Off to Cologne for a few days

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #126

By the time this is posted, I will be in Cologne spending a few days visiting my sister for the long Easter weekend. I cannot wait to explore the city together, organising our adventures around nice places for drinks and food:) We’ll be catching up over amazing veggie meals, open to discovery and chilling in the park while chatting about everything and nothing!

Slowing down to notice

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One thing I love about photographing plants is that there is just such a profusion of possibility to explore and play with.  With the seasons passing, the plants and their textures evolve so much. There are new buds appearing and fresh shiny leaves, perhaps flowers, rough bark, apparent roots, unusual seeds and pods, rugged surfaces, uncanny spikes, odd stems, gorgeous color combinations as the light evolves and changes the aspect of the backdrop…

I am astounded that even without wandering far there is always more beauty and unusual details to be found, an infinite amount of inspiration.  Look at these star-shaped pods that I came across in the Amsterdam Hortus a few weeks ago, aren’t they delightful?!

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!

More theater

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #96

Lately with Paolo we’ve started going to the theater quite regularly. It turns out that at the moment this is a good way to spend the evening, without using up too much energy since seeing a play is less draining to me than having a drink in a loud bar or going to a concert.  Also, the story lines tend to unravel more slowly than in most movies, meaning there is more time for me to process the plot and emotions.

There is real inspiration in seeing people doing what they love and being vulnerable and creative on-stage.  I also enjoy the discussions Paolo and I have afterwards, about our favorite characters and new thoughts triggered by the play.  I look forward to what new shows we will discover together.

Solo cinema

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I like going to the cinema with other people and though that’s what I do most of the time, going by myself from time to time feels like a treat.

Firstly, it means that I can go see whatever film I want at exactly the moment that suits me, deciding at the last minute based on my mood (I’m lucky that in Amsterdam there are tens of movies on at anytime).  I love sitting quietly alone in the theater, waiting for the room to go dark and movie to start, watching the other movie-goers coming in or just lost in my thoughts.

Most of the time I choose those arthouse and coming-of-age movies that are beautifully shot and quite slow. At some point I often have tears rolling down my face and being alone I can unabashedly cry at the tough situations the characters are in, completely taken by the story, without worrying about whether anyone else is enjoying the film.

Afterwards, I can let the movie sink in and reflect on it without talking about it immediately with others and hearing their thoughts. The whole experience leaves me feeling recharged, like I’ve lived a sliver of another life for a couple of hours and opened to new horizons.

Being present

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #65

I’ve recently started an 8 week mindfulness course and in the last week I have meditated daily.  Hooray! Having the accountability of my course mates really helps to stay on track. While I meditate my thoughts are constantly running off all over the place to what happened during the day, what someone said to me, what I should have done or what I have to do the next day… That being said, I am glad to at least be carving out that quiet time for myself out of my daily schedule to slow down and strengthen the muscle of bringing my attention back to the present moment.  I am showing up with my beginner’s mindset and am very curious to learn and see what all this brings:)

Quiet morning off

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #42

Every second week I have the Friday off from work. I enjoy those Fridays even more than regular weekend days because I feel like I have this precious time for myself while the world around me is working.

Spending those mornings in one of my favorite cafés without needing to rush anywhere is bliss. I love watching the baristas at work, taking the time to reflect on the past week in my journal, observing other customers (I confess I also really like eavesdropping and hearing the most unexpected conversations)… I am grateful for these pockets of quiet time off to recharge my batteries.

Striving for sustainability

I’m fascinated (and horrified) by how much waste our society creates. Next to that I love hearing about circular economies and getting inspired by sustainable businesses. I am constantly looking for ways of refusing, reducing and reusing things that enter my home.

This is a small scale project and my aim is sell beautiful and healthy plants and do so in as sustainable a way as possible.

Soil: All my coffee, cardboard, egg shells, vegetable and fruit left-overs are given to my worms who do a spectacular job of transforming them into a rich dark compost. I love the thought that all these things destined for the bin are transformed into precious soil full of nutrients. After harvesting the compost, I mix it with some used soil from my pots and the plants grow really healthy on this.

Plants: They are all cuttings, seedlings or shoots from the ‘mother plants’ that thrive all over my apartment. 20150407_181826

Home-grown: Each plant has been watered, transplanted and cared for by hand.

Slow cultivation: Processing the waste into compost as well as growing the cuttings and seedlings takes months. It is a slow process, it’s wonderful to take the time to see the plants evolve.

Pots: I only use 2nd hand pots that are looking for a new home. I mix and match the plant and pot that suit each other best.

Local: People who buy my plants live in and around Amsterdam and come by to pick them up. I love connecting with people and having a quick chat as I hand over these plants I’ve seen growing all along. I feel joy at the idea that the plants will brighten someone else’s home and blessed that they chose one of my plants over a new plant from a shop.