More Adventures of the Road – The Netherlands

More Adventures of the Road – The Netherlands

Reading Time: 7 minutes

 

One of the most remarkable things that we experienced in the Netherlands was, in our entire time driving around the country, that the Dutch know how to drive. I don’t mean they know how to steer. I mean they understand the logical courtesy rules of the road. Maybe better than any other country we’ve visited (and that’s a lot!). In nearly a month, we only heard three people honk their horns, and all were deserved. We also only heard one group of motorcycles revving their overly loud engines, and it felt out of place (and was likely tourists, if I’m being honest). Drivers understood how to use lanes! This may seem like it’s no big deal, but it was huge. They would use the left lane for overtaking only, then return to the right lane to continue driving, leaving the passing lane empty. Traffic was never too congested, probably because of all the bicycles on the road. I’ve never seen such orderly roundabouts. I didn’t fear for my life in the car like I do in Bulgaria, London, Israel, Taiwan and even parts of America. I normally make my husband drive everywhere. Here, I was fine behind the wheel.

People, in general, are courteous in The Netherlands, yet rarely feel fake. Customer service is good, and of a high standard. I loved watching all the cyclists on their daily commutes, riding by with bemused smiles on their faces. I called it their “Mona Lisa” smiles. Especially on sunny days, which we experienced a lot. The entire country is manicured and well looked after, with gorgeous flowers, green grass and healthy, happy animals. I’ve never seen such happy cows grazing (or dozing!) on the sides of roads! The farm animals and zoo animals all had bright eyes, full of life. It was invigorating to see nature and man live in such harmony.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is common there, from their cycling to their food, and down to their desire to live with minimal environmental impact. Everyone recycled. It was not uncommon to see houses with solar panels on the rooftops, no matter what economic class the neighborhood was in.

Now, be aware of a few things you should know. The Dutch don’t use credit cards like a lot of other places do, especially America. In fact, outside of touristy areas, it was very difficult (nearly impossible) to find a place that would take a credit card, regardless of whether it was Visa, MasterCard or American Express. They take their Dutch bank issued debit cards, or cash. We even encountered some places that didn’t even take cash – only the local debit cards! So do beware of that. I suppose for the Dutch people, this is a good thing, as it means they are not swimming in debt like many others are. But for the traveler who wants to go off the beaten path, it does make for quite a challenge.

Also, be aware that the cyclists rule the road. I’m not sure who legally has the right of way, but the cyclists take it, over automobiles and pedestrians, both. That was a bit frustrating when pushing a toddler around, but we quickly got used to it and learned how to assert our pedestrian rights when necessary. Another thing to watch out for is that trams pull up quickly at their stops, often without any curbs or “shoulders” (and normally silently). For foreigners, it can be shocking. Some other European countries have a similar system, but this was the first that made me feel like I had to really be paying attention or risk getting hit. In fact, I think every American I know has almost gotten hit by a tram their first time in Amsterdam. I’m honestly surprised we don’t read about American tourist tram accidents more often. Watch for that.

On top of all this, as an American, my mind was blown more than once by the realization that so much of what we think of as American is actually Dutch. I think of America as having its roots more in England than anywhere else, and I didn’t really think of the fact that the Dutch were in the States first. I knew that New York was once New Amsterdam, but I didn’t realize that Harlem, Brooklyn, Bushwick, the Bronx, Bowery, Gramercy Park, Wall Street, and so many other places were named after places in The Netherlands (as well as the concept of sitting on a stoop, which is a New York staple!). It never occurred to me that our beloved Hollandaise sauce on delicious eggs benedict actually originated as a Dutch sauce (duh – HOLLAND-aise!). I had more than a few instances where I stopped in my tracks and said, “wait a minute – this came from here?!” A few examples: bowling, pancakes, cookies, ice skating, compact discs, cassette tapes, WiFi, Bluetooth, the atlas, telescopes, microscopes… and orange carrots. Yes. You read that last one right. In fact, they’re orange as a nod to King William III, aka William of Orange, who was a key player in getting the Netherlands their independence. I guess we should be glad he wasn’t William of Dark Brown With Weird Mustard Colored Spots.

All in all, we had a tremendous time visiting this under-appreciated gem. We can’t wait for our next visit.

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BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH – BECAUSE YOU’RE WORTH IT

BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH – BECAUSE YOU’RE WORTH IT

Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

We have been reading a lot about the importance of getting checked out for early signs of breast cancer, and there has been immense coverage on television, which is commendable.  But very little coverage on the scariest part, which is the wait after the mammogram to be given the results.

So I would like to talk about that openly, and you the old saying ‘if you look fear in the face’, and in this case I would urge you to do the same.

As someone who has breast cancer in the family, I had been putting off having a mammogram, which I do know was not my best decision, but apparently a very common one.

Several friends urged me to go year after year, saying that they would come with me, and we could make a day of it afterwards either shopping or going to the local cinema.  But I just couldn’t face it.    I couldn’t even bring myself to say it to my nearest and dearest, but the mammogram itself didn’t scare me – but the wait for the results did.

Why I didn’t seek counselling or at least talk to someone about it I have no idea, but over ten years passed until I plucked up the courage to go.  It was a random letter from the local Healthcare Breast Screening Unit with an appointment was the offer I couldn’t refuse.

I went for the Mammogram alone, and the practitioner asked me the obvious question and when I told her it was just over ten years, she said she would put me down as having my first one, as the film would have been destroyed after ten years.  She also advised me that I may be called back for an ultrasound as they would have nothing to compare it to.

I then received a letter to say I had been recalled.  I was naturally panicked, but read the letter carefully and apparently 4 in 100 women are recalled and only 1 in 4 are diagnosed, so the odds are 75% in favour of a good outcome.  Did that make me feel better, perhaps a little, but I still went to those dark places until the day for the ultrasound arrived.

My very closest friend offered to come with me and I agreed this time.  I needed a friend as it was a bit like going back for a second interview for a job, but this time I didn’t want to be selected.

The ultrasound was uneventful and they had spotted an area of concern, but couldn’t diagnose until they had done a biopsy.  This was then done and was uncomfortable but not painful, and I was then told there would be another short wait.

In the meantime, I prepared myself for the worst, and spoke to girlfriends and family members who had been through breast cancer and discovered that even if I were to be diagnosed, the chances of survival were extremely high.  Also, the progress of the treatments in the past few years had made everything a lot easier and with incredible results.

This was probably the most anxious time, waiting for the result, but fortunately for me it was in my favour, and I resolved to have annual mammograms, although they offer them every three years.

I am telling my story because the fear of the outcome is almost scarier than the diagnosis itself, good or bad.  But as someone who had avoided being checked for so long – I could have avoided putting myself through such angst by a simple test and living with the short discomfort of waiting for the result.

I also wanted to share it even though it wasn’t a walk in the park, so that those of you who share my concerns about waiting for the results, and haven’t had a check for years, if I can do it so can you.

So I am urging all of you ladies out there who are sweeping it under the carpet.  Please take advantage of all the wonderful support we have today, and whatever the outcome you can do this, and chances are it will be a routine check with a positive result.

For help, advice and support check out https://www.macmillan.org.uk/
And look out for one of the macmillan coffee mornings near you
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MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS – IT DOESN’T HELP TO BE GINGER – OR DOES IT?

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS – IT DOESN’T HELP TO BE GINGER – OR DOES IT?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

I think most of us by now will have seen the hilarious video posted on YouTube for World Mental Health Day with Prince Harry and and Ed Sheeran faking a misunderstanding about being ginger.  A brilliant introduction into the very serious issues surrounding us today around mental health.

As more and more famous people come out to tell their story of dealing with anxiety and depression and with the shocking suicide of stars like Robin Williams through mental health, it has now become apparent that we need to tackle mental health issues head on and not sweep them under the carpet.

Don’t hide anxiety and depression away, discuss it openly, take measures to combat it and even if it does not disappear completely you will have it under control, and most importantly of all – know that you are not alone.

As cliché as it sounds, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is a wise old saying but very true in this case, as it has been a stigma for so many years to discuss our individual mental health issues almost as if we will be excluded if we do.  Perhaps it is inherited memory of a time when that was the case, but far from true today.

The pressures are such that it is almost unthinkable not to have the latest iphone or laptop or to be constantly on social media, so much so that we are forced onto a hamster wheel of ‘success’ and ‘achievement’, with some of the old values of human interaction being thrown out with the bath water.   But it is good to talk.

The key to dealing with the ‘demon’ of our society is to listen to each other without judgement, and listen also to ourselves.  There may be no apparent reason why many of us are suffering, some of the most anxious and depressed people appear to have everything, a beautiful family, friends, successful career and some are extremely wealthy.  There is no rhyme or reason and Mental illness does not discriminate.

Another wonderful video put together by both Royals and Celebrities is EVERY MIND MATTERS, which is a new online initiative to help all of us deal with our individual mental health concerns and help us make a plan to manage them so that we know we are in this together.

 

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DEBBIE ARNOLD – MOTHER OF THE BRIDE

DEBBIE ARNOLD – MOTHER OF THE BRIDE

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Debbie has enjoyed a successful career as an actress in television, film and theatre. She has the dubious honour of being the only actress in the UK who has appeared in every major TV soap in the last 30 years as a regular character! And recently returned to ‘Coronation Street’ as yet another character – Carole Evans, landlady of the Weatherfield Arms.

 

Debbie is now playing another very important role, as Mother of the Bride to her eldest daughter Ciara.  As the Wedding approaches, Debbie takes action into ensuring she looks and feels her very best on this very important day.

“Well as the big day approached the things that started worrying me about my body were my décolletage, which now was looking very crepey and my baby ‘flap’- Those of you who’ve had caesareans in the past – or any gyne ops – will know this one! It’s when your skin suddenly ‘flaps’ over your scar and your previously flat lower tummy looks quite horrendous!! It’s invisible in clothes and bikinis but its there……and it’s really unsightly. So obviously I’m not looking at a tummy tuck – but this has come with age and gravity and I wanted to see what if anything could be done.

With these 2 issues I went to see my lovely friend of many years the fabulous Lesley Reynolds at the Harley Street Skin Clinic. Lesley really is a magician – she knows everything there is about skin treatments – without a doubt she’s the UKs top beauty guru! She told me yes both were possible in my 3 month time frame before the wedding and ushered me quickly to see Dr Aamer who prescribed miso and light therapy for my décolletage and Onda for my tummy.

I’m not posting any pictures of my chest or tummy in this post because I’ve been told that I need to wait for another 6 weeks till the true results are visible but let me tell you already I’m thrilled!

The décolletage treatment is mesotherapy which is a technique that uses injections of vitamins, enzymes, hormones, and plant extracts to rejuvenate and tighten skin. I love it on my face but never had it on my chest. Some people have numbing cream but I chose not to then afterwards you have light therapy. All this works together for astounding results!

Then Onda… what can I tell you – it’s a magic wand that the practitioner runs over your wobbly bits – it goes hot then cold. It’s not at all invasive or vaguely uncomfortable which is why I’m so impressed with the results. Works brilliantly with cellulite and tightens skin but it’s almost made my baby flap disappear! Will post pics in 6 weeks. I’m still astonished! Maybe I’ll try the cellulite Onda treatment next!”

4 x Sessions of Onda Coolwave on the lower abdomen for skin tightening.
harleystreetskinclinic.com/en/treatment/onda/

4 x sessions of Mesotherapy for the décolletage area for skin rejuvenation
https://www.harleystreetskinclinic.com/en/treatment/mesotherapy/

This is how I looked on my daughter’s wedding day – such brilliant treatments!

Check out the full range of treatments available www.harleystreetskinclinic.com

Check out Debbie’s website here https://debbiearnold.com

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Spinach & Parmesan Mini Quiches

Spinach & Parmesan Mini Quiches

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Spinach & Parmesan Mini Quiches

 

Mostly utilized in Italian-themed dishes such as pasta or pesto, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is much more versatile though and can add unique flavour to all kinds of dishes. The strong flavour of fresh goat’s cheese and the umami flavour of Parmesan cheese enhance the eggs and spinach used in this recipe for Mini Quiche Tartlets exceptionally well. Paired with walnuts and seasoned with aromatic nutmeg, these mini quiches bring a flavour explosion to the taste buds. The size of these tartlets not only proves to be the perfect individual portion for an elaborate brunch with one savoury treat after the next, it is also ideal as a lunch treat, served alongside baby leaf salad or fresh rocket.

 

Ingredients:

For 6 tartlets, ø12cm

 

For the base:

125g plain white flour

100g wholemeal flour

150g butter, salted (extra butter for greasing and for the pot)

1.5 tsp. baking powder

 

For the filling:

3 medium-sized eggs

150g fresh goat’s cheese

180ml milk

125g fresh spinach (approx. 110g after cooking)

50g walnuts, chopped

Salt, black pepper and ground nutmeg to season

 

Fresh rocket to serve

Olive oil to serve

 

What you’ll need:

Flat baking tray to carry the tartlet moulds

6 tartlets (ø12cm), ideally made from silicone (if moulds are metal, use butter for greasing)

Kitchen scales

Grater

Pot

Strainer or colander

Mixing bowl

Whisk

Teaspoon

Large spoon for stirring

Chopping board

Knife

 

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flours with baking powder. Cut salted butter into small cubes and add to the mixture.
  2. With your hands to knead the dough until the crumbs form a uniform mass. Divide the dough into 6 portions.
  3. Place the tartlet moulds on a flat baking tray. Press each dough portion firmly and evenly into the moulds. In case you use moulds other than silicone, grease them with butter first. Chill the pastry in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, wash the spinach thoroughly and drain by using a strainer or colander. Heat a pot with a teaspoon of butter. Add the spinach leaves and half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Cook the spinach for several minutes until the leaves are wilted. Let it cool.
  5. Prepare the quiche filling by combining eggs, fresh goat’s cheese and milk in a mixing bowl. Whisk the mixture thoroughly. Add a dash of sea salt, half a teaspoon of black pepper and another half teaspoon nutmeg to season.
  6. Chop the walnuts into small pieces and stir into the egg mixture. Add the seasoned cooked spinach to the bowl as well, but make sure to drain access water.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan, middle rack).
  8. Take the tartlets from the fridge and carefully fill them with the egg mixture.
  9. Bake them for 30 – 40 minutes.
  10. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a side of fresh rocket.

Spinach_Quiche_3

 

(Credit to: Castelli/Parmigiano for these beautiful recipes)

http://www.castelli-uk.com

 

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