Tuesday, 30 March 2010

K is for...

Kilt

Kilts are not skirts. Just to get that out of the way. Yes, they look like it, but they are not. Kilts are kilts! Anyway...

Kilts are part of the Scottish national dress and are most commonly known to be worn by men. They are enhanced by the sporran (the little bag type thingy you can see in the photo). They originated from the day to day wear of men and boys in the 16th century, but over the years they have become more and more ceremonial. Although lately the day to day aspect has become more popular again.

The colours of the kilt are decided by your family or clan (which is a family plus loyal employees and their families) and are called tartans. If you want to buy your own kilt, you can do, just make sure the tartan you use is not one that is already in use by some family or other. You can have your own family tartan made, so you will always be unique! The boy/man in the photo worked at Glenfiddich Distillery and wore this as part of his uniform. So, it would be reasonable to believe that this tartan is a more or less generic tartan.

And if you want to know what a proper Scotsman wears underneath his kilt? According to one person I met, he wore shoes and socks underneath...

For more K words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Off

Tower Bridge in London

Well, the only thing left to do right now is notify my neighbour exactly when I will be away and, of course, pack my suitcase. I've gotten quite used to packing over the last couple of years and actually have a double set of toiletries, making it a bit easier.

Where I am going you ask. Didn't I tell you? I am off to London for a few days! Hopefully the weather holds out and stays as nice as it has been these last few days in the Netherlands. Not too hot, not too cold, no blaring sun, juuuuuust right. If it will be like that in England, I will be well chuffed (I am already going into 'English mode' here).

Anyway, my posting over the next day will at best be sporadic, unless I manage to write some more posts right now and pre-post them. So, don't worry, I am off to enjoy heavy traffic in London, 53 teenagers and a small hotel room with a lousy bathroom. I will try to make tons of photos I haven't made before and see you in about a week's time!

*TTFN (ta ta for now)*


Friday, 26 March 2010

Next blog

If you're a blogger via blogspot, have you ever tried pressing the next blog button? It's all the way at the top, if you're wondering what I'm going on about now, and if you press it, according to Blogger, it will send you to a blog that is in someway connected to your own.

I've tried this on several occasions and every time I get to the family ones first, with photos of children and happy families. Then I get to the more religious ones, with talk of Jesus and God. And on one occasion I got to the erotic tales.

Now, I can understand the family bit. I do sometimes talk about my family. I do however, not understand the religious ones, since I never talk about anything concerning Jesus, God or religion in general (I don't, do I?). And the erotic tales? Not a clue! Honestly people, not a clue!

So, do you ever press the next blog button and what do you get?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Children

Sitting in front of so many people on the bus causes you to hear so many different and fun conversations. Especially if you have children on board. Sometimes I get involved as well and then the conversations range from the normal to the completely ridiculous. I've had pre-schoolers see cat-sized yellow elephants in the trees, six year olds wonder about my sanity for calling every single dog a bear (and even asking one unsuspecting dog owner whether it was a dog or a bear) and I've been told I'm a fibber for telling five-year olds that I had seen lions and tigers and bears (cars and lorries and buses). But sometimes the children don't need my input and can do the ridiculous by themselves perfectly well.

Like this week. On Tuesday a girl was telling her teacher and me about her fast growing teeth. And as soon as that subject was half finished she continued by talking about her little toe! Today I learned that you need a stallion and a mare if you want to have a foal, but that it can also be achieved by an injection. However, if you do use the stallion and the mare, the stallion needs to stay on top of the mare for at least two minutes! Some of the other girls asked whether it was the same way cows did their business and when the answer was yes, another chipped in with the 'and the sheep and the goats do it like that as well' (most of them lived on farms or small villages).

That's where I get my information from!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

J is for...

Jester

Jesters, jokers, fools. All those names (and some more) were used to describe men who were hired to tell jokes and to provide entertainment for the monarch and his/her court. Brightly coloured clothes, a three-point hat (the ears and tail of a donkey) with bells on the end were some of the clothes most associated with jesters.

Now, the jester in the photo is a bit of a mystery to me. He is peering out of one of the 'windows' of a tall ship (the Batavia), which (by my knowledge) never conveyed a monarch. Perhaps he had been hired by the captain to provide entertainment to him and his men while they were on their way to the other side of the world. If that were the case he probably perished near Arnhem Land, Australia on the Batavia's maiden voyage.

For more J-words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Perspiration or inspiration

I have been thinking about something to write for a few days now and I am at a total loss. I cannot think of anything. Not about work, not about my private life, not even about my cats (who are asleep right now by the way). Now don't get me wrong, if you were to meet me in person, I would not shut up for a minute. Talking about things that have happened, telling the same story twice or even more and generally making people shut me out after a while (I know they do and can understand them as well).

But right now, I've got a bit of a blogger's block. Yes, I could tell you stories I've already told you. Of course I could tell you a stupid joke. And I might even be persuaded to put up some silly photo of myself. So, here goes:

I went on this study trip recently. And where every other course is designed to teach you something, I think the only goal of this trip was a little reunion for the tourguides. I didn't learn anything, if you don't count how to be the most arrogant person on the coach that is, because we all learned that! I did do some driving, as did five of my colleagues. Sixteen were left looking out of the windows without a thing to do. Not a single evaluation of what I did, not a single word of encouragement was heard. According to one of my colleagues the tourguides didn't think my job at all worthy of anything positive, but then again, they were -as we call it- cold poo! The hot-potato-in-mouth type of women who were completely unused to any driver doing their job! But, we got through it and apart from the pigeons (as I called the tourguides) we had a nice three days.

Do you know, I hadn't told you this story had I? So, you're in luck and I produced something new. Ha...

Stupid joke: how does an elephant get in the car? Answer: he opens the door, gets in and closes the door. So, how would a giraffe get into the car?

And the silly photo? Well, did you look up top?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

In the air

Spring is in the air that is. Last time we had temperatures like today (15 degrees Celsius) was November 21st last year! Or so they said on the radio anyway. Well, however long ago it was, it was nice to be outside again without a coat. Especially a winter coat!

It's spring!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

I is for...

Information Office

Did you know I actually trained as an information officer? Had to learn all about the different kinds of mills in the Netherlands, about different building styles, how to book a hotel and WP4.2! I did train, but at the exams at the end of the year, I failed half of them, so I never became an information officer. I didn't mind too much though, since I already had a job.

During the last few years though, I have returned a bit to my roots as an information officer. Granted, my information tends to be the 'Winnie the Pooh was born here' variety and not the 'this building was built in 1763 and designed by such and such in whatever style it is'. Then again, people wanting to know the latter, usually have booklets in which they can read all about it.

So, what to do when you are somewhere, not being driven around by yours truly? Well, you go to the information office. There you get the maps, the hints and tips, the tickets to any attractions you want to visit. They can tell you where to go, what to see and might even hook you up with a local guide to show you around town!

For more I-words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun! 

PS: you are wondering about Winnie now are you? I know you are. Well, AA Milne bought a little teddybear for his young son Christopher in Harrods, London. And that teddybear was the basis for the stories about Winnie the Pooh. So, Winnie the Pooh was born in Harrods! Just so you know...

Choc-a-bloc


Here's the recipe of the dessert I made for my friends and I. Use fairtrade chocolate please!

Ingredients (all metric!) for the pudding:
1 1/2 teaspoon of cocoa powder
120 grams of dark chocolate, chopped
120 grams of butter, room temperature
3 eggs and 2 egg yolks, room temperature
55 grams of sugar
90 grams of flour

for the sauce:
80 grams of dark chocolate, chopped
125 ml of double cream
2 tablespoons of orange liquor (like Grand Marnier)

6 x 125 ml metal or stone dishes
oven at 180 Celsius

Preparation:
1. Grease the dishes and dust with cocoa powder.
2. Melt chocolate au bain-marie. Add butter. Stir well after butter has melted and take from heat.
3. Whisk eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until thick and creamy.
4. Carefully spoon chocolate mix through egg mix. Sieve flour over mix and whisk calmly.
5. Put mixture in the dishes, until 1 cm under the edge. Place in over for 15-18 minutes or until risen and firm.
Preparation sauce:
6. Put chocolate and cream in a bowl and melt au bain-marie. Keep stirring throughout. Add liquor just before serving.
7. Use a knife to loosen the edges and carefully upend the puddings on dessert plates.
8. Serve hot with the chocolate sauce.

Serves 3 very greedy or 6 not so greedy!

It is quite an easy recipe and for the chocoholic an absolute treat. I will definitely make it again!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Friends

We were supposed to go to the sauna yesterday, my friends B, C and me, but stick three women together and there's bound to be one who's experiencing the joys of being a woman, so that idea was out. Instead they arrived with pots and pans, bags with ingredients and apple pie. I provided the drinks, Easter eggs and dessert (which I will post tomorrow, mmm).

My friend C is known to usually arrive late. So, when the doorbell rang at 2.15 I was quite surprised to see her (a quarter of an hour early). I was even more surprised when my friend B phoned at 2.16 to tell me she was running late. Her husband and son were eating our food and she expected to arrive at around 4! Ah well...

When at last we were all there, we basically continued where we left off the last time we saw, ate apple pie with whipped cream and drank tea by the gallon. Then B and C started on their part of the meal. The home-made (vegetarian) ravioli (B) had to be warmed up again, the salad (C) needed to be made, the table needed to be set and I needed to get all the low stools out, since I don't own a dining table, only a small coffee table.

After a very tasty meal, I went into the kitchen to make dessert. And after everyone had finished their dessert, the left-overs were put in containers to be taken home to their respective families and me loading up the dish washer, a very successful evening had finished.

Definitely something to do again!

Another one

Taken in Hotel Goldflair in Korbach, Germany.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Learning moments

The aliens have landed

I had a study trip during last week, hence the radio silence. Or blog silence if you wish. And what a study trip it was. I saw a lot and I did learn a lot. Mostly how not to do things, but still, I learnt stuff... I might tell you a bit more next week, but first I will show you some photos!

The very first place we visited was Burg Hülshof, a so-called water castle. A lot of castles and mansion houses in Münsterland, Germany were built on islands in small lakes. During my first year of foreign trips I passed this water castle six times, but was never able to see it, because it's shielded by trees. I was very happy to be able to finally see it and was glad the weather worked with us as well. It was the childhood home of one of Germany's famous poets: Annette Droste-Hülshof and it's still lived in by descendants of her brother.

We visited several hotels in different classes. After all, when you pay a lot of money and have a tourleader and someone carrying your suitcases to your room, you don't want to stay in some shabby three-star hotel! But if you pay a bit less, have a driver/tourguide and have to carry your own suitcases to your room, a three-star will do just fine. This room was in one of the three-star hotels we saw. It had a bit of fairy-tale theme running throughout (we were in Grimm-country) and the rooms had names like 'Snowwhite', 'Cinderella' and 'Sleeping Beauty'. And some of the rooms had a lovely mural in the room depicting fairy-tale castles.

On our way to lunch on day two we stopped in a small town that was made up of beautiful half-timber buildings. I could have made at least fifty photos and each would have been beautiful. We only had twenty mintues though and fifteen of those were spent trying to get rid of a group of Polish teens who where in front of the 'Rathaus' (Town Hall). Half timbered buildings are made using a wood skeleton with horizontal, vertical and diagonal beams on a stone base. Then the spaces in between the beams would be filled with a mixture of cut up straw, water and lime (and on occasion manure as well). After it would be dried thoroughly, it would be covered in a white lime wash to finish it off. The roof would usually be hanging over quite a bit to prevent the rain from hitting the walls, making them soggy.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

H is for...

Hotel de Ville

Did you hear about the two (insert dumb nation of your choice here)? They went to France and couldn't find a place to sleep. But lo, what is that? A hotel? Yes, it's the town's hotel! Yippie, we will sleep tonight!

Well, not quite, since Hotel de Ville means Town hall! And unless you want to sleep on the filing cabinets (if you're allowed), no luck in the bed department here!

For more H words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

What and where?

As I was lugging up this hill in Idar Oberstein, I needed as much rest as I could get and for that reason some very clever person had placed park benches at regular intervals (although not quite as regular as I would have liked), so I could get my rest. On one of those rests I saw a little critter running up and down. I tried to catch him (or her) on camera, but he (or she) was quite fast and of the ten photos I took, only one was any good.

This one!

So, have you found him (or her) yet?

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Still here, part two...

Felsenkirche (Church in the Rock)

So, after a day of shopping, it was a day of sightseeing. Idar Oberstein is a town that consists of two villages: Idar and Oberstein (isn't that clever?). I was staying in Oberstein and if I leaned out of my bedroom window I could see a lovely church. It was called the 'Felsenkirche' or Church in the Rock. There were signs all over town towards the church so I felt it would be a good idea to go and follow those signs. It wasn't until halfway up a very steep hill that I first saw the sign: church closed until March 14th! I walked on anyway, because there were also two castles to visit.

Oberstein Castle

After a tough walk up the hill (especially for me, since I have NO physical fitness whatsoever) I managed to get to the first castle. Well, that was a big word, there was only a small tower left standing. It did however give me a great view over both the town and the other castle. Especially with the beautiful spring weather. When I had enjoyed the view enough and had rested my legs enough I continued further up the hill towards the other castle, which was looking more like a castle. It was closed though, so only outside photos.

The Gemstone Museum (Manhattan)

During the afternoon I visited the gemstone museum. Idar Oberstein is very well known for its mining of stones and the making of jewelry. The museum had some great pieces, but after two floors of gemstones (and still two to go) I had more or less had enough. I did visit them all though, despite the aching and shaking legs.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Still here...

Castle in Saarbrücken

Three days in a German hotel. On my own. In a town that lives off of tourism and there's not many tourists out yet. So, what's a person to do? Well... ehm... shopping! So, I got myself a trainticket and boarded the train for Saarbrücken. Where I immediately hit the shops. A lovely (albeit a bit German looking) summer coat, red and not expensive (C&A). Just what I needed. Then I hit a bookstore that actually did have a nice selection of English language books. So, the newest novel by Jill Mansell found its way into my possession, along with 'Persuasion' (Jane Austen) and 'the Dubliners' (James Joyce). Oh, and a lovely cat poster.

I found a shop where I was finally able to get some small ramekins which will be perfect for all the desserts I still want to make. I had a nice lunch and took a lovely walk across the River Saar (via a bridge people, a bridge) towards a castle/stately home. I didn't stay too long though and decided I would head back to Idar Oberstein.

The train ride took one hour in the morning and would take the same during the afternoon. As long as you don't read a good book that is. And then miss your station. And the next because you aren't sure whether you had missed your station. I had! Two years working on trains hadn't taught me enough I guess. In the end I managed to get back to the proper station and back to the hotel. Where I finished my book...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

G is for...

Guinness

Guinness was named after the founder of the brewery, Arthur Guinness. The stout was based on a porter that was popular amongst London dockers of that period. Arthur Guinness started a brewery in Leixlip, Ireland in 1759, but at the end of that year moved to Dublin for 45 pounds per year over a period of 9,000 (nine thousand) years! A decade later he exported for the first time.

The brewery still stands on the original brewery grounds, but it has expanded a tiny bit over the years. The Guinness family was highly active in all aspects of social life. Housing, parks, theaters. In the twentieth century all the parks that were owned by the family were given to the city of Dublin, to be used by its people.

According to legend, Guinness is a great fertility enhancer. The original owner is said to have had quite a few children. The Guinness Book of World Records was started by one of the family. Rutger Hauer (a famous Dutch actor) was the the face of Guinness for several years. Dressed in black and with his blonde/white hair he looked like a pint himself!

Guinness isn't in family hands anymore, but it's still a great tasting stout! In small quantities that is...

For more G words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!