I see I haven’t posted on here for almost a year. Needless to say, it’s impossible to do a proper catch up in one post. But as I will try to start writing here more often again I guess it’s useful to give you a general idea of how things have been those past few months. So, news!
- Loulou Maya turned 4 in June which means that she started school. Elementary starts here very early but it’s pretty much play-based learning until 6. So it would be the equivalent of kindergarten or preschool. She loves school but of course there was an adjustment period (I ‘ll write a post about that soon).
- Vera Jo turned 1 in June. She is now walking, climbing, running and saying about 10-15 words. She always smiles and tries to make others laugh. She is hilarious but very strong-willed too. We thought she was cuddlier than her sister, but the more she grows, the more she refuses hugs. Fair enough. “my body, my choice”.
- My German grandmother died a perfect death, without pain, right after we went to Greece for the holidays (were she also lived). So she got to see the great-grandkids and died of cardiac arrest without pain and without even realizing she was actually dying (we know cause she had a long chat on the phone with her sister in Germany, while she was waiting for the ambulance and it was a normal chat catching up about all the family).
- We went to Greece for 3 weeks camping at my parents’ caravan, which was great for the kids but me and Nikos got to relax a bit too, thanks to the help of my parents. My dad organized a pirate treasure hunt and LM loved and my mom cooked our favorite foods and did the dishes and took VJ for walks so I was actually able to read a book.
- I got to read quite a few books this past spring and summer, which I am so happy about (I ‘ll write a post about that one too).
- I followed a creative writing specialization by Wesleyan university on Coursera and it got me very motivated to write literaray texts again, after many months of writing articles for my clients.
- I made new friends and grew my network in Hillegom, which is awesome as a loooong, dark, cold winter is ahead of us. Having friendly houses to visit for a cup of coffee when the wind is roaring outside is pretty great.
- Nikos changed company in April and works currently as a data scientist. His commute is pretty much the same so he gets to see the girls one hour every evening and then he dedicates the weekends to them.
- My brother finished his PhD (we are going to Munich for the presentation soon. Yay!) and is leaving for a post-doc at MIT. We will miss him but I guess I will just have to leave everyone behind and go visit him solo at some point while he is there. You know, to check up on him, like older sisters do.
That’s pretty much the gist of it all. Watching our daughters grow together and interact more and more has been the highlight of the months that passed. Needless to say, there have been many hard days, as we are raising them in the Netherlands on our own as both sets of grandparents are in Greece and our siblings are also not here, so we never get a break. However we do have our friends here and just ranting to each other about the difficulties of raising kids abroad without family around makes us feel better.
Now let me come to the “Resolutions” part.
We ‘ve had a few signs from the universe (I can almost here the sound of Niko’s eyeballs rolling so far backwards, they’ll probably get stuck there, looking at his brain) that it would be a good idea to go back to a plant-based diet. I ‘ve mentioned before that even though we’ve been vegan for 2,5 years, we ended up eating cheese and eggs again once we had the kids. It was just easy and convenient and there are so many more options to eat out as well. And cheese is addictive, so there. We were not proud of it but not feeling that guilty either. I personally felt that since we’ve chosen not to drive a car, not fly frequently, not own disposable high-end phones and be vegetarian, we are doing our part for the environment. Well, that’s probably true compared to the “average consumer”, but there’s still tons of room for improvement.
The three things that made me resolve to go back to a plant-based diet are the following:
- In our neighborhood there is a cow pasture. We see the cows every day and the biological farm that owns them has a lovely little shop that sells organic fruits and veggies, alongside their own dairy products and meat. One day I was having a walk with the girls next to the field and Loulou Maya said “Mom! Look how swollen their breasts (meaning the udders) are! That must hurt. Where are the babies?”. Errhhmm.. well… I explained to her how the meat and dairy industry works again. We ‘ve had that talk again in the past but now at 4 she really got it. And didn’t like it one bit. And when the next day we saw the calves, just a couple of weeks old, grazing in the field with no mama cow in sight, I was once again reminded of the cruelty of the dairy industry and how it feeds right into the meat industry. We have been drinking only non-dairy milk since our vegan days, but I could no longer ignore our cheese and butter consumption.
- We had a couple of friends visit us from New Zealand. They are vegan, went to a vegan festival in Amsterdam while here and we had great talks about food. They were the exact opposite of militant abolitionist vegans that have driven me away from so many vegan facebook groups and also veganism itself. That is also why I am now saying that we are going back to a plant-based diet and not veganism. Our friend L. was a vegetarian when we were vegan and seeing her become vegan and realizing that we have actually done a step backwards also helped me switch my mentality and strive again for a better diet (for all: animals, health, environment, people).
- The third sign was the appearence of a new Greek friend, living at a city nearby here in the Netherlands. She is not only vegan but also a scientist with a deep knowledge of chemistry and nutrition and very well-informed when it comes to environmental issues too. Just like our friends from New Zealand, she is very kind with people who haven’t made the transition to a fully plant-based diet yet. So not a fanatic at all, but a person who talks with facts, stats, numbers, without emotion. She often posts articles on her page that have opened my eyes on the impact our diet has on the environment and our health. Things that I might have read before, but backed up by research papers and cutting edge scientific discoveries.Going back to a plant-based diet made me remember very quickly that it is not abour restriction, but about discovering the huge potential of foods that we don’t normaly include in our diet. All sorts of different grains and legumes, different ways to prepare fruit and veggies, different snacks, packed with vitaminds and minerals instead of salt, sugar and fat. It really is refreshing and inspiring.
I have been reading a lot on environmental damage, plastic use etc those past few months (the bad news are all over media and hard to ignore anyway) and though we ‘ve done the basics like buying metal straws to replace plastic ones, I want to focus more on living a more environmental-friendly lifestyle. Here are a few things I/we ‘ve been doing and would like to stick to or improve:
- using soap bars or the no poo method for showers. I have been using no poo for almost a year now and switched to a very simple olive oil soap bar while at the camping in Greece. Now I do a mix of the two methods. It’s crazy how I had bought two bottles of organic shampoo without sulfates and didn’t even realize the impact of the plastic packaging.
- minimizing plastic pagkaging when grocery shopping. I ‘ve had canvas totes for ages for my groceries, but I am now trying to also focus on getting things that don’t have tons of wrapping. Luckily our local grocery store offers the option of a paper bag for fresh produce, though there’s again the argument that chopping of trees to package our apples isn’t environmental friendly either.
- shopping second hand clothes and accessories. I do that a lot and my goal is to shop 100% second hand for myself this coming year and as much as possible for the kids too, with the exception of underwear and socks for hygene reasons.
- using environmet-friendly cleaners and detergents. I have been buying eco-friendly brands with about a hundred stamps of all sorts of “eco” certifications but guess what? Most of them come in plastic packaging. Maybe recycled, yes, but still plastic. So I ‘ve been trying to make my own. It has worked great with general cleaners so far (using citrus-infused white vinegar and essential oils) but I want to make my own laundry detergent too, using green soap.
- focusing on spending less instead of making more. I ‘ll probably need to make a more detailed post about this one to explain it better, but the general idea is that instead of stressing out to find clients for my freelance writing, in order to make more money (that I then proceede to spend), I can try to be more careful with my spending habbits. Every time we spend money on things, we most likely hurt the environment as well. Think of that plastic crap toy that you get for your kid because its cheap and will make them happy for 5 minutes. If we learn to cheer ourselves up without consuming, we save money and environmental resources too.
I realize this post is already way to long to be read with a cup of coffee so I ‘ll wrap it up here and try to come back to the blog soon, to give you more details on the different subjects that my mind is busy processing.