Archive | March 2013

Wooden Shoes


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A row of wooden shoes with Spring flowers inside… what a lovely way to welcome Spring. My Dutch grandfather (Opa) wore clogs like these. He took a size 13! and when he didn’t need them anymore my mother hung one on the wall and left the other on the hearth to welcome Santa Claus.

A few years ago I wrote about my visits to Holland when I was a child. Based on what I experienced there, I wove a story about what it would be like to lose your name, something which happened quite often during the War, for one reason or another. Here is the start of the book:

Muisjes – 1 (Muisjes are little mice)

My grandmother’s house was a large, square building of some age.  It had a door in the middle and seven windows visible at the front, three up and four down.  It looked like the sort of house a child would draw and in fact I drew it myself many times.

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The house was situated at the end of the High Street, next to the church and near the sea.  It was very elegant.  The High Street I mention is in a seaside resort called Noordwijk in the bulb-growing region of Holland, near Leiden. These days it is very exclusive with many impressive looking hotels overlooking the sea and accommodating prime ministers from all around the world but when I was a child, Noordwijk was a small fishing village.

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My grandfather, Opa, had a business smoking herrings.  The business was at the back of the house.  Sheds stretched all the way down the left hand side of the large yard and on the right hand side was a large hay barn. The sheds where the fish were smoked were long affairs and outside each one was a huge vat containing the waste, fish heads and such like.  Seagulls proliferated, swooping down in great numbers to eat the scraps and frighten the cats, of which there were many.  Opa employed quite a few workers.  They were all strong men, tall and fair with brown sea-wind weathered faces who wore large aprons.  Their hands were tough enough to put into the icy water in the vats without wincing.

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Entering the front door there was a dark hall, which led to a large kitchen, stretching right across the back of the house.  To either side of the hall were the two living rooms.  I only remember one of them clearly and that was because I spent many hours in it.  There was a bed in the wall and I used to snuggle up in there in the evenings and listen to the conversations, all in Dutch, of course.  The bed in the wall was like a recessed cupboard, half way up the wall and without doors. It was really cosy.  In there I could sit with a cat or two and it was private.  Sometimes the adults got quite animated as they refilled their glasses with Bessengenever or Bols advocaat.  My grandmother, who I called Oma, used to tuck me up under one of her old blankets and give me a kiss, telling me to go to sleep when I was ready.  Naturally, I tried to stay awake as long as possible.

My mother, who was Dutch, was always animated when she talked.  She relished the chance to get back to speaking her native language after so many months in England.  There were many visitors; brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, people I had never seen before and many never to be seen again.

There was no central heating in those days so a bright fire burned in the grate.  The flames flickered and danced up the chimney, crackling in the grate when the coals shifted.

My grandfather always led the conversation.  In order to trade with different countries, he  taught himself Esperanto and he was fluent in English too.  He knew all the principal rivers in the world by heart and carried in his pocket a small book of jokes and anecdotes to amuse us children.’

You can purchase the story on Amazon in the Kindle Store here… if you want to read the rest of it.

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If you ever get the chance, you should go to Noordwijk – it’s beautiful. Here are some more modern pictures as it is now.

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While I’m waiting for the snow to clear in my English cottage garden, here is a picture from a previous year. These red tulips are underneath that snow somewhere!

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While I was looking through my pictures this afternoon, I came across this Easter picture, which my youngest son David made for me. I’ve always loved it and since it is Easter time soon, I’ll share it with you. Here it is:

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I just love children’s pictures that they have done all themselves, don’ t you? David is getting very excited because his and Michelle’s baby is due in 8 weeks time. It’s their first baby and my second grand-baby. I can’t wait to meet the little person.

Oma

Life was good in 1969.


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Life was good for me in 1969. I was 18 year’s old, just engaged to be married and doing well at work. Hope was in abundance and I faced the world with excitement and anticipation.

I decided the other day to do a series on here about my past life because, as an only child with parents both deceased, not many people will remember me when I’m gone. I’m 61 year’s old now and I don’t know how much life I have left to live so I’m going to record some of it and try and give an honest and acceptable record for my kids, should they ever find this one day.

I like this picture of me (wait till you see some of the others – they’ll give you a laugh) so I thought I’d start with this one. I’m not going to keep to a timeline, I’m going to jump about a bit depending on which picture appeals to me each time but this is a good place to start.

I didn’t go to University. Although I was clever enough to go, my mother couldn’t afford to send me so this part of my life was concerned with doing a job, earning money, helping my mother in the home and saving to get married. My father  left the family in 1962 and moved to Australia and ceased to support me at the age of 11 so money was always very short.

In those days it wasn’t unusual to get married young – most of my friends did it, but later on in life I realised that I had indeed, just like mother said I would, missed out on a carefree youth. However, at the time I felt very grown up, loved going to work and earning money and wondered what life had in store for me.

I worked at Electrolux Limited, a Swedish company that made vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, etc. I started there at the age of 16 in the reception office and learned how to use the photocopier and the telex machine. One day a week I went to college to learn typing and shorthand. In the reception office my duties were to greet visitors and show them to the place where they needed to be. Electrolux was a huge factory and important visitors were treated with respect and accompanied to the department where they wanted to go. That way I got to know all the routes around the office blocks and the factory. It was all very interesting and different from school. My other duties included operating the photocopier and sending and receiving telex messages. More of that another time. There was a hatch in the door of the office where people could bring their photocopying to be done.  They left their work in a folder and when it was done, they came and collected it. That job allowed me to meet lots of people. It seems funny to me now, looking back, but that was the only photocopier in the place! 1600 people worked there and one photocopier! It was in the days long before people had one in every office.

I was surprised at the end of the first summer when one of the men said to me ‘are you going to college soon?’ He thought I was on college break. He was hinting that I looked too clever to do a job like that permanently I suppose but I didn’t find it demeaning. It was an honest job and I learned a lot and met all sorts of people. It did give me pause for thought though. When I got home I wondered if I had done the right thing, going out to work so young, but I didn’t have doubts for long and in any case, I didn’t have the choice so I had to make the best of it.

Two year’s later, as the picture shows, I was happy and fulfilled. I’d passed my secretarial exams and was looking forward to my first secretarial job which I hoped would come along soon…

Cherry and Coconut cake from Oma’s Kitchen.


 

 

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This is a favourite in my cottage. Here are the ingredients:

8 ozs self-raising flour

4 ozs soft margarine (I like Flora best)

4 ozs caster sugar

2 ozs dessicated coconut

handful of glace cherries (yes, they’re sticky)

1 egg

6 tablespoons full of milk

pinch of salt

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Method:

Weigh out the flour and put into a medium sized mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt.

Rub in the margarine until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Don’t overwork it.

Add the coconut and cherries and mix carefully with a fork so as not to break up the cherries too much.

Break the egg and add to the mixture with the milk. Stir in until it looks like this:

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At this point you can adjust the mixture if it is too dry. Don’t add too much milk to start with. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out.

Put the mixture into a paper case, in a loaf tin at the centre of the oven.

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Cook at Gas 4 for one hour. When you take it out of the oven, use a skewer to test that the cake is cooked. If the skewer is placed in the centre of the cake, it should come out clean. If it doesn’t, put the cake back for a further 10 minutes. Test again.

If the cake is done, remove the paper case and place onto your prettiest china dish, preferably oblong shaped, like this:

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Now, will you join me for a nice cup of coffee and a slice of the cake? I promise you’ll get a bit with a cherry in it 🙂

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This was a recipe from Oma’s kitchen.

Enjoy!

Oma

Time for Frogs and Decorating


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It will soon be time for frogs.  Can you see the little one in the middle of this picture? He’s just alighting on the lily pad.

It’s also time for Spring cleaning and here in the cottage – decorating. It’s time to do the dining room and give it a little spruce up.  I took the curtains to the dry cleaners today and was horrified to find that I had to pay £22 to have them cleaned and wait ten days as well! Things have changed since my youth! It’s still cheaper than buying new but only just, I feel. They are long curtains, not quite reaching to the floor and a lovely warm shade of red, just right for winter nights. I’m sure they will look a whole lot better when they come back…

So this morning J got up bright and early and started painting the ceiling in the dining room.  It looks a lot brighter already, but with the window open to let out the fumes, it soon got cold so after lunch we disappeared into the back of the cottage and closed the door on the morning room to watch ‘The Lady Vanishes’, a new production, which was quite enjoyable although not as good as the original nor the remake with Elliott Gould.

Unfortunately, once you start decorating, all sorts of other things seem to look wrong. The lampshades need changing, the carpet needs cleaning and we need a new bookcase because my grandson is heavy footed and I’m afraid the one we’ve got may fall on top of him. To prevent that happening for the moment, we’ve put the dining table in front of it, but that is only a temporary measure.

…so we rested this afternoon and much tea was drunk. Tomorrow we start again.

Here’s another frog picture:

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Heart warming beef stew from Oma’s Kitchen.


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This stew is ideal for using up left-over beef from Sunday’s joint (if you’re lucky enough to have one).

Ingredients:

Leftover beef, sliced into bite sized pieces. Use enough to almost cover the base of the meat dish or whatever you have left.

Leftover roast potatoes, sliced (if any).

1 large parsnip, peeled, sliced

2 large carrots, peeled, sliced

1 medium onion, chopped into large pieces

1 head of celery, chopped to taste

salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons mixed herbs

1 OXO cube or other proprietary stock cube you have in the cupboard.

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Method:

Don’t wash up the meat tin that you cooked the joint in on Sunday. The flavour for the stew is in the leavings. You should have a slight covering of meat fat and juices on the bottom. If there is too much fat, skim off the excess.

Let the beef to cool down, covered, in the refrigerator overnight on Sunday night and then cut up into bite sized pieces in the morning.

Layer the beef pieces in the bottom of the meat tin that you used to cook the beef in on Sunday.

Add any left-over roast potatoes, sliced and scattered.

Cut an onion up into largish pieces and put in a saucepan with one pint of water. Simmer gently while you do the following:

Peel and cut up a parsnip, two carrots and a head of celery. Scatter over the beef. It doesn’t have to be these vegetables, it can be whatever you have available. Other alternatives to try are left-over baked beans, butter beans. Swede (rutabaga) and turnips are also very tasty and nutritious.

Remember if you use celery, that it has a very high water content and will thin out your gravy.

Put some herbs over the vegetables and meat.

Now go through the pictures for the next instruction:

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You don’t have to use the best carrots for a stew. Use a proper peeler to take the skin off because a lot of the goodness is just under the skin of the carrot.

If the celery is new and fresh you won’t need to peel it, just cut the end off, wash thoroughly and chop into bite sized pieces.

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Onions simmering gently in one pint of water until softened. Don’t pour the water off. You’re going to use it for the gravy.

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Once you’ve put the herbs over, put two dessertspoons of gravy powder over the ingredients.

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Next add the onion/water mixture evenly over the rest of the contents.

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Peel and slice up two large potatoes and decorate the top of the stew with them. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Next you will need a dried stock cube. I use OXO beef cubes for this recipe. If you can’t get OXO, use something similar.

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Sprinkle the stock cube, by crushing it, over the potatoes.

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Cover the stew with tin foil and place in the centre of a slow/medium  oven for 2 1/2 hours. I use Gas 2

After 2 1/2 hours, remove the tin foil, turn up the oven to medium for the last half an hour. I use Gas 3 or 4 for a crisper top.

After this, the stew is ready to eat.  I eat it with fresh, crusty bread.

Looks good doesn’t it!

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This was a recipe from Oma’s Kitchen.

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Millie’s trip to England – quarantine


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It won’t be long now before Millie makes her epic journey to England from America. I want to follow her progress with you.

Tomorrow she is going to the vet to get her rabies injection.  She has to have that exactly one month before she travels.  We don’t have rabies in England and we don’t want it thank-you so this is really important.

She also has to have a new chip put in her neck because the American one is not acceptable internationally.

She needs a passport to travel.

When she gets here she will not need to go into quarantine because the laws have been relaxed for some countries. You can read more about that issue here.     I don’t think I would bring her over if she had to go into quarantine for six months here because that would be cruel. She’s always been free to roam in or out of the house and she would think she’d done something wrong if she was trapped in somewhere.

However, I will have to keep her in the cottage for a few days so she gets used to the new environment and my England cat, Patch – see below.

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Patch is thirteen years old now and may not take kindly to a stranger in the camp! We’ll see. Watch this space.

So good luck for tomorrow Millie. I hope your inoculation goes ok.

See you soon…

Oma

Knitting up my spinning.


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I chose this pattern to knit up my handspun merino yarn. I liked the front panel pattern and the fact that it is short-waisted, like me. I need a jumper that stops at the waist, to look the most flattering. I have very wide hips, like Beyonce! (yeah right!) and long jumpers don’t suit me.  It is hard to find a pattern that does me justice. I must be the only one in the world with hips this wide!

One of the problems with handspun yarn is that you don’t really know how much you’ve got!  I don’t have a counter so I can estimate how much yardage and short of using a tape measure, I’m a bit lost. So far I’ve done it by weight, but since I’m new to handspinning, I’m still experimenting.

I decided that if anything I was going to be short so I’ve knitted the back, front and sleeves up to the armhole and no further. I figured that I would definitely have enough yarn for that and if I run out, I can buy something similar to finish it off. Contrast might even be better. Then I’ll have a different problem to cope with, that of the thickness of the yarn, not the length. I’ll worry about that when I come to it.

Time for another picture:

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This is the back, up to the armhole and waiting patiently on a stitch holder to be finished.

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This is how the front panel knits up.

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I’ll be back to show you how I’m getting on later.

In the meantime, sometimes I knit up a scarf…

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