Friday, February 27, 2009

in the series "make your own"...

... we are proud to present: the mayonnaise. Mirjam happened to mention the other day how that was one of her challenges in a sugarless world. and Isabelle decided she wanted some with her fries last night. which was fine, except we didn't have any. now you may not know this but i have recently instated a new policy that says 'thou shalt not go to the store for food if there is food in the house', i.e. if thou misseth an ingredient, thou must a) do without, b) make it from scratch from things thou haveth or c) replace it with something else. b) is most fun. hence: the mayonnaise. a few things i'd like to say based on my experience of this recipe:
- it says preparation time 5 minutes, cooking time 5 minutes. presumably, that's for people who have a blender. since i wasn't allowed to go and buy a blender at the store in order to not have to go to the store to buy mayonnaise, i had to do without. so make that 45 minutes of robust beating and complete wrist RSI.
- do not, i repeat do not use olive oil. especially not the expensive virgin kind. the flavour is overpowering, and so it's a waste of lovely oil and makes for weird-tasting mayonnaise (marc and i really liked it, but isabelle wouldn't touch it with a barge pole)
- reduce quantities. by as much as you can handle in terms of doing the maths and logistics (one quarter of an egg yolk, that's a tough one). we now have a fridge-full (new term for seriously big quantity) of lovely mayonnaise that will go bad within four days. and in passing, do any of you know any recipes involving mayonnaise?
- adding some mustard at the end makes it more like french-style mayonnaise. yum.
basically, it was really good. and i don't even like mayonnaise. which just goes to show.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


a little more depth in the blue of the sky, an earthy scent in the breeze, a touch of real warmth in the rays of the sun, little green things popping up between the dead leaves of my lavander bush, and a recognizable lightness of heart that can only mean one thing. it is here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


where will it stop? nobody knows. the baking frenzy around here is reaching unknown heights. today, it was ontbijtkoek that we attempted, and i was wondering whether anybody knows a decent recipe for it, because the one we tried never rose (rose????), and never really baked through, despite being in the oven for at least 4 hours. still, it tasted pretty good, and the house smells lovely. oh, and then there is my new little helper. isn't he just yummy?
(ahem, i just realized you might come to the conclusion that i haven't changed my son's clothing for two weeks or so... oh what the heck, think what you like... i am off to watch my last movie until easter)

sober lent

inspired by the example of a wise woman, and adapting somewhat to what i can actually manage, i am going to do a lent sobriety fast. beginning tomorrow (wednesday 25 feb) and for the next forty days, i shall follow these guidelines:
1. meditate every day (at least ten minutes)
2. listen every day to a piece of Bach's Mattheus Passion
3. refrain from swearing, lying, complaining and speaking negatively
4. no television and very limited internet
5. no purchases except the strictly necessary
6. deal kindly with potential failures to comply with 1-5
anybody want to join in?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

what's in a name

in Pannekoekentaart, the cat Findus celebrates her birthday on any day she feels like it, and her grumpy loving old boss Pettson always makes her favourite cake for the occasion. Isabelle was inspired by the idea and decided that she wanted to celebrate her birthday as often as she felt like it. an idea i approve of in principle but am less excited about if it means i have to organize full-blown birthday parties every two weeks. a while ago, i came up with a possible compromise: the name-day. reviving a good old catholic tradition and getting stuffed on lovely cake. today was Isabelle's name-day. (incidentally, her name means 'my god is a vow' in hebrew) (i don't know about hebrew, but what does that mean in english????). so we baked (a sugarless confection, see below). and celebrated. and found out that, amazingly, today wasn't only Isabelle's name-day but also, believe it or not, the Nutcracker's. speaking of coincidences. who would have thought? we don't know what his name means, though. google remains silent on the matter.

(Chocolate Fudge Torte with Miniola-Mascarpone Frosting, adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest
I. Cake
preheat oven to 180 degrees. grease cake tin. in large bowl, mix 1/2 cup of butter and 3/4 runny honey until creamy. add two eggs. one at a time.
in small bowl mix 1/2 cup of cocoa powder with 1/2 cup of hot water until it becomes smooth paste. add to the butter mixture.
in medium-sized bowl, sift together: 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt and some vanilla.
stir this mixture into cocoa/butter mixture. add 1 cup of yoghurt. mix well. pour into tin.
bake for 20 to 30 min.
II. Frosting
in small bowl, combine 1 cup of mascarpone cheese, 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp grated miniola rind with 3 tbsp. of honey. beat until fluffy. spread over cooled-down cake.
decorate with violet petals.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

saturday musings

"in dwelling, live close to the ground"
Tao Le-Ching
i am slowly, painfully and repeatedly reaching the conclusion that life is a bottom-up affair. devastating news for this here inveterate top-downer (should you doubt the veracity of the epiphet, i briefly refer you to my phd dissertation, which in 210 pages manages to avoid any mention of real data, for fear of it spoiling the kissability of the theory), but there you have it. top-down is pretty but non-livable, as i have had to find out repeatedly, painfully and slowly. bottom-up is messy, but at least, if you get scared, or lose your balance, you can always sit down. and although bottom-up never looks like it will get you anywhere (as in to a nobel prize in literature, public ovation, or presidency of the new republic of women), in the end, it's the only way to be somewhere at all.
for instance (the previous paragraph having shown convincingly that i am not out of the woods yet as far as theory-obsession goes): rather than wonder who to be (answers: writer, artist, postwoman, shepherd, midwife, stand-up comedian, woodpecker, circus act, guru, etc.), wonder instead what to do (walk on the beach, bake, cycle, spend time with children, knit, make music, talk to friends, sew, cook, write, think, write, draw, crochet, yoga, blog, etc.). rather than wonder how much one should spend on groceries, wonder for a while how much one does spend on groceries. rather than spend three hours online, in the dead of night, trying to find absolutely fantastic but utterly unfindable strawberry (mara des bois) seeds, get the regular strawberry seeds out of the kitchen drawer and plant them.
i hope you're all having a lovely bottom-up weekend!

Friday, February 20, 2009


for at least two years now, i have wanted to eliminate sugar from our diet. the operative word here being wanted. even though i know that sugar is not good for me. and i know why sugar is not good for me. and i even more or less know how to live without sugar, still it never happened. it just seemed too hard, giving up on sweet tastes altogether. not to mention...

- baking. the need to bake. cookies, bread, buns, scones, etc.. the more down, depressed, burnt out or generally miserable, the greater the need to bake.
- yogi tea. absolute addiction. cannot be drunk without sweetener (yuck!).
- regular dosis of chocolate, particularly during pre-menstruation time, this can mean the difference between life and death (...of close relatives and friends).
- amazingly beautiful tin of organic maple syrup (see above). am in love with tin (don't anybody dare say i could have the tin without the syrup).

anyway, this time around, inspired by Mirjam's example, i thought i'd make a more gentle plan. maple syrup can stay, as can honey. in limited dosis. and occasionally, some extremely dark (above 90%) chocolate. our first forray into the sugarless world consisted of making our own crüsli (granola). i used the recipe from Apples for Jam, and tweaked it a bit. it was lovely to make (very child-friendly recipe and the house still smells delicious) and it gave me that amazing kick that comes from making something you have formerly only bought. it turned out fantastic too. (Granola recipe adapted from Apples for Jam, by Tessa Kiros

pre-heat oven to 180 degrees
- 200 gr. 7-koren vlokken
- 4 tbsp. sunflower seeds
- 2 tbsp. sesame seeds
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- handful of almonds (chopped)
- pinch of salt
mix the above in large bowl. use hands (preferably little ones).
in small saucepan, on a low fire, make sauce by melting 50 gr. of butter with 1/2 cup of runny honey and 1/3 cup maple syrup.
pour sauce over mixture in bowl. use little hands again to mix thoroughly.
use little-finger-licking time to spread mixture thinly over baking sheet/tray (covered in baking paper).
put into oven for 15 min.
turn mixture around.
put back into oven for another 15 min.
allow to cool.
put in jar.
admire jar.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


... so much stuff on my plate. antoine is nursing fifteen times a day. still having burn-out, no idea whether will ever be able to go back to work. the mirror in my bedroom is really dirty. no idea whether what used to be my work is going to be my work. thinking of quitting altogether. figured homeschooling two children and running a household is work too. lots of it. marc won't play the hubby-makes-the-cash game with me though. therefore stressed out about losing both incomes within a few months of each other. and ending up on the street. in a cardboard box. there is a stain on my camera that shows up in every photograph and just will not go away. the volkstuin and garden house needs so much work, the garden is a lumpy swamp covered in reeds and potholes, and there is no water and no heating in the house, i have no idea where to start. waking up at five in the morning with panick attacks about what kind of strawberry to plant. have so far spent half of rare and delicious child-free day wondering whether i should go for a walk, bake a cake, read an inspiring book, plant some seeds, or dive under the covers with lots of chocolate and forget that there is a world out there....

or... i could do housework... or not...

did i mention this was a 'pfffff....' kind of day? (i can feel the chocolate nap option is winning).

in the knit of time

with spring just a breath away, i managed to complete some long-abandoned knitting projects. this sweater for isabelle (wool and pattern from la droguerie) was begun in the early winter of 2006-2007. luckily i tend to overestimate when it comes to sizing, so when the last seam was finally stitched (some time last week), it fit her perfectly. now i hope for a cold spring and no arm-length growth at all this year.
this little item was actually ready on time and made its deadline beneath the christmas tree (a record). however, christmas morning brought the devastating news that although it fit our dumpling perfectly in all body parts, the tight collar wouldn't go over his head. in an attempt to salvage the sweater, i accidentally unravelled half the neck and it took me another six weeks to pick it up again. but here it is. cute as a bun. and the colours make stains utterly invisible.

as for my cold little right foot friend, there is little hope for her this year. luckily, she doesn't grow that fast. and she is a patient little creature.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

saving the planet...

... Mega Mindy (with a recently vanquished snake (about to be deported to the snake asylum) (the snake, that is, not Mindy))...
... and her weird-looking (but very precocious) side-kicks.

new love

a month ago (and as a result of dilligently doing the seemingly silly tasks of the Artist's Way), i fell hopelessly in love with a plastic turquoise box made in china. i have no idea how i managed to live almost 35 years without an accordion hanging down my front. the way it straps around my back, the weight of it on my thigh, the smoothness under my fingers. but mostly, mostly, mostly, the magic of that sound that seems to come straight from my soul through my chest into the box and out at the other end. i practice every day. and all is changed, changed utterly.