Why I am proud to call Holland Home

26 July 2017

Dear Friend,

It's rather a surprising thing for a northern girl like me to be writing this post. I was always rather dismissive of people who returned home to the North East and went on and on about; London, New York, Australia etc Returning to Middlesbrough will always feel like coming home; family, friends, football and the hills (god I miss the hills).

12 years ago I moved to Holland.

I left Middlesbrough 12 years ago. I can't quite believe that I have been living in this tiny, busy, brilliant country for twelve whole years, this place has really become home and I am proud to call it that.

10 Reasons why I love living in Holland...

1) Community
There is a real community spirit. The Dutch are great at organising events and keeping up traditions. Every year our village will host special days where the community come together and during the summer every town hosts their party week. There is a real sense of belonging and pride in these events with everyone taking part.

2) National Pride

A great example of this is Kings day when the whole country turns orange. Music events, games, markets, street entertainment ensures that there is something for everyone. The rest of the year the Dutch need no excuse to hang out their flags; birthdays, party days, passing exams, births, they proudly display their colours.

3) Work/life balance

Most people work part time many men included, there is shared responsibility for child care, men taking papa days to take care of their children. Working hours are shorter or many people work flexi hours to have Monday or Friday free. People here work to live they don't live for work.

4) Bikes

Everyone bikes, everywhere. There is something liberating about the freedom of jumping on your bike to go to the shops, beach, work or school. It is reminiscent of childhood. The rush hour is quite a sight to behold as are the lines and lines of bikes at the stations.

5) Honesty

Dutch people are the most honest people you can meet. This can be a little startling for us reserved English lot but if you ask a question you will always get an honest answer. Dutch people will ask questions about finances, personal issues, health etc that English would not. But you always know where you stand. Problems are spoken about, brought out in the open, dealt with and forgotten about!

6) Food

When I first came to Holland I missed lots of English foods and I still need a fix of fish and chips and a corned beef pasty when I visit the UK. But I have grown to love Dutch food too; creamy cheeses, stroopwafels and bitterballs are firm favourites in our house. Don't expect a massive freezer section in the supermarket. The Dutch shop regularly and eat fresh foods. Perhaps one reason they don't have a problem with obesity?

7) Shops

Small individual boutiques with little treasures and one off pieces, handmade jewellery and art. Yes the big chains are here too but I love the Dutch style and fashion, offering classic pieces with a modern twist. Dutch people support their local businesses and because we eat fresh the baker and butcher are still thriving.

8) Beaches

The beach tents/cafes arrive around May and stay until September. We love this time of the year. Being able to cycle to the beach after work or school is such a joy! The North Sea may be cold but the beaches are beautiful. If the weather is good then you don't need to go abroad to holiday!

9) Canals and Canal Houses
It is my ambition to own a canal house one day. The Dutch canal cities are truly beautiful!

See more @ My Dutch Angle

10) Happy Kids
Dutch children regularly come out on/near to the top of the list of happiest children in the world.

Come and visit but be warned you may decide to stay!

I'm a blogging success because...

19 July 2017

Dear friends,

I’m a blogging success because…

When asking myself what is blogging success? I turned to google for help as I am sure many of you have done. My most recent searches include, other blogs, a clothes shop (sale time), a video about Mars and the kids school website, what’s yours? Anyway I digress. The wonderful Mirriam Webster was able to shed some light on what success actually is… I went for the simple definition.

Definition 1: Achieving wealth, respect or fame.

OK according to this definition I have not made it. My blog has not brought me untold wealth (although I am very grateful for the opportunities it has brought me). I am also not famous and don’t actually want to be but it might be nice to appear on, This morning and meet the silver fox that is Philip and the gorgeous Holly, like some of my blogging buddies.

Definition 2: The correct or desired result of an attempt.

I started blogging with no agenda, it wasn’t an attempt at anything. I hadn’t read blogs and had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I just needed to write … My brain was filled with questions and thoughts that needed a space to grow. Through blogging I found that space and started to breathe out again. Then something amazing happened - people started to comment. Other parents reached out to me. People told me that I’d helped them learn more about autism.

Raising awareness felt good, it felt like I was doing something, achieving something. Other autism parents reached out to me, other bloggers, friends, colleagues… people were reading my words. It felt amazing when I saw 1000 people had read my I hate Birthdays post. I was voted one of the most inspirational Autism Bloggers of 2015. I guess that meant I had achieved respect (see definition 1).

But the goal posts had moved and I started to reach for the full definition of that success. I wanted a measure. I started to look at those statistics, question why it had taken me so long to grow my following. I began comparing myself to others, checking my DA and Klout too regularly and caring too much about charts. I felt my blog was failing. I was failing… and it forced me to reassess what I wanted for my blog.

If I needed reminding of my success then all I had to do was turn to the comments of my fellow bloggers and readers.

I am a blogging success because...

I am giving people a glimpse into what life is really like for families affected by autism. I am a success because I am challenging the stereotypes and raising important issues in the hope that the life of my son and other people like him can be improved. I may not be the best writer, campaigner, speller, social media guru but my voice is out there. I am a success because blogging has enabled my voice to be heard.

This post first appeared on mummyinatutu  as part of Katie's I'm a blogging success series...

Ageing with attitude

14 July 2017

Dear friend,

Are you celebrating getting older? Maybe it is something that has never crossed your mind or maybe you have planned for your old age? Perhaps you are going to escape in your camper van, retire to Spain or take up skydiving. All exciting opportunities but should we be ageing gracefully?

A poll carried out by Retire Savvy last year investigated attitudes towards ageing. According to this poll I am too old for leggings and girls holidays to Ibiza,  I have only 5 years before I'm too past it for Twitter and one year left before I should cut off my hair,  I am also way too old to get a tattoo (38 years old is the cut off).

I have been planning on getting inked for ages but when my friend's son had a new tattoo and I mentioned wanting one too, I was amazed at my hubby's half joking comment about having a mid life crisis. I also read a comment on an internet thread that likened 40 year olds getting tattoos to

...older men buying sports cars, screaming out to the world I'm not too old.
So are they right?

I remember distinctly an argument conversation I had with my mother when I was a teenager. She told me that inside she still felt in her 20's and that only when she looked in the mirror could she see it wasn't true. I found this hard to understand at the time but not any more.

Is it time to hang up the skinny jeans, stop with the selfies and cut my hair into a mum bob? Should I be acting my age or celebrating it?

Having a hysterectomy has seen my body shape change but unlike in my younger years when I put on weight and would look in the mirror and hate what I saw, I accept how I look and don't see it as a failure, rather a work in progress, no-one is perfect!

I may not be overjoyed with the physical changes ageing has brought but I love the mental ones! I know that my voice, attitude and resolve is stronger than it ever was in my twenties. I'm proud of the inner strength maturity has brought me!

According to retire Savvy, the nation expects older generations to go quietly into later lives.

I would be interested to know exactly who completed this poll. Is it a broad cross section of people or a load of teenagers with quite frankly a lot to learn? I could quite easily belittle the authenticity of a poll based on a relatively small focus group but I don't need to because after a long period of Men prospering from ageing, with descriptions like distinguished or silver fox, we have seen a shift. Strong women are challenging the ageing stereotypes.

Women who are ageing with attitude:

  • Dame Helen Mirren:  a brilliant actresses who has not been content to simply play the older woman but has had many diverse roles and has been recruited as brand ambassadors for leading cosmetics companies too. Not only was she voted as having the best body of the year in 2011, but the actress posed nude for New York Magazine in 2010. She also had her first tattoo in her 70's.
  • Vivienne Westwood, still designing and modelling her own fashion line at 76.
The sexiest people are thinkers. Nobody's interested in somebody who's just vain with a hole in their head, talking about the latest thing - there is no latest thing. It's all rubbish. - Vivienne Westwood
 Source - Harpers Bazaar
Source - Harpers Bazaar 
  • Carmen Dell'Orefice - the world's oldest supermodel.  85-year-old model Carmen Dell'Orefice closed the Guo Pei show in Paris (Jan 2017) in stunning fashion
  • Bernice Bates - Bates began teaching herself yoga in 1960. Now, at 92, she holds a spot in the Guinness Book of Word Records as the oldest certified yogi on Earth. Mantra: "I can’t do that—YET."
  • Ernestine Shepherd -  the world's oldest female bodybuilder by the Guinness Book of World Records. She is a personal trainer, professional model, and author and is 75-years-old.
Image source - NextShark
  • Yasmina Rossi - the 59-year-old is a highly sought-after model (you may recognise her from the M&S campaigns) and check out those beautiful long locks too!
  • Grandma Moses -  Moses started to paint when she was 76 years old, after her hands became too crippled by arthritis to do embroidery. She painted every day and created more than one thousand paintings in 25 years. Her collection was shown at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. When she died,  aged 101, her paintings were on display in museums around the world.
  • Joanna Lumley OBE  is best known as Patsy in the long-running BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous, and has presented several TV travel documentaries. She has campaigned and raised funds for many charities, most notably the Gurkha Justice Campaign.
'If you’re alive, you’ll get old. There is no point denying it.' - Joanna Lumley

The best thing about entering my middle age is that I no longer give a hoot what anyone else thinks. And it seems I am not alone. Forget ageing gracefully I'd rather age with attitude like these brilliant women.

Pass the heels and skinny jeans, I'm ageing with attitude, what about you?

Who would you add to this list of inspiring women?

One Moment in Time with Preemie Mummy

5 July 2017

Welcome to one moment in time, a guest posts series, where bloggers share the stories behind special or significant photographs. I am honoured to be joined this month by the inspirational Preemie Mummy. 

My son is 50 days old in this photograph. He was born 4 months premature weighing a tiny 1 pound and 9 ounces.

In those first 50 days he had endured 2 punctured lungs, sepsis, a central line procedure, a Chronic Lung Disease diagnosis, a lumbar puncture on his tiny spine, PDA diagnosis (Patent Ductus Arteriosus), Pulmonary Hypertension, COUNTLESS blood transfusions, 3 fractured ribs and contracted 2 different species of fungal infection.

However, this photo represents the first moment where I actually saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Mere weeks before this was taken, we had spoken at length with all of his doctors about whether we wanted to transition to palliative care, or keep trying everything we could. For me, the decision was a difficult one. At the time I couldn’t foresee a happy ending and couldn’t let go of the idea that my beautiful little human was suffering. Thank goodness for my husband, otherwise the situation could have been an entirely different one, and this photograph may not have ever existed.

Matthew was weighed right before this was taken. He was 2 pounds and 9 ounces. One pound heavier than that of his birth weight. For me, it felt like we had come full circle in a sense.

When I took this photograph, my husband had put his hand inside the incubator and Matthew wrapped his tiny hand around his daddy’s finger. He lay like that for over half an hour.

Settled and secure.

I remember feeling the oddest sensation of inner peace.

As I said before, it was the first time I had felt our situation had any kind of a positive ending ahead. It is a day I will never forget, and I am so immensely proud that I have the photograph to remind me.

You can read more from Danielle here...

Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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