Sunday, 28 February 2010

One?

I thought I only had to do a down and back trip. Go down on Monday with people, come back on Tuesday without. So, I just checked the hotel details to see where I was going to be staying for that one night. Turns out I will be away for three! nights. Three whole nights!! Jellybeans on toast, I did not expect that.

So, now instead of taking one small plastic bag with extra supplies (I've got my suitcase with my pillow and sponge bag on the bus), I need to take a bigger bag with a lot more extra supplies! Ah well, I will just go see my neighbour now and ask her to look after those monsters of mine...

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Saturday Archive 7

Do you remember where you were when they landed on the moon? Or when all South Africans were allowed to vote for the very first time? Do you remember what you did on this day eighteen years ago? Or eleven years ago?

Well, when they landed on the moon, I wasn't even born yet, so that one's easy. The vote for all South Africans was during my life time and even though I do remember it, I do not remember where I was. I know I found it one of the most iconic moments I've ever seen though. And what I did on this day eighteen years ago? I lived in France (Tignes) and (I just looked it up) it was the week after the Olympics. And eleven years ago? Well...

Eleven years ago, my Mum and Dad arrived early at my place. My Dad was in a bit of a panic (he is a bit like that some times), because I didn't have a single cardboard box in the place, it was a mess and there would be no way on earth me, my friend and my parents would be able to pack everything in those non-existent boxes and into the van we had hired. Of course what he didn't know was that I had already asked for an extra pair of hands in the form of a neighbour/friend of my parents. My Mum and I then went to the local supermarkets to search for large cardboard boxes and we started packing.

Why were we packing? I was moving! After I had passed my driving test in January I wanted another job than the one I had (trolley dolly on the trains). So, I started applying and I finally got a job as a busdriver. I didn't own a car though and it was either buy a new one or move. I chose moving!

Wuppie staying at my parents' place

By the middle of the afternoon the five of us had packed everything into the van and we drove to my new abode! After which the unpacking started of course. By the evening everything was in my new home, waiting to be put in the right place and/or be unpacked. The new home seemed huge, especially since I came from a small flat and now had a whole three bedroomed house to roam in (it was filled in no time though). On Sunday my parents got Wuppie and Mathilda out to me and my new life could start!

So, that's where I was eleven years ago. Where were you?

Friday, 26 February 2010

Sweet fruit

In my scientific quest to find the perfect winter dessert, I am trying to find recipes, cooking the desserts and (most importantly) tasting them. This week's dessert: the good old-fashioned caramel apples!

Ingredients:
4 fresh/sour apples (that will stay standing in the heat)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
50 gr (1/3 cup) (caster)sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
75 gr (1/2 cup) sultanas (white or golden raisins)
2 tablespoons apricot jam/jelly or marmalade

1 baking dish
Pre-heat oven at 200 Celsius or about 375 Fahrenheit

Preparing:
1. Peel the apples and take out apple core. Make sure they can stand up, if need be, slice the bottom until they are straight. Sprinkle with lemon juice (or roll through).
2. Mix sugar with cinnamon powder and roll apples through. Stand in oven dish.
3. Fill the apple hole with the sultanas (welled in water or even better: rum), push down to get them all in. Cover with the jam/jelly or marmalade.
4. Use any remaining sugar/cinnamon mix to sprinkle over the apples, covering both the apples as the bottom of the dish.
5. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. If the apples get too dark cover them with aluminum foil.
6. Serve hot with its own caramel juice.

It's easy to make smaller portions: just half the ingredients and off you go! I made two apples and they were really good. They are easy to prepare and very tasty in their simplicity. Mmmm....

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Just maybe

Maybe I shouldn't have watched all that sport. Biathlon, skiing, ski-jumping, ski-cross, cross country, speed skating, figure skating, kettle shoving (also known as curling), I have seen them all. And since I am not at work, I don't read a paper and only found out today government had collapsed. New elections are to be held sometime in June.

I'm not really that interested in politics, but I do know I don't want some nut leading my country. So, come June (and March as well, local elections) I will go to the voting station and cast my vote. I will have a choice between about 10 political parties, social democrats, christian democrats, labour, green, socialist, animal, freedom and a couple more.

Maybe I should watch some more news programs!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

F is for...

Ferry

I have a severe love-hate relationship with ferries. I don't mind the shorter rides across rivers and canals. I do have a problem with the longer rides across seas.

The very first ferry-ride I ever took was while crossing the River Lek near my grandparents' place. It would take only ten minutes, including getting on and off. Larger river barges would have right of way, but it was an easy ride. It was also the fastest way to cross the river, since the nearest bridge would be miles out.

Over the last couple of years I have had to cross the North Sea and the Irish Sea on more than one occasion. And no matter how much I love visiting Great Britain and Ireland, those crossings are a horror in my mind, because I nearly always get seasick! The first time it happened was on one of my first trips to Ireland. As we got back and had to take the ferry from Harwich (England) to Hoek van Holland (the Netherlands), I felt a bit strange and according to one of my passengers I looked green!

The photo was taken of the ferry crossing the River Shannon in Ireland (Talbert-Killimer), a crossing of about 25 minutes and just about right. It's right at the end of the river before the river disappears into the Atlantic Ocean.

For more F-words from around the world (doesn't that sound weird?), please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

PS: Since I am a professional driver it's not a good idea for me to take seasickness pills since they work for about four hours, meaning I would still have them in my system after I got off the boat. And since most of them have drowsiness as a possible side-effect...

Monday, 22 February 2010

Old

One of the things that always drove me wild when I was young and living at home was the sentence either of my parents would utter on occasion: 'Oh, didn't he/she get old?' But lately, I have been catching myself saying that more and more often.

Jellybeans on toast, it is true that you will end up like your mother...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Wobbly Wheel

Dutch Shuffleboard

The Wobbly Wheel is the name of our staff-club. I don't know who came up with it, but I've always liked that name. It gives you a definite lack of trust in us! I have been organising the staff parties for a few years now. I think the only one I didn't organise was the very first one, but I have been involved with every single one after that. We visited a brewery once, we went quad biking, indoor mini-golf, bowling and the last few years we stuck to barbecues.

This year however, we decided to push the boat out a bit again. So, I tried to find a nice thing to do apart from just eating. And I found the perfect thing: a painting course. But my colleagues didn't think it was perfect and it was shelved, opting for old fashioned parlour games instead. The first date had to be cancelled due to the bad weather, but last night it could finally go ahead. With more people attending as well, so that was good!

After arriving we had some hot chocolate and after that we went out for a treasure hunt. Of course I got us lost (missing half the clues on the sheet of paper), but in the end it turned out we hadn't got lost at all, we had done exactly as we had been supposed to do! We didn't answer many questions right though: only three out of ten!

Mmmm, ice-cream...

Dinner was served shortly after we had returned and after ice-cream (by the way, I only ate one!), it was time to play some parlour games. We had a lot of fun and I was extra happy because I had the highest score with 'sjoelen' (aka Dutch Shuffleboard). Everybody had a good time and we broke up the party shortly after ten pm.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Free...

Hyde Park, London, last year

A whole week off! We've got the so-called 'crocus' holiday in the Netherlands this week. Even though there's not a crocus in sight yet! But never mind that, back to me and being off for a whole week. A good thing too, because the last few days at work were mentally really tiring. Besides also being very long working days. And spending one of those days at the 'Household Fair', the biggest consumer fair in the Netherlands, wasn't my idea of a good time. I had to drive a coach load of women there and by the time I arrived, there must have been fifty coaches there already. Plus about the same amount arriving after I arrived. Add to that the women who drove themselves or who came by public transport. I felt sorry for the occasional man walking around there, some looked as if they had been dragged against their will and I completely understood!

Now, the Household Fair is a consumer fair and it shows all the new innovations to do with your home. Appliances, toys, clothes, food, make-up and many many many other stands. People arrive with a small empty suitcase and at the end of the day they will return with a small full suitcase. If you're lucky, because bags and bags were coming towards the coaches. On average 7,5 kg (between 15-20 lbs) per woman was carted away! Leaflets, pamflets, free samples, bought products! Mental. And so not me!!!

Anyway, I'm on holiday now. A week of nothing, not counting the Olympics, starting off with a self-organised staff party tonight! A walk in the woods (was supposed to be in the dark, but the sun sets too late now), a hot and cold buffet and old-fashioned games. I will take my camera and get some of my colleagues to snap some photos of me.

HOLIDAY!!!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Tired

Very tired and fed-up right now. Will tell more on Saturday, for now you'll have to be content with a few lines. Good night!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

E is for...

Ercolano

Also known as Herculaneum, but that doesn't start with an E! Ercolano (which is the Italian name) is situated below Naples in the south of Italy. And when I say below, I mean below!

As you may know, the Vesuvius erupted in 79aD, covering all of Pompeï in toxic ash, killing most people who lived there. But not only Pompeï was affected, other communities in the area were hit as well. Ercolano was a thriving sea-side resort for the Romans and when Vesuvius erupted it wasn't covered in ash like Pompeï, but in lava. And the town disappeared underneath a thick layer of it.

Forward several centuries and a gentleman in Naples wants a well. He starts digging and digging and hits a hole. A big hole and he decides to investigate. And soon he and others start realising there's a whole other town beneath their town! One little problem though: where Pompeï was covered by nature, Ercolano was covered by Naples and its outskirts!

They did uncover part of the old town of Ercolano, finding a lot of fire damage (hot lava will do that), but also small treasures like beautiful art. However, the majority of the town is still covered by the new town up above and unless they are all willing to move away, it will probably remain like that! As you can see in the photo: the old town is in front and the new town is in the back.

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

Oh...

I always wake up with the use of two alarm clocks (I've learnt my lesson over the years of using only one!), one set to the radio, the other one to a very annoying beep which really wakes me up properly! Now, the radio always plays music, so you wake up with a song. But the weirdest thing: on Monday I woke up with a song, but the song I kept humming for the rest of the morning wasn't the song I heard first thing on the radio.

Unless that song was the national anthem of Canada!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Cats

I am just now looking through my photos to find an E for this Wednesday's ABC and the only thing I seem to find are cats. Even before I had cats myself, I've taken photographs of them wherever I went! So, here are a few...

This photo was taken in Gozo (a small island off the coast of Malta in the Mediterranean) in 1999. We had planned one excursion and had decided on Gozo: both for the jeep-ride as for the snorkelling. It was a brilliant day out and during lunch I spotted this cat enjoying a nice spot in the shade.


This photo was taken by my sister in 1997, while we were on holiday in Belgium and Luxembourg. The cat looks a lot like Mathilda, just a bit fatter...


This was the resident cat in the Milan youth hostel. Very used to strangers, but also very picky as well. Just like any other cat!

Tales of the unexpected!

I should be at work right now, driving some children home from Amsterdam. Instead I am at home, typing this post.

After they had fixed my coach last week, this morning my brakes were again giving me problems. I was hoping against hope it would rectify itself more or less by the time we got to the pick-up point, but alas, it was not to be. In the end I turned around and drove to the garage once again. After all, I didn't want to risk my life or the lives of my passengers...

*Sigh*

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Yummy!

Recently I got another suggestion for a great sounding dessert from Angelcel. So, off I trotted to my local supermarket to get all the ingredients for this recipe. It's a recipe by another British great: Nigella Lawson and is officially called Caramel Croissant Pudding. I might have to rename it into Yummy Rummy Pudding!

Ingredients:
2 stale croissants
100 gr (1/2 cup) caster sugar
1 packet of vanilla sugar
30 ml (2 tablespoons) water
125 ml (1/2 cup) double cream
125 ml (1/2 cup) full-fat milk
30 ml (2 tablespoons) rum (or bourbon)
2 eggs, beaten

2 small baking dishes
Pre-heat oven at 180 Celsius or 350 Fahrenheit or gas 4

Preparing:
1. Tear croissants into pieces and put in baking dishes.
2. Put sugar and water in a sauce pan. Swirl around to dissolve sugar, then put over medium to high heat.
3. Caramelize sugar/water mixture by letting it bubble away, without stirring, until it turns a deep amber colour. This will take between 3-5 minutes. Keep looking, but don't be too timid!
4. Turn heat down and add the cream -ignoring the spluttering- and, whisking away, the milk and bourbon. Any solid toffee forming will dissolve easily if you keep whisking away over a low heat. Take off the heat and while still whisking, add the beaten eggs.
5. Pour the rum-custard mix over the croissants and leave to steep for about ten minutes if croissants are very stale.
6. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.
7. Serve hot with a little cream.

Well, it's not finished yet, but that has more to do with the fact that one portion nearly equals an entire meal! But it is truly yummy. And definitely one to make again: easy and quick and yummmmmmmmm!

Valentine

I've never received a Valentine. Until this year that is. A few days ago I recieved one all the way from the USofA!

No it wasn't from a secret admirer (I wish!), nor was it from Matt Damon or Mark Wahlberg. It didn't contain flowers or even chocolates. It was from Cry and her family wishing me a fantastic day!

Thank you so much Cry, I hope you and your family had a fantastic day as well...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Wow!

The entrance of the Dutch athletes

Well, I stayed up until 3am (that is three o'clock in the morning!) to watch the opening of the 21st Winter Olympic Games. I had several channels to choose from, all coming with their own commentary. However, Dutch, German, Belgian, French, Italian and Spanish television will all have to translate the used language (English) into their own language, so in the end I opted for the BBC.

Well, what else can I say but: I loved it! It looked fantastic, it looked beautiful. I thought the fact the athletes were able to watch the show was brilliant. The music was great, especially k.d. lang's song, which brought me to tears (I admit it).

The Orange athlete horde

I felt a bit sorry for Catriona Lemay since she didn't have a column to light. I thought Croatia (Jakov Fak), France (Vincent Desfrasne) and Romania (Eva Tofalvi) were brilliant for allowing a biathlete to wave their nation's flag. I had more tears come when Georgia walked in minus Nomar Kumaritashvili. I smiled when I saw several African nations come in and I felt pride when I saw the Dutch team walk in. And according to Hazel Irvine, the Orange Horde/Army was present and drinking lager!

Congratulations to the Canadians for a wonderful opening to the Olympic Games. For the next two weeks the Olympic Flame will be burning...

Friday, 12 February 2010

Pages

Lo and behold what did I see yesterday? A possibility to add 'pages' to my blog! So, I added pages to my blog: one where I tell you who I am (previously known as my profile), one where I share my dreams and goals, one with all the books I've read so far (if you click on the red names, it will bring you to a review) and one where I invite all my readers, commenters and followers to leave a little message. Call it a guestbook if you like...

I may add some more in the future: about the best winter desserts for example, or Christmas films, or anything else that tickles my fancy.

Where is your fancy anyway?

How Jane deals with blood

Lately any books coming out involving Jane Austen and/or her stories seem to have something of the supernatural about them. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; Sense and Sensibilities and Sea Monsters and now the latest I read: Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford.

Jane Austen is running a book-store somewhere in small town America some two hundred years after her death. That's of course because she isn't dead, she's a vampire. Turned by another great writer of her time (which I have yet to read), she lives forever as her forty year old self, never aging, greying or gaining weight. She uses the name Elizabeth Jane Fairfax and cannot get her latest book published. All the fuss over Jane Austen drives her mad (finger puppets? Action figures? Sense and Sensuality?), the man who turned her into a vampire comes back and shakes things up and she's almost romantically involved with the local Mr Perfect: Walter. And finally a publisher wants to publish her book...

Where PPZ and SSSM were adaptations of Jane Austen novels, this is a completely new work and in my opinion the best of the three. Yes, there are vampires in it, but it never becomes ridiculous or unbelievable, because it feels like a beautiful love story with some vampires. I can't wait for the sequel, but since this book has only been out for six/seven weeks, I will have to wait a while yet...

Very highly recommended!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Biathlon

I am a massive biathlon fan and will be glued to the television screen during the Olympics to try and watch every single race there is. But for those of you out there who don't know about this sport: have a little look at this video. It's a video made by Time (yup, the magazine) during the summer and features Tim Burke, the best American of this moment. He was the cup leader during several races and has proven that you don't need to be German, Norwegian of Russian to be good at this sport!

I wish him, his teammates and all the other athletes the best of luck during the coming Olympics!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

D is for...

Doodlebug

The official name of this contraption was the V-1 and it was used by the Germans during WWII. The V stands for 'Vergeltung' or Retaliation. It was an early cruise missile and it was used to bomb population sites like London and Antwerp.

It was launched using what looked like an inverted ski-slope, mainly from the French and Dutch coastlines, until they were taken by the allied forces. It was propulsed by a simple pulse jet engine which pulsed about 50 times a second, giving it a buzzing sound, hence the name 'Buzz Bomb' or Doodlebug.

About 10.000 V-1's were launched at London and about a quarter of those reached London, Croydon being the area where most fell. British Intelligence then started giving out false location and correct times to upset the system: with a location north of London and a time for the south of London, the Germans made corrections causing most doodlebugs to land short of London.

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

PS: I am looking for the perfect winter dessert (so no ice-cream!). Strawberry Jam Anne sent me a yummy Lemon Surprise. So do you know of an absolute great and scrumptious dessert that contains no coffee or nuts (not too fond of those)? Please send a recipe to the address mentioned below. I promise to make and taste (hey, it's for science!) every single recipe sent to me at busdriver1971@gmail.com and make photos and write a post. So do you know of an absolute great and scrumptious dessert that contains no coffee or nuts (don't like those too much), please send a recipe to the above address.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Break or brake?

This morning I started work in a very cold coach. The temperatures have dropped again and since our coaches are all parked outside, the inside was nearly as cold as the outside. It's a good thing I can put the heating in my chair on. A warm back and warm behind. Mmmm. Anyway, enough about my warm buns.

I started driving and within a few minutes I realised something was wrong. Now, my demolition colleague had driven my coach yesterday, so I thought perhaps he had been at it again (he wasn't by the way). So, what was wrong? Well, the brakes were a bit soppy. The coach came to a stop, but I felt it needed more than it did last Friday. I managed to pick up the people and take them to where they were supposed to go. I then drove back to the garage to get the brakes checked out. After all, it might only be frozen brakes!

Well, the brakes weren't frozen. One of the brakes was broken. Not working at all. I shouldn't have driven! It was a good thing I know my coach, am not a pushy driver (well...) and the weather was good. I had to leave my coach in the garage and tomorrow I drive a colleague's coach.

When I got back to the lot this afternoon, my colleague was there. I told him about the problems with my brakes and he said: hey, I had problems today as well! My heart sank. When he described his problems, they were exactly like the ones I had. So, tomorrow I will be (carefully) driving his coach to the garage, picking up yet another one and doing my day's work. At the end of the day, I will have to drive that one back and pick up my own.

Now before you wonder about the state of our coaches: my colleagues had no problems with the brakes yesterday. But the weather has been very wet (snow, fog) and cold lately. Those two things combined can cause problems very quick! I am just happy I found out today and not while I was driving down a mountain like last week...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Surprise!

Well, Delia Smith's Lemon Surprise actually. Strawberry Jam Anne has picked up on the challenge to provide me with the bestest, nicest, yummiest winter dessert to eat on a cold and/or dreary day in those dark days before snowdrops and daffodils. And I promised to make and taste all your efforts. Here goes:

Ingredients (all metric!):
50 grams butter
110 grams caster sugar
rind and juice of two large lemons
2 eggs, separated
50 grams selfraising flour, sifted
150 ml milk

850 ml deep baking dish, buttered
pre-heat oven at 180 Celsius

Preparing:
First beat butter, sugar and lemon rind together until well soft (it won't go light and fluffy because there's more sugar than butter). Then, beat in the egg yolks, a bit at a time. Next, fold in the flour, alternately with milk and lemon juice. Finally whisk the egg whites until nice and stiff and fold them in to the mixture. At this point the mixture will look a bit curdled, but that is normal. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake in the center of the oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve hot (although it also tastes quite nice cold).
The surprise is that after it's cooked, you will find a nice lemon pool underneath the spongy surface.

So, what did I think? Well, let's just say there is nothing left. It was really nice both hot and cold, although when it was hot, it was also very very gooey. The only thing I missed, was a bit of sauce. Not quite sure what sort of sauce should have gone with it, but that was missing. Other than that, it was great. Hot in the winter, nice and cold in the summer. Now just to find a nice sauce to go with it!

Delia Smith's Lemon Surprise: a good winter (and summer) dessert. Any more suggestions?

Update 08 February: Carolina suggested raspberry coulis/sauce to go with this dessert. And I think she may be right...

Saturday, 6 February 2010

In short...

I bought new shoes and they are really comfy. Great buy!

I am watching the live-action Scooby Doo 2 right now (and I hate Scooby Doo).

My nose is still a bit clogged, but I am on the right track to full health. Finally!

I will make the first winter dessert later tonight, thanks to Strawberry Jam Anne. Photos and taste review to follow tomorrow!

I've got the weekend off.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Odd job

Okay, since I am Dutch, I think it's about time you learn some Dutch words. Not counting cookie, apartheid or polder. Here goes...

Klusser: person who does odd jobs.
Kusser: kisser.
Vak(manschap): skill/skilled

And this company seems to be very skilled in what they do, or so it says anyway.

I had nearly passed him on the Motorway, when I saw this. I slowed down, grabbed my camera and took this shot.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Shoes

About six weeks ago I wanted to buy myself a new pair of shoes. I don't own that many (one pair I can wear during the winter, two for the summer) and I really needed a new pair. But of course I couldn't find a pair I liked and if I did like them, the cost would keep a third world country fed and clothed and housed for a year! Apart from that, I always have difficulty finding shoes that fit properly. Boots are out, because my calves are a bit too wide. Heels are out, because within two hours my ankles swell up to ginormity and start to hurt. Pointy shoes are out, because they hurt my toes. And when I do find a pair that fit, they are usually in brown or some other hideous colour that will clash with my uniform. So, no luck.

The girl in the shoestore had a sollution for me though: Germany! She actually advised me to go to Germany for shoes. More choice, less money. But when do I ever get to spend any time in Germany. I mean, I go to Germany on a regular basis, but I never have the opportunity to visit a shoe shop. Until this week.

On Monday I had to go to Winterberg. Which is exactly as the name describes: winter on a mountain (Berg is German (and Dutch) for mountain). A lot of snow which was good, since Winterberg makes a living of skiing tourists. Which I had to pick up on Tuesday. Due to some strange instructions I phoned the contact on Monday already and immediately found out that instead of leaving at midday, we were supposed to be leaving at six pm! Which gave me a whole day in town!

I had a lie-in. A lazy breakfast. I took a walk to see how much my coach had been snowed in during the night (see photo). And I found a shoe shop. And some shoes. They were black. They fitted. They had a 1cm (approx. 1/2 inch). They were fantastic. It was a 20% off deal! They are mine!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

C is for...

Charging

Italy is a country that is incredibly fond of scooters and mopeds. When driving around in Rome or Naples, the best thing to do when driving a car or a coach is NOT to pay attention to them, because they will drive you mad! It's like an anthill. Just a lot noisier!

However, driving all those scooters about also means a lot is being spent on petrol (or gasoline for the overseaers) and the more petrol you use, the more emissions get into the air, which are not so nice especially during the hot summer months. So, this is one way of battling that problem: electric scooters! I saw several charging points when I was in Florence last year and there would usually be at least two scooters attached to the chargers. I thought it was a great idea.

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