Where it all began - my office alcove (with horrid beige carpet) in our Paris apartment.
Nine years is a long time in the blogosphere. And I should have posted this piece yesterday, on the actual 9th anniversary of Paris Parfait. Instead, I was at the hospital with my husband, his second emergency visit within three days.
Within the past year, my blog has been neglected, with long periods of silence. Obviously, my husband's health has taken priority over everything. Despite my frequent absences, you, my longtime readers and friends, have remained steadfast.
The best thing about starting the blog nine years ago is not the stories or poems or photographs I've posted - it's you, the readers. It's the friendships we've formed and the confidences we've exchanged. It's the meals and conversation and laughter we've shared in Paris, London, Amsterdam and Seville; in New York, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Savannah, Vancouver and Amman. Over the past nine years, I've had the great privilege of meeting about 100 fellow bloggers and readers; all but two of these meetings have been lovely experiences.
I've been especially touched by the messages of support and solidarity received during these challenging months. These messages are like little badges of courage, to carry along the rocky road David and I are gingerly traversing.
Strength in numbers, my friends. Thank you for nine wonderful years. Une mille fois, merci!
In this challenging year ahead, I resolve to be brave and resilient; embrace every moment for the gift it is and keep looking for the light - even as darkness falls. What are your new year's resolutions?
Here's hoping 2015 brings you and yours an abundance of good health, happiness, peace and prosperity!
Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas, filled with love and laughter!
Ornaments on our tree.
Ornaments and an antique Dutch candlestick on a Mexican silver tray from Sevilla, Spain. Antique Liberty of London vase in the background, along with a 19th-century lithograph of La Giralda de Sevilla.
A seasonal centerpiece of mostly natural ingredients.
Georg Jensen candlesticks from Denmark and a Waterford crystal Rock of Cashel vase from Ireland.
Festive flowers from a neighbour.
The beautiful birthday girl! Jordana and I had a lovely day last Friday, with lunch and shopping in Amsterdam's Jordaan neighbourhood.
Jordana's birthday dinner: wild duck and sour cherries (Royal Copenhagen blue fluted porcelain).
A mini "Christmas tree" cross between broccoli and cauliflower - surprisingly good!
A favourite Black Forest bear candleholder in the kitchen.
Birds of Paradise in a mercury glass Dame Jeanne jug.
A beautiful bouquet of tulips and berries that Jordana gave me for her birthday!
Amaryllis, blooming just in time for Christmas (and a 1950s Minerva sofa/daybed (that I'm planning to recover in leather) by Danish designers Peter Hvidt and Orla Molgaard-Nielsen.
Branches of berries and a platter of traditional Christmas crackers from England on a George Nelson bench.
Lights descending in a stairwell for three flights of stairs.
Glad tidings to you and yours. Best wishes for a peaceful and happy new year!
I've never understood how the day that launches the Christmas holiday season should be burdened with the grim moniker "Black Friday."
Yes, I know sales receipts from this one day can determine a company's profit margins for the entire calendar year. But why should dictates of retailers and advertisers interrupt a traditional family holiday? Why can't another day or a series of days be designated for sales? Why do we, as consumers, allow big business to encroach on all-too-rare time alone with family and friends?
Thanksgiving was my favourite holiday, before crass commercialism overtook common sense. As anyone who's ever braved hordes of stressed shoppers can attest, buying gifts in such a fraught environment is not pleasant. It beggars belief that millions of people put themselves through hours of misery, just to save a few dollars. And most stores with an online presence - even in England - bombard our email inboxes offering "Black Friday" bargains. (At least no crowds come with these solicitations).
Holidays are meant to be pleasurable and relaxing, but "Black Friday" suggests the opposite. So I am kicking off the season with a string of celebratory lights and ignoring the endless encouragement to shop. What say you?
All my life I've been fascinated by owls. So it was an unexpected treat this week to encounter an European Eagle Owl at the South Devon Railway, Buckfastleigh, England.
As ever, click photos to view detail.
This owl was born and bred in captivity. Native European Eagle Owls apparently haven't been seen in Great Britain since the 19th-century. Unfortunately, I don't have the name of the organisation in Devon that looks after these rare birds.
La fenêtre de la chambre de Claude Monet, Giverny, France.
So grateful for friends old and new, like flowers all along the path...
As always, click images to view detail.
"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it, whether they want to or not." - Georgia O'Keefe
"All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower, wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind." - Abraham Lincoln
Remember the charming accordion player I photographed at last year's cheese market in Edam, Noord-Holland? Nikki, who is nearly 10 years old, still participates in the local kassmarkt celebrations. She taught herself to play the accordion!
Check back soon for more photos from summer festivities in Edam.
As a journalist, I covered the Arab-Israeli conflict for many years, with friends on both sides of the equation. Some Palestinians I knew personally were assassinated; others were jailed or deported. All these years later, it's dismaying to watch crimes against humanity still being perpetrated daily in Gaza - the world's largest open-air prison, as former French President Nicolas Sarkozy noted in 2008. Both the Israeli and the Hamas-led Palestinian governments apparently haved learned little from their decades of war and mutual suffering.
The poem "A Stone's Throw Away..." that I wrote in 1998 depicts how the endless self-destructive cycle of violence and war impacts future generations and their attitudes. Sadly, the words are just as apt today:
To glance at his face, he appears just a youth But look deep in his eyes: therein lies the truth. Exposure to violence at too tender an age Shaped his thoughts, bent his will, filled him with rage. A life with sparse shelter, intertwined with abuse A life fraught with peril, until he thinks ‘what’s the use?’ It’s only when throwing a stone he feels brave; For a moment, he’s free: neither victim nor slave. Perched high in the hills, boys continue to throw. A stone’s throw to freedom; how far will they go? Their defiance not just for the occupying force, but for pain and despair in a life without choice. Their houses crushed flat,* families rotting in jail, in a fight over land that’s long cast its spell. Thousands have died in this battle of wills provoking world outrage; yet still the blood spills. In Afghanistan, Gaza, the West Bank today, war crimes are brutal; dark forces at play. Human rights unknown in too many places. Unimaginable sorrow etched on tired faces. Who will speak for that child, whose voice is now gone? Will anyone protest, ‘He should have lived long!’ That promise, bright spirit, so quickly snuffed out by a rocket or bomb that police failed to rout. What has this to do with me, you might ask? My friend, we’re connected, we discover at last. What hurts one, harms all in this vast global village, inextricably linked in the plunder and pillage.
But for now, so secure in our comfortable beds we can quickly change channels, when someone’s shot dead. It can seem so remote, so distant, so far; such madness, such violence, that bomb in a car. We are sleeping now, perhaps one day to be jolted wide-awake. When the wolf appears at our front door; not via videotape.
Photo of antique bicorn hat and 18th-century French documents. The hat is late 19th-century from the prestigious École Polytechnique, founded in 1794 during the French Revolution by mathematician Gaspard Monge. In 1804 Napoleon awarded the school military status and a slogan: Pour la Patrie, les Sciences et la Gloire ('For the nation, the sciences and the glory.)" Students (called 'polytechniciens' in French) still receive and wear a modified version of the famous bicorn in all official ceremonies.
Under supervision of the French Ministry of Defence, Polytechnique is renowned for its undergraduate and post-graduate (Ingénieur Polytechnicien) degree programs in science and engineering. Among the university's famous alumni are two Nobel Prize winners and three French presidents, including Francois Hollande.
Happy Father's Day to my wonderful Dad! I am so thankful for his strength and the invaluable lessons I've learned from him. Wishing my Dad - and all the men who do their best for their children - a day of much-deserved celebration and relaxation!
Long before I was a photographer, I was a writer. Lately I've hesitated to write, as I couldn't report the "truth" you might expect to hear. Consequently, other than the photos, this blog has begun to feel stale and uninteresting to me. Because I'm not the same person I was back in 2006 in Paris, when I began writing Paris Parfait.
"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” - Heraclitus
I have lovely and loyal friends of all ages, who at any given moment are going through momentous changes/disruptions in their lives. Many of them are accomplishing amazing feats on a regular basis, while juggling children and a family life. Others are completely on their own, experiencing similar situations and challenges I faced years ago as a single mom.
While I relish each and every story and admire my friends' tremendous style and bravery and emphasize with their struggles, I am at a different place in my life. I have moved on from worrying about what's fashionable to determining what fits. In case you've noticed a lack of blogging here lately: I am trying to honour my creative impulses and produce work to withstand the test of time, rather than that easily discarded with the vagaries of fashion or the next generation of social media platforms.
But I am emotionally and physically exhausted. The last year-and-a-half of my husband's serious health woes have taken their toll. At home I lounge about in the softest cottons, feeling fragile and vulnerable - while perversely trying to project an image of confidence and capability to the outside world.
Standing on my balcony, I see a girl in a rowboat, jumping out and climbing the nearest tall tree, Tom Sawyer-like. And I try to remember what it was like to be nine years old and fearless. Then I remind myself that many, many times in my life I've been fearless and even fierce, out of necessity.
I raised my daughter while living and working as a journalist in the Middle East, amidst cultural differences. When I took my daughter to pre-school, I was the only single mom. Most local women eyed me with a mixture of pity and suspicion: pity for my single status; suspicion that as a "wicked Western woman" I might try to steal their husbands!
For years, I bore responsibility for Every.Single.Thing. It was exhausting then and perhaps even more so now, with my husband's illness coupled with my own adjustments to middle age. As nearly every woman in her '50s can attest, it appears that society ironically conspires to ignore us at a time we actually have more to offer. If stress has resulted in a few grey hairs or extra pounds, we might as well be invisible.
In 2014, if women are not virtually flawless in appearance, any talents or ideas we may offer are considered negligible. The advertising-driven media reinforces this false narrative over and over, until we start to question our own worth.
On an intellectual level, I find these impossible standards and stereotypes appalling. But I am a perfectionist who is so very far from perfect (much to my dismay). And on an emotional level, I struggle with the idea of not living up to others' expectations - even if those expectations are ridiculous! All too often I've viewed each new grey hair; each stress-fueled pound with alarm - as though I've done something dreadful and should be ashamed of myself!
To counter these absurd and self-defeating thoughts, I try to focus on the positive and what I can control. Lately I am obsessed with editing: of ridding my house of unnecessary things that no longer appeal to my tastes or aesthetics. In a similar vein, I've bid farewell to certain self-interested friends, who have been quite happy to take, but never to give.
I am trying to listen more and speak less. The older I get and the more knowledge I gain, the more I realise how little we know for certain. Most of us are just winging it and hoping for the best.
"Maybe what you think is a breakdown is really a breakthrough."-Jen Lemen
Some days I prefer to cocoon and not see another soul. It's not that I'm anti-social; I just don't want my already-busy friends subjected to minutiae of the struggles I'm facing. And we creative types need a lot of time alone, even in the best of circumstances.
But I am tired of pretending everything's fine, when it's not. I'm tired of doctors not listening, when I clearly enunciate my well-researched concerns. I'm tired of being dismissed by hapless bureaucrats, who refuse to consider that their methods are clumsy and outdated.
I'm tired of not being heard; of not being seen. Maybe in the past couple of years, I've relied on photography more than writing, because it allows you to glimpse meaning for which I can't find the words.
I don't know the way forward. I'm trying to follow my mom's (and my friend Di's) advice to "take it one day at a time." But I do know that whatever happens next, this blog will be different. I want to tell the truth in all its raw pain and glory; not simply gloss over hard lessons. I don't want to limit your view to "pretty pictures," (as a couple of incurious readers requested during the last US presidential election).
I hope you'll come along for the journey, no matter how rocky the road.
Photo of artwork by my adventurous friend Christine Mason Miller and antique English ink bottles, vintage marbles and stones collected on my travels. Click to view detail.
Twelve years later and we're still dancing! Today David and I happily celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. A wee bit of champagne may be involved, along with vintage French wine and boeuf bourgignon.
"We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person." - W. Somerset Maugham
I am thrilled to report that my photography is included in Charles Saatchi's latest book The Naked Eye!
Saatchi is a well-known art collector and the founder and owner of the Saatchi Gallery in London. For many years, he has encouraged and promoted the work of contemporary British artists, including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emim.
The BBC named Saatchi as one of 60 'New Elizabethans' who have most influenced the past 60 years.
The Naked Eye features essays based on documentary images that have not been manipulated in any manner.
In November 2012, I was approached about including my photography in The Naked Eye. It's so nice to finally hold the book in my hands!
P.S. My photography also has been published in The Secret Language of Color by Joann Eckstut and Arielle Eckstut! The book explores the fascinating ways that color influences our lives.
Helping hands: Vintage zinc glove molds at the bi-annual brocante and ham fair at Chatou, France.
When I started blogging in January, 2006 any blog that proved successful produced original content, driven by a clear personal voice. Over the past eight-and-a-half years, blogging sadly has evolved into a more commercially-propelled platform. Advertisers ferret out blogs that receive a bit of traffic and hope to monetize that blog's readership.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not against blog advertising per se. I have a handful of blog sponsors' ads in my sidebar. These ads cover annual costs of my domain name and blog host. But I am opposed to advertising-sponsored content that infiltrates blog posts, suppressing a blogger's own unique voice.
Several times a week, I receive messages from sponsored-content traffickers. I file them in an email folder entitled "Hapless content-sellers." Two recent examples:
"My name is Danny Thomson and I am a writer at TheOutreachers.com, a relatively new social media agency.
"I was just wondering if you would be interested in us contributing a guest post for your site?
"We've done many before, and can provide examples of published work if desired.
"Looking forward to hearing from you! :)
This one's from a company called SpecialistAuthors.com:
"I have just been on tarabradford.com. Love the style of your content - you have a truly defined style to your site and I would love to contribute in a similar vein!
"I am writing to you today to see if you would be interested in accepting an article for your website. I am working for specialist authors for a period of time to hone my writing skills before I hopefully move into full onto a journalism job and I need to get as much content under my belt as possible.
"I would love to collaborate with you on topic and style. This service is completely free if we could include one hyperlink in the article. This would be from a relevant partner and would be in the (sic) completely in context with the content. The pieces I have had accepted so far were around 500 words in length and some people like to be involved others just like me to suprise them!
"The content will be compelling and I am sure your visitors and social followers will love to read it!
"Please let me know what you think, I look forward to hearing from you soon!
"Thanks & Kind Regards
Note the above writer claims he wants to "hone" his writing skills to "hopefully move into full onto a journalism job (sic)" and get "as much content under my belt as possible."(Fat chance! He didn't even proofread his letter). Despite his stated inexperience, he supposedly is the company's editorial manager. And the SpecialistAuthors.com site for which he works claims "...experts are standing by!"
Such messages not only are vague and impersonal, the authors haven't bothered to do any research before approaching me. If the advertisers read my About page - the absolute minimum one should do before approaching a blogger - they'd learn that I do not accept paid, sponsored or guestposts. I clearly state that all advertising on my site is paid on a yearly basis. Further, If these content-mill employees read even a handful of blog posts, they would discover my antipathy towards sponsored blog content.
But content-mill employees - who consider blogging strictly as a commodity - haven't done their homework before approaching potential targets; they're simply too lazy. Instead, apparently they consider if they send enough queries to enough bloggers, sooner or later, someone will bite.
In my view, if a blog doesn't maintain its original voice, there's no point reading it. I think that sponsored posts - rightly or wrongly - undermine bloggers' credibility. Over the past year, I've been disappointed to find a few of my favourite bloggers repeatedly embracing sponsored content, with their own lively voices tempered to satisfy fickle advertisers' wishes.
To me, blogging and advertising should emulate the separation of church and state. While these entities may at times cooperate, neither requires interference - or influence - from the other.
What's your view of blog posts consisting of paid, sponsored content?
No classes required!
Here's another thing about blogging: You don't need to take a class to learn to blog. Truly. It astonishes me that so many people offer online classes advising newbie bloggers how to be "successful."
But there are no secrets; just write from your heart! Write about your experiences; about what interests you; about your hopes and challenges. Use your unique creative talents; don't let someone else try to meld your originality to a passing fad or trend. And don't allow advertisers to hijack your blog, replacing your bright ideas with "cookie cutter" content - not-so-cleverly disguised to sell products or services! Just be you.
As you may have noticed, over the past few days, my blog was down. The site host Typepad - which has provided stellar service during the past 8 1/2 years of blogging - was hit by a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks. It's no surprise that Typepad rose to the occasion and restored service as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, spring has erupted in full bloom, both in our newly-streamlined garden (pics coming soon) and via lovely flower crowns, handmade by my daughter Jordana.
We've planted six blue hydrangeas (or hortensia), in a nod to both my late grandmothers. When I was a child, their yards were filled with blue hydrangeas (and some pink ones as well).
Jordana (right) has created numerous flower crowns for spring festivities including pageants, parties, plays and weddings. Her lovely friends are modeling the designs, available in her Etsy shop Outrageous Babes. The decorative crowns also make fun and original gifts!
Leonidas Belgian Easter chocolates and tea in Louise Campbell's Multicoloured Elements hand-painted porcelain for Royal Copenhagen.
Wishing you and your family a very Happy Easter holiday!
Remembering the remarkable writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquezwith an excerpt from his "farewell letter:"
"...I have learned that everybody wants to live on top of the mountain, without knowing that true happiness is obtained in the journey taken and the form used to reach the top of the hill. I have learned that when a newborn baby holds, with its little hand, his father's finger, it has trapped him for the rest of his life.
"I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground. Say always what you feel, not what you think. If I knew that today is the last time that that I am going to see you asleep, I would hug you with all my strength and I would pray to the Lord to let me be the guardian angel of your soul. If I knew that these are the last moments to see you, I would say 'I love you'. There is always tomorrow, and life gives us another opportunity to do things right, but in case I am wrong, and today is all that is left to me, I would love to tell you how much I love you and that I will never forget you.
"Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old. Today could be the last time to see your loved ones, which is why you mustn't wait; do it today, in case tomorrow never arrives. I am sure you will be sorry you wasted the opportunity today to give a smile, a hug, a kiss, and that you were too busy to grant them their last wish.
"Keep your loved ones near you; tell them in their ears and to their faces how much you need them and love them. Love them and treat them well; take your time to tell them 'I am sorry';' forgive me',' please' 'thank you', and all those loving words you know. Nobody will know you for your secret thoughts. Ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to express them. Show your friends and loved ones how important they are to you."
At last, spring is emerging, although we hardly have had time to notice. On Monday, the gardeners will arrive to complete the work we began five months ago - removing trees and weeds and creating a calmer, more zen-like space. Before-and-after pictures coming soon...
My apologies for my absence - both on the blog and in responding to your kind emails and messages. It's a bit hectic here: trying to improve my juggling skills, but repeatedly dropping the ball. Must do better!
If you've wondered about the difference between the often-used generic reference to "Holland" vs. "the Netherlands," this clever video offers clarification (for the record, we live in the province of Noord-Holland, in the country of the Netherlands).
This "cheesy" bicycle is on permanent display on a bridge in Edam, Noord-Holland (its decorations are refreshed each season). On Monday, I was in Edam buying cheese for my daughter Jordana's Easter package (photo taken with my phone's rubbish camera).
"It doesn't look like a hospital, does it?" That was the initial reaction of a Dutch friend, who recently accompanied me to the hospital to see David. He's right: the glass balls suspended from the high, industrial loft-like ceiling are more akin to an art gallery than a hospital, creating a cheerful atmosphere. Photos (taken with the phone's camera) are of the main entrance at AVL, the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam.
When we moved to our Dutch canal house two years ago, after walking through the entryway, this antique French cupboard was the first thing you'd see. But the cupboard didn't agree with the house's modern architecture, so more than a year ago - after removing the sunburst windows and drawers for a future project - I replaced it with a George Nelson bench. But that seemed a bit too "art gallery-like" for the space; eventually it was moved elsewhere, in favour of a late 1950s/early '60s Dutch low sideboard.
The white strip below the sideboard is where the painter forgot to replace the wooden baseboard; must remedy that soon! I often switch the photographs and art above the sideboard, but my collection of mid-century graphic pottery (Anton Piesche, Germany) remains - for now!
Quite the contrast from the top photo, isn't it? The current look is more my style. I like simplicity and clean lines, with one focal point providing a bit of punch or drama. I strive for the "less is more" look, but rarely achieve it. Our house is an eclectic combination of antique and modern furniture, art and treasures collected on my travels.
Since leaving Paris, I've sold nearly 250 antique and vintage items (keeping only my favourites) and purchased some modern design classics. The biggest expenditure has been on lights from Denmark, Sweden and Finland - seems the further north you move and the colder the climate, the more light is needed (or maybe it has something to do with age).
No person in any city or any country should have to beg for food. Yet too many people are going hungry or barely subsisting, largely due to job losses and government cutbacks. In 2014, charity-run food banks in many countries report an increased demand for their services - both for soup kitchens where meals are served daily and for local food banks, which provide basic groceries for the needy.
Where governments have turned a blind eye, charities, churches and individuals have stepped in to help fill the void. The United Kingdom recently opted out of the European Parliament's fund to provide food aid to those suffering extreme poverty, depriving UK food banks of £3m of much-needed resources. In London, the Cameron government claims "food and material aid measures are better and more efficiently delivered by individual member states through their own social programmes." Yet the UK government undermines its own stated aims with inaction, obfuscation and denial. Several out-of-touch Tory politicians - including Lord Tebbit and Edwina Currie - have gone on record claiming there's "no need" for food banks and that those who use such services are scroungers, spending their meager grocery money on other things.
Faced with a government in denial of food poverty - now a bigger public health concern than diet, according to one public health specialist - too many people are forced to turn to food banks. And these food banks are operated largely by charities or compassionate individuals, not poorly-funded local councils.
David Walker, a Church of England bishop writing in The Guardian reminds us of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's words: "When you've fished enough people out of the river, it's time to take a walk upstream and see who's pushing them in." "And what seems to be casting people in ever increasing numbers into the waters is less a matter of specific policies and more about Britain's scapegoat culture," Walker said. "We've got to a point where it is widely believed that it is better for 10 innocent people to suffer than for one individual to get away with cheating the system."
Children going hungry
Sound familiar? Similar scenarios are playing out every day in the United States, thanks in part to certain privileged members of Congressvoting to cut foodstamps and slash benefits - even as more and more people become unemployed and struggle to survive. Like certain Tories in the UK, these wealthy Congressmen falsely believe that those who are struggling are either "lazy" or drug addicts. They refuse to accept that wrong-headed governmentand corporate decisions help perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty, hunger and ill health that grips at least 16 percent of the population.
Alas, children represent a disproportionate share of the poor in the United States. In 2012 the US Census Bureau reported that one in five American children live below the poverty threshold (just $23,050 for a family of four). A 2013 UNICEF report revealed the United States has the second-highest child poverty rates in the developed world (only Romania fares worse!) And if children are hungry, it stands to reason they may have difficulty concentrating on schoolwork and learning - dramatically affecting not only their health, but their future prospects.
In Kentucky, more than 40 students in the Kenton County School District were denied lunch during state testing week, because their accounts were overdue. This sorry episode prompted one parent - appalled at the school's harsh treatment of students - to pay $56, so that no students would miss lunch. Good samaritans in other towns also have made blanket school lunch payments, so that no students go hungry.
But in Minnesota, some schools send children home with the words "MONEY" or "LUNCH" stamped across their hand! Apparently it's not enough humiliation that children with unpaid accounts have their lunches thrown out; they also have to be "branded" for all to see!
"I believe that as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil." - Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
What is wrong with our societies if so many people no longer have the basic assurances of food, shelter, health care and education? Since when did we applaud corporate-backed politicians who react with disdain and disrepect to ordinary citizens facing extraordinarily difficult circumstances? When did our moral compass start to slip, with those with money and power - the "haves" - supposedly deemed more deserving of attention (and food) than those experiencing difficulties (the "have nots")?!
We can challenge these cruel inequities. We can donate funds or food, as well as our time and energy. We can get involved with local charities and food banks that are working to make a difference. Maybe we could even start a food bank in an under-served area, as several admirable people have done in England. To find out where help might be needed most, contact your local town hall or council or consult these sites and links:
Leaders from 53 countries are attending a nuclear security summit today at The Hague (Den Haag). Earlier, US President Barack Obama - accompanied by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan - visited the Rijksmuseum, its tunnel pathway lined with more than 34,000 tulips. President Obama particularly admired Rembrandt's masterpiece "The Night Watch."