Monday, May 31, 2010

We interupt this tour for a snack break...

 Green Beans from our garden
Let's take a quick break from the trip recap for some food - I am sure the Dutch and Belgians would approve.  We have cooked some really good meals lately, so I'd like to share them with you.

I love getting our food directly from the farmers. It makes a meal like this, risotto (rice not from farmers - but it is the only part that is from the store), broccoli rabe and squash, and pork milanese, that much better.

We have started using our grill again, now that it is summer.  Last week we had grilled salmon with a Cajun rub and grilled zucchini with cous cous. So very good.

In honor of the symbolic start to summer, and because it is just darn good, we grilled burgers (meat from Ratchfod Farms here in AR) and whipped up a batch of the best potato salad in the world. And ate the green beans fresh from our garden. Ahh...

(I just realized that all these pictures are on the same plate. Hmm. We only have one red plate. Interesting. Well, it is a striking background to the food.)

Tomorrow we will return to the tour...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Den Haag

One of the days that we were in Delft we took a side trip to Den Haag (The Hague), the seat of government in the Netherlands.  After a bit of wandering around, trying to figure out where we were (got off the bus one stop too early), we made it to the Binnenhof, or Parliament Square area.  Once there, we found a large gilt statue with (I think) Queen Beatrix on it.

This is the Ridderzaal, where the queen gives her annual speech (according to Wikipedia).  It certainly looks like a church from outside, but since we didn't go in (don't even think it was allowed unless you were part of a tour), I couldn't say what it is inside.

Apart from seeing the sights of Den Haag, our main objective was to go to the Mauritshuis Museum.  It has The Girl With a Pearl Earring, as well as many other paintings from the Dutch Golden Age.  I loved the Girl - in reproductions, you really don't get the true nature of the play of light and dark, and the glow that she has - as well as a small painting of strawberries (I got it on a postcard), and some of the still-lifes. 

Before heading back to Delft for the afternoon, we had to have lunch. There were many little cafes to choose from, all with tables and chairs arranged on the sidewalks and in the middle of the square. I can't entirely remember what we had - sandwiches? - but it was good, and it was so much fun just to be sitting in Europe, eating at a cafe.  Ahh...

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I'm back, and I come with pictures!  We had a wonderful, lovely trip to the Netherlands and Belgium.  I am going to play it out a while here on the blog, so be patient.  Today, we start with Delft, home of Delftware pottery and Vermeer, and burial place of the Dutch Royal family.

Here you have one of the bike parking lots at the Delft train station. Notice that I said "one of" the parking lots. People, there were a lot of bikes in the Netherlands. Most people seemed to use really old, rusty, beat up bikes - so that they would be less upset when the bike got stolen or vandalized.

We had perfect weather for the entire trip. Most days were sunny and pleasant - not to cold, not too hot - much better than the weather in Arkansas for the same time period!

I would not want to try to parallel park my car along the canals. Do you see how close they get? And that is the driver's side of the car! I guess you really have to get it right on your test, huh? We never saw anything that gave statistics for the number of cars fished from canals each year, but I would bet, given the amount of alcohol consumed, and the closeness of the maneuvers, that it is a fair number.*

This is the courtyard of our hotel in Delft, Hotel de Emauspoort. If you find yourself in need of a place to stay in Delft, I cannot recommend them highly enough. The food, oh the food... Dutch pancakes, fresh croissants, hard rolls and cheese, fruit salad.  And the room we had was lovely too.

We climbed to the top of the first tower of the trip in Delft.  From it, you could see the giant IKEA (not in this picture), and all the way to Rotterdam and Den Haag.  Over 370 steps to the top, but definitely worth the climb.

The town hall in Delft, the first of several town halls we would see. This square is not on the scale of later squares, but is delightful nonetheless. It was surrounded by tourist shops and restaurants.  In the evening, the cafes were full of people sitting in the sun, enjoying the weather, the food and drink, and their friends.

So, there is the first installment. If you want a fuller, quicker version, you will just have to come hit me up for the slideshow in person. Otherwise, sit tight and more will be revealed tomorrow.

*Update: After doing a Google search for cars in canals in Amsterdam, I came up with several reports of an, err, interesting (illegal) activity that afflicted Amsterdam last summer: Smart Car tipping.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A few Miikkas for a break

Here are a couple of Miikka pictures to hold you over until I return from vacation.  It is really too bad that he had to look up as I took this picture, because you cannot see just how deep that hole is. Very. And oops, it looks like I need to fill the bird feeders.

And here is Miikka, with the remains of his third blankie, looking wistfully at me, waiting for me to come home. I am sure he will have a fine time with my dad, and get to do all sorts of things we don't let him do. Just as long as my couch is intact when I return...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Roses in my yard, part 2

As promised, here are more pictures of the roses in my garden. This is not a very good picture of the climbing rose, Zephrine Drouhin, but it seems it is the only one I have. Huh.  Anyway, it is a lovely rose. It shares the trellis with a clematis, or rather, it will, when it gets a chance. At the moment, the clematis has rather taken over.

I can't remember the name of this rose (and I forgot to write it down when I was cleaning off my desk this weekend and came across its tag), but it too is lovely. It is the same color as the roses I had in my wedding bouquet, and has a wonderful light scent.

As you can see, there is a cluster of buds on each stalk, opening into a mound of flowers.

It should grow into a large bush, since it is supposed to be a good hedge rose. I hope it does!

Here is a close-up of part of the vegetable garden. As you can see, everything is doing quite well. We had some of the first lettuce in our salad the other night. The Early Girl tomato (not in this picture, to the left of the beans) has tomatoes already, as do the two cherry tomatoes. Yay vegetable gardens!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Miikka

Miikka says Happy Friday! I say, Thank Goodness! I am plum tuckered out by this week. I have been working myself hard during my gym trips and exercise video times. Staying up too late listening to Mariners games (of which they have not won a single one). And going to work, of course. But the weekend approaches, and next week is a short one. We are heading on vacation, leaving my dad will be in charge of the house, yard and menagerie (let us hope that Miikka does not drive him crazy. Would such a cute face do such a thing?). Not the blog though, so it will be on a vacation too. Before I go, however, I hope to have a few more rose pictures and a vegetable garden update.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Roses in my yard, the first wave

We have six rose bushes in our yard, some of which are blooming right now, and some of which will be blooming.  This rose is a Rosa Rugosa, Hansa.  This was the only bloom (so far) and the only picture, which isn't great, but you can get the idea.  It is also the rose bush that Miikka dug up three or four times, so the fact that it bloomed at all is a minor miracle. He has been stopped, by a better bit of fencing, and the rose seems to be recuperating.  If all goes well, it will continue to grow and it will eventually be a large bush.

This is one of the roses that was already in the yard when we moved in.  I don't know its variety, but it is a robust climber. I suppose I ought to prune it back a bit more, to make it bushier, but I can't bring myself to cut back all that healthy cane. Maybe in the fall?

Here is a close-up of the blooms on that rose. I was playing with the photo editor, so the color is a bit saturated...

We also have a mini rose bush, you know, one of those little plants you can buy at the grocery store for Mother's Day or whatnot. Only it isn't so mini - the plant itself is a couple of feet tall.  The buds are small though, and numerous.

I do love me some roses. I am still waiting for my new climbing rose and a hedge-type rose to bloom. Pictures of those will follow once they do.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Winston and Watson

Watson and Winston taking a nap

My parents have 3 cats: Sadie (you last saw her here), Watson, and Winston.  Watson and Winston are brothers from the same litter. As you can see above, however, they are not quite the same size. Watson is a large cat - long and tall.  Winston is just plain fat (sorry Mom, but it is true!).  He weighs over 31 pounds.  Before you blame my mother, they eat the same food, and it is diet food. Yes, Winston eats a bit more of it, but the vet has said he has an extended colon (not sure how that makes him fat, but it surely doesn't help).

The space between the legs of this cabinet are 10 1/2 inches. Winston is wider.
Anyway, I just thought I would share a couple of fat cat pictures for your Monday. Better this kind of fat cat than the corporate kind, right?