Category Archives: Habits

Did you know that vegan food could be this colourful?

I am enjoying this vegan food thing and I have amazed myself. Me, the ultimate cheese lover who must have eaten kilos of it during my life time. I have lived in a number of different countries and the majority of those produce excellent cheeses. Just to name a few – Holland, Switzerland and France. I also lived in Australia and England and ….. well their cheese credibility is different.

Cheese, dutch cheese, market stall, Rotterdam

Cheese market stall in the Markthal Rotterdam. Hard to not want to eat it….

My thoughts about non vegan food

I am past week 4 of our trial vegan food period and I know already now that my trial period will be extended. At this stage I am certainly not saying that I never will eat dairy again but somehow these foods are starting to lose their appeal. You may notice that I am not mentioning meat. I think after watching the documentary ‘What the Health’, for me eating meat may be a thing of the past….

Fish is a different matter. First of all, the world is running out of fish. The fish that is available is full of chemicals that are not exactly good for you. So fish, well, rather not either unless it is wild fish but there is not much of that kind left. Even then you can’t be sure what chemicals are in it!

Admittedly I have always been a ‘sauce and dressing with the meat and fish’ person. I never liked meat or fish for its own flavour but for the way it was presented. Salmon is a favourite but with a mango salsa and I love Tandoori chicken but because of the tandoori. Just a piece of grilled chicken does not do it for me. So why continue eating them if it seems they aren’t good for you?

My tasty vegan food

vegan food, vegetarian food, colourful food

A couple of tasty vegan dishes

The point of this post is to show how good vegan food can be!  I must admit that cooking vegan requires organisation and preparation. If your fridge is empty apart from an apple and a carrot, it is hard to create something interesting. If on the other hand your fridge is stocked with prepared roasted vegetables, pestos, rice salad and couscous, you can throw together a tasty meal in no time. As I said it does require some time management.

The other day I cooked a vegan Moroccan feast. We had visitors and I prepared a number of dishes to go with couscous.

vegan food, Moroccan, colourful food

Some of the dishes that made up the Moroccan feast – grilled aubergines, roasted pumpkin and slow roast tomatoes

On the menu were:

  • capsicum couscous
  • grilled marinated eggplant,
  • oven roasted butternut pumpkin,
  • roasted cherry tomatoes
  • green salad,
  • capsicum and caper pesto
  • spicy Harissa.

And all of this Vegan! Not a single non-vegan ingredient.

You know what is the extra-ordinary thing? It is not that much different than I was cooking before. That makes it easier but also exciting.

Some steps in the ‘prep’ process were:

You won’t get a recipe here. It is just an illustration on how to prepare this meal

The day before

vegan food, slow roasted, tomatoes

Slow roasted cherry tomatoes with garlic, Spanish onion and herbs

  • Roast cherry tomatoes with onion, garlic and seasoning
  • Roast red capsicums until the skin is charred (for pesto and Harissa)
  • Roasting cubed pumpkin with Spanish onion, garlic, herbs and spices
  • Grill or pan fry sliced eggplant with some oil, herbs and spices
vegan food, aubergines, grilled food

Grilled slices of Aubergines brushed with olive oil and spices

On the day

vegan food, vegetarian, colourful food, Moroccan

A colourful mixed salad with a Balsamic and pesto dressing

  • Peel the capsicums and make the pesto and the Harissa. It is a matter of blending ingredients
  • Heat up in warm oven the pumpkin
  • Make a salad to taste
  • Make the couscous with panfried onion, garlic and capsicum
  • Plate everything in colourful dishes and enjoy!
vegan food, moroccan, couscous, tasty couscous

A favourite. Moroccan couscous with fried capsicum, onion and garlic

Too much effort?

If you say, I don’t have time for this, then your non vegan eating habits may not be that good either. Maybe you always opt for prepared and processed food in the supermarkets.

I wouldn’t call myself experienced in preparing and eating vegan food but I discovered the following. My way of cooking was already very close to what vegan food preparation requires. I have made my own dips, pasta sauces, curries and soups from scratch already for years. To leave meat, chicken and fish out is not that hard.

How to go about ‘vegan food’?

I read somewhere that the easiest way to ‘ease’ into vegetarian or vegan food is to replace the meat or fish with a plant based protein.  I have made a Pasta Bolognaise and replaced the mince meat with brown lentils. It was delicious and had almost the same consistency as mince. I have used the same lentil mixture as a chilli mix on Nachos. Also very tasty.

vegan food, Italian, Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese with lentils instead of mince meat.

The hardest is to replace cheeses and eggs as they have have apart from being a food also the function to bind ingredients and to melt. I found a vegan type Cheddar. It looked bizarre and it did not really melt but it did add a similar flavour than a tasty cheese would have done.

To sum this up. I am intrigued to say the least. I feel preparing vegan food is more than throwing together some ingredients for a meal. It is a very rewarding way of cooking and it is amazing how tasty you can make food with spices, fresh herbs and vinegars.

It also feels that I am doing a good thing. Not only for my body but also for the world. That gives the process of cooking vegan food also an extra dimension.

As I said I am intrigued for several reasons and I am interested to explore this much further. Also if you are interested in some recipes, feel free contact me 🙂

See you soon!

motivation, Limoux, walking, hiking, hills

 

 

A vegan lifestyle! We are trialling what it takes….

Living in France has opened our eyes a fair bit when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables and a possible vegan lifestyle. Not only is the food very fresh, the prices are low and buying organic seems to be more the norm than exception.

vegan, plant based, fruit and vegetables

One of the market stalls in Carcassonne full with seasonal produce

Limoux and many surrounding towns have weekly markets with a good choice of fresh fruit and vegetable stalls. Several of them are certified organic. This is a challenge in France as it guarantees you to get annual checks by the government. Many stalls are ‘organic’ but do not carry the license mainly to avoid this type of bureaucracy.

Buying food of the season

vegan, plant based, fruit and vegetables

The beginning of the citrus fruit season. They are the best at this time of the year.

When you buy fruit and vegetables on the markets in France you get the best and freshest when choosing the seasonal produce. Surely the large supermarkets offer, just like in Australia, everything all year around but the markets tend to go with the seasons.

vegan, plant based, fruits in season, peaches

Peaches are delicious when they are in season.

That means no strawberries in the winter or peaches in spring. It means berry fruit in the summer, melon in August and September and peaches until a bit later. Then during October mushrooms, chest nuts, persimmons and apples steal the show. While in December citrus fruits get the focus.

vegan, plantbased, fruit and vegetables

Mushrooms are in season at the moment

That is on offer and that is what most people tend to eat. And if you do that you eat for very little money! We kept track of our market expenses for a couple of weeks and we discovered that life can be very, very cheap if you eat a lot of plant based or vegan foods.

A bit of an ‘Eye Opener’

Coincidental we watched a documentary called ‘What the Health’ and we were quite stunned. Not only stunned but also appalled by the way this world ‘handles’ food. The documentary is mainly about the food industry in the USA and I sincerely hope they are the worst offenders. I really hope it is different elsewhere although I fear that Australia may be very similar to the States.

It appears that food is not about feeding us – humans. Food seems to be a business where profit is more important than health. It has the role to sustain but not to nurture. It is amazing to see that most of the food that this world produces ends up feeding animals. Huge crops of grains and corn end up in the stomachs of cattle and poultry.

The ironic thing is that the volume of food needed to feed animals is much higher than the volume of food the animals produce to feed humans. Think about that one for a moment…….!

More shocking facts!

I once heard that there is enough food produced in this world to sustain every human being. There probably is but the main proportion seems to go to feed animals who provide for only a fraction of the world’s population.

Furthermore in order to create all this life stock, its production needs help and that is where I was confronted with the biggest shock. The produce that we end up seeing in the supermarkets is so artificially ‘tweaked’ that the word healthy has become obsolete! There is nothing healthy about these animals that end up on our plates.

They are full with antibiotics, hormones and fluid to grow as big as possible. They need to grow faster and bigger than nature would allow and the result is something else than food. However the beef, pork and dairy industries support and promote the standard of such foods. Ironically those companies who supply the hormones and the drugs needed appear to be their sponsors. See the vicious circle?

In the USA some people fight these procedures and end up in prison and it seems virtually impossible to make an impact there. What is possible off course, is stop eating the manipulated products.

Don’t think chicken and dairy are any better! They are just as full of hormones and anti-biotics. We were shocked to realise that our youngest daughter has drunk milk by the litres since she was a small kid. She has stopped or reduced it now but what could be the damage there?

Our decision to trial ‘vegan’

Any way after seeing this documentary, we watched a couple more on the same topic. We concluded that we had already lost the appetite for eating meat. Even dairy had lost its appeal however we knew it would be hard to give up cheese! After all I am Dutch, the country with the amazing assortment of hard cheeses. I used to work in Switzerland and love all of their cheese dishes. And now I am living in France where cheese is also abundant.

vegan, plant based, cheese, Dutch cheeses

Cheeses – can and should I give them up?

What we have decided is the following. We have a trial vegan month and explore what it means. We will asses how we deal without meat and dairy. And we will use all our creativity to produce tasty meals with only plant based food.

We are now in our fourth trial vegan week and I can only say that we have discovered some interesting things.

To be continued…..!

settle, exploring, Rennes-le-chateau

Contemplating  life without cheese…….

 

 

Limoux – first a holiday destination and now our home!

Some years ago we bought a new home in Limoux, France. I spent a fabulous 3 months travelling and researching the South of France and compiled a short list of properties. My husband joined me to inspect them and we ended up buying a house in Limoux.

home, France, Limoux, buying a house

Studying the map of France and deciding where to buy a property

These 3 months back then were easy as they felt just like a working holiday. I always knew I was going back ‘home‘ to Australia. I even came back to Limoux twice for a stint of 5-6 weeks to work on the house. Being in Limoux this time is different because now this house has become our home and it is the only one we have.

Since we bought the house in 2014 it has been the temporary home for a long list of Limoux lovers. Some stayed a week and some stayed up to 6 months. I moved here myself at the end of August – it was only me who left Australia initially. Keith followed me a couple of months later and here we are – living in our new home Casa Rita in Limoux 🙂

Still a holiday home?

Don’t be fooled that fast because the adventure still feels like a holiday and I am sure it will be for a while to come. The fact that we have so many countries nearby and to hear different languages on a daily base creates a true sense of holiday and adventure. That was very different in Australia because all I heard was primarily English for 25 years.

home, Limoux, tourist, sightseeing

Nearby attractions make it so attractive to go sightseeing and feel like a tourist

This is actually quite amazing as Australia has a population consisting of dozens of nationalities. It is not rare to be the only ‘real’ Australian on a party. By the way I am not venturing into the political issue of ‘genuine’ Australians so don’t get me on that one!

Different countries and languages

I speak 5 languages but I have not been able to do much with it during my time in Australia. A pity but so be it. Australians do learn languages in school but for a Dutch it is a laugh inducing low key affair. My daughter Zoe ‘learned’ 4 or 5 years Italian at Primary school.  All she managed to master was ‘May God bless you’ (obviously a Catholic School) and the odd culinary term.

I thoroughly enjoy hearing and speaking other languages. I can be texting with my sister in ‘Dutch’, speaking ‘English’ to my husband and local expats I have met in Limoux and ‘French’ to my neighbours, local cafe owners and handyman. This can all happens in one day on more than one occasion.

The other day I was skyping with a long time friend in Switzerland. You may guess it right that the language was in ‘German’. She is Austrian and, yes, we talk German to each other. We met in Switzerland more than 30 years ago while working in the same hotel. No need to say that we stayed in touch.

The bottom line is that since I am in France I have so many chances to speak other languages and I absolutely love it!

Our home is in a tourist attraction….

home, Limoux, tourist attraction

The river Aude is an eternal subject for the most gorgeous shots

My Austrian friend and I both live in a small town that are considered tourist attractions. She lives in Wengen, a ski resort that has only 1000 inhabitants although the population during the high seasons probably grows ten fold. Limoux has roughly 10.000 people but I am not sure how many people would be here during the busiest months. But I bet it is a fair amount.

home, Limoux, tourist attraction

Limoux offers enough beauty for tourists but is next to that a normal French town – alive all year round!

I like it that Limoux is not only a tourist attraction. It was one of the reasons we chose to look for a house in this town. Limoux is a normal French town where people have more things to do than dealing with tourists. People have non-touristy jobs, there are two high schools, a hospital and even a psychiatric hospital.

The art to create a home

Looking back at my short stints and longer times in different countries I do feel that I seem to be able to make a home where ever I lay my hat – to say it in George Michael’s words. Must be the pragmatic Dutch in me – I get on with what I have and not with what is out of my reach.

home, tourist, France,

How can you not be a tourist and in holiday mode in such a beautiful country anyway?

So yes, although I am still a bit in holiday mode, I am enjoying the ‘settling in process’ and we are slowly finding our place in Limoux – meeting people and sorting out things. I am currently fighting the fight with the French bureaucracy…… to be honest really not that much worse than the Australian equivalent.

It is all about preparation, being friendly and asking for assistance. Somehow that does the job! So since shortly ‘home’ is in Limoux even when it does not feel like it yet. It just takes time  😉

See you soon!

emigration, happy, at ease, train trip

 

 

After we settle in to a new place, we tend to stop exploring? I wonder why…

My last two blog posts were a bit of a whinge about things that are currently happening in my life. And you have to know that quite a lot is going on – after all I have just left my ‘home’ of the last 25 years and I am in the process to settle into a new one.

We spent 25 years in Australia and some years ago we decided to leave Down Under and settle in France. This is not as random as it sounds because we did buy a house there some 3 years ago.

What happens when you settle?

settle, exploring, Rennes-le-chateau

Enjoying new places and taking them in with ‘gusto’

My experience is that when you settle in a new place you’re usually full of enthusiasm to learn everything what there is to learn about the new ‘home’. It almost feels like a holiday and you are checking out the place to a much greater dept than when you would do when you live there permanently.

I am sure that many people who move to another country, city or town can recognise this and have roughly the same experience. With that new start comes an energy to want to learn everything possible about the new place. It is an urgency however that seems to fade away when the novelty has worn off and a routine takes place. The hunger for new things slowly vanishes after we settle because there is enough time to do it later….

I have also found out by experience that once this urgency has gone it is hard to find it again. This ‘new home routine’ establishes itself and you suddenly you seem to have less time for exploring. The result is that you stop doing it and just live in the new place doing the things you need to do.

Maybe that is where the difference lies! When you are on holiday you generally ‘don’t need’ to do anything and you have time for exploring. Daily life is full of stuff you need to do! I wonder if you can do both and avoid this transition….

What makes us ‘blasé?

Rennes le Chateau, settle, moving, exploring

The castle in Rennes-Le-Chateau – a place to enjoy views, history and spirituality

The other day I posted something on Facebook about a visit to Rennes-Le-Chateau. This is a little gem of a place near Limoux and it is perfect to take visitors to and to enjoy the scenery. One of my FB friends admitted that she had never been there despite having lived in the area for over 20 years.

That is exactly what I mean. She obviously knows that Rennes-Le-Chateau is not going to walk away and there is no urgency to go and see the village at this moment in time.

There is no problem with that apart from that it is a pity and it may be a little blasé because who says you are ever going to make the time? You may simply never do it …..

settle, Cap Creuz, Palau Saverdera

The view we were rewarded with after a walk at the Costa Brava we had never done before.

We all love to go to ‘far horizons’ for a holiday and and make the most out of our time when we are there. We take more time for ourselves, for our relationships and relaxation. Only to return home to continue the same old hectic life again.

One of the reasons we wanted a new adventure is to rejuvenate that urgency to take time and explore. To make time to do new things and meet new people. In other words to embrace this other adventure.

Lost opportunities?

Looking back at our time in Australia I feel we have taken many opportunities to see things, but certainly not all. I can remember moving to Brisbane and being excited about the at least 7 National Parks in the immediate environment. We had big plans to go hiking and camping there.

And you know what?  We barely saw 2-3 of these NP’s. We were doing exactly the same as I described above. The parks weren’t going away and after all we had the time. We did not need to go there and the result is that we ended up not going.

It makes you wonder how many opportunities we not have taken in our lives? How many things did we not do and dismiss with an ‘oh, well’, you can’t do everything! No need really..

I have decided to put that ‘blasé’ feeling aside and do the things that come in my mind. To make the most of every day and situation I am offered. Sounds good, hey! Well, we’ll see if I can keep it up. So far we have been doing a fair bit of exploring in our new home.

Am I fooling myself?

And to be honest so far it just feels like a holiday. So I may only fool myself that it is indeed possible to hang onto being the explorer and not fall into the trap of only doing things we need to do.

settle, hiking, Roses, Catalunya, Spain

Going for a hike, exploring new territory and getting new experiences near a new home.

Once we get into a daily routine we may find it an effort to drive somewhere and make a 5-10 k walk. Ah, let’s do it next weekend and just relax today. Recognise the feeling? I do but I am also determent not to fall for it this time.

We have bought maps, are exploring the web and plan activities. And every time when we get back home we feel quite satisfied with the new experience we have had. That should give us enough motivation to keep at it, wouldn’t it?

I will keep you posted!

 

 

Motivation can come from an unexpected angle!

When you move overseas it is pretty normal to expect to lose a bit of motivation and to have moments of doubts, regrets and maybe even anxiety. I am sure I have it all but I have set myself some rules.

Rule number one is that I don’t allow myself to have any expectations and anticipations. This may sound hard to do but so far I am quite good at it. Every time I feel I get a moment of ‘WTF’ did I do that for, I think of that rule. And believe me the moment just goes…

Rule number two is NOT to blame the new surroundings for anything. A simple example is the weather. We all know or can imagine that the climate of Brisbane where we used to live is close to perfection. Mark my words as I say ‘close’ to perfection! It is certainly not perfect as the summer months can be a hard slug.

If someone tells you differently, do not believe them! They may talk about a one-off mild summer, not about the average steamy one. The Brisbane summer is hot, humid, sweaty and long….. I lived through 17 of them so I consider myself to have an informed opinion.

False expectation and motivation

We arrived in Limoux, South of France and ‘expected’ to get a bit of a ‘late summer’, something like an Indian summer. Well so far, I hardly had to wear my summer clothes and am struggling to find suitable warm items to wear.

motivation, weather, South of france

Dark skies, cool temperatures and possible rain in nearby Esperaza

motivation, Limoux, weather, autumn

Breezy weather due to an active Tramontana wind from the mountains

The locals say it is not normal for the time of the year. Looking at the last two summers it is indeed not the same. So the weather is a bit disappointing and off course the following happens immediately. That nasty little monster called doubt sticks up his head and points out what I have left behind – beautiful almost perfect Brisbane weather.

Not allowed, as I said! It is not the mistake of Limoux that the Indian summer has skipped the town this year. It is what it is! I saw with a hint of sarcasm that Brisbane had already temperatures of over 30 during August and forecast is a long hot wet summer. OMG am I happy not to be there!

An ‘painful’ source of motivation

The other day something happened that stirred up quite some emotions within me. My daughter who is still in Brisbane saw that our family doctor of 17 years had passed away. Quite a shock as he was only 52. Apparently he felt unwell and just died – could have been an aneurysm. Who knows….

It made me realise that life is fragile. We have only one shot at it and it can be taken away so easily. Thinking about my GP made me realise that we need to live life when it is there. We have decided to change our lifestyle because we feel we have another adventure in us. We made the choice after years of ‘umming and erring’ and we will take every consequence that comes with it.

Even a less than perfect Limoux after-summer 😎 .

motivation, Limoux, walking, hiking, hills

At the top and feeling on top of things are great for motivation!

I am really sad about my GP. He has been absolutely brilliant on several occasions that I had a bit of a health scare. This doctor rang me at home on a Sunday night to tell me that I was resistant to the antibiotics he had prescribed. He personally changed bandages for 2 weeks after I had a skin craft as a result of a skin cancer. And he was the one who enquired about my pain management when he found I had a huge white blood cell count due to an infection.

Strangely his sudden death has given me new motivation to make the most out of this new adventure in Limoux or wherever we end up. His passing away makes me realise how easy things can turn. I am shocked and sad about it but it also gives me a boost to take this opportunity with both hands and live it to the fullest.

I just needed to get this of my chest!

See you next time to show off some ‘gems’ in the immediate surroundings….

 

 

 

 

First observations and impressions of a traveler in Europe

After only 2 weeks in the UK I have made some interesting observations. Although I was in London, rather the out skirts, I have not been once into the center of London. I did not feel like it and wanted to spend the time to catch up with family and some friends. The ones who live in the East of London 🙂

Observations of English gardens

I am no stranger to London after all I lived there twice for a couple of years. So no, I have not headed to the many attractions that London offers. Instead I have had my first experience to garden in this climatic zone. The job waiting me was to trim and clear a rather overgrown part of a well established cottage garden.

observations, English garden, lush garden, flowers

A typical English garden during the summer. Lush, green and colourful and I was allowed to make my mark!

In Australia I have come across some nasty vegetation. The kind that can tear your clothes or cut through your garden gloves. A bougainvillea thorn can cause infection as I have found out several times. Some garden companies refuse to handle Bougainvillea for that reason.

As I found out the English garden can compete! Roses, Pyracanta and Berberis to name a few. All with thorns that can mutilate you!

This would not be so bad if the local council would provide adequate means to get rid of the garden waste. They think they have come up with a ‘fantastic’ solution. They charge 50 pounds for 50 bags that you can fill up and they pick them up on a regular base. Sounds like it could work.

Well just have a look at the picture below and judge for yourself! The only good thing about these bags is that the plastic used is environmentally friendly. It apparently breaks down easily….!

observations, garden waste, garden bags

Flimsy garden bags not suited for normal garden waste, let alone those with thorns!

More people obviously are not impressed – hence the article in the local paper 😯

Anyway, apart from flimsy bags my time in London was pleasant. Before I change the subject however I have noticed something else that I like to mention.

Observations of London street scenes

A while back I was discussing prices with my friend Greg in Brisbane. He said that he was very happy to pay a bit more in Australia. He pointed out that Australia was a very clean country and public services work well. I had never considered it in that way but after being in London for a couple of days I noticed how right he was.

London is rather dirty. The streets are dirty, the street signs are often so polluted that you can barely read them. Many public bins are full to the brim and people leave house hold and garden waste on the street for days.

observations, garden waste, council services

Garden waste that is left out for days for the council to pick up is a common sight

It is probably an accepted sight for Londoners but for me coming from a cleaner country, it was very noticeable. So dear friend in Brisbane, you have a fair point!

A family reunion in The Netherlands

My next stop will be Amsterdam or actually the smaller city of Haarlem very close to the capital. I assume you all know that Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. Quite often people assume wrongly that the capital is The Hague as that is where the government resides already since 1588. Amsterdam is the place where the inauguration of kings and queens take place – it is the royal city.

The reason I am going to Haarlem is a family reunion. Family in the way of cousins and cousines. We had a spontaneous reunion a  couple of years ago and we decided then that the next one would be after my return to Europe. Last time my sister hosted it and this time one of my cousins will open his house for the invasion.

It was special to catch up with all these cousins. There are no more aunties and uncles so apart from memories and old pictures we have no means to find out about our past. One of my cousins created a file with pictures dating back to the late 1800’s. Quite special.

One of my Brisbane friends lent me once a book about a Dutch watch maker family who helped Jewish people during WW2 the nazi holocaust. Their house is in Haarlem and is now a museum. My friend has asked me the favour to check it out for her and take some pictures for her to see. I will gladly do this and I am even taking along some of my family who lives in Haarlem but never have been to the house themselves.

A bit of nostalgia

It seems that my tour around Europe so far is full with nostalgia. It feels like that and it will be nice to pass some of this on to my kids who grew up without strong links to the Netherlands. Although one of them has decided that The Netherlands is the place where she wants to study! She is a Dutch citizen, but does not speak Dutch – so far. She has assured me that this will be different by the end of the year  😆

I’m looking forward to arriving in Haarlem and go a bit down memory lane with cousins and second cousins. Goodbye to London for now until later this year when we have a wedding of a London cousin. The first wedding we can go to since we emigrated to Australia 25 years ago. So quite special!

Keep healthy! And pop in your name and email in the boxes below to ensure you get the latest updates! That is – if you are interested 🙄

 

observations, relaxation, feeling at ease

 

 

 

A sense of ‘unease’ is slowly creeping upon me!

For the first time since planning our emigration to Europe I am aware of a growing sense of ‘unease’. I don’t think it has to do with doubt or regret about our emigration plans. It actually started the other night when I received an email regarding a planned future activity. It made me clear that sometimes plans are not that ‘set in stone’ as you may think.

At the same time my husband read an article in the Guardian about some consequences of Brexit. Apparently several Dutch people who live in UK were asked to leave the UK. Despite the fact they are married to British citizens and have lived in the UK for up to 30 years. New legislation for Brexit has not even started but already now this seems to have started to happen. In the meantime it has turned out that this article was incorrect, but still…..

Add to that that I may loose my permanent residency for Australia. I am not registered in the Netherlands as a citizen as I officially left the country. I may not be welcome in the UK despite my British husband and I escaped a narrow possibility not to be able to live in France in the near future. Looking at all this together I think I may have found the cause of this unease….

What country is my home?

With all this in mind I have not only to decide where we like to live but also where we can live. I am getting this fleeting thought of how incredible ‘uneasy’ a refugee must feel. Not that you can compare my status to those people but I can imagine how this feeling of unease can have its toll and affects your sense of belonging.

I know I have the right to live in the Netherlands but at the moment I am not planning to do so. Australia permanent residency gives me the right to live in Australia although my choice is to leave this country for now. The consequence may be that Australia could withdraw my permanent residency. After having lived there for 25 years, that feels uneasy!

I guess that is exactly how these Dutch people in the UK would have felt. I am leaving Australia out of free choice but the UK was forcing them to leave. They may not have the option of becoming a British citizen, I assume. Lucky for me is that I still have the option to become an Australian citizen. Until I leave this country I qualify.

wedding, Noosa

The setting for our wedding ceremony at Little Cove Beach at Noosa

Several people including two of our friends who are immigration lawyers, recommend that I should apply for it. It feels crazy to get citizenship at this stage. I have never done it because I could lose my Dutch nationality. Since I married an Australian in 2011, I now have the right to remain Dutch while having Australian citizenship.

I don’t know if this sense of unease would disappear if I would decide to do the latter. Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn’t.

The emotional impact of emigration

So far planning this emigration has been a whirlwind of action with very little time for emotion. We have to sell everything, we need to organise our admin, our house needs an end of lease clean, my business will cease to exist and so on. It all is ‘kind of’ under control and there even seems to be light at the end of the action tunnel.

So maybe now the emotional ‘unease’ is slowly sticking up its head. If there are any doubts or regrets, its time to play a role could be at this stage. To be honest I don’t really feel doubt but the feelings I have are hard to bring home.

What I have become aware off is the habit how we take so many things for granted. It seems that everything I do regularly suddenly has got a label of ‘last time soon’! And it gives me this little pang of ache.

Some of the things that I will miss

coffee

Enjoying a coffee at our local cafe ‘Briki’. This cafe has been instrumental for our social life during the last 5 years

The loud Australian birds I hear screeching every day, the sound of the Kookaburra, the gym where I go several times per week, the friends I have made there, the coffee I have at the local cafe everyday with other gym and kick boxing fans, the abundance of colourful subtropical flowers everywhere, the gardens I look after, their owners who have become more than clients, the Brisbane river walks so nearby, the cosy 100 Acre bar across the road, the gorgeous but expensive avocados and the huge choice of international ingredients for food.

Just to name a few…..

curlews, birds

Local birds such as the stately Curlews may not be a common sight in Europe

They are all going to be thousands of kilo meters away from where I will be. And furthermore I am leaving behind my oldest daughter, for a short while the youngest and possibly my husband as well depending on his work contract.

I suppose I can expect a larger sense of unease and a few more little pangs of ache to come my way. I suppose I have to take it as it comes…

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What is your reason to NOT declutter?

Every time when I write about decluttering or clearing it seems to hit a nerve with many people. I wonder why that is. I suppose one reason could be that all of them have an enormous amount of clutter. They know they SHOULD do something about it but find ALWAYS excuses not to do so.

The reason why or why not….

I notice it when I tell people that I have been clearing a lot. I see their eyes go dark, their minds racing while thinking that it is something they really ought to do as well. Maybe people need a big reason to start this clearing process. Something like a move, down sizing after kids leave, selling a house or clearing a house after someone died.

The latter is an experience I went through myself. My mum died when I was just 21 and we had to empty our family home. I can recall at the time that I was not particular motivated. My sister and I just took the things we needed and the rest went either to ‘motivated’ helpers or a skip.

There are some things that disappeared in either the skip or someone else’s house that I regret not to have claimed but I have accepted that. I don’t know the reason for my ignorance, I was after all only 21 and obviously naif.

And at the moment I am going again through this declutter process. Not just decluttering but emptying a house totally. I have about 6 weeks left and although it is looking emptier, there are still many, many things to sell, give away or dump.

Timing it right…..

The trickiest thing will be to hang on to things we need as long as possible but being able to sell them before we need to move out. It feels a bit like a puzzle game. I sell a table and replace it with another one I have. I realise I can sell that one as well as I have another one in my daughter’s room. She just moved to Melbourne and does not want that one.

My husband fears that one day he will come home and there are no chairs anymore to sit on. If the deal is brilliant it might just go like that!

Our outdoor area has gone through a major down size. See below for yourself.

From here

outdoor table, declutter

The original setting of al fresco dining in our house – the table went to a dear friend

To here

outdoor table setting

Back to the IKEA stage – did not last long, sold within 10 minutes

To here

The last stage and this one will come with us to Europe

It shows we possessed a fair few tables and chairs and I haven’t even shown all of them. Australia is an ‘outdoor’ country and there are many spots to enjoy sitting outside. I like to create little scenes everywhere and I did collect table settings accordingly. They have all gone to different homes by now.

Sense of loss and finality

To be honest I expected to experience more emotions when parting with possessions we have owned and used for years. Funnily I hardly care. One thing after the other disappears through our front door and I am totally fine with it. When people I care about or like buy our things I do feel a sense of satisfaction and warmth because I know our stuff goes to a good home.

But I don’t feel a sense of loss when it goes. The only thing that is slowly creeping upon me is a sense of finality. We have officially given notice to our real estate agent. We are really doing this move. It is really happening!

We are selling everything and we will end up with a few cubic meter of possessions that represent a life of 25 years in Australia. Some of the stuff actually came from Europe. We will leave this country with a couple of suitcases each, countless memories and a one way ticket to different horizons.

Even writing this gives me a heavy feeling in my chest. I don’t know the reason for it. I am pretty sure that I have no doubts but the whole thing does start freak me out a bit to say the least.

I will leave it to that and keep you posted….. 🙂

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reason, moving, letting go

 

 

 

 

 

 

My time in Australia is slowly running out!

This morning I realised I have less than two months in Australia. Time is going fast and until now I have felt in control. Since a couple of days though I have this niggle in my stomach.

Decluttering takes time!

Not so much as a result of stress but more due to the fact that I feel I am running out of time. I had planned to be way ahead of the preparations and we ‘kind off’ are to be honest. We only have the minimal furniture left and the cupboards and the garage are almost empty.

Still I feel that for every drawer I empty, for every area I sort, there appears to be more clutter. I can’t believe how much clutter there is. How many things that are there for no reason as I can’t remember I had them. Why do we do that to our selves?

Nothing what I discovered would ever come in handy as I can barely remember what all the little bits and pieces are for. I suppose we are not even the worst of hoarders. But I have sworn to myself that I never want to get into a similar situation. I only buy what I need and will use it for the purpose I need it for when I need it. Not in a year’s time…

Selling stuff takes time and patience!

Selling our furniture has been and still is an adventure. Some things sells extremely fast while others sit there for weeks. It does not matter what price you set on it, people always ask if you would take less.

A couple of things about selling stuff online annoys me. About half of the people who are interested in items for sale, do not follow up after they say they want to buy it.  Also a fair amount do not pick it up. I am thinking of ‘effective’ ways to let them know not to waste my time.

It goes like this:

Hey, just wondering if this bedside table is still available? Yes, it is still available. Are you interested? Yes, would you take $(lower amount). No problem, when would you like to pick up? Five hours later: Any more thoughts…. 8 hours later: Hi can you confirm you like to buy the item?

No freaking answer…..!

This is happening about half of the time.

Another one!

Saturday morning: I would like to buy for $40. That’s great. When would you like to pick up? We are at home this weekend. 4 hours later: can you confirm you like the book case? I have several others wanting it. 8 hours later: If you are serious about wanting to buy, can you get back to me?

Tuesday morning: can I pick up today? 

Can you see why time is slipping away. I have to admit that I am an organised person and that I like to get things done and dusted without too much hassle. This haphazard way of communication is Aussie laid-back to the extreme.

I also get questions about the size. Understandable as people need to know if things fit in their car. Usually I specify sizes in the ad. Still they ask me if it will fit in a Honda Civic or a Toyota. How do I know. You, car owner, know the measurements of your car better than me.

Clearing a house is a job!

It is fun to clear a house. Even cleansing comes to mind. The amazing thing is that so far not one thing that left the house gave me a sense of regret. The first thing that did was a Jade plant that I grew from a cutting. I had put it in a nice pot that I painted myself in a trendy colour.

The plant and several others went to a friend who will enjoy them. That is a great feeling to know things go to people who appreciate them.

Our outdoor table setting was bought by one of my first friends in Australia. We worked together in the Opera house in Sydney. He now lives in Brisbane and will be sipping wine with friends from our old table. The one I recycled, upgraded and painted myself. A sweet memory.

time, outdoor table, declutter

Our outdoor table that I restored and painted has always been a favourite for meals

So between now and the beginning of July when we have to leave this house, there is still quite a bit to get rid off. Planning is starting to get crucial. Yes, I like to sell my dining chairs, but could I please keep them until the end of June. The same goes for beds, the washing machine and the fridge.

One friend who moved back to Belgium made an art out of the timing. She managed to keep the essentials until the end so my hopes are high. We had a group of people over one evening last week and during the night I managed to sell our bar stools, a butler tray and a little side table. And I am allowed to keep them until the end. I actually did not ask, I assume…

What to take – what not to take…

It will be all fun and games. I am really surprised how little I am attached to our furniture. Even the things we had for 25 years… I am happy to shed them.

I have decided to take one piece of furniture – my mosaic wrought iron outdoor setting. A unique piece that I designed myself, I made the mosaic and I local artist created the table base and chairs. That would hurt if I had to sell it.

time, mosaic table, design, wrought iron table

One of my mosaic projects – a wrought iron table setting with a a modern mosaic design

What we do take as well are personal items. We have always bought local art and we have a fair amount to take, there is a Zimbabwean sculpture, a didgeridoo ( how can I not) and some rugs from Shiraz. Photo albums, books that represent memories and things from our kids.

We have set a maximum budget that we will spend for shipping. If it goes over that, I have to start culling again. Will I have time….

Even if you are not moving overseas, it is a cleansing exercise to declutter. It is amazing to empty drawers and create order. Have only the things you USE and NEED regularly. Not once a year but every week at least.

Have a go at it…….! 🙂

time, easydone, blog, limoux, happy up-cycling

 

 

Kerbside collections can be a fun way to recycle – up to a point!

Once every year the Brisbane council facilitates kerbside collections in every suburb. During this collection you can dump large items you don’t want on your kerb. All the bits and pieces you have in your garage, cellar, under house, in your cupboards etc that are too big for the wheelie bins, can be put on the roadside.

 

kerbside collections, kerbside, council

During council kerbside collections large items can be put on the street for collection.

When it is the turn of your suburb you see an interesting phenomenon happening. One that has even been called an ‘Aussie tradition’!

This is what happens during kerb side collections?

Out come the scavengers and the crawlers who drive around in Utes, station wagons and small pick up trucks to rummage through your unwanted goods. They hope to find treasures they can re-use or sell.

There was a time when I was part of this trend. Only last year I started a new hobby business to upgrade old furniture with chalk paints and milk paints. I found several items on the street side that I have turned into little treasures.

This year however I am the one who throws out the stuff we don’t want anymore. It has been an amazing couple of days watching from our living room on the first floor to see what people take. Literally everything apart from some old planks that I put out before the weekend has disappeared.

They took an old timber sun lounger with broken slats and a rotted side. They cut off a plug from an little electrical heater but left the heater it self…?? It is amazing to see what stuff people pick up. I did not ‘get’ the plug. Is this to stop others from ever using the item again…?

When I researched this kerbside activity I found a news article published in 2015 where a Sydney council wanted to discourage scavengers from rummaging through other people’s rubbish. Apparently as soon as the rubbish is on the kerb, it becomes the property of the council. So from that point of view the council could stop someone from taking stuff and even fine them.

Who is liable for the unwanted goods?

A ridiculous thought as the idea of people picking up stuff promotes recycling of unwanted things. Your trash becomes my treasure – an idea I really like. From the article I got the impression that the council wants to safeguard themselves against liability. If they claim that the stuff on the kerbside is their property, it becomes indeed their responsibility.

So typical Australian, this liability issue. During the last 25 years this country has gone from being relaxed and easy-going to preventing schools from having a good old fashioned play ground. All probably because some kid broke his arm while playing. To my opinion that is part of growing up, but no we have to mollycoddle children to stop them them from getting a scratch!

Bondi beach, first steps, beach, Australia

Bondi Beach where the council apparently is responsible for the of location sand banks

My worst example is an adult swimmer at Bondi Beach, Sydney who sued the council for being dumped on a sandbank and broke his neck consequently. He actually won and the council had to pay him millions in compensation. He swam between the flags and the council was accused of being negligent as there was a sand bank in a flagged area.

Who rummages on the kerbside?

Okay, getting back to the kerbside. I suppose there are two kind of people who rummage and collect. There are the dealers who pick up with the purpose to sell. These are the people who cut of the plug, break the glass of the table to get the frame or take parts of equipment. All really happened by the way.

And they are also the people who couldn’t give a sh….! They make a mess of your carefully stacked pile so that it becomes dangerous for pedestrians who walk past. And the liability issue rears its ugly head again…….!

The other type are the people like me who look for items to upgrade for themselves or as part of a business. They are the students who collect bits of furniture because they don’t have much money. And they are those who support recycling and like to reduce our landfill and stop wasting goods.

work in progress, makeover

In the process of giving this table a make-over. Since then sold successfully!

While I am writing this I am just witnessing two students putting my old work table in their car. They had to take the chairs out of their car to make it fit! My table was a recycle project in itself. I made it from an old door and a pair of table stands that I bought in good old Bunnings. The whole thing makes me smile!

What did not make me smile is what happened to me next. I unloaded my garden equipment on the kerb right next to the garden where I would be working for the morning. While I am clearing out a section unfortunately hidden behind a palm tree, some ‘innocent’ crawler took my crow bar.

The thing I use the most and certainly do not want to have to buy again for my last couple of months in Australia. I suppose he reckoned it was up for grabs….! Tough luck.

Have a good week and see you next time! ➡

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easydone, blog, limoux, happy upcycling