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Month: July 2017

Dear Reader

 …I tried starting a gang once, it turned into a book club…

Book clubs turn an insular hobby into a more social one. They foster camaraderie, debate and can inspire us to try new authors and genres. Reading is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Books provide adventure in an armchair and fire up the imagination. In a world of increasing electronic distractions, where serious debate is limited by twitter and expressions reduced to emojis, reading can discipline the mind to concentrate and consider new viewpoints. We should be required to read a book for every 10 selfies we take.

What makes a good book? The answers are as varied and numerous as there are books. Characters that you fall in love with and root for until the end, electrifying stories that you can’t put down or inspiration to get you through a bad patch. It depends on moods, your time of life and background. The book club has introduced me to writers I had never even heard of, which I have enjoyed immensely, and introduced me to a whole range of useful topics like free libraries, which now also serve as the home for my pre-loved books.

Good books never really end; they stay with you for ages and float in your imagination, with quotes that inspire you. You can lose yourself in a good book and find yourself as well.  Bad books should be flung across a room ( for closure) or if thick enough should be used as door stops. And with bad books, unlike with people who annoy you, you can just shut them and move on.

We all read for different reasons, for pleasure, escapism, inspiration and edification. Reading can fit into the crevices of your day. I only found the time and energy to start reading again once my daughter started school and began sleeping through the night. I find myself drawn to short books. Do thick books tell better stories or are they just verbose and  a waste of time? Shortest Booker prize winner – “The Sense of an Ending “at 163 pages by Julian Barnes and the longest “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton at a whopping 832. I do have that book, and yes, I use it as a door stop.

Short stories are often an underrated medium, but are great when you don’t have much time or just need a break.  A bit like speed dating, writers sometimes use them as a precursor to a novel, yet others use them as their sole medium. The best ones are neat and compact, do not rely on literary devices and can cover the shortest period and yet be profound.  I have discovered some good ones, but am still looking for the great one.

At the book club, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We all have different opinions about the book we’ve read and that’s great. No two people ever read the same book. Our views are coloured by our experiences, our history and our personalities. There is no judgment, just listening and consideration and yes, debate. There appear to be a few arbitrary rules: no romance novels, no serious classics (the stuff you had to read in school), also no mysteries and no vampire/ zombie books. The rest is fair game.

We come from different backgrounds, countries, professions and all have our own stories (which perhaps are more interesting than the ones we read about). So if you ever find yourself on a certain Saturday afternoon looking for inspiring conversation about books and reading, you are more than welcome to join our band of readers – we are on facebook (Delft Bookclub)  and have an email group too.

Happy summer.

Free libraries in Delft:

  • Ones around Hof Van Delft:
    • Adriaan Pauwstraat 74
    • Laan Van Overvest 44
    • Dirklangenstraat 40

And also a couple here

and one here:

Fiction and literary essays online / literary magazines

www.granta.com

www.newyorker.com (but with a monthly limit)

The Guardian weekly book review email – bookmarks

www.goodreads.com – for reviews and ratings of books

And don’t forget that the DOK library in Delft also has a good selection of adult fiction in English.

Amanda lives in Delft and when not hanging out with her 5 year old, tends to her balcony garden and continues her quest for the perfect short story (and the perfect chocolate cake).

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Delft MaMa of the week: Alis

Today’s mother of the week is the living proof that the reach of Delft MaMa knows no borders.

Alis, is a Catalan high school teacher for adults with special needs, a coach, a business woman, an entrepreneur, a Zumba, Pilates, aqua gym, baby-mum fitness instructor, a mother of three, the wife of a firefighter,… a never ending list.

Judging from all she does, with no muss no fuss, it is safe to assume that her days have 36 hours, instead of the 24 that the rest of us are given.

She does not live in Wonderland but surely close by.

Although she is not based in Delft, she takes every opportunity she has to pack her camper van and drive up north, nonstop, until she arrives. Sometimes alone, sometimes with the five of them.

She made herself known to the Delft MaMa audience last Easter, when, in the company of a large portable loudspeaker named “Ibiza” she made some of us and our under three years old, break a sweat at the rhythm of Shakira’s “bicicleta” (bicycle) at the Papaver in Delftse Hout.

Back in her natal city, Lleida, and next to her teaching duties, she organizes weekly fitness activities for mothers and babies. Weekends are for organizing activities with families with older kids.  

She is very passionate about many things, amongst which, to keep young families fit and connected.

As I was chatting with her, my biggest questions were: WHY? Why fitness for mums and babies? Why in Delft? Why working when you are on holidays? And HOW? “How many more holidays do you expect to spend in Delft?”

The “Why fitness for mothers and babies?” had a very straightforward answer:

When I was pregnant with my first child, my sisters-in-law, told me: “with the arrival of your baby, live as you know it will soon be over”.

As innocent and common this sentence is, it was enough to fuel her necessity to prove them wrong. That her much loved and awaited boy would not be the cause for her world to stop, not even to pause. And so it did not.

Right two weeks after he was born, she was back on track. Carrying her newborn in a wrap, she continued running  lessons at the gym. On the plus side, cycling on an elliptic bike and running on the belt seemed to be the only ways to keep her restless child at ease. Next to helping her drop some pregnancy pounds.

Ten years and three kids after, she has not stopped yet. What’s more, she has only broadened her skills and areas of expertise.

Then came the “Why Delft?” again, she answered without hesitation and with a fair share of magic. Once upon 2015…, … she took her kids camping for a few days whilst husband was on working duty. Right next to their tent, there was a father in his fifties with his teenage boy. The couple happened to be from the Netherlands, more precisely,  from Delft.
It took the occupants of the neighbouring tents a thunderstorm and the Dutchman’s need for an ATM to start talking. Right from that moment, they became good friends and up until today.
In December 2015, during a school break, Alis decided to come explore the city of Delft and see what it had to offer to her and the family.
Serendipity made that visit coincide with Lichtjesavond day. The astonishing beauty of the city together with idiosyncrasy of its inhabitants captivated her.

As she went back home waxing lyrical about the lowlands, together with her husband, they started planning the Easter and summer holidays of the family for 2016, whilst teaching herself Dutch.
The time spent in the campsite at Delftse Hout was a great success for the five of them, who jointly decided to turn Delft into their second home.

I was shy to ask, fearing to be intrusive or judgmental “Why working when you are on holidays?” but decided to go for it, as I was genuinely curious.

The answer was clear: “the only time I had holidays in the resting and doing nothing sense of the word, was on our honeymoon. Right on the first day of doing nothing, I started suffering from lumbago. It is clear that inactivity is not in my nature”.

Besides, I am convinced that she is a very generous person who likes to share more than anything in this world. Otherwise, how would one answer that during Easter she came all the way by herself to offer free training to any Delft MaMa that wanted to join her at the Papaver?

“How many more holidays do you expect to spend in Delft?”
In her own words: “I like to experience things fully. Putting my heart and soul into what makes me thrive at the moment it does. Carpe diem.”
Her clarity takes me to Lewis Carrolls’ book:

Alice: How long is forever?
White Rabbit: Sometimes just one second

Luckily, it seems that forever will last a little longer and we will get to enjoy Alis’ company and fitness know-how for the entire month of August at the Papaver and in the forest of Delftse Hout.

And maybe, who knows, she will come up with other activities to keep the Delft MaMa community engaged at the sound of a Vallenato or maybe the despacito?

 

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36 questions to love for couples

I recently read about the 36 questions to fall in love with anybody. This is meant for people that are dating and possibly looking to fall in love, but I really wanted to know what it was about and if it had any impact to a couple that has been together already for years.

When a chance presented itself, my husband and I went for a date night, but before we left the house, I downloaded an app called 36 to love. There are lots of apps with this name, but I just chose the first one on the list.

Around 10 in the evening we sat down on high bar stools and I told him I’d like to give this experiment a try. Luckily he was on board immediately, curious about the process.  We have been together for over 10 years by now (married for nearly seven years), we have children and we’re all in all a somewhat regular couple with life’s ups and downs.

The point of the game is to answer the question on the screen. Both participants take turns and once both are happy with each other’s answers and have done the after talk that evidently follows, the question will be swiped to the left to make room for the next one.

During the questions, the level of intimacy gradually builds up. You start with easy questions, such as if you’d like to be famous and why, but soon enough you’ll find yourself answering questions about the way you were raised, what things you are dreaming about and reliving your most embarrassing moments.

This experiment was supposed to take a few hours tops, but at 01:30 we were still sitting on a bench outside going through some of the questions. During the answers I had come to realize several points about the person I’ve been sharing the biggest things in my life with.

I thought at this point I had surely heard all of his stories, but these questions proved both of us wrong. When he talked about particular things in his childhood, I suddenly understood him better as a parent. I saw where he was coming from and why he thought and did things certain way. When we talked about our dreams and fears, there were surprises on both ends and when we praised each other and gave thanks to each other, we were both definitely happier and more in love with each other than before. But a fair warning: we also stirred some mud that we had nearly forgotten about. Because we know each other so well, we didn’t let the other get off the hook so easily with superficial answers.

Image: pixabay.com

In the end, swimming so deep was purifying, albeit we caught some mud on the way. Luckily, years together had taught us to let that dilute, until we were back to clear waters again.

The last task was to stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. It made me realize how hard it is to concentrate for so long on such an intimate act. How little time did we actually take to do such small efforts that could bring us back to each other so much faster? When I looked at him so intently, I saw our children in his face, I saw his vulnerability, his love and I saw myself.

Although the questions are meant for people looking to fall in love, but from our experience I can also say they are excellent questions for couples who think they know each other, too. The process will definitely add an extra touch of intimacy to the relationship.

For many it might seem natural that relationships to remain close and loving over the years take a lot of work from both participants, but I’m sure there are also those who might have overlooked this fact, too. If you’re looking to reconnect with your partner, I can definitely recommend trying this out. If you’re in a fully committed, loving relationship, you should still try this one out.

If you walk out with anything from this article, let it be this: Great relationships aren’t just naturally great. It’s the continuous, genuine effort by both participants that makes them great.

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5 ‘Staycations’ Near Delft

If you’re looking for a way to get away, without actually getting away, enjoy these five ideas for a staycation option in Delft’s backyard. They are all accessible by public transportation and host more than enough activity for a weekend stay.

Delftse Hout

The Delftse Hout campground is located in the woods to the east of Delft. It is an easy option for a quick staycation. The campground has a variety of lodging options from camping to cottage rental. The campground has a playground, pool and restaurant. With its woodland location you’ll feel like you’ve left the city, despite the fact that you can ride your bike to your staycation.

If the campground entertainment isn’t enough, there is a weekend full of activities within walking distance. Head next door to the Stadsboerderij petting zoo and water playground or across the street to De Papaver Delft nature center. Walk to Cafe du Midi for a bite to eat and some playtime with the goats in their petting zoo. Knus, also just a walk away, has food, a playground and boats to rent. Hoeve Biesland is another perfect outing to see the farm animals and maybe pick up some fruit and veggies for dinner. You could also put together a picnic at this farm by purchasing a loaf of bread, cheese and some fruit.

 

S.S. Rotterdam 

Stay aboard the S.S. Rotterdam, the former flagship of the Holland America Line which is now a hotel docked in Rotterdam. The cruise ship hotel has themed rooms, several restaurants and lounges and even a pool, all overlooking beautiful Rotterdam. The S.S. Rotterdam is easily reached by car or public transportation from Delft.

When you tire of relaxing on board, you can take one of the tours of the ship. There is even a kids tour offered. Head to the Maritime Museum where exhibits are kid-friendly, including outdoor ships to tour and an indoor/outdoor playground on the roof. Pop into the Markthal for a quick snack or a full meal. Take the Pancake Boat for a tour of the incredibly busy Rotterdam harbor while your kids play in the onboard ball pit and eat as many pancakes as they can. You can also take to the water in an amphibious bus with Splash Tours.

 

 

Scheveningen

If the North Sea is calling your name head to Scheveningen for a weekend away from Delft. Try the Carlton Beach Hotel or the Bilderberg Hotel, which both have family-friendly room options. Scheveningen can easily be reached by car or taking Tram 1 from Delft.

At Scheveningen, you have a pristine beach to enjoy for your visit. You can also check out the SeaLife Center, Fairytale Sculptures by the Sea, or one of the many attractions on The Pier. A short tram ride away is Madurodam, Netherlands in miniature, which has plenty to entertain the kids for a day including several large playgrounds. Museon, GEM Museum of Modern Art and the Omniversum IMAX theater are all a short tram ride away as well. The Pathe movie theater offers more English options for kids than its counterpart in Delft. If you’re a World War II history buff, you will want to check out the Atlantic Wall Museum, which explains the bunkers that line the coastline of much of Europe.

Hop beach clubs checking out the menus and variety of kids entertainment from trampolines to playgrounds. There is nearly always something going on down on the beach.

Image: pixabay.com

 

Amsterdam 

Hop the train to Amsterdam and spend a weekend exploring the ‘big city.’ Sure you can pop up for the day, but it’s fun to get away and really experience the city. Consider staying in a House Boat Hotel for a unique experience. Cocomama Hostel has a family room as well as bunk rooms that are perfect for families.The Botel is also a fun option in an artistic corner of Amsterdam.

Take advantage of local activities by checking out Amsterdam Mama’s for a list of whats on in town during your visit. We love exploring the ships at the National Maritime Museum, where kids can win a prize for finding the treasure. The NEMO Science Museum is also perfect for kids. You won’t want to miss the ARTIS Zoo or Vondelpark. Of course Amsterdam is full of great playgrounds with cafes, just choose any one from the Amsterdam Mama’s list and you have the perfect outing.

If you want to hit the water head out on the Pizza Cruise where you enjoy pizza and ice cream as you cruise through Amsterdam’s Canals.

 

 

Alphen Aan Den Rijn 

Head to Alphen Aan Den Rijn just 40 min from Delft and accessible by car and public transport. Stay at the Vander Valk Avifauna and be surrounded by a weekend of activities. Visit the birds and several excellent playgrounds at Avifauna, directly adjacent to the hotel. (The hotel has  stay and play deals, so check online.) The dock just outside the park and hotel is host to river boat tours of varying themes from brunch to day trips to Gouda.

Don’t miss Archeon a museum where history comes to life in several villages ranging from prehistoric to Roman towns. Alternatively spend a day biking around to the various parks. Forest Park is next to the petting zoo and has ample plant and bird life to explore. Europa Park is another great option with playgrounds for older and younger children.

 

If you’re looking for more ideas stop by my blog, Dutch Dutch Goose, for more ideas on how to explore the Netherlands and beyond with kids.

 

 

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