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...

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Swans - Very Much a Part of Hellevoetsluis Life.

We like, perhaps even love, our Swans in Hellevoetsluis.
Originally rather elusive waterfowl, they have become an established ordinary inhabitant of the historic naval port, home to some 40,000 people. Drivers are quite used to entire swan families (of up to 10 members) inhabiting the grass verges of the roads, and keep an eye out for swans crossing the road at their leisure.

 © Wibe Koopman Photography

Hellevoetsluis has a lot of waterways, and that is the key to our great mute swan population, for although they have become confident town dwellers, they do want their bath close by.

In Spring people are charmed by the fluffy white cygnets, who cluster around their parents and usually mirror their movements perfectly (if not sleeping). I have witnessed seven cars patiently waiting for a swan family of nine to cross a busy thoroughfare, and have frequently seen people leaving their cars unattended in order to herd some swans to safety.

Folks feed them as well, and this presents some problems. For swans, like all animals, like their home comforts, so when they realize there is a snack-to-go nearby, they tend to cluster around that house and leave their huge droppings all over the pavements. And they can become quite pushy about their food, as one of my friends found out.

Years ago there lived a swan family of six in the small park near their house. My friend was given to feeding them left-over bread, and one day the cob followed her home. She thought this amusing, so fed him some bread on the garden path. The next day he was back, and again she fed him some bread.
He started coming every day, and started bringing his pen and cygnets as well, who modestly waited at the garden gate while Mr Swan waddled up to the back door. This went on for some days, to the amusement of all.
But then, Mr Swan started coming earlier and earlier, until he was literally hammering on the back door at 5 am.
This my friend thought not quite as amusing, and she started closing the garden gate to keep him out. Undaunted, he walked around the house and started hammering on the front windows.
It took her weeks of ignoring him until he took his loss and stayed away.

We have swans in the pond of the park behind our house. We love watching them when the young swans are practicing their flight. The pond is adequate, but not very large, so it takes some clever navigating to actually take off in time (it always reminds me of Faro Airport, Portugal) and they have to make an immediate sharp turn after lift-off to clear some huge willow trees.
We hear them making speed on the surface of the pond, with lots of flapping and many false starts. We have heard some almighty crashes after one of the swans has made a wrong turn, or a wrong calculation, but so far no casualties. Not even when one of them crashed into our neighbour's roof (the story of this is on my blog of Feb. 21st of 2014, I believe) and fell on my neighbour's head.

We have not incorporated swans into our mythology (as far as I know - I'm not all-knowing though!)in the Wetlands. Strange, really. But we do love them in Hellevoetsluis.

This is the entrance to the port of Hellevoetsluis

(On May 15th, 2014 I again blogged about swans, but from a different perspective. And if you like reading about animals: I very regularly blog about the birds in my garden, my butch tomcat Viggo, the deer I chase with a camera and my old dog Gina)

 (except for the photo by Wibe, the rest of them I have lifted from the Internet and so do not know who has taken them as they were there anonymously)

Peace, My Good People, Peace!

In view of the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris:

Those of you who know me a little, know that I usually keep far from politics. Not because they do not interest me, but because I am realistic in knowing others are far better at blogging about politics than I am.
But this is one of those times I feel the need to make an exception.

I am appalled, sad, and not a little apprehensive about the events. But I value freedom of speech.
Hopefully my fellow countrymen will keep thinking, will keep the peace, will realize that yes, we are different and sometimes divided, but we are all people and deep down the same.
I work with Muslims; the majority of my pupils are Muslims, and not a few of my colleagues as well. The majority of them will be as appalled, sad and apprehensive as myself. 
I refuse to put them into the 'lunatics' corner just because of this attack on Charlie Hebdo.

At the same time, my thoughts go out to the people of France. 
Libert√©, Egalit√© et Fraternit√©!

Monday, 5 January 2015

How to Keep Your Woodpecker Happy

Hi there!
I will be doing my annual bird count soon, and this year I am proud to announce we have managed to invite and entice the elusive woodpecker into our garden bird restaurant.

We bought some bird peanut butter (the kind specially produced without salt and with added goodies for birds), and instead of leaving it in the jar - as you are supposed to - my husband scooped it out and spread it onto a large fir cone.
This he hung into the Japanese maple. 
And, joy of all joys, the woodpecker has spotted it and makes a regular appearance. It perches on to a branch next to the cone and eats with pleasure.
So far I haven't managed to photograph it (yet).
So you'll have to make do with a snatched photo, sorry.

Still, I'll keep trying.
If you would like to read about last January's bird count, take a look at the January 2014 posts. You can find all posts at the left side of the blog, or use the search button #birds.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Recipe for a Colourful Potato Salad to Lift Up Grey Days.

Good afternoon to you all!
I promised you the recipe for my Colourful Potato Salad - and here it is! It will give a lift to the endless grey days we Dutch folk usually experience around the turn of the year.
But it is very handy for a party as well.

Serves 6 (as a side-dish to a meal) or 10 (for party portions).

What do you need?
10 pre-boiled potatoes (I use our native Zeeland Bildstar, which is a semi-hard yellow colored kind)
1 lettuce (I use iceberg, I like the crunch)
4 to 6 eggs (free range, obviously; happy chickens, right?!)
20 cherry tomatoes
fresh chives
lemon juice
4 large gherkins or 8 small ones
1/2 a jar of sweet corn (pre-cooked)
8  (thin) rashers of bacon (free range; happy pigs, obviously)
fresh ground pepper
a pinch or two of salt (I use the pink Himalayan)
a good dollop of mayonaise
optional: fresh parsley
optional: garlic (2 'toes')
optional: tumeric (to taste)

How do you make it?
I've told you before in this blog: I am an enthusiastic but lazy cook. So I tend to make this salad when I have potatoes left over, meaning they are already boiled. But you can boil them to your heart's content on the day that you make the salad. But: let them cool first!

- start by frying the bacon crispy, so that it can cool off
- boil your eggs to perfection (meaning: not soggy, nor so hard that they've turned green)
- Cut up your cold potatoes in small cubes
- mix the potatoes with the mayonaise, some salt and pepper (to taste)
- add a good squirt of lemon juice and mix - put to the side
- now chop up the gherkins, the chives and mix this in with the sweet corn
- shred your lettuce

You've done the basics, now it is time for the fun part which makes you all happy.

- take out your prettiest salad bowl (a low wide one looks good) and fill the bottom with the lettuce.
- put the potato mixture on top of the lettuce, but leave a green circle around the rim of the bowl free (looks good)
- now sprinkle on the gherkin/chive/sweet corn mix
- put your bacon on top
- decorate with the cherry tomatoes and eggs
- finally cut up some chives and sprinkle them on top, for decoration purposes

Ah! Where are the garlic, parsley and turmeric, you may wonder?
Well, they are optional, as not everyone likes these tastes and some people are allergic to parsley (oh, horror!).
The garlic can be crushed and used to rub your bowl with right at the start.
The tumeric and parsley should go on top right at the end, but before you put your eggs on.

A variation:
Instead of the tumeric, curry powder tastes good as well. And if you are really into garlic, you can also fry this together with the bacon and put it on (I love this - my husband hates it...)