Dutch food – these are a few of my favourite things

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I love going to supermarkets and spending time walking down every aisle. I never thought I’d say this because I’ve never enjoyed shopping. However, I’ve realised that it’s a great way to make a new country feel like home.

Food is a universal connection point between people and an important aspect of every country’s culture. That’s why I think it’s important to know what people eat here and how it is prepared or presented.

Fortunately not everything has been foreign and eating Dutch food and treats brings back many beautiful memories from my childhood. I grew up in a Dutch home (my father was born and raised in South Holland before moving to South Africa in his early twenties) and my parents took great care to introduce my sister and I to Dutch food from a young age.

When I go to a store I always take a tas or tasje (This seems to be the word people use around here for a shopping bag). I like this part of the experience because I’ve built up an awesome collection of bags. I have my favourite cloth bags but most of them are made from waterproof material (these come in really handy in this climate).

My collection of shopping bags

It’s been great fun to introduce my husband and son to some of the yummiest Dutch food.

Hagelslag chocolate sprinkles. This can be enjoyed on buttered bread at any time of the day. I’ve also discovered that the sprinkles can be used to jazz up a home-baked banana loaf or mixed into plain greek yoghurt.

Stroopwafels. A syrup waffle is one of the best things that will ever pass your lips. They are sold in packets of 10 or so and it is impossible to only have one at a time. My husband and I enjoy having them with coffee or red wine. The filling consists of syrup, caramel, brown sugar and cinnamon. Apparently the stroopwafel was first made in Gouda during the late 18th century or early 19th century by a baker using leftovers from the bakery such as breadcrumbs, which were sweetened with syrup.

Speculaas biscuits. These are spiced shortcrust biscuits. They always have an image such as a windmill or figure (often from the traditional stories about St. Nicholas) on the front side. People tell me that they are supposed to be eaten at christmas time but I am quite happy to have them all year round. They are just perfect with a cup of tea.

Croquettes. A croquette is a small breadcrumbed fried roll containing mashed potatoes or ground meat, cheese or vegetables mixed with brown sauce. The best time to eat one (or two) is while exploring the streets of Amsterdam, at Keukenhof among the tulips, at a street festival or on a canal cruise. Croquettes go well with a serving of friet (french fries) and mayonnaise. You aren’t going to win healthy eating awards for this fast food combo but go ahead and try it. You won’t regret it.

Cheese. Dutch people eat a lot of cheese and I can understand why. It is simply delicious! Every Saturday morning we buy cheese at the Haarlem Market on the Grote Markt Square. We try out a different flavour every week. The supermarkets also stock a fantastic cheese selection. At the moment the Boerenkaas is my favourite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s okay – just be sad

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I just love this. I’m realising how important it is to give myself permission to feel what I feel and just “sit” with my emotions. It takes at long as it takes…you don’t owe anyone a performance.

“It’s okay to be sad. You don’t owe anyone a performance of being okay when you feel like you’re falling apart. It isn’t your job to smile or hide your truth to make other people feel more comfortable. If it gets awkward, let it be awkward.

If people try to silence your pain by telling you to get over it and cheer up because you’re no longer fun or you’re ruining the mood, you don’t have to push away your sadness. You have to honor your feelings and trust that you don’t need anyone’s permission or approval to feel what you feel. You don’t ever have to sacrifice your self care for the sake of people who only want you around when it’s easy and comfortable.

Their discomfort isn’t about you — it’s about them and their own limitations, and no matter what they think or say, you deserve to give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel. You’re allowed to show your feelings honestly. You’re allowed to talk about your pain and reach out for support. You’re allowed to scream and wail and cry. You’re allowed to be sad.”

—Daniell Koepke

Opportunity that comes with depression

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opportunity that comes with depression

 

This is a perfect description of what of my life is like living with depression. It is something I have to manage all the time, but it isn’t all bad. In fact I’m experiencing some of the most beautiful times of my life right now. I feel connected. I know who I am. I am healing. And when I feel pain and uncertainty and fear – and this happens very often – that’s okay. I allow myself to go there and experience it. I’m learning amazing things about myself. I appreciate my life and the opportunity to have another go at it. ❤

Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky

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When I was driving to work this morning I was thinking about my career. If what I’m doing is what I should be doing, if it is good for me, if I really love what I do (but this is a story for another post…). What I did conclude is that I could never work as a treefeller – at least one thing I know for sure! I just love trees so much and I wouldn’t have the heart to ever cut one down. I believe that mother nature cries out if a tree is cut down without a good reason. It makes my heart sore.

I think trees are magical. They store in them so much positive energy and provide restoration and comfort in times of sadness. Have you ever sat and just looked at a tree for ages? Have you listened to a tree bending in the wind – if it is a really old one it creaks and groans as the branches sway. And when there’s a slight breeze the leave rustle gently.

Trees are very good teachers – you can learn a lot about life just by observing them.

Trees are constantly teaching me how to become silent and how to get comfortable with myself and my own thoughts.

I saw this quote by JB Hill: “As I started to picture the trees in the storm, the answer began to dawn on me. The trees in the storm don’t try and stand straight and tall and erect. They allow themselves to be bent and blown with the wind. They understand the power of letting go. Those trees and those branches that try to hard to stand up strong and straight are the ones that break.”

Isn’t that just so true?

Trees also teach us this: Stand tall and be proud, sink your roots into the earth, be content with your natural beauty, remember your roots, stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky, affirm life’s magic, stand tall after a storm, feel refreshed after it rains, grow strong without notice, provide shelter to strangers, be prepared for each season, hang tough through a cold spell and…

Be still long enough to hear your own leaves rustling.

 

The road to recovery – it isn’t about the easy days

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Source: Interesting Engineering

Source: Interesting Engineering

Doesn’t the road to recovery from depression, anxiety and PTSD feel like this sometimes? What I know is that “recovery” isn’t a place you can get to. It is a journey and sometimes there will be really big potholes in the road. What’s really important is to trust the process. I read about this concept all the time – it must be the universe trying to tell me something ;-). Allow life to unfold. The late Jeff Buckley says “life has its own rhythm and you cannot impose your own structure on it – you have to listen what it tells you.”

I saw this the other day and I think it is true:

Anyone can do recovery on a good day. Recovery isn’t about the easy days. Recovery is fighting through the worst days and coming out the other side. You’ve worked incredibly hard to get there. Don’t throw it all away. Keep pushing through.

Listen to your heart

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Cheerio Farm, Magoebaskloof, Limpopo – South Africa

Everyday, try to find time to sit in complete and total silence with yourself. Dig down deep to the centre of your soul and listen to your heart. Find your inner voice and it is there you will find true peace. – Melanie Koulouris

This has been a very difficult week. Overwhelming actually. But what I continuously try and remind myself is that just because I’m struggling doesn’t mean I’m failing – although it feels like that now. This week I’ve been thinking about lots of things, but a quote from a book I read recently, The Fault in our Stars by John Green has been with me the whole week. One of the main characters, Augustus Waters says “that’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” And I think that’s true for me right now.

I don’t think anything in life goes away until it teaches us what we need to know. I don’t think I’ve ever had to deal with anything more difficult than my own soul, but I’m not going to rush this process. The answers always come. The soul always knows what it needs to heal itself.

 

 

First signs of spring

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When I started my blog in June I also started a photo project. I decided to take a series of photos of the mulberry tree in our garden, for a year, to show how the tree changes every season. For the full story about my love affair with mulberry trees, take a look at the post called ‘Mulberry memories’ here. Mulberry trees occupy a significant part of my early childhood memories.

So here are the next three pictures. Our beautiful tree is sprouting news leaves!

There’s a certain kind beauty about the tree in winter with its bare branches, but Spring is most certainly my favourite time of the year.  All I have to do now is get through a windy and unpredictable August here in Joburg.

With mulberry trees the change is so noticeable and since we moved into our house four years ago I’ve gotten to know our tree’s personality very well. It is a very good indicator of the seasons changing. I guess the tree reminds me of my own transformation – it has been a journey of high and low moments, laughter and pain.  I find comfort in the seasons changing because I think I can also look forward to that in my life – I managed to get through the worst winter in my life. The trick is to believe that Spring will always come. There’s always hope.

 

 

Currently under construction

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mosaic heart

It’s been a tough few days and my PTSD has reared its ugly head again. It always feels like such a defeat – just when I think things are under control everything seems to come undone again. But then again, perhaps it is actually just a gentle reminder to be aware of where I am on this journey.

Sometimes I feel like PTSD is a continuous process of being broken down and pieced together again. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I like mosaic so much – that’s also a process of breaking tiles into tiny pieces and piecing them together again to form something beautiful. And I guess that’s how I feel about my life sometimes – I am slowly managing to put the pieces back together again.

Sometimes I have so much rage towards the people who brought me to this place – they will never know the massive repercussions of it all. But I never want the sadness of my past to steal joy from me now. My life is too valuable and I can’t allow that to happen.

I don’t want to get flashbacks about things I don’t want to remember, but it is a message from my subconscious mind that I’m ready to remember. I read something that said the mind replays what the heart can’t delete and I think that’s true. I have to be patient and go gently on myself. It will take as long as it takes to rebuild myself.

In honour of my therapist

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I owe a great deal to my psychologist and psychiatrist. They are amazing people and although I know I pay them to help me, that’s not the point for me. I once read something about how important it is to honour the people in your life who believed in you and gave you confidence when you needed it most – and that is how I feel about them. I actually know I wouldn’t be alive if I wasn’t for them. They helped me realise that my story isn’t over yet. They showed me how to feel emotion again. Because of them I realised that my life is valuable. And that comfort of having someone really listen to your story – the really honest version with no edits. Such a relief and so much freedom.

 

 

Find your silver lining

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siliver lining

You know that saying ‘every cloud has a silver lining’? I’ve decided to think of depression as the silver lining in my life. This realisation didn’t come to me overnight – I can assure you that – because I don’t like labelling myself. I always resist labels because I don’t want some external standard or idea to define me. I guess it is fear of judgement. There is so much stigma around mental illness and honestly, who wants to deal with all that?

But now I see it all differently.  What I understand now is that knowing what I’m struggling with and giving it a name has been so helpful to me. I know I have to manage it. I can take responsibility for it.  Some days I still feel so angry about the many traumatic events that caused this to be part of my life, but I can’t do anything about that now. I have to find constructive ways to stop depression from becoming an all-consuming thing in my life.

For such a long time my life was completely unbearable. It required so much energy to get through each day. I thought that I was just having a (very long) series of bad days. I had clinical depression and I was struggling with post traumatic stress (for years!) and I didn’t even know it. There was always this nagging feeling that something was really wrong. I saw the warning signs, but I thought I would try and “hang in there” and “tough it out”.

I’ve learnt an important lesson.

My clinical depression diagnosis was full stop in my life, a line drawn in the sand. It was a signal to slow down and gain perspective. The anxiety, fear, flashbacks and depression were all signals that pushed me to act.  It created awareness about the things harmful in my life – because if I didn’t do something about my depression it would have completely destroyed me. It is a completely debilitating thing– but the signal was there and it was something I had to deal with immediately.

So this is why I view my depression as something that’s completely changed my life – it is my silver lining. I’ve discovered so much beauty and inner peace and self- acceptance. My life is so wonderfully good. And I am so grateful.

And this is my favourite part – it has been an opportunity to totally recreate myself. How exciting is that? I get to go on a journey of discovery about myself. Try new things. Figure out what I like. Discover things I didn’t know about myself. And it isn’t a selfish thing at all. It is so necessary.

Think about it this way: if depression is a shadow your life, there must be a light cast from somewhere. Don’t live in the criticism of your shadow. Life in the part that brings hope, renewal, joy, inner peace and happiness.