Medicinal herb garden

Pulmonaria officinalis - lungwort

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #127

Recently during a walk with two dear friends, we discovered there is a lovely garden with medicinal plants in the Beatrixpark in Amsterdam Zuid. I am so glad that after nearly 13 years of living in this city, I still keep stumbling upon hidden gems by chance. Surrounded by hedges, it is a peaceful space in the park and there are some benches to just sit and relax, a perfect spot to soak up the quiet atmosphere and listen to the birds.

There’s a wide array of plants and short explanations of what they can be used to heal.  Featured above is lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), a plant traditionally used to treat lung problems and chest infections. It was said that the spots on the leaves looked like diseased lungs… to me it just looks like a beautiful pattern:)

Signs of Spring

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Sunday as I cycled home from the bookclub, I noticed some bushes covered in what looked from a distance like small yellow tassles, against the blue sky.  After picking up my camera at home, I took a short walk back through my neighbourhood until I reached the square, located between four roads, where spring is starting to show in the nurtured flower beds.

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I took a closer look at those branches to find them covered in what looks like cheerleaders’ pompoms made with crepe paper, encouraging ravenous pollinators to come visit them.

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Though the purple crocusses popping up through the grass are more striking, I love the colour combination on these ones, perfectly suited for a 70s kitchen.

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On branches that were bare just a few days ago, tiny leaves are sprouting, deep lines etched into their surface like the grooves on your fingertips after lying for too long in the bath, and clusters of tiny yellow flowers spread their pistils like antennas searching for signals in the warm spring air.

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Last traces of Autumn

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #107

The last few days have been definitely very rainy and grey.  Somehow I am always surprised again at how dark this time of year is. The last of the autumn leaves are falling and in their place on the sidewalks Christmas tree stands are appearing.  ‘Tis the season to hibernate and read books on the sofa snuggled under a warm blanket:)

In these days where I crave warmth and light, I’m grateful that I soaked up as much sunshine and vitamine D as possible during the lovely Indian summer we had.  This is a photo from a walk a few weeks ago to this small artificial island just near my place where I come to often. On that very chilly afternoon, the low rays of sunshine over the water lit up the autumn leaves on this willow just beautifully against the blue sky.

An oasis of peace in Amsterdam

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As the city of Amsterdam gets more and more full of tourists, one place I love to escape to for fresh air and a quiet afternoon is the Botanic garden in Zuidas.  Surrounded by modern buildings, it’s a lovely oasis of calm hidden within the bustling heart of the business district.

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I really appreciate that the entrance is free of charge, making it accessible for anyone to come and discover their incredible collection of plants.  While I was there last I also saw several patients in wheelchairs coming from the nearby hospital for a change of scenery.

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There is an incredible diversity of plants making each visit a new experience as the seasons change. Last time thanks to the Indian summer, there were still a multitude of flowers blooming in October.

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It’s always a pleasure to slowly walk around, spot new plants and take in the details of the various species.  The splashes of colour bring me so much joy.

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It’s a real celebration for the senses with all the different colours, intriguing textures and unusual shapes.   The perfect way to be in the moment and feel grounded.

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Healing walks in the Amsterdamse Bos

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #99

The Indian summer we are enjoying in Amsterdam at the moment is amazing.  I’ve been taking long healing walks through the Amsterdamse Bos, just listening to the breeze rustling through the leaves of the majestic trees which are turning all shades of orange and yellow, quietly observing the ducks, moorhens, herons and other birds go about their business undisturbed on the water, journalling as the sun warms my skin.  I am so grateful to have what feels like an unexpected extra shot of summer to charge up on fresh air and invigorating sunshine.

Look up

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #98

It’s easy to forget to look up, as concentrated as we are on the things to see at eye level. I am so grateful for the gorgeous colours on these trees, contrasting against this morning’s blue sky.  This is a reminder to myself to be in the moment and focus on the beauty of nature in these precious next weeks of transition, as the autumn leaves change colours and float down to cover the ground.

Trying to see the sunny side

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #93

I must have walked past this house in my neighbourhood dozens of times and had never noticed the sign until yesterday.  In the midst of a week of exhaustion and self-doubt, I am grateful for this very straight-forward reminder to see the sunny side of things.

Birthday celebration

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #90

I feel deeply grateful to have celebrated my birthday with my community of lovely friends yesterday. It was a heart-warming evening, full of joy for life and great humour, around delicious hummus and good beers at the amazingly laid-back brewery the Butchers Tears.

I am so appreciative of how my friends respect my aversion for materialistic presents and came up with creative solutions to spoil me regardless, with wonderful experience gifts like delicious food, cards, a drawing, poetry and vouchers for quality time to spend together:) I look forward to many more celebrations together!

Letting the flowers grow wild

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Some sunny days are for making an effort to take the train and go for a long walk outside the city, and others are for choosing simplicity and being outdoors close to home.

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Whenever I need a ‘bowl of fresh air’ (as we say in French), after a long day on the computer or when the sun finally appears from behind the clouds, I usually head to this spot in the Schinkelbuurt, just behind the Olympic Stadium.

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I love how the wild flowers and grasses have been left to grow freely, rather than being neatly mowed to the ground as they usually are. It makes for wonderfully messy spaces, bursting with all sorts of plants swaying in the breeze, the perfect playground for many insects and feeding ground for the moorhens, ducks, swans and other birds that abound.

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Though it’s not even 10 minutes from my flat, spending some time there always helps my mind to reset.  It’s a great place for people-watching and subtly eavesdropping on parts of conversations as the locals walk their dogs or cycle by, while the kids jump bravely into the water when it’s warm outside.

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*****

It’s a beautiful place in all seasons: winter, spring, summer, autumn

Sunrise walk

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For ages I’ve been meaning to get up early to enjoy watching the sun rise. Though sometimes I witness gorgeous sunrises as I cycle to work in the winter, it’s not like I really take the time to enjoy them to their full extent.  When we’re on holidays, Paolo and I do our best to see the sunrise, somehow it’s easier to get up at an ungodly hour when you know you can indulge in a leisurely nap in the afternoon.  However lately I’ve been feeling I want to experiment with weaving more of the fun things we give ourselves space to do in the holidays into daily life.

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So I decided to simply set the alarm at 5:30am on my free Friday, and after some inevitable snoozing, I got up and headed outside to enjoy the morning light as it appeared.  When I told a friend about it afterwards, she immediately asked ‘Where did you go?’.  Actually this time I kept the bar low and just went out the front door and into the neighbourhood, nothing fancy but it was perfect!

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I love being up and about before other people wake up, and it felt like I had the streets to myself. It was very quiet, with barely any cars or people, just lots of birds singing loudly to each other.  As I explored, I decided to be mindful and focus specifically on the light as its slanted rays started to shine on the peaceful world around me. I took my time and noticed what my eyes were drawn to.

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The most magical detail was the dew, one perfectly round drop hanging onto the tip of every single strand of grass, glistening in the sun. I’d never noticed that was what dew looked like up close, it was mezmerising! It is such a pleasurable way to start the day, I definitely want to do this again soon.

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