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.

Exploring the Japanese garden

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Travelling to Japan is high on my wishlist of destinations, but I haven’t quite organised it yet. For now I live vicariously through books, my sister’s travel stories and photos.  However lately I got a lovely taste of Japan. For my birthday, two dear friends gifted me an outing to go to the Japanese garden in the The Hague, which is open only a few weeks a year in Spring and Autumn.  We planned the date several months in advance so as not to miss the window of opportunity, so I also got to enjoy looking forward to it!

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The garden draws quite a lot of visitors, so it was quite busy on the morning we went, but that didn’t stop us from taking the time to soak up all the beautiful details, colourful bridges and plants.

It was lovely to explore, walking along the paths so as not to disturb the fragile mosses that cover the ground in a comfy-looking carpet. Gorgeous lanterns, harbouring delicate mosses and lichens, were brought over last century from Japan along with native Japanese plants.

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The autumn colours were spectacular with orange and green intermingled, highlighting the changing of the season, and all sorts of mushrooms were popping up all over the place.

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Even though it’s just an hour from Amsterdam, I had the feeling like I’d been to another continent for a short while (feeling extra good without all those CO2 emissions from flying!). Thanks so much ladies and here’s to experience gifts and travel opportunities close to home! 🙂

Cosy times

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #102

Last weekend we spent a lovely, slow-paced weekend with my Mum and her partner who were on a visit to Amsterdam.  I must admit, for many years I wondered why my Mum would systematically come to visit at the end of October, when the wind is icy, the rain always ready to tumble from grey clouds and the days are getting shorter.  But I think I’ve finally understood:)

It’s because with this weather no excuse whatsoever is needed to walk just 200 meters before feeling justified about going into the next cafe and indulging in some delicious cake, and staying cosily indoors while we catch up with each other and discuss possible travel plans for next year.  Also, spending two afternoons in the dark of the cinema, being transported to other worlds through movies, is a totally acceptable pastime and way to keep warm.  It offered the perfect occasion to discover a talented young pianist in the small room of the Concertgebouw and be moved by her stories and music, shielded from the cold outside.  So grateful for these fun moments spent together!

Nature’s details

In September, I had the pleasure to spend a few days in nature in the Veluwe to disconnect. One of the things I noticed was how as I walked in the forest with no rush, all sorts of delightful details were reaching my senses. It was like a treasure hunt for autumn beauty.

Apart from the impressive sponge mushroom, I came across quite a few other types of funghi but none as cute as this one with a gorgeous orange stem, illuminated by a ray of sunlight in the undergrowth.

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The pattern created by the shadows of these leaves on the tree trunk are so delicate and reminded me of the elegant patterns on a kimono. So simple and beautiful!

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All along my walks, I also encountered lots of these common beetles with their iridescent blue-black shells, which were progressing with incredible speed and determination compared to my laid-back pace.  As I sat quietly at the foot of a tree to take a break, I could even hear the soft sound as the beetles made their way through the dry leaves on the ground.

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Beautiful imperfections

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When was the last time you really looked closely at what is around you? Most of the time I am completely on auto-pilot, rushing to and from work, completely stuck in my head thinking about all the things I need to do or annoyed at the rain pouring down…

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On Saturday morning, I took the opportunity of a ray of sunshine to go for a walk in the neighbourhood and consciously really looked at buildings, bikes, dogs, plants as I passed them. I started to notice tiny details. As autumn comes to an end, some plants are valiantly holding on to their last threads of life.

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I was so happy to observe the plants on my way and focus on the beauty in their imperfections: slightly bruised and fading petals, leaves drying into brilliant reds, gorgeous lace-like patterns…  It is the perfect trick for getting out of my whirling thoughts and truly being in the moment:)

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Enjoying Autumn

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I’m just back from a blissful weekend visiting my family in France. Three days of intense chatting and laughing over cups of tea, baking (and then devouring) cakes shamelessly full of butter and sugar, celebrating milestones over delicious Lebanese food and sipping champagne, and generally just enjoying spending precious time together:)

I snuck out for a few hours on Saturday for a walk in the forest by myself. The colours of the trees were soooo beautiful (these pictures taken with my phone don’t do justice to their splendour at all), it was breathtaking! As I walked, it was like my senses were waking up from indoor life… I enjoyed seeing little birds flying from one branch to another and singing nearby, treading along on the muddy path and the smell the fallen leaves slowly decomposing at the feet of gorgeous trees was wonderful. It was the perfect environment for some quiet time to process my thoughts:)

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Sunday bike ride

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I’ve been craving nature recently, wanting to hear branches of large trees swaying in the wind and to smell the rich odors of humid leaves on the forest floor.  At the same time, my energy levels felt low and the thought of catching a train all the way to a place where we could hike just didn’t appeal to me.  So we found an in-between solution, closer to home.

Paolo and I simply wrapped up warmly and headed off on our bikes with no clear direction in mind. After a few random raindrops, the sun came out in earnest as we pedalled away, turning arbitrarily right or left, along roads we’d never been on. It was windy and for most of the ride we could hear the noisy highway, but it was still really lovely to get some fresh air, watch birds on the lake and look at the gorgeous autumn colours:)

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Chestnut delight

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #50

Around here the days are undeniably getting shorter and hibernation season is around the corner. Luckily there are a few autumnal foods to cheer up the dark evenings, like pumpkin (prepared in many different forms – pasta, risotto, soup, pizza…) and a recent discovery that totally hit the spot: chestnuts.

They’re really easy to prepare. We just soak them in water for a couple of hours, dry them with a cloth and cut a slit lengthwise in the round side of the shell. They can then be popped in the pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes at 240°C. We regularly sneak a peek in the oven to check when they are ready (the shell opens up a little more, showing off the lovely flesh). Then we take them out of the oven, wrap them in a clean cloth for 10mn while they cool. Done!

Then the cloth can be unwrapped to reveal its warm treasures.  It’s such a simple pleasure to chat while we carefully pull the chestnuts from their shell and chew on the sweet, floury texture. Delicious!! I could make this a daily ritual:)

Constructive teamwork

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #48

As the leaves are transforming into amazing colours, I’m trying to consciously enjoy these lovely weeks of autumn and the mild weather despite being very engrossed in work. It has just been a really intense and fun week, with colleagues visiting from all over the world for meetings, sharing information and learning from each other.

I already mentionned it a while back, but it bears repeating, I feel really grateful to the many colleagues from different countries and departments that I have the pleasure of working with for great team spirit and helpful feedback. I love how we are growing and improving together (not to mention the incredible enthusiasm for costume parties! 😉

Fresh air

 

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #47

There is nothing like a leisurely bike ride on a windy Sunday morning to feel fresh and relaxed. The sky couldn’t seem to make up its mind whether to stay cloudy or let the sun come out but at least it wasn’t raining.

It was wonderful to have time to stop and observe.  For a while I watched a bunch of white sails from small boats leaving the harbour, shooting across the water, sometimes nearly horizontal from the force of the gale.  And on the way home I was lucky to come across these lovely plants swaying in the wind and shimmering beautifully in the sun light. So gorgeous!

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