Friday, January 27, 2023

Most of last week was grey, wet and somber but for 2 days when it cleared in the afternoon and we actually had a decent sunset, like the one above ..

I was out for a walk one morning when I was surprised by hail:

Which even turned into snow (hard to see but take my word for it, it was snow)!

Wisely enough, the vines in the vineyards are safely dormant ..


Although some of the winter-blooming Camellias are starting to stir, these in Doug's yard have fat buds that seem close to opening!

Now the trees and shrubs are leafless I discovered these mushrooms in the trees along the road leading to our property.
They must have been there all the time but I never noticed ..


I think they are Northern Tooths (teeth?), not poisonous but also not edible due to a bitter taste and a tough texture.
Too bad, it would be a nice haul!

After seeing two different does last week this time around it was for this rather odd-looking buck to show up in our backyard ...

Those are the weirdest antlers I ever saw, it almost looks like they broke off at some point?
He might have been in a fight, or an accident .. very peculiar!


OK, that's all for this week, these are the quiet times of the year and I love them!
I'm hunkered down inside my cozy 'nest', doing some spinning, knitting, puzzling, a lot of reading and cooking 'stick-to-your-ribs' meals, like meatloaf with red cabbage and mashed potatoes ..

And of course I'm still baking my way through those bags and bags of frozen blue-, black-and rasp-berries!
This is a new creation, a triple berry pie-crisp or a crisp-pie ..

James loves crisps and I like pies, so I made a sort of hybrid by filling a piecrust with berries, like you normally would, but covering it with the oatmeal, butter and brown sugar topping you'd use in a crisp instead of a 'normal' top-crust.

Man, it's good!!

Thursday, January 19, 2023

German chocolate cake for the Birthday Boy!

As he himself keeps exclaiming .. 64, I can't believe I'm 64! And how did I get so grey?
I myself think he looks very distinguished .. distinctive? .. definitely handsome in his 'old' age!
We celebrated with cake and his favorite meal of BBQ ribs but other than that we just enjoyed another quiet day at the ranch.

It's rather calm in the appraisal-world at the moment, which is quite normal around this time of the year,
but this year it's really, really quiet so far, to the point that there's almost no work coming in at all.
Oh well, we're still confident it will pick up in the coming months so James is taking advantage of the lull by staying on top of his studies while waiting for word on starting the exam-process (which is complicated, I won't even try to explain).

The weather has been cold, wet and grey, nothing strange about that during the winter in the Pacific Northwest and, also as usual, the daffodils have no problems with that and are already emerging from the soil ..

They emerge side by side with the mushrooms who of course love all this moisture like no others!

To get away from his books and get some fresh air in his congested lungs (we both came back from Holland suffering from a bad cold) James decided to prune the Blueberry bushes. Last year we were a little late when we did this in February and managed to cut off most of the fruit-bearing branches, so this year we're hoping to do better and actually have some fruit again this summer.
(although I still have loads of frozen berries in the freezer from the year before that!)


And while he was at it, he also took care of the raspberries:


As you can see his method is not very elegant, you should probably prune a little more selectively, but we get so much fruit on both that mowing them down this way is just wayyyy faster!

Except for the hazelnuts (filberts), who are already flowering,
there's not much else happening in the garden at the moment. It is winter after all, although, just like last year, temperatures are warmer than normal ...

Male flowers on the Filberts

I've read that migrating birds are confused and appear already in places where they normally won't show up until spring and in some areas fruit trees are flowering prematurely.
There's no denying global warming anymore ..

When we came back, my bird feeders were all empty and although I filled them immediately it took at least 5 or 6 days before they re-appeared.
I'm very happy they came back, I've missed them!
Here's someone else who showed up again .. at least, I think it's one of last years babies, that funny set of little twins with the one so much larger than the other ..


But if that's the case than I'm a little worried .. where is it's sibling, and where is it's mum?
They should still be together, at least until new babies are born, but who knows .. this might be another one altogether ..

Well, I think this is it for this week, not much going on, which we're actually happy about since we're both still a little 'under the weather' with our colds and all.
I made a hearty black-eyed pea soup to regain our strength and to start off the New Year correctly since eating this dish is believed to bring good luck!

(The beans are for prosperity (coins), the greens for
(paper) money, stewed tomatoes for health and corn bread for gold. Adding pork symbolizes looking/moving forward (pigs forage rooting forwards) in your life, as in not to look back)

Bring it on, I'd say and besides that .. it's delicious!

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

This gorgeous shot of the Northsea at Huisduinen was made by my BFF Irรจne.
She and her partner Eric visited us for a day and after hours of coffee and catching up we went for a brisk walk through the dunes and along the beach.
It was sunny but very windy and the people in the selfie she made don't even remotely look like us:
                                             This is why I don't make selfies .. sjeez!

We had a great time and as always were sad to say goodbye but there was tentative talk about maybe visiting the US, and us, somewhere in the near future, which would be awesome! We'll see ..

All of a sudden we'd entered the last week of our stay and we were making the most of our family visits before we have to leave.
Morning coffees with my mam, and often my niece as well, were a routine by now and we were taking turns 'hosting'.

James usually joined us for a little while to take a break from studying, which he diligently kept up for all these weeks in between all the festivities.
Sometimes we walked over to one of the beach-side coffee houses where they have very nice apple-pie and of course you can't beat that view!

On the way there we passed this old coast-guard tower which now features a rentable apartment with scenic views.

I wish I could take this view with me, there's always something to see, even when the weather is not so nice ..

When the tide is out the piers are visible and lots of birds come in for a rest or to find a little snack between the rocks ..

Or they fly over the dike to a small wetlands-area that lies just behind it  ...



The geese in the pictures above are Rotganzen or Brant/Brent Geese) and the ducks below are Northern Shovelers :


I'm soooo going to miss my walks along this beautiful beach, as well as the ones in the dune area just inland from here which I mentioned before in a previous post, the Grafelijkheids-duinen(dunes):

The pines along the west-coast here are all rather stunted, caused by the salt air and always present winds which more often than not develop into storms ..

They're very photogenic!

For our last meal together with the family we chose to meet at a local Chinese restaurant:

Of course 'the Last Supper', the mural painting by Leonardo da Vinci comes to mind when talking about a last meal together, but for some reason (must be the dark light) this famous Van Gogh painting 'De aardappeleters' (The potatoe eaters) came to mine when I saw above picture .. ha, ha

We didn't eat any 'taters' though, our meal consisted of a delicious Chinese/Indonesian 'Rijsttafel' a dutch word that literary translates to 'Rice-table' ..
Brought back to the Netherlands by former colonials and exiled Indonesians (Indonesia was a dutch colony) after Indonesia gained its independence in 1945, the rijsttafel was created for and by the dutch to provide a festive and official type of dinner that would represent the multi-ethnic nature of the Indonesian archipelago.

Can you say 'delicious'?

It is a is a nearly unending parade of small plates all filled with different spicy-sticky-sweet Indonesian cuisine. Most rijsttafels have between 12 and 25 dishes and come with white or fried rice (nasi goreng), noodles (bami goreng), or a combination of these.

And there you have it, how to do the north of Holland in 4 weeks .. or something like that.
Of course we didn't set out to 'do' much this time around, we've seen a lot of the country already and we merely wanted to be with family for the holidays, study (in James' case) and basically just enjoy doing 'nothing' for a while!
Which we did .. and it was great .. but it's time to go home. Back to our own cozy and comfortable little home .. and bed, there's nothing like your own bed!

So, it's back to the USA we go, yo-ho. We're packed and ready to go and I'll post again when we're on the other side of the pond.
Here's a last sunset picture of that old coast guard tower .. bye-bye Holland!

Monday, January 2, 2023

The sun setting in the Northsea on the last day of 2022!

But let's not get ahead of myself, first there was Christmas of course ... and the main street of Den Helder , which is the street my mam looks out at (she's the lit up window at the top left of the apartment building on the right) with it's landmark water-tower on one end, was appropriately lit up for the season:

We ourselves enjoyed the cozy and very festively lit inside of 'the big house'.
We knew ahead of time that the cabin was rented out for a week over the holidays,
and my cousin was spending the holidays at her son's, so we had moved into my cousin's place .. it all worked out perfectly!


There was a big tree and even a wood-burning stove (and another fireplace)! Talking about cozy!
We had a traditional 'Wheinachts-Stollen' for breakfast, which is actually a German bread but is a staple on every Dutch Christmas breakfast ..


My mom came for coffee and stayed for lunch:

And in the evening we all went to my sister's for dinner ..

My sister looooves Christmas and her house transforms into the ultimate Christmas house every year:

If you weren't into 'the spirit' already it's impossible not to do so when you set foot in her beautiful, inviting and warm place!

Dinner was a joint affair, with everybody contributing something .. well, we only brought the Prosecco, but I helped doing the dishes which counts for something, no?

A week went by fast during which we had a lot more coffee get-togethers and delicious home-cooked meals cooked by my mam.
My sister and her daughter Lotte and I even squeezed in a little shopping in the quaint little city of Hoorn, about a 45 minute drive from where we were staying.

Like I said before .. shopping makes hungry!

Talking about hungry, before we knew it we'd arrived at the last day of the year, a day on which the dutch traditionally stuff themselves all day long with 'oliebollen'.
Translated in English as 'oil-balls' they don't sound very appetizing but believe me .. they are soooo good!

Now, you can buy these delicious balls at the supermarkets, bakers or, as shown in the picture above, at special oliebollen-booths that actually already appear in towns in November and at which you stand in line for quite a while on the 31st for your pick-up ...


Or you can bake them yourselves! James actually does a very good job every year when he bakes them in the States (he learned the art of making them from my Dad), but this year they were made by my niece Lotte!

No, we didn't eat all of those .. a few went to her clients .. just a few!

She actually has a little side-job as a home-baker and sells her delicious creations, many of which are American (muffins, brownies, scones), through her Facebook site 'Ms Mix-a-Lotte' ..

            May be an image of dessert and text that says 'ms. Mix Lotte'

Well, let me tell you .. they were absolutely delicious! I ate way too many .. as usual ..

And than, there it was ... the New Year!

It's going to be an interesting one for sure .. James will, hopefully, get licensed as a real-estate appraiser, which will open the door to maybe moving to a different location here in Oregon and maybe, maybe going south next winter for a couple of months ..
We'll see, if there's anything we've learned in the last few years it is not to plan too far ahead. Life is funny that way .. it's rather unpredictable.

The sun rising on the first day of 2023!