The Underestimated Importance of Documenting My Days

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Last year, at the end of each month, I would take the time to write a small, or sometimes rather extensive piece, about the month that had just come to pass. This year I decided not to; concluding that it was quite a lot of work & I wasn’t even sure whether many people were actually interested in reading my monthly ramblings. I’m still not sure about the latter, but I do know that I miss it. I miss that moment of reflection, that quiet time to relive, process & give order to the days of my life.

Of course, I still don’t know if anybody wants to read it. But just the other day, I think I realized that all this documenting is not for anyone but myself. I am the one that apparently needs that neat dot behind the days gone by. I am the one that wants to take a little while to look back, learn & understand what’s going on in life. It gives me a sense of order, a sense of completion. It’s like storing away one month to make space for the new. It helps me to live out my days more consciously, more fully in a way. And prevents the days, the months & the seasons from melting into one another, until they become a faceless, nameless mess, called ‘Yet-another-year-gone-by’.

The thing is; I’ve been feeling a little adrift lately, a little uninspired to document anything about my life, whether it be on this blog, in a letter or even in my head. The days of this summer have had the tendency to fall together, blend into a massive whole, instead of the separate moments I would love to take them for. And I’ve been blaming time itself; for moving too rapidly, for not granting me sufficient time to stop & reflect. I have been blaming a lack of good sleep, the weather, the news, & I suppose, I have even blamed life itself.
But yesterday I decided it was time to stop blaming anything or anyone but myself. It isn’t time, nor sleep, nor life that has gotten in the way of things. It is me. I’m the only one preventing myself from living each & every day of this life with eyes & mind wide open. And I’m also the only one stopping myself from making a beautiful whole of all the little priceless moments that make up for my lovely life.

And so, I have decided to stop sulking & start documenting again. At the end of August I will once again collect my photos, my words, my thoughts & I will share them here, like I used to & in a way that works for me. And, of course, you are ever so welcome to come along on this old/new journey with me….

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And then it is April

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Dutch poem by Jentl

And then it is April. While it’s still new-year’s eve in your mind, the days have already slipped from winter into not winter & then right into spring. You were still binding your time, making plans for the time to come. But as it turns out, time has made plans of its own & has taken off without a word of warning. A quarter of the year gone, while you’re still lingering at the start, wondering what on earth just happened.

And then it is April. The world outside your window suddenly seems too beautiful, too sharp a contrast with the world on the screen of your television set. It is April. Parks turn pink & white with blossom so dazzling that it has you looking up more than you’re looking down. Pollen explode into soft spring air, while toxic gasses explode in a world so far away from you, that it might be a different planet altogether. It is April & bombs are dropped, because bombs are dropped, because bombs are dropped. Children die in the arms of their parents, parents die in the arms of others & others die in the arms of their children. Countries tumble over one another in a hurry to be the first to declare something that is not supposed to be called war, but might as well be given a suitable name for the occasion.

And then it is April. Winter has melted from our minds at rapid speed. It is warm outside. But some of us still insist that climate change is a myth, while elsewhere villages are being washed away by mud, water & ignorance. It is April & once again trucks turn into killing machines, peaceful cities turn into silent seas of flowers. Oh, yes, it is April. Some days the news is so bleak that you cannot bare read it. You find your mind drifting from agony to entertainment in a speed that surprises you; looking for a way out, an excuse to momentarily or permanently look away. You don’t know how to carry it, how to bury it, how to be & not be part of everything all the time or not at all.

It is April & you wonder. You wonder a lot. And it makes your head spin, your eyes water. You are happy. Most days. You can’t help it. There are flowers on your table. There is food on the stove. Your cat sleeps in the sun that so perfectly falls through your windows. You have become an aunt, you have extended your family tree & have experienced a new form of unconditional love.  You are safe & you are loved. You are happy & you are no longer sure whether it is appropriate to embrace it so full-heartedly.

And then it is April. And then it’s not new-year’s eve any longer. It is time to start. Really start. Or time to restart. To try & retry. Despite & because of the world you live in.

Goodbye December

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Goodbye December, the time has come; time to say goodbye.
Another year has gone by; it passed swiftly, as always. There it was; larger than life, filled with its seemly countless blank days, its stories untold, its memories impatiently waiting for somewhere to begin. And then, in the blink of an eye, it was gone. You came along, announcing the end of a moment in time, running quietly forward, straight into new times to come.

Goodbye Dear December, I have to hurry now. I look behind me & it seems you are already fading. I can’t help feeling that I have somehow lived less of you than I usually would. Like I spend my time moving through one day, merely to get to another. Do you know what I mean? I wonder if you felt it too. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful for your days or that you didn’t provide all that a good December is supposed to provide. You gave me cold days, frosty morning & stormy evenings. You gave me Christmas lights, hearty meals & heartfelt conversations. There were unexpected moments, there were sweet surprises too. Lights appeared in trees, windows were decorated with words of wisdom. Mist crawled through the streets, frost wrapped its celestial white arms around spider webs, decorated fences & walls with the sparkling wonders of your winter. Flocks of gees passed overhead, calling out one to the other, I bid them a silent farewell, wanting them to travel safe, yet to return with spring. There was beauty everywhere; enough to go around, enough to satisfy the soul. But yet, it was as if I wasn’t really there to witness it all.

But, dear December, it wasn’t you. It was me. I suppose I got distracted by the finality of your season. Distracted by the end of things, rather than by the middle of them. Your days have been heavy with thought. But not with thoughts of you. It were thoughts of this year’s ambiguous heritage instead.
A full year has passed. It is slowly receding back into itself. Leaving us standing at the brink of something new, still feeling slightly weary of the world & all its heartache. Weary of people dying in the safety of our streets, weary of cities under siege, children dying too young or growing up too fast. Weary of our endless wavering believe in what is right & what is wrong. Who are we now? And where will we go from here? The past year has been a challenge to the soul & I’m afraid you have been no exception, December. Sometimes, I can’t help but feel defeated by it all. Frightened of what lies ahead. What if I am simply too trivial & insignificant to stand up to the new ways of this world? What if I’m too frightened to take a stand or to simply speak my mind? I don’t want to worry, but how can I not?

Dear beautiful December, I am sorry for the lack of attention that I have given you. I feel I have let you & myself down. And I am truly sorry about that. Because all I really want is to thank you. Thanks you & all those colourful, eventful, wonderful & priceless months that came before. I have moved through most days of the past year with wide open eyes, boundless appreciation & an endless wandering mind. I have witnessed early mornings; pristine & promising. I have walked through the silence of seasons unfolding, have wrapped my arms tightly around the beginning of each day.
I read more books than I did the year before, I never wrote enough letters, I cooked countless meals & watched new stories unfold in & around me. I have worried, I have cried, I have felt at a loss, defeated, adrift. But I have laughed too. I have celebrated, I have walked, I have enjoyed, I have seen & I have done. I wrote down my version of events, I documented my humble understanding of beauty & I created something that was mine & no one else’s. I loved, I rejoiced, I learned & unlearned. I thought, I was & I wasn’t. And more than anything, I lived. Lived as courageously & as consciously I could. And it wasn’t perfect. Of course, it wasn’t. But it was the best & the only thing I could think to do. And I loved it. And I thank you all for that.

Goodbye Dearest December, goodbye to you. Goodbye days. Goodbye weeks. Goodbye Year. I’ll must be going now. But I’ll make sure to think of you along the way…

Love, Naomi

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Series: way too many episodes of Lost.
Movies: Mystic River, Les Misérables
Songs of the year:
Elegy for the artic – Ludovico Einaudi
Incomplete – James Bay
Will of the river – First Aid Kit
Nemesis – David Gray
You want it darker – Leonard Cohen
New Year’s eve – First Aid Kit

Happy Holidays!

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Dear All,

It seems like forever ago since I last posted something on this poor blog of mine. I’ve been troubled by my shoulder lately & haven’t really been able to work on the computer much at all. Neither could I carry my camera around, like I usually do or make the tiny, precise drawings I tend to make. As a result, all my creative outpours, which I usually share here with you, have come to a sudden standstill. I’m truly sorry about that.

Despite the radio silence, which might still continue to last a little longer than I had hoped, I do really want to take a moment to thank you all for following this little blog of mine in the past year. Thank you for finding me, reading my words & sharing my journey. It means a lot, it really does. And of course, I hope you will all follow me into the New Year to come. I’m not entirely sure in which shape or form this blog will reappear in 2017; whether there’ll be another daily, weekly or monthly project, whether there will be more photos and less words or whether I will just wing it altogether. If you have any suggestions, any wishes or ideas, please feel free to help me out. I would love to find out what you think or what you would like to see more of on this blog.

Sweet all, I wish you a very Merry Christmas & of course a splendid, beautiful, creative, safe, hopeful, loving, inspiring & memorable New Year! I will certainly try to round off the year in style with my last ‘goodbye- month ‘post real soon, but it’s goodbye for now….

Love, Naomi

Goodbye November

Goodbye November, farewell my friend. Your turbulent times have come to an end. Your windswept days, your glorious mornings & equally brilliant midnight skies. The ups & the downs, the highs & the lows. You have been a challenge for the soul, a true sharpening of the senses. And more than anything, you’ve been a rude awakening to us all.

Goodbye Dear November. I feel I’m still trying to come to terms with you, because you haven’t been easy to digest. Like I’ve been put to the test & even now, after all our time together, I’m not sure whether I succeeded or utterly failed. But I’m still here. Still standing. And I guess that should mean something.
I struggled, you know, I struggled a lot. I was taken aback by the world; the shape we’re in, the direction we’ve taken. We felt ever so divided, so scattered as a human race. Everything seemed to spin out of control. For every step once taken forward, we seemingly took two steps back. And it scared me. Everything scared me.
I learned. Yes, I guess I learned. About myself, the world & everything underneath these wide skies. I attempted to reinvent myself at the start of each new day, tried to strap on more armour than I could possibly carry. I came undone, then picked myself up again.
A poet died & he took arms full of inspiration with him as he hurried from this world to the next. I felt at a loss, like nothing was ever going to be simple anymore. And it scared me. Everything scared me.
It was my birthday. I looked at the world where I spend all those beautiful, confusion, incredible, fulfilling years, surrounded by all the best of people, and found I didn’t understand what I saw anymore. And it scared me. Everything scared me.

Dearest November, I don’t want to be scared any longer. I don’t want to give up on hope. Don’t want to let go of the idea that all that is good & right & true in this world will always prevail over everything that is not. ‘It is possible to choose peace over worries’ it said on the magazine I picked up just the other day. Struck by the simple truth of these wonderfully hopeful words, I suddenly understood that it was up to me & no one else where to go from here. Up to me to decide whether to be defeated or to stand tall. So, I will choose peace over worries. I choose hope over fear. Every single time. I know I might sounds naïve, silly even. But I’m rather naïve, than negative. Rather silly, than sad.

Goodbye Beautiful November. I feel for you. I understand your struggle, your endless search for identity. You’re stuck somewhere in the middle of it all. No longer autumn, but not quite winter. No colourful leafs to decorate your hours, no Christmas lights to lighten your days. But I want you to know, you have been beautiful & incredible & meaningful in so many ways. You’ve been unique & moving, challenging & all important. You have brought me thoughts & insights which I will cherish forever. I want you to know that, understand it, before we say our goodbyes. I feel that, because of you & all that you have taught me, I have finally begun to understand how to shift the weight of life, so that it may sit more comfortably as I go. And for that I’ll be forever in your debts.

Love, Naomi

Book:Friday on my mind’ & ‘Saturday Requiem’ by Nicci French. Now it’s time to break-in the newest novel by my all-time favourite author Jonathan Safran Foer.
Series: Showtime original The Affair, which was really honest, confronting & good. And then we started watching ‘Lost’ once again, which will always be one of my favourite shows. After finishing season 1 last night, I’ve turned right into a proud Lostie again;)
Songs of the month:
Come Healing – Leonard Cohen
I’m yours – Jack Savoretti
Night comes on – Leonard Cohen
Destroyer – David Gray
String reprise/Treaty – Leonard Cohen

to Leonard

We stood at the edge of the world together. You & I. You were ready to go. You held your hat in your hand. Your face solemn, at peace, ready to trade this world for the next. The night came on. It was very calm. I wanted the night to go on and on. But you said; go back, go back to the world.

I stood beside you. Silent. My heart felt a little broken, my soul a little shaken, as I thought of all that endless uncertainly that lay before me now. Our roads would part soon. You would finally be going home, while I would go my own way. Back to the world that lay waiting. Some of me wanted to turn to you & tell you of all the fear that was building inside of me.
‘I’m scared, you see’ is what I wanted to explain, ‘scared of what’s to come, scared to see what waits around the corner. Soon, when you leave this world for a better place, please let it truly be a better place. A place where people can still see the difference between right & wrong, a place where hate has no ground to grow its dark roots, where hope may be found in abundance. Find a tower of song to lay your head down & let the sisters of mercy soothe your soul. Because this world, this world where you have lived out the beautiful days of your life, this world might never be the same again. It seems to me that humanity took a blow this time from which we might not easily recover. Like it has all become unsteady now. Justice hanging in the balance & the scales ready to tip the other way’.

The wind, the wind was blowing, through the world the wind was blowing. You freedom soon would come. And you would move from the shadows, towards the skies above. ‘Which heaven will you go to?’ I wondered, ‘when all gates are opened before you, over which threshold will you step?’
There was so much & so little left to say. I thought of you & of me & all the wondrous stories told between us. Stories of a place near the river, where you could hear the boats go by. Stories of a captain whose ship had not been build, stories of a Gypsy’s wife lost in the night, loaded dice & rivers dark.
‘Your passing feels like yet another light turning off,’ I thought quietly, as silence grew deeper around & within us ‘while it seems apparent to me that we can’t effort anymore darkness to nest in our hearts & minds. It’s my birthday today. Or at least it was, until a few minutes ago. And during this special day, I was thinking how I lived this part of my quiet & joyous life with you at my side. Your music, your poetry ran through me like blood has run through my veins. You have been a friend, a silent guide & a great teacher. You were always there, as a silent companion, a soundtrack to accompany me as I travelled down a road filled with new beginnings, frightening farewells & unexpected challenges. You, your whispered words, your wandering mind have taken me by the hand, led me through the sunny days of my childhood, the darker days of adolescence & you are still here in this endless wondering that is my life. Preparing me for your departure with the same grace as you have prepared me for my life.’
There were a thousand things to say. A million thoughts to share. Because you are a gem. A once in a lifetime. A rare find. And now I feared there may be no more diamonds in the mine. But that is our burden to carry. Not yours. I looked at you, one last time I looked at you & knew it was only fair to let you go with a mind free of all that is to be.

You & me. At the end of the world. A moon larger than life. The night came on. It was very calm. I wanted the night to go on & on. But I went back, back to the world….

Goodbye October

Goodbye October, you have come & gone. I have been running late & before long, I might forget what made our time together so special & valuable. And that would be such a waste, wouldn’t it?
So, before you go, let me take a moment to thank you. Thank you for celebrating nature at its best. The showers of yellow, orange, red & brown, the leafs dancing in the streets, the bright blue skies & the silent, early mornings. You amazed me, you had me looking up & up & up. Had me mesmerized; constantly captivated by all your glorious beauty.

Goodbye Beautiful October, I’m sad to see you go, but you have certainly fuelled me for the winter months to come. I will treasure the days, hours & moments we spend together.
As time went by, your days grew shorter, your wind sharper & more whimsical. But at the best of times, I could still leave my coat at home. I got to see the sun climbing into the sky, witnessed the start of so many perfect autumn days. I stared up at the trees, their colourful canopy like a party in the sky. Cycling, I had to course correct, remind myself to put daydreams on hold & pay attention to the world in front of me.
During the comforting time we spend together, I ran into challenges, big & beautiful. And, despite the fear & the mix emotions which go hand in hand with all newness, I grabbed opportunities with both hands, ready to learn, not so ready to stumble. I took a moment to embrace the underrated joy of hearing a new masterpiece. I celebrated the birth of the greatest person on earth. I mourned the loss of those I’d never know. I cooked new things, reintroduced old favourites. As always, I planned & planned, mostly too much, but never really enough. I learned, I read, I loved, I thought & then thought some more. And in the midst of our time together, I ran into a new side to myself. Thinking I knew it all, thinking I had peeled back every single layer of the person I have always aimed to become, I wandered into unfamiliar territory. And I have been wondered about this unexpected insight ever since.

Goodbye Dear October, you have been ever so sweet. But you’ve also been wild, ruthless & unforgiving. You had hurricanes sweeping in, tearing away everything from those who had nothing to begin with. I watched the world as it unravelled into a battle of right & wrong, decent & savage. I felt us inching towards a time in history I’m afraid I will never be able to understand. The overflowing boats, the vicious seize-fires, the never-ending tug of war between rightfulness & reality. And even though I know I am supposed to be some sort of vague part of it all, I never felt further removed from the world & all its boundless violence.

Goodbye lovely October, you will be missed. Your days were busy, unorganised at the worst of times. There were moments I wanted to pause you, take a breath & reset everything. But more than anything, you were magnificent & my life was beautifully whole & lovely incomplete at the same time. Thanks you for everything; the confidence gained, the lessons learned & the beauty given. Thank you for the music, the words & all the inspiration. Thank you for the evenings, spend in the safety of all I know. And thank you for the days full of colourful wonder.
I’ll wrap this up now. November is here, she has already begun & it’s time for you to go. Take care, sweet October, let’s meet again next year.

Love, Naomi

Book: ‘Waiting for Wednesday’ & Thursday’s Child’ both by Nicci French
(now I might aswell finish the series:)
Movie: ‘Das Leben das Anderen’,
a beautiful touching movie, which I have seen about three times now.
Songs of the month:
You want it darker – Leonard Cohen
Deep Waters – Jack Savoretti
It seemed the better way – Leonard Cohen
All of me – Milow (cover)

Melanzane alla Parmigiana (light)

Eggplant, tomato, basil and cheese; what could possible go wrong! This recipe is a little bit of Jamie Oliver, a little bit of me and a whole lot of yumminess!
It’s hearty, full of flavour & it could even be healthy, if you can overlook a little cheese & a generous amount of olive oil:)

I tend not to use a lot of parmesan in this dish. Or to be really honest with you, most of the time I don’t use Parmesan at all. Instead, I often chose an old, Dutch cheese, such as Gouda. More than anything, I feel this lovely Italian Eggplant dish shouldn’t be smothered in cheese to begin with. I’ve had Melanzane alla Parmigiana a number of times in Italian restaurants; it was always nice, rich & flavoursome. But it was also always quite salty & heavy, because of the massive amounts of cheese that covered the eggplants. And even though I’m definitely a cheese lover, I do feel it’s a pity if the salty taste of cheese predominates the whole dish.

Autumn is here & even though this dish, with its basil and tomatoes, has a feeling of summer about it, I find it is still perfect for these colder & shortening days. It fills the house with delicious smells & it warms heart and mind each and every time.

Have fun making this lovely Melanzane alla Jamie alla Naomi alla Italy and I’ll see you again soon.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

  • Servings: 2 to 3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:
– 2 large eggplants, sliced in 1 cm thick slices.
– Good quality olive oil.
– Salt & pepper, to taste.
– 1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped.
– 2 garlic cloves, peeled & finely grated.
– 3 teaspoons dried oregano.
– 1 tin plum tomatoes (400 g).
– 1 cup Passata di Pomodoro (thick tomato sauce).
– ½ tablespoon white wine vinegar.
– 1 teaspoon brown sugar.
– ± 4 large hands of fresh basil.
– ± 1 ½ full cup of breadcrumbs.
– 2 large hands of freshly grated parmesan*.

Instructions:
– Place the sliced eggplants on a large cutting board. Using a silicon brush, brush the eggplants with some olive oil and sprinkle with some salt.
– Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F) and heat multi grill/ griddle pan. Make sure the grill is really hot, before you start grilling.
– Start grilling the eggplants and put them aside when done.
– In the meantime, heat a large pan on medium heat and add about 2 tbsp. of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add your onions and fry them for about 10 mins, until they are soft and lightly browned.
– Now add the garlic and 2 tsp. of dried oregano. Fry the mixture for about 2 minutes, while stirring well.
– Now add the plum tomatoes, the Passata de Pomodoro, the white wine vinegar and the brown sugar. When using whole plum tomatoes, use your spatula to break the plum tomatoes into chunky bits. To make life easier, you could also choose to use cubed tomatoes.
– Stir everything well, place the lid on the pan and let the sauce simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
– While your sauce is simmering, prepare the basil by putting the basil leafs into a food processer with a bit of olive oil and blitz the basil to a coarse pulp. Don’t blitz the basil too fine, this way the basil will lose much of its flavour. Put the pulp aside.
– For the breadcrumbs; place the crumbs in a bowl, add about a tbsp. of olive oil, a tsp. of dried oregano and a large hand of parmesan. Using a fork, mix the oil, oregano and parmesan through the breadcrumbs, until the crumbs start sticking together.
– When the sauce has thickened and reduced, season the sauce with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
– Take a large oven dish (± 25 x 15 cm). Spread a small amount of tomato sauce over the bottom, followed by a hand full of breadcrumbs. Now place a layer of grilled eggplants on top of this and spread the blitzed basil on top of the eggplants. Repeat this process until everything is finished. Try to end with tomato sauce and sprinkle the top of the dish with the remaining breadcrumbs and another hand full of parmesan cheese.
– Bake the dish in the middle of the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes, until its golden brown and bubbling at the sides. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.
– Enjoy!

Typically Dutch

New Postcards at Cardcetera!

This is going to sound a little strange, but I was under the impression that I already posted this blogpost. I edited the pictures, I transferred them to WordPress,
I thought of words I wanted to write and then….my holiday started & I forgot all about it. Silly, I know.

So, maybe these ‘new’ postcards of mine, which came out at Cardcetera, aren’t so very new anymore, but they are still as lovely, beautiful & typically Dutch as can be. And I’m still so very proud to present them to you!

These three typically Dutch images can be found in the Cardcetera webshop.
They are part of Cardcetera’s very own card collection, called ‘The Dutch Connection’. You can find all three cards here. And while you’re in the webshop, do make sure to check out the other lovely Dutch postcards in this collection as well.

That’s all for now. I hope to be back shortly with a new recipe blogpost & some additional photos from my holiday last month.

Love for now & see you soon, Naomi