I’m coming home

I am coming home tomorrow. I have enjoyed my time away but I am happy to be coming home because it is time to go home. I have learned how to cook on a fire lit stove. It is not as easy it sounds you have to watch out for a flame and not put anything near the flame or it will catch fire. I can’t wait to go back to school and see you all again. I have to go because it is time to go on the plane see you all again soon.

I can’t wait to see you again.

My schedule

This is a post on what I do daily and the times I do them. This is my schedule only, not Sarah’s, mom’s, or dad’s.

8:30 a.m. – wake up.
9:00 a.m. – eat breakfast.
9:25 a.m. – get dressed.
9:30 a.m. – start school work.
1:00 p.m. – make lunch.
1:30 p.m. – eat lunch.
2:00 p.m. – read or write a post.
2:30 p.m. – play on the computer or iPad.
3:00 p.m. – watch T.V. or juggle.
4:00 p.m. – play at the park.
5:00 p.m. – make supper.
6:00 p.m. – eat supper.
6:30 p.m. – play at the park with Rose and Ellen.
8:00 p.m. – come back.
8:30 p.m. – watch a Top Gear or IT Crowd.
9:00 p.m. – get ready for bed.
9:30 p.m. – go to bed.

These times are not exact. School work is normally math, spelling, and history. We have finished other subjects like Anne Frank, chess, French, and so on. We are still doing a little bit of French. We should be doing more. When I said “make lunch” and “make supper” it’s because I help cook as a subject of school (Home Economics). This schedule does not count for weekends or days we do something out of the ordinary, like today. Today we are having a guest over for supper.

If I knew you were comin’

The last two days have been domestic bliss for me. I am back in the saddle working on school work and I have been pampered more than is decent.

  • Janet made homemade chicken soup with local vegetables (delicious)
  • Janet also made homemade beef stew (also delicious)
  • Robin made and decorated a carrot cake for the agricultural fair happening tomorrow (not allowed to find out if it is delicious … it looks like it is)

We are also having the girls go out more by themselves. Robin has been going to the nearby store by herself to buy some of the groceries. Both girls are wandering about the neighbourhood to play in the nearby basketball court.

Less than a week and it is feeling pretty comfortable around here.

Sweet Soya Sauce Soba Noodles

Wow! Is it ever wonderful to be staying in a place that is designed to be lived in. Especially, since it seems to have been designed to be lived in by us. I have been having to be very limited, albeit, sometimes creative in my cooking since we have been away. Limitations are no longer a problem.

Jackie and Dwayne have a great kitchen, it is reasonably small, bright and open to the living areas, and really functional. Reminds me a lot of home. Small, open, bright and functional. They have a gas stove and now that I have a longer lighter I love it! I have never had a gas stove before and it is wonderful to cook on. Especially since Jackie and Dwayne also have woks, grill pans, and great heavy duty pots with stainless steel pads on their bottoms. The pots remind me a lot of our Paderno pots.

I recently made up a dish that I will call “sweet soy sauce soba noodles” for lack of a more original name. We all liked it a lot and it feels really wonderful to get back to eating more vegetarian meals.

Sweet Soy Sauce Soba Noodles

2 cloves minced garlic
1 pkg firm tofu drained and cut into small cubes
1 carrot peeled and grated
1 handful of snowpeas tipped and stemmed
1 small bok choy chopped
small handful of cilantro minced
1 package of soba noodles cooked and drained (I can be lazy here and buy them already cooked!)
2 shallots thinly sliced
1 – 2 Tbsp canola oil
2 – 4 Tbsp sweet soy sauce
2 Tbsp Sweet Chili Sauce (found this in Jackie and Dwayne’s fridge and we really love it – I suspect that it is good that all the ingredients are in Dutch and I can’t read what I am eating)

Place tofu cubes in a wok over medium heat and cook gently until the water has evaporated, then add oil, turn up heat to high and cook until lightly brown. For the next steps keep stirring so that nothing burns or sticks. If it starts to stick add a bit more oil or a bit of water. Add garlic and shallots and stir for about a minute, then add snow peas and cook for about another minute (until bright green). Add bok choy and grated carrots and cook for another minute. Add noodles, stir to incorporate and heat through. Add in the sauces and cilantro, stir for another 30 seconds or so to mix in. Then you are all done.

Gordie and I like it with even more sweet chili sauce on top.

Not tourists anymore

Being a tourist is tiring. We were getting a bit worn out in Paris and now, in Amsterdam, we are finally taking some rest. Although Amsterdam has a reputation based on legalized drugs and sex, it is a wonderfully peaceful place (actually, perhaps because of the aforementioned reputation it is a peaceful place …).

Our apartment is quiet and well appointed. The beds are soft and the evenings are tranquil. We are spending more time resting and reading than we have in the past. We are also getting geared up to start schooling in a little while. In preparation, we have allowed the girls to choose any subjects they want to learn and we will teach them to the best of our ability. Robin has chosen chess, juggling, and the recorder. Sarah has chosen cooking and computer programming. Jan and I have added reading and writing to the list for each girl.

It seemed a little odd in the beginning but it is really working quite well. I am not going to debate the academic merits of the choices as that was not the point. We wanted to get into a routine and see if we could teach our children without causing large ugly fights. This part is working quite well. On the other hand, some of the lessons are sticking and it is wonderful to see the girls enjoying learning.

We have a few outings planned for Amsterdam. It is wrong to come all the way here and not see the Van Gogh museum and the Anne Frank house. We are living in the Jordaan area (more or less in the centre of the Jordaan) and have canals very close in all directions. This will necessitate a boat cruise or two and perhaps renting a boat for a day to float about the area. We do plan to be tourists a little bit.

However, for now, it is a relaxing time spent reading and learning … and juggling.

Cooking with IKEA

It is always different cooking in someone else’ kitchen. Things inevitably are not in the spot I would expect. Some kitchens are better than others. My kitchen is very small, but really functional. Because it is open to the biggest room in our house, it feels much bigger than it is.  A few of my favorite items in our kitchen are our Grohmann knives, our GE stove with its convection oven, and little Miss Nancy.  Now before you going thinking that I am forcing my sister Nancy to cook for us, our Nancy is a wonderful rancillio espresso maker that has been with us for more than twenty years and a regular part of our family.  I hope that Gordie never has to admit which girl he loves best… it might be a close call.

The kitchen that I am using right now, might have come directly out of an IKEA showroom. Even the dishes and cutlery has an IKEA stamp on it. The kitchen is small, but looks quite modern, very similar to the in-store displays that I have wandered through when living in Ottawa. It is in fact quite clean and pretty.

Great a nice clean, modern kitchen to use for a month. Unfortunately, when I started to try to use the kitchen I found a few things lacking. For instance there is no oven, just a four burner counter top stove. There are no bowls, we are now rationing mugs for coffee/tea and for cereal/dessert. There are no mixing bowls. The microwave is a grey metal box which keeps running until time runs out, whether or not you have opened it and removed your food. There are two dials, one for time in minutes, the second for power. The power dial is a bit of a mystery to me. It has settings 1 through 5 which I am guessing are increasing power amounts. After 5 it continues with C1, C2, and C3 then ends with a G. Perhaps the C1-C3 might be convection, but the G has me stumped. Perhaps it means Go For It! So far power level 5 seems to heat up a mug of water for tea in about 1 and 1/2 minutes give or take.

Please let’s not even discuss the knives here. One thing that I really considered before we left home was figuring out how to bring good knives with me. I love cooking and good, sharp knives are a necessity. Unfortunately, I could not imaging trying to explain at customs, just exactly why I need really sharp knives. Especially if I had to explain in an language that was not English.

One little side note. I now understand why some people in the past have insisted that I must be northern European. Ever since we got off the plan in Iceland, I have looked like I belong in each country we have visited. There are many people here who look like me. Lots of others who look like they need to buy a sun lamp and whose eyebrows and eyelashes are all but invisible. The downside of looking so at home is that most people we run into assume that I am a local and thus should be able to speak, Icelandic, Dutch, or German. At the monument at the Wall, the man selling information packages tried to sell me a dutch one when I stared blankly at his German. I really wish I could speak some of each language. I am sure that I would get even more out of this experience. That said, people have been just great with my smiles, points and Dankes.

Sorry my “little” side note ended up being pretty long.

Despite the limitations of the kitchen, we are having lots of fun cooking and eating. Everyone is helping and having fun guessing what some of the ingredients are. For example, tonight we had pan-fried white fish. The type of fish is still a mystery, but it was very tasty. We have been working on simplifying our diet, getting rid of the little processed foods that we used to eat, and eating even more fruits and vegetables. Today marks the start of me getting rid of simple sugars from my diet. I don’t do well with them. My blood sugar spikes and I am very, very happy, then it plummets and I am very, very tired and, worst of all cranky.