April 29, 2009

As promised: book reviews

Since I don’t have an internet connection or TV or any good cooking utensils apart from one sharp knife at the French apartment I am staying at for my two months in Lyon, I have endless amounts of time (especially since I am still ignoring the thesis I vowed to finish in the evenings during my stay here) which I spend mostly doing two things: playing spider solitaire on my laptop (sad I know, but so addictive) and reading.
(Wow that was a long sentence).

I don’t think my Spider Solitaire progress is of much interest to you, but I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the books I read.

Finally finally finally I read The Lord of the Rings. I am a huge fan of the movie and I was quite ashamed of not having read the book yet. Usually I prefer to read the book before seeing the movie, so I can use my own imagination when picturing the characters and the surroundings. Now I kept seeing Orlando Bloom in my mind when Legolas came along in the book. Which isn't necessarily bad by the way. (I'm not really a big fan of Orlando Bloom, don't find him particularly hansom but somehow.. as an elf... I find him irresistable. I like to think it's not because of a weird fetish for pointy ears or long blond hair, but because I am so impressed by his bow-and-arrow-handling.. appearantly shooting orcs from an elephant's back is my idea of sexy....)


I was surprised how different the book was from the movie. There weren't just bits omitted for the movie, there were also bits of the storyline that were entirely different. So I really loved discovering that. It was like the extended extended extended version of the story. With some plot twists. I don't think I'm gonna be one of those people who can re- and re-read this book though, but I enjoyed reading it and I can recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed the movie.

This book by Martin Zusak I finished in a day. It is such a good read. It’s difficult to say much about the book without spoiling it, but I can tell you it’s a novel about an ordinary German family during the war. It’s not exactly a happy book, but it’s not dark and depressing like some other wartime novels. It’s written from an interesting perspective and the writing style is odd, but you’ll get used to it and get hooked. I promise. Go read it! It's beautiful!

Do you have any book recommendations for me? I'm up for anything from chiklit to fantasy!

(I'll be back with more book reviews and reading news later. Meanwhile, you can keep track of what I'm currently reading in the box on the left!)

Midweek cheers: girlfriends, cereal and France

Image from etsy/isofoto

I’ve decided to give out some weekly cheers. To help me realize all the goodness in my life blah blah blah……

but also because I simply enjoy making lists.

Any kind of list. Shopping lists, to-do-lists, you name it, I list it. I even make lists of food I like. And food I don’t like. Not for those kind people who host a dinner party and invite me. Or for MrBee when he goes grocery shopping. No, just for myself. For the fun of listing. And because I like to have that information in a list. Clear and ordely. Is that weird? Or neurotic? I guess I am a bit neurotic.

Anyway. This week’s cheers go to:

  • The Secret Society of List Addicts blog. For reasons mentioned above.
  • Girlfriends who come to visit me whenever I’m abroad. They bring me Dutch supplies, they shop and drink cocktails with me, they assure me nothing major has happened back home while I was gone and inform me of all the minor things that did happen, they talk and talk deep into the night and don’t mind when I fall asleep mid-sentence, they make inside-jokes, they forget their toothbrushes when they go home so I am reminded of them every morning and evening…. I love them! One of my best friends is actually arriving in 3 hours!! And she is bringing along Dutch apple syrup (or however that’s translated into English), her home inspiration scrapbook which we urgently need to discuss (she was a great help when I was decorating our place back home – she was pretty much the only person who would understand there is a very important difference between various shades of greyish-blue, now it’s her turn) and her own fabulous self. Yay!
  • White label versions of overpriced brands. On sale. Which is the reason I’m now the proud owner of three boxes of cheap fake Kellog’s special K cereal. Great. I hate how overpriced the real ones are. (BTW Does anyone have a recipe for making your own cereal??)
  • France! I miss home terribly but just the other day two men started singing “Ooooh Champs-Elysees… Oooooh Champs-Elysees….” when I walked by. That truly made my week.
  • Mr Bee, who is being the sweetest boyfriend ever. He just sent me the most adorable email telling me how he misses me. I am a lucky girl.

Who or what get cheers from you this week?

April 28, 2009


Whenever I am down or stressed out, I do a couple of things:
I read
I eat
I drink tea
I bake
I cook
I wear comfort clothes
So that’s how I spent last week when I was back home in Holland.

I read three books in the last week or so. I finally finished The Lord Of The Rings. I read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak in one day and I read The Girl with the Red Hair (a Dutch book about a girl working for the Resistance during WWII). I'm planning to post book reviews/recommendations on this blog soon! So I'll get back to this.

I love tea. I drink liters and liters of tea a day. Because filling up and downing regular sized mugs would be too much trouble, I have a mug to match my appetite for tea. Back home we have fresh mint so I love making fresh mint tea.

I made Rachel’s Greek dinner for MrBee, my dad and my brother. I used pork for the souvlaki but also made some skewers using tempeh since I’m a veggie. I also added a side dish of white cabbage with vinaigrette and a big salad with radishes. I also made pita bread using a recipe I found on Saverqueen's great blog. It was great. I especially loved the tzatziki. Next day, at the cremation service of my grandma, we actually had some people ask us whether we had had a lot of garlic the night before…. WOOPS! Haha.. My grandma would have loved that.

I also baked two batches of cupcakes and a loaf of whole wheat bread. Baking just makes me so relaxed. It feels great to release stress by kneading and whisking and be rewarded by some cookie dough or batter straight out of the bowl afterwards.

For the cupcakes I used a Nigella Lawson recipe as a basis, but added all kinds of stuff along the way leading to a batch of Vanilla-Rasberry cupcakes with cute pink frosting and a batch of very rich and creamy coconut cupcakes. I have to say, they were delish! I’ll try to post my recipes when I’m back in Holland again. (But I have to warn you, I’m terrible at sticking to recipes. Usually I just do what feels right. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…)

And the comfort clothes, it may surprise you, are not sweats. Whenever I feel down I dress up in a cute dress or skirt, wear high heels and apply more make-up than I usually do. It makes me feel beautiful and special. My absolute favorite is this one dress that my mom wore when she was in her twenties. My grandma had made it for her, but my mom decided it was too conservative and cut off quite a few inches. So the dress is short, but extremely cute and flattering. Wearing it always makes me feel pretty and close to my mom.

It was a soothing week. And I needed it.
(I know I should have taken pictures. I will. Soon.)

April 27, 2009


My grandma wasn’t the prototype grandma. She didn’t knit, she didn’t sing me songs, and she didn’t enjoy chitchat about trivial things. Instead, she wrote me letters and sent me newspaper clippings of everything she thought might be interesting to me, accompanied by her comments in the sideline. When I visited her, she talked to me about politics and worldly affairs. She was a feminist, a great advocate of soft drugs legalization and a firm believer of equal rights.

How different she was in her youth…

Born in Indonesia, which was a Dutch colony back then (the Dutch West Indies), my grandma enjoyed a carefree childhood. She wanted to become a movie star. She got married at a young age, had fun with her many friends and she enjoyed parties and the beautiful weather.

Then World War II came to the Pacific and my grandma’s husband fought the Japanese until his ship was torpedoed and sank. For days, he drifted on a bamboo raft in the ocean, before he was picked up and admitted to a military hospital, which was later turned into a prison.

Women were ordered to report, but my grandma, who was pregnant, and her mother refused and stayed in their home. Then, one night, a friend came to their house in the middle of the night and advised them to leave their house. After that night, women who had stayed in their homes were raped and murdered and their homes were pillaged.

This friend had saved their lives.

My grandma gave birth to her first child in a Japanese concentration camp. Her husband never got to see his baby girl: after his recovery he was taken away on a Japanese war ship which was bombarded by the English, who didn’t know there were also many prisoners on board. He was one of the few to survive, but died several months later during forced labour on railroads, 29 years old.

My grandma, her young child and her mother survived several camps. My grandma never really talked about it. It must have been horrible. My grandma had lost her first husband, her in-laws and many friends. But she felt she had been lucky. She was Jewish and had she lived in Holland in that time, she and her family would have been deported to German concentration camps, which were even worse than the Japanese camps.

After the war she came to Holland, together with her 3-year old daughter, her mother and the man who had saved her life during the war, my grandfather. They got married and they all stayed with my granddads parents, who were just recovering from the German occupation. They had had Jewish people hiding with them during the war (who later emigrated to the States and started a chocolate factory there) and lost a son who had been forced to work in Germany. Food and fuel were still rationed and Holland had to be rebuilt. In mid-April 1947, my grandma gave birth to a stillborn child. Exactly one year and one day later, my dad was born. The doctor offered to change the recorded date of birth to one day earlier: it would mean that the child was officially born in winter, which would entitle the family to extra food and fuel rations. My grandma refused, it would have meant my dad would have the same date of birth as the stillborn.

Things got better. After five years of living with her in-laws, they got their own house. They had another child and the family of five was doing well.

But my grandma had changed completely. She had learned that life was not about looks and trivialities. Instead she joined environmental groups, gave lectures on recycling, wrote for newspapers and magazines and wrote letters for Amnesty International.

My grandfather died when he was only 67. My grandma said she felt like she had been cut in two. She never really recovered.

She hated the bad Dutch weather. She missed her homeland. She suffered from polyneuropathy, probably caused by the lack of certain nutrients during her time in the Japanese camp, which affected her mobility. But she still enjoyed going outside, grateful for every ray of sun. She enjoyed talking to people and was very opinionated.

When I visited her on Good Friday, we had another amazing conversation. We spoke about my internship, global health and my plans for the future. More importantly, she told me that she loved me.

Only 8 days later she died. She was 89 years old.

I will miss her terribly.

April 20, 2009


My dear grandmother passed away this weekend. I went home right away to be with my family. This probably means I won't be posting here much in the next couple of days...

April 16, 2009

Laugh & Cry

Ok so I admit I'm in a bit of an emotional state right now, being in France by myself. But this video made me laugh and cry (just like the video I posted yesterday by the way). I'm sure the whole world has watched this clip on youtube by now, but I just wanted to post it and please, if you haven't watched it yet, do so now:

I realized that if I was Susan Boyle, I would never have gone up there. I would have feared the cynical reaction of the judges and audience that she indeed had to endure. Untill she started singing. She blew them away. This clip shows that it's so much better to go out there and risk it, instead of letting fear of criticism and other people's opinions keep you from chasing your dreams.

I hope this lady is gonna be terribly succesful and gets all that she deserves for being so brave and lovely. And a bloody good singer as well....

April 15, 2009

Don't divorce them

I believe firmly in equal rights. So I wanted to share this video with you. It’s love. It’s beautiful and yet so sad. Why wouldn’t you want all these wonderful people to be happy?

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

April 14, 2009

Random thoughts

Just came back last night from a glorious weekend back home.

Mr Bee turned the big 30 and we celebrated both our birthdays together with friends and family. (I'm turning 25 next Friday, but since I am by myself here in Lyon that day I decided to pretend my birthday was last weekend.) It was really good to see everyone again. We had a great time and were spoilt with really cool gifts.

We have also seriously upgraded our balcony. Mr Bee and I only moved into our house last winter and the balcony (which is huge) was dirty and messy. But we spent some time cleaning it on Saturday and with a newly acquired picknick table, the barbeque we got as a gift and some lovely hortensias and potted herbs, we are ready for summer! I can't wait for food, friends and wine in the evening sun... Also, it feels really good to have finished a project like that together.

Mr Bee and I watched Juno on DVD yesterday. We both thought it was such a good movie, so cute. It reminded us of Little Miss Sunshine, which is one of my favourite movies. Favourite quote from Juno: "He is the cheese on my macaroni." Or : "Yeah and I mean Zeus had tons of lays but I'm pretty sure Juno was his only wife. And apparently she was supposed to be super beautiful but really mean, like Diana Ross." It was funny...

On the plane back home yesterday I read a Cosmo mag my friend gave me a little while ago. It made me laugh. Besides the standard "secret diet tips" and yet another answer to the question how we can make men like us, it featured an article on how to enjoy your life. I'm not kidding when I tell you one of the brilliant Cosmo tips to improve your life was to go to work with a serious hangover, because "it will allow you to look at your work from a differente perspective". Are you serious?!?

Cosmo also told me that I would be able to check my testosterone levels just by looking at my hands. According to this "fun trick" I am "very feminine and fertile" but I also have an "elevated risk of breast cancer", because my index finger is longer than my ring finger. Well, that's fun...(Cosmo says: If your ring finger is longer than your index finger, you have a lot of testosteron and if they are equally long, your testosterone level is normal.)

Unfortunately there was no reference or source quoted, but I checked a database for scientific medical journals and appearantly there is also a relationship between the ratio of these two fingers and oestrogen levels, male BMI, body shape and sperm count. How weird is that...

April 9, 2009

Cheese Love

I watched this guy on the market for a couple of minutes. He was picking up cheeses, pinching them, rolling them around in his hand.... Maybe it's a way to test the quality of the cheese. Or maybe he just liked the feel of it? I think I would...


When I walked out of the appartment building this morning, the sun and blooming trees made me so happy...

Too bad I have to work all day today. Inside. Because of security, windows cannot open and when the sun is out, my office is like a little greenhouse. But I think I'm just gonna sneak out around lunch time to go to a nearby market.... Might be able to get me some good French cheese there to take home to Dutchland this weekend. I will report later!

April 8, 2009


Here we go...

I have been reading quite a few blogs for a while now (see blog roll). Not only offer these blogs great entertainment when I'm bored and really good tips on books to read, movies to see and recipes to try, they also really inspire me. Because these people are doing the things that they love! Why don't I spend more time on the things that I love?!

I guess one of the reasons is that I resort so easily to cheap entertainment. Watching endless episodes of the Hills online. Switching on the TV instead of diving into a book. Not to watch that one show that I love, but just watching anything that is on in complete apathy, while hours and hours go by. And although I think this is sometimes completely justified (after a long and frustrating day it can actually be extremely soothing not having to think), most nights spent like this end with me being very frustrated with myself and maybe even more tired than when I got home.

Currently I live in Lyon in France for a couple of months to to complete an internship for an international organization here. I live in an appartment without internet or TV and when I started my internship here, I didn't know anyone. I'm still not very well integrated in French society I have to admit. Sometimes it freaks me out and I feel lonely, disconnected from the world. But with all this time on my hands, I started spending more time preparing my meals, reading books, writing to friends (yes! actual handwritten letters!) all while drinking gigantic amounts of tea. I love it. I now discover there are so many hours left in the day after work and I feel so much more satisfied when I go to bed. Doing the things that I love gives me energy.

And I fully intend to keep this up when I return to my busy life in Holland. I guess it is about using my time more consciously. Filling my life with actual content. And then being content with it. Lose the frustration and be happy. Because I do live a great life. So that explains the title of this blog I guess. I thought writing this blog will keep me focused on that resolution, but also, and maybe more importantly, I think sharing the things that make you happy can make you enjoy them so much more…

(This might all sound very focused and determined, but I have a suspicion that the topics coming up on this blog will be rather random…)