"Every house where love abides
And friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home sweet home
For there the heart can rest."
~ Henry Van Dyke

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dutch and Belgian gold...

Many years ago, when living in my tiny studio apartment back in Ohio, I talked to a neighbor who immigrated from Yugoslavia. He was telling me about missing the differences in cultures in Europe. How each place has its own things...music, foods and nature. At that moment, I had no idea that I would end up immigrating to Holland and really understand what he missed.

Holland has a good number of things that are typical to its culture or country. One of the things it is noted for is what they lovingly call 'Dutch Gold'. It is the white asparagus that comes into its short season in April. Many years ago, Jos took me to Limburg in the south of the country and we had lunch in a cafe. The owner was telling us he had fresh asparagus from a local farm on the menu. I told him I had never eaten white asparagus. He told me I had to try his as he prepares them in a pure and traditional way. Now many may argue how to eat this delicious vegetable but I too find this is the best way...

Be sure you store white asparagus in a damp tea towel in the refrigerator until they will be used. Peel the asparagus with a vegetable peeler. You can buy special ones for asparagus which are wide and at an angle to keep the vegetable flat on the counter as you peel making it easier. Trim off the woody end of the stalk. Place the asparagus in a pan with boiling water for about 20 minutes (we buy the fattest ones as they have a softer taste and these need time to cook). There is a special pan for cooking asparagus which keeps the heads upright and keeps them from getting too soft but you can cook them in any pan large enough. While they are cooking, hard boil an egg and a couple of potatoes.

To serve, stack the cooked asparagus on a plate and drizzle a little melted butter over them, then sprinkle with nutmeg and fresh ground pepper. On the side, place an egg cut in half, a few potatoes and a thin slice of quality ham. This is food at its purest! It is a shame that the asparagus season is so short...

For a dessert, how about a chocolate bonbon from Belgium? I love and only eat dark chocolate. Jos is working a good deal in Belgium and his current client is located right in the center of Brussels near a Leonidas shops. We have tried other brands of Belgian chocolates and keep coming back to Leonidas. Jos is there again today so I am hoping if the meetings are done on time, he will stop in at the shop to get us a box of chocolates...almost all dark except a few white chocolate between for himself. Heaven in a box... *wink*

Care to join me?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Something behind the symbol?

Last week, in the midst of being very busy getting our photographs ready for selling our house, I went to a new shop with a friend of mine. She discovered it recently and came to take me to see it. She was so right! It was amazing and I wish I had taken my camera. When you go inside the building, it is like you went outside into a quaint Dutch street. I promise I will get photos on my next visit. And yes, there will be a next visit. *grins*

I bought this beautiful large stone pot which was marked down 50%. I love it sitting by my woodstove. It has a pretty crackle finish with red and rusty hues.

Ranunculus look perfect in it! I love these spring beauties. And don't you just love the folk name for them...Persian buttercups? Recently we potted up our window boxes for spring with some colorful blooms. I had a few over and planted them up in a tall planter to sit by the front door.

Since I love The Language of Flowers, I decided to look up what the meaning of ranunculus were. Their message is 'you are radiant charm or you are attractive'. I had to smile at this with them being in boxes behind the house, at the front door and by the hearth. With our house officially up for sale today, I hope someone receives that message and falls in love with the house.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Into spring at Cranberry Cottage...

Spring is bounding out before our eyes here in Holland, but at Cranberry Cottage it takes a slower pace. The cottage's garden runs along the woods so it stays a little cooler there than other areas. We again have not been able to get up the cottage much due to buying our new house and Jos' work so we were not sure how far along things would be there when we arrived on Friday morning. We were greeted in the gravel drive with the sight of lungwort all in bloom with its cheerful lilac and pink shades hovering above the speckled leaves. What is it about this cheerful plant that says to the world...hello world, spring is here!

Our winter heather is blooming happily and feeding the big bumblebees that have awoken after a long winter's sleep.

But each year, the great joy are these little beauties! One of the first things I did when we bought Cranberry Cottage was to spread out these little golden Tete-A-Tete daffodils in the grass.

Jos and my step father carefully cut open the grass to bury each bulb giving them a very natural look each spring.

I have been planting others sorts of daffodils as they are my favorite of the bulb flowers. These are only just coming into bloom.

They are like sweet ladies wearing pretty skirts and bowing to you as you walk by...

Spring brings you to mind that things need sprucing up so we used a little portion of our long Easter weekend to put up wallpaper on a poor looking dry wall of the living room. It had never been worked other than painted over the 35 years of this little cottage's life. The wallpaper is supposed to be very easy to apply as you paste the walls and cut the paper to size before applying.

It was incredibly easy to do. We both love the way it turned out and might go back now for the lighter color for the other walls now. We also bought a second roll of this same paper to use in the tiny second bedroom as that wall needs done now. I now hope we can have a beam placed on the fireplace to create a mantle.

Tomorrow is back to the routine as Jos will be very busy again working in Belgium but at least we had a weekend of rest and enjoying spring.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Be it ever so humble...

...there's no place like home. We all have said this before. But have you ever thought about how the concept of home has evolved? Just taking a trip to the open air museum in Holland will give you reason to think...

Some homes were well equipped for the well to do of the day as the photo above. They had a sitting room with ample places to sit and perhaps even a settee. But others (photo below), who had little lived a much more sparse existence. It was common for a farmhouse to actually be a part of the barn.

This was a very sparse setting for the family recalling more the days of the Middle Ages.

Others would have two ends of the house. The barn containing the equipment needed for the farm and housing the animals stood on one end but you could walk through to the living spaces as you can see if you walk through the door to the left...

First you find the bedstees which are the beds built into the walls of old Dutch houses and farms.
They were short as the people slept sitting up thinking they would drown in their own fluids if they laid down flat. Heating? The fireplace is on the opposite wall with the furniture around it so a bedpan filled with hot coals would warm the mattress before retiring.

No couches to lay out on as we know today but a living space contained table and chairs. Often there was a comfortable chair to pull up to the fire and fight off the cold. Foot warmers were used too. These were decorative wooden boxes in which you placed a few hot coals and then placed your feet on the top to warm them.

A fisher's cottage (photo below) is sparse and soberly furnished but very close to the harbor.

All these photos were from those I took in September 2009 when we visited the open air museum in Arnhem. You can click on the photos to enlarge them and walk back in time with me.

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter!