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Month: November 2016

Sparkle

Lights heart Delft
December lights at the Blue Heart (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

“What time is it?”, she asks impatientely running through the front door. She glances at the clock and with a sigh she sits on the sofa. Just in time for Sinterklaasjournaal. The presents are still empty, the cake is still not baked properly. I could really get annoyed with these plots, they are every year the same (big spoiler ahead, yes, it all ends well, pakjesavond will be a succes). But I am not. I am nostalgically enjoying the last remains of a childhood mirage. Her eyes sparkle in front of the TV, her remarcs are fun.

Sinterklaas intocht Delft
Sinterklaas intocht in Delft (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

I am sure the term Sinterklaas is something most of you hear all the time these days. Even if you are new in The Netherlands you simply cannot miss the Sint Nicholaas celebrations. Even though Saint Nicholas is celebrated in quite a few other Europeans countries, the way it is done in the Nederlands is unique. Your kids might be glued to the TV ever since Sinterklaas arrived by steam boat to the Netherlands and follow the exciting Sinterklaasjournaal like my 12-year-old daughter still does. You probably went and waved the arrival of the Sint in Delft and saw the Piets on their jetskis. Your child might be begging you to put his or her shoe at the fireplace every night and hopes really hard it will be filled next morning.

Just a few more days and December will start. With first Sinterklaas pakjesavond of course. Let’s be honest, it can be overwhelming a bit, there are so many things happening. So many lights and meals and celebrations, Christmas, Santa Lucia, Hannukkah, New Year’s and even Three Kings in January. But besides all the fuss, presents, family outings and travelling, there are so many nice and cosy and fun things to do in Delft. These can bring some amazing sparkle to your December days and nights.

It all starts with the now famous Lichtjesavond, this year on the 13th of December. I remember the first time I went, my daughter was only two years old. I remember her big eyes, her excitement, the red nose and cheeks and the fun we had that freezing night. She looked amazed at the podium performaces and she was extatic when the big Christmas tree got its lights on. A sparkling evening treat.

Christmas tree Delft
The Christmas tree in the Markt, the city’s eye catcher (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

What I am most looking forward to is the ice skaing ring that is returnig to Delft this year. Other than the years before, it will be located at the TU Delft, so a bit further away form the old center. But I already know we will have loads of fun, skating, laughing and inhaling fresh, crispy air in our longs. And occasionally enjoying a glühwein or a hot chocolate.

ice skating ring Delft
The Ice skating ring at the Beestenmarkt in 2014 (picture by Oriana van der Sande)

Have a look at all the activities, you will be surprised. See a Christmas concert or a show, visit the new Christmas market, or shop till 23.00 and have some drinks afterwards, on your child free night. Add some sparkle in your December month. We all need that during these long, cold and dark days. Find this sparkle at De Donkere Dagen van Delft

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Delft Mama of the week: Milena

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We have just arrived at Jans on Brabantse Turfmarkt and our mom of the week, Milena, and I sit down in a corner table for the interview. She makes me forget my natural awkwardness immediately and I enjoy listening to her sing-song type of voice. Her eyes light up throughout the interview, but especially when she speaks about the things closest to her heart, her husband Misa and their daughters Lola (8) and Nina (2,5). “We are privileged to have them. It’s a cliché, but I never knew a love like this before. However, when Lola was born, I had this feeling that if you were to give me another child, I’d say “Great!” There wasn’t the instant connection everyone was talking about. I felt good, but not ecstatic”, Milena says. The feeling gradually grew and within a week she finally had established a level of connection that made her feel emotionally secure. For the next years she found herself overcompensating for this. After two years with the support of her psychologist friend, Milena consciously made the decision of letting go of the guilt in order to start the healing process. She found out it’s very natural to have these feelings and over the years she managed to get to the point where she now feels it’s important to talk about this even if it helps only one person.

Milena and Misa come from Macedonia and they arrived to the Netherlands together 18 years ago to study architecture. Now, half a lifetime later, they have made Delft their home and they see their future here. Ever since becoming a mother Milena had to give up her hectic work as an architect, but has found many ways of utilizing her talents and nurturing future interests as well. She is the mom who first reached out on the DMM Facebook group to arrange a circle of mothers to babysit each other’s children. She is the mother who then created a concept called Business, work and kids.

Because of Business, Work and Kids, Milena was constantly bouncing between the Delft municipality, and the daycare and after a year and a half of hard work, she managed to do something that will hopefully benefit future parents: “I want mothers to have the benefits of putting their children in the daycare with the same benefits as putting them in the peuterspeelzaal that has the VVE* indication. This would mean that the parents will only pay a small fee just like with peuterspeelzaal, but they will also get a place where they can work in the vicinity of the children at the daycare”, Milena explains. Mothers would be able to put their children to part-time daycare from six months on contrary to the two years of starting age at the peuterspeelzaal. This would give the mothers the flexibility many yearn for when their children are small. The system would help mothers to remain working or return to work much easier. The daycare already has the necessary training and qualifications for the VVE. The only thing holding it back is the legislation and changing that is where the challenge lies. Thanks to Milena and those supporting her petition, this question will be put on for debate within the Delft council, but only starting in 2018. “For now we aren’t eligible for this, but future moms hopefully will be. I will continue trying to do something for mompreneurs, because I strongly believe it’s needed. This is the way for the community to thrive”, she says.

Milena strikes me as one of those people that not only sees a lot of potential around them in people and places, but also manages to grab chances when they are presenting themselves to her. In 2010 she saw that around the area where she resides a new project called the Creative Street was being born. The idea was to put shops, ateliers and other creative spaces together. Like many people, Milena applied for it and was asked to make a presentation of her idea. She did just that and was rewarded with working space for her idea called Atelier Zoet. “I had never made a cake in my life”, Milena says laughing and continues: “It was a lot of researching, home schooling and countless amounts of trial and error. I burned my fingers from the sugar so many times and destroyed so much chocolate.” She has shown me pictures of her cakes and it’s clear she has background in architecture. Her cakes are simply unique masterpieces.

Now the time with Atelier Zoet is more or less behind her, but the lessons learned Milena is taking with her. Because her atelier was subsidized, she needed to give back to the community, so Milena started making sweets with local kids and bringing them with the children to elderly houses. She tells me that the kids learned about traditional values this way. It was a nice project that showed her the potential of social projects in general. Back in 2012 it gave Milena an idea and with a little bit of talking she got a response from 300 elementary school children that would want to participate in the project. Four years later the first goal is to have about 100 children from all walks of life to work together. “The intention is to let kids see through each other’s eyes. It’s important to start this project with children when they are still discovering themselves. These school kids work together with children from refugee camps and youth centers in the area of Poptahof. The children will get to visit homes and see how people live here and from this to figure out what kind of an environment and services the residents need”, Milena sums it up. In order to make it happen, the kids need to learn about teamwork, how to listen to each other, how their lives are different from each other, but most of all what they all have in common, which surely is more than most of us realize.

The project is called “Pay it Forward” and years of planning of redesigning Poptahof is culminating soon. On the 30th of April 2017 Milena is taking part in the first national Pay it Forward -day and she’s aiming to make it big: after the children are done with the design, Milena is going to be building a massive 2 x 3 meters replica of it – wait for it – in chocolate. This chocolate city will be presented on that April day. Taking part of this project each child is committing themselves to paying it forward by doing any random act of kindness.

You can see how Milena is bursting with ideas and she seems to be full of energy. I’m not surprised she already has so many successes behind her. There are more projects she would love to initiate, but she also knows her limits. Currently Pay it Forward is taking her attention, but in the future Milena is already planning to get all Delft MaMa businesses together and do a presentation day. “Delft has a very strong expat community and we can really help small businesses. A lot of our moms are doing something interesting. Why not just bring them together! There is so much potential around us”, Milena says.

Milena is an excellent talking partner. She’s straightforward, sincere and she sees tangible ideas all around her. She’s the type of a person who arrived to the Netherlands and spent the first six months just learning the language. She’s the type of a person who requested to meet with the Mayor of Delft, and is going to be cooking dinner for her next year. In the end I take one valuable lesson in my heart from this whole conversation today and that is the value of empathy. Milena knows how to bring that up in others and that, ladies and gents, is an incredible talent.

*VVE = Voor- en vroegschoolse education (early childhood education)

The next Mom of the Week will be featured on 9th of December.

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International Cooking Club of Delft Mamas —Mom friendship bounded through cooking exchange

As I wrote a couple of months before, cooking/recipe exchange is a method of making friends. While having Taiwanese food is soothing for my homesickness wherever I am abroad, discovering international food is always a fun way to explore different cultures and meeting new friends.

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Chilean empanadas coming right up!

DMM playgroup is such a wonderful place for both kids and moms to begin a new life with meeting many international families from all over the world. I had great fortune to have met an amazing Delft mama who was so kind and generous with open arms to invite us not long after we arrived in Delft in 2014.

Tarja is amazingly dynamic mom with connection and creative ideas. With her Finnish background and living in The Netherlands for nearly ten years, she has accumulated incredible amount of life stories and experiences to share. Despite the fact that she has three kids to take care of, Tarja has been helping other new moms to orient in Delft. I was one of them.

Two years ago, starting from a small ingredient—fresh yeast, that Tarja bought in a local shop, she came up with an idea to invite some mom friends to explore cooking together. She initiated the “international cooking club”. We were 4 moms with all different nationalities to share our own home recipes from the USA, Chile, Finland and Taiwan.

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I’ve always been fascinated by different spices and ingredients, cooking styles, tools and so on so forth that you can apply in the kitchen. Learning cooking different cuisine was so much fun for me, as well as spending quality time with those lovely ladies. We have developed a very special bound with one another by sharing our foods, rotating in each mom’s kitchen. Visiting kitchens with international ingredients and tools is part of the cooking adventure!

It was more than just cooking. We always started with morning coffee since the cooking club took place on one weekend morning. Our kids sometimes played together in the garden while moms worked in the kitchen. And after two hours of teaching and cooking, we always put the food on the table to share a simple lunch together. I’m now having a big grin on my face just writing and thinking about it. This was indeed one of the highlights of my Delft mama life!

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Our cooking group remained small and private. It became our own friendly gathering. Our recipes brought our taste buds traveling from Finnish cinnamon buns, to Chilean empanadas, to Chinese stews, to American pumpkin pie and chocolate chip cookies and to Spanish omelet and cold vegetable soup, etc.

I have developed great interest in exploring international cuisines since. I found through cooking, my social circle expanded and I saw more nice charismata in each one of the moms that participated.

In Chinese we have a saying goes, “there is no feast that doesn’t end”. It means that we have to say goodbye from time to time to friends and families. Especially with international backgrounds, sometimes families have to move to places wherever the jobs relocate. It’s sad to leave. However, I have saved up so many sweet memories from the feast that I have enjoyed so much within our own little “international cooking club”.

Just two months ago, my family had to leave Delft, our dear lovely home for more than two years. It was not easy for me, especially for our son who has lived the majority of his life in Delft and built his friendship connection, including with Tarja’s kids. We are now only three weeks newly settled in Shenzhen, China. I’m waiting for the new kitchen to be set up according to my needs and I can’t wait to try some of the recipes that I have learned with those dear mom friends from Delft. When there’s a special occasion, we are going to open the peach jam that we made in one of my last cooking lessons.

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We couldn’t bring Delft to another country nor transfer our friends to a new city with us, but we have kept memories and friendship. I believe our Delft experiences will last as well as precious friendship. I know we will make new friends where our new home is. But the old friends remain in the depth of our hearts. We don’t just think of them, fortunately we can also have a taste of the good old times of Delft next time when I cook something that I have learned from my Delft mama friends.

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Help Delft MaMa help to keep our community as strong as always

“When I first set foot in Delft, second thing after visiting the real state agency to sign the contract for our apartment in the Market square, was visiting the midwifery practice.
Right there, pinned on the wall, among all the other leaflets in a language back then illegible for me, I found THE one in English. It was shining brighter than the others. Maybe because it was written in English? Maybe because it read: “Your community in Delft” and I so much needed a “community in Delft”? Whatever the reason, I was very grateful to find such welcoming and inviting piece of paper with a purple teddy on the front page.
Three years have passed since this initial experience, but I still treasure this moment.
After almost two years of involvement with Delft MaMa, I want nothing else for all the newcomers in town to come across one of the leaflets of our institution and make their hearts jump with joy. They, like us back in the day, deserve to be and feel truly welcomed, because this is the very reason why founder Lucie Cunningham created this community 9 years ago.
To me there is nothing as rewarding as helping back.”
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Delft Mama of the week: Eva

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As a child Eva never felt she fully fit in her native country of Portugal. Being half Dutch and half Portuguese, she spent a lot of time in the Netherlands on holidays where she felt a sense of belonging. She had a multicultural attitude and an appetite for an adventure as long as she can remember. As a teenager Eva won the title of the national champion of texting in Portugal and got to travel to Brazil for this. She studied psychology and worked in human resources. In England Eva boldly took a job as selling insulation materials door-to-door just to get acquainted better with the culture and locals. In her late twenties she lived in an American hotel with her husband, Ricardo, for a YEAR. Yes – you guessed it – she’s the good kind of crazy.

I ask Eva “Bina” Sabina, which name I should refer to in this piece. For anyone who has previously found themselves confused with the woman of many names, here’s the explanation: “I grew up people calling me Sabina, but in Portugal I often struggled introducing myself with that name. In the university I found it easier to go with my first name, Eva, but my closest friends call me Bina.” This reminds me of a saying in Finnish that goes “a beloved child has many names”, meaning that someone dear to many is often pampered with more than one name. I’m not the least surprised this applies to the wonder woman that is also known as Eva “Bina” Sabina.

Eva is a mom to a 2-year-old Nina, whose Dutch grandmother’s side comes from Delft, but moving to this area was a coincidence. Luck it wasn’t though, because persistently Eva turned over every stone, until the window of an opportunity to move to the Netherlands presented itself. “I started contacting every single agency before moving to the Netherlands. I was offered an opportunity on a Wednesday, by Friday I had my second interview and by Monday I was already working”, Eva says. Listening to Eva it’s clear you don’t talk about luck, but about hard work and a positive attitude. She has her values written anywhere she can put her hands on, and she reminds herself of them every day. “We all have those negative voices saying we aren’t capable enough. I shrink that voice and work to come up with something positive. I used to be a person who was always moaning about everything when I was young, and didn’t know how to deal with it”, she points out. Eva continues to explain she did what she does best when confronted with a challenge and started learning about it. She discovered NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and found out it was absolutely possible to reprogram one’s brain by words, actions and new behaviors. Change always starts from within: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change”, she quotes.

When her daughter was seven months old Eva stopped working in order to wrap her head around what she wanted out of her career in the future. This is also the very moment Eva discovered Delft MaMa. “I found out about it through a dear friend; she invited me to playgroup. I had seen the website before, but I never felt like going. I didn’t dare for some reason”, she shares the common feeling a lot of first-time mothers have. Her friend’s encouraging words eventually pulled Eva into the group and after the first visit she simply never stopped going. She took the chance to volunteer, too, and started as a playgroup host. When Delft MaMa was going through structural changes, Eva took the chance to share the responsibility with another mom of being in charge of human resources: “Among other tasks, I’m responsible for the volunteer recruitment activities and everything that that entails.”

Eva studied psychology and after working in forensics psychology for a while, she figured out she wanted to work with people on the development side. Back in the day Eva took a postgraduate course of human resources and landed a work in the field. “With human resources you can do so many things. My passion for developing people was already there”, she says. Through her previous boss she found out about coaching and the idea stayed in the back of her mind for years. Last year Eva took a workshop organized by two Delft Mamas and that reignited the spark of pursuing her dream of coaching. After the workshop Eva signed up for the course she needed to attend in order to take the next step in professional growth. Two months after the workshop Eva opened up her own company called Multipaths.

She is a certified Master NLP Practitioner and Life Coach, but she is continuously educating herself. Her aim is to focus on parents, having learned through her own experience of all the changes parenthood brings along. In her words the playgroups are amazing to share experiences, to feel normal again, “but there’s always something missing and I want to help people to tackle that part. After you become a parent, you need to reorganize your entire life, not only physically but mentally as well. You are suddenly responsible for this tiny human being and, many times, you find yourself reassessing your values. You need to redefine your goals, relationships, career and it’s a tough deal. I basically help parents to explore and overcome their own insecurities, to gain insight on their values and goals, so they can achieve more balanced, fulfilling lives. This, consequently, leads to the ability of raising their children also in a happy and emotionally safe environment”, Eva sums up her philosophy.

Eva is constantly pushing herself to become better at being herself. She has no taboos, so people tend to feel that they can talk to her about anything and feel at ease around her. At the end of our interview she asks me if I have some time. I agree and half an hour later she has managed to help me put in writing a big personal goal. I leave the interview completely uplifted and full of promise of my own future. “She’s good, really good”, I think to myself peddling home in the crispy, beautiful autumn air.


Mom of the week is published every second Friday on the Delft MaMa blog. The next one is coming up on November 25.

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Lola’s Bedroom Tour

Hello MaMa’s! I am thrilled to be sharing some inspiration with you today. As an interior stylist, my own home is naturally my style playground and my little girl’s bedroom is no exception. Over the summer we completed her room and I shared the results over on my blog Avenue Lifestyle. For those of you looking for ideas for your own little ones’ rooms, I sincerely hope you find some here today. Let’s peek inside! Read more

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The tao of running

One foot in front of the other. My thighs are burning a bit, my breathing is regular. My whole body feels like in some kind of a trance. I keep on going and I feel good. It seems there comes no end to this Indian summer, the colors are amazing, the sun is soft. I look ahead to see which turn I will take in Delftse Hout, and without much thinking I just follow my internal compass. Leaves, branches and acorns are cracking under the soles of my running shoes. I take another deep breath and I brace myself. Another 10 minutes to go. I can do this.

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