Monday, 29 December 2014

Cottage in the country; summer cherries

 For the Northern Hemisphere it is winter, snow and freezing temperatures and for many it was a  white Christmas.
 For the Southern Hemisphere it is summer, mid summer and we just had our longest day.
 Today the temperature reached 30 degrees and it was really hot.
 In our small orchard Henk and I found a big cherry tree, because we moved into our cottage in  October, we  don't know what kind of cherries,but the tree had a good crop.
 In the beginning of December Henk and Paul put a bird net over the tree with great difficulty, but it  helped a lot to protect the cherries and not feed our feathery friends.
Bottled cherries with vodka
Of course I had to do something with our cherries and after sharing with my friends and neighbours I still had plenty left over. Bottling was next and I bottled cherries with sugar water and vodka, so for winter Henk and I can enjoy some nice infused cherries over ice cream!
Rachel and Henk picking the cherries

Lots of cherries
But after bottling I still had cherries left over and in the Netherlands, in our province Limburg fruit flans or "vlaaien" as they are called in the local dialect are very popular.
Cherry flan
I decided to bake cherry flans for our dessert, very nice with cream or ice cream.
The recipe is from a old recipe book my mother gave me years ago and it is a recipe for a "kersen vla" but not with the traditional yeast dough.
I share this recipe with you and the dough can be used for different fruit flans as well.

Cherry flan recipe:

250 gram flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
half cup of milk
30 grams sugar
50 grams butter
1 egg

Mix all the ingredients together and knead into a firm dough.
Roll out with rolling pin, I put some extra flour on the bench to make the dough less sticky.
Place the dough in the flan pan or form, this recipe is enough dough for two flans.
Then I add the cherries on top of the dough and use any jam I have and warm about 4 table spoons of the jam in the microwave and spread the jam over the cherries with the back of a spoon.
I have used plum jam or black currant jam, very nice.
Bake the cherry flan for 20 to 30 minutes in the oven on 180 degrees Celsius.

Enjoy with cream or ice cream! Also these fruit flans freeze well.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Recipe for Elder flower Cordial

To my wonderful surprise I found a big Elderberry tree in the paddock and we moved into our cottage just in time to see the tree coming into flower. I have made elder flower cordial in the past and followed a recipe given to me by a friend.
The recipe is very common; the elder flowers are steeped in sugar water with lemon and citric acid for 24 hours.
This recipe works well, but I find the sugar water with the elder flowers a bit sticky to pour through the muslin cloth, so I have changed the recipe to make the process less 'sticky', but with the same result.
Two big bottles of elder flower cordial
The recipe is as follow:
After picking about 10 to 15 elder flower heads I soak the flowers in water and rinse well to get rid of little insects.
Next I leave the elder flowers to steepe in a bowl with 1 liter of water, one sliced lemon and 25 grams of citric acid for 24 hours.
I buy the citric acid in the supermarket and this is to preserve the cordial.
Elder flowers on the tree
After 24 hours I pour  the water with the elder flowers and lemon through a muslin cloth into a cooking pot and squeeze the flowers to get all the liquid into the pot.
Basket full of elder flowers

washing the flowers

The elder flowers steeping with lemon

Adding sugar
I heat the elder flower liquid on the stove and when boiling add 500 grams of castor sugar and stir till dissolved. I like to sterilize my bottles by pouring boiling water into the bottles and rinsing, then I leave the bottles and lids in the oven heated to 50 degrees Celsius for half hour.
I pour the hot elder flower cordial into the sterilized bottles and screw the lids on tight.
This cordial is not over sweet, but very refreshing with soda water or can be used in baking.
My elder flower tree in the paddock

Friday, 7 November 2014

Cottage in the country, the garden

The Spring weather has been unsettled the last few days, on Monday night there was a hail storm and we had a power cut for most of the night.
Sadly for a lot of apple growers the damage was more then just a power cut and hail on the decking,some growers lost their apple crops and when the grower is not insured there won't be any income for the year.
The following day I heard the hail canons blasting away, this device sends shock waves into the atmosphere to disrupt the formation of hail stones.

The hail stones on the decking.
Luckily the sun was shining again and I got busy in the garden. The neighbours sheep love the grass on the other side of the fence much better, that's my garden, so as soon as I open the gate to the paddock, they come running and blaring to be with me, no not really, rather to eat everything in their sight!
I leave the sheep mostly for about ten minutes, but when they start nibbling on the blueberry scrubs I escort them arm waving back behind the gate.

The neighbours sheep in the orchard 
Also the lawn tastes nice!
In the afternoon our friends son, Shiloh came to help me with cleaning the pond.
The pond was not a pond, just an area filled with mud and weeds to the top, I think the pond had not been cleaned for ten years or so.
It took Shiloh and me two hours to empty the pond with buckets and the mud is spread over the garden were it can dry up in the sun.
Now the pond is ready for clean water, waterlilies and gold fish!

Shiloh is helping to clean out the pond

The job is nearly done!
I can't wait to sit in my lounger, read a book and so now and then glance at the waterlilies and fish swimming away, yah!!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Living in the country, a day at the country fair

 This time of the year, October till December there are a lot of school fairs and country markets.
On Saturday Henk and I went to the Ngatimoti school fair not far from were we live.
The Ngatimoti school organizes this fair every year as a fund raising event and it is really successful.
On the way to the fair scarecrows were pointing us in the right direction, so we could't get lost.
I love country fairs, it is such a  part of the New Zealand culture and everyone is relaxed and families enjoy themselves.
One of the scare crows on the fair.
Of course there are always animals to admire and especially for the children.
But I must say, I love them too!
This little piglet was still bottle fed and so adorable!
So cute!

A pony with a pony tail!

Old fashioned toffee apples
Walking past all the stalls is enjoyable and to find the old fashioned toffee apples, very sweet, but a country treat and home baked cakes in different flavours and sizes.
Hard work!
The wood chopping and sheep shearing are always part of a country fair and we admired the wood chopper, not that young anymore, but coming second chopping through the log.
Very Kiwi!
I  loved the wool shed, very unique! We watched the sheep shearing and the fleece  of the Perindale sheep is a heavy fleece, but fine wool.
shearing in action
The Morris dancers were entertaining to watch. Morris dancing is an English folk dancing using sticks and wearing bell pads on the dancers shins. One of the dancers explained that during the Reformation in England this dancing was forbidden and if dancers were caught they could be hanged.
Mmmm, not a nice ending after a dance party!
Morris dancers
We had a nice morning at the Country fair and in the afternoon back to painting walls in the cottage.
No rest for the wicked!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Cottage in the country

Only one week ago we moved into our cottage in the country.
We have more then half an acre of garden with big trees and lots of scrubs, a small orchard, a garden pond and a paddock sloping down the hill.
The cottage and garden need a lot of T.LC (tender,love,care),but first the inside of the cottage.
This week the old carpet glued to the floor got removed by my loving husband with lots of sweat and afterwards sore hands and the carpet layer came and put new carpet down in the bedrooms.
I painted the inside of the wardrobes white and now the walls of the living areas will get a fresh coat of paint before the furniture is placed.

Spring blossom in the orchard
The grass of the lawns is very long so I opened the gate to the paddock and the sheep came to visit and checked the place out. Sadly after only two days they had enough and didn't return, so the lawnmower has to finish the job.
The neighbour sheep mulching away
The trees in the orchard will need a desperate prune in winter, because most trees have tangled branches and dead wood. I am very curious coming autumn how much fruit there will be. I spotted apple, almond, plum,fig,hazelnut,olive trees. Also red currant and blue berries and my favourite feijoa trees.

This one wasn't happy meeting me.
Today I weeded part of the vegetable plot, nicely covered by bird netting and planted tomatoes,lettuces and spinach seedlings.
Under the verandah I found different bottles of fertilizer,so I used the fish liquid fertilizer for my vegetable plants and pot plants on the decking.
Beautiful view from our deck over the hop fields.
After all the hard work nothing is better then sit in my swing seat with a coffee and carrot cake enjoying the view over the hop fields!
I am feeling blessed!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

'Super food' Dutch curly kale recipe

Its a funny idea that suddenly Curly Kale becomes a "super food" while growing up I have consumed Curly Kale since  I was a toddler and I am now 58 years old.
Curly Kale or called "boeren kool" translated "farmers cabbage", don't know why, is a staple food during winter time in the Netherlands.
The winters can be long and cold and not much grows in the bare soil over winter except curly kale and endive, also one of the healthy foods.
Curly Kale is packed with vitamin C and other goodies, so we eat this vegetable a lot during winter mashed raw with potatoes and bacon.
Isn't it great that my parents not only grew their own vegetables but also fed me this "super food" and they didn't knew then how much we now crave for all this amazing food been around for years.

Curly Kale growing in my garden bed
After picking the curly kale from the garden I mostly soak the leaves in cold salty water for a while, most bugs,like little snails, hate salty water so they pop up to the surface and I can get rid of unwanted extras. I don't spray, I rather put up with little bugs then chemicals on my vegetables.

Soaking in salty water to get the bugs out.
The winter in the Netherlands is cold and mostly this dish is served with extra protein, like sausages and bacon.
Frying the sausages and bacon.
 The bacon and the very fine cut raw Curly Kale are mashed through the cooked potatoes.

Steamed Curly Kale.
 My Curly Kale has been in the garden since autumn, because the flavour really intensifies and the leaves can get a bit tough, I steam the leaves for 3 min to soften. Also I remove the stalks.
Then I  mash the Curly Kale and bacon through potatoes and serve with sausages and applesauce. Yummy!
A plate with yummy food.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Shabby chic market at Beacon Hill Estate

Today another great Shabby Chic market at Beacon Hill in Richmond.
The forecast was not great, but the weather stayed nice till the end of the day and then the rain clouds came, but enough time to pack up the stall.
The gold coin donations paid at the entrance gate goes to a good course, helping young women in Asia to find new life out of prostitution, often caused by poverty.

A nice collection.
Roger,my friend helped me with setting up the gazebo and the stall.
Roger makes vintage coat racks and he uses old door handles and wardrobe knobs for the racks.
My grapevine wreaths all sold and I could have sold my tea trolley 3 times over and have commissions to paint chairs.
Rogers vintage coat racks with old door knobs
The shabby chic market is very popular and busy and has the same atmosphere as the Brocante markets in France.
Two lovely girls played the violin and the food is also divine.
I had a beautiful beetroot/carrot cake decorated with sugar pansies and great coffee.
Customers around my stall

A beautiful flower display
There is so much to see and buy, but because its very busy, I didn't have enough time to look around,but just enough to buy a little cardigan.

Another lovely stall
The next market will be the end of November and this is a Christmas market, so as soon as I am in our new house and boxes unpacked I better start making Christmas gifts in Shabby chic style.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Knitted cupcakes and flowers

Today in the village we held our yearly Garden Club Flower show.
The weather was not great, a very cold start with lots of rain, also our voting day, but lots of visitors came and had a look at the Spring Flower displays.
I booked a table for some of my shabby chic recycled pieces and also craft items.
My knitted cup cakes were a good talking point,one lady asked me if the real cupcake was inside,so the look on her face when I told her that inside was only stuffing was slightly interesting!

Knitted cupcakes
 Of course we had a little cafe with lots of homemade baking and hot drinks and this was a great place to catch up with some of my friends and people from the village.
Little decoupaged tins
 Later in the day the rain cleared and that was good for packing up.
The end of a nice day in Mapua.
Decoupage and transfers

The Garden flower show

Monday, 8 September 2014

Decoupage, transfers and shabby chic

Very popular techniques are the decoupage and transfers onto furniture in the Shabby chic course.
 Gilded decoupaged box.
 Lovely finishes with wrapping paper and napkins.

Black and white napkin glued onto box

Distressed shabby chic chair and new fabric

Distressed cabinet with lace fabric
Two furniture pieces once brown wood finish, now in light colours and  the chair upholstered with new fabric.
These pieces are a few examples of the Shabby chic course just finished.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

wreaths made from grapevine cuttings

This year I worked in the local vineyard helping with thinning of the vines, leaf picking and the harvest.
I love the look of grapevine wreaths and I asked if I could have some cuttings in Autumn to make my own wreaths.
Last week I picked up some cuttings, but because it is late in the season and the pruning of the vines is nearly finished, the cuttings are dry and brittle.
So I soaked the branches in the bath for nearly two days.

Finished wreath

The soaking of the cuttings and a brick holds them down.

The start of the wreath.
 I used a long branch and carefully shaped this into a circle, with a little copper wire I tied the bottom of the wreath together.
 Next I wove the branches in and out around the first circle and luckily because of the soaking in the bath, the cuttings were pliable enough to bend.
More finished wreaths.
 I try to leave the tendrils on the cuttings and also some dried up grapes, this gives more texture to the wreath. I like the rustic handmade look, so much more interesting then the mass produced wreaths.
And made from cuttings from a local vineyard!
Maybe I will spray some white and turn them into shabby chic wreaths.
I will use the left over branches to make stars and hearts for Christmas.
In September I am part of the Shabby Chic market and they will look great on my stall.
The vineyard were I worked and one of the bottle of wines from the vineyard

Just before the thinning of the vines.