To live deliberately

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Trees

                     Forest ride through Bloemendal and Overveen, North Holland.                                   Photo: Wilma den Hartigh

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately. To front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discovered that I had not lived … I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life… ” – Henry David Thoreau

Wow – what a challenge!  To live deliberately. To live deep.

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But first, cappuccino

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Coffee – or cappuccino to be accurate – is important in my life. I have developed a habit of taking photos of my coffee wherever I go, and posting these on my Instagram account.

Take a look at these photos of some of my favourite cappuccinos over the past year or so, taken all over South Africa and in the Netherlands.

What I enjoy most about the ritual of ordering a cappuccino is the surprise of what it looks like. However, the contents should not be a lucky packet – strong and warm is a must. 🙂

I love the detail: the shape and colour of the cup, the old-school doilies (these only come with the cup in country places), the biscuits (usually shortcake or ginger and is always a plus point for me – the hand-shaped biscuit is my favourite).  Then there are disposable cups – sometimes corrugated, printed or biodegradable.

I also look at the colour of the coffee, the density of the foam and the patterns. Oh, I love the patterns! Sometimes these are added using a stencil with a dusting of cocoa or cinnamon.

What’s really impressive is if the barista creates a heart by pouring the milk in a certain way or writes words with chocolate syrup. Occasionally a few coffee beans are sprinkled on top.

Taking time out for a coffee is something I do just for me. It is fun, makes me smile and helps me to relax (unless the coffee is cold – then I ask for a new one!)

When was the last time you did something just for you? 

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Imagine what could happen

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Image: Wilma den Hartigh

 

 

A powerful and thought-provoking poem by Chilean poet-diplomat and politician, Pablo Neruda. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature – 1971.

“You start dying slowly

if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly
When you kill your self-esteem;
When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
If you become a slave of your habits,
Walking everyday on the same paths…
If you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colours
Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly
If you avoid to feel passion
And their turbulent emotions;
Those which make your eyes glisten
And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly
If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself,
At least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice.”

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 – an invitation to explore and live

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A few years ago we visited Dubrovnik in Croatia. We visited this beautiful Franciscan Monastery. This image of the stairs and the cat is my favourite of the whole trip.

A few years ago we visited Dubrovnik in Croatia. We spent some time at this beautiful Franciscan Monastery. This image of the stairs and the cat is my favourite of the whole trip. It is such a beautiful scene – serene, mysterious and filled with promise. It is also inviting – you feel that you have to climb those stairs and see where they take you. This is kind of like how I see life. It is an invitation to explore, find beauty, be adventurous and truly live. I always want to see beauty in life. When I stop doing that, it is usually my cue that something is not right.