The little Dutch boy or Dutchie-boy as Francine calls him, and I are looking forward to sleeping a little later than usual for the next six weeks. Him at night, and me in the morning.
Sleeping late and sleeping in are the only concrete plans we have for the holidays. For the rest, we play it by ear. Apart from the day to day housekeeping, I don't want to hear or think about schedules right now.
If ever there was a contest for producing a gift out of nowhere, all wrapped up and ready to go in under a quarter of an hour, I would win hands down.
You see, for some reason, I kept thinking that Meester-Juffendag (Teacher's Day) was tommorrow, a Friday. I was planning on buying boxes of fancy-pants chocolates later today for my son's two wonderful form teachers.
So you can imagine my horror this morning when I casually glanced at the school calender taped on the kitchen notice board and realised that Teacher's Day was TODAY! *Acccck!!!*
This epiphany of course had to hit me just fifteen minutes prior to us leaving for school. *Double acccck!*
With some very quick thinking and even faster hand and leg work, I found these:
100% fat free bon bon
It's chocolate all right. Chocolate candles that is. I'd been saving these up for a display on the coffee table. My heart ached, I was in two minds. I mean, these are really cute candles. However, I was plenty desperate. As luck would have it, I had six assorted candles. Perfect! Three each, then. Some clear cellophane, paper doilies, oodles of ribbons and homemade gift tags later, two dainty little packages were born, as if it was the plan all along. My son loved it and so did his teachers.
Mental note to self: Read the damn calendar properly next time and let's see if we can find those candles on our next shopping trip again, shall we?
Of Beauty Naps and Leftovers
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
What does one do when one has the entire afternoon free? Why, catch a two and a half hour beauty nap of course! Um, um, ummmmm!
With my son away at Karlijn's birthday thingy, my initial Plan Of Action was to chuck in some stitching time with taped episodes of House. However, two rows into it, I started getting drowsy. I blame the weather - it's been so gloomy and rainy. Not to mention chilly too. All perfect factors for pushing one into bed, buried deep under a fluffy down duvet.
So I did.
I felt so naughty afterwards, like I played hookie from school or something. *snigger*
Still feeling lazy mellow from my afternoon nap and with my husband away, I decided to continue playing hookie - from the kitchen this time - and make do with last night's leftovers instead:
Today I did a spot of shopping in the Sittard. It was a hit and run affair since the weather has been bad this week with frequent showers throughout the day. It's always days like these I tell myself I really must see to getting a driver's licence. However, my fear of driving supercedes my laziness which means I'm at the mercy of public transport. The upside is since I walk or bike everywhere (for short distances at least), I stay pretty much in shape.
My son has been invited to a birthday party tommorrow and I needed to get the birthday girl a pressie. Instead of the usual toys and games, I opted for girly accessories instead. Where would an eight year old girl with lovely cockscrew curls be without a hair barrette or two?
And every one knows that all little girls (and not so little ones) need a cute bag to hold all her stuff in:
Yes, I believe in starting them young. *heh*
Happy Birthday, Karlijn!
With Karlijn's present picked out, I mosied on to the baby girls' section at H&M. This time, it was for my month-old baby niece. They had such beautiful things; I wanted to buy the entire range. It was tough but in the end, I decided on this little confection:
The Indian cotton fabric is perfect for Singapore's sweltering heat - light and airy. I also love the unusual khaki colour. Oh, and do check out the embroidery on the bodice:
The magic words every Dutch parent wants to see on their child's year end report card. Today is Rapport Dag at school and all the kids get their report folders.
My son did pretty well, pulling As and Bs again. I'm very proud of him and also a tad relieved. You see, I've been relaxed about his education so far, taking my cue from the Dutch school system. At Groep 3 (the equivalent to Primary 1 or 1st Grade), they don't get homework. All that needs to be done is done in school. Once in a while I buy him writing books to practice his script since he loves doing it. From time to time, we also go through some English workbooks to keep up with the language and that's about it. For the rest of the time at home, I let him play, with real toys, not just his PSP or PS2, because I'm a firm believer of learning through play. He exercises his imagination and creativity that way.
The other thing I believe in is reading. Our son loves to read, mainly because I was never pushy about it and that it was something we've done from the start. I'm really pleased at how well my son can switch from Dutch to English and vice versa, considering he only started learning Dutch when he was three.
In a nutshell, my son is advancing on to Groep 4 come mid August when school reopens. They do get homework then and I shall have to be a little more stricter with that. Play time is over. For my son, too. *heh*
Riddle me this, dear reader: What does a man do with ten pockets on his cargo pants, except to annoy the hell out of the person ironing it?
And there are two of these monsters to press. Luckily he looks good in them or they would have been lost in the wash by now, never to be found again.
Ditto with the boy's cargo pants albeit many times smaller but just as irritating to iron.
For the past year, my son has had (and still has) a fixation with small stones and pebbles. Goodness knows where he picks them up from but he does. How do I know this? Well, come every laundry day, as I'm emptying the pockets, a stone or pebble will be lying in there, waiting to be fished out. What gives?
So after a few weeks I ask him: what's with the stones and pebbles? "They're magic stones, Mummy. Please don't throw them away." And I don't. Instead, I put them atop the washing machine and it's grown into quite the little collection. Everyone needs a bit of magic now and then.
Taken from GoodFood magazine, this is one of the new recipes I've been trying out over the past month. It is zo lekker, you really have to try it for yourself. Peaches are in season right now so do be sure to pick the juicy ripe ones for this recipe.
Speaking of recipe, I've tweaked the directions of the original a little to maximise the flavour of the marinade. Instead of brushing the marinade and grilling immediately thereafter, I left the meat to sit in the mixture for a few hours. This way, the flavour seeps right through the pork instead of just the surface.
Grilled Pork And Peach Kebabs
500g pork fillet, cut into large cubes 2 peaches, stoned and cut into chunks 1 lemon 2 tbsp honey salt to taste wooden skewers
Grate the zest from half the lemon and squeeze out the juice.
Mix juice with zest and honey. Add salt to taste.
Keeping aside about 2 tbsp of marinade, add cubed pork. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours.
Alternately thread the pork and peach chunks onto the skewers.
Brush all over with reserved 2tbsp of marinade.
Grill or barbecue for 10-12 minutes, turning regularly, until cooked.
Note: Soak wooden skewers in cold water for at least 5 minutes to ensure meat does not stick onto the skewers after cooking.
This is best served with salad on the side. This evening, I chose Baby Gems, although of course any other salad greens will do. I broke up the leaves into smaller portions, drizzled it generously with lemon flavoured olive oil, white wine vinegar and added freshly ground 4 peppers and salt to taste followed by shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The warm sweetness of the pork and peach clashes so deliciously with the tart, fresh salad. Words fail me so like I said earlier on, you have to try this for yourself.
We don't celebrate Father's Day for the very same reasons we don't 'do' Mother's Day. My husband knows how much we appreciate him as Dad in our little family. I tell him all the time what an excellent father he is, even though he's never at home very much. Not being home is a sore point with him but when he is, he's there and spends quality time with our son. This, I think is better than having a dad who comes home each evening at 6pm and completely zones out in front of the telly or computer, ignoring his wife and kids. What's the point of being home everyday when you're not around in spirit?
My son adores his dad. In his little eyes, Dad's The Man. They do man things together like go to the DIY, garden or recylce centres; watch F1 races, soccer, darts or whatever's in season on the telly; take turns at the PSP, PS2, whatever and eversince my son inherited the old PC, play computer games side by side.
They have their little conspiracies and jokes against mum too - whispering and then chuckling away when mum needs them to do something or is trying to make a point. Boys!
As usual, the kids at school made Father's Day presents. We, as biased parents, were really impressed at how well the gifts turned out. This year, my son wrote out a poem and made clusters of chocolate covered peanuts - my husband's favourite. Kudos to his form teacher for handling twenty odd boisterous kids handling hot liquid chocolate.
Here's how the chocolates were packed. Too cute! No photos of the contents though - they were all scoffed down by the two men before I could even take aim. Pfft!
This is the poem my son copied out:
On this occasion, my son jazzed up the background a little but his script is still scarily neat.
What I really want to say is this: H, you are a wonderful father. No woman could want better for her children. If I didn't have such a phobia about being pregnant, we would be churning out kids by the dozen now. As matters stand, it looks like we have to make do with this one precious boy. A boy who hurls himself on you when you get home from work or gets weepy when you're away on business. A boy who keeps asking me what time you'll be back from the office and who won't take no for an answer when I tell him we can't phone you because you're in a meeting. If that's not love, I don't know what is.
Once in a while, I have cooking accidents in the form of stray splattering boiling oil, bare skin coming into contact with hot utensils or even the odd knick or two with the chef's knife. And once in a while during those occasions, I let out an "Ow! Oh! Shit! F***!"
I'm always alone in the kitchen with my son playing in the living room so I don't think he hears me.
Or does he?
During one of his favourite game of chef or masak masak (Malay for cooking), he pretends to prepare a meal in a pot. Suddenly he shouts, "HOT! The pot is HOT!!! Oh! Shit! F***!"
I had a bit of a fusion thing going on here. I marinated the shoulder arm pork steak with ginger juice, Worcestershire and soya sauce and cooked it in the western fashion. For the vegetables and rice, I did it the asian way, stir frying and steaming.
Grilled Nile Perch with Bacon Wrapped Asparagus.
In this instance, I lightly marinated the Nile Perch fillet (commonly found in Lake Victoria) with sea salt and ground pepper first before grilling it lightly. While that was cooking, I pan fried some blanched asparagus wrapped with bacon. Once the fish was done and transferred on a serving dish, I drizzled lemon flavoured olive oil on it, followed by some chopped parsley. Not shown here but served together with is a side of Duchess Potatoes. A very light but satisfying summer's meal.
For the last three weeks, I've been either i)trying out new recipes or ii) inventing new ones. Hence, the lack of food photos or what I've been up to in the kitchen. I normally like to keep a low profile when it's a work in progress. At least if it doesn't work out, I can quietly shove the whole mess into the dustbin and pretend it never happened. However, I'm glad to report none of that happened. If anything, I've been really lucky or the jury panel - the two men - have temporarily lost their sense of taste or just want to make me happy. You know what they say, if mum's happy, then everyone's happy. *ha*
But seriously, it's been a good three culinary weeks. I will re-do the dishes again in the coming weeks and this time, post a photo and perhaps, even a recipe or two.
For now, here's an experiment which worked really well. I was a bit of a mad scientist: a teaspoon here, a pinch there, mix it all up and hope it doesn't blow up in my face.
I cut some lamb meat into small chunks and made a rempah (spice paste)of shallots, garlic, galangal (blue ginger), red chilli and oil. I then added some ground fennel, cumin and tumeric in the paste followed by salt and sugar and rub it all into the meat. After letting it sit for a few hours, I skewered them with some cut red onions. For vegetables, I had skewers of miniature parprikas. If you ask me, they are just too cute to be eaten.
All skewered up and ready to go!
A quick session on the grill pan and you have a light summer's meal. You can serve it with almost anything. In this instance, I had toasted pita bread and tzaziki sauce on the side. Lekker!
The next time we have a barbecue, this is going on the grill. I think it'd be fantastic with a tall glass of icy cold freshly squeezed lime juice. A splash of vodka or gin optional.
Brugge Or I Wanna Hold Your Hand
Monday, June 11, 2007
We had a lovely day in Bruges or Brugge, if you pronounce it the Dutch way. The weather was mild and cloudy so we didn't have to bake in the sun.
I'm too lazy to go into the history of the ancient city so here's Wiki's take on it. Also check this out. What I will say is that it's your typical, fairytale, romantic European city - good for holding hands and being surgically stuck at the hip with one's spouse or partner while the both of you explore the many winding side streets and admire the wonderful medieval architechture. Because of its many waterways and canals, not unlike Amsterdam and Venice, there's the requisite Ferry Ride. Another opportunity for more canoodling; that is, if you don't mind being watched by thirty other people in the same boat. We do, so we kept it to hand holding. Which in itself is a bit of a treat. Normally, we get railroaded by our son who for some reason, cannot stand the sight of mum and dad holding hands. He just has to be in the middle of us, clasping each of our hands instead.
We walked for about four hours, touring the city with our host, the colleague whose farewell party this was. Being a Brugge native, and whom I would call a commando tour guide, we got quite an intensive workout. At around 5.45pm, all twenty of us adjourned to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. By some coincidence, we were all booked in the same place. You'd think it was a company event rather than a private party.
So we all got changed for dinner and proceeded to make our way to the restaurant where reservations were held. Again, more hand holding between the hubby and me. This time, it was more out of neccessity than romance. You see, I had on killer (quite literally as I would soon find out) four inch stilletos, which is not a problem at all if the walking surface is relatively smooth. I can even dance in them. However, the whole of Brugge is made up of cobblestoned pavements, so one can imagine just how fun the walk to the nearby restaurant was. By the way, I use the term 'nearby' loosely since it came up to a thirty minute walk. I kept my mouth shut, opting instead to threw dagger-like glances at my poor husband who was gallantly trying to help me keep my balance. The others were more vocal, especially the men, who were used to driving everywhere. I just prayed my heels would hold up. Never mind my personal safety (I could have easily broken an ankle), just don't let anything happen to these beautiful babies!
After what seemed like forever, we finally arrived at the restaurant. Or so we thought. Noooooo! We had barely got ourselves seated when our host tells us oopsie, there's been a mix-up, this is not the right restaurant. What the fishballs???!!! This time, some of the other wives got into a bit of a huff, since they too were in heels, though not stilletos. The men were just thristy for a beer so that's enough said.
It was completely surreal, I felt like I was in a Monty Python farce or one of the Carry On comedy movies. Unbelievable!
Anyway, everything turned out fine in the end. We did eventually make it to the right restaurant - another ten minute feet wrenching walk away. Dinner was superb and the drinks kept flowing. The company wasn't half bad either with everyone mingling and chatting away. Dinner ended at half past eleven, after which we all proceeded to a disco. I haven't been in one for ages so it was rather nice. At 2am, I, or rather my feet surrendered and my husband and I called it a night. We were completely wiped out - him from the drinks and me from my feet. To think that I used to go dancing twice a week!
Oh, and we took a cab back to the hotel. I stated to my husband in no unequivocal terms I was walking. I believe my exact words were "Damn if I'm walking back!" Another couple and a colleague felt the same way too. Taxis at that time of the night were a hot commodity so instead of waiting for seperate ones, we all piled in at the first available ride. Yes, all five of us. Desperate times call for desperate measures. One also can't help noticing how amazingly short and painless the journey back was.
For those interested in that sort of thing, here's what I wore for dinner:
A silk, knee-length dress with a plunging v-neckline...
I had a good haul this year, thanks to my husband, son and Karen.
First up, my best friend Karen. Her present came in not one, not two but three installations. Yikes! First there were the two books from Amazon. A few weeks later, a care package arrives, full of Japanese products and my much missed preserved ginger. And with impeccable timing, this arrives on the eve of my birthday:
A handmade felt cupcake! How utterly delicious is that? It's already gone into my sewing cupboard ready to be used as a pin cushion. Did I also tell you it was meticulously hand sewn by Karen herself? Down to the last bead seed and cream frosting. She and I are quite mad for felt food right now and to receive this from her is a real treat.
My son is going to get me a teapot. I say going to because the particular pot I'm eyeing at is out of stock. It's a transparent teapot cum filter for these special Numi flowering tea blooms. I'm really looking forward to adding that to my collection. I do not wish to order it online as I'm afraid it might arrive in a million little fragments so for the moment, I have to wait.
And of course, I'm saving the best for last. On top of naming a star after me, my dear husband bought me these lovelies:
I love pearls and to have my birthstone set with citrine and peridot - how special, made even better because it's from my husband himself.
Thank you for making my birthday extra memorable this year with such thoughtful gifts. I'm so grateful for having all three of you in my life.
This minute, exactly thirty four years ago, my mother was in labour, trying to get me out. I was grossly overdue. Normal, I suppose for a first-born. The doctor was threatening a C-section if I didn't show up soon. However, my mother who, out of fear (surgery back in the 70s wasn't what it's like now) and stubborness, refused to have one. I, too, was being stubborn and so, our game of chicken began. I lost of course and very angrily made my entrance to the world later in the evening.
Twenty seven years on, I learnt a lesson from this and rather than go through an excruciating labour, opted straight up for a C-section. Everything was done the way I like it - neat and tidy. A date was picked, I was prepped, the baby was delivered. And we were done.
Fast forward to 2007.
Today my husband and I will be spending the day in Belgium. No, it's not for my birthday. One of my husband's colleagues is throwing a farewell party which includes a lunch at his house, a day trip to Bruges and finally, a dinner at some restaurant. We've booked a room in Bruges itself as it'll be too late to drive back. My son's going to stay with opa and oma for the night so that means some couple-ly time for us. I am looking forward to that.
Just when I think my husband cannot get any more romantic (or wacky for that matter) than he already is, he goes and pulls another one on me.
As part of my birthday surprise this Saturday, he's gone and bought me a star. As in constellation-in-the-sky-type of star. Yes, you read it correct. I had to do a double take too when I saw the receipt by accident when checking our family email. Oops! It seems I wasn't supposed to see it.
I've received a number of wonderful gifts in the past but this just about take the cake for uniqueness and sentiment. I mean, what does one say to that? I'm so choked up I don't even know where to begin. And that's saying alot since I'm hardly ever lost for words.
All I can say now is he's the real star of my life and I'm so very, very blessed.
You can name your own star or for someone else here. My husband, never one to do things halfway ordered the Ultimate Star Kit. And because it's my birthday, he chose a star from the Gemini constellation. How apt.
Once in a while, mostly when my husband is away so I don't freak him out, I'll cook something which I grew up eating or aquired a taste for. Like frog's legs, for instance. It almost rains frog's legs in Singapore or most parts of Asia for that matter but not here. Nope, I get mine frozen from across the Belgium border. (Gosh, it sounds awfully illegal doesn't it?) Each time I buy a kilo or so and store it in the freezer for when the mood strikes. Like two weeks ago.
This time I stir fried it in a dark sauce with ginger, onions and paprika. Just before serving, I threw in a large handful of spring onions for extra flavour and scoffed the whole lot down with white rice. Lekker!
As for the uninitiated who might want to know what frog's legs taste like...
I thought I'd do TWO feasts today. Just because I'm feeling generous. *heh*
Friday's Feast #146
Appetizer Name something you think is “the best.” At the moment, it'll have to be skincare from Dr. Brandt. I absolutely love their "Laser In A Bottle" and I think I'll love their Crease Release cream when the time comes too. I was given a sample recently and after application, looked like I just had a botox treament. My skin was so plumped up. Of course the effect lasts for around 8 hours but still, better that than a needle any day.
Soup On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 highest), how stressed are you today? Actually, 1. Haha! I've been having a good week (this week and last) and hope the streak continues. Besides, you get to a certain point in life you just don't sweat the small stuff anymore.
Salad What kind of cleanser do you use to wash your face? This:
Main Course Tonight is a blue moon! What is something that you believe only happens “once in a blue moon.” Meeting that special someone you want to grow old with.
Dessert When was the last time it rained where you live? A few days ago and I've just about had it with the rainy season.
Friday's Feast #145
Appetizer Name a sound you like to hear. The cute little snores my son makes when in a deep sleep. Good luck to the person sleeping next to him in future, though.
Soup What is your favorite kind of cheese? No favourites here.
Salad Do you sleep late on Saturday mornings? Why or why not? No I don't because I have a bunch of errands to run.
Main Course When was the last time you forgot something? What was it, and how long did it take to remember it? Yesterday. I forgot to buy coffee pads from the supermarket. I never remembered it at all until my husband wanted a cup this morning. Oops!
Dessert Fill in the blank: I notice ____________ when _____________. I notice my son scratches the back of his ear when he's extremely sleepy. I notice my husband's hair becomes extra curly when it's going to rain. (Don't ask me why!) I notice I curl my big toe upwards when I'm happy or contented about something. (Again, don't ask me why!)
LEKKER: Dutch adjective; pleasing to the sense of taste
"Just add a dash of Dutchess"
Singaporean wife and mother currently residing in well, Singapore with her husband and their son. When not pottering about the kitchen baking or cooking, she can be found surgically stuck on the couch stitching away. At some point in time she also dusts and cleans. She also tries to stay fat-free.