Spekulaas : Dutch’s old time favorite soul food.

 

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My First time ever baked Spekulaas Cake ( Spekulaas Koek)

Thanks to my Dutch husband who introduced me to a hidden Dutch goodness, the Spekulaas,  or the longtime Dutch soul food. When it comes to food, the Dutch cuisine doesn’t boast of a world-renowned foods, but when you take a closer look at what’s in a typical Dutch’s table, you’ll be able to understand why Krentebrood, Kroket, Patat, Poffertjes, and Stroopwafels are humble example why you should taste them at least once in your life, at least if you have the chance! I remember the first time I sat on a Dutch table and devoured with delight some home-made meatballs with Rode kool met appleltjes. It was a delightful meal, my first time ever to taste a red cabbage— with cinnamon-tangy apples!

What is Spekulaas ?

I had  Spekulaas was when my parents-in-law  visited us in Kuwait and brought us a handful of Spekulaas goodies from Holland three years ago. There were Spekulaas cookies, Gevulde koek spekulaas and all sorts of pastry cakes spiced with Spekulatius. There was no way we can find Spekulaas spice in Kuwait, let alone the genuine spice composed of cinnamon ( zimt) nutmeg ( muskatnuss), cardamon, ginger, white pepper,and ground aniseed.  I have seen the  Lotus Speculoos  cookie spread ( Belgian origin)  sold in selected supermarkets like in Carrefour, but then it is not the authentic Spekulaas flavor. Since then, Spekulaas became a favorite of mine among Dutch food, creating a statement of soul food. It is not just a winter food.  It’s hard to explain, the taste, the smell, and the rich flavor, it is unique, and I found it to be  decadent for me. Here in Germany, fortunately, Spekulaas and spices are widely sold in most supermarket, all year round. But during Fall, and the Autumn baking season starts, Spekulaas, along with Lebkuchen and Stollen floods all the shop.

Last week, my daughter had the Lantern parade celebrating Martinstag (or St. Martin). The kids along with their parents walked in the dark with their lantern and singing songs. Despite the rain, cold and darkness, it was a meaningful experience. Parents are  also asked to bring some bakes goodies along with kinderpunsch and glühwein. I wrote Spekulaas Koek for our share! I know I must be crazy, because first and foremost, I have never tried making Spekulaas cake, and secondly, I don’t know how to do it! This is totally something bake from scratch!

But as the saying goes ” When there’s a will, there’s a way! ” so  definitely  I found a way! I did my research and get the ingredients and then I prepared to bake Spekulaas ahead of time.I got the Spekulatius spices from Holland. Sometimes I even springkle some in my home made waffles and pancakes!

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Our house feels heaven after I took this out from the oven.

Speculaas or speculoos is one of the Dutch culinary specialties. Normally, it is a spiced biscuit, made with wooden forms or moulds. They are typically winter food, and especially associated with the feast of ‘Sint Nicolaas’ or Saint Nicholas, the original Santa Claus. Along with their infamous Chocolate Letters and Kruidnoten, Spekulaas signals one of the best celebrated feast in the Netherlands  before Christmas;  the Sinterklaas. This feast is celebrated on 5 or 6 December. Speculaas is very old, the spices used date from medieval times.

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Home made baked Gevulde Koek Spekulaas
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My home-made Gevulde koek with Almond filling 

The name seems to derive from the Latin speculum (mirror, the biscuits had the carved figure of the mould in mirror image). Old wooden biscuit moulds show biblical scenes, historic events, ships, windmills, mermaids, and of course images of Saint Nicholas with the small children he had saved according to the legend. Single youngsters could receive a ‘vrijer’ (male admirer/lover) or ‘vrijster‘ (female admirer/lover). According to some this could be considered as a marriage proposal from the giver. These large speculaas dolls (Dutch’s version of  Gingerbread cookies) were often decorated with coloured icing, silver pills and even leaf gold.


The speculaas biscuits from before, say, 1850, were made with a very hard dough containing rye flour and honey.  Be warned though that these biscuits were so hard they could only be eaten if they were dissolved into a sweet (and tasty) porridge.
I enjoyed dipping these hard cookies in my coffee just to make it soft a bit. I noticed that they can also be stored for a long time in an airtight container.

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Decadent blanched almond on top of Gevulde Koek Spekulaas

So I brought the baked Spekulaas cake and Gevulde Koek Spekulaas to my daughter’s St. Martin’s party and  placed it along the German ‘s trays of Lebkuchen, onion breads, macaroons, pizza breads, pretzel and other home made goodies. Here in Germany, I observed that only healthy options are served to feed the children. the parents of the children in the Kindergarten are giving support to the school staff and this way of potluck is a great thing to enhance social aspects. Junk food and soft drinks are totally absent. I kept on looking if people would eat it or it will be left ignored. I stand there and watch each piece dissappear from the tray. When I only saw two to three pieces left from the Gevulde Koek, I felt relieved. It made me feel satisfied that my Dutch- inspired baking was consumed well and I was able to share some Dutch goodness.

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Dutch’s ultimate Soul food: Spekulaas

To get the best verdict : The Dutchman himself tasted and devoured the Spekulaas! I gave a few slices to our  German neighbor as well and they only replied with “Lecker” ! ( or delicious ).

I guess anything made with Love taste better, Do you agree? Are you also fond of home made cooking.

 

Do you like Spekulaas?  What  is your favorite comfort food for winter?

 

If you are inspired to do some Fall baking and bring some Dutch flavors in your home, you might want to try making the traditional Dutch Apple Pie ( Appeltaart ) and bring some crazy colorful Rainbow cake.

Guten Appetit and wishing you a lovely week !

 

Tschüss!

 

 

 

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Acrylic FluidArt : Tropical Sea foam Blues

“Why do we love the sea? 

It is because it has some potent power to let us think things we like to think…”            { Robert Henri} 

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Acrylic Fluid Artwork :  Tropical Sea Foam blues ( 50 X 70 CM) Abstract painting

 

Hello friends! Just in time that the touch of frost finally arrive here in Germany today, I got inspired to create a tropical sea-foam abstract painting. I am still perfecting my skills in acrylic and creating modern abstract pieces, and this piece, by far, gives me most satisfaction. As a self-taught artist, I feel the satisfaction once I see the “enigmatic” factor in my painting. I can’t explain it, but I know when to put down my brush and say “It is done..”. I think this is very important since If I don’t like what I do, how can I persuade others to like what I do?

Yes, I admit that I am the kind of person who is affected by the weather and my mood changes depending where I am. Back to dressing up in layers, I face the cold weather outside. It’s all grey, and I am not planning to paint something bleak and grey. It’s been raining, cold, wet  and dreary so I just busied myself in painting abstract using warm tones of blue, green, teal, whites and silver to give accent. This weekend was all about November rain and gloominess all over our place, so there’s nothing much really to do, and complaining about the weather doesn’t help either, add the fact that I have a nasty cold so I needed something to lift up my mood.

Thinking about tropical views of the beach, the blue waters and cloudless bright skies, I let my mind wander about the calm sea blues and breakaway waves, all creating a majestic image.Did you know that Seascape is one of the fascinating subject to paint, also one of the most complicated one? As a self-taught artist, I can’t say that this subject needs a lot of patience, and imagination. If you are not flexible enough, then it will be hard to replicate the waves and the movement, and the spirit of being “alive”of the sea.

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Up close details of the “SEAFOAM BLUES”

This piece is made by using Fluidart with Acrylic. I have mentioned before in my previous post, how I am embracing this new technique and learning so much about dirty pour, and following the motion of acrylic when it comes to creating modern abstract pieces. To create the texture and depth of the moving waters and waves, I used pinsel, sponge and a lot of mixing and blending.It’s all about trial and error. I have made so many mistakes. I actually painted these canvas twice because I don’t like the previous one.

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Up close details of the “INFINITE BLUES”Abstract painting

Anyway, have you ever seen a painting that you really love and wanting to buy it, but it was too expensive?

I do, and I have been into this situation many times. Especially with Abstract, I have always thought that “How can something like this worth so much?” Here’s my thoughts about this dilemma.

WHY DO YOU NEED TO BUY AN ORIGINAL ARTWORK?

Many are intimidated to buy an original artwork, mainly they get intimidated by the price, or the access to original art is limited. There’s an old cliché that fine artwork is only for collectors or art enthusiasts. I knew this because before I am like this.

As a self-taught Artist, and Artisan , all of my artwork are purely made with Love and inspired  by my new- found passion for painting, priced reasonably and cordially. What started as an inspirational Hobby slowly turns out to become a passionate endeavor. I taught myself to polish my talent and skill to create unique paintings. I used high-quality paints and provides the concept in each piece. As an Expat-Mama here in Germany, painting helps me to establish my roots in my new home and gives me an outlet to channel out my love for arts. Every piece has a story behind it and this painting you are viewing is no-exception.

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If you buy an original painting, you are not just supporting the local Artist,  you are also empowering a self-taught artist and other skilled crafts people. My painting is not like a dress or a crafted jewelry where you can wear, it is a by- product of talent and hard work. A distinct work of art.  If you give a new home  to a painting, you’re not only buying another wall art to decorate your wall, instead, you create an infinite connection that never can be valued with money, something MADE With Love.

I am writing this not to promote my Shop or advertise sales for my artwork. I am sharing this for people to understand the concept of creating original artwork and sharing it to others who would like to have them. There are no such thing as easy when it comes to painting and artwork. It’s all about your passion to create something and being original. I fully understand these things now because now I have created something that I have shared with others. It is a great cycle.

IMG_4393Another 3-piece set, each piece depicting the calm breeze and soothing azure blues of a tropical scenery of the beach. This beautiful set of three is perfect to adorn any room, giving it a lift, and a modern look.

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“INFINITE BLUES “, Modern Abstract painting (50 x 70 cm)

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What do you think of this artwork?

Have you ever bought an original artwork?

 

If you have more time to kill, please say Hi and visit my shop, we are officially online now, and ready to do business with you. I am shipping worldwide from Germany, so give us a visit and maybe you find what you are looking for! We are also in Instagram, please connect with us! Hope to see you there.

If you like anything customized or made to suit your preferences, just send me an email about it.

 

Thank you once again for reading this Blog and I appreciate your visit!

 

Tschüss!

 

 

 

Kindergeld : My 3- year old’s basic income in Germany

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A Third Culture Kid enjoying the cold Autumn walks

It has been revealed by Internations, and there’s no denying that Germany is probably one of the best place on earth to raise a family. I am a first- time parent and raising my child in a culture totally different from where I grew up with, has been the focal point of our expat move. Of course I know that all parents ,in general, desires the best for their child, and this is the reason why I wanted to share my personal experience why despite of the crazy weather and difficulty to learn the language, I think Germany is a better place to raise a kid and be a child!

 

You might be surprised, having a child is Germany seems more of a blessing, an enjoyable reason to defray the nonchalant first-world country problems that weighs every family on a daily basis. With its excellent health benefits and support to parents, both financially & socially, raising a child here can be rewarding!

Raising an Expat child, which has windows to multiculturalism or rather, raising a  Third Culture-Kid child in Germany is a privilege . Aside from the extensive leisure activities, safe environment, a more play-based educational system in the early years, every child has their own allowance up until they reached the age of 18.

My three-year old daughter has a monthly income of 192 Euros that goes to our German  bank account paid by the German government. So simple as it sounds and yet so generous. When we came to live here in Germany and heard about this, we are extremely happy. Happy in a way that as parents, we all know that every single Euro matters when you are raising a child. Kindergeld is a great help to our family budget.It is granted as a tax refund, primarily to meet the constitutional rule that income is untaxable up to a child’s subsistence level.I am not talking about the amount itself, but as an expatriate parent like me, this amount is really something tangible, with this I can feel that the government “cares” about my child, and to every single child living here.

I am sure that I’m not the only one who is grateful for this. Although it seems to me that this country is an advocate of  “Ordnung“( or order) and everything seems to be ruled by rules, I see that hard work really pays off. All taxpaying expatriate residents of Germany are, like Germans, entitled to Kindergeld if they have children. Also called as” Child Benefit“,  the German government give all families, expats included, to help defray some of the cost of raising children. It can run from €190 to €221 per child per month, and is usually made by a fund transfer into a German bank account. We all know that raising a child is expensive. From diapers to milk, Kindergarten expenses and other essentials, plus the never-ending cycle of buying toys!

Just about any taxpayer living in Germany with children can get the Kindergeld, whether employed, self-employed or independent. You get it as a rule that until the children turn 18, though it can continue until they are 25 if they are still in school or meet other requirements for an extension.

This amount also varies depending on where region in Germany you are living.

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Kindergeld amount 2017 (standard amount):

Child benefit for the first child: 192 Euros per month
Child benefit for the second child: 192 Euros per month
Child benefit for the third child: 198 Euros per month
Child benefit from the fourth child: 223 Euros per month
The child benefit amount will be increased by 2 euros per child compared to the end of 2016 for 2017.

If you are a parent and planning to move to Germany or living here and about to have a baby, then this is good news for you! If you’re interested to know more about this, you can check it Here.  I will share to you the steps we took for us to avail of this benefit. It was easy, smooth and practical in all sense. The child benefit application must be submitted in writing and signed. Note that all the forms will be in German . Applications may also be submitted by an authorized representative, who must submit a written power of attorney (for example by members of the tax-consulting professions). An oral application, for example by telephone, is not possible

Official details in English are given Here.

Here’s how to apply :

  1. Anmeldung ( Application) – Open to all family members. This is to prove that the family is living in Germany.
  2. Birth Certificate : translations of them if they are not in English / German. If child is born in Germany, a birth certificate is issued separately to apply for Kindergeld, which should be attached in original. We translated my daughter’s Arabic birth certificate into Dutch & German languages because her nationality is Dutch. We also brought along  the originals with the attestations showing it was legalized both from the German embassy in Kuwait and the Netherlands embassy there.
  3. Your passport
  4. Forms to fill up are listed Here.
    • Haushaltbescheinigung (KG3a) – A proof with your address (This has to be certified as per procedure below)
    • Tax identification Number ( both parents & child)
    • German Bank account ( where the transfer will be made)

Procedure:

  1. Fill in following Forms:
  2. Take the Haushaltbescheinigung, and your passport to your local KVR/Rathaus (The place where did you registration/anmeldung)
    • Officer will verify the form and  pay the applicable fee. You will be issued stamped Haushaltbescheinigung.
  3. Put in the envelope:
    • Stamped Haushaltbescheinigung 
    • Antrag auf Kindergeld (filled in)
    • Birth certificate
    • Residence permit copy (Aufenhaltstitel)
  4. Post it to the office of Familienkasse belonging to the city you live in !

That’s it. You will now get your Kindergeld in 3-4 weeks. Keep the letters from Finanzamt safely for future references.

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Can’t make up her mind: Aspiring to become a Doctor today, tomorrow a Gardener, and next week will be a Veterinarian!

More than the benefit itself, I am really grateful that my child is growing up in a place where the family oriented lifestyle is very high.When I am writing this post, I am not actually surprised that Germany is considered a great place to raise a child and live abroad. Generally speaking, Germany is an economically strong nation, it’s a hard-working nation, and it’s a nation where the people feel a strong pride in their country. Right from the beginning, from childhood, they feel important !

Back in my home country, we don’t have such things as  child benefit. You as a parent is responsible to allot savings for your child. I grew up in a culture where there is an endless pressure on “getting rich” to be able to afford everything, seeing money as an achievement or a social standing. As a child, I don’t have such as this “benefit“. I have other siblings who, along with me, strive for all our needs to be met along with all other basic necessities.I saw both the joys and misery of raising multiple kids and I realize the effect of poverty and the support from government, or the lack of it. Families with more children  struggles to meet both ends.I think that beyond the cost, it is also the reason of advocating Family planning.

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My Third Culture Kid

Kindergeld is a form of love. There’s so much love for children here in Germany that I cannot sum up in this post. I will try to write more in my next post about this. Anyhow, top it all, let us not forget that having a child, and children are special gift. With toddler tantrums and all their screaming, Yes, they all deserved to be raised in the best way that we can give to them.

 

Have you ever had a “child allowance”when you were a child?

How did it make you feel?

 

 

 

Peek |Sneak preview of the “What Ifs?”

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We all love to have a sneak peek of all the What-Ifs” of life… It’s normal, ingrained in our human nature.

I , myself have a habit of having a sneak peek of almost everything, especially when I have the chance to do it. But, I am not so fond of taking a look through the lenses of the viewing binoculars to admire a view from a top. I don’t know why.

For me, I prefer to gaze through the vast expanse and look at a view from my own vantage point.I like this way of having perspective of things in front of me.

It’s common to see these coin-operated binoculars in any observatory deck. Even on top of Zugspitze, from the top of Alps, you can have a stunning view through these binoculars. Most of the towers I have visited in Kuwait have this same  amenities where aside from enjoying the view from above, visitors are given a chance to look further, for an intent close up of any sight they wanted to explore, for sight seeing purposes.

I had the chance to visit the Liberation Tower in Kuwait. It was one of the striking tower where you can see a great skyline of Kuwait in between skycrapers. The tour was privately arranged, and in Arabic, but I don’t really mind. I’ve always wanted to visit this tower so I grabbed the chance when the tour was offered by Aware Center.  At 372 m, the Liberation Tower is the world’s 38th tallest free-standing structure, by pinnacle height. It is standing proud & big symbolizing Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi invasion. When we reached the 150th floor, within span of seconds, these views from the photos below  greeted me. I can’t really recall how fast it took for us to be on the top observation deck, all I know is that it was fast. Although the weather was fine, it was not a clear view because of the glass windows. Unfortunately, they are dirty, smudgy, and dusty, which is actually common in Kuwait because of frequent dust storms.

But then, it was a great experience to see the skyline of Kuwait from a view on top, almost desert. The buildings, the urban panoramic setting, with all of its beige tone dwellings. I can almost see the rummage  with all the trash piled up. The busy city center, in between the skyscrapers, and the crowded Souks (market place), and yes, the traffic jam. It’s surreal to see that this country is so small and yet managed to rise up, developed its own identity when it comes to architecture and modernization.

While I was still living in this place, I’ve always been a stranger on a daily basis, always roaming around, exploring like locals, and discovering the many facets of this city. I wanted to have a sneak preview of  everyday life in Kuwait, naturally. This particular view from the Liberation tower is no exception.

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Sometimes its good to look through the binoculars, to see things at a large range. But then, which is really a better view? After quite some time, your views will change eventually. Real experiences unfolds each facade of the postcard beauty you see .

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Sightseeing from above the tower is like a sneak peek of  “what is life in Kuwait?” It gives you a swift scan of all the what ifs of living in this place, dust, heat and all.

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In the end, it takes one to experience a certain culture in order to really know one.

Have you ever tried visiting a new place, and taking a look into the Observation binoculars and thought “what is it to live in this place? ”

This post is inspired by this week’s Daily Photo Challenge |Peek

JustBluedutchArt is now open for business!

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Guys, finally I have opened my online shop!

To start November right, I recently opened my first ever online shop through Etsy, JustbluedutchArt, to provide a manageable platform to sell my artworks online. You can now view the recent paintings that I have available for sale. And yes, we are finally open for business!

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I am grateful for every one of you who showed appreciation of my artworks and have encouraged me to moved on with my passion. Since the very first time I have posted my first artwork in social media, especially here in WP,  I have received positive comments and it was not long enough when people are asking if they can buy it. At first I was hesitant because I haven’t tried selling my paintings before, but then I think it’s just a positive thing to do.

It is not an easy one but it is one of the turning point of my life where I see another purpose of my hobby. My paintings are piling up at home and I have nowhere to stock them so I thought its just practical to sell them. It’s great knowing that as much as I enjoyed my journey of rekindling my love for painting early this year, it also provide me a way to channel out what I really love to do in my free time! Some of my paintings have finally found their new homes in Canada, the Netherlands, USA, The Philippines, and here in Germany. It makes me even more excited to reach out to more people through this shop.

This is my first time to open an online shop, so please bear with me. Stay tuned as I continue to stock up and post more of my artworks!

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JustbluedutchArt // Visual art // Modern Art

If you have time, do check out my shop, say Hello and if you fancy anything there, please feel free to get in touch with me and support local art.

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Painting is my breath, Art is my compass, and nature is my body.

Above all, I wanted to thank you all for your support. For those of you who are following my Blog and my expat life adventures here, you have been such a great source of inspiration to me. Many of you I haven’t even met in person but you have always been so encouraging. From my heart, Thank you, Danke, Salamat and Bedankt!

Please add me in  Instagram and Facebook  to get the latest offer, promotions and stay connected! Don’t miss out my Opening Sale coming right up!

 

Tschüss!

 

Rounded |A State of a Change

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Neatly piled round logs covered in snow.

When I looked at this photo, I can’t help but to wonder what’s the compatibility relationship of Fire (Hou in Chinese)  and Wood (Mu in Chinese) , being two of the most dominant elements. In most cases, as much as they appear to be, they are complementing each other.Wood, when consumed turns into Fire, but if you add Water ( Shui in Chinese), the liquid form of snow, then a breakdown happens. If you think of it, the Chinese Zodiac elements is a worthwhile subject to ponder, it is the basic of everything. The Five Movements, Five Phrases, Five Steps or Five States of Change embodies the changes we see every single day. Take for example , the seasons.

If you see them in your neighborhood, you know what these pile of logs means. The cold winter is coming so stacking up piles of logs for indoor fireplace is as adamant as shaking the dust from your well-kept winter wardrobe. It denotes the upcoming change that is bound to happen. It makes sense actually, before winter, there’s Fall. Autumn is the time where most trees loses its leaves, making it barren and almost dormant for any growth. It is the time to prune the trees and its branches. Some goes to better use, but the latter ends up as firewood. The word “Firewood” itself denotes a combined effort to make a state of change : Fire.

I took this photo from our holiday in Austria. As we walked through the bend, beside an almost frozen river, gazing towards the majestic Alps, I saw this cottage, with pile of rounded logs on its side. It is totally covered in snow. I thought ; why they aren’t covered properly? The spaces between the rounded logs creates a channel for the snow , making it like a mosaic. When I see something like this, of course, it calls for a good photography subject. One move of log from the middle could signal a change of order from top to bottom.

But then, who cares about the arrangement? They are all going to a common destiny : to be used as a firewood to create heat.

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Preparing for Winter : Round logs neatly piled

Even in the most common sightings, a state of change is evident. Maybe its pretty ordinary for you , but hey, I found some insights from this.

Have you learned an insight lately?

This post is inspired by this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge |Rounded

Auf Wiedersehen October, An hour of melancholy

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An hour of Melancholy : Spider webs like labyrinth of jewels

Hello November, but first, let me say my final Adieu to October.

I took a walk yesterday, the last day of October, and it was a fine, cold, grey day.Nothing special about it,  except that we have a long weekend here in Bavaria, so overall, we are just chilling out. All of us in the family are feeling sick, but still, we are fine. It’s Halloween time in almost half of the world, but I noticed that Germans are not so fond of this. Kinder Halloween parties are held in a music club bar where children clad in their costumes danced in the funky lights, grooving to the disco lights, and loud music. I must admit, a threat for eager parents like me as well. My Little one, dressed as a funky skeleton, with a complete face painting done by yours truly was cheerfully emancipated as she partied with other kids. Trick or treating is another melancholic dream, well at least here in Bavaria, it’s a ghost, not as fancy as I have seen in Philippines. I was surprised that although they love pumpkins,  it is best with pumpkin soup ( which I actually made for dinner last night !) and pies , the groovy jack-o-lanterns cheers up the lonely balconies outside , which is a picture of  deafening silence.

I think its detrimental to even ring the bell of a house where all the roller shutters ( or Rolladen in Deutsch) are  firmly shut!

Snapping some photos from my camera, and briskly walking on the carpet of fallen leaves,  here’s what I’ve written to my thought journal ;

October, the only time where I see spider webs as something fascinating. Probably the best time to see spiders webs looking great, beaded with the moisture of the morning dew or mist. Take note, no two spiders webs look exactly the same. I didn’t know about this before, but then, it’s good to know, right?

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My own Autumn melancholy

Walking into the woods surrounded with  colorful palette of autumn leaves may look dreamy and looks magical to others, it really looks beautiful , I cannot deny it. But after a while, this postcard of natural beauty becomes a fleeting moment. At the back of your mind, you know that the dreary cold winter still need to surpass, and I need to endure the cold. I am not so fond of winter that is why I’m saying this. After the ravaging winds we have from three days ago, which ripped off all the surviving leaves from its branches, now everything else is bare and grey. At least for enthusiastic Germans who runs everyday, the colorful foliage provides a great scenery, sort of.

But then, every leaf fallen to the ground and muddled up in the wet puddle only knows its own misery——-and melancholy.

The truth is , I could expect no more from this sight. It is enough. For me, everyday it gets even more ordinary. Maybe only by a pure accident of organic chemistry, leaves are reborn, as they start to die, in an astonishing range of colours that puts their spring birth to shame. We all know the look of  decay. This is the winding-down of everything, slowly towards death. Yet , for those who took time to have deeper insights about autumn, you know that the beginning of the end doesn’t feel like decay, at least on the surface, it doesn’t feel like a crumbling and a decomposing and a collapse from within; it feels like the arrival of a world of new feelings. At first, the sound of dried fallen leaves against a kick, that crisp sound it makes that creates a jolt of excitement is almost the same melancholic exercise from my muscles as I rake down the dried , stubborn , fallen leaves in the lawn  for hours.

That’s the other side of melancholy. How do you appreciate the beauty of a mess?

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Slowly drifting …

If we look closely, in the autumn foliage we can see our own mortality: a beauty with a sadness never far away. It’s the time where sadness creeps slowly, camouflaged in quiet, calmed emotions, basked in agony of anticipating the end of the cold months. Soon, the season to rest and reflect will pass. Like a long passage to cross. But there’s nothing beat the picturesque beauty of blooming colors of spring whilst in Autumn, the beauty comes from an inner understanding of the cycle of life.

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Wildlife watching in Autumn

Where everything looks hazy, the mystery beyond the mist is yet to be uncovered.

And then again, there is the mist, arriving uninviting. To me, autumn mist is something you smell before you see it; it’s the initial hint of the blow of the air as I leave the house in the morning, the first gush of wind which kissed my cheeks as I hop on my bike, slowly  creeping into my nostrils, and the realization from my inner  tissues tells me  that summer is  finally over and the world is turning.

Every morning, I notice that the sunshine is hazy.  I’ve moved all my plants to the biggest window in the house where they can received as much sun that they need to thrive on the coming winter months. It’s a joy to see them gathered together, as if they need each other to survive the gloom. I’ve picked my last  stem of roses from this year, pruning of stems will follow later. I’ve sensed it as early as the last week of August, the end of BBQ season and lounging in Biergartens has come to an end,  the gloomy sight of empty playgrounds, and steaming rivers becomes a panoramic dream right now.

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Auf Wiedersehen October !

This is my thoughts from my One hour of melancholyAuf Wiedersehen October! 

Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read , my friends. If you enjoy this post, please feel free to leave your thoughts, I would love to read them as well.

So tell me, are your moods also affected by the weather?

Do you also experience this so-called “melancholic” thoughts when winter is coming?

 

Cheers to November and wishing you all a lovely week ahead!

Tschüss!

Related readings :

The Beauty of Autumn in Germany

 

 

Rounded | Bavarian Kachelöfen

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Traditional Kachelöfen in Bavaria

Are your heaters on already?

When I first saw this thing in Abensberg, I thought its some kind of a weird corner decoration, I thought for a minute that its  just a ceramic or brick patch work, with bowls plastered to create a unique texture. I was mistaken. I didn’t know that this is a “Kachelöfen” or simply , “a heater”, a built-in  heating system in an old-fashioned way.

Very timely, as almost all of the leaves of trees are falling down outside, the cold chilly weather and the gloom arrived here in Bavaria and  “Heaters” (or Heizung in German ) are definitely essential to every home. You’ve got to have your heating system working properly if you want to survive the looongggg German winter.

The Kachelöfen  as a means of heating and a lot more dates back to the Middle Ages. Stoves  became a central part of the household, erected in the  ‘Stube’, the hub of family life. Not only did it give warmth, it was also used to dry clothes, keep food warm or even cook it in it and to sleep on a platform on top of it during the winter as was the case in Russia.In Eastern and Northern Europe and North Asia, these kachelofens (or steinofens) evolved in many different forms and names: for example the Russian Stove/Fireplace (RussianРусская печь), the Finnish Stove (in Finnish: pystyuuni or kaakeliuuni, “tile oven”) and the Swedish Stove (in Swedish: kakelugn, “tile stove” or “contra-flow stove”) associated with Carl Johan Cronstedt. The Chinese developed the same principle into their Kang bed-stove. The masonry heater has gained renewed domestic popularity recently because of its heating efficiency. No wonder that here in Bavaria, many of traditional homes still have this type of heating system.

First, the stoves were big but rather plain, but in the 14th century, the tiles were  decorated and the simple Kachelöfen often became a work of art. Castles featured elaborately carved Kachelöfen as standard equipment and masters of masonry created  pieces of great value.

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Kachelöfen in Austria

I remember from our holiday in Austria where we had the pleasure of dining in one of the restaurant in the city center, I noticed something similar to this. At first glance, you won’t see it as a heating device, but rather, again, as an eye-catching ornament built in the corner of the room. It creates such a homey atmosphere. Some can even be touched by hand. I think this looks far better than the mundane rectangular heating device in steel or cast iron that we have nowadays.

What do you think of Kachelöfen?

Would you fancy having one in your home?

This post is inspired by the Daily Post’s Photo Challenge |Rounded

Glow of the Dawn

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Morning day break ( Bavaria, Germany)

This is the best shot from my phone camera  out of a rush this morning. As we prepared to go on with our day and about to bring my daughter to Kita, I couldn’t help but to stop and admire this glowing  daybreak— the real Autumn pink skies are back! I am no fan of using filters in my photos, but this one is no exception—no filters needed.

Within 2 minutes, there is this amazing slide show of the sky.  The glow of the Dawn. What a glorious day break. It was pink, glorious orange, against the bluish grey skies and the fluffy clouds looks like a watercolor wash painting I am trying to replicate many times! This is the first time I captured for this season and I am sure will be more to follow  in the coming days as we approach Winter.

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Autumn palette

Even my daughter was smiling while she’s gazing up in the sky. Trying to describe the natural beauty that she see. But after like 2 minutes or so, the sky is changing once again in its hues. The grey clouds are starting to form into darker shades , hovering the sun.

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Morning slide show

Just like that and the skies showed us one fleeting moment. I’m just grateful that before we finally go through our day, the glow of the dawn shined upon us, within 2 minutes!

Have you seen something like this lately?

 

Inspired by this week’s Photo Challenge |Glow

The joy of life with plants

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My overwhelming pot of Oxalis Triangularis

 

” A life with plants is vibrant and full of joy “…

I go by these words nowadays.This is the reason why I respect the social media that I am engaged into right now especially the platforms that I am sharing this Blog and my artworks as a self-taught artist. Instagram , for example  have made me  discover the beautiful side of loving plants.Talented photographers, gardeners, home makers and all these crazy plant people have created a whole new definition of indoor gardening .You think it’s just a new trend,  I tend to disagree, for me it has become a lifestyle. The kind of inspiration that I love. If you love nature overall ,  I guess its very difficult to not appreciate the primitive and raw forms of life that surrounds us— plants! Come to think of it, when people wants to feel better, or release some tension, they go to nature.  I live in a very green city, I have an access to green parks and forest within 5 minutes away from my doorstep. I always visit parks with beautiful landscapes, with blooming flowers and plants, or simply taking a walk into green forests to have a quiet time and nature always do me good. I am so thankful that my new home now, Bavaria, is an oasis of nature. It is no wonder I wrote many things about nature here.

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Oxalis Triangularis

It’s a natural stigma, like an old adage. Even from the beginning, people gravitate to something that make them feel good, an addiction in a good way. Studies shows the many health benefits of simply getting your hands dirty by gardening. Its one proven way to release chemicals Dopamine and Serotonin. It’s not just for old people. Now I understand the joy we had while “Strawberry picking” last Summer or just by drooling over the new sprout of leaves from my plants.

It’s like seeing the eyes of my daughter when she smiles— its beautiful!

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Little tiny friend : Dypsis Lutescens (gold fruit Palm)
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Plants can make an empty corner looks alive

This post is very personal to me since this is the story of how I find an outlet of happiness by “nurturing” plants. I have shared to you how I’ve felt when I sold my first painting. It’s a moment of  pure joy, a newfound purpose. When I have “revived”a dying plant,  something left with only few leaves, but then grows back and bloom, the feeling is the same. My journey as a crazy plant lady started with a small pot of Chrysanthemums I placed in the garden, plants some stem cuttings of Jade plants ( I didn’t even know how to grow them, I just tried my luck!)  followed by few succulents and cactus, then the addiction began. There can never be enough. I am always on the look out of houseplants that are both beneficial and gives aesthetic boost to my home. With this, I involved my husband and my daughter. They know how crazy I am with plants because they know plants make me happy. Here in Germany, where the level of self-wellness is very high, it becomes a second nature now for me to create a lifestyle for a better quality of life.

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Sustainable Life : Plants and Painting goes well

Just like parenting, plant nurturing is a journey of self-discovery of how much love you are willing to give. It’s way more than just watering them. You’ve got to feel your plants, getting to know them, and watching over them like a mother. I am a first time mother and nurturing is something that I am continuously learning up until now. Being an Expat-mama where I don’t have the luxury of  having my immediate relatives for support have forced me to discover myself through the ups and downs of motherhood. It was not easy, there were sad days and tears were shed, especially when my daughter is sick or facing developmental delays. But there were also tears of joy, a sense of being needed, of being loved-back in return. It’s priceless. I know many mothers & parents can relate to this feeling.

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Plant envy : Pilea Piperomioides

Plants have helped me in the process of learning how to nourish  a life entrusted to your hands—and let yourself be nurtured in return. This an important part of fostering a strong, secure sustainability practice or else you will just waste money. Plants are no cheap and requires maintenance just like having a pet. It’s a beautiful purpose in life. I’ve lived in 4 different apartments in the last years and every time I build a new “home” for myself. Each one is a different surrounding and Expat life is like camping. A modern-day nomad.  When you are new to a foreign place, or unsure where you are going in life, I find ways to fully integrate as much as possible. This is the reason why I always try to find beauty here in Bavaria. I focus on the positive side and making this place feels like home. Being a crazy plant mama helps me refocus my energy on staying grateful, abundance, presence, and manage my stress accordingly. My plants have help me “set my roots” here in Germany.My plants have taught me how to become a better person! And they remind me that my actions have a significant effect on them. I don’t think that I can make a single plant alive if I am neglectful. Having houseplants requires responsibility.

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Green is the new Black for Green Interiors

Just like Painting, colors, shades of paint and the medium that I use allow me to embrace every shape and form to create an art composition. I’ve become fascinated with plants and colors that I usually see in my surroundings. Germans are good home makers. I love the way they make their gardens and decorate their balconies with houseplants. From large curtain-less windows, I got a chance to sneak peek on their huge planters, with cascading plants all over. There’s something about the way a place looks so peaceful and cozy when it’s adorned with plants. I noticed that Germans also love fresh flowers.They have different plants and flowers for each season and one of the things I love about visiting the Fresh market is the fresh blooms in display! And speaking of Bavaria, here, almost, or at least from what I see, no matter how tiny your  apartment is, there is always a pot of plant or flower in it.

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Bringing the tropical feel with Ferns

 

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I love the way the sunshine flooded our living room 

I’m telling you, my biggest expenditures lately are my Plants and painting materials. The two important things that gravitates me to living a less-stress life.Living with plants in every room of our apartment  have become a new natural for me in a short period of time. Some have stayed, and some have had to go, but the best part overall is seeing a growth happening, right before my eyes. I killed many of them , I was sad, disappointed at my self and blamed my “overwatering” nature. I am no expert, nor a green thumb. I just experiment, follow the rhythm of nature, researching about how to care for each type of plant, and this actually works for me to keep them alive, and especially —thriving.

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Alocasia’s charm

My daily routine includes tending to  my plants, as I tend to my love ones, feeding them & nurturing them. I am grateful every time  I roll down the roller shutters from our living room to let the sun floods the entire house, giving the golden sunshine to my plants.Through the days, I dream of  new ways to grow green life indoors and cultivating new plant sprouts. I clean the house surrounded by pots of  Jade plants, ferns, Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (  or lucky feather),Monstera deliciosa, and Alocasia. I prepare meals for my family in the view of my stunning Oxalis Triangularis, and Snake plant ( Mother-in Law tongue plant) . We share sumptuous meals as a family in the dining area with my Lily ( my Fiddle leaf fig tree) , Calatheas, and spider plant. In our garden, I plant herbs, and grow tomatoes, leeks, rosemary, basil and paprika from leftover veggies. Plants bring beauty into our lives and illuminate for us just what that kind of beauty can do to change the texture of our days and reconnect us to the cycles of the moon and stars and sun. If you are searching to live a more meaningful life, search for more beauty. Stop the negativity. And that begins, as all life does, with plants.

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The number one houseplant : Ficus Lyrata ( Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree plant)

I read in one article that house plants reflect how you feel as a person because they are completely dependent on you. You can tell by the state of your houseplants whether you feel good about yourself or not.

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Monstera Deliciosa 

Plant addiction or not, it really doesn’t matter. If you love what you do and you have joy in your life with whatever you fill it with—-it’s your choice. All addiction pathways are the same no matter what the chemical.

As long as you feel rewarded you reinforce the behavior to get the reward.”

So in other words it all comes down to the fact that we can’t change our craving nature but we CAN change the nature of what we crave.

What do you crave for in life?

I am curious to know, what is your channel of happiness at this moment?

Do you also love plants? How was your experience?

Please feel free to share your opinion of this post and if you are thinking of starting an indoor garden for yourself, you might want to check out what I’ve written on Houseplants that I actually didn’t kill.

Thank you once again for reading my friends. A long weekend is coming up over here in Germany and I am already busy thinking how to spend those days! Can’t imagine that within a month, I’m going back to school and start a whole new routine! Until next time.

 

Tschüss!