Monday, 18 March 2019

Your mind: A Secret Forest

Your mind is a forest.
Your thoughts are the seeds.
You can grow flowers, 
or you can grow weeds. 
- unknown

Imagine your mind is a forest. And you try to get off the beaten track. And you walk through thistles and thorns and basically all you want to do is go back to the main road. But if you don't, the second time you take that "path" it's going to be just as hard... After twenty times though, you might have squashed some nettled and bushes. After a hundred times, maybe there is this defined mudpath. A thousand times and it might be a broad forest path. A million times and it becomes a highway.

Thoughts are like that. Habits too. Have them once and they are awkward and unfamiliar and forced. Have them a million times and you're off beaten yourself up or hating yourself and you won't even realise you've been on and off 6 highways with negative hateful thoughts about yourself.

Learn to get off those highways. Start with just realizing you've been on highways. Usually in the beginning you'll be in a deep pit before you even realize what happens. After you become conscious of them, try stopping when you hear yourself think something negative about yourself. With practice, you will not get on the highway automatically. And you can start selecting consciously which thoughts are helpful and which ones are not.

Meanwhile, get off the beaten path. Praise yourself for getting up in the morning. For every pro-active moment in your day. The moments I'm talking about can be a second..
If you're aggressive: For every moment passed non violently.
If you're anxious: For every moment passed peacefully.
If you're depressed: For every bit of colour you do manage to see in the bleakness.
Focus on nice things: Warmth or coolness or any weather or just a moment of not being sad.
When you focus on that, you see more positive things. It feeds itself, just like negativity does.

Praising yourself helps. But it's not your skills you need to start liking. It's your personality.
It's harder work than a fulltime job. And sometimes it's healthier to leave it be. Let it go.
Just start realizing it. Take little steps.

Is it THAT simple?
Well. If you're optimistic enough to define that as simple then the answer is yes.
But don't fool yourself. It's a shitload of hard work. And there's no shortcut.

To stay in the metaphors, imagine, if you will, that your mind is a garden instead.
You need years to get a proper garden with flowers and full grown vegetables and fruit trees..
It's not going to happen overnight. (Unless you have magic beans. But Giants are a risk)
You just need to water this garden and fertilize the soil, give it the light it needs to grow and the darkness it  needs to rest. You  need to remind yourself all the time of the end goal.
Results are satisfying, but take time. Give it time. And the hard work.

You'll start liking the process because every day your garden looks a little better than the day before. And if you have a bad day or a terrible day, all is not wasted. Those flowers and fruits and vegetables will still continue growing after a horrible storm. Small setbacks are just that. Setbacks.
Not the end. Maybe this season's crops won't come out as you planned. But continue to give it love and time and care and it will all pop right back up. Sometimes it turns into an even more beautiful garden than you might have planned.

Mindfulness helps.  And I know it sounds like a cliché. But once you learn to accept your thoughts and stop resisting them, they'll stop having the urge to push themselves in your face because they feel ignored. There're a few apps (like Headspace in English, VGZ Mindfulness Coach in Dutch) that might help you. They did for me.

I've given thought a lot of thought.
I've shared this stream of consciousness with a few friends when they needed to hear it.
And now, after ages of silence, I wanted to share this with more people.
Because it might help just this one lost soul.
And that will be enough.

Any of your own thoughts are most welcome down below in the comment box, I'm curious as to how you experience thought.

The Gypsy 

Monday, 9 April 2018

Succesfull 1001 Nights

Last year, I was asked to co-organise a 60th birthday that was so succesfull they wanted a repetition.
Different person (his wife), different theme (1001 nights), different challenge (she is more of a control freak than he is, pro-active and very uncomfortable with leaning back to let others do it for her).

This one was easier, and harder, all at once.
She isn't one for masking her feelings.
She knows what she likes and what she hates.
In part, we were well informed on likes and hates.
But then comes the tough part: How to organise something original within the theme.

There was "middle eastern" food: a mix of Turkish apple tea, Syrian and Lebanese pizza's and bread with za'atar, Salades like Fattoush and Tabouleh, sweet bites like baklava and cookies. 4 watermelon shells filled with fruit salad.
There was the decor: Lots of draperies and pillows of all colours, a few shisha's (hookah's), and a carpet on the wall. A curtain of lights, and a balloon arch in purple and gold.
There were surprises:  She was kidnapped by 4 thieves (because 40 was too expensive). She had lunch and came back to a house that did not resemble her own anymore. There were 30+ people already there welcoming her with a self-written song. There was a bellydance workshop, three kids dancing with youtube songs and our Karaoke version of a Whole New World... :)

It went pretty well.
She loved it.
And I still rock master of ceremonies title.

The Gypsy

Friday, 19 May 2017

Vacation themed birthday

People who know me (even a little) know that birthdays are sacred in my eyes.
It's a time of reflection (second only to New Year's Eve) - a time to see how've far you've come this year.. How much older you look in pictures, how much longer your hair is.. Mainly, for me, it's a time to sit with friends and family and combine good food with good company.

As usual, I gave my birthday this year a theme. I believe it's a tradition that "only" goes back 7 years now - because I'm a dress-up kinda gal, only the Dutch are only starting to celebrate Halloween now that I'm too old to go trick-or-treating, and I've been born on the wrong side of the river, it's only in the south of the Netherlands that they celebrate Carnival big time.

I always tell guests that it's awesome if they dress up (because I love to) , but that it can't be the reason they decide not to come (because not everyone loves to).

I chose a theme this year that is both easy, yet cool to work with.
Something I'm personally very unacquainted with, and maybe even uncomfortable.
Vacation/Holiday time.
Whether you like to travel, explore new things, visit beaches, sunbathe all day, read books, or actually stay at home in your PJ's and bunny slippers and watch TV, it's all allowed.

This was the result (of the decoration):


We played games and chatted and ate ((Harira soup, vegetarian quiche and pasta salad, all very holiday-y)) -- the weekend before my birthday..  On the day itself I went out to dinner with my parents, and the weekend afterwards I had family over. --- .. and I got spoiled rotten on all three occasions.

A big thank you to everyone who came over, whenever that was.

The Gypsy

Monday, 13 March 2017

Gandalf the White

The cat is out of the bag!
One of the deadlines I was charged with, was the co-organization of a 60th birthday.
And I'm proud to say it was a huge succes.

I've worked on it since December, brainstorming out loud, gathering together those I thought would make my great ideas an even greater reality.

The main theme came to me in their living room (which was a mess, seeing as they were in the middle of moving house) - by looking at their book collection. The Lord of the Rings was there, and it hit me.

When you turn 60, and you give the organization of the party to others, and you want to be surprised, it has to be pretty big. I knew and guessed enough as to how far Mark would play along.

He had to be Gandalf (The Grey).
With three assignments, throughout the evening, he could "win" three items:
1. A ring. 2. A horse. 3. A volcano.
(By singing a song he got the ring, bellydancing earned him the horse, and a puzzle gave him access to the volcano.)
After succeeding in destroying the ring, and thereby vanquishing the evil power, he could transcend from his old life, turning to Gandalf the White.

In case you have absolutely no idea why these three items (and generally have no idea what the Lord of the Rings is about, like roughly half the audience) - check out this link for a short summary.
They also needed to be guided through the evening, and Karin thought I'd be the perfect storyteller.

I apparently rock as a Master of Ceremonies. (It's my job, I guess.)
Throw in a Royal Distinction pinned on the Gandalf robe (made by me) by the Mayor of Zoetermeer, elven ears and dresses in theme, delicious food made by Karin and Jenny, the decoration of the whole place by Peter and Linda.. We had our own Gollem! Bas and Vincent's support and overall assistance and Mark's own ease of playing along and letting the day wash over him.. It was awesome.

Enjoy the pictures, to give you the atmosphere,

The Gypsy

Monday, 23 January 2017

Happy 2017

It's been a rough 6 weeks since I've been virus-free.
Even now, I'm sniffling in the hopes of postponing that necessary hunt for more tissues.
Strepsils are my new best friend.
And I've never been more busy in low-season.

Some projects are still secret, but I'll gush about them in detail after the deadlines.

December has been a flurry of non-stop activity (that's putting it mildly.)
Mostly, it was for scouting. We're trying to collect as much money as we can, to give our explorers the chance to have an entirely new experience as far as summercamp goes (ie. in Croatia).
I'm particularly fond of the country, but I must say, it's a lot harder to find a scouting group there to host us than I thought it would be.
We packed people's things in supermarkets, sold oliebollen (oil balls.. ) and apple beignets (they both don't sound good but it's Dutch and delicious), and fed an army of parents as a Christmas/New Year's dinner which everyone loved.

Christmas day I spend with the boyfriend's family - a warm and welcoming lot.
Lots of food, some presents, plenty of laughter. I don't think I've had a more traditional first Christmas day in..ever.

Second day I filled with another tradition, apparently: I visited one of the biggest swimming pools of our country (The Tikibad) with friends. I'd never been there before (which apparently is a downright shame in itself), and it was really cool.
We fixed our own three-course dinner afterwards (which included supermarket pizza, but was still pretty marvelous, after-swimming-low-energy considered).

Fourth day (yes, there is such a thing) I had yet another Christmas dinner (I'd lost enough weight by being ill just weeks before for it to be a huge disaster, really), this time at a friend's house.. She's been hosting fourth-day-Xmas-dinners for 9 years now - next one is a big anniversary.

New Year's Eve was much fun as well, it's the first time I've ever set light to fireworks myself.
Too bad I came down with a horrible flu that sort of drowned out all the good vibes (and any other vibes) - I think I slept through the first three days of 2017.

Since December I've reread all the Harry Potter books (one to seven) - and started on the eighth, the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (and pretty much gobbled it up in two days).
It reads differently from the books, and I miss Rowling's mind-blowing storytelling.
Other than that it's really not that bad.

My new year resolutions?
Live more consciously.
If you're wondering what that means, this and that might give you an idea.
Other than that: Read more, and enjoy the little things.

To a conscious, happy and healthy 2017

The Gypsy

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Bucket List - update so far.

My phone broke - and I lost all un backed up pictures. All the way to October.
(which isn't too long, were it not for a trip to Budapest- a new adventure, and I wasn't back in time for my [one year old] phone to give up.)
And it's like watching my paintings burn down in front of me and there's nothing I can do.
Taking pictures is in my DNA. I don't do it for facebook or instagram - just for me.

Anyway -- after a few days of being sad about it, I'm looking around for reasons not to drown in it.
And guess what I stumble upon in my hour of need: nothing less than my bucket list.
I promised a few things to myself at the beginning of the year- and I needed reminding.

((Click it for better view))

I couldn't have said so before, convinced, but... I'm not doing so bad.
You can't force new experiences, or learning new things, but perhaps some art?

Any ideas are most welcome.

The Gypsy

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

National Parks of the United States of America

A country bigger than Europe, with States which are, on average, the size of Spain or Germany – with people who ask “How are ya?” but are not usually genuinely interested in the answer – where there are ridiculous heat waves in May, and snow in September – where food can be horribly unhealthy but in some places, surprisingly, very healthy, if you know where to look ((But horribly expensive either way unless it’s processed meat, a simple yoghurt costing around 5$ , a bar of chocolate 4$ , a coffee 4,5$, but a hotdog not even 1$.. ))—Where they have such horrible salaries they live off of tips that seem absurd to tourists and get indignant when said tourists don’t understand this – with ENDLESSLY beautiful nature : The United States of America.

I was there. I was there whilst dear Obama is still president (Thank God, the choice the country’s poor citizens have to make soon is an awful one), with the BEST local driver and guide I can imagine. The three of us were a proper team, though I felt useless half the time because they were so efficient. Britta, the guide, was a multi-lingual multi-functional multi-tasker  (quick, smart, friendly, albeit a bit bossy) who made my own efforts seem like child’s play, and Erin, our driver, was so damn flexible, friendly and funny (Triple F!) I was sending up grateful prayers at the end of every day.

Endlessly gorgeous, the 6 States we visited.  I couldn’t describe it in any other way. We have breathtaking views in Europe, mountains and lakes and cliffs in Switzerland, Croatia, or Italy.. But (West/Central) Europe is more “crowded”. A lot more to fit a far tinier space. A lot more houses, animals, roads, cars, but mainly, a lot more people. The States kept awing me with this feeling I couldn’t shake: Like I was at the end of the earth. That place you’re all alone, left to your own devices, the voices in your own head, and if you were to die, well, people would have to look really hard to find you.

It was for work, but I learned and saw so many new things that I really didn't feel like it was just work, if that makes any sense. 

We (Erin!) drove some 6000 km. I couldn't get bored though, because the views kept changing.
"Americans think 100 years is a long time. Europeans think 100 miles is a long distance."
Yep, that sounds about right. It was tiring but incredible. 

Here’s an impression, because words just fail to cover it. 
1. Yes, there are a lot of selfies. I can't help it, it's my nature. If I want pictures without me on them, I'll google the place. 
2. Yes, a lot of them are taken diagonally. To make it fit, more often than not. It's my photography style. 
3. Yes, there are a great many pictures. Take your time. ;) 

On the way there, you timetravel to your advantage.
After 14 hours, it's still the same day, only a few hours later. 

One of the first stops: Molly Brown's house.
And for those who don't know, she's Titanic's Rose. The real one. 

Denver State Capitol, inside and out. 
Quite impressive. We also had the loveliest of volunteer guides. 

Yup, already turning local. It fitted in with my hair!
Things are expensive in the States though, so after the picture I promptly returned the hat. 

National Park number one: The Rocky Mountains. 

First signs of wildlife were pretty cute. 
And tame. Though it says "no feeding", people still did so. 
And these little buggers knew it. 

Meet the local guide Britta (right) and our driver Erin (left).
Our first (of many)  dinner together.
They were both so scared of messing up their clothes I got paranoid and joined them with the napkins. It was funny anyway. 

See, it's views like these, endless, forever stretching, that made the trip to what it was. 

State border time - Welcome to Utah. 

Dead Horse State Point. 
One of the prettiest nature scenes. 

Arches National Park. Damn, that is one impressive place. 
The wind, the main reason for why the place looks like it does, is also the main reason of it's destruction. Isn't that ironic?

Tough climb, but got there in the end.
That's the delicate arch, right there, top centre of the picture. 
Nobody knows how long it will still be there, but it's the "mascotte" of the park. 

Driving again. 

Murals of native Americans on the walls on the way. 
There's a wolf, in the middle. Or a bear? 

Yay, visiting Salt Lake city was a highlight of this trip, my own town (literally translated to English) being Sweet Lake City. 

We also visited the Capitol Building in Salt Lake City. 
More impressive than the one in Denver, if you ask me. 

Having just seen the musical Wicked a few weeks before this, stumbling into this book in a random bookshop was like +SQUEAL!+ 

Oh, and I met up with dear friends (from Egypt) in Utah I hadn't seen for years. 
My group had free time they used to eat in one of the most fancy places out there. 
We had good times. 

Another State. Yay. 

You have to make your job fun for yourself, don't you?

Hello Montana! 

And hello, Yellowstone! National Park number.. 4?
We spent more than one day here, and still didn't see everything. 

This park has to be one of my favourites, despite the smell of sulphur (rotten eggs) in the air. 
The place has thousands of thermal springs and hundreds of geysers.

This is the Old Faithful, the most famous of geysers.
It's called that because of the reliability of its eruption times. :) 

Theodore Roosevelt Arch - one of the entrances /exits to the park.

This is why there are stereotypes of Americans out there.
Because of these people.
" Quick honey, take my picture, I'm holding the pyramid in my hand."

The youngest people in my group. (And the funniest) 

Lots of Nature violence. But oh so pretty. 

Elk, just across the street. 

And Bison grazing happily with their calves. 

Trails at your own risk. 

That darn wood beetle. 
And forest fires. 

Is that actual snow?
Yes, yes it is. 

Those colours! Where is my paintbrush when I need it!

Yes, Bisons were THAT close to the bus at times. 
And though they look peaceful, those suckers can run fast.
Especially when you're holding a selfie stick. 
They'll run and gut you. 
Your own fault for not asking permission first. 

Entirely different views, still same Yellowstone Park. 
Porcelain Springs, all milky and.. gorgeous. 

I'll save up for this. 
Or the Game of Thrones version I saw in Croatia. 
Some day. 

Yes yes yes! We did (because of all our positive energy and wishful thinking) actually see a grizzly bear! Two of them, a mum and her cub! Just as we were driving out of the park, too.  And it was awesome!


Hello Wyoming!

At some point we had to leave Yellowstone behind and head to Cody (we could've stayed there forever and I wouldn't have been bored). Cody had a very interesting museum (Buffalo Bill). 
Five museums under one roof, one of which was about the nature (and animals) of the park ( I sat down at this Be Safe Around Bears presentation, where they gave you tips and tricks of what to do when you run into a bear). It had a museum about the Natives, a museum on Western Arts, one about Buffalo Bill himself and his life, and another on Firearms (that's probably the only one I wasn't interested in). 

When I came into my room, I stumbled onto this brilliant piece of Marketing. 

We had a "Chuck wagon dinner" in Cody (all you can eat, they even made me two veggie burgers *.*) with this live music and Cowboy atmosphere. 
'twas coo'. 

Bighorn National Forest (number 5?) was wet. But cool. 

On the road again. 

In Sheridan, we went to the King's Saddlery (where they make artful .. everything?.. from leather) 

In memory of strong native american women. 

And we visited the oldest inn in town. (They made a great veggie wrap) 

Some clients were just like paparazzi.


You can't visit the States and not go to Starbucks. (Which, to be fair, is like, the best coffee they have at all, so you might as well.) 

Devil's Tower (they applied for a name change, because it's not a negative place for natives, but whoever had a say decided that would hurt tourism) had one of the most fascinating legends describing it. 
There was a group of native American kids playing, when a bear surprised them.
They ran, and of course the bear chased them. 
They ran up a hill, and pleaded with Mother Earth to help them. 
Mother Earth responded by pushing herself up. 
The bear tried clawing its way up, still trying to get to the children. 
The children survived and lived happily ever after. The bear moved on and did the same.
You can still see the bear's scratch marks in the earth. 

Welcome to Wyoming. 

I made a mood board in the visitor centre. 

Crazy Horse memorial - One of the men who worked at Mount Rushmore (Korczak Ziolkowski) was asked by a Lakota Elder, Henry Standing Bear, to make the biggest sculpture in granite stone in the Black hills to date. It should depict Crazy Horse, who took up arms against the US federal Gov. to fight against the encroachments of territories and way of life of the Lakota people. The statue (when finished) is pointing in the distance, symbolizing his saying "My lands are where my dead lie buried."

And seeing as it's a non-profit but anti-governmental organization, every donation helps.
You could even "buy"a piece of rock there. (I picked a really small rock, because of... well, airline regulations about weight, really.) 
Their plan is to have it finished (roughly) in 25 years. We'll see. I'd want to go there when it's ready. 

Mount Rushmore with the group. 

The highlight for one person in the group.
She actually only picked this trip because we were visiting these faces carved in stone..  

Welcome to national park number.. I lost count.. 

This was such a wonderfully cute ranger!
She was so bubbly and funny - 

Badlands definitely ranges in my top three National Parks! (Along with Arches and Yellowstone)

Because - well - this. 

And this.

A member of the group actually saw a rattle snake.
But it was more scared of us then we of them. 

Welcome to South Dakota. 

And Fort Laramie, a 19th century trading post. 
Where there were people dressed up for some photoshoot that gave us the impression we were really in the 19th century for a bit.

They used to sell things like bison fur. They even had the prices of back then. 
Cool open air museum, all in all. 

Welcome to Colorado! 

On our way back to Denver, we passed the Anheuser Busch Brewery. 
If it hadn't been for Britta's (We could have a small tour here) and Erin's ready "Okay, sure, no problem" we wouldn't have stopped there at all. 
We did though. And though it stank (I really dislike alcohol..) it was still interesting and unique.

Last evening, the group went to bed early.. 
Erin picked me up in her car and gave me a private Denver by night tour. 
I couldn't have been more grateful. 

Almost back in Belgium.

The first setback of the entire trip was when we got to Belgium. 
Something about a strike the day before, and the luggage racks being full with yesterday's things. 
And thus today's luggage couldn't be transported. And and and.. welcome back to Belgium.. /idiots.

We saw a lot more than our itinerary promised us, because of the readiness and flexibility and great ideas of both local guide and driver, who made my job a serious lot easier for me. 

Also, I lost weight x’D Who knew you could in the States, of all places.
I bet it was all the kale salads for lunch :)

The Gypsy