intentions for the new year – 2018

And then it was 2018! I don’t know about you, but I’m quite excited for this new year. I have this feeling that some long anticipated things will finally come to fruition. And I have some ideas of what I would like to do over the next twelve months. What I don’t have are new year’s resolution. Ten years ago I decided I would no longer make them for they tend to have failed by the third week of January. But I do like a good challenge every so often. So I set one for 2018.

The first time I set a challenge for myself was four years ago, when I stopped working for the company I had worked on and off for since 2006. When my seventeenth birthday was rapidly approaching, I realised I never had a job apart from babysitting for many different families. At that point  I would move halfway across the country in two years’ time, and I figured I needed a little more varied experience if I wanted a side job to help me finance my education. So I made up my mind about what I wanted to do, and working in fashion it would be. The process of finding a job went rather smoothly: I filled out one application form, I received one phone call, I had one interview, and I was hired. For the next two years I worked there every Saturday, and every other moment I was asked and didn’t have to go to school. It turned out my gut feeling was right: this experience did come in handy once I moved away. The next five years I worked for different branches of this very company. Every single time I was hired based on my previous experience. Until I was twenty-four when my contract was no longer renewed for I was too old. That is not a legal reason to not hire, but to be honest, I wasn’t that sad to close this door. So the last day of December 2013 I left, not only with nice memories, but with a wardrobe good for a new outfit every day of the week for at least two months as well. One of the perks of working for this company was that I could buy the latest fashion for a decently reduced price. Depending on the state of the economy, my discount had been somewhere between 40 and 60%. And with collections changing every other month, me working more than once a week, and new items coming in every other day, imagine what that adds up to. So on the first of January 2014 I started a challenge: I wouldn’t buy clothes for one year. A huge shift from buying clothes whenever I liked an item. I needed this change, because shopping had become twice as expensive overnight. However, I knew that I wouldn’t succeed without a little support. So I made a bet with Matthijs. If I would make it, I would get €150 to go shopping (this was his idea). Exceptions would be allowed for underwear, socks and tights. In the end it turned out quite an easy challenge. So, needless to say: I won the bet. And no, I didn’t run to the shops first thing in 2015. My favourite thing about this challenge is it changed my behaviour towards clothes. It made me more relaxed. Now I go shopping twice a year, when the spring and autumn collections are in for those colours suit me best, armed with a short list of items that would complement my existing wardrobe. The other 363 days of the year I can walk past all the fashion stores without feeling that I’m missing out on something. And if I feel like changing something in between I make new combinations with the items I already have.

Over the past months I have been thinking about a new challenge. It is somewhere along the lines of the old challenge, but this time my motivation is a little different. And I’m not going to do it by myself. Matthijs will join me. We are trying to live as environmentally friendly as possible: we don’t own a car, we mainly travel by bike and train, we don’t fly too often, we only turn on the heater when it is really cold, we buy organic produce when our budget allows for it, and we separate our waste into glass, paper, plastic, and ‘other’. Unfortunately where we live it isn’t possible to separate our compostable waste, so that categorizes as ‘other’ as well. Except for the fruit and vegetable scraps we can give to our three bunnies. Because we separate our waste, we have a pretty decent insight in the amounts we throw out. And especially the amount of plastic bothers me a lot. When I discussed this with Matthijs, it turned out we share this feeling. Therefore in 2018 we will do a minimal waste challenge. And to stick to this challenge, we made up a list of five things that we think will help us reach our goal of reducing waste:

  • We will bring a coffee cup, water bottle, and cutlery wherever we go;
  • We will buy (plastic) package free food wherever possible – we found two bulk stores in our area and they are fine with me bringing my own bags, bottles and containers (I asked);
  • We will prepare food at home and bring it, so we don’t have to buy something to eat every time we’re out;
  • We will avoid buying online as much as possible; and
  • We will avoid buying stuff as much as possible anyway.

It is no coincidence that many of this bullet points include the word ‘possible’. In order to succeed we feel we need to give ourselves some leeway. I think one of many reasons new year’s resolutions never see the end of January is people been too strict, and being too harsh on themselves, giving up when they made one tiny slip up. But change doesn’t happen overnight. And it’s not fair to expect it will. I think it works best to be more gentle with your intentions, and sticking with them through trial and error will eventually change your habits. So we won’t go out of our way to make this challenge happen. To be honest our first fail already took place on the first day we started. But instead of deeming this as some impossible thing to do, I choose to look at this miss as some additional research. And we will change things according to the outcomes we come across. For example, bring your own fork to Starbucks, doing our groceries at different stores, order books in the bookstore instead of online, and not go to some shops because we aren’t able to leave them empty-handed. During the year we will see what changes we can add to these to reduce even more waste. I’ve been thinking about composting our food scraps for a couple of years, but it didn’t make sense because I had no use for compost. But now I have a fruit and vegetable garden on my balcony, so I might start composting this year. But not immediately, for that would be too much change at once, making this challenge too complicated. And then we would risk failing the challenge all together.

In addition to the minimal waste challenge, I also set some intentions for myself:

  • Make more time for the things I love to do. Go into nature, photograph, write stories for between the dots, cook, bake, create new recipes, go to the movies, visit classical concerts, camp, care for my urban jungle, drink tea with good friends, and continue to date my husband.
  • Read fifteen books.
  • Workout two or three times a week. It clears my head – which is quite nice when you’re always in ADD-overdrive –, I sleep better, and my shoulders are less tense during busy periods.
  • Stick to my elimination diet. In the past two months my health has increased drastically. I no longer have constant pains, I haven’t had one migraine in the last month, my skin clears up, and as a nice side effect I’m losing some weight as well.
  • Do the dishes every (other) day.
  • Hang my clothes instead of piling them up on the floor.
  • Be more concerned with my own life and the lives of people I know instead of the lives of strangers I will likely never meet. Therefore, I logged out of YouTube and cleared out the list of people I follow on Instagram. In 2018 I will be more critical about following new people.
  • And last but not least: work my butt off for the next six months in order to finish my master’s degree. It will be a massive task, but if I set my mind to it, I can succeed. I’ve done something similar before when I compressed the last two years of secondary school into one. So no reason to think I can’t pull this off.

This might seem like a lot, but these are all things I’m already working on. They are important to me. And they slowly become second nature to me. Writing them down only sets them firmer in my mind, and gives me the opportunity to remind me of them on days I forget. When I ‘slip up’ I can gently remind myself of these intentions and work on them until I’m no longer aware I once had to consciously work on them. And to me that’s what new year’s resolutions should be about: little by little reinventing yourself.

Happy new year!

I’m on an elimination diet

While I start writing this it is 2.57 AM and I’m wide awake sitting in my single bed in my tiny bedroom in Groningen. And to make it even more fun: I have to be in class in seven hours. Needless to say, I’m not going to make it to university today. The reason for this midnight activity is that my brain finally is tying up all the loose ends of my thoughts gathered over the past three weeks on the subject of this story. And when my brain is in this mode it won’t turn off until the story is

10 november 2017

Today it is five years ago my now husband and I left to marvel the world. We had a vague idea about where we wanted to go and a one way ticket to Mumbai, India. A wild guess, and a brave choice, since we both had little experience with travelling outside of Europe. We, well to be completely honest, I made the decision to go one and a half year earlier. Matthijs and I had been, at that time, together for three months. I had been thinking about a gap year, and since I had been dreaming about

the everyday

Today I introduce a new category to my site. For the past year I had two categories: the world and my cookbook. These will be accompanied by the everyday, for the simple reason that it is implied in my title. I chose between the dots because I was tired of everybody only asking about big events in my life, or as I call them: the dots. For me, life is about all those little moments in between. Two things I like to do in between are travelling and cooking, and in the stories I write on these

berlin, august 2017

This past year I haven’t been too original with my choice of cities to visit. I have been to Gent twice, and now I have spent a couple of days in Berlin for the second time as well. In April I was there with my little brother. We had a lot of fun, and I hadn’t had near enough time to see everything on my list. So when Matthijs told me with the saddest face (in which a lot of acting was involved, I admit) that he had never been to Berlin, it didn’t take long before we booked our train

after the swimming pool green smoothie

De beste dingen ontstaan vaak uit restjes. Bijvoorbeeld deze smoothie. Op een ochtend wilde ik ontbijt maken, maar in mijn koelkast, vriezer en fruitschaal was haast niets te vinden. Dus gooide ik dat wat er nog wel was in mijn blender – nadat ik alles had afgewogen, omdat ik een tijdje calorieën telde – en dat resulteerde in dit ontzettend lekkere groene monster. Maar omdat er al een 586.365 groene smoothies op het internet te vinden zijn, moest ik een betere naam verzinnen. Dus heb ik hem

berlin, april 2017

What started as a silly idea months ago, turned out surprisingly well. In the beginning of the year my youngest brother mentioned during a conversation on the phone that he would like to take a short vacation at the end of April. I’m always in for going somewhere, so I suggested to go with him. After brainstorming via WhatsApp for days, and a dinner to determine if we would still think it would be a good idea in real life, we decided on Berlin. Even though he had been there last year with

gent, february 2017

Afgelopen februari heb ik iets nieuws ontdekt: de 36-urige vakantie. Eén nachtje weg voelt net zo goed als vakantie als een langere periode. Sinds deze openbaring heb ik deze tactiek dan ook al een aantal keer toegepast. Vooral in hotels waar Matthijs verbleef voor zijn werk. Maar in februari waren we dus samen 36 uur op vakantie in Gent. Mijn indruk van België was dat van een nogal grauw en grijs land. De architectuur is weinig inspirerend, de mensen zien er wat somber uit en de stadscentra

oven baked falafel

Dit recept zat al een behoorlijke tijd in de pijplijn. Sinds 19 april om wat nauwkeuriger te zijn. Ik wilde al een tijd falafel eten, maar zoals gebruikelijk bij gerechten uit het Midden-Oosten kan ik het niet zomaar ergens even eten vanwege mijn beste vrienden knoflook en ui. Rond diezelfde tijd vond een nieuw kookboek haar weg naar mijn deurmat. Ik heb een boekenabonnement van Oxfam Novib waarmee niet-westerse auteurs ondersteund worden. Vier keer per jaar ontvang ik een boek; een aantal

india, december 2016

On my birthday, which happens to be on May 27, also known as the hottest day (literally) of this year so far, Matthijs took me out for breakfast, and while we were in the city centre anyways we went shopping for some summer clothes for him. And then the strangest thing happened. While he tried on a t-shirt we were both transported back to India by the smell of the shirt. And for a split second we wanted to buy it because of that smell. We didn’t because it didn’t suit Matthijs. But we did