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 time to start something new

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Just over a month ago I boarded a flight to The Netherlands. The land of cheese, tulips, windmills and bicycles was my new home. I left South Africa on a hot and humid day in March (not unusual for South Africa) and arrived in a cloudy and rainy Amsterdam (also not uncharacteristic for this part of the world).

While I was pushing our trolley of suitcases through the airport and going through customs I wondered if I had lost my mind. I’ve done some strange things in my life but moving about 10 000km to another hemisphere probably tops the list of crazy stuff I’ve done.

But actually, this move is one of the most responsible things I’ve ever done. It wasn’t an impulsive move but a decision to seek a lifestyle that’s a better fit for my family and I.

Albert Einstein said it well: “A ship is always safe at shore but that is not what it’s built for.”

We were ready for new adventures and unfamiliar places. We were ready to feel alive again and have fun.

Now I’m enjoying establishing new rituals. Early morning bicycle commuting through the mist. That fresh smell of cold morning air. Coffee in the medieval part of town. Cycling along canals and rivers is becoming routine.

The temporary discomfort of new surroundings is also good for the soul. Being confused about how things work – this is an opportunity to talk to someone and make new friends. Getting lost – as frustrating as it is this is when I’ve discovered the most beautiful spots.

 

These things make me feel vibrant and alive again.

Don’t be afraid of new beginnings. Don’t shy away from new people, new energy, new surroundings. Embrace new chances at happiness. – Billy Chapata

Life lessons from a sad tiger

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This evening I read my son Matthew the most beautiful story. It is about a sad tiger called Augustus and he thinks that he’s lost his smile.

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He sets off to find it and  right at the end he realises this:

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Happiness is everywhere around him. And that’s true! There is beauty in this world and in life even when it is unbearable and overwhelming. We must celebrate simple happiness…the little things.

I read this recently:

Think today is just another day? You woke up. You heart’s beating. You can talk to anyone. You can try anything. Your day has infinite potential. Now that’s something to celebrate. – Lori Deschene

Wow. That’s something to think about.

Thank you, Augustus! ♡

 

 

My one wild and precious life

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Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it is just about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.

I’ve been stuck inside all day. It has been pouring with rain since early this morning. But later this afternoon it cleared just enough to go outside for a bit and watch the beautiful stormy sunset. The clouds were all wispy with delicate shades of orange and yellow. I watched the clouds move slowly across the sky. They don’t seem in any hurry to get anywhere. They just move along slowly in the direction the wild takes them.

While I was standing outside I thought that this is actually the way I feel about life. Like the clouds I am in no hurry to get anywhere. Where would I rush to anyway? I am quite happy with a calm life. The more important question for me is what I plan to do with my one wild and precious life? This is a question I constantly ask myself since I came so dangerously close to losing my life.

My answer to this is simple: all I want is to be happy.

It don’t want to exhaust myself chasing status, money or that promotion or fancy job title. I have no need to impress anyone. I don’t want to be busy all the time. I don’t want to be “hectic” all the time. None of these things will make me happy. People often think this approach to life means you “have no ambition”. But it has nothing to do with that. I can think of no better goal in life than to be happy – and if I’m doing what makes me happy professionally and personally I believe I’ve achieved success in life.

I think the glorification of busy is probably one of the biggest afflictions of our time. We live in a world where people are always busy, always on, rushing somewhere, running late, checking emails, clutching their smart phones, checking in to everywhere they go – the gym, the mall, that anniversary dinner. People just need to stop. Check out. Slow down. Ask yourself – does any of this make me happy?

This is the thing for me – I don’t want to miss out on the things that make me happy. Those important moments in my life that no amount of status or money can give me.

I want to leave work on time to fetch my son from school. I want to enjoy the sunset and a glass of wine with my husband on the patio and talk about life and our dreams – not stare into my computer screen answering work emails. I want to walk in the park and look at the trees. I want to notice the seasons change and watch the roses in my garden bloom. I want to enjoy an evening with my friends. I want to make Christmas decorations with my son and not give any thought to whatever needs to be done at work. I want to sit on the couch with my son under a blanket and drink hot chocolate.

What I’ve learned is that it is up to me to set the standards for my life. I have to decide what is important to me and unashamedly stick to what I believe. I have to set my own boundaries otherwise someone else will set them for me. And this won’t be for my benefit. Do what you know in your heart is right. Don’t dance to someone else’s tune.

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. ❤