woensdag 28 januari 2015

Happiness lies in the eye of the beholder

One of my bigger passions in life is photography. Mankind has been expressing themselves ever since the first caveman paintings some 40.000 years ago.  People only need their creative skills and imagination to produce beauty. Paintings, literature, movies, songs and so on, are all various ways how people are trying to speak to others.  Photography is one of my favorite forms of expression. Especially looking through the lens of a camera and taking that flawless picture. Or spending hours on apps like Pinterest or Instagram. Appreciating the splendor caught on camera by others. 

I wasn't a natural born photography lover. I remember when I was a kid I hated having my picture taken. I have tons of pictures where I look grumpy or I’m looking away from the camera. I blame my relatives. Although I have a professional photographer within the family, most of my relatives can’t take a good picture even if their lives depend on it. Seriously, I kid you not. Most of my childhood pictures are horrible. I have pictures where all the heads of the people in it, are cut off. Now a days when photos like that are taken they are called artsy. Hmm… maybe my mom was just ahead of her time however I sincerely doubt that. 

Depending on your age or affiliation with photography you may or may not have worked with analog camera’s. Back in the ‘dinosaur era’, you only had a roll of film to capture that perfect moment. That’s another reason why so many pictures were that awful back then. Once taken there was no way back. Thanks to digital camera’s you can take and retake and adjust until it’s perfection. 

My view on photography changed once I got behind the camera myself. I finally got to see the world the way I wanted. Capturing my vision and how I feel at that very moment together in one perfect memory on film. One image speaks volumes. It can say something to me and speak a different language to someone else.  That’s the beauty of it. Interpretation is up to the imagination.     

                                                                                                                           With love, Ana

Let it flow

Life is ever changing. The ways we deal with these changes define our future. All the seeds that you plant right now, you will harvest later. That might be tomorrow, in the near future or years from now. Circumstances and unexpected life changes can be a struggle sometimes. However if we struggle in the now, we will attract struggling in the future, and that resistance will prevent these seeds to grow. So how can we let these seeds grow? 

Water your seeds of life

We simply need water.  Bruce Lee once said: "Be water, my friend." Water flows, water is strong, water adopts to every environment. The principle of becoming water is not a new concept. Bruce Lee was referring to what is called in Taoism wu wei 無為. These words can be translated as non-action, or let things take their own course. 

How to get into a state of effortless action

A world opened up to me when I first got introduced to the term effortless action, going with the flow.  When I think of flowing I imagine myself lying on an inflatable yellow boat, floating on a friendly blue colored river down the stream, surrounded by beautiful flowers and trees on the river bank. Some happy little clouds in the sky that are smiling from above. Alright, I am pulling a Bob Ross here, but can you still recall that calm voice, happily explaining how to make a (happy) painting and you immediately wanted pick up that brush and paint because he made it look so easy? This is the same principle, different setting. Get on that boat now, because effortless floating on life principles is that easy. 

Don't suppress negative feelings

There are only two ways to go, against the current or floating down the stream. Feelings of fear, worry, doubt and anger make you go against the current. It's important to know that you should never suppress those feelings. Acknowledge them, because they are not only part of your life stream, they also represent the things you are not happy about. However, since you are aware of them, you can make those important life changes.  Know that you are headed the wrong way and turn around. Just remember that if you hold on to these feelings too long they will put you in a state of resistance, you will lose good energy and your actions will become an effort. Now, don't go hastily turning around rafting down that river with high speed as soon as you hit some rock you don't like. Life is about balance. Imperfections appear in our reality so we can learn from them, just calmly turn around and pedal forward so your life stream remains effortless. 

In short we can say, let your life unfold by itself. 無為 wu wei, non action, except when you need to water those seeds from time to time.  

Be happy,

donderdag 22 januari 2015


 A sales hunters word means nothing when not delivered, therefore I hereby present you my top ten list to increase your happiness during your city shopping trip. Remember this is my opinion, take my advice if you want to, but make it your own.

1. Dress sensible. If you want to try out clothes before you buy them, it is better to have clothes on that you can easily take off. There is nothing worse than knowing you have to take off those incredible tight jeans every time you want to try something out. Same goes for many layers of clothes. You can look great wearing something casual and practical.
2. Make sure you wear shoes that are comfortable to walk in. Your feet are the most important companion on your day out shopping. Be good to them and don't cause them unnecessary pain.
3. Don't just stick to the big brand names. You often find the nicest things in little unknown shops. They’re often hidden in little alleys, so be adventurous and look around.
4. It's always good to have some cash on hand. Nowadays, I hardly ever have cash with me, but in other cities it can happen that they don't accept your debit card or you can only pay with cash.
5. Antwerp is only a two hour drive from where I live. So there is a mini road trip bonus added to my shopping spree.  Bring some snacks and drinks on the way, because unexpected traffic jams or delays can always be a problem.
6. If you like it, buy it. Many times I have gotten home from a trip and hated myself for not buying that cute little dress. Trust me, you will regret it if you don’t. It’s not like you will be over there shopping again next week and if you do buy it and decide it isn’t all that, you can always make someone else happy with it.
7. Google maps is my best friend when it comes to checking out the surrounding area beforehand. I don't want unexpected high phone bills or use a navigation app, therefore I make print screens to see where I need to go without having to use the internet. You can always own up to being a tourist and use an old-fashioned city map.
8. Check out trip advisor for the best place to try local coffee and pastries. This way you can entertain the ones at home with your fantastic food photos on Instagram, during your well deserved break.
9. When in Rome do like the Romans. When in Antwerp do like the Antwerpians?! No idea how or what they do? Then improvise. Remember the people who live there, know their city the best. Follow their lead, preferably without stalking. 
10. One more thing, have fun!! That's the reason you are doing this in the first place.

Enjoy your January trip.

With love, Ana 


dinsdag 20 januari 2015

Beat the January blues

Every morning on my way to work there is but one expression that's on almost every face I encounter. It doesn't matter if people are glued to their phones, listening to music or simply staring blankly into space. They all look miserable. I must confess I am not a morning person. People who know me tend to keep their distance. However, in January I am not the only grumpy looking one.

Due to the weather and its limitations the winter months can feel very harsh. You won't likely find people picnicking or having a BBQ during the winter. January can feel like the longest month of the year. There is little excitement, there are only the gloomy and cold days. To get me through this month I plan loads of fun things to do. This way time seems to pass by quicker and I constantly have something to look forward to. There is one good thing about January that can help you get through the month. One four letter word that gets a positive reaction from the grumpiest of us all. Yes ladies and gents I am talking about sale! Solden, saldi, uitverkoop, saldos. Doesn't sale sound great in any language? After all the shopping you did for others in December it is time to treat yourself and sale is the universe's way to tell you, you deserve it. There are cities known for their sales in January. One of them is Antwerp in Belgium. Antwerp is a great city to visit any time of the year. Now it has been a long time since I've been in Antwerp, I figured what better way to get me through the January blues then by planning a shopping trip.

To get myself in the mood I searched the web for some advice. I also interrogated my friends so that they would share all their secrets and give me inside know how. It isn't only fun to do, but it's also another way to keep your mind off the cold and dull weather. I found a lot of information on the internet about where to shop and where to eat. Sometimes researching a city before visiting can be overwhelming. You can find so much information on the do's and the don'ts. Everyone has an opinion on things and you often read different revues on the same topic. Who and what to believe? I think the most important thing is to have an open mind. The less expectations you have the better it will be, because if you don't expect anything it can only surprise you in a good way. Read the online revues, write down street names and places you think could be nice to visit, BUT don't let that dictate your visit. Because it is YOUR day. What you experience and how you feel refers to who you are as a person. Keep that in mind and you'll have a great time. 

That been said if you agree with me and think planning a shopping trip can help you with the January blues, then check out my do's and don’ts on how to increase the fun of your day shopping in another city. I’ll be posting this in a few days.

With love, Ana 

zondag 18 januari 2015

Cherry pie

For me there is nothing more mindfulness than passing the time baking on a lazy Sunday morning.  Especially during those cold winter months, when leaving the comfort of your warm home can seem like a huge undertaking. I love food and there is just something about baking that brings a smile to my face. Perhaps it is the smell of goodies baking in the oven that brings back happy childhood memories. Or simply the comfort of eating freshly made pastries that makes me utterly happy. When I wake up with thoughts of cookies, cakes and desserts, there is no stopping me. The fun starts by searching through my cooking books to find something delicious to make. Or on this particular Sunday, googling till I find the recipe that fits my needs to perfection. A few weeks back I bought a new pie dish and I just had to try it out. Of course I never need an excuse to bake, but my new pie dish has been calling my name for several weeks now. I found this delicious Cherry Pie recipe online that I don’t want to deprive you from. The recipe is easy to follow and the end result is definitely worth it. Here’s a link to the site: Cherry pie 

I would also like to mention how much I’m loving my new baking essentials from the ‘Rudolph’s bakery’ line. For those of you who do not know who Rudolph is, he is a Dutch chef. He is known for his programs on the 24kitchen food channel. As an avid baker I’m always looking for something to expand my cooking utensils.  Rudolph’s Bakery marble plate was just the thing I needed to add to my baking gear. It makes kneading dough easy and leaves less of a mess to clean up afterwards.  The pie dish did its job perfectly and there is no better place to let your pie cool and take those scrumptious pictures then a cooling rack. I must say, I’m quite pleased with my new additions.  It’s well worth checking out. I’ll be posting more mouthwatering recipes and my thoughts on food soon. Happiness starts with a filled stomach. Happy baking everyone.
With love, Ana