Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday in "Hidden" Europe

We are always interested in Hidden Europe articles. I think you will find this one worth your reading on Good Friday.

And Then There Was Snow!

I give up! We are nice and warm here in the Beltway apartment. We have eaten well and slept well. What more could you want?

Well, warm spring weather would be nice.

But we have ice and snow on this Good Friday!

Can you say "Bah Humbug" at Easter?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hard Water Rings Away!

One of my best read posts was about "the pink slime" in your toilet and shower.

Now I am attacking the drip stains and hard water rings in our toilet pots in the Beltway apartment.

Those nasty brown rings have driven me crazy since I moved to the Netherlands back in the late 1970's. I have tackled them head-on in every house we have lived in.

Probably the worst was the commode (Papaw's word) in our old Dutch farmhouse in Zoeterwoude. A good dose of chloor (chlorine) seemed to clean that up, so maybe that was not really hard water. :(

Since we began overseeing the Beltway apartment back in 2010, I have tried lots of tricks of the trade to get rid of the hard water rings in the commodes. My mother told me a couple of years ago that my brother's cleaning lady always used a pumice stone for such jobs. Well, I finally found the miracle stone.

It is called Pumie Scouring Stick and distributed by the US Pumice Company in Chatsworth California. I think I bought mine at Walmart or Walgreen's, but Home Depot sells it, too.

Directions on the package:
Pumie must be used with water. First wet the stick. Then rub the edge of the stick on the surface you wish to clean using back and forth strokes. The paste buildup helps to clean and polish. Wash cleaned surface of residue. To clean stick hold under water faucet.

We finally cleaned away the unsightly toilet bowl rings!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

First Winter, Then Summer? Your Weather Report

Most of our relatives (wherever they are on this Globe), are experiencing the same temperature as we are at this moment. 1degree Celsius or 34 degrees F! Just on the freezing point!

For some of us on this east side of the Atlantic, the temperature will gradually move up a notch or two the next 10 days. Anyone know where I can find earmuffs?

For those of you west of the Mighty Mississip, you will have summer very soon. Look for your shorts and swimsuits and sunglasses.

In the meantime, enjoy the sun, if you have it like we do. ;))))

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On Foot

We are giving the Dutch city life a real test.

We still do not have an automobile. The borrowed car is in the shop having the brakes repaired, and we are walking.

Today we left around 11:00 am to go check out the Tuesday street market not far from the Beltway apartment. The weather is still cold and windy, but the sunshine is glorious. We just bundled up and made sure to walk between the houses where the wind wasn't too strong.

The market was only a few stalls (a couple of fruit/veggies, one fish, one butcher, one flower, and one Vietnamese egg rolls stall). Most of the stalls were protected by thick plastic windscreens to block out the cold. We peeked in to them, but then we went to Aldi. I wish I had had my camera, since now I can prove that Trader Joe's and Aldi are the same. I think the peanuts that my hub picked out said Trader Joe's on the sign. Next time I'll have my iPhone to produce the evidence.

Aldi was virtually empty, so we could browse the foods and other items. We always have the most fun checking out the non-food items on the center aisles. Today we bought a huge bag of chocolate Easter eggs and a Teflon oven floor protector ( I have already "googled" the protector for English instructions, and I sampled the Easter eggs!

As we were packing up our purchases in our shopping bag, the cashier began complaining that we needed to hurry up and pay before bagging. There was not one single soul in line behind us, but he needed us to pay so that we could all finish at the same time. Something about we all "needed to work"? Beats me what he was mumbling about!

"Have a good day," said the cashier as we walked away. Service with a smile. ;)

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Last Christmas Sweater

For many years, my friend Bonnie sent me a Christmas sweater every November. I still have them all in a basket in my crafts room waiting to be made into a quilt or throw.

As far as I can tell, she sewed all of the decorations onto the sweatshirts. Each one was unique and beautifully stitched, carefully wrapped, and mailed to me in The Netherlands. Bonnie and her dear husband lived in Pennsylvania where winters can be beastly cold and snowy. Our winters in Louisiana have very few cold days.

Ten years ago Bonnie passed away with breast cancer. She fought the disease for many years, but finally the cancer won the fight. The last Christmas sweater I received from her was "store bought," since Bonnie was too ill to be crafty. The white fleecy sweatshirt is much too warm for Louisiana temps, but it is snuggly warm here in The Netherlands. And the cute design on the front isn't too Christmassy, since it depicts cute birds enjoying the last of the winter snow.

Let's hope I won't have many more days to wear this shirt and can wash it and store it away for next winter.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


May he rest in peace.

On the day before Palm Sunday, our dear friend and husband of Hub's special cousin passed away. While we were out grocery shopping on foot (borrowed car has brake problem) this afternoon, we received the sad message that our beloved and respected family member had died on Saturday morning.

HW will always be remembered as an intelligent and compassionate true gentleman. And he was a great gardener and super cook. As he was German, I never read any of his works, but my hub said he was phenomenal in his philosophical writing. Visiting his and his wife H 's home was always a real treat, and the hospitality abounded.

Our condolences go to his loving wife, his doting daughter and his two sons, and their partners and four grandchildren.

We will be with HW's family for the funeral in Germany on Saturday. The day before Easter 2013.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cold and a Cold

As I write this I am cradling a warm cup of tea. Perfect for cold, windy weather, and I have a cold.

Change in temperature and location always seems to end up in a drippy, stuffy nose for me. It was my hub, not I, who drove in an open automobile in the piercing cold wind! But I have the sniffles! :(

With the exception of Hub going outside to help the Carglass guy repair the passenger window of our borrowed car, we have been sitting in our Jysk recliners dozing and watching television.

So today was a rest day in our Beltway apartment.

(thank goodness for leftover Chinese food)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Our Adventure Begins with Robbery

Two days after arriving here our "borrowed" car has been robbed!

This morning around 11 we went out with our shopping bags to do our normal grocery shopping. Our red Polo was parked right in front of the apartment building where we left it yesterday evening. A young man with a small child in a "bakfiets" (baker's bike) was parked in front of our car telephoning the police to report that someone had smashed our passenger window and rummaged through the glovebox.

What a shock for us! Our trusty car was damaged and our TomTom and radio were stolen!

In the freezing cold weather, my hub and brother-in-law came into action. They notified the police and CarGlas, so I will probably do a smaller amount of shopping by myself this afternoon and then walk back home while Hub takes the the car to be repaired.

Welcome to Nederland!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sunshine and Snowflakes

From where I am writing this post I can see the tops of the trees and the sky.

My sister-in-law and hub took down the sheer curtains from the windows to the balcony at the Beltway apartment, and that seemed to open up the whole place.

An hour ago there was sun, and now the sky is lightly clouded and a mere dusting of snow falls onto the balcony wall.

Spring just can't seem to break through yet. :(

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Beltway Apartment

If you regularly read my blog, you know that I sometimes write in riddles. Well, this time is no exception.

We are at the Beltway apartment again. My Dutch followers will understand my play on words, and the rest will just have to wonder why I am being so strange.

After spending one night at our son's house in the really big city, we told our pup goodbye and took an easy ride to the airport. We were way ahead of our scheduled flight, but who knows how things will go when you take a taxi to the airport. Better safe than sorry!

Our flight across the big puddle was non-eventful, and our brother-in-law kindly picked us up at a very early hour. So early that he is now snoring on the couch in front of the TV! ;)

We have another busy day tomorrow here on the Beltway, so I am going to call it a day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Two of Each Kind

It is spring! Well, almost anyway.

Yesterday a hummingbird looked at us through our kitchen window. It seemed to say, "How about a drink, folks!" So this morning I put out the hummingbird feeders (2), and immediately two hummingbirds had drinks.

This afternoon Flip and I saw two funny black heads pop up in the water in the pond. Those two heads are a couple. Of turtles, that is. Now to wait for the kiddie turtle heads. <3

I finally planted my lettuce and tomato and cuke and squash seeds. We will see how they do on their own the next few weeks.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Manganese and White 18th Century Dutch Tiles and Mantle Before

We have lived in our home for over five years, and we are busy with the last "construction." Two years ago the old Dutch tiles were mounted around the firebox, and now our Mennonite cabinet maker has begun work on the mantle that we have custom designed. Hopefully in about a month that final touch will be ready. There will definitely be an After photo on this blog.

But now the story of the tiles. My hub's mother purchased these beaten up 18th century Dutch tiles at a flea market over 40 years ago. In the late 1980's, we inherited them in a big banana box and somehow they were placed in the back of our large garage in Zoeterwoude.

Over the next 20 years I saw the box of tiles and noticed the chipped edges, so I really did not consider them to be of much interest. Just before we packed up to move to the US, we had to clean out the shelves in the garage. I came across the box of tiles again (now covered with mouse poop) and decided to try to clean them up. How else could I decide if they were worth shipping with the rest of our belongings?

So on a hot summers day (yes, they exist in The Netherlands), I soaped and scrubbed the old tiles on our back patio. When they dried up nicely, I packed them in newspaper and into a wooden box for transport.

Two years ago when the tile setter came to do our kitchen backsplash, we asked him to set the best manganese and white 18th century tiles around the firebox of our fireplace.

For two years after that we have been trying to find someone locally to build our mantle. One guy came out, took measurements, said a colleague would probably make a drawing and get back to us, and we never heard from him again. In fact, when we contacted him on his Facebook account, he asked "Who are you?" That must be great for business on the World Wide Web!

Before that, we actually took our ideas to another local cabinet maker, and when we called to find out if he would make our mantle, he said he did not know anything about it and did not have our plans. :(

Yesterday our Mennonite cabinet maker came to our house, showed us his computer drawings, tweeked the fluted columns, picked up a deposit, and left with the intent of completing our mantle soon.

Stay tuned for the final project results in May.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I Am First with the News

In our house, the first one to read the news/e-mail/snail mail is me (I should say I).

I am the first one awake and out of bed.

I am the first one to turn on my iPad and read the e-mail messages.

I am the first one to read the online news.

I am the first one to read the snail mail, since I am the only one who drives to the post office.

So I am the first one to receive the Good, The Bad, and The Ugly news! And lately the news has been all three!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Whole Truth About My Big Fat Greek Yoghurt Mistake

Oops! Did it again!

My hub says I am slipping up on so many little things because I will be hitting the big 65 mark in June. I think it is because I am just being too sloppy and sometimes too sure of myself. Old people do that, don't they?

This week was no exception. I goofed! Not just a little bit, but a lot!

Monday I was scheduled to give a demonstration to my Master Gardeners group on making Greek yoghurt. So Sunday I was up early to give away my Mammaw's old sewing machine to my niece, and I started my batch of Greek yoghurt to use for the demonstration. 8:00 am sharp I poured the gallon of 2% milk into my triple crock pots and turned that on LOW. So far so good!

Around 11:30 the milk temperature was 170 degrees F, so I set the pots without lids out on the cooling rack and set the timer for one hour. Still good!

When the milk temp was down to about 115 degrees F, I lifted off the milk skin and whisked in two or three tablespoons of reserve active culture yoghurt per pot. Then I popped the lids back on the crockpots, placed them back into their triple crockpot apparatus, covered the whole thing with four heavy beach towels and sturdy packing paper, and told myself that around bedtime I would have yoghurt. I had left the machine plugged up to electricity and set on LOW, since I wanted the temperature to be warm enough to keep my crockpots from cooling off. I told myself that I would simply unplug the main cord after I tucked in the towels.

An hour and one-half later as I was browsing through info about yoghurt for my demo, I remembered that I never unplugged that cord. Yipes! Ruined! 170 degree F milk and dead cultures! Now what to do?

Well, I cooled down the pots to 110 degrees F one more time. Spooned the "failed yoghurt" into the largest glass jars I had and stirred in a heaping spoonful of my leftover yoghurt (with live cultures) into each jar. Then I lidded them, wrapped them in towels, and stored them in an insulated shopping bag in the warm pantry.

Then I proceeded to start the yoghurt process once again. Luckily we had more 2% milk! But now I was almost 9 hours late in preparation for my demonstration. That batch also almost got wasted. Instead of wrapping it in towels, I decided to place it into the oven with the light turned on. Around bedtime, I noticed that the oven was hotter than 100 degrees F. I told my hub that I was going to turn off the light in the oven, but I DIDN'T. By some sheer luck, that batch turned out fine.

And my demonstration Monday morning went fine, too. (sigh :)

As for the double "yoghurt, yoghurt," my hub put the jars in the fridge around 2:00 am Monday morning. I strained the contents when I came home from the meeting. Now it is packed in little plastic tubs in the fridge. Think we will try to eat it. It really isn't bad at all.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Keeping a Family Tradition

Today our son sent a photo of his homemade breakfast of fried pork chops and fried eggs. Now do not worry, since he does not make a habit of eating so much fried food for breakfast. In fact, during the work week he rarely eats breakfast. :( Wish he would go back to the oatmeal breakfasts he used to love.

By frying up the chops this morning, he is keeping his great-grandmother's tradition of pork chop breakfasts. Thanks to running out of bacon, finding chops in the freezer, enjoying a late breakfast on Sunday, and a great recipe from The Pioneer Woman, he prepared this yummy meal.

Hats off to you, favorite son!

Friday, March 8, 2013

150 Years Ago Today -- During the Civil War

We are off to the dentist again today, but just down the street from our dentist is the Kent Plantation. Today we may stop by to see how they are commemorating the 150 years since the Civil War. 

I am not a history buff and did not even learn the dates of the war until I moved to Europe. But there are history experts who value the following bits of info. The first one, the military draft, caused riots and deaths in Yankee territory. The second is for our son who reported on Robert E. Lee when he was in the 5th grade. 

It might be good to note that on March 3, 1863 Congress passed the first military draft.
--"-On this date, the Congress of the United States passes the National Enrollment Act, the first military draft in the U.S., to wit:  “That all able-bodies male citizens of the United States, and persons of foreign birth who shall have declared on oath their intention to become citizens under and in pursuance of the laws thereof, between the ages of twenty and forty-five years, except as hereinafter excepted, are hereby declared to constitute the national forces, and shall be liable to perform military duty in the service of the United States when called out by the President for that purpose.”

The following letter from Robert E. Lee is taken from Dudley Bokoski's blog called War of the Rebellion- The Official Record of the Civil War (1861-1865)

" March 8, 1863 (Tuesday): Overcoming Obstacles

General Isaac R. Trimble

March 8, 1863.
MY DEAR GENERAL: I am much obliged to you for your suggestions, presented in your letters of February and March. I know the pleasure experienced in shaping campaigns, battles, according to our wishes, and have enjoyed the ease with which obstacles to their accomplishment (in effigy) can be overcome. The movements you suggest in both letters have been at various times studied, canvassed with those who would be engaged in their execution, but no practicable solution of the difficulties to be overcome has yet been reasonably reached. The weather, roads, streams, provisions, transportation, &c., are all powerful elements in the calculation, as you know. What the future may do for us, I will still hope, but the present time is unpropitious, in my judgment. The idea of securing the provisions, wagons, guns of the enemy, is truly tempting, and the desire has haunted me since December. Personally I would run any risk for their attainment, but I cannot jeopardize this army.
I consider it impossible to throw a trestle bridge over the Rappahannock below the Rapidan, with a view to a surprise. Our first appearance at any point would be the signal for the concentration of their army, and their superior artillery would render its accomplishment impossible without great loss of life. A bridge might be thrown over the Rapidan above Germanna Mills, and has been contemplated. Our movements might be concealed until we crossed the Rappahannock, but the distance from there to Aquia is great; no forage in the country; everything would have to be hauled. The route by Orange and Alexandria Railroad is the most feasible. The bridge is passable at Rappahannock Station. We must talk about it some time.
I hope you are getting strong, and that you have good tidings from all your friends.

Very truly,
R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 658.

Trimble had been severely wounded at Second Bull Run. He was an active letter writer during his recovery. He lobbied Richmond for promotion and argued with J.E.B. Stuart over credit for the seizure of the Union supply depot at Manassas. It appears he also offered strategic ideas to Robert E. Lee. If there is doubt as to Lee's sense of humor, a reading of the letter will dispel them. Lee notes he has "enjoyed the ease with obstacles....(in effigy) can be overcome."

Draft riots in Union territory.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Murphy Bed Behind the Velvet Curtain

One of my first memories of staying at my hub's family home in The Netherlands in the late 70's was sleeping in the Murphy bed in the guest bedroom. In the first place, at the age of 30 years I had never seen a Murphy bed, much less one hidden behind a curtain!

Actually there were other pieces of furniture in that house hidden behind curtains, and I just thought they could not afford wooden doors. It wasn't until reading my latest book "Levend op Stand" by Ileen Montijn that I found out that "curtains", especially velvet or corduroy, were the style. Whether that was the style in the 70's, I do not know. But it was definitely a style.

In our shipment back last fall, we brought over a wooden bookcase that had been in the master-bedroom of my in-laws. It too had a curtain at one time. Maybe I should restore the piece to its original design. And maybe not!

From what I can surmise from reading the above mentioned book and what I know about housekeeping, the curtains served the purpose of shielding the furniture contents from dust.

Certain American housewives tried to solve that dust problem back in the 50's and 60's by covering their couches, chairs, and lampshades with plastic covers. (You have probably seen examples of that on episodes of "The Nanny" and "Everyone Loves Raymond.")

My hub says he remembers when his relatives covered their living room furniture with cloths before going to bed each night. Guess the couches and chairs had pajamas, too. I wonder if housewives really thought that furniture would get dustier during the night than during the day?
Maybe it was just what they did.

And if the cat or dog decided to take a nap on the chair while they were asleep, then it was covered. Literally! (We have never let Flip get up on our furniture, so I never worry about that.)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Start Those Engines--Lawn Mowing

For all of my European followers, here is the Wikipedia explanation of that weed eater I am still trying to master:

"Weed Eater was a string trimmer company founded in 1971 in Houston, Texas by George C. Ballas, Sr., the inventor of the device. The idea for the Weed Eater trimmer came to him from the spinning nylon bristles of an automatic car wash. He thought that he could come up with a similar technique to protect the bark on trees that he was trimming around. His company was eventually bought by Emerson Electric and merged with Poulan. Poulan/Weed Eater was later purchased by Electrolux, which spun off the outdoors division as Husqvarna AB in 2006.

Inventor Ballas was the father of champion ballroom dancer Corky Ballas and the grandfather of Dancing with the Stars dancer Mark Ballas.

George Ballas died in June 2011."

Today we mowed our lawn for the first time in 2013.

Notice that I did not say that we "cut the grass, " since most of what we cut were weeds. The grass is down there somewhere, but now it can get light since the weeds have been "eaten." Or chomped. Or just chewed up.

My hub was doing the big spaces on his riding John Deere lawnmower, and I handled the electric push mower and the electric weed eater. The last apparatus handled me, since it never seems to feed the nylon string more than about 1/2 of my job. :(

But our yard looks good and green again.

Now how many more times will we have to mow our lawn this year? Dare I keep count?

Oh, by the way, I will hopefully find out which weeds I "ate" at tomorrow night's Master Gardener class. I missed that one last year.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My Book is "Uit" (finished)

Embarrassingly enough, last evening I finished reading my first complete book in five years!

Now that that threshold has been crossed, let's try another one. Our home library has hundreds of books from which to choose. For my next book, I chose "Leven op Stand" (yes, in Dutch again) by Ileen Montijn.

I believe that I chose this book because I am genuinely curious about how my hub's paternal grandmother lived as one of the "upper crust" about 100 years ago. We have her furniture, china, photos, etc. in our home, and that is enough to make me want to know more about how other Dutch women like Oma lived.

So here goes. "Leven op Stand" 1890-1940------

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Late Winter Freeze

Lazy Saturday afternoon! We try not to shop for anything on Saturdays. It is even a rat race out here in the woods/country.

Yesterday (Friday) we picked up 20 bags of cedar mulch for our garden, and the traffic was reasonable. We even by-passed the cross traffic by taking a leisurely drive around Topsy. Isn't that a cute name? Kind of like something from "Gone with the Wind." Our son likes the road named You Winn which is before you get to Gillis. Don't these names just make you smile? And then there is Kinder (pronounced the German way). Now you can understand why I named my blogspot Wetcreek.

But I started out giving an update of the weather. We have had lots of rain lately, and the last two nights have been cold with frost. Tonight the weather people predict a good freeze. I knew that I should wait to plant my veggies, so the seeds are still safe in their packages.

The weather folks call this a late winter freeze, so spring must be just around the corner.

Friday, March 1, 2013

King Arthur Flour

I decided to splurge and try a more expensive flour for our daily no-knead bread. Having seen many bread blog recommendations for King Arthur flour, I bought it. The type is unbleached all-purpose flour in the 5 pound bag. For my 4 loaves recipe, I used 6 and 1/2 cups which looked like about 1/2 of the bag. The unused bag of flour went into the freezer for next week.

Here is a photo of the first loaf. It tasted divine!