One at A Time : Lesson from the Daffodils

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Yellow Daffodils from our garden

“She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head..and whisper to her neighbor, Winter is dead…”

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Dancing Daffodils : Standing yellow and proud. The brave soul who was not afraid to bloom despite the ugliness around her.

I know from the early signs of Spring that it can’t be far behind if there are Daffodils and today, my heart is filled with warm thoughts seeing the mass of Daffodils in our garden,  in full bloom. There are still so many bulbs sprouting from the other bed.This is a new sight for me, since its also my first time to experience Spring here in Germany. Excuse my delight, but yes,I love these pretty yellow thing! What about you?

Nature always have a way to remind me that I am now living in seasons. That just like any wild flower,I must allow myself to grow in all the places  that I never thought to be.My sight seems to have the ability to meet my every day need with effortless perfection. I find that when life gets to be too much heavy and everyday troubles bubble up and over, a time to relax the mind  is much-needed, accompanied by a walk in the fresh air, can in an instant, calm…no matter what the season.

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The first bloom of Daffodils from our garden  brighten up our home.

To tell you, I think there’s just something about Spring. I remember months ago, I planted some bulbs in the garden. I’m no experience gardener but I hoped that it will grow , and hopefully, bloom. After the snow melted from our garden and I saw the budding sprouts pushed themselves slowly, their baby leaves are winding up, greeting the warm sunshine.

I thought it will never come out. I almost give up.

But then one bulb sprout after one another, one at a time.

Two months ago,  I was heavily  burdened with anxiety, with a deep anguish. My feeling like the gloominess of cold winter.As a parent, I don’t know what to do. My daughter have a speech delay and did not say a thing or two in her 2.5 years. Whenever people would ask me if she is talking already, I don’t know anymore what to say. I was in the brink of having her checked-up and getting a professional opinion. She is one happy, very active fireball of energy, a tiny Goblin. She is so active and yet, when it comes to talking, she was lagging behind. The thing is, she perfectly understands English & Deutsch, follows instructions in both language, but no talking. My friends say that for children who were born with multiple languages surrounding them, speech can come late. I used to believe in this too.

But the anxiety continues.It robs my joy every single day. I kept on asking why…and When?

Two weeks ago, she surprised me and my husband when all of a sudden, she just blurted out “Mama“! I couldn’t believe it! Did she just say whaaattt? Then “Papa“follows, and many other words, she sings and reads the alphabet now bilingually, recites the numbers, even perfected the spelling for her favorite animals and colors. Her favorite word so far is “Rot” ( German for Red) . Her vocabulary has grown so much in a span of 2 weeks. I find it so great when she replies now whenever I am asking her simple questions.

I have learned so much from this experience.As a parent, it humbled me knowing that I almost lost my faith in my child.That I need to wait patiently. Raising a child indeed comes One at a time.

Happiness came in when I witnessed this milestone in my daughter’s life.There have been millions of times we have sung the same song, read dozens of books, and talking day after day. But then,milestones doesn’t come in an instant. It’s always One at a Time, one baby steps at A Time.

Spring will come and so will Happiness.

So I’m holding on. I know life will get warmer. The yellow Daffodils in my garden  reminded me to keep the faith. Just as their petals turned up towards the sun, I need to move toward my goal and desires one step at a time-often just baby steps and learning to use the accumulation of time.That when we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things.

My daughter is talking now. Talking too much. It’s music to my ears.

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The Daffodils in my garden are dancing. Swinging when the wind blows.

Fresh beginnings.

New life.

Rebirth.

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Who could ever imagine that out of these wild flower comes a great wisdom.

The Daffodils and other wild flowers, the delicate, intricate, unassuming flowers. Especially the early spring flowers who find themselves among the first to brave the unstable elements. The ones who have the quiet strength to weather the cold winds and last few spits of icy snow as they tenderly open themselves for all to admire.

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No matter what you ask of the Daffodil, it will still wait until Spring to bloom. From this I learned we all open up when the time is right…

Do you like Daffodils?

What do you look forward this coming Spring? Share your comments below.

 

 

The law of reversed effort

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The Law of Reversed Effort 

A personal post about what I’m experiencing for the past days.There were days where my mind is like a muddy puddle, unclear and chaotic, and desperately in need of clarity.

The truth is, a struggle  creates struggle and  my life as an expat  is not all  bed of roses.Let’s face it, everyday, more often, it’s bleak and grey ,you are  faced with the hard realities, instead of the fairy-tale fantasies of living in a world of different culture and language. I don’t know, maybe I need to blame the weather, the cold, the situations or my attitude and the way that I reacted to events.

I needed clarity but it is so elusive, the harder I tried to figure it out, the less output I get,  it only gives me all the blurry ones.I’ve felt like I’m in a rat hole that I couldn’t get out.I can’t say what I wanted to say in exact words that I wanted to say. I feel helpless.

I wanted to do things but it doesn’t work the way I wanted it to be.It felt awkward.I felt like my effort were all wasted.I even tried to paint my emotions but I ended up making a mess.

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C’mon Spring, do your thing!

I heard you, I know you might say; isn’t it should be “Try and try until you succeed? ”

So I decided to take a walk in the park one day and just sit there and wait for clarity. At best, I am hoping to just stop fighting myself. As usual, the sun is elusive, hiding behind the clouds.I gazed upon the buds in the branches and the sprouting leaves in the bushes. The grounds start to get greener once again. I saw signs of new beginnings, new chances. A rebirth.Spring is definitely on the way.

How odd but sometimes I felt like I am a plant who wants to grow in the middle of cold winter. I realized that my negative thoughts are apt to be more effective than the positive because the negative usually has more feeling with it.

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A budding signaling a rebirth

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone”. – Alan Watts

Like a muddy puddle, it’s best to leave it alone to clear.I let my mind rest and my body to just do nothing. Literally nothing. Like my daughter in tantrums, I let her sort her own emotions by staying calm, just watching how things naturally sort themselves out without my constant “interventions “.

Today,the clarity that I needed came.Along the way,and out of my stubbornness, I discovered something beautiful about the law of reversed effort.This came like a wake up call. Many times, things in life only sort themselves out only when we don’t do anything, taking the concept of the Law of Reversed Effort a bit further, it sometimes refers instead to a state of mind, a state of  mind of ‘not doing’, perhaps this is akin to a flow state of automatic action, a mindset of effortless concentration that only resides when we are present and ‘in the now’, because if we try to mentally push things too far in this mindset we just get the opposite result.

Isn’t this also the truth when writing a blog post? Or finishing a project? Our deep need for a clear slate to write down our thoughts? A state of mental relaxation is the only way for clarity to be achieved. Easier said than done but yes, it’s the only way to get things done, naturally, without causing stress in my mind.

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The Law of reversed effort

Like these buds which reminds me that nature has its own course to follow. It’s an autopilot that only nature comprehends.Nobody can intervene. I can’t hurry up the seasons or mold the people around me the way I wanted them to be.Nature has its own way, and it’s definitely not My way.

Here is the original quote from Huxley about the Law of Reversed effort.

“The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent unknown quantity may take hold. We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us”. Aldous Huxley (The Law of Reversed Effort).

Any thoughts ?

Have you ever felt like this? How did you overcome it?

If you love this post, Share it with your friends and leave your comments!

 

Faces in the crowd

Did you know that when you draw, you see more? You see more of details, the proportions, the faces..yes, the faces in the crowd.

It’s the same as when you read more, then you can write more. I don’t know about you, but I think I can’t make this Blog happen if I am not fond of reading.

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Faces in the crowd, can you recognize yourself ?

Last week, I have shared with you a glimpse of my artwork.Given the time, painting is one of the things that I love to do second to photography.  This year, I also wanted to take and make better photos, both personally and for the blog so I’ve tried a new camera lens and I am so happy with the results. I love the shots I took, all stunning. I’ve got to test its shutter and performance yesterday when we did another unexpected adventure- walking on a frozen lake! I guess that what goes around, comes around so here’s another watercolor art that I specifically associated with myself.  I call them ‘Faces in the crowd’. These are the product of my imagination while I’m having conversations with my palette and my brushes. Mostly done at night when my daughter is fast asleep. I also got new brushes so I’m just happy to do some art therapy when I can squeeze some time.

One of the subjects I’d like to work in painting are faces, especially women. I just find it an enigma to draw women from  characters that are swimming in my mind. I don’t have a particular technique but I’d like to mix n’match the layers with different intensity of washes. The shadows,the playful and geometric patterns I used to ‘give character’ is something that follows after I draw out their personality . The side of the face that shown is also important to portray an activity . I haven’t tried yet doing portraits of live people but who knows, maybe I will soon. I remember that during my childhood days, I often doodles ladies with a mannequin form so I can cut them out to be dolls. It’s a thing in the school where you also made paper dresses for each ladies.Such nostalgia.

For me, the eyes are the focal point in my painting  since it’s the one thing that draws interest to the whole aura. It’s the one showing the most sentiment. I’m no expert but women in particular are such a great subject because I can incorporate myself in them. They are someone I can relate.

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Today she puts on flowers on her head.

I was doing a course about the Modern Art and I have learned so many facts and facets about Modern Art of today and the way it paves way to an artist’s interpretation of everyday life. The symbols, the icons, and their dreams made into a work of art that can also perceived as an expression of their emotions or rather, an artist’s interpretation. The use of different medium and depicting a raw rendition of human’s inner emotions into an unrealistic landscapes. If you’d notice, I like to play with colors as well. It’s like the Rolling stones’ song “She’s like a rainbow “ and that my characters always comes in colors. I often think that a colorful face is such a powerful tool to convey so many things and that art and its form is unlimited. That the message it transmits solely depends on the viewer’s perspective. This makes me revisit  my memories when I saw the works of the Dutch masters in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

What do you think about colorful faces? Does it exudes a sense of individuality ?

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She’s one of the few faces I can’t forget

Today I have decided to put these ladies in one couch for them to gather together and get to know each other.  It would be brilliant if they were in a Tête à Tête sofa.The others will follow soon and join them. The stories behind each one of them is still untold but I leave you with your own interpretations. I hope someday you can know them individually.

But right now, I am  glad to share with you some faces in the crowd from  my conversations with pallet and paintbrushes.

When was the last time you have seen a beautiful thing, so interesting, and so moving that it affects you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painting my own reality

” When words fail.. colors sing! “

Lately, I found myself engrossed in painting, after all, it’s one of my firsts love. I believe that there’s an artist in all of us, it’s an innate nature, but we all need time, a time to just sit around and do nothing.Time is so precious that  fractal moments in it creates priceless discoveries. I rediscover myself, going back to familiar surroundings, with colors and splashes. One of my friend commented : “I didn’t know that you were good in painting”. She means I finally take the guts to show it.You see, creativity takes courage.

Holding my paintbrush feels like visiting an old dear friend, there’s this familiar feeling, you feel the excitement,you can’t wait to dub your brush into the water and get into circular movements, the sound it makes against the glass, the creative spirit in me is bursting. I cringe when I splatter colors and rush to wash it off, my paintbrush dances gracefully as my emotions goes with my thoughts. I have conversations with my paintbrushes and they transmit my thoughts in colors. When life makes a shift and priorities changed, this part of me is kept well hidden, it’s just there,dormant, like a jewelry that I never wear.  I thought I’ve lost it but the seasons in my life paved way for its comeback, like spring after the long dark days of winter. I find myself once again when I lost myself.

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 My conversations with my Sisters in mosaic. Thinking about how life with sisters creates colors in my life, in different shades and intensity. (Watercolor/Aquarelle/Crelando)

I adore art in various forms but didn’t pursue any art studies. Drawing and arts has been in my life for so long that I can remember. During my childhood, I always love doing some creative arts and I always look forward to our Art subject. Nothing fancy, I thought its  just normal thing to do, a pastime maybe, but hey, life seems to be simpler back then. We don’t have the technology to amuse us, so we need to use whatever resources we have. I only have 1 box of Crayola (crayons), a prime staple in any grade school kid. My watercolor palette was a 2-row with just the basic colors and it can go for years. I craved for those “flashy” ones I’ve seen in the shop but it was expensive. Those time I haven’t heard of cray pastels, oil & acrylic paints or even a cold-pressed papers. I just draw in a normal bond paper.My favorite subjects were abstracts, nature, illustrations of people. I love the faces, the eyes, and the emotions in it.

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Color is my day long obsession
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My Crelando color pallet which my husband gifted me last Christmas.I thought its super sweet and definitely worth more than any bling-bling.

Coincidentally that  my days back then in Kuwait revolves colors as well. My previous work deals with painting, coating & varnishes every single day . I never imagined that there is such a thing as RAL standardReichs-Ausschuss für Lieferbedingungen) and that I could be so efficient in decoding RAL colors and shades from a given sample. I mixed colors and with the help of chemistry, I create a unique design for powder coating, that is, for architectural finishes.My drawer is filled with different shade panels, color palettes and I am the first person to ask for color specifications. Colors plays an important role in creating something useful, in creating something beautiful. But then, I think of it as work. And when you work, it’s a reality that you are compensated in what you do. It’s a perk if you enjoy it, which not all people have the privilege.

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What A beautiful mess

I believe that doing arts is like bridging your new joy. It can change your emotions, even boost your confidence. It silences your worries and deepen your understanding of yourself. Who would thought that a yellow paint can make sunshine and daffodils? or that red hues can manifest the emotions of roses? It transmits happiness.

If you know that you have painting as your desire, you need to do it. Squeeze time to make it real and get your resources be handy. Because you owe it to yourself and not for the sake of others.When I see the changes in my life as a woman, wife and a mother, this part of me was overlooked and paid little attention.

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My favorite part is the face when colors starts to create a personality.

When I become a parent, and responsibilities toll on me heavily, my days were consumed of routines. Living as an expat overwhelmed  me of the change of surroundings, the new places that I have discovered through traveling. The moments of stillness of just sitting creating an artwork seemed like a luxury that I cannot afford on a daily basis, especially when I have a super active toddler to chase. Colors, brushes and pencils have become my tools for stimulation, my lifesavers when all others fail to entertain the child.

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Where roses sing and never  lose their vibrant color.

For me, my painting, my paintbrushes are like medicine. A time for me to surrender myself and let the colors decide my moods. It heals, it creates something magical, an escape from the orderly chaos that surrounds myself. I still need to learn so much. There are so many options. Painting nowadays is my perspective of ordinary things. My own reality.

Have you ever done something that makes you feel alive again?

A little inspiration to ignite your creativity in simple ways.

It’s Wednesday  already and we’re halfway through the week. Have a lovely day my friends!

 

 

National Tulip Day in the Netherlands

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Fresh tulips in the house
Yesterday was  National Tulip Day in the Netherlands. Everyone is free to pick tulips in the ‘picking garden ‘in the Dam square in Amsterdam. Bursting with around 200,000 tulips on display, an event that should not be missed if you’re in town. More than 10,000 people come and pick their own free tulip, and you know what makes this event really rocks?  

You pick FREE tulips of your choice, with its bulbs,so you can bring Spring to your homes,All for FREE! The special theme for 2017 is ‘Mondrian to Dutch Design’, as the Netherlands celebrates 100 years of De Stijl.

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National Tulip Day in the Netherlands
I don’t know about you , but one of the things that I love in this world are Tulips!  Although tulips originally came from Turkey, the Netherlands and Tulips are two things inseparable! Just like Curry wurst and Germany. Yesterday, my husband surprised me with a handful of fresh bulbs of flaming yellow-red tulips, as he always does. He knows that I loved them. The aftermath, of course, me taking some photos and getting some inspiration from it.

There’s something about its slim perfect skinny stem, the fresh long green leaves, and it’s cup petals  bursting with unique charm and beautiful vibrant colors. The “flames” and mosaic in the petals is a total stunner, a nature’s wonder. Tulips  is the ultimate symbolic flower for grace. No wonder tulips (Tulpen)  is  3rd world’s most popular flower! Such a surprise that I married a Dutchman and that tulips is just right in the doorsteps!

Did you know that the first Dutch’s financial bubble is because of tulips? Can’t believe that a single bulb of tulips could cost more than 10 times the annual  income of a skilled person! So precious…

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Tulip mania
The Dutch love affair with tulips during the Dutch Golden Age of the mid-1600s paved way  to tulip bulb bubble or also known as “Tulip Mania”.  Generally considered to be the first recorded financial bubble, the Tulip Mania of 1636-1637 was the time in which tulip bulb prices were propelled by speculators to incredible heights before collapsing and plunging the Dutch economy into a severe crisis that lasted for many years. Incredible, right?

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Graceful tulips
While it’s not the fanciest flower in the garden, the beauty and grace of a simple Tulips means it has become a symbol for many things. Here are some interesting facts about this flower that I have found out;

  • A dark or light-colored center contrasts against the petals and can symbolize a broken or light heart respectively.
  • Bright red is the color of passion and perfect love. Don’t send a bouquet of these flowers to a family member or you’ll be sending the wrong message!
  • Tulips are edible but not medicinal. They become emergency food during WW II.
  • Perfect, enduring love between partners or family members
  • Undying passionate love, whether the passion is spurned or returned
  • Royalty and a regal nature
  • Forgotten or neglected love
  • the 11th wedding anniversary
  • Abundance, prosperity, and indulgence
  • Charity and supporting the less fortunate

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The beauty and grace of a tulip flower
I fell in love with tulips even before I have seen a real one. Seeing it from the magazines and in TV made me dream to see it for real. I am just so engrossed in its form, and how delicate it looks and yet so proud. Same as an obsessed gardener, I have this urge to plant dozens of bulbs into our garden. Spring is still  far away from our doorsteps and yet, the sight of tulips in flower shops makes me dream of  bright sunny days ! There’s nothing compares to the sight of  fresh bunch of Tulip  in your hands, in a vase full of these inside your living room, even a single stem can really make a change in the ambiance of your place.

I can’t wait for Spring for our Easter trip to  finally see and visit Keukenhof  gardens to  indulge in the sight of these babies up close!

But for now, this sight is enough for me to look forward for more beautiful days!

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Tulips and a freshly baked Angel Food cake with warm cup of tea equals a perfect  winter weekend treat!

“A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone. It doesn’t struggle to be different from a rose. It doesn’t have to. It is different. And there’s room in the garden for every flower.” – Marianne Williamson

 

How did your weekend go? Have you seen something that inspired you?

 

Thank you for stopping by friends. Are you on Twitter? Please follow me on my  Twitter  and my Instagram if you want to see more photos of our adventures and  Expat Life in Germany!

 

The Dutch life: Habitual Element of Surprise

Do you like surprises?

If there’s any inspiring quality out of being married into a Dutch family that  I could share here with you, it is the Dutch’s habitual element of surprises.You might wonder why,  but aside from their lifestyle full of ‘Gezelligheid,up to their unbelievable generosity despite of the infamous Going Dutch‘. I found Dutch people, particularly the family I’ve married into, to be very good in making surprises.

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My Dutch Parents-in-law enjoying the busy stalls in Souk Mubarakiya in Kuwait. They were surprised to see the famous kissing Dutch figurine here.

Even here in my own Blogging community , I have met  Dutchies who are worth mentioning. When I was a newbie in Blogging (Still I am..!) here and made my first 5 posts, Frank Jansen of Dutch goes the Photo is  very supportive through his meaningful comments. He took time to comment and give me encouragement, even boost my confidence by giving me my very first Blog award– the Liebster which I really find to be a kind gesture. His Yoga tree photos are total stunner and if you love fine photography in your own wall, check it out Here. There is also my good friend Ann, of Grubbs ‘n Critters , a fellow Expat-Mama, who is actually married also to a Dutchman.She made a wonderful surprise to me when she sent over a box full of spices! How cool was that? Now everytime I cook, I remember her. It was just purely coincidental that we have met here and shared common parenting stories and  I often steal her luscious recipes! Finally, I was really thrilled when  Diana,a total congenial person, a Book Author by heart, and the soul behind Myths of the Mirror became one of my reader,we’ve beautifully connected and eventually  I felt I belonged, to the right circle in internet. I love the fact that I have these people in my life. All of them came also by surprise, along with all my friends here, as fate leads me to know them through their Blogs. If you have time,make sure to check out their Blogs and if you are a bookworm and still thinking of a gift to give to someone you love, you should check out Diana’s books  that will leave you in trance!

Now back to my subject, who doesn’t like surprises, I guess everybody does. I am talking about a good kind of surprise, not the prank type, obviously a good kind of surprise is always great, personal, always unforgettable and lastly,  full of fun.

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FIL enjoying the beautiful sunset along the Arabian Gulf in Kuwait

On the side note, I can only talk about my own experience with my own Dutch family. I don’t know how is it with other Dutch interracial marriages  so this post really doesn’t intend to do a rationalization of Dutch people.

“Surprises are beautiful because they come without waiting! “

My Parents in Law (PIL) are really unique and one of a kind individuals. First, my FIL (Father-in-Law) subscribed and reads my Blog so obviously He will read this post and how cool is that?! They are two people who loves to plan out surprises for us, without giving us the hassle of waiting.

There’s something about having a surprise from unexpected people and time. It is the element of surprise that keeps me on high and really appreciate the thought of it. Since I was married into this Dutch family, my life was full of surprises that made me fall in love with them even more, each day. Here I wanna share with you why my Dutch family are people who have a thing with habitual surprises  and their surprises keep on blowing my mind away each time they do it. Call me old fashioned, but I find this a rarity.

“Surprise them once in a while and let them know how special

they are!”

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A beautiful surprise with a unique Dutch Baby tradition – Beschuit met Muisjes

My PIL surely knows how to let us feel loved. They gave us special surprises on their visits while we are still living in Kuwait. I find it special when they surprised us in coming over to our wedding with such a very short notice from us. Once we came back from our short stay in our hotel, we found out that our flat was fully decorated with colorful buntings and balloons! Something that I never expected because I wondered how they got the key. Later on, they gave us a photo book of our wedding photos which came from all the photos which my MIL took. She really loved taking photos and  wrapped up  a beautiful surprise and of course, a film made by my FIL.

 

Then again, they brought another strange yet  unique Dutch tradition of Beschuit met Muisjes  when my daughter was born. Far away from Holland, they have made us so close to home. They are not that young anymore, but they are full of vigor, strength and vitality. They have brought 2 suitcases full of gifts for my daughter, they have collected cards from our relatives in the Netherlands prior to going to Kuwait. I was amazed with their organization skills when they lay out all the gifts that fit the whole couch ! Their effort was worthy of appreciation.

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My MIL wearing an Abaya during our visit in the Grand Mosque in Kuwait

“Surprises are better than promises ! “

When my daughter celebrated her 2nd Birthday here in Germany, they came for a week- long visit. The surprise came in later when they asked us to check out the door and my face was full of delight to see my husband’s sister and her whole family came by to join my daughter’s birthday!It was totally unexpected,even my husband is clueless. It was such a crazy surprise for me because we don’t even have enough plates for more than 5 people, I haven’t even prepared enough food to feed them ! Despite the frenzy preparations, in the end, it turned out a great day because indeed, surprises are better than promises!

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Trying out Indian food in Germany where we reminisce the grilled foods ,kebabs, flat bread and Hummus in Kuwait.

 

Last week, we were planning to go to Nuremberg to visit the Christmas Market, also to have a weekend trip to celebrate my husband’s birthday. It was planned from last month but was postponed when my daughter got sick. We were still having second thoughts  because my daughter still had a bad cough and the weather is always grey, and gloomy, it’s not just the mood to do some sightseeing. While taking a walk before we do our grocery shopping, a car pulled down in front of us and there they are again–my PIL smiling and waving at us! They did it once again. Totally out of the blue, they came to join us to celebrate the weekend with us for my husband’s birthday. We spent a great time in the Christkindlmarkt ,drank Glühwein, visited the Nativity or the Krippenweg, and devoured Schnitzels and curry wurst with delight.

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It was their turn to be surprised and get mesmerized by Kuwaiti food !
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Now I know that a couple who  travels together, stays together.

“Expect Nothing. Live Frugally on Surprises! “~Alice Walker

Again, they filled our home with their sunshine and made everything better.I know that they can always come over to our place from 6-7 hours drive from the Netherlands but still, they do it in a beautiful surprise. When I saw the face of my husband and the delight in my daughter’s face, I couldn’t agree no more because I am, too, was overwhelmed. They know how to bring us cheer, and they are so good at it.Also, every time they bring tons of goodies which we all enjoyed, then who am I to complain?

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Enjoying the waves of the Arabian Gulf, my PIL finds it Gezelling despite the winds!

The surprise continues when they brought Sinterklaas to my daughter in line of her celebrating  her first St. Nicholas here in Germany. My MIL packed a handful of my favorite spices like Gehakt and Spekulaas which I really find it sweet. We are so overwhelmed with the Sinterklaas goodies they’ve brought like the Chocolate letters,Kruidnoten, Stroofwafels,Gevuldekoeken, so much more. They know that my husband adores these things and I am a convert now myself. At the end of their visit, I was surprised again to see another ornaments in our little tree. I was so busy that I didn’t notice it hanging in there. They adorned it with their love. Another lovely surprise.

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Airport moments while leaving Kuwait

Near or far, they  always try to bridge the gap and cross the distance to let us feel loved. Habit or not, my Dutch family has certainly a trait that I’ve learned to appreciate. Beyond gifts and everything, it’s their thoughts behind it that really matters. I have learned to appreciate surprises but right now, I am enjoying the Dutch’s life habitual element of surprises!

And how sweet that this post falls as my 200th post here ! Surprising that I have made it this far, Thank you my friends for following and reading my posts!

How about you, when was the last time you’ve made a surprise ? Or the last time you’ve been surprised?

How was your experience?

 

5 Reasons why hand made greeting cards makes a lasting impression this holiday season

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Christmas project 101 : Personalized and hand painted Christmas greeting cards

There’s something about receiving greeting cards, either by hand or by mail. I couldn’t explain it,  but for me, I find it sooo special to receive a card through snail mail or express. It really becomes a lasting impression. A special memento, a keepsake that is treasured. Traditional greeting cards beats all the technology that we have in right now.Receiving cards is totally different from e-cards,and mobile messages that we can send through internet.Call me traditional but I can never trade the crisp texture of an envelop containing a card than swiping my fingers in my iPhone.

It’s Christmas time once again and one of the things that floods the shops and bookstores are wide arrays of Holidays greeting cards. There’s so many designs and styles to choose from.From family to friends, to business and for general media, you name it, there’s always a card for any occasion.Back then in Kuwait, I couldn’t have this lifestyle because the mailing system is so crazy that there is 99% that mails got lost into doom land. There were numerous times that our mails were lost and it’s so hard to track. Now that we live in Germany where the local postal system is just right at our doorstep, I find another excuse.

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My Christmas greeting cards project this holiday season

 

If receiving cards gives a lasting impressions, how about making and giving it instead,yourself?

This year I wanted to make something special. I wanted to make a craft project that I can really do and not compromise. I needed to squeeze my tight schedule for a craft time for drawing & designing cards. So instead of buying dozens of Christmas cards to be sent out to our dearest  friends and family, I decided to make them instead.

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Holiday Craft project : Watercolor painted greeting cards
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The materials are simple and very handy : Watercolor, colored pencils, construction papers or  parchments, a creative mind and  a lots of love!

Why personalized and handmade greeting cards make the lasting impression this Holiday season? Here’s my  FIVE (5)  reasons ;

  • It shows your style – The type of card, design and the content you share always shows  a bit of who you are.Your personality is delivered through your drawing, handwriting, and even on the choice of materials  you used.Remember, every card is special.
  • A bridge to connect with someone special – As an Expat, we are very good in connecting to far away friends & love ones.But almost all of them through our phones. There’s No better way for me to bridge the gap between love ones and friends than making an effort to send a message to them. This also depends on your location and accessibility to make this happen. Sending mails and cards can be expensive too but it all depends on your budget and lifestyle.
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Few of my personalized greeting cards, all hand made, designed and drawn by me.
  • It has the unbeatable element of Surprise – There’s no undeniably bad reason for having a big surprise when you receive something that is totally unexpected. That moment when you receive a greeting card from a friend that you haven’t spoken for years, that family or relative that live across the other side of the world..It’s all about the element of surprise. It’s a priceless gift and oftentimes, unforgettable!
  • It’s really the thought that counts – Okay , so if you’re not feeling creative or crafty and your artwork sucks? Never mind, for what really matters is the thought of giving. I once received a card for my daughter that is drawn by a 3-years old, it only shows smears and dots made out of colored pens, more like a scratch. But for me, I find it so special.
  • It shows that you care – The act of making it,and picking out a design to make cards shows that you care and you are willing to give a fraction of your time during the busiest time of the holiday season, and that is enough reason to make someone else laugh, smile and feel loved.

Do you still need more reason?

To make cards and to give them away  is simply because its Christmas! and who doesn’t want to feel loved this time? I have learned this mantra : You cannot give what you don’t have.

Have a little love, have a little artwork, spread a lasting impression!

“There’s something about the tactile nature of receiving a card,” says Shelley Patenaude, product manager for season cards. “It says that someone cared enough to pick out a card just for you, hand-write a note, and place it in the mail or deliver it by hand. Unlike a message that shows up on your computer or mobile phone, greeting cards make a lasting impression. You can display a card on your mantle for all to see or keep it forever as a memento. And with the hustle and bustle of the season, a greeting card provides that moment of peace that’s just between the sender and the recipient.”

Do you like to send someone a card this Christmas?

If you like my designs of cards in photos above and you want to receive a FREE hand-made & personalized  Christmas card,just write your thoughts in the comments or you can email me at justbluedutch@gmail.com!

 

 

 

A day in the life of a Dutch Kid

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I want to ride my bicycle , Queen is certainly right!

 

I’ve been reading a lot about the acclaimed ‘Why Dutch kids are the happiest Kids in the World’ as it was sensationally supported by Experts who study  about this subject and made some interesting statistics. I was even more thrilled  when Rina Mae Acosta, a Filipino-American freelance writer and the Blogger behind ‘Findingdutchland‘ , who also happens to be married to a Dutch guy, recently published her book–” The Happiest Kid in the World“, Bringing up children the Dutch way. There’s something about this subject that resonates my interest on Dutch culture and oh well, their crazy ways.

This triggered my curiosity , and made me wonder if it was really the case in a normal, average, Dutch childhood.  Are Dutch kids really happy? What’s the measure of their happiness since I find the subject of Happiness being subjective. I am also raising one Dutch kid, but the thing is, we don’t live in the Netherlands, we live in Germany and she is growing up in a German environment.

Does it mean that my daughter grow up less-happy? or what?

As the old adage say ; ask a local and you’ll get real answers, or better, get to know one!

So one fine morning while we sit in the table for breakfast, I say it’s a fine one since I was able to sip my coffee before the toddler wakes up. I chatted with one former Dutch kid. I’m talking about one particular Dutchie who lives under one roof with me : my Husband , a.k.a BlueDutch.   

Husband’s reply really made sense :

It’s simple. We don’t like complicated things. Everything is simple.So we are happy, I was a contented kid and I had a happy childhood and even now as an Adult, I am living a simple life, but a happy one.

Does doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg or  just act normal, that’s already crazy enough, rings a bell?

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Cleaning the fields from dog poop has never been so much fun!

Less is really more for the Dutch

My husband is the third child of a family of 3 children. He is the only boy and this alone makes him the apple of the eye of the whole family. He was born in a cold December night 2 weeks overdue for his birth. As a true Dutch protegé, he was born in their home, a typical way of giving birth in the Netherlands. His mother, my amazing Mother-in-law is strong, and one proud Mama who is very hands on to her children. He learned to stand in his Baby Playpen box in their living room which is another typically Dutch in raising children. Dutch parents normally put their babies in this box in the early days up to the time he can’t walk yet. In it were toys,and other things for the baby to play on, spacious enough to wiggle and convenient for mothers while doing other chores.

He grew up riding ponies, playing in the sand pit, and getting dirty as most kids do. He began taking swimming lessons at the age of 6, basking in the beach,and watching Top cat after school. A typical dutch kid is baptized into “Dutchness“with two important things : Riding a bike & playing football (or Soccer in America).

As what Holland is famous for, He eats Hagelslag since he is allowed to eat solids. Oh yes, did you know that Hagelslag is chocolate sprinkles in solid form? He still eat Hagelslag up until now, we have boxes of this precious sprinkles courtesy of my generous parents in law. It’s a big panic if we ran out of this ‘staple‘. He had to share this now with my daughter who also devour toast covered in sprinkles.Everyday. He grew up developing a serious fondness with ‘Patat‘ and the magic meat balls (Gehaktballen)  his mother makes. This is normally eaten with boiled potatoes (again!) and some beans and gravy or pepper sauce. I successfully  stole this recipe  to continue the meat balls saga in our family. He is Dutch but he denies the existence loathes  of cheese and eggs. Sometimes I think he is just pretending to be Dutch! He can eat Pannekoek for dinner,enjoys Drop with delight, and drink chocolate milk more than he drinks water.

Just like any typical Dutch kids, he played enormously with his Duplos, wooden blocks, & his beloved Lego. He had a wooden bike which he got when he was 1-year-old and this has been passed on to our daughter along with his wooden plate with his name engraved on it. I find Dutch’s simplicity navigates to their source of worry-free happiness, take for example Dick Bruna’s Ninjtje (or Miffy ). A symbol of a cartoon character so simple and yet so good, without the complicated animation. Celebrating birthdays as a kid is more of a family celebration. It’s enjoyed with simple ‘Taart‘ and sitting in circles  with friends and family. There is no pressure of throwing off a grand party either.

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Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Piets

Dutch kids indeed have an enchanting childhood. Now who wouldn’t be thrilled when Sinterklaas comes on 5th of December. The sight of Kruidnoten, Spekulaas, Marzipan, and the yummy chocolate letters are everywhere. Typical dutch kids are showered with gifts and threats on this day. Sinterklaas is celebrated favorable in the Netherlands than Christmas. The sight of the  Zwarte Piets  (Black Peter’s ) seemed perfectly normal for all Dutch kids where it could be a daunting sight for others.

Growing up, he was also brought up visiting his Oma frequently, (Dutch for Grandmother). Grandparents are a big part of Dutch culture. It’s very typical for dutch kids to spend time & have a healthy connection with their Omas & Opas. The  feeling of security and being well-taken-cared off comes naturally among Dutch kids since it all starts from their family.

Once a year they go on a holiday as a whole family and here you can see that travelling is part of a humble Dutch culture. My husband has 8 thick photo albums filled with vacation photos and stories of his childhood. He climb mountains and earn medals for Wandern , going on a sled in winter, visiting castles,exploring the gorges, or just roasting having barbecue in their backyard during summer.

What I have also learned about my husband’s childhood is  the unique approach on education in the Netherlands. Homework is unusual in Dutch primary schools and students have one afternoon a week off school ( usually on Wednesday)  which means kids have lots of time and space to be … Kids. Spending their childhood without worries.They only have homework in their Topography subject where they learn about cities, rivers & countries.

Dutch children are given lots of autonomy and the freedom to explore, while parents aren’t burdened with the expectation that their child has to be the best in order to succeed. This made me gasp since my childhood is totally different from him. Remembering that in Philippines, kids have huge backpacks filled with books and we always have homework. Even preschoolers! Imagine the early strain on kids having the high expectation to excel and achieve more than what the average kids does.

Based on these, I could sum up that growing up in a Dutch household is pretty awesome. His own story of childhood and growing up ‘doe maar normaal makes him the relaxed, easy-going person He is right now. I presumed that the big factor why Dutch kids are simply happy apart from the significant aspects that the studies have proven, is because their parents are  also happy.  Statistics have shown that Dutch women and Kids tops it all but I can only write about Dutch people who I knew. Maybe the daily  doses of drop, stroopwafels and Bitterballen adds to their vigor and their adrenaline boost is the result of their bodies intertwined with their bicycles. Believe me, they don’t have the time to worry, because their time is already spent discussing about the weather, making their agendas and shopping for orange clothes!

With Dutch, less is simply becoming more.

How can  you describe your childhood in one word? Feel free to share!

Thank you for stopping by…

Is it 10 months already? How time flies…

I started this Blog from middle of January this year and  noticed that I have  now 200+ followers. Imagine! 200+ beautiful souls who stopped by , stayed for a while, and followed my tiny space in internet. I remembered so well how giddy I am writing my  first post about Raising a Book-lover in your child, and how excited I was when I got my first ever Liebster  Blog award from Frank,of Dutch goes the Photo, one of the first one who stopped by & take a look at my page.

I  wanted to thank each one of you. Yes, you, amazing followers who stopped by & read what I’ve written.I have met so many  awesome people in this community and have learned so much about many things–Expat life, parenting, nature,travel, passion, and most of all– the value of time for stopping by to read & getting to know other Bloggers through their posts.

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To all of my Blog followers – Thank you for stopping by…

I realized that Blogging is like Benches.

Benches are chairs designed for people to sit on, mainly outdoors. To have a brief moment of solitude. To rest. To meet & greet. A connection point.

Somebody–a stranger, a friend, young or old, even a little child must take a fraction of their time to sit on it, rest their tired feet, and stop by. From the time they click on your links and posts, it is an open line, they can know you, they can read about your life, your wanderlust, your personal rants about a bad day, that happy moment you’ve put into writing,a milestone of your baby, or anything goes just like your Wordless Wednesday posts.

The same way I stopped by & read some interesting posts, your Blog for example.

While I was having a walk the other day I spotted these benches. Here in Germany they have ‘nice benches’. They are nice in a way that they looked sturdy, clean, and positioned in places where you can really consider stopping by and sit for a while. It’s always in a way where there is traffic.There are plenty of benches in the parks, along the river banks, outside the busy streets in the city centre, even within the forest.

But the other day was special for me since I have actually stop and take a closer look at these benches. I took some photos from my phone & my mind wanders. Not that they are newly painted or old, but it’s the first time I saw them in a different perspective. I passed by through some of them most of the time, but I paid little attention.I have some interesting impressions which I will relate in the following photos.

I saw  one cyclist having a break and sit in this bench.He is staring blankly at the vast landscape in front of him. I can feel his heavy breathing from the way he inhaled deeply. Cycling must have been exhausting. He needed a break for sure.

I also felt like this when I cycled. A minute or two sitting in a bench always a good idea of recharging.

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German benches – A pit stop for cyclists and weary
One particular old lady,dressed in a burgundy jacket with a thick scarf around her neck was sitting here. She sits in this bench with bunch of bags beside her.She had a quick stop at the nearby grocery shop to get some food, because I saw the pack of bread, and some tomatoes or are those apples? I’m really not sure. She looked tired but she smiled at me with a quick “Morgen!” As I walked away, I thought, She needed a pause, a time to compose herself. I wonder if she live nearby since I have been seeing a lot of old people in this neighborhood. Maybe this is her habitual stop over, a quick pit-stop before heading home. I knew that German old ladies are quite active,lithe and full of stamina.

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The silence of the benches in Germany,only the wise can hear.
This street in above photo is a busy road. This is in front of a school and as you can see, cars are lined up in the parking area just beside the rows of benches. On the other side is the Danube river and a bit further along is a Döner stand. I saw a young lady rummaging through her purse and looking for something. I don’t know, maybe some loose change or her car keys, but she looked anxious. She is in a hurry. She needed to stop by, to sit and have a good look on her bag.

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Blue bench in front of the Danube river
A man was sitting here. He has a dog with him. It was a cold, foggy morning as you can see from the background. Although he was dressed warmly, I can see that he is waiting for someone, or for something. He grab his phone and talk for about 30 sec and hang up. He just sits there, looking around, and gasping in the cold Autumn air. He stood up and walk his dog for a while and sits back again.He was trying to make a choice to stay or to go further, or maybe just wanting to go home and have a warm cup of tea.

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Autumn leaves adorn the empty bench

The thing is, we as passers-by can have a feel of others. If we observe enough we can have a hindsight of their thoughts, based on their facial expressions.  Just by looking, we can have a connection. But these benches don’t.  They are just there, serving its purpose. A tangible wood or steel bench. Imagine if these benches can talk and share to you what they can see from people who stopped by & sits on them. What kind of stories would they say?

Do you remember the time you read a meaningful comment from your readers? Remember the warmth in your heart knowing that someone, another human can relate and had a grasp of your thoughts.

Our responses were the same, we hit the like button.

As always, a silent way of saying ; Thank you for stopping by… and maybe, if time permits,see you again next time.

Life without TV

So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall.  ~Roald Dahl

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Life without television

For almost half a year now, we don’t own bought a TV.

Yes, you heard that right, almost 210 days now without the Bubble tube in our humble home. With today’s  Plasma & LED flat screen TV generation, these days without television made a  difference in our lives. It looks weird not having it if you are used to having a TV in your house. It’s like not having a smartphone. For me, I don’t have such relationship with TV, nor having it didn’t make me  feel outdated or insecure. Although our guests are wondering why we don’t have it. Since they  don’t  have anything to watch while they ogle in our living room,they can just admire our Solar Eclipse photos beautifully hanged in our wall.

I’m one of the person who can say that I can live without TV. This is a personal choice, and not because I am trying to be different or minimalist.It is as normal as some people can’t live without their phone, their car, coffee, or even Lush’s bath bombs, but some can. It’s not something that you’ll die when you don’t watch TV.When most homes today have one or more TV, adding up the smartphones and tablet technology, I can really see that the concept of having a TV in one’s household depends on personal choices from person to person & their lifestyle.

After all, you’re the only one who can dictate what kind of relationship you can have with television.

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Are you still enamored with Black & white TV?

What kind of relationship  do you have with your TV?

I remember seeing my father fixing our television. He died at a young age and my fond memories of seeing him trying out his best to be the clever Handyman technician-trouble shooting geek to fix our television set when it’s not functioning well. Way back then, flat screens are not yet the fad, but rather TV’s with big picture-tubes. Obviously you can’t hang them in the wall. They come in compartments and stands. My grandmother even owned a TV with partitions. Eventually, it turned into a side table. We loved to watch cartoons in our black  n’ white TV as a family but later on we had the colored one. It is already a prized possession that we have. Colored TV’s on those days are expensive and you need to have a special antenna or subscribe in a cable connection to get nice shows.We have restrictions though, we can only watch a few hours on weekdays and after nap on weekdays. My mother says we can’t watch too much TV because of electric bill. I remember that many of our neighbors doesn’t have a TV yet so they flocked to one of our neighbor who placed their TV in their garden so people can watch some favorite soap operas or sports match.

Life was so simple back then.

Watching TV  means unquestionable happiness, a privilege especially  for someone surrounded with poverty .

When I was living in Kuwait, we had TV provided in our flat. Most flats are equipped with modern televisions and buying flat TV is common for Expats since you don’t have to worry about electric bill.You can have as many as electric appliances as you can. We subscribe to local cable from Philippines so me & my flatmates can watch local news from our home country. Normally we only watch TV during mornings while having breakfast and after work. It’s the only thing you have if there is a Sandstorm. I admit that TV was never a necessity for me. It’s not like that my world would crumble if I don’t watch the latest TV shows or sitcoms. Even with the soaring heat in Kuwait, I managed to be outgoing and spent less sitting in front of it. I known some Expats who can watch  TV all day long and can’t live without it. It was accepted as a “favorite hobby“, right? Our Harris has 2 TV. He would place one of his TV out there in front of his room so he can enjoy watching Football match with his friends while drinking Sheesha. Inside the most traditional tent and Diwaniya Halls in Kuwait are  big flat screen TV where they can enjoy good Arabic Ghawa coffee, tea & dates. Having the TV background adds to the coziness of their habitual Diwaniya.

Watching TV is a  way to temporarily disconnect yourself from your world &  lose yourself  in another dimension, in a medium called TV. One can find a sense of belonging while they’re absorbed watching their drama series, beauty online shopping, or for men–sports. Nowadays, who needs a TV when you have smartphones?

“Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other.”

~ Ann Landers

When  we had our daughter, I watched TV as seldom as the raindrops in Kuwait. I even watched news in zero volume! Looks weird, right? For the reasons that I don’t wanna wake up my daughter when she’s napping. Our living room was connected to her room so the white noise from TV is something I try to avoid. They say that letting your child watch TV makes you a bad parent, but what do you call when parents letting their kids watch You tube, nursery videos in their iPad? If you think that watching TV is nothing but a waste of time compared to reading, then what can you call a person who is glued to a computer, or his/her phone? Bottom line is, everything that is excessive, is abusive.

Watching TV can be a me time for others who just want a simple break and time to relax. Going home from a hard day’s work and  to be in your couch , watching with  warm coffee or tea means total bliss.  It is like cuddled up with potato chips with your favorite book. A simple escape or retreating. It’s the same when I absolutely enjoy my own “me time“when I go on my Wandertags,cycling, or baking goodies for my family. I knew someone that instead of watching TV, she just clean, clean & clean.It’s therapeutic for her.

If I prefer reading interesting Blogs, your Blog for example instead of watching TV, does it mean something? After all, whatever medium it is, every one of us has their own ways of “escaping “from this crazy world and signing-in to another world. It becomes a habitual log-in activity.

Do you have a favorite TV show? How often do you watch TV?