspire post!  Be who you are and live life with passion today, whatever you do!


elizabeth primo photography said...

oh wow... okay i have to admit. reading that was rather refreshing... what an inspiration...
thank you estelle...
those photos look pretty too by the way. look like they cud be yours.
:) :)

elizabeth primo photography said...

wow reading this was rather quite refreshing...what an awesome woman...
that house looks amazing!! and i do like the photos as well... the look like they could be yours, estelle!! :)
her blog really inspired me to cook better for the family...
thanks estelle...

Estelle said...

Thanks, Elizabeth! Yes...I do all the photos for the inspire posts, except if the interview is with a photographer (such as yourself). Thanks for taking time to read this one!! :)

Lukrisi said...

What a great post about an amazing woman! She's so authentic and true to herself. I do love that Moni-girl.

Christina Durksen said...

Moni is such an inspirational person - what a great choice for an Inspire post! I love her strength, that she has such awesome dreams and that she stays true to herself - she is truly a great example of a woman of God and a wife of noble character. Thanks for posting this!

Tanja Dueck said...

Those were beautiful words, Estelle. My sister, which is also my best friend, has been a huge inspiration to me since I was very little. She is so authentic in her being and means what she says. Never would a discouraging word go from her lips.

Yes, she cannot help but inspire ;)