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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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. ❤

Trust the journey even when you don’t understand it

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Eastern Cape farm road, South Africa.

Eastern Cape farm road, South Africa.

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

There’s so much literature out there telling people what to become. Ten ways to be happy, five steps to get the body you want, how to be a better lover, how to overcome your fears, etc.

This is actually not helpful at all.

What I’ve realised is that it is much more important to just be. Just be who you are. Be happy with where you are on your journey. I’m finding that this approach to life is providing me with so much joy. There are good times. There are bad times. There is happiness, there is sadness. Sometimes lots of sadness along the way. But there’s also beauty.

Just being me and not trying to become anything has helped me to figure out what’s important in my life and build a life around that. Your personal journey is the greatest teacher you will ever have.

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.

 

 

There’s no App for this

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I want to tell you a story about these trees. I’ve photographed them at different times of the year and different stages in my life over a couple of years. I actually feel like they’ve been on a journey with me.

I’ve celebrated amazing moments with them – we went for a walk at this park straight after I found out I was pregnant after trying for years. We introduced our son Matthew to this park when he was only a few weeks old (that photo is in the gallery) and now that he’s three he still enjoys running around the dam where these majestic giants live. I’ve contemplated my life here. I’ve cried. I’ve laughed. These trees have heard it all, really. They’ve touched my spirit.

When my mind is a mess this is where I go and sit for a while to figure things out. I’ve found that the answers I need usually come when I sit quietly with myself.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. – Hermann Hesse

 

 

 

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.

 

 

In honour of my therapist

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therapy

 

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.