Two Dutch Girls on a Road Trip to Wiltshire

Road Trip 2017 (2) - Richmond to Chawton to Salisbury.

Good afternoon! Would you like to join me for the second part of my road trip in the South-West of England? A long time wish of my daughter...

Friday, 27 December 2013

Meet Viggo - Stray Cat Extra-Ordinaire!

Viggo the Magnificent

Hi there, good morning!

I've promised all you cat lovers some more tales about my cat Viggo.
So I'll tell you about how he came to be in our lives.  Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.
We used to have another cat, an orange tom called Tigger. 
Tigger had a very important role in our household: he kept other cats (there are many!) from pooping in OUR garden and mice (there are many!) out of our house. Tigger was another stray (so is our dog. But no, I didn't pick out my husband from the pound), and a good, dependable but not very sociable cat. He had been abused as a kitten, so he always kept his distance when he was an adult. When he was 12, he sadly died from tongue cancer. And within a week, we had little mounds of poop in the flower beds and an entire extended family of field mice moved in from the woodpile to behind our wainscoting. 

What to do? Get another cat!
This took some doing, though. My daughter had set her sight on a Maine Coon (very popular, very expensive, very much in-bred). But we couldn't find one that we trusted to be reasonably healthy, and there were no stray MC's in the pound.
So I contacted our local Kids for Animals, whom I had interviewed for our local newspaper some years before. They remembered me, and yes, they did occasionally have cats that were brought in from the streets of Hellevoetsluis. And I was in luck! For they had got a family of four thrown over their fence just the week before! A mother and her three sons.
They were skinny and mangey, and very shy. And not very attractive. But if I would like to come round to take a look, they would be happy to receive me.
So we went to the Kids for Animals shelter, a building on an industrial estate not far from our house, and met the family. And no, they weren't very attractive. In fact, one of the kittens, the runt, wasn't just mangey, but he had an eye infection as well. But he was the one who immediately came up to us and climbed my leg. And started purring. And stole my heart.
We took him home. He was all ears, and according to my husband the ugliest cat he had ever seen. But he nestled in front of the fire, preferably on someone's lap in front of the fire. And he started eating.
We are now 4 years on, and he has never stopped eating. Eating, next to ruling the household, is his thing. He wakes me up in the middle of the night, demanding food. Demolishes newspapers, to tell me he wants food. Shreds entire cardboard boxes, to make us pay attention to the fact that his food bowl is empty.
But we haven't seen another mouse in the house. (Except for in my bed, but I've already told you that story).

Thursday, 26 December 2013

By Popular Demand: my Secret Quiche Recipe.

Smoked ham and curried potato quiches

Good morning, folks!
Christmas buffet at Rays of Light home

It's me again.  (And apologies for the poor quality of the photos; my Samsung needs to be replaced...)
I was up at the crack of dawn, as I will be hosting yet another dinner party this evening, and wanted to bake my famous quiches.
So: Radio 2 on (they do a top 2000 between Dec. 25th and Dec. 31st - wonderful, all those musical memories!) and Viggo winding his way between my legs and tripping me up - you can picture the scene I'm sure.

When he had me almost pitching my face into the flour for the second time, I kicked him out. He is now sulking in the wintry sunshine in the back garden.

The quiches.

I have been baking quiches for 25 years. When I lived in London I very occasionally treated myself to lunch in a corner caf on Cricklewood Broadway.  The cheapest thing they had on the menu was a slice of quiche. So, for me, quiche is more than food, it is a trip down memory lane. When I finally managed to get me a kitchen of my own again, I started making quiches.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Centigrade.

The bottom

Are you in a hurry? Use ready-to-go squares of puff pastry from the supermarket. It makes your bottom more fluffy (obviously) and it has a slight risk of going soggy, but the taste is fine. And it saves you time and you don't get your hands greasy and your clothes floury (not to mention your kitchen dirty).

Plenty of time? Make your dough from scratch, using 200 grams of buckwheat or ordinary flour, 50 ml. of cold water and 1 large organic egg (remember: happy chickens!!). Knead quickly, roll out with a rolling pin or wine bottle (always plenty of those in my kitchen), put it in a buttered quiche mold and put away in a cool place or in your fridge.

The filling

This is the curried potato quiche, by the way.

For this filling, I've used:
- 6 pre-cooked potatoes (left overs from yesterday's Christmas dinner; waste not want not, my Grandma taught me)
- 150 ml. coffee cream
- plenty of curry, salt, pepper
- 2 large organic eggs
- 50 grams of pine nuts
- 10 grams of shredded dried coconut

Whisk the eggs with the cream , coconut and curry etc. Place the potatoes on the quiche dough. Sprinkle the pine nuts on them, cover with the cream mixture.

Bake in the oven, for approx. 35 minutes. This rather depends on your oven, so check! 

Filling for smoked ham quiche
- 150 ml. coffee cream
- 6 slices of Italian or Spanish finely sliced smoked ham
- 8 tiny tomatoes (I've used the Dutch kind called 'Tasty Tom' - they taste sweet)
- salt, pepper
- 50 grams of freshly grated Parmezan cheese

Whisk the eggs with the cream, cheese and salt and pepper. Put aside. Quickly dry-fry your ham in a frying pan, lightly browning it. Put the slices of ham on your quiche dough, cover with the cream mixture. Push in the tomatoes.
Bake in the oven, for approx. 35 minutes. This rather depends on your oven, so check!

I have many more on my repertoire, so, perhaps I'll do an update some day.
For now, I'll leave you to it. My husband is feeling neglected and wants soup. Okay. I can do soup as well.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas from me to you! / Fijne kerstdagen allemaal!

Here's my Christmas wish for all of you in:

The Netherlands - England - Germany - Ireland - Serbia - Morocco - Greece - Australia - The USA - Canada - Russia - Croatia - South-Korea .
Have a lovely time (if you do not celebrate this seasonal thing, have a good day anyway), and remember: Mess doesn't matter - love does!

Lots of love, Renée <3

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Blog Update: How Starting this Blog has Changed my Life :P

Hi, folks!
Here's your enthusiastic blogger from the Wetlands again.
With Gina

This Blog, Rays of Light, has been up and running for a month now. And wow! I mean: wow!

There's this thingy called 'Stats' next to my composing page, and it shows me that you, my reader, come from far-flung places like South-Korea, Russia, Canada, the USA, Australia, South-Africa, Morocco, as well as nearer countries (Germany, England, Serbia, The Netherlands).


I am SO happy to meet you!
Except, I don't meet you, do I? You read my post and then you steal away in the night...

I try to imagine you. You are sitting in an easy chair, with a cup of coffee nearby (or tea, if you're in South-Korea, I expect), or with a beer. It's hot in Australia, I've been told. And you take some minutes to read my words.

What is your life like? Do you enjoy your work? Do you have work? Are you happy? Are you with loved ones around you, or are you lonely? Or alone by choice? Do you have children? Do you, like me, keep pets? What subjects of mine do you enjoy? Or don't you like at all?
You see...I don't know! I'm writing away totally absolutely utterly in the dark here!

My dream

I used to dream about publishing a magazine. But a lack of funds has stopped me so far. And being careful; taking out a loan is simply not my thing. 
This blog is the nearest I've come to fulfilling this dream. Sure, I've published books, but this is different. I try to come up with subjects which I hope you will enjoy reading about. And they are, as you have found out, rather eclectic. 
I look at those stats, and think about how many of you have read about my tomcat, and let myself be inspired by this. So there will be more posts about my pets. And about my photographer son. And about Sarah McQuaid :-) - my best read post yet (if you don't count the opening one about when I started out on this adventure).
But: you CAN have some influence, if you like. There is a 'comment' gadget beneath the blog. And a 'follow' gadget on the right hand side. So....want another cat or dog adventure? Let me know!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Single Mum/Dad? Then this post (with cookie recipe) is especially for you!

Good afternoon!
There you are, searching for a way to entertain your kiddies, with two days to go until Christmas, or no Christmas celebrations but holidays anyway...Well, I've written this one especially for you!
Start by clicking on the link. It's worth it!    Lovely animation!

What do I have to offer you?
An easy-peasy Dutch recipe for Christmas/Holiday cookies, which you can bake together with your kids, or on your own if you prefer.

My (almost grown-up) kids have tried them and pronounced them very good. So... What's keeping you?

Dutch Coffee Kisses (koffiekusjes)

What do you need?

375 grams of flour (I've used the kind which has added yeast)
150 grams real butter (I've used the organic kind, produced by happy Dutch cows)
125 grams fine sugar (I've used the organic brown kind, hopefully produced by happy fair-trade growers)
1 large brown egg (happy chickens!!!)
1-2 spoons of ice water (table spoon, not a small spoon!)
1 spoon of instant coffee (ditto)
cookie cutters, or a sharp knife
 Decorations are optional. I've used ready-made sugar paste from the supermarket. But you can also make your own, by dribbling molten chocolate on, or icing sugar.

Do not forget to pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees! (that's centigrade)

What's next?

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Cut up the (cold!) butter into small cubes. Put in with the flour and mix in using your finger tips. Keep this up until the flour has the thickness of bread crumbs (this takes a while; builds up your arm muscles!) Then mix the sugar, coffee and egg all together in a separate bowl. Add the ice water and chuck it all in with the flour.

Next, mix the flour carefully with a knife (why a knife? beats me! this was passed on by my Gran). Knead well until you have a smooth dough.
Now, put the dough onto a large sheet of baking paper. Put a second sheet on top. Use a rolling pin, or wine bottle, and roll out your dough until it is approx. 5 mm thick.

Next, cut out your cookies.

Put them onto a baking tray (use a fresh sheet of  baking paper!)and bake them for 10 minutes in the oven (middle tray) or until golden brown.
The baked ones (first batch)
If you, like me, have carefully used up all your dough (waste not want not), you'll find you need to bake them in two batches. Let them cool off first before decorating!

ENJOY!!!! And have a lovely time!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

On your own for Christmas? Then this is for you!

Hi there,
I have been there, believe me, I have.
Years ago, when I was living in London, I had a couple of lonely Christmases. 
I had been left in the lurch by my lover and could not get over him, so all festivities (and there were parties I was invited to and places I could go)tasted stale. 
I used to wander down Oxford Street, looking in shop windows at things I could not afford, and at people rushing home to imagined loved ones (my imagination), and dragged my feet just to feel connected to people. Gulp.

But hey, it's just a couple of days. And they will pass. Quickly, if you make certain you keep busy.
So, here is my advice to you:
Be nice to yourself. You deserve it. Do something you enjoy doing. Phone a friend. Give yourself a cuddle.

I wish you a good Christmas and a very happy, healthy and inspired 2014. Lots of love, Renée. And the link says it all. XXX 

PS, If you really feel down in the dumps, you may choose NOT to open the link! I don't want to make you sadder...

In je uppie met de kerst? Rays of Light wenst je alvast hele fijne kerstdagen!

Normaliter post ik in het Engels, maar ik weet dat er best veel landgenoten over mijn schouder meelezen...Dus dit keer in mijn moerstaal. (And for those of you who cannot read Dutch, there is a translator gadget right at the bottom of this blog!)

Wij worden overvoerd met beelden van gezellige gezinnetjes die onder kerstbomen poseren, of prachtig aangekleed samen aan een overvloedige kerstdis zitten met van die grote glimlachen van oor tot oor. (Dat is dubbelop. Maar Kerst in Nederland is dubbelop)
Gisteren crea-bea geweest...

 Nou, dan is deze post helemaal speciaal voor jou alleen!

Ik weet hoe je je voelt. I have been there. (Sorry. Engels borrelt spontaan naar boven bij mij als ik aan mijn single jaren in Engeland terugdenk)
Weet je, het is misschien een schrale troost, maar wij "niet-alleen-met-de-kerstdagen"-mensen zijn echt niet allemaal zo happy als Appie Heijn en de C1000 jullie willen doen geloven, hoor!

We zitten stiekem allemaal tot over onze oren in de kerststress. 
Hoe krijgen wij dat eten op die gezellig gedekte tafel terwijl de hond net op het haardkleed heeft gekotst en de kinderen strontvervelend zijn en oma haar gehoorapparaat weer eens heeft vergeten in te doen en we er NU net pas achterkomen dat we het vlees gisteren al uit de vriezer hadden moeten halen?
Het leek zo'n goed idee om ome Henk uit te nodigen (anders zit die arme ziel alleen thuis), maar nu hij er is weet je opeens weer dat hij het alleen maar over voetbal kan hebben en oma gaat steeds sjaggerijniger kijken...

Daarom...Als jij dit in je uppie zit te lezen, al of niet onder je eenzame kerstboom (denk je eens in hoe die zich moet voelen, kerstbomen zijn groepsbomen!):

Schenk jezelf een heerlijk drankje in. Zet je lievelingsmuziek op. Geef jezelf een knuffel. Sla een goed boek open. Geniet van de rust. Geniet van de rust. Geniet van de rust.

Ik wens je hele fijne kerstdagen en een goed, gezond en inspirerend 2014. Lots of love, Renée.