dinsdag 17 december 2013

Christmas fair in Düsseldorf

Last weekend I went on a day-trip to Düsseldorf with my mother, to see the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas fair) and do a little shopping. Although I usually do not like Christmas fairs a lot, the city was beautifully decorated and the atmosphere quite nice, despite the masses. We wandered around, ate ‘Currywurst’ and enjoyed visiting a big organic supermarket, where prices seemed considerably lower than in the Netherlands. The city itself was not particularly beautiful, but the waterfront of the river Rhine has its charm and reminds me of Antwerp somewhat. We did not have enough time to visit one of the museums, like I had hoped we would, but the good vibe of the city made the trip entirely worthwhile.

In the organic supermarket ‘Basic-Bio’, I bought some food and beauty products. My shopping haul:

-          Baking products for making gluten-free quinoa bread       (never had this before)
-          Vivani chocolate bar ‘winter’ (with ‘speculaas’ spices)
-          Lacoa chocolate bar with 60% cocoa
-          Rapunzel chocolate bar honey-almond
-          Lebensbaum six flavours of chai (sample box)
-          Gluten-free millet cookies called ‘Braunhirse Zungen’, by Werz.
-          Logona coconut oil as an extra, leave-in conditioner, to apply to the ends of my hair
-          Lavera grape hair treatment (sample), without silicones
-          Santé eye shadow base

From a very cute store with American products, called ‘American Heritage’ I bought:

-          The Republic of Tea ‘red velvet chocolate’ tea (looking yummy!)

I’m especially thrilled about the organic eye shadow base! It is really difficult to find eye shadow base without parabens or other possibly harmful substances. When I want to apply eye shadow and make it last through the day however, my oily skin badly requires a powerful base, to prevent major creasing.  A review of Santé eye shadow base will follow soon!

Some impressions of Düsseldorf: 

zondag 15 december 2013

Three lovely dresses

My favourite clothing brand Vive Maria has the most amazing, dark romantic dresses. They are very comfortable to wear due to the soft fabric, yet never look plain. Unfortunately, they cost a LOT of money. I was tempted to buy a dress for the Christmas party from work that I'll be attending next week, but decided against it...there's still an 'old' dress in my closet that I can wear and I need to be clever about what I'm spending my money on. I intend to buy as little clothes as possible in 2014, both to save money and to slim down the contents of my closet. It's quite a mess right now and I live in a rather small appartment....so you get the picture. Building the ideal, small wardrobe is what I'd love to try in the future! Therefore, buying a new dress takes some consideration.... 

It has to:

1) Add something valuable to my already existing wardrobe. New stuff that resembles other pieces is quite honestly a waste of money! 

2) Be on sale. I like to buy good quality, often a bit more expensive dresses...but Dutchie that I am, I prefer not to pay the full price. Therefore I'll patiently (not! :)) wait for the January sales. There is the risk of not obtaining the item, but that's part of the game...I'd rather take my chances and see if I can get it for at least half the price.

3) Fit just right. Look just right. Feel amazing. If it doesn't live up to my expectations, I will return it. This is something I haven't done often enough in the past, but it's really a essential decision in building a good wardrobe. If you want to be wearing all your clothes and not waste your money or closet space to unused items, you have to be extremely critical. 

At this moment there are three Vive Maria dresses that I would love to own. I expect the red one to be the prettiest and the most flattering, but I'd be happy getting my hands on any one of these during the sales. For now, I'll enjoy the lovely photos:

vrijdag 13 december 2013

Only Lovers Left Alive

I recently came across this amazing trailer of an upcoming Jim Jarmusch movie. It's from one of my favourite directors, it has vampires (not the cheesy sparkling kind, thank God!) and good actors like John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston (*swoon*) and Mia Wasikowska. 
The trailer reminds me a bit of Interview with the Vampire and Let the Right One in, both excellent, dark and sultry vampire movies. Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it? Here in the Netherlands, the movie will be in theaters by February 2014. Time to get excited...
The only trailer I could find has Russian subtitles...oh well. :)

donderdag 12 december 2013

I had a haircut...and survived :)

Today I decided it was about time I went to the hairdresser. I last had a chop about six months ago and I started to notice some split hairs and dry ends. A couple of years ago I dyed part of my hair black and although it has fainted by now, not everything has grown out yet. The darker hair is definately drier and more prone to breakage, but after a +/- 5 cm. cut, the hemline looks much healthier and thicker now. All of my layers are gone too, which feels great! With an even hemline, the individual hairs will be better protected. 

[Source: Edward Scissorhands movie still]

I felt a bit nervous beforehand, but the hairdresser managed to keep her scissors under control and even made a few compliments. What a shock! Usually I'm every hairdresser's nightmare...and they're definately mine. They're just dying to chop off more and more, as if a short haircut is ones only option. I'm glad to know that apparently, peaceful cooperation is still a possibility however. :)

This morning:

Notice the black dye at the ends of my hair!

This afternoon:

Board game review: Letters from Whitechapel

Since a year or so, I have a small obsession with board games. I used to love them as a kid, but hardly ever played them anymore during my college years. I don't quite remember what it was that triggered my renewed interest, but it must have had something to do with being unemployed, having too much time on my hands and getting tired of spending most of my days inside, meeting relatively few people. My boyfriend and I used to watch many movies and tv series and although we still do this quite frequently, we feel it is often more satisfying to engage in activities rather than just sit and watch another screen together. Inviting friends over to play a game also creates the opportunity to bring people together that otherwise wouldn't necessarily feel like interacting. Pretty much all of my friends tend to not get along with each other very well, so spontaneous group meetings are never an option... For a game, however, they are willing to move aside their differences. One-on-one meetings are perfectly fine when it comes to friendship, but sometimes I really miss that special group energy. It also saves a lot of time to bring multiple friends together. 

After a couple of try-outs, we decided to organise a monthly board game night. The first game we've played is Letters from Whitechapel, which was brought along by my friend Joyce. It's a 90-150 minutes game with a maximum of six players. The setting is late 19th century London, where serial killer Jack the Ripper (one of the players) has to murder five prostitutes in the notorious Whitechapel area, before getting caught. The other players represent the policemen, hunting down Jack. 

The best thing about the game, in my opinion, is its cool design. The board looks amazing! If you're a fan of BBC's dark and clever series 'Ripper Street', you will especially love the game's setting! The streets of the Whitechapel area are laid out for everyone to see, with dotted lines indicating the routes that Jack the Ripper or the police can take. Carriages and alleyways speed up Jack's movements. The map is an accurate representation of the Whitechapel district and the names of Jack's victims and the exact locations where they were found dead are indicated on it. The letters mentioned in the game's title refer to the letters sent to the police at the time of the murders, supposedly written by Jack the Ripper himself. They can be read in the booklet provided with the game. It also contains a timeline of the mysterious events that took place in London between 1887 and 1891. 

The positive

Besides a terrific lay-out and an interesting theme, the game offers a huge deal of excitement. The hunt for the killer keeps everyone on edge and especially for the player that has taken on the role of Jack the Ripper, the game can be nerve-racking. The fun aspect is that the policemen can't see Jack moving around the board, but are able to gain clues and see what places he has already visited. Sometimes Jack was standing right next to a policeman, without anyone realizing they could have arrested him! Clever thinking, by excluding possible locations on the board where Jack is residing, will be crucial during the game. 
Another great aspect of the game is that it combines cooperation (the policemen) and competition (Jack killing and hiding from the police). 

The negative 

During the game that we played, we eventually caught Jack before he could commit another murder. The player made a tactical mistake and did not see the trap coming that was laid out by the policemen. We could imagine however that it would have been extremely difficult to locate Jack's exact position if he had not made that mistake. Jack is able to cover larger distances on the board and can easily put other players on the wrong track. The more often the game is played, the easier this will become. I guess I am not able to say much more about it at this point, but it seems to me that perhaps Jack has too many advantages, which could start to annoy after a while. But then again....in reality he got away with it as well! :)

Grade: 8

vrijdag 29 november 2013

New Hairclip from Restyle

 I just have to show off this pretty hairclip that I ordered from Restyle recently! It isn’t able to contain a ponytail (at least not my hair, which is rather thick), but with a half-up it works great! The clip is sturdy and doesn’t slide out of my hair, which is quite a rare experience. I also ordered a teaspoon hairclip from the same brand, which is equally lovely (pics will follow soon!). 
My haircolour looks a bit weird in the photograph, because the lower part was still drying after I had washed my hair and contains the faded remnants of black hairdye. 

Restyle 'Lenore' victorian style hairclip

dinsdag 26 november 2013

My experience with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

Since more than six years now, I am dealing with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Although the cause of the ailment is still unclear to doctors, stress, a sedentary lifestyle and certain types of food are known to increase its symptoms. For me, the sudden appearance of IBS coincided with a tremendously stressful and traumatic period in my life: my father was in the last stages of Kahler’s disease (plasma cell myeloma), after a 5-year long battle with transplantations and chemo therapy. My mother suffered from depression and I felt responsible for taking care of her and my 10-year younger brother. It was a very tough, sad and exhausting time. My body seemed to find a way to express the feelings, fears and stress that had been building up inside of me and that I couldn’t afford to address at that moment due to the complicated situation I was in. I had never been a sickly person at all, but from one day to another that changed. After my wisdom-teeth had been removed in the hospital, I contracted an infection which caused severe pain for a couple of weeks. Shortly afterwards, I had my first migraine attack. When I went abroad on a study trip that same month, I developed bursitis in my left elbow, which is still painful even now. Then, one day, I suddenly had a terrible attack of dizziness, which didn’t seem to stop. After a couple of hours the dizziness became less, but didn’t disappear. After several months of feeling extremely tired, sick and dizzy and after several hospital tests including an MRI scan , the doctor told me that I had an infection to my organ of balance (Labyrinthitis). After realizing I did not have a terrible disease but something that would pass, I felt less concerned, but I was still suffering from extreme exhaustion and insecurity. I couldn’t even do the groceries anymore, watch a movie or type more than a few sentences on my computer. It was incredibly frustrating, especially since I was supposed to be writing my MA thesis! I spent about 9 months in total resting and recovering, unable to do much else. In the meantime, the symptoms of my IBS had grown worse. I had already undergone a very painful endoscopy (not receiving any painkillers, oddly enough) but was determined to have a second one to be sure that it was indeed IBS that was torturing my bowels and not for instance Crohn’s disease. This time, they did anesthetize me and the conclusion was clear: I had IBS and I simply had to find a way to live with it. 

Whether or not my weakened body is indeed the result of what happened in my family years ago, I do not know. Perhaps my travels to Mexico, Guatemala and Peru and the food poisoning that I regularly caught there, messed up my system. Or perhaps my past of extreme dieting, having low self-esteem, being somewhat of a perfectionist and always erroneously believing I was too fat, put my body in shock when I started eating like a normal person again. I do not know…but I feel relieved that I am ‘only’ diagnosed with IBS. I am working hard on keeping my body healthy and reducing negative influences on my bowels and I must say, the hard work is paying off! Since I started with a strict regime last year of consuming only the foods that my body seems to thrive on and leaving out the bad stuff, I am facing much less pain and bloating. While I used to have so much pain on particularly bad days that I even had trouble walking, now I’m never experiencing those extreme situations anymore. Although IBS seems to be different for everyone, most people tend to either suffer from constipation or from diarrhoea. In some cases, both. For me it’s always constipation, which causes a bloated belly and a constant pressure on my bladder. It’s annoying, painful and makes me look permanently pregnant! Fortunately, I’ve learned how to cover up the bloated belly quite nicely by wearing the right kinds of clothes. My belly is still bloated half of the time, but much less than it used to be, because of my improved lifestyle and perhaps also because of my new attitude towards IBS (accepting it’s not dangerous but that I won’t be able to cure it entirely).

Anyway, to make a long story short…I would like to share some of the things that have affected my IBS in a very positive way, reducing its symptoms. Bear in mind that these will not work for everyone because IBS manifests itself so differently in each person, but perhaps they’re worth considering anyway (just give it a try and see what works for you!). Also, be aware that everything should be tested for a longer period of time (at least for a couple of weeks), to find out what it really does for you and to establish a change in your body. This is my own set of rules to battle my IBS, which might be beneficial for you too:

-          Have breakfast each morning (never skip it!), containing a ton of healthy ingredients that stimulate the bowels and enough fruit to make sure you won’t miss your 2 pieces a day: a bowl with soy yoghurt, 1 banana, 2 kiwis or seasonal high-fibre and high-vitamin fruits, +/- 5 dried blueberries, +/- 5 goji berries, half a teaspoon of chia seeds, +/- 5 hazelnuts, a tablespoon of raisins, a handful of puffed quinoa and a tablespoon of honey or organic syrup. It’s a powerful breakfast and will keep you satisfied until lunchtime! Soy yoghurt is easy to process and nuts, dried berries and seeds contain calcium and vitamins.
-          Eat healthy, sugar- and gluten free snacks in between meals, such as: a piece of fruit, a gluten-free health bar, nuts, dried apricots, gluten-free toast with cheese, a piece of cheese, a slice of ham or a piece of chocolate made from cold-pressed cacao beans.
-          Eat at least 80% organic foods. I suspect pesticides have a bad influence on my bowels. In any case, I don’t trust them and therefore I am thinking: better safe than sorry. As a plus, they usually taste better too!
-          Eat meat only once or twice a week. I have noticed that fish and vegetarian products are easier to process for me. When I do eat meat, it’s organic. I try to eat fish quite regularly, because it’s very healthy, tasty and never stimulates bloating.
-          Eat as much at fixed times of the day as possible. My bowels love rhythm! Both being hungry and eating too much too early has a negative effect on my IBS.
-          Don’t overeat. Not surprisingly, it stimulates bloating.
-          Walk, run, do sports or simply move as much as possible! I’m not a person who naturally loves to do sports, but I’ve noticed that the longer I sit still, the more I am in pain. Bodily movement stimulates the bowels and therefore is a major contribution to battling IBS.
-          Relax. This is a hard one for me, since I lead a busy life and often tend to feel guilty about taking some rest, but I cannot deny it is essential. Not just for ones mind or body in general, but for ones bowels as well. Get enough sleep (8 hours works fine for me, but I do need to be in bed before 23:00 at night) and lie on the couch in between domestic duties. Read a book, drink a cup of tea…anything that truly helps you to relax. When I do not get enough sleep or rest, bloating always increases.
-          Do not let IBS control your life too much. Build a routine and choose a healthy lifestyle, but don’t pay attention to your belly all the time because you will be focussed on it too much and notice the pain and bloating even better. In my case, it truly helped when I finally accepted my situation and decided not to let IBS rule my world.
-          Eat gluten-free. This, I have only been doing for about eight months now. It is probably the most effective rule of all for me! I suspect it’s mainly grains that are causing the problem…whether I have a true gluten-allergy I severely doubt, but my bowels seems to have trouble processing grains. When I eat bread containing gluten every once in a while, I’m fine. When I eat it on a regular basis, I am facing severe constipation. Eating without gluten is not as hard as it seems and there are many alternatives for bread, pasta, pizza etc. Most of those products are available gluten-free, or one can simply eat a salad for lunch or a bowl of soup.
-          Try to avoid ready-made foods, spice mixes, sauces etc. Make your own! This way you know what’s inside and you can avoid eating additives and preservatives. The less I eat of those, the better I feel. Pure food is the least harmful to the bowels and usually contains most vitamins.
-          Let the main meal (in my case dinner) consist of at least 75% vegetables. They are high in fibres, vitamins and are processed easily. Some people with IBS like to avoid unions and cabbage, but in my case I do not really notice a difference.
-          Don’t drink too much coffee. I try to keep to a maximum of two cups a day. Coffee works as a laxative for me, but it also increases pain. I guess it’s simply a pretty harsh substance for my bowels. Tea on the other hand, never has much effect on me.
-          Do not eat after eight ‘o clock at night. This gives the bowels enough time to relax. After a while, the evening appetite decreases as routine starts to take effect.
-          Drink water a lot. Try to avoid sodas and fruit juices (they contain lots of sugar or other harmful substances) and let the water clean your body.

The above mentioned ‘rules’ are not able to cure IBS, not for me or anyone else, but may bring some relief and they certainly stimulate a healthy diet.

 My summer breakfast 

vrijdag 15 november 2013

My favourite season: autumn

Many people dislike the autumn season because of its colder, rainy weather, fewer hours of sunlight and its association with gloom and death. Although I am subjected to mood swings more frequently myself around this time of year, there are many things I love about the season. Perhaps it is because I am an autumn child (scorpio, born early November), but I cannot help to marvel at the tatterred beauty of nature, where leaves fall and everything seems touched with a melancholy quality. Warm, autumn colours are my favourite too when it comes to my wardrobe or to decorating my living space. Halloween, forest fruits, beautiful knits, mushroom stews, hot chocolate, walks through the forest and chilly evenings make me happy. To all summer lovers with an upcoming winter dip: remember, this season too will pass and in the meantime, it's best to enjoy the many good things it has to offer! Do go outside as often as possible, to catch as much daylight as possible....and make your evenings warm and comfortable, drinking your favourite hot drink or playing a (board)game that you enjoy.

 Gathering blackberries 

 A beautiful spot, somewhere in the Netherlands
Dark clouds gathering at sea
 Home made blackberry jam

Home made, gluten-free pumpkin pizza (slightly burnt, but delicious!)

woensdag 23 oktober 2013

How to deal with oily long hair

Since as long as I can remember, I’ve had to deal with an oily scalp. This sebum, a natural oil which is produced by the scalp, is not a bad thing in itself: it protects the hair from outside influences and keeps it supple and shiny. Different causes however lead to overproduction and can make ones hair look greasy in a short amount of time. My hair looks fine on the day it has been washed, but already on the second day it appears oily and without any volume. I’ve tried different ‘remedies’ in the past, such as a different diet (this only worked during crash-diets, where even fatty acids were not permitted) and not washing my hair for longer periods of time. The diet was not a healthy one and not washing my hair only made things worse…I never noticed any positive effects, despite several profound attempts. I guess my hair is just meant to be more oily than average and there is little that I can do about its cause. Instead, I’ve learned how to battle the symptoms! So what do I do? ‘Can’t you simply wash it on a daily basis?’, I can hear you say. Well, this would be a good option if I had shorter hair. But with hip-length hair like mine, washing it every day takes a lot of time and effort. Especially when I want to have it air-dried (which is much healthier than using heat), it can be a hassle. I usually wash my hair every other day, sometimes a day later. In the meantime, I keep it looking fresh by:

-          Washing only my bangs and the hair on my temples. This is actually the best advice I can give you, because it doesn’t take much effort (though a little bit of practise) and it takes care of the first areas that become greasy. Not by covering anything up, but by removing the most urgent excess sebum. Simply apply a tiny bit of shampoo to the mentioned areas and wash it out carefully when in the shower. When you don’t have bangs, wash the hair that directly surrounds your face. Then, take a towel and dry the wet hair thoroughly. After 15 minutes or so, your hair should be entirely dry. It makes a huge difference and the oily parts that haven’t been washed are hardly noticeable because they are at the back of your head.
-          Using dry shampoo. This I only keep around for ‘emergencies’, when there is no water at hand or simply not enough time. Especially on vacation, it’s a very useful product. The downside is that it gives my hair an odd color (fairer than usual) and that it looks and feels a bit dusty. It just doesn’t provide that fresh, just-been-washed feeling that one is longing for. But it’s always wise to keep a can around, just in case!
-          Wearing it in updos. This draws less attention to the hair and more to the face, so there’s a distraction from the oily scalp.
-          Wearing headbands that cover up the oily parts. The wider they are, the better. A nice example are the knit headbands made by Emi, available on Etsy.
-          Now and then, use shampoos that contain SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). It’s a harsh chemical cleanser, but there’s a big chance that your oily hair won’t get damaged as quickly because your scalp restores the balance almost immediately. I have tried washing my hair without SLS at all times, but I didn’t notice any positive difference at all…it just made my scalp even oilier than usual. Try to find shampoos without other harmful substances like parabens, but containing SLS nonetheless. There are many such shampoos, like for example ‘Andrélon Natuurlijk Puur’. If you do notice more damage by using SLS or are concerned about its side-effects on your general health, simply skip this option and use the shampoo that works best for you! After all, your hair type and structure is personal. Also, SLS has a bad reputation. Therefore I like to alternate between all-natural shampoos (mostly soap bars) and shampoos that do contain SLS. 
It’s best not to touch your hair too often, since greasy fingers can make things worse. If you have side-swept bangs like mine, be sure they are regularly cut so you don’t have to swipe them out of your eyes all the time.
With these simple tips, you won't have to worry about greasy hair all the time and you will have some quick solutions that are applicable in a only few minutes. 

Do you have good advice on dealing with oily long hair? Please don't hesitate to share!

donderdag 3 oktober 2013

My new blog - excited!

This is the first entry on my new blog! Welcome everyone! I will start off with a small description of what I am planning to write about here:

Most of the topics that interest me at the moment, can be placed in one of the following (broad) categories: Beauty, Health and Culture.  

A large part of the Beauty category will consist of entries on long hair care, since this has been a renewed passion of me since approximately 2010. I've always wanted very long, healthy hair at classic length or even longer and I hope to accomplish this by treating my hair in a good and natural way. I am also planning to write about (organic) make-up and body products and about clothing (mainly feminine, dark romantic style). Of course, beauty can be found not only in material things…so we’ll see what else there is to discuss!

Much of the Health section will concern food and sports. I want to loose weight (about 10 kg), but most of all feel more energetic and support a healthy lifestyle. Since I have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and am experimenting with different kinds of (mainly organic) foods a lot, you will find some information about that as well.

The Culture category will contain entries on archaeological and historical topics, reviews of books, movies and exhibitions, travel stories and many other subjects.

With two part-time jobs in different cities, volunteer work (writing for a historically themed website) and working on applications for research positions in the meantime, I live a busy life. Time-management and stress relief have become important to me. Reading and writing help me relax and enable me to put things into perspective.

Enjoy the ride!