Cycling to Noordwijk

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We’d been planning this mini-adventure with my friend Eva for a while already. Our challenge was to meet up in a ‘virus-free’ way, somewhere between Amsterdam and the Hague, our respective cities. So we decided to rent e-bikes and meet at the half-way point, by the seaside in Noordwijk, for an afternoon.

The joy of being outdoors, on the road to somewhere, exploring new areas, moving with my own power (and a little help from my e-bike) felt liberating.  Thought going for such a long ride was a sudden shift from my mostly sedentary days working from home over the last months. It was my first time on an e-bike and it became clear that you still need to pedal just as much as normal and having the wind against me made my initial progress towards Haarlem extremely slow.  (Also, it turns there are more powerful e-bikes than the one I rented;) Next time I’ll go for one with TURBO power!!)

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Cycling through areas that I normally only see from the train window or on a map was really interesting.  It made me realise how much constructed area there is on that route.  Following the cycling paths, I found myself mainly in (sub)urban areas, or surrounded by dry fields devoid of the colourful tulips from a couple of months ago.  These sad mono-cultures tear at my heart, a sorry reminder of how we are draining the resources of the land and reducing biodiversity.  Luckily there were some pockets of nature, with wild flowers and poppies, high-grasses, some gardens with lots of plants and little patches of forest where the sunlight barely passed through the foliage and the air was cool.

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Getting to our meeting point took me much longer than anticipated. I was pedaling hard and checking maps I saw on the way to make sure I was still on track. The bike path crossings are numbered and to be sure I followed them correctly I would scribble the next few numbers down on my forearm, like winning lottery numbers 11 – 44 – 6 – 31… to make sure I followed the right direction.

Once we met up at last, it felt even more rewarding to catch up and be able to chat in person.  We shared our experiences and enjoyed some delicious cakes, sitting on the beach overlooking the sea, watching some brave swimmers and kite-surfers, bare feet in the cool sand, the wind blowing around us. It was bliss.

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I rode home via a different route, part of it spectacular along the dunes with the light becoming softer at the end of the day, watching large groups of birds fly up together in shifting shapes before settling on shrubs, and big hairy caterpillars confidently crossing the bike path.  The rest of the way, heading east, with the sun in my back through the towns, a long stretch between a high-way and a road, until I started to recognise where I was and pedal the last kilometers into Amsterdam Zuid.  I’m grateful for such a lovely day, for the good company and the perfect weather.  Another great reminder that it doesn’t take much to go for a mini-adventure.

Disco-jerboa embroidery

A couple of weeks ago, my sister Helena came over from Cologne, as usual we caught up up over many cups of tea. She also brought her embroidery equipment, so she could introduce me to the the process. You may remember her from the interview we did together in September where she spoke of her activist embroideries. I’ve been very curious to try it since then.

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Our first step was to bake a delicious vegan banana bread, so we were sure not to get hungry in the middle of our creative flow;)  Then as the delicious cake smells wafted through the air, we thought up some fun designs, and played around with drawing the main outline on scrap paper.

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I decided to draw a long-eared jerboa (an animal I recommend googling if you want to be overcome with cuteness!). I don’t draw much so finding the right perspective was no easy feat. In the end, I went for a jerboa wrapped in a blanket holding a warm beverage and having a cosy introvert moment.

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In my sister’s stash of threads, I found a beautiful disco thread with mixed metalic colours that I wanted to use.  I took an old t-shirt and drew the contours of my disco-jerboa with a thin pen. Then got a needle and started to make small stitches along the lines and get acquainted with how much or how little to pull the thread. I struggled most with trying to make end of the tail look bushy.

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As we worked away with our needles, I was in flow and I enjoyed seeing the piece come together step by step. It was really fun and I’ll definitely try to come up with some more ideas as a nice way to practice and customise some clothes with some unique details:)

Making creative plans

 

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #130

Some days all you really need is to hang out with a friend, unrushed, just catching up while taking a leisurely walk around the neighbourhood and supporting a small business (and enjoying delicious vegan cakes in the process;).

Then taking a further stroll through the park even if the weather is grey, watching the birds and marveling at the fresh green of spring leaves, while having inspiring talks about upcoming creative plans and ideas for the next months, and plotting how to keep each other accountable…

Dreaming up the new year

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #113

Last weekend, with a few dear friends we spent the afternoon reflecting on last year and making dream boards for the new year.  A calm afternoon, hot tea and coffee in our mugs, accompanied by delicious vegan (and not-so-vegan) cakes as we sat around the kitchen table. It was great fun to look back at the dream boards we made together a year ago, discussing the words we had chosen for the year and how reality had panned out.  We celebrated the successes and achievements of the past year, and acknowledged the tough stuff that happened too.

Afterwards we got quiet cutting out pictures and words from tattered magazines that have been cut out from many times over and pasting the colourful images and inspirational snippets to create new dream boards…

I am so grateful for these lovely friends who embrace the dream board concept with joy, and who inspire me so much with their stories, dreams, perseverance and achievements.  Just spending a few hours together really energised me, we could simply be ourselves and dream up all sorts of wild ideas for 2019, manifesting our desires visually and calling in synchronicity and support from the universe:) I can’t wait to see what this year brings us all!

Family time

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #73

I am grateful for having had the luxury of a long weekend at home in France to recharge my batteries.  It was a pleasure to catch up with my family, chatting and laughing while enjoying delicious meals, a fusion of slow cooked French traditional dishes alongside Lebanese delicacies.  Cakes were abundant as always, as well as Easter treats in many forms (including an unexpected chocolate clam!).

Not everything revolved around food though, we also soothed our mind with some lovely spontaneous meditation sessions, lying side by side on our mats, our heads supported by lavender filled cushions as we did our best to focus on the guided body scan. It was particularly fun to debrief afterwards and compare our experiences:)

Hooray, it’s the holidays!

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #58

After a frantic end of the year trying to finish off as much as possible at work, the holidays have finally arrived:) I am so glad to have some time off to enjoy the important things in life. These include but are not limited to having time to catch up with my family around chocolate cake and tea, while planning the menus for the coming festivities; hunting around our garden for intriguing and beautiful plants to photograph; reading magazines and looking through the art books on my Mum’s coffee table… Free time feels like such a luxury.

Hidden treat

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #49

I am grateful for the wonderful surprise that Paolo prepared one night this week while I was sound asleep.

I woke up as usual in the morning and while preparing breakfast I vaguely noticed strange details in the kitchen, like the fact that there were lots more dishes drying that I had washed the night before. But I just continued with my morning routine, until I was tipped off by the remains of a lime in the fridge, which had been grated for its zest… That triggered me and I started to look (excitedly!) around the kitchen. Sure enough I found a beautiful apple and pear cake hidden in the oven!

Paolo is a master at this recipe, the cake was absolutely delicious, full of fruit and slightly caramelised. The perfect way to start the day:) Merci!!!