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 only takes one decision

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Don’t be afraid to start over. It’s a brand new opportunity to rebuild what you truly want. – Author unknown

It is good to remember that a different life requires just one decision. Follow your heart. It will never lead you astray. 💛

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Morning view. Blesberg Farm, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, South Africa. Photo: Wilma den Hartigh

 

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.

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.

 

Celebrate the gift of life

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lovingsupport@buddhadoodles.com

lovingsupport@buddhadoodles.com

I’ve discovered these awesome little Buddha Doodles. I subscribed and they drop into my inbox each day. Buddha Doodles was started by a cartoonist in 2011 as a daily sketch practice for personal therapy. It quickly went viral in social media and appears regularly on the Huffington Post and Tiny Buddha.com.

I liked this one – it reminds me that I have a beautiful life. And I treasure every minute of it, even though there are some difficult days (weeks…months). It is a privilege to be alive. I can stand outside in my garden and appreciate a beautiful sunset. I can walk in the park with my family. I can see my son grow. I am fortunate to have the most amazing life partner. I have enough. I am enough.

 

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.