Observations from an urban ecosystem

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My balcony overlooks a lovely patchwork of gardens and sheds, belonging to the owners of the appartments on the ground flour. The walls of the building form a large rectangle around the gardens, enclosing this wonderful ecosystem in which birds are the main protagonists, seemingly oblivious to us humans as they go about their business.

Fat turtledoves fly heavily from the railing of one balcony to another, groups of green parrots (who have taken root in Amsterdam) come by from time to time sqwaking loudly, tiny blue tits flit amongst the branches and there’s even a beautiful lone woodpecker who appears from time to time, tapping for bugs in the bark its favorite tree…

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I love how the view on the gardens is constantly changing with the seasons.  Today heavy snow flakes were swirling around in the wind, giving the gardens an enchanted look. The birds took shelter as they could, while the snow gently covered the ground and the branches and it was quieter than usual. So beautiful!

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Tiny steps

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #56

In the midst of these very busy and stressful weeks at work, I am trying my best to take better care of myself.

Having inspiring chats with a dear friend over lunch about creativity and self-care, in a quieter space away from the busy cantine (and sometimes even making time for a walk to get some fresh air after). Sending that email containing my truth, things that needed to be said to stick up for myself.  Spending my afternoon off getting my hair cut, then reading a book for several hours undisturbed while it snows a little outside…

For now it’s really tiny steps. Every one of them feels like a victory and I’m counting on a snow-ball effect:)

Flowering time

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When Federica returned from her amazing trip in South Africa, where she enjoyed seeing elephants, penguins and lots of other wildlife, her Christmas Cactus had prepared a surprise to welcome her home.

Federica was so kind to send me this beautiful picture of her Christmas Cactus’ yearly bloom:) Grazie!

Quiet evenings in

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #55

With the cold weather upon us, I feel so glad when I have quiet evenings at home where I don’t need to brave the icy wind on my bike to go someplace.  Having time to potter around the flat, write some thoughts in my journal or read a good book curled up under a cosy blanket, with a cup of ginger-orange yogi tea by my side, is simply wonderful.

I’m grateful that hibernation season is here, and I plan to make a conscious effort not to make too many plans to go out, so I can protect these sacred evenings of calm as a gift to myself:)

Beautiful imperfections

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When was the last time you really looked closely at what is around you? Most of the time I am completely on auto-pilot, rushing to and from work, completely stuck in my head thinking about all the things I need to do or annoyed at the rain pouring down…

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On Saturday morning, I took the opportunity of a ray of sunshine to go for a walk in the neighbourhood and consciously really looked at buildings, bikes, dogs, plants as I passed them. I started to notice tiny details. As autumn comes to an end, some plants are valiantly holding on to their last threads of life.

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I was so happy to observe the plants on my way and focus on the beauty in their imperfections: slightly bruised and fading petals, leaves drying into brilliant reds, gorgeous lace-like patterns…  It is the perfect trick for getting out of my whirling thoughts and truly being in the moment:)

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Learning about resilience

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #54

This week via work I got to participate in a lovely full-day workshop about resilience outside the office (think cosy yoga studio with mats, blankets and cushions…:)  I am very grateful for the opportunity to step away from the daily grind to think about resilience and getting some tips on how to recognise stress and cultivate resilience in our fast-paced and ever-changing world.

The workshop was very interactive and it was wonderful to get to know my colleagues better and particularly interesting to see that we share many similar struggles, regardless of our backgrounds.

Setting boundaries is a big challenge for me so I’ve decided to focus on improving how I identify my boundaries and how I communicate them.  I see these steps as the key to being kind to myself and I’m curious to see where this awareness will lead me.

Enjoying Autumn

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I’m just back from a blissful weekend visiting my family in France. Three days of intense chatting and laughing over cups of tea, baking (and then devouring) cakes shamelessly full of butter and sugar, celebrating milestones over delicious Lebanese food and sipping champagne, and generally just enjoying spending precious time together:)

I snuck out for a few hours on Saturday for a walk in the forest by myself. The colours of the trees were soooo beautiful (these pictures taken with my phone don’t do justice to their splendour at all), it was breathtaking! As I walked, it was like my senses were waking up from indoor life… I enjoyed seeing little birds flying from one branch to another and singing nearby, treading along on the muddy path and the smell the fallen leaves slowly decomposing at the feet of gorgeous trees was wonderful. It was the perfect environment for some quiet time to process my thoughts:)

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A year of joyful gratitude

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #53

Last week was the 52nd week in a row that I wrote about what I am deeply grateful for in the series I created called JOYFUL GRATITUDE! I really enjoy this ritual and plan to continue looking out for and writing weekly about big and small things that I am I very lucky to experience in my life:)

I decided to look back at these past 52 weeks, and use a lovely spreadsheet to place the things I’m grateful for under broad categories to examine what brings me joy.  The categories that most posts clearly fell under are: Outdoors, Tribe, Food, Quiet time, Travel and Nature. Interestingly most of the posts were a combination of several categories (like enjoying good Food with friends – aka my Tribe).

Outdoors was the clear number one category, a nice reminder of how important it is for me to be out and about despite my rather sedentary lifestyle. I will keep in mind for these winter months that when I feel tempted to profoundly hibernate, actually going out for a brisk walk will do miracles for my mood:)

Click here to check out all the JOYFUL GRATITUDE posts!  What are you grateful for this week??

Recommended reading

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This weekend, whilst looking online for titles of books written by women to suggest at our next bookclub meeting, I came across this piece DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS, by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  I really enjoy how she writes and particularly liked this piece because it addresses many topics around gender inequality with a fresh perspective and has so many concrete examples.

It’s a long-read but well-worth your time.  I’d say sit comfortably on the sofa with a nice warm cup of tea, and let yourself be carried from one suggestion to the next. These suggestions apply to any human being really and can benefit both men and women.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina. Cooking is learned. Cooking – domestic work in general – is a life skill that both men and women should ideally have. It is also a skill that can elude both men and women.”

“If we don’t place the straitjacket of gender roles on young children we give them space to reach their full potential. Please see Chizalum as an individual. Not as a girl who should be a certain way. See her weaknesses and her strengths in an individual way. Do not measure her on a scale of what a girl should be. Measure her on a scale of being the best version of herself.”

And after reading the article let it sink in for a while and read it again;)

Whipping up a simple lunch

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #52

One of the perks of working from home is getting to enjoy a warm lunch in Paolo’s pleasant company:) Today it felt particularly nice to take a break from working to whip up a quick lunch consisting of different left-over veggies from our fridge, and then chat peacefully whilst enjoying the meal and a good coffee (there may have been a square or two of dark chocolate too…;)