Monday, July 30, 2007

A passion for Bronte country

After reading Kim's comment on my blog entry yesterday, I had to write a bit more about this passion of mine with Haworth, England and the Bronte Sisters. We have very good friends living in Dewsbury, Yorkshire who are more like family to us. It all started when my mother was eight years old and started writing to another girl in Yorkshire. Since then, they have been back and forth to visit one another and I was passed on my mother's love for all things Yorkshire! I love James Harriot and The Bronte Sisters. I love the countryside of the Yorkshire Dales! I think the people of Yorkshire are a very colorful, warm and loving folk!

We have been too Haworth, the village where the Bronte's lived with their father until death, many times. The Parsonage is the most magical of places. I can close my eyes and walk through the rooms of the parsonage in my mind after having been to the museum many times. The cemetary is even magical as it seems to call out its history as you walk among the gravestones. Each time I have been there, regardless of the season, it has been misty weather. Jos and I tried to walk to path on the moors once and Jos said we needed to turn back. You could hear sheep bleating around you and knew they were very close but saw nothing but a white blanket of mist. I felt as though Heathcliff would come wildly riding by on horseback with Cathy clinging to him! I told my English mum about that and also told her I felt I was meant to always see Haworth in this magical mist.

I love seeing the items the sisters owned. I love walking up the same stairwell that Patrick Bronte walked each night at 9 to wind the clock on his way to bed only after telling his daughters not to stay up too late. I love seeing the small dress of Charlotte's and imagining her really walking around the house doing her daily housework or conversing with her sisters, Emily and Anne around the table, writing their poems and stories.
Haworth holds many memories of time I spent there with my mother, my English mum and my aunt. It will always remain in my heart a very special place and I dream of renting a cottage in the village to spend an entire season there. I am afraid I would never leave!

If you do ever have the opportunity Kim, do go up to Haworth. I can assure you it is worth the trip and more.....

Photo one is the famous photo painted by Branwell Bronte of his sisters. He had painted himself into the portrait and then painted himself back out again later where you can still see the ghostly image.
Photo two is a view of Haworth Parsonage and part of the cemetary.
Photo three is an original manuscript written by Emily Bronte.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Heather fields

The heather is very early this year. We were talking to the farmer at the berry farm, he was telling me that all the fruit and berries are a good three weeks early this year so it is already blackberry season. Here too is the heather already showing its purple~pink coat. I don't think I remember it ever blooming in July as long as I have lived in Holland.

If you look closely (click to enlarge), you find the bee hives between the trees. The hives are placed in the middle of the heather fields as there is honey made from the nectar gathered by the bees among the heather. Holland has many types of honey and the heather honey is very popular.

How can we talk of heather without thinking of the Bronte Sisters and their life in the moors. Here is a poem written in 1836 by Emily:

High Waving Heather
Emily Brontë

High waving heather, 'neath stormy blasts bending,
Midnight and moonlight and bright shining stars;
Darkness and glory rejoicingly blending,
Earth rising to heaven and heaven descending,
Man's spirit away from its drear dongeon sending,
Bursting the fetters and breaking the bars.

All down the mountain sides, wild forest lending
One mighty voice to the life-giving wind;
Rivers their banks in the jubilee rending,
Fast through the valleys a reckless course wending,
Wider and deeper their waters extending,
Leaving a desolate desert behind.

Shining and lowering and swelling and dying,
Changing for ever from midnight to noon;
Roaring like thunder, like soft music sighing,
Shadows on shadows advancing and flying,
Lightning-bright flashes the deep gloom defying,
Coming as swiftly and fading as soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Preparing a Christmas tea party ~ month two

A month can go by so quickly! It is already the 25th of July and Christmas is only 5 months away. Last month, I started a new item in which I will be posting a recipe for a Christmas tea each month. This month I am posting a recipe that looks more complicated that it actually is. With this fabulous cake, you are sure to wow any guests. It is not only a great cake to see, it is also a wonderful tasting cake. Below is a photo of one I made. Chocolate lovers be prepared!

"Buche de Noel" (Yule Log)

for the cake:
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup apricot jam
1 tablespoon brandy
1/2 thickened cream

for the frosting:
100 grams dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons cocoa
60 grams butter
1/2 cup thickened cream

Grease a 25 cm X 30 cm Swiss roll pan, line with greaseproof paper; grease paper. Beat eggs in a small bowl with electric mixer until thick and creamy, gradually beat in the sugar, beat until dissolved between each addition. Carefully fold in sifted cornflour, baking powder and cocoa. Pour mixture into prepared pan; bake in a moderate oven (180C or 350F) for about 12 minutes or until sponge feels elastic to touch. Remove from oven, invert onto sheet of greaseproof paper that has been sprinkled with a little extra sugar. Peel lining paper from sponge. Roll from the short side, rolling the greaseproof paper inside, cool to room temperature. Unroll sponge, spread evenly with combined sieved jam and brandy, then spread with whipped cream, roll up again. Refrigerate roll several hours or overnight.

Cut a diagonal slice from the end of the roll. Place long piece of roll onto serving plate, press cut slice at the side to represent branch of log. Refrigerate log while making frosting.

Melt chocolate over hot water, cool, do not allow to set. Combine sugar and water in saucepan, stir over heat without boiling until the sugar is dissolved, bring to the boil, boil mixture uncovered for 2 minutes without stirring.
Beat egg yolks in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy, gradually add the hot syrup in a thin stream while the motor is operating. Beat in chocola

te and sifted cocoa, then softened butter. Refrigerate for about 30 mintues or until frosting is spreadable. Whip cream, stir in 1/4 cup of the cream; refrigerate until required.

Spread frosting over log, mark with fork to represent 'bark'. Spread cream and frosting mixture over end of log. Refrigerate until required. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Of poppy fields.....

Each Saturday, we drive past a farmer's field that is planted up with large, pretty, pink poppies. We stopped to take some photos to share these majestic flowers with you here. Just driving by this site brightens my day! Click the photos to enlarge them.

In Victorian times, the poppy was a symbol of eternal sleep, oblivion, and imagination. Children called them 'thunder flowers' because they believe that the petals will fall (which they always do) and they would be struck by thunder.

I will be the gladdest thing under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.

~~ Edna St. Vincent Millay ~~

Monday, July 23, 2007

Blessed with blueberries!

We went to the berry farm this weekend. We picked a couple of different berries. We picked strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. I am so enjoying the sweet smells in my kitchen as the 6 pounds of blueberries are waiting to be washed and weighed. I will freeze most of them to use in the winter months although I will keep some out to be eaten fresh now with low fat yogurt.

This past Friday evening, I started a small stitching project which I saved to do while it was blueberries season. I had fun stitching up this quick design. Normally I put my handworking projects only on my other blog: but thought it would be fun to show you this one here along with a photo I took at the berry farm of one of the bushes.

One after thought...the farmer's wife kindly let us have the few raspberries we were able to pick. They are having a very bad season for them with all the rain we have gotten here in Holland. She said she is hoping the autumn raspberries will do much better. We saw them on the vines on our way to the area with the strawberries and so far, they are looking very good as are the blackberries. I will be looking forward to picking them both in season.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What do you do with in~season zucchini?

We love zucchini and eat it once a week. Now that it is in season, there are much bigger zucchini available and for pennies practically! I decided last night that I wanted to do something else with my two zucchini in the fridge. I have not zucchini soup for a while again so that is what we had for dinner. Each time I make this soup, I wonder why I don't make it more often. It is so simple to whip this up just before dinner. I am going to share my recipe with you and hope you too will enjoy making this simple but delicious soup...

Zucchini Soup

2 to 3 medium zucchini
1 medium onion or bundle of spring onions
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp parsley
salt and pepper
1 cup low fat plain yogurt

Slice zucchini and cut up into quarters. Chop onion. Place in large saucepan with olive oil to saute until softened, about 15 minutes. Place lid on the pan to keep the vegetables from drying out. Add herbs, salt and pepper and broth to the vegetables and bring to a boil. Let simmer for a further 10 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender, food processor or mixer. Be sure you puree all the zucchini. Now add the cup of yogurt. This soup is good eaten either warm or cold so the perfect thing to make ahead and take along on a picnic! Serve with garlic bread or sandwiches.

' Ice cafe'

Cold, strong coffee
Vanilla ice cream
Coffee liquor (optional)

Make very strong coffee and let sit to cool off. Place a couple of balls of ice cream in a glass or cup and pour just a tad of coffee liquor over the ice cream. Now add the coffee and top with whipping cream. Serve with a spoon and straw. Enjoy a fun and refreshing summer treat!

Of flowers and honey bees...

"A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay.

A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon.

A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly."

This photo was taken when we were at the visitor's center in Dwingeloo which I mentioned last week. I also have a photo of a more perfect flower but this little honey bee sat on this one drinking its nectar.

I love these old sayings like this one about bees which to me also translate to being out in the countryside. It is fun to read the old farm weather and home sayings, which echo olden days of hard work and innocence. I am collecting old Dutch sayings to use on a special quilt. I want to write them all out on blocks and place them on a double sided quilt. The front patchwork is finished and one day soon, I need to start writing the sayings on fabric to use for the back patchwork.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bathroom renovations

This is the tiny bathroom at our cottage. It should really be called a shower room and is about the size of an American clothes closet. The room still had the original fixtures from 1975. It looked very dirty, as over the years, the grouting had gone very black and moldy. We tried cleaning even with pure bleach but nothing helped. Our heater was so old that it did not put out much heat even in this small room. This became our big project for this year. The photo above is the before...
...and here is the after! We are really pleased with how it has turned out. We choose cream tiles for the walls and terracotta for the floors. Gone is the plastic reservoir for the toilet and in a new clean and all porcelain toilet and small sized sink. Even though the room is technically smaller since the builder placed a false wall on one side to work some pipes into the wall, it appears bigger. We had a towel rack heater installed to replace the old one and a wonderful large rain shower head. That is one thing I really love now in the room! I think the new look has enhanced the beam on the sloping ceiling.
Now to start with the accessories...

Monday, July 16, 2007

The peace~filled countryside

Here is our little place up in the woods. It is more a chalet than a cottage really. It is small but very much home to us. We love being up north in the countryside. When we bought this cottage almost three years ago now, it was pretty much untouched since it was built back in 1975. We have been slowly working to fix it up. The entire garden was one plot of grass that was over grown with moss. We have graveled the drive as you see making it much dryer now to go into the cottage. We have also been digging up the grass in the garden to create flower borders throughout.

Our Buddleia or butterfly bush is blooming and attracting so many pretty butterflies. I love sitting out on the patio and watching them come and go. This 'Inachis io' or 'The Peacock' is common in Holland's woodlands. At the moment, this is our most frequent visitor with many of them drinking from the bush at once.

The Brimstone butterfly or 'Gonepteryx rhamni' are also still plentiful in the garden.

This summer the common hemp~nettle (Galeopsis tetrahit) is growing along our fence by the woods along with the rosebay willow herb. Last year this pretty wildflower was not there among the wild blackberries and willow herb. Since Jos decided to try to keep the wild blackberries a bit more under control, this pretty orchid type flower has come in its place. It is standing tall at a meter high and is a pretty backdrop for our flower bed.

I found a white foxglove growing in the shadow of an oak tree just beside our garden shed.

I wanted to share this fun read with you all. It was recommended to me by someone back in the US who remembered reading it herself. The book is called 'The Wheel on the School' by Meindert de Jong and is a sweet story about a tiny fishing village in Friesland that no longer is visited by storks. The children at the village school puzzel about why the storks fly over their village and figure out a way to bring them back to Shora to nest. Since we are seeing the storks all over up north, this is especially fun to read now. This is a great book tip for children young and old!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Summer, sea and sunshine

I decided to set up a pretty vignette on our coffee table this morning. I use this wooden tray to hold candles and change the items I place with them and the colors and sorts of candles regularly. I had placed the lavender candles in this tray for the spring with other accessories but decided to use them once again, as they are not yet burned up, combined with seashells I have collected over the years. I am sorry this photo appears so dark. Our camera has trouble with certain lighting and it is a windy and extremely grey day here. If you enlarge the photo, you will find the sweetest tiny starfish in the tray.

So we have the summer and sea with a prediction of the sunshine for over the weekend. I do hope the temperatures don't become as hot as they are predicting though. We are off this afternoon to our cottage. Hurray! We have an extra day. Friends are up in the area for their vacation and we are going to try and do some fun things on Friday and Saturday as well as me wanting to cook some nice meals for them.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The magic of dragonflies

Over the weekend, we decided to go to the visitor's center of a nature reserve located near the village of Dwingeloo. It is a really pretty area that has been set up so nicely for visitors to come and linger for a while. We watched a family with two very young and excited boys catching tadpoles and putting them in a bucket only later to put them back in the pond. One had an easier time of catching snails since he was very young and not as coordinated with his net. He was so cute trying to get the third snail from the net into the bucket.

I love dragonflies and I get the greatest kick when I get a good photo of one. I stopped to make a couple more photos as we walked back to our car since there was noone around at that moment on the water's edge. I was photographing small dragonflies pairing in the reeds when a large dragonfly landed very close to me on the wooden walk over the water. I was thrilled he sat long enough for me to get a good photo. They are like little helicopters buzzing above the pond. Click on the photos to see the detail as the photos enlarge.

"Silent Noon"

Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass--
The finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
Your eyes smile peace.
The pasture gleams and glooms
'Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.
All round our nest, far as the eye can pass,
Are golden kingcup-fields with silver edge
Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge.
'Tis visible silence, still as the hour-glass.
Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragonfly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:
So this winged hour is dropt to us from above.
Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,
This close-companioned inarticulate hour
When twofold silence was the song of love.

~~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti ~~

Monday, July 09, 2007

Gaze up at the sky!

Did you ever lay in the grass as a child looking up at the summer sky? Did you find shapes and figures in the clouds? The sky lately has been so pretty here in Holland that it brings back those feelings of being a child and gazing up into that summer sky. Clouds are often overlooked in our busy days and they are so beautiful. Take a few minutes today to go outside and look up at the clouds. This is a photo I took of the clouds as we were out enjoying nature on Sunday.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time. ~John Lubbock

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The 'newness' of summer

Last Saturday, we had to run over to the garden center to buy a wisteria to plant by our new rose arbour which I showed your earlier. We drive along country roads through a wonderful little village called Fochterloo. This weekend, we stopped to watch a donkey with her little one grazing in a field by one of the farms. He was so adorable and was just as interested in watching me as I was in him!

That beautiful season the Summer!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.

~~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~~

May I never grow up and tire of these kind of simple pleasures in life!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bee balm and honey bees...

The bee balm is already starting to bloom in the new area of our garden. I am thrilled with the pretty bright color and structure of this plant. It is supposed to be a plant that spreads rapidly and I am really hoping that it does. One of my favorite flowers is a thistle and I love the thistle like quality of the bee balm. And isn't it the sweetest name...especially if you happen to be a bee?

The pedigree of Honey
Does not concern the Bee,
Nor lineage of Ecstacy
Delay the Butterfly
On spangle journeys to the peak
Of some perceiveless thing ~
The right of way to Tripoli
A more essential thing.

The pedigree of Honey
Does not concern the Bee ~
A clover, any time, to him
Is Aristrocracy ~

~~ Emily Dickinson ~~

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A weekend gardening project

This weekend we were able to finish another of our gardening project at our weekend cottage. This is a rose arbour we bought from our local garden center. We were able to find a person who gave us small railway sleepers since they were renovating their own garden. We dug up part of the grass again and placed the sleepers after which we bolted the arbour to them. We changed the line of the planting areas we created on each corner of the terrace to go up to the sleepers which gives us a bit more space. We planted a wisteria on the left hand side of the arbour and plan to plant a clematis on the other. I did not want the type of clematis they have at the moment so we will wait until they get their next shipment in which the owner said will be in about six weeks time.

It is fun to slowly watch this garden transform over the last three summers. Each year, we find new things we want to do. Our next project is a very major one as we will take out a row of conifers between our garden and the next cottages driveway and put in a fencing. These conifers have been planted so far in from the border of our garden that we have well over a meter of space behind them with nothing being done to it. We will be able to create a very wide flower border there and I am going to have great fun in planning what I want to use for it.