Dreamy sights

Over the Christmas holidays, one afternoon I felt the irresistible need for some fresh air, my body craving to make the most of the little sunlight of the short winter days. So I grabbed my camera and went out, with no other plan than to walk along the streets close to home, open to capturing whatever inspired me. The light was beautiful, though I was clearly working against the clock to actually take some photos before darkness fell.

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This simple window caught my eye, the colour and texture of the shutters with their half-moon crescents and the stack of mixed-and-matched plates drying in the rack. In my imaginary it brings up a feeling of home, cosyness, like everyone was off having a nap after tidying the kitchen together and in a few hours preparation for the next family meal will start…

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I walked further, along the old walls of the village. A few families were out and about, several generations together walking dogs or most probably taking a digestive stroll in the chilly air. The last rays of sunshine lit up these bare trees, so it seemed like they were in the spotlight.

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As the sun disappeared, I loved the sight of these pretty lanterns lining the street against the last colours of the sky.

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My last find was this incredible mansion with its tower, the wooden beams in different tones of blue, perfectly colour-coordinated.  It’ s a private house so I could only peer semi-discreetly from behind the wall, but I can imagine settling there to write a book, a steaming coffee by my side on an old wooden desk by tower window, overlooking the garden while birds flit in and out of the trees…

Mini road-trip to Chavenay

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #111

During the holidays my Mum suggested a mini road-trip to a pretty village called Chavenay, that she had driven through by coincidence, not far from our home town.  It’s funny how it always seems more exciting to go further afield, than to explore places closer to home.  In this case, we enjoyed some fresh air and had a lovely time exploring, simply by jumping into the car after breakfast on a beautifully sunny morning and we were home in time for lunch:)

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It was a cold and wintery, with frost on the grass and a misty haze spreading over the plain.  The light was soft, gently casting long shadows already around noon.

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I was captivated by the small clumps of moss along the frozen walls, which was half green where the sun was slowly melting the ice away.

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We took a short stroll through the streets of Chavenay and headed to the outskirts to see the horses, grazing peacefully on the side of the hill overlooking houses and old barns. We had a lovely chat as we walked along the road, taking in the view and the beautiful surroundings.

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Everything is intertwined

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The end of the year has arrived, bringing with it some quiet days. I’ve been reviewing this whole year and taking a step back to journal and reflect on the 12 last months, as well as look at what is coming next. For me 2018 was both incredibly tough and very healing. It’s always the same, we have to go through the dark woods to feel better on the other side. Despite the difficult times, I’m grateful for the learning that 2018 brought me.

Like the teeny tiny spiderweb threads, intertwined in the ‘fingers’ of this plant, everything is linked: maintaining boundaries, slowing down, experimenting, generosity, being true to our authentic self, mindfulness and acceptance, letting go of perfectionism and busy-ness, cultivating creative practices, self-compassion… I’m still not out of the dark woods, but I know that giving attention to one aspect opens space and possibility for another as they build on each other step by step.

I’m looking forward to what 2019 will bring. I hope that I can apply the lessons learnt in 2018 for more smooth sailing and I trust that there are exciting times up ahead:)  I wish you all a wonderful new year!!!

Dark December days

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Lately the days are getting shorter and shorter, and even during normal daylight hours the clouds are so low that I sometimes need to switch on the light to see properly inside the flat.

Yesterday was one of those dark days, but after sitting indoors half of the afternoon, I decided to go for a walk, more because I knew that it would do me good than because I really felt like it. I took my camera along just in case.

The light was definitely not on my side, I had to crank up the ISO and hold as still as I could with slow shutter speeds, but it was a good exercise in spotting beauty in the remnants of plants and experimenting.

These tiny fruit that remind me of gorgeous fairy lights caught my eye and I got chatting with a lady, who was harvesting them into a small bowl.  She told me they are goji berries… you know that super food that is so fashionable these days?? Turns out they grow easily in our climate and as you can see this one still has fruits in December! Perfect for pepping up your muesli:)

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Time to move on

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Dear Winter,

Thank you for your request to prolong your contract.  We regret to inform you that, although you have performed remakably, we already have a replacement lined up.

For the last months, we were glad to use your cold days as an excuse to bundle up in blankets on the sofa to read for hours and watch movies, only going out when strictly necessary.  The snow you offered us occasionally was also much appreciated (as well as that one day when the ice was thick enough to skate on the Amsterdam canals).  Your crisp air and blue skies are stunning, however at the moment we are in need of something slightly different.

We are asking Spring to step in for a while. She comes with a strong experience in longer daylight hours and improving the weather. She will encourage sap to flow through trees, bushes to grow new leaves and flowers to show their brightest colours. Thanks to her contribution, it will soon be possible to leave hats and gloves at home, to enjoy after-work drinks outdoors and go for long sunny hikes in the dunes on the weekends.

Please rest assured that we value your efforts and look forward to collaborating again in 8 months or so.  In the meantime, we are glad to write a reference if you need it for the Southern Hemisphere. Enjoy being Down Under!

Kind regards,
[illegible scribble]

 

Not listening to the ‘shoulds’

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February in Amsterdam has been sunny but relentlessly cold.  Typically on the weekend I have a lot of ‘shoulds’ popping up, like ‘I should go out for a long walk to get fresh air’ and ‘I should make the most of the sun to take some photos’…  Most of the time that works for me and being outdoors makes me feel great. However in these days the winter now feels like it is dragging on. Despite the days getting longer, the cold feels excruciating and my fingers ache in the freezing air as I try to snap pictures.  So I decided to give myself a break and make it a weekend for lying on the couch with the sun pouring through the window, reading an easy thriller uninterrupted for several hours, and for enjoying fun conversations over a lengthy delicious brunch in a warm cafe. It was perfect!

Observations from an urban ecosystem

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My balcony overlooks a lovely patchwork of gardens and sheds, belonging to the owners of the appartments on the ground flour. The walls of the building form a large rectangle around the gardens, enclosing this wonderful ecosystem in which birds are the main protagonists, seemingly oblivious to us humans as they go about their business.

Fat turtledoves fly heavily from the railing of one balcony to another, groups of green parrots (who have taken root in Amsterdam) come by from time to time sqwaking loudly, tiny blue tits flit amongst the branches and there’s even a beautiful lone woodpecker who appears from time to time, tapping for bugs in the bark its favorite tree…

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I love how the view on the gardens is constantly changing with the seasons.  Today heavy snow flakes were swirling around in the wind, giving the gardens an enchanted look. The birds took shelter as they could, while the snow gently covered the ground and the branches and it was quieter than usual. So beautiful!

Festive blooms

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #8

Christmas cactus season is upon us again! Every year in December my Christmas cactuses start growing pink buds on the end of their leaves that grow slightly bigger each day…  Then, usually just before Christmas, the flower blooms wildly, spreading its petals in all directions for a few days of extravagant beauty. It’s a nice touch of colour in these short winter days:)

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