Friday, 30 April 2010

Long live the Queen!

Well, it's April 30th today and we celebrate our only national holiday! Queen's Day! So, there will be free markets in nearly every village, town and city. There will be music, there will be old fashioned games and there will be an awful lot of orange!

Happy Queen's Day everyone!!!

In honour

Because she's a darling, even when she wakes me up too early in the morning.
Because she's a weirdo, because she'll only sit on my lap if there's a towel on it.
Because she's a beauty, even with that bigger than normal belly.
Because she still loves me, even though I locked her in my bedroom for a whole day.
Because she's the Queen!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Oh no!

I had a hard day at work. The sun shone while we spent a few hours in the most well-known amusement park in the Netherlands (the Efteling). We had breakfast (consisting of a Sprite, french fries with mayonaise, a frikandel and a kroket. In short: junk food) at 11.30am. We went on a small steam train. I had cotton candy. We saw Sleeping Beauty. We got stuck in traffic on our way back to the school.

When I finally got home I heard a faint miaowing. And I realised I had locked Sophie in an upstairs room. Not the bathroom, not the laundry room, but my bedroom. She had been locked in there from 6.30am without food, water and even more important: a litter box!

So, right now, I am trying to get my duvet (kingsize) washed. It doesn't really fit in my washing machine, so I hope it will be allright. Ah well, that'll teach me to check under the bed and on top of the wardrobe when leaving my bedroom in the morning!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

O is for...

Oldtimer

I am not particularly bothered by cars. As long as they get me where I want to go I am fine. If they are bright pink, it's even better (I know I know). But seeing a long line of all those oldtimers in the Irish countryside even made my heart flutter a bit!

It was a rally and the cars and their drivers came mostly from Spain and Portugal and they all looked so proud of their vehicles. I was driving my coach at the time and all of a sudden I saw one of them. I stopped the coach and let him pass and just as I was about to continue driving, I saw another one coming and another and another! I motioned them to stop so I could reverse and let them pass me by without problems. My passengers loved it and so did I. Another highlight of Ireland!

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

People

I just came back from Just Breathe, the great blog by Debby, and reading her post reminded me of two episodes where I asked perfect (and quite scary looking) strangers the why-question. And I thought I would tell you. For no other reason than it being my day off today...

The first trip of my second season as a proper coach driver found me in Germany, visiting the old East German cities of Dresden, Weimar and Leipzig. On our last day in Germany we visited Leipzig and after a tour of the city in the coach, everybody was free to do what they wanted until I picked them up again to go back to the hotel. The weather was nice and I went out to see a bit of the city as well. I know I have to go back there, because I mainly looked up. But when I didn't look up, I couldn't help but notice a lot of people dressed in black. Heavy make-up for both men and women (black and white), long black leather coats (I love those) and on one occasion even a pair of black crutches!

I got back to the station where my coach was parked and finally decided to ask someone. I approached a woman with the most beautiful black hair and asked her in German: 'Excuse me, can you tell me why everybody is dressed in black.' He turned around and told me he didn't speak German but English. So, I asked again (this time in English of course) why everybody was dressed in black. He told me that ever since the wall fell (the events leading up to that actually started in Leipzig), there had been an annual Gothic festival in Leipzig. He had come all the way from Australia to be a part of it! He was so nice and friendly and willing to tell me all about it. The only thing was: he had better looking hair than I did...

My second outing with strange and possibly even scary looking people came a few years later. Again I was on a trip abroad, this time to Ireland. And while we were waiting for our ferry in Holyhead (Wales), we saw a couple of bikers with the most shocking colour hair: bright green! We (me and my passengers) all had some theories as to why their hair was green, but in the end I just decided to go and ask them. This time I didn't confuse the him for a her and asked the him of the couple in German why their hair was so shockingly green.

Again this gentleman was perfectly nice and friendly. He told me that the first time they had ever travelled to Ireland, they had had their hair dyed. When they went back the year after, they decided to do that again and they had kept doing it every time they went to Ireland. This was their fifth or sixth time and they had had their hair dyed in all different colours, this year it was green. And they hadn't even thought about Ireland at the time (where green is something of the national colour).

I have found that if you have a genuine interest in people and their stories, they will help you out, answer any questions you might have and be perfectly nice and friendly!

Chicken

Last week I made pasta with a salmon and spring onion cream sauce. This week I wanted to make pasta with a chicken and spring onion sauce. So, I had to boil the chicken. Just water and chicken filet and boil away. However, from the past I had learned to set the kitchen alarm. I nearly burned my first place down by forgetting there was something on the stove!

I had put the alarm and after an hour the alarm sounded. A horrible beep beep noise, so I was quick to turn it off. The chicken looked nice and cooked, so no problem there.

A few hours later I could still smell the chicken. And the only thing I thought: great chicken. Until I also started smelling something else. A bit of a burnt smell.

Yes, you've guessed it: I turned off the alarm, but not the fire under the pot! I was just in time though: the chicken is still good and can still be used in my pasta dish...

Monday, 26 April 2010

Award

It's taken a while, also due to my computer problems, but about a week ago I received an award! Debby at Just Breathe was so kind as to give me one, on account of me leaving a lot of comments. Which I haven't done in the last few days (and I am sorry for that Debby, I will try and 'better' my life).

Anyway, there's not much that's attached to this award, I just have to hand it to between five and ten others! Well, if you want it people, come and get it. But that is basically the only condition attached to this award. And that is kind of boring. So, I thought I would tell you a bit about the newest book I bought: The 'Worst Case Scenario' almanac. Here are three facts about bad things from the past.

1. In 1212 the Children's Crusade failed. The children were expecting the Mediterranean to split in two (like Moses split the Red Sea) and when that failed they took to boats. However the boats weren't heading for the Promised Land, but to Algeria where the children were sold into slavery!

2. In 1853 a new law comes into effect in England: the Factory Act. From now on the working week should stay under 72 hours! That would be six days of twelve hours, since Sunday was the day of rest of course.

3. Vlad the Impaler was born in 1431 in the little town of Sighisoara, Romania. He is mostly known for impaling, decapitating, eye gouging, skinning alive, cutting into pieces and mutilating between 40,000 and 100,000 people during his reign. Oh, and then he held garden parties next to the impaled. His reasons? "I did this so nobody in my country would be poor". He died aged 45 on the battlefield in a fight against the Turks.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Warthog

My colleague. Photo taken in the hot and humid part of dessert/ocean/bush part of the zoo.

You might have wondered a bit about that photo of a warthog I put in my post yesterday. After all, warthogs don't usually have much to do with virus scanners and computers. But since my regular computer is in the shop and with it most of my generic photos and pictures, I needed another one. And since I have visited a zoo only a few days ago, I posted a warthog.

I was with a colleague at the time. A nice and friendly man who will do a lot to help me get the best possible pictures. Every time an animal refused to cooperate, he would make funny sounds and call 'here kitty kitty', even if it wasn't a kitty, but for example a warthog! It made for an interesting visit though, since we must have had some strange looks thrown our way! I told him he couldn't just call kitty to a warthog, but then again 'hey warthog warthog' doesn't have the same ring to it! And in Dutch the name of the animal is even longer! Shortening it to warty wasn't an option either: people would then just give you solutions as to how to get rid of warts!

Despite all his best intentions, the funny looks and the occasional cooperation of some of the animals, I didn't manage to get a lot of good photos. And a zoo without any maras: not a proper zoo at all!!!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Conspiracy

It must be a conspiracy. It must be! As soon as my debts were cleared and I could start saving for my emigration to Canada, disaster struck: Sophie had cancer. It cost nearly one thousand euros to get her back to health (something I don't begrudge by the way, I chose to have cats and to me that also implies that I choose to look after them. For better or for worse).

Then early last year I got into a fight with my computer. I hit my laptop. My laptop hit back with a complete breakdown, causing lots of photos to be lost and money needing to be spent to get my laptop up and running again.

And this year? So far a holiday for my parents to Iceland(which I don't begrudge, since I have the bestest parental units in the whole wide world), a holiday with my parents and siblings in Paris for which I need pocket money and to top it all off: another breakdown of my computer. This time not really my fault but that awful McAfee virus thingy! It still means that I need to spend money to get it fixed, because my computer is more or less dead on its feet!

Anyway, I am lucky I have a small notebook which I finally got hooked up to the internet as well. I deleted McAfee from it immediately and installed Norton on it instead!

But it must be a conspiracy thought up by all those people who don't want me to leave: force her to spend money on other things and she will never have enough to spend on emigration!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

McAfee

Thanks to McAfee I have some severe problems with my regular computer. Hopefully I will be back properly soon!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

N is for...

Notting Hill Gate

Notting Hill Gate was the name of a turnpike (or toll) gate which was placed on the road between London and Oxford. The gate was there to prevent anybody passing without paying. The money was used to maintain the upkeep of the road. The gate was removed in the 19th century, but the name stuck.

Nowadays the name is used for one of the many tube stations. And you again have to pay to pass. Either by buying a ticket or by using your Oyster card. The area is now mostly known for the film Notting Hill (with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts) and for the August carnaval taking place there.

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

Monday, 19 April 2010

Dinner

Making the pasta dough

I am not one of the dinner parties. I don't 'entertain'. I don't even have a dining table. However, I do like to cook. And last week I invited my parents over for dinner last night.

The menu: garlic bread, Italian salad, pasta with a salmon and spring onion sauce and Limoncello Flip for afters.

The result: while making the garlic butter for the garlic bread, the dish broke and I had to start all over again. In the end though the butter was made and it was spread on the bread, after which I put it underneath the grill for a few more minutes. It didn't taste like garlic bread though!

NOT the way to hang your spaghetti

While making the pasta, I used my old pasta machine. It worked okay, but the spaghetti had to be pulled loose from the strip. I hung it over the back of a chair, but hung it wrong: one on top of the other! So, by the time I needed to cook the pasta, it had become one big lump! Out with the home-made pasta, in with the factory pasta. I cooked that pasta, but after I had drained it, I realised most of it was still sticking together: I had forgotten to unravel it in the boiling water! I managed to get it done properly a few minutes later though. The sauce was okay, but I had forgotten the secret ingredient (white wine)!

The dessert I had made the day before (see post below this one) and even though it tasted scrumptious, it wasn't exactly as it should have been. I don't know where I went wrong, but I did exactly as it said in the recipe!

Dinner

The salad was the only part of the meal that was perfect: the salad, the tomatoes and the little mozzarellas.

All in all, everything tasted nice, but somehow it didn't come off as I had hoped and/or expected. Ah well, better luck next time!

Limoncello Flip

Well, the winter has gone now and summer is rapidly approaching. So, instead of winter desserts, I am now looking for summer desserts. And in my big book of desserts I have I found this one.

Ingredients:
125 ml (1/2 cup) Limoncello*
115 gr (1/2 cup) caster sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
60 ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice
1 vanilla pod
250 ml (1 cup) whipping cream

6 (wine) glasses

Preparation:
1. Put the limoncello, sugar, lemon peel and lemon juice in a non-metallic bowl.
2. Cut the vanilla pod length-wise and scrape out the seeds. Throw the pod away.
3. Stir everything well and leave for two hours, occasionally stirring to dissolve the sugar.
4. Whisk the cream until stiff, then spoon in the limoncello mix two tablespoons at a time.
5. Divide the mixture equally over six glasses and put in the fridge for 5 hours.
6. Serve cold with a slice of lemon.

I've made this dessert twice now (I had to, the first time I didn't take photographs) and both times it tasted absolutely divine. There was one thing though: you have to stick it in the fridge for five hours and during those hours all the juices will sink to the bottom. Which means that if you don't stir before eating you will get a real kick at the end of your dessert. However, if you do stir you might as well drink it! Now, in the Netherlands we have a dessert called 'vla-flip'. It's orange squash on the bottom, then yoghurt and then custard (the vla). This reminded me of that, so that's why I called this dessert a Limoncello Flip!

*Limoncello is an Italian liqueur based on lemons. A good liquor store should be able to provide some. Store it in your freezer and have a sip on a hot summer's night. Mind you, once you've tasted the limoncello, you might not have enough anymore to make your dessert!

If you know of any good summer desserts, why not send me the recipe. I promise to make ànd taste every single one I receive (scientific purposes you understand) and write about it afterwards!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Glass

Isn't it always the case? When you finally find really nice glasses (not the one in the photo, that one is boring), you only buy one. And when you then realise that you do want more, there is only one glass left in the shop. They cannot be ordered and the people in the shop don't know if or when the next batch will be in!

In the end I phoned my parents and asked them whether they would be willing to go to a shop in their town and buy some for me. Provided of course that shop will still have them...

My parents will be coming over on Sunday, since I invited them over for dinner. I've never done that I think, but I've got the whole menu already figured out. I will have to make the dessert tomorrow (post about it on Monday), since it needs about eight hours to make. The rest is quite easy and quite quick to make, so I should be alright in that area.

Of course apart from making the dessert tomorrow I also need to clean. People seem to have an aversion to cat hairs on their clothes for some reason :)

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Planes, trains and automobiles

Vesuvius (Italy, NOT Iceland)

Well, today and tonight all across Europe: no planes! The airports are quiet, since all airspace of the UK, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia is closed. And the one airport still in use is almost next to the cause of the closure of all the others: Reykjavik!

Now, if you don't have a clue of what I'm talking about and haven't watched the news today at all: Iceland is a volcanic island and about a month ago, there was a small eruption. Mostly lava, a few people got evacuated, it looked quite nice and that was the end. Until last night. When it erupted again. And there was no lava to be seen. The gletscher on the top melted (causing floods) and the top started exploding. That in turn caused a lot of rubble to be blown to pieces, shooting into the air and causing a massive ash-cloud. Which was blown by a northwestern wind towards Norway and Scotland. Where the wind was more northeastern, pushing it towards the south of the UK and the rest of Europe.

The volcano might erupt for a day, but it might be weeks or even months before it goes quiet again. And of course, there is the matter of the volcano's sister (or brother). A big sister (or brother) at that. Which is quite close and could cause even more trouble if that starts to go as well.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

M is for...

Murals

A few years ago during a visit to (London)Derry with my sister, we went on a tour on one of those open double decker buses. Since Derry is in Northern Ireland it has seen its fair share of troubles between Protestants and Catholics and Bloody Sunday actually took place here. In the Catholic neighbourhood there were several murals depicting either Bloody Sunday or other scenes that took place during the Troubles. The photo above shows the hungerstrikes.

The tourbus also drove through the Protestant area and in that area the murals were of a completely different tone. They were (to me) a bit unsettling, because they felt more militant, more agressive. As if the Protestants still felt superior to the Catholics.

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

Monday, 12 April 2010

Bed

I want to finish CSI New York (the best one of the CSI's in my opinion, or it might just be Gary Sinise), but I also want to go to bed. CSI, bed? I know, during the commercial break I can brush my teeth and put on my jammies, that way I can go to bed the minute CSI is finished.

Yep, that's what I will do...

Oh, and by the way, I will not watch telly from my bed! Oh, and that's not my bed either!!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Desserts

Since the Winter is now over I would say, unless Prince Winter has an ace up his sleeve and spoils everything Spring of course, I am looking for the perfect Summer Dessert now. Gone are the heavy duty, warm and tasty desserts, welcome in the light and fluffy, the fruity and the cool desserts. So, does anybody have any suggestions of course not being ice-cream? I promise to try and make them all and taste them all. Scientific purposes of course (I will stick to that, no matter what you say)...

Oh, and Misfit, as soon as I've made the dessert again, I will take proper photos and post about it. It was just too scrumptious! 

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Guestbook

Well, I guess Blogger has solved the problem with the comments on the pages, because they work again. So, it's back in with the guestbook as well. So, just click on the Guestbook tab underneath the header photo and leave me a message! That also includes those parental units of mine of course...

Friday, 9 April 2010

In Memoriam

I met Marion in Yugoslavia in 1990. She was on holiday with her boyfriend of seven years and we hit it off. We exchanged addresses and over the years we wrote letters and phoned and we even met up a couple of times. She had one massive problem though: she was a big girl. And when I say big, I mean big. Big as in 'I am having trouble walking for more than five minutes' big. It meant she couldn't go out to work, that she would be teased and pestered (even by her relatives) and her life was quite constricted. However, she always wrote nice long letters with everything that happened to her and her boyfriend and everybody else in her aquaintance.

Today my dad phoned me. My mum had received a phone call from Marion's boyfriend Ernst and I immediately knew: she had passed away. I phoned him back the minute I got off the phone with my dad and I learned she had indeed passed away.

She had been in hospital since the beginning of December last year. She had had surgery to remove some of the fat that was hindering her most. Of the 176kg (27st 10lb or 388 pounds) she weighed, she lost 50 (7st 12lb or 110 pounds). By March however she was still in Intensive Care due to her own body poisoning her and they had to amputate a leg. According to her boyfriend she just couldn't deal with it anymore emotionally. In the end she died peacefully on Easter Sunday. She was only 45.

Rest peacefully Marion.

Boring

I don't know, but those English toilet doors were decidedly boring. I did not see one single strange or weird or even funny one. This one was the most special I got accross during the whole of my stay in England last week!

I spotted this one at the Duxford Imperial War Museum and if you still have to ask whether this would be the Ladies room... Even the blind could see!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Feline Foibles

You have to love cats. You really have to. How can you not love any animal that will tell you quite clearly it doesn't like a door on the litterbox?

I don't know which of the four doesn't like a door, but she (the most probable) used the doormat. Homecoming acrobatics as a result for me. So, I got rid of the door and now the doormat was clean.

I love cats...

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

L is for...

Library

A place set apart to contain books, periodicals and other materials for reading, viewing, listening, study or reference, as a room, set of rooms or building where books may be read or borrowed.

But in my mind a library is much more. It is a place of foreign lands, peoples, animals, things. It's a place of imagination and fantasy, a place where you can go to meet the world without having to get on a plane, a place of escape and coming home.

The library in the photo is the library at Wimpole Hall and I was lucky to visit it last week. Imagine having all that space to place your books, a nice comfy couch, a roaring fire and a glass of wine or a mug of hot chocolate. I might never get out again!

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

Eggs

When I was on my shopping trip in Germany recently, I came accross this book in German. It had been translated from American (never knew that was a language by itself), but the whole idea behind it sounded really intriguing.

The blurb: In the coldest winter in history, in a starving city under siege, two prisoners are thrown together on a desperate adventure. Lev, a shy, chess-loving teenager and Kolya, a charismatic chancer. They are given one week to complete an extraordinary mission: to scour the ravaged countryside and find a dozen eggs. Or come back empty-handed, and die.

The setting of Leningrad (also named Piter in the book, current day St Petersburg) during the German siege in 1942, half its people gone, the other half under constant threat of bombs, hunger and cold is the place where about half the story takes place. The two boys, Lev and Kolya have been thrown into prison for different reasons: Lev because he looted a dead German pilot (stealing from the state) and Kolya because he deserted from the Red Army. But they get one more chance: the colonel's daughter is getting married and wants a proper feast while the city is starving. If the boys can find a dozen eggs before the week is out, they get to live, otherwise they will be hunted down and killed.

My verdict: a really good book. Well written, fast paced but not too fast, believable characters and you start to feel for the two boys as they move through the city and then the country side as they search for the eggs. They meet girls, Partisans, Germans. They even find a chicken. But, do they get the eggs? Find out yourself, it is worth it...

Monday, 5 April 2010

TARDIS

Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space

That's what it stands for. But more importantly it's the home of Doctor Who. And I am a massive massive Doctor Who fan!

The TARDIS is in the shape of an old-fashioned British police-box. It was meant to blend in with its surroundings and cannot easily be spotted. It can take any form, however during the Doctor's timetravels somewhere in the sixties, the fuse got burnt or something and the TARDIS remained in this form.

There are still a few old police-boxes left in Great Britain and I actually saw one on Earl's Court Road, but I didn't take a photo. I might do next time though...

Busy week

The White Cliffs of Dover

It has been over a week since I was last home (and I will be off again tomorrow, sigh) for over 12 hours and today was spent lounging and mostly doing nothing. But I've had a great week. First of all I was away for five days with a lot of school children. I drove the same school last year and already knew several of the teachers from last year. I still was nervous though, a new coach (higher, wider, longer) and a bit of a different program compared to last year. However, within a few minutes I had realised it was going to be fine and fun and in the end even the different program didn't cause any problems.

I got home on Thursday night (well, early Friday morning truth be told), managed to throw some of my clothes in the washing machine and was off again to Bristol by early afternoon. Of course the plane was delayed and even though I got through customs as one of the first, I had some trouble renting the car. I had already paid for it, but had never read the conditions (does anybody ever?) and hadn't realised I had to cough up another 250 pounds as a deposit. So, back inside the terminal I went, got the money and finally got the car. A brand-spanking new car with only 4 (four) miles on the clock! How brilliant!!!

The TARDIS at BBC television center in London

Anyway, my weekend staying with my friends was great. The reunion (which was the basic reason for going over) was a bit of a dud, since out of the more than twenty who had been supposed to come, only eleven showed up in the end. A bit of a shame, but I had a nice time anyway. Saturday was partly spent shopping with a fifteen-year old. Quite an experience I can tell you. Especially since the last time I went shopping with a fifteen-year old had been... like.... never! But I lived to tell the tale.

That's it for now, life is back to (near) normal.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Especially for you (Papa)

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils.
Beside the lake, beneathe the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line,
Along the margin of a bay.
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
outdid the sparkling waves in glee. 
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed and gazed, but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye,
Which is the bliss of solitude.
And then my heart with pleasure fills
and dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth