A Book of Dreams, and a Lifetime of Dreaming Them

I think I’m gonna start making a little dream book. You know, a little note book with all sorts of ideas of things I want to do at some point in my life. Ugh I know, sounds awfully girly and cliché, it seems like the fast track to a “my-10-year-plan-scrapbook”. But it won’t be. It’ll just be a way to feel a bit less restless.

For all you fellow used-to-be-travellers, I’m sure you know what I mean. You don’t particularly feel stuck, but you just feel stuck right now. Like, you know you still have tons of time to do a lot of the stuff you dream about, but you wonder when and you have basically no patience. So, if I start writing down all my genius ideas and insane plans, maybe my wanderlustfilled mind will chill out a bit. And I can browse through my little book realising I really don’t have it that bad.

I used to do a similar thing when I was a bit younger. I don’t know where the book is right now, I probably threw it out in one of the many moves, but I remember it had things like “swim with dolphins” (check) and “get a tattoo” (check) and I should really be more proud of the things I’ve done rather than panic about all the things I haven’t done yet, like learn how to dive or take drawing classes so I can draw my travels. Seriously, I’m only 25.

The boyfriend has moved over to Belgium exactly one year ago today, and this morning I was thinking about how far we’ve come. Most of the time I wonder about how far I still want to go, but my oh my we’ve done so much already! Exactly one year ago, we packed up as much of his stuff as we could take on the plane with us, and started moving in to our apartment. One year later, our apartment feels so homely! Last addition: we bought an awesome big new couch. Seriously, how much more settled can you get?! We’ve moved away from what we need to get by to what we want just because, and it’s a wonderful life. In the mean time, my job is progressing nicely I think, and the boyfriend found an amazing job as well, with fun colleagues who trust him and his skills, and a lot of possibilities for the future. Tonight, we’re meeting up with friends in town for some live music on the market squares, as happens in summer in Leuven. I can imagine none of this sounds very exciting, but to us it really is. I really think we can be proud of what we’ve accomplished. And what we’ve accomplished is… happiness.

So now, rather than ruining that happiness with my crazy ideas and restlessness, I’ll keep good track of all my dreams and make sure they come true. And I’ll be okay with that not happening today, or even tomorrow, or even in the next years.

Bring it on dreams, we’ll have a good run together.

Happy Home Holidays

So I belong to one of those lucky people who get to work from home. Even better, I’m not quite sure if I’m even expected to work! My campus closes for a month over summer (and also two weeks over Christmas and one week over Easter), but that doesn’t mean I automatically have a month off.  Just like any other Belgian, I have about 20 days to take off whenever it pleases me.

Now, any other PhD student will happily tell you that taking a month off isn’t the best idea. You don’t ever really want to take a clean break, as you don’t want the ideas you’ve worked so hard on to swim away as you jump in the sea from some Italian cliff, or to whizz past you as you cycle through the Black Forest in Germany, or to simply fall asleep and get left behind when you’re chilling out in some park after lunch. So no, I do not have a month of holidays. But I have to say, life has been treating me well.

Obviously I don’t work my 9 to 5, or even 10 to 4 really. I get up, go to the gym or have a glorious sunny morning run, do stuff around the house or garden, and then I get to work. Under the parasol in our little garden, because yes, it is summmeerrrrrr! And as I sit here working, once in a while, my mind drifts off. Like: I’ll go make some ice cream. Or: oh man there’s a cricket! You know what I mean right, the cicadas that make that holiday sound you just cannot escape when you go south? We don’t really get them here as much, but instant holiday feeling! I located them to the tiny bush of grass by the edge of the garden I’ve been meaning to get rid off. None of that now though, instead I might just see if it grows bigger and attracts more vacation-bugs. Because I might be home and I might be sort of working, but life is not bad at all, and I don’t mind doing this for the rest of summer at all. Who says you need to go on holiday to get the holiday feeling?!

So to summarise: here’s my recipe for a holiday at home:

  • 1 or 2 crickets
  • A parasol
  • Little ice popsicle holders (just mix some yoghurt with that fruit you were gonna throw out because it’s not that fresh anymore but really still quite tasty and stick it in the freezer)
  • A load of sunscreen

Happy holidays!

How Happiness is Easy, Because it’s Possible

I am really quite happy. And I’ve been so for a while. And I’m planning to stay so for even longer.

I once read somewhere that happiness isn’t a destination, it’s the road trip there. I think I’m finally on the right track to whatever may be my destination.

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Basically, I can think of a thousand things I would like to change in my life. I’d like my body to be more healthy. I’d like to spend less time on watching crappy tv-shows and more time on other stuff (although I have to admit I’m not doing so bad there, the New Year’s Resolution is still going and still not a disaster). Like gardening and crafts and guitar and hiking and cooking. I’d like to have more money. Because I’d like to go traveling again. And also have some sort of financial security for when I’d get back. I don’t particularly love my job…

But I really am happy. You see, all those things are okay. I’m working on them. None of them are impossible. I’m going to the gym as much as I can and try to get back into an active lifestyle, also minding what I eat without going on a crazy diet. The tv time I have been working on for a while, and although I can still cut down more, I don’t think it’s as bad as it used to be and I don’t feel as frustrated anymore because the binging has gone down massively. I try to spend a lot of time in the garden because being outdoors makes me happy, and I love to take my time cooking when I get back from work. And now that summer is just behind the corner, hiking a few days a month shouldn’t be a problem. We have some wonderful friends that like to come out with us and it just gives us extra motivation to do so. The same goes for my crafts, for which I meet up with some friends to spend both quality time with each other and do something new.

The boyfriend and I both have a job now, and we are almost all sorted for the stuff we need in our apartment. (The only thing I still want is a freezer, he still wants a full computer set up, but I guess we can spread that out over the years?) So we really can start saving properly now. It’ll still be tricky to do everything we want, but at least I don’t feel like it’ll get us stuck. We’ve got options. The traveling might not happen straight away, but I know for sure one day we’ll be adventuring again. And I’m okay with it taking a few years.

Now, the job was always the tricky part. But I don’t mind it anymore. It’s tough. And I’m not doing so well. But the boyfriend is so insanely supportive that he gives me that last bit of motivation. Without that, I’d crash completely. But he keeps me going. He keeps me wanting to impress. My colleagues aren’t bad either. Not that we have great fun at work, but everyone is nice and it creates a very open work environment. Even though I don’t feel like I am doing a good job, once in a while I do get a compliment (today someone told me I got quite far really fast) and that’s just the best feeling and it makes me try harder again for a while. I still don’t think this job is it for me, but I’ve made peace with it and I think I found a way to keep going and keep happy. I even leave for work with a smile on  my face.

But really, that has nothing to do with work. That has everything to do with the boyfriend. Since he has a job, we get up at the same time in the morning and have some cuddles before we leave. He waves me goodbye out of the door. And I can’t help but smiling for the first half of the day. The second half of the day, I’m looking forward to being home again so more smiles it is.

Our lives are surprisingly uneventful, but I feel like I’ve got it all. We made our apartment into such a lovely home, with nice decorations on the walls and the cupboards, o many pillows for us to still fit on the couch, and little lights everywhere to liven up the place. Our garden is the perfect escape, even though it is far from private. We live in such a quiet neighbourhood we really can pretend it is our little piece of paradise. We talk about all sorts of rubbish all night and watch some youtube stuff together (lately I’ve become a big fan of Casey Neistat’s daily vlogs, you should check it out!) or I watch him play a playstation game and order him around 😉 Sometimes we go out for an evening walk, or we head down to the gym, or into town for a drink with friends, or he does his thing and I do mine.

I do still want to change a thousand things in my life, sometimes it makes me sad or frustrated. But only ever so briefly. What keeps me going is knowing that it’s possible. And I’m working on it. And in the meantime, I’ll just be happy. Because really, it’s easy now.

 

Holiday at Home – Delayed Final Update

Sorry to keep you guys waiting for my Holiday At Home finals! Let’s just say the holiday was so successful there was no time for blogging 😉

I’ll tell you a little bit about the last days of the holiday and then about the Result.

Now, where was I. Right. Friday.

Friday was a bit of a lazy one. I was still super efficient, but less so than the days before. I did go to the gym again, and again it was really tough! But I was proud for sticking it out. And then unfortunately it was cleaning time. Now, like most people, I’m not particularly a fan of cleaning. But I Love the feeling afterwards. The house smelling all fresh and looking picture perfect. Basically, the result is so much more awesome than the cleaning is annoying, that in the end I guess I kinda do like cleaning?

I dusted all our thingamabobs and cupboards, hoovered the whole house, and then I did a number on the bathroom. That’s the job I keep postponing but always needs doing the most. Our bathroom is really tricky to air out, so when I clean, I really need to clean the ceiling walls floor and then of course there is the scrubbing down of the shower, sink and toilet. Yay. But my gosh does it look lovely and clean! I took all the stuff outside so I could get to every little corner. I wish I had a high pressure cleaning thingy and could just hose down the whole thing in a jiffy, but I guess the cleaning up after might then take me a while. In any case, it’s done and it’s clean. Woopteedoow. After that, I couched.

But in the evening time we went out for drinks with friends in the Irish Pub! Ah, how I love my Guinness. And how I love the midnight snacks after, kebab!

Saturday the holiday feeling was slightly gone, it was just weekend feeling. Meaning the boyfriend was home, yay! We went into town and got this awesome sound bar for the television, with a subwoofer. The bass on it is genius, and it’s got a smart ‘night’ setting that is ideal for us apartment people, to keep our neighbours happy, that turns that said bass down and does other weird stuff. I don’t really know how it works, it’s the boyfriend’s thing. But I still think it’s cool.

In the afternoon I met up with a friend to celebrate her birthday with High Tea in a local café, but more about that in another blog some time soon. And Sunday it was crafts day with another friend. Last time we did crafts day, we had some fun with paper maché. I love doing paper maché, because you can just keep adding stuff and mess about. But I never do it because I never manage to find that glue to use. Now, turns out you can do it with flour! Just add water, mix, and mess away! This time, we were going to paint our mess. Here’s the result before and after the painting:

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What do you think? I’m quite proud really! The boyfriend even suggested we put it up in the house, so he must like it too 🙂

My holiday at home was a little bit of an experiment. My work was closed for a week, the boyfriend just started a new job. What to do what to do what to do… So I decided: a lot of sports, a lot of gardening, a lot of cleaning and a lot of cooking. It was the best. I got all these things done I’m otherwise struggling to plan into my schedule. I have a hedge, red current bushes, lavender bushes and roses planted and did up a little vegetable patch in the garden with leek, spinach and silverbeet. Our apartment looks sparkly and clean and for just a little while, it doesn’t remember what dust look like. I tried some new recipes and made samosas, and some of our all time favourites to stock up the freezer, like chilli. And I went to the gym 6 days out of 7 and am still trying! It’s nice to see myself make progress a little bit faster and it motivates me even more. I have to be honest, I don’t like the amount of time you have to put in to getting more fit, but I feel like it’s so worth it. My body hasn’t felt this tired in a long time, but I love it. It makes my mind so much more alert and I feel on top of this world. The holiday may have finished, but I am so ready for work again. This was exactly what I needed. Not a lazy relax holiday, but a super efficient and active holiday. I’ve done more work in the last two days than in the two weeks before my holiday! Success!

What stuff do you like getting up to when you have a Holiday At Home?

Holiday at Home – Day 3

Damnit I can’t believe it’s already Thursday evening! I could’ve started with the holiday experiments last Friday evening, no idea why I didn’t. Instead I only started Tuesday. But I’m loving it.

I’m still keeping at the gym challenge. Went again this morning, didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I’d been making massive progress but today I didn’t really seem to be doing any better at all. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I’ve got some running planned.

I finally managed to plant the hedge by the way! I’ve been wanting to do this ever since we moved in last July. And now it’s done! It was a bit of a rushed job as the sky looked like it was gonna unleash its full-blown April wrath on us, and I didn’t want my new plants to blow or rain away. But by the time I was finished, the sun even came out! So I also planted some more veggies: spinach and leek, so exciting! The hedge doesn’t look like much yet, just some branches here and there. But they have loads of buds so it looks promising. I’m really curious to see it grow and hope it’ll soon be all bushy and green 🙂

Now today I also had some cleaning planned. Blah, boring, but always so nice to have it done. The bathroom looks as new. I took everything out, ev-er-y-thing, and cleaned from the ceiling to the walls to the floors, and scrubbed down the shower. And it smells so nice!

No special cooking done today, I just made some appetisers to eat in our backroom in the sun with a nice glass of white wine (olives, salami, and crackers with paté), and for food I threw together some grilled naan bread with goat cheese, bacon and green beans. So easy and fast to make, and so amazingly tasty.

So now, as always: couch time! Tomorrow, there will be  gym, more cleaning (the kitchen and oven, ow dear) and that’s it. I might head in to town to run some errands, or I might not… We’ll see. And in the evening: Irish Pub with friends. Bring it on!

Holiday at Home – Day 2

I am totally getting everything I can out of my week of no work. This morning I went to the gym again. I have to say, this idea of had of going to the gym every day, I’m slightly regretting it. It’s a lot tougher than I’d thought. I used to have a super active lifestyle when I was still a waitress. On my feet at work all day, and in my free time to the gym with my bodybuilder friends. I could eat whatever I wanted and had never felt stronger and fitter. Yes, those days seem to be long behind me and harder to get back to than I had hoped. I’m still making good progress at the gym though, I think if I could keep it up I really could get back to my fittest self. But once work starts again, no more time for daily gym sessions unfortunately. So I’ll try to stick out this week and see how far I get. I wonder if I’ll feel a difference!

Now, I’ve told you before that the reason I work out, is because I like to eat too much. I do Not want to go on a diet because it makes me more than sad. So now that I have time for daily gym sessions, I also have time for extensive cooking sessions. Today I was in the kitchen for four hours! I made samosas for the first time ever, from my new Indian cooking book. It was a lot of work, also because our kitchen is quite small and I had to be very inventive with where to put all the bowls and cutting boards and oven dishes. But the result was amazing. I made two different kinds: one was a veggie one, with beetroot (first time I ever cooked beetroot; even though I love eating it, I’ve never bothered to cook it myself) and feta cheese and of course a whole load of spices like cumin and coriander seeds, the other was with lamb mince and even more spices, like ginger and chilli flakes. I served it with a nice salad in which I put some of the left over ingredients, like the rest of the beetroot, the feta, and some spring onions. Definitely a succes.

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I also did some more gardening, even though the weather wasn’t on my side. It was quite cold, and very windy. I hope my seeds didn’t all blow away. I cleared the space on the side of the garden for the veggie garden of all weeds and sowed some silverbeet. I also want to plant horseradishes and rucola, but I’ll have to wait until May for those. I then started digging the little ditch to plant the hedge tomorrow. My goodness, I am still amazed at the volume of dirt that comes out of the ground! It’s like the soil quadruples once you shovel it out! Our garden is now full of boxes with dirt in them, which I can’t move anymore because they’re too heavy. I’m seriously wondering if I’ll be able to put all the dirt back once the plants are in the ground. Well weird. I also found a lot of potsherds, unfortunately none of them antique. Otherwise I could’ve opened a serious museum by now. Maybe even become rich. Oh well.

The boyfriend is now doing the dishes (such a hero) and I am finally sat down. I have to say, I am even more tired than I was yesterday! And so are my legs! But I’ll try to go to the gym again tomorrow. Then plant the hedge. And also do some cleaning. No rest for the wicked!

Holiday At Home – Day 1

So yesterday I told you about how spring has arrived, and all the fun stuff it makes me want to do. This week the campus is closed, so  literally can’t go to work. I could work from home, but I won’t. I think I’ll work a thousand times more efficient next week if I now take a proper break. And do all the stuff I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Starting today.

This morning I joined the boyfriend on his cycle to work and went to the gym. It actually went quite well! Ever since I had my break from the gym, I’ve been having a really hard time with cardio. My trainer told me that if I want to lose some weight (no, I am not on a diet but I would definitely not mind losing a few kilos), I should train between 60 and 70 percent of my maximal heart rate. Now, that is a lot lower than I have been training. And it’s been a real challenge to stay in that zone while on the cross-trainer (or elliptical, whatever you call it). I go a lot slower than I used to (I am now below 60 rotations per minutes, I used to be above 70), and I had to set the resistance level to zero. Oops. But this morning, I managed to have 65 rotations per minute and have the ideal heart rate for 45 minutes! Win!

After the gym I cycled to my brother’s to pick up the car that we share. I was going to drive to a garden centre a little bit out of town to buy some plants for a hedge (I think it’s called privet but I’m not sure, translation problem here). But the satnav let me down. 50 kms and an hour and a half later, I was back home and didn’t find any of the two garden centres I looked for. To say I was annoyed and angry would be an understatement. But nothing a cheese toastie and a cuppa can’t fix.

So after lunch, I called every garden centre I knew around town, and finally found one that not only I could find without the satnav, but they also sold the plant I was looking for. I’ve ordered it for Thursday.

I had two options then really. Stay home and sulk, or make use of the car before I had to bring it back. I picked the latter, so proud of myself! (My New Year’s resolution seems to working quite well nowadays, for those who were wondering.) So I did some shopping and went to a smaller garden centre to buy some fun stuff: a few rose plants, small lavender bushes, and two small red current bushes! After dropping the car back off at my brother’s, time to plant some stuff!

Our garden is tiny, but I really want to make it feel like our little oasis of peace. It’s surrounded by other apartments so it’s not exactly the kind of peace I was looking for, but the way it is now it already makes a world of difference in our busy lives. Below our bedroom window, I now have a row of roses. Next to it, some lavender that will hopefully keep the mosquitos out of the bedroom in summer. At the back of the garden there used to be overgrowth of a bush from the neighbours, but I completely cut it down and dug it out. That’s where I put the berries. Can’t wait for them to grow and make a weekly red current crumble! On the side of the garden I cleared up a space to plant some veggies. I’ll do that tomorrow. And the other side, that’s where we’ll put the hedge. It might not really make a lot of sense, but when it’s finished I’ll post a photo so you can see the result.

I finished the day off by cooking a massive serve of chilli, of which we ate way too much, and now we are happily relaxing on the couch. Relaxing turns out to be a lot more fun when you actually have something to relax from. This day had everything to become a massive disaster, but what a lovely day it was in the end!