From The Mad House and Asylum: Welcome to Contemporary Mental Health

Sometime last year, I discovered Coursera and it has proved to be a brilliant way to work on New Year’s Resolution #3: to learn – new things and old alike – and to have a blast doing it. I signed up for a large number of interesting courses and in February, I genuinely started. One of the most interesting classes so far has been The Social Context of Mental Health & Illness by Charmaine Williams. The first week focussed on the history of mental health from the 18th century on. It’s been a trip down memory lane as we discussed the Victorian work houses, prisons and later asylums. It’s rather discouraging to be reminded how the history of mental health has been plagued by huge swings from high optimism to low pessimism, and constant underfunding and a lack of resources. The Dutch museum Het Dolhuys (The Mad House) in Haarlem Read More …

The Bookcase: Revenge of the Plot Bunnies by Hannah Kipje

After several years in NaNoWriMo, Hannah Kipje decided to finally draw the book her cartoon alter-ego had ‘written’ in the Daily Comics she drew in 2007. She blogged about the experience and published each drawn page as it was completed, inviting comments and encouragement. Her achievement in drawing and completing the book has been inspirational. Her NaNo project evolved into the now (self-)published Revenge of the Plot Bunnies of which one copy proudly stands in my bookcase. Revenge of the Plot Bunnies is about making dreams come true, finding yourself in the oddest situations, and escape in the most creative way possible. It’s about thinking out-of-the-box; not just accepting the world but challenging it, and to stand for what you find important. It’s a book where fiction and reality cross paths, influence one another and come to emulate each other. A story where a bunny gets a kiss from (several) Read More …

A Roller Coaster Ride

Life is a roller coaster. Everything is happening with tremendous speed, anticipation and apprehension. The shifts and turns, up and down, moving so quickly it hurts. A few weeks ago, I was drowning, lost at sea, drifting, treading water. Now, I’m slowly relearning how to swim, am hanging on to the raft I found and am trying to find my way back to solid ground. Yet, even in the midst of the storm, there have been moments when the wind gracefully stopped blowing for a few hours; when my mind could let go and I could just enjoy. Last Saturday night, during scouting, we made cheese from milk and butter milk. Put a litre of both in a pan, add some lemon juice and heat it up until it separates. Scoop up the white curd, sieve it to remove the whey, add some salt and spices and put it in Read More …

The Bookcase: Saartje Tadema by Thea Beckman

Saartje Tadema by Thea Beckman is a Dutch children’s book and is part of childhood nostalgia for me. The title character Saartje enters the Amsterdam’s Burgerweeshuis (Amsterdam’s Civil Orphanage) at the start of the novel which is set in the 18th century. Saartje is an independent girl and struggles to fit herself into the rigid life of the orphanage. Through Saartje, Beckman portrays life in the 18th-century Amsterdam orphanage convincingly. Beckman’s books are full of lively history and nurtured my passion for the topic since I was young. It was through Beckman’s books that I became acquainted with the Hundred Years’ War and the role of Bertrand du Guesclin in particular. Saartje Tadema enters the orphanage age seven together with her older brother Dirk. Her younger brother is fostered out until he is four and old enough to join them. Saartje and Dirk are quickly separated as Saartje is to Read More …

Crochet Projects

About two months ago, a close friend of mine received a utterly cool birthday present: a ‘knit your own tiger’ box. It contained all the material needed to crochet a tiger (if you can deciper the half-a-page-intruction that is – which, considering the title mix-up does not sound so promising altogether). Nevertheless, it created a buzz. To be able to knit or crochet is a lost art for my generation. In primary school, I was lucky enough to have a craftsteacher who taught us the (very) basics of knitting and embroidery for a year or so, but I’ve aged considerably since, and I can’t say that I remember the lessons. However, crocheting and knitting appears to be making a huge comeback in this modern day and age and as such it proved remarkably simple to teach myself using a few old guidebooks from my mother, my grandmother’s old crochet needle Read More …