Spekulaas : Dutch’s old time favorite soul food.

 

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My First time ever baked Spekulaas Cake ( Spekulaas Koek)

Thanks to my Dutch husband who introduced me to a hidden Dutch goodness, the Spekulaas,  or the longtime Dutch soul food. When it comes to food, the Dutch cuisine doesn’t boast of a world-renowned foods, but when you take a closer look at what’s in a typical Dutch’s table, you’ll be able to understand why Krentebrood, Kroket, Patat, Poffertjes, and Stroopwafels are humble example why you should taste them at least once in your life, at least if you have the chance! I remember the first time I sat on a Dutch table and devoured with delight some home-made meatballs with Rode kool met appleltjes. It was a delightful meal, my first time ever to taste a red cabbage— with cinnamon-tangy apples!

What is Spekulaas ?

I had  Spekulaas was when my parents-in-law  visited us in Kuwait and brought us a handful of Spekulaas goodies from Holland three years ago. There were Spekulaas cookies, Gevulde koek spekulaas and all sorts of pastry cakes spiced with Spekulatius. There was no way we can find Spekulaas spice in Kuwait, let alone the genuine spice composed of cinnamon ( zimt) nutmeg ( muskatnuss), cardamon, ginger, white pepper,and ground aniseed.  I have seen the  Lotus Speculoos  cookie spread ( Belgian origin)  sold in selected supermarkets like in Carrefour, but then it is not the authentic Spekulaas flavor. Since then, Spekulaas became a favorite of mine among Dutch food, creating a statement of soul food. It is not just a winter food.  It’s hard to explain, the taste, the smell, and the rich flavor, it is unique, and I found it to be  decadent for me. Here in Germany, fortunately, Spekulaas and spices are widely sold in most supermarket, all year round. But during Fall, and the Autumn baking season starts, Spekulaas, along with Lebkuchen and Stollen floods all the shop.

Last week, my daughter had the Lantern parade celebrating Martinstag (or St. Martin). The kids along with their parents walked in the dark with their lantern and singing songs. Despite the rain, cold and darkness, it was a meaningful experience. Parents are  also asked to bring some bakes goodies along with kinderpunsch and glühwein. I wrote Spekulaas Koek for our share! I know I must be crazy, because first and foremost, I have never tried making Spekulaas cake, and secondly, I don’t know how to do it! This is totally something bake from scratch!

But as the saying goes ” When there’s a will, there’s a way! ” so  definitely  I found a way! I did my research and get the ingredients and then I prepared to bake Spekulaas ahead of time.I got the Spekulatius spices from Holland. Sometimes I even springkle some in my home made waffles and pancakes!

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Our house feels heaven after I took this out from the oven.

Speculaas or speculoos is one of the Dutch culinary specialties. Normally, it is a spiced biscuit, made with wooden forms or moulds. They are typically winter food, and especially associated with the feast of ‘Sint Nicolaas’ or Saint Nicholas, the original Santa Claus. Along with their infamous Chocolate Letters and Kruidnoten, Spekulaas signals one of the best celebrated feast in the Netherlands  before Christmas;  the Sinterklaas. This feast is celebrated on 5 or 6 December. Speculaas is very old, the spices used date from medieval times.

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Home made baked Gevulde Koek Spekulaas
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My home-made Gevulde koek with Almond filling 

The name seems to derive from the Latin speculum (mirror, the biscuits had the carved figure of the mould in mirror image). Old wooden biscuit moulds show biblical scenes, historic events, ships, windmills, mermaids, and of course images of Saint Nicholas with the small children he had saved according to the legend. Single youngsters could receive a ‘vrijer’ (male admirer/lover) or ‘vrijster‘ (female admirer/lover). According to some this could be considered as a marriage proposal from the giver. These large speculaas dolls (Dutch’s version of  Gingerbread cookies) were often decorated with coloured icing, silver pills and even leaf gold.


The speculaas biscuits from before, say, 1850, were made with a very hard dough containing rye flour and honey.  Be warned though that these biscuits were so hard they could only be eaten if they were dissolved into a sweet (and tasty) porridge.
I enjoyed dipping these hard cookies in my coffee just to make it soft a bit. I noticed that they can also be stored for a long time in an airtight container.

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Decadent blanched almond on top of Gevulde Koek Spekulaas

So I brought the baked Spekulaas cake and Gevulde Koek Spekulaas to my daughter’s St. Martin’s party and  placed it along the German ‘s trays of Lebkuchen, onion breads, macaroons, pizza breads, pretzel and other home made goodies. Here in Germany, I observed that only healthy options are served to feed the children. the parents of the children in the Kindergarten are giving support to the school staff and this way of potluck is a great thing to enhance social aspects. Junk food and soft drinks are totally absent. I kept on looking if people would eat it or it will be left ignored. I stand there and watch each piece dissappear from the tray. When I only saw two to three pieces left from the Gevulde Koek, I felt relieved. It made me feel satisfied that my Dutch- inspired baking was consumed well and I was able to share some Dutch goodness.

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Dutch’s ultimate Soul food: Spekulaas

To get the best verdict : The Dutchman himself tasted and devoured the Spekulaas! I gave a few slices to our  German neighbor as well and they only replied with “Lecker” ! ( or delicious ).

I guess anything made with Love taste better, Do you agree? Are you also fond of home made cooking.

 

Do you like Spekulaas?  What  is your favorite comfort food for winter?

 

If you are inspired to do some Fall baking and bring some Dutch flavors in your home, you might want to try making the traditional Dutch Apple Pie ( Appeltaart ) and bring some crazy colorful Rainbow cake.

Guten Appetit and wishing you a lovely week !

 

Tschüss!

 

 

 

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The joy of life with plants

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My overwhelming pot of Oxalis Triangularis

 

” A life with plants is vibrant and full of joy “…

I go by these words nowadays.This is the reason why I respect the social media that I am engaged into right now especially the platforms that I am sharing this Blog and my artworks as a self-taught artist. Instagram , for example  have made me  discover the beautiful side of loving plants.Talented photographers, gardeners, home makers and all these crazy plant people have created a whole new definition of indoor gardening .You think it’s just a new trend,  I tend to disagree, for me it has become a lifestyle. The kind of inspiration that I love. If you love nature overall ,  I guess its very difficult to not appreciate the primitive and raw forms of life that surrounds us— plants! Come to think of it, when people wants to feel better, or release some tension, they go to nature.  I live in a very green city, I have an access to green parks and forest within 5 minutes away from my doorstep. I always visit parks with beautiful landscapes, with blooming flowers and plants, or simply taking a walk into green forests to have a quiet time and nature always do me good. I am so thankful that my new home now, Bavaria, is an oasis of nature. It is no wonder I wrote many things about nature here.

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Oxalis Triangularis

It’s a natural stigma, like an old adage. Even from the beginning, people gravitate to something that make them feel good, an addiction in a good way. Studies shows the many health benefits of simply getting your hands dirty by gardening. Its one proven way to release chemicals Dopamine and Serotonin. It’s not just for old people. Now I understand the joy we had while “Strawberry picking” last Summer or just by drooling over the new sprout of leaves from my plants.

It’s like seeing the eyes of my daughter when she smiles— its beautiful!

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Little tiny friend : Dypsis Lutescens (gold fruit Palm)
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Plants can make an empty corner looks alive

This post is very personal to me since this is the story of how I find an outlet of happiness by “nurturing” plants. I have shared to you how I’ve felt when I sold my first painting. It’s a moment of  pure joy, a newfound purpose. When I have “revived”a dying plant,  something left with only few leaves, but then grows back and bloom, the feeling is the same. My journey as a crazy plant lady started with a small pot of Chrysanthemums I placed in the garden, plants some stem cuttings of Jade plants ( I didn’t even know how to grow them, I just tried my luck!)  followed by few succulents and cactus, then the addiction began. There can never be enough. I am always on the look out of houseplants that are both beneficial and gives aesthetic boost to my home. With this, I involved my husband and my daughter. They know how crazy I am with plants because they know plants make me happy. Here in Germany, where the level of self-wellness is very high, it becomes a second nature now for me to create a lifestyle for a better quality of life.

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Sustainable Life : Plants and Painting goes well

Just like parenting, plant nurturing is a journey of self-discovery of how much love you are willing to give. It’s way more than just watering them. You’ve got to feel your plants, getting to know them, and watching over them like a mother. I am a first time mother and nurturing is something that I am continuously learning up until now. Being an Expat-mama where I don’t have the luxury of  having my immediate relatives for support have forced me to discover myself through the ups and downs of motherhood. It was not easy, there were sad days and tears were shed, especially when my daughter is sick or facing developmental delays. But there were also tears of joy, a sense of being needed, of being loved-back in return. It’s priceless. I know many mothers & parents can relate to this feeling.

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Plant envy : Pilea Piperomioides

Plants have helped me in the process of learning how to nourish  a life entrusted to your hands—and let yourself be nurtured in return. This an important part of fostering a strong, secure sustainability practice or else you will just waste money. Plants are no cheap and requires maintenance just like having a pet. It’s a beautiful purpose in life. I’ve lived in 4 different apartments in the last years and every time I build a new “home” for myself. Each one is a different surrounding and Expat life is like camping. A modern-day nomad.  When you are new to a foreign place, or unsure where you are going in life, I find ways to fully integrate as much as possible. This is the reason why I always try to find beauty here in Bavaria. I focus on the positive side and making this place feels like home. Being a crazy plant mama helps me refocus my energy on staying grateful, abundance, presence, and manage my stress accordingly. My plants have help me “set my roots” here in Germany.My plants have taught me how to become a better person! And they remind me that my actions have a significant effect on them. I don’t think that I can make a single plant alive if I am neglectful. Having houseplants requires responsibility.

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Green is the new Black for Green Interiors

Just like Painting, colors, shades of paint and the medium that I use allow me to embrace every shape and form to create an art composition. I’ve become fascinated with plants and colors that I usually see in my surroundings. Germans are good home makers. I love the way they make their gardens and decorate their balconies with houseplants. From large curtain-less windows, I got a chance to sneak peek on their huge planters, with cascading plants all over. There’s something about the way a place looks so peaceful and cozy when it’s adorned with plants. I noticed that Germans also love fresh flowers.They have different plants and flowers for each season and one of the things I love about visiting the Fresh market is the fresh blooms in display! And speaking of Bavaria, here, almost, or at least from what I see, no matter how tiny your  apartment is, there is always a pot of plant or flower in it.

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Bringing the tropical feel with Ferns

 

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I love the way the sunshine flooded our living room 

I’m telling you, my biggest expenditures lately are my Plants and painting materials. The two important things that gravitates me to living a less-stress life.Living with plants in every room of our apartment  have become a new natural for me in a short period of time. Some have stayed, and some have had to go, but the best part overall is seeing a growth happening, right before my eyes. I killed many of them , I was sad, disappointed at my self and blamed my “overwatering” nature. I am no expert, nor a green thumb. I just experiment, follow the rhythm of nature, researching about how to care for each type of plant, and this actually works for me to keep them alive, and especially —thriving.

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Alocasia’s charm

My daily routine includes tending to  my plants, as I tend to my love ones, feeding them & nurturing them. I am grateful every time  I roll down the roller shutters from our living room to let the sun floods the entire house, giving the golden sunshine to my plants.Through the days, I dream of  new ways to grow green life indoors and cultivating new plant sprouts. I clean the house surrounded by pots of  Jade plants, ferns, Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (  or lucky feather),Monstera deliciosa, and Alocasia. I prepare meals for my family in the view of my stunning Oxalis Triangularis, and Snake plant ( Mother-in Law tongue plant) . We share sumptuous meals as a family in the dining area with my Lily ( my Fiddle leaf fig tree) , Calatheas, and spider plant. In our garden, I plant herbs, and grow tomatoes, leeks, rosemary, basil and paprika from leftover veggies. Plants bring beauty into our lives and illuminate for us just what that kind of beauty can do to change the texture of our days and reconnect us to the cycles of the moon and stars and sun. If you are searching to live a more meaningful life, search for more beauty. Stop the negativity. And that begins, as all life does, with plants.

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The number one houseplant : Ficus Lyrata ( Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree plant)

I read in one article that house plants reflect how you feel as a person because they are completely dependent on you. You can tell by the state of your houseplants whether you feel good about yourself or not.

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Monstera Deliciosa 

Plant addiction or not, it really doesn’t matter. If you love what you do and you have joy in your life with whatever you fill it with—-it’s your choice. All addiction pathways are the same no matter what the chemical.

As long as you feel rewarded you reinforce the behavior to get the reward.”

So in other words it all comes down to the fact that we can’t change our craving nature but we CAN change the nature of what we crave.

What do you crave for in life?

I am curious to know, what is your channel of happiness at this moment?

Do you also love plants? How was your experience?

Please feel free to share your opinion of this post and if you are thinking of starting an indoor garden for yourself, you might want to check out what I’ve written on Houseplants that I actually didn’t kill.

Thank you once again for reading my friends. A long weekend is coming up over here in Germany and I am already busy thinking how to spend those days! Can’t imagine that within a month, I’m going back to school and start a whole new routine! Until next time.

 

Tschüss!

9 House Plants that I actually didn’t kill

 

 

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One DIY Project  and starting from scratch : Urban jungle in our home

I am very motivated person, especially when I am painting, but I discover that lately, my mood is greatly affected by the kind of surroundings that I am into. I realized that adding “greens”and cultivating plants have helped me so much to manage my stress and helped me take control of my focus. When I visit gardens, botanical or plant shops, I am in a happy place. It’s not just about the visual effects from plants that I love, I also adore the fact that houseplants add texture and life to a space especially with a more minimalistic theme like what I am into.

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Cactus crush : Incorporating cactus in our home

I am no-genius gardener or a skilled horticulturist, I just LOVE plants!

I don’t call this an obsession but a new passion. I guess if you LOVE  something that you do, then it’s really good for you.  For me, Green is the new Black. So I don’t feel guilty that I am indulging myself into my plant therapy and so far, I am so happy with the results. But it was not that easy at the beginning. The moment I bring home the plant, it starts dying, I feel frustrated. I won’t lie, I have killed so many until I have finally settled on best approach to keep my plants healthy, green, thriving, and best of all——keeping them ALIVE! 

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Two  things that make me happy : Succulents and some constellations Aquarelle artworks

What is your plant’s personality?

One way I learned about plants is to do some research about them. It’s easy to take care of something that you are familiar with since plants are variedly different.

If you have a small apartment, better choose plants that can adapt to your space.  It’s not just all about  buying plants from the store and bringing it to your home. It’s all about incorporating it to your lifestyle. If you’re thinking of adding some plants into your home, then this post might inspire you. I have said to myself before that I am a notorious “brown thumb“, but then I bent myself in keeping them alive or else, I  would really consider myself a “complete failure”! ( Crossing fingers!)

 I wanna share with you 9 plants that I manage not to KILL  (Hooorraayyy!!) and gratefully nurturing up until now .

1.Dumbcane ( Dieffenbachia , Leopard Lily)

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Our Dumb cane Dieffenbachia thriving in our home

This is actually a present from my parents-in-law once we moved to Germany. The photo above shows the mother plant, I already transplanted the other sprouts into another pot and that one is also thriving. It is very sensitive to direct light and overwatering is very crucial since it will rot the roots.I find this plant so pleasant that it adorns or living room in all seasons. Best to put in a corner where there is indirect sunlight .

Note : This plant is toxic. Not to be eaten.  The leaves, if chewed or eaten, can cause temporary swelling of the tongue and throat, leading to a temporary loss of speech and the common plant name of dumbcane. While this is usually not serious, it can cause suffocation. Avoid placing the dumbcane plant where curious children or pets might be tempted to taste it. 

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Cornstalk Drachaena ( Drachaena Fragrans)

 

2.Cornstalk Dracaena (Dracaena fragrans ) or Massangeana

One of the best plant for purifying the air and removing several types of toxins. Its tall tree-like shape makes it a great addition to any room.Very easy to maintain. Take note that its leaves are toxic so keep away from pets.

Did you know that the dracaena fragrans was a plant used in the NASA’s clean air study which proved to remove a considerable amount of toxins from the environment.The worst thing’s to do with this plant is over water it or let it stay in direct sunlight for too long, otherwise it’s a tough cookie.

3.Silver Bush , Cushion Bush ( Calocephalus Brownii)

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Silver Bush

This is one of my favorite houseplants since late Spring. I find it so pretty and unusual. It looks so artificial with its silver bush and can add instant “life”once you place it near the other greens. It’s very easy to maintain this plant, again, it needs a good draining soil and too much water is the friend of this plant.

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My Silver Bush among the other Greens

 

In Australia, Silver bush is also called cushion bush, because the twigs used to be used as filling for mattresses and cushions. Its suffix is ‘Brownii’which refers to the Botanist Robert Brown who discovered this plant in 1817.

4.Purple Shamrock , Love Plant ( Oxalis Triangularis )

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Oxalis Triangularis or Purple Shamrock

I got this purple gem as a present from my neighbor. She gave me a small pot of this with only a few strands. Since then, it grew wildly, so I propagate and transplanted a total of 4 plants within 3-4 months. Yes, it’s really that easy. Oxalis triangularis or commonly known as ‘Purple Shamrock’ or  Love Plant. Its purple triangular-shaped leaves are so beautiful, so amazing that during night-time, it closes and opens up again once it sees sunlight. It needs a good draining soil, and requires less water and moisture.

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I place this plant in our kitchen window where it has an abundant indirect morning sun and glows perfectly well.This plant is a must have if you want to keep a homey atmosphere in your patio, balcony or just beside your bed.

5. Spider plant,  (Chlorophytum comosum, airplane plant, St. Bernard’s Lily, spider ivy, or the Ribbon plant)

Another plant that I love is this cute Spider plant. It reminds me of the wild plants we have in Philippines .The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is considered one of the most adaptable of houseplants and the easiest to grow. This plant can grow in a wide range of conditions and suffers from few problems, other than brown tips

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Easy to grow Spider plant

I find them Spider plant so easy knowing that they are one of the most popular houseplants. Best for beginner plant lovers just like me.These tough plants tolerate lots of abuse, making them excellent candidates for newbie gardeners or those without a green thumb. Provide them with well-drained soil and bright, indirect light and they will flourish. Water them well but do not allow the plants to become too soggy, which can lead to root rot. In fact, spider plants prefer to dry out some between waterings.

6.Succulents

Succulents hit me hard. I find them so addicting. The first time I lay my eyes on them I immediately wanted to take home a bunch. But sad to say that because of my over-enthusiastic attitude, I have also “killed”so many. Back them I didn’t know how to keep succulents alive and I don’t have much idea. After learning my mistake, I manage to grow them and keep them thriving. I actually have so many “babies” which I replanted .

Number 1 tip : Do not over water and sometimes, its best to leave to actually leave them alone. They need at least 6 hours of sunlight. If you have winter season, its best to keep them indoors before winter comes so it helps them to acclimatize.Avoid glass containers or anything that doesn’t drain.

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Different textures, shapes and colors of indoor plants (Succulents and Pepperomia Argyreia)

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7. Jade Plant  (Crassula Ovata)

This is one of the first plants that I successfully grown from cutting a stem. Often called as a money tree ( as per Feng shui) and when grown indoors, Jade plant attains size like a small shrub. I keep in a place with partial indirect sunlight. I find this plant super tolerant of poor soils and its thick leaves and stems acts as reservoirs of water. Just take note that they are not thriving well with Overwatering so resist your urge to water often.

Do not water a jade plant too often,or as per schedule as this can cause root rot, only when the top soil is dry to the touch.

 

8.Dragon Tree or Drachaena Marginata

Just like my Yucca palm, the Madagascar Dragon tree  is another perfect plant that requires little attention you can totally forget it exists.It can grow up to 8 feet and also toxic for pets.

Dracaena plant care involves keeping the soil  moist, but never soggy. Drooping or yellowing leaves indicates over-watering or poor drainage. Learning how to care for a dracaena includes finding well-draining soil in which to grow your houseplant dracaena.

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Dragon Tree

This plant prefers warmer temperatures. Be sure to remove any yellowing leaves and trim brown tips to groom the natural leave shape as needed. This is also a great plant for natural air purification. Yes, plants cleans the air!

9.Cactus (Kakteen, Cacti)

Need I say more, cactus are super trendy and is everywhere. From chic homes to effortlessly stylish spaces, cactus is definitely one of the popular houseplants. I love Cactus and I have always dreamed of having a huge cactus collection but my daughter seems to be so charmed with it so I best keep it to minimum since she has already hurt herself by the pins and hairs.

The photo below shows the very first cactus plant that I bought. It was so tiny back then with one single pad .Look at it now after a year, the sight of the new spikes are getting me super-excited I can’t wait to propagate them next spring.

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Nurturing Cactus for Beginners
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My very first cactus  since last year (2016)

If you are a Decoholic like me, then you might as well jump into this cactus trend and start your own indoor garden with cactus.A popular plant during fifties, it seems only natural that with the revival of mid-century design elements in home furnishings and accessories, architectural plants like cactus would be embraced once again. But how you display your cactus plant and what you display it in, is the key to creating a fresh, modern look fit for today’s interior. Best of all, they will survive even if you neglect them! They will greet you alive even from a 2-months holiday! They are known to be drought-tolerant instantly highlight the mood in any space.

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Other plants that I nurture is the English Ivy which is thriving so well, my  Christmas Cactus, Anthuriums, Lavenders, tomatoes and sweet peppers along with Begonias. I also love to grow herbs which I usually use in cooking like Rosemary and Basil (Basilikum).Will definitely do an update of this post next year for their growth status so stay tuned!

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The most obvious benefit to having plants around your home is the visual impact. Of course flowers around your home can bring color and interest, but simpler green plants can also help a room look cleaner and more polished. They can even help you cover up blemishes on your walls or unsightly cords running along your floors.

How about you, Do you have plants in your home?

What are your favorites?

How was the experience of growing them?

 

My Rainbow Cake

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Baking from Scratch : My first Rainbow Cake

I will tell you something about what happens when you celebrate your Birthday in Germany :

Did you know that for Germans, it is considered as bad luck if you greet someone ahead  of their birthday? Oh yes, there is no such thing as advance birthday greetings ! By extension, a birthday party can never happen before the day itself, unless it’s a certified case of Reinfeiern, or “partying into your birthday” at midnight. The reason behind never saying happy birthday before the event is the superstitious worry that the person might die before their special day if you do. I told you, its kind of bizarre.

Also, the moment you give the present to the person celebrating the birthday, He or She will immediately open it in front of you, there’s no such thing as piling the gifts as customary in the Philippines. There are no lavish birthday bash either, heavily decorated-themed parties or costume party for the little ones,  nor food-coma. In short, no stress.  Sounds like the perfect birthday party after all, right?

 

It is not very common that someone give you a cake on your birthday.  Nope, you are the one who needs to buy it from the shop or make it by yourself. There’s not much bake shop here where there are arrays of ready-made cakes to choose from. On the first year of my daughter, we bought her a cake every single month! Yes that’s how vain I was, actually I did it all for her monthly photo sessions! Here in Bavaria, more often that you find those frozen cakes in the supermarkets like the infamous Black forest cake . I remember that in Kuwait and Philippines, it’s quite normal to give a cake as a present, more like a surprise, and a personalised present to the celebrant. On the other hand, Here in Germany,  expect to bring the cake once your colleagues drop the bomb “Alles gute zum Geburtstag “! Or better, bring on some few bottles of beer and curry wurst!

But we prefer, Bring on the Geburtstag torte! There’s no getting old about blowing some candles on top of your cake, especially if it’s on top of a RAINBOW CAKE!

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Easy 6 Layer Rainbow Cake

Mind you, for the past months, these are just one of the things that I have observed here in Germany about birthday celebrations. Germans love to give best wishes on birthdays and will reward you with warm greetings, hand-made cards which I absolutely adore, and gifts. They are serious people but also very sweet. Different, but nevertheless good. Anyways, going back to my Cake talk, for the record, 4 days ago was my birthday.

Hooorraaahhh for another year!

So I thought it might be a great idea if I made a  post about the cake that I’ve bake, after all, what is  birthday without a cake???

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It’s a heavy thing!

I was really  looking forward to make my first “Rainbow  Cake”, YES, for the reason that when I asked my daughter what she wants on her 3rd Birthday, she blurted out to me in her sweet voice : “Rainbow cake! “ and so I searched how to do it. She’s very into colors nowadays but still I wonder where did she got this idea! I had a hard time looking for the baking ingredients especially the food coloring here, but finally I got what I needed from REWE .  I indulge myself in making this colorful, artsy, delicious cake. Quite challenging but then I enjoyed making this one since my little girl helped me out.

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Baking from Scratch : Rainbow Cake

The soft, delectable buttermilk cake with vanilla frosting is perfect for a birthday treats and sure it was a hit for my family and friends. The layers of different vibrant colors in one fluffy cake  is such an attractive centerpiece and my daughter is so happy when she saw the pre-baked cakes in red, orange,yellow, green, blue and violet shades. She just kept on singing “yummy , yummy ” when she was spreading the frosting on each layer. After I’ve made this cake, I realized that everyone deserves to have at least one rainbow cake in their lifetime! Birthdays are such a happy occasion of celebrating life and looking at rainbow colors made me happy.

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Mama Challenge : Easy 6- layer Rainbow Cake

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Don’t get intimidated, it might looked so complicated but  something that I’ve never done before so I was determined to try it. You just got to have the right ingredients and equipment and you’re all set. Easy-peasy. The reason why I wanna share the recipe of my Rainbow Cake because I find it really good and anyone can make it, especially for busy Mamas out there who wants to make a surprise to their kids. It is not complicated as it seems to be. I have received comments like “Did you really make that?”or “How did you make all those layers? “ Isn’t it too complicated ? I’m going to give you an answer — It’s worth to try this cake, it is so good that I think I’m a convert now to a Rainbow Cake maniac!

If you have time and want to try making this colorful cake, Here is my own version of an easy 6-Layer Rainbow Cake.

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The Final touches, whipping out with heavy sprinkles and jelly beans!

A sidenote: If you wanted a tall cake or depending on the size that you want, you can double the amount of ingredients to create the size and thickness of the cakes that you are going to make.

EASY 6- LAYER RAINBOW CAKE

INGREDIENTS :

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract ( I used vanillin sucker)

1 cup Buttermilk

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

3 cups all-purpose flour ( I used Type 405 Weizen mehl)

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Food coloring : Red, Yellow, Blue, Green and Purple

For the vanilla frosting:

12 oz. cream cheese ( I used Philadelphia, classic)

1 1/2 cups butter ( softened)

6 cups powdered sugar ( I reduced the amount to 3 cups only)

1 tsp. vanilla extract ( I used 2 packs of vanillin sucker)

INSTRUCTIONS :

  1. Preheat oven  325 deg. F. ( or 162 C).
  2. Grease and flour 6 pcs. cake pan ( 9″ (23cm)  cake pans ). I only have 3 pans so I did two rounds of baking the cakes.
  3. In a bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until all blended using a hand mixer.
  4. Mix eggs until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Add vanilla, buttermilk and the heavy cream.
  6. Mix  the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
  7. Put into the sugar /butter mixture half of the flour mixture and mix well until all ingredients are well blended. Add the remaining half of the flour mixture gradually.
  8. Divide the batter into 6 bowls ( 1 cup each).
  9. Add the food color to each bowl starting from red, yellow, green, blue and purple. Tip : To create a vibrant rainbow cake, make sure to put a good amount of coloring to create a lively color. For orange, add a vibrant yellow and add drops of red. For purple, combine red and add drops of blue.
  10. Pour each colored batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
  11.  Bake for 10-15 minutes in the preheated oven. Do not over bake.
  12. Cool down the cake in the cooling rack.
  13. While cooling down, make the cream cheese vanilla frosting.Cream the cream cheese and butter using a hand mixer.Add gradually the powdered sugar and vanilla.
  14. Spread the frosting on the cake, first on Purple,blue,green,yellow, orange and finally the red cake.
  15. Place a thin coat of icing to create a crumb coat and decorate as you please. You can add some colored rainbow sprinkles, jelly beans.
  16. Chill the cake for a few minutes to hold the cake together with all the frosting.
  17. For the icing, just whipped egg whites and powdered sugar until forming stiff peaks and spread out evenly to coat the cake for decorations. You can also coat it with colored icing as you please.
  18. Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on your back for a job well done! Enjoy!

 

Just in case you are wondering about the Calorie content,  I must answer: What are you talking about? 

I leave you with a virtual piece of this fabulous cake. Thank you for reading and wishing everyone a great week ahead!

So tell me, do you have any weird Birthday traditions?  or have you ever made your own Birthday Cake? Feel free to share it in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

The Heat is ON in Bavaria

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32 degrees today! What Summer feels in Bavaria

This is the real thing now, the heat is ON in Bavaria !

What Summer fun are you engaging now?

Nevermind  the plague of Wasps and bee season, summertime is finally here and in Bavaria, in my old little city, everyone is just feeling ecstatic of the fine summer breeze, or rather, toasty winds since we have 32 degrees now!

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A very inviting Lake where we had picnic and splash. This is just one of our pit-stop from our cycling en-route (35kms) .

Have you seen summer flowers yet? They are blooming, giving us perfect backdrop for outdoors. From our garden to the nearby parks, summer flowers can be so exotic just like the Echinops Ritro!

I came to Germany last Summer, and I’m telling you, this season is probably the best season to enjoy Bavaria. To make the most of beautiful nature, lots of sun and water fun is essential. This week we have temperatures ranging from 18~32 degrees C . With this we have all the reason to spend time outside given the favors of so many holidays. Staying in when the weather  is perfect as this  is  definitely a S-I-N. Generally, Germans, or the typical Bavarians, adore the sun. Soaking up under the sunshine until the last ray of the sun until 9 o’clock at night. You can see them  sunbathing in the banks of the river Danube, lying in the grass in the parks, or just right in their balconies.

With the kick-off of the festival season, the Spring Pfingstenvolkfest,  Die Welt is bunt, Bürgerfest, and strawberry season, it feels like summer arrived early since we have a very sunny spring. I have written countless times that from the moment the day breaks, people here are out, (including US!) and ready to explore— and yes, with their dogs, clad in outdoor clothing, in their bicycles, with their walking sticks, off to the lake, and drinking beer in the bier garten promptly at 10 a.m on weekends!

So here I wanna share with you some of the fascinating things  about ‘Summer Feels ‘ here in our region. Whether you are just visiting tourist or a local, sure thing that you don’t wanna miss out on these activities!

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We do BBQ like the German way!

Grillsaison ( or Grilling season)

Summer is not complete without BBQ and Germans really take their grilling to the highest level! You know its summer when you breathe in the smell of BBQ in almost every house on a fine weekend. Since we have 9pm sunsets, this is a perfect way to bond. Be it in an open park, garden or in the tiny balconies of apartments, German take their grilling time seriously. Months before summer starts, we are flooded with different kinds of grill paraphernalia, from the garden tents, lounging seats, and yes, ‘the meat and wurst‘. About 70% of Germans have BBQ every  weekend and its typical to see a grill machine in every garden. Pack a picnic, a mat and  head to the lake, throw a piece of sausages ( wurst) and meat cuts into the charcoal grill and drink beer. This spells the perfect “Gemutlichkeit “or what the Dutch called “Gezelligheid” .

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The Grillsaison has finally begun!

Poppy fields  and wild flowers everywhere!

When summer time comes, in between wheat fields and every single empty space is filled with this fragile reddish-orange wild Poppy flowers. When I run and cycle, I can’t help but to stop and just be amazed by how  these simple wild bulbs can change the whole neighborhood and the way I feel. Sure, Tulips are my favorite flowers , but then there’s something about a field covered in Summer poppy blooms. It looks so calm, peaceful and so pretty!

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Close up encounter with red Poppy flowers last week when I was cycling.

 Eis Eis Baby! 

Who doesn’t like Ice Cream?

Ice cream parlors and shops are finally open here since late Spring. On warm, sunny days, there’s even a huge line outside. You really need to sweat out first before you enjoy their wide selection of Eis ( ice cream). My daughter is crazy about the richly flavored popsicles and ice pops which comes out in watermelon, kaktus, and yogurt ice cream. One is not enough, eating ice cream is definitely a threat we always enjoy during summer especially after we are all sweaty from cycling around.

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Eis Eis Baby!

Make sure to eat “spaghetti eis”: We promise it’s only a stupid name. This concoction is really just a strawberry ice cream sundae with vanilla “noodles” and strawberry sauce with white chocolate flakes standing in for the cheese. Guten Appetit!

Sunbathing in a make-believe beach!

This is the photo of the Donaustrand, a place made to look like a beach beside the river. It is the platform located in front of the river Danube and facing the New Castle. During summer, this place is a magnet for Germans and all outdoor lovers to enjoy a relaxing time, especially during sunset. This is a place a for  open-air concerts and the ” Live Orchestra Nights” where you can enjoy live music, drinking with friends, and lounging in recliners and sunbathing like you are in the beach .This is such a cozy place.

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A shot I took while lounging in the Donaustrand and enjoying sunset drinks.

Hanging out your clean laundry outside

There is nothing like the smell of clean laundry, hung out to soak up the fresh air. Hang out your sheets before the drying racks take over your apartment for the winter.We have a huge space in the garden and I just love how the sun do wonders on the sheets! I love this since it really saves time from tedious long cycles of drying. Natural is always better!

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Skinny dipping in some lake

Skinny dipping and baring it All !

Oh yes, Germans are very liberal and no-nonsense people when it comes to nudity. In some lakes, there are areas which are particularly allotted for “nudist”. Here, people are no hang-ups in baring it all and soaking up the sun from dawn to dusk.Germans think nothing of stripping to sunbathe. They do it on beaches, by lakes, and in heavily frequented urban parks. It’s very common to see unclothed people on regular park lawns or topless on balconies. Germany is one of the few places in the world where naturism occurs not just in secluded areas, but in the heart of major cities. German-style public nudity, known as Freikörperkultur (or “free body culture,” and usually shortened to FKK), dates back to the 19th century; it’s not just an activity, but a culture intended to reshape behavior.

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Pack a picnic and your mat and head on to the secluded fresh lakes!

For some people who are not into this and for families with children, there are lots of areas in the lakes for them to swim.We love to discover lakes where my daughter loves to play and here, they are just plentiful!

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Running through the Lake with this view.

Fitness everyday

In summer, I see a lot more people getting active and staying fit. People do things “manually” and live more. They love to do things by themselves. Mowing the lawn, tidying up their garden, people here loves to do things—no maids or house helpers! People run and cycle no matter what the time and temperature. They walk more and use the car less as much as possible. With abundant jogging areas, nature can be best enjoyed while getting fit. Germans adore the  “pig”and heavy pork-lovers, but even if they sit in the Biergarten everyday and eat sausages, seems that they don’t get fat! Everyone looks so impeccably fit.

Summer Cocktail Drinks

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PROST!!!

It is very typical to see bunch of people hanging around in the lake, or in the park enjoying a nice picnic and sharing summer cocktails. Of course, the beer is always the easiest way to create a cozy gathering but cool drinks and smoothies are always something pretty special. When it comes to picnics, Germans can be proud of their lifestyle!

What about you, what do you love to do during summer?

There are more on this post so I think I will make a post #2! Stay tuned.

PFINGSTVOLKSFEST Germany 2017

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Welcome to Pfingstenvolksfest 2017 in Bavaria !

Last Friday, June 2, signals the opening of the annual Spring festival called  “PfingstenVolksfest ”  here in Bavaria and will run up until the 11th of June. We have two major festivals here, one in Spring  (or Frühling)  and one in Autumn ( or Herbst) . Last year when I came here, I was able to attend my first Autumn Volksfest and it was awesome.  For an expat like me, experiencing this festival like a local is one of the great things that happened to me for my first year in Germany.

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Pretty German ladies in Dirndls { PfingstenVolksfest 2017}

The festival started as usual with a parade in Volk music and a grand Fireworks display. On top of the tower of the Pfeifturm, the Bavarian watchmen perform their traditional gun shots .The band who plays the music composed of different groups. Young and old, children and kids join the happy vibes in the show, even some migrants joined the parade carrying the Bavarian flag. Everything is so open and welcoming.Everyone is  dressed up in traditional Bavarian tracht, men in Lederhosen and women in beautifully made Dirndls. Seeing them, all smiles, parading in such a cozy atmosphere is such a delight to see.The huge horses which pulled up the carriages of the two major beer breweries here in Ingolstadt  ( The Nordbrau & Herrenbrau) are absolutely the star of the show. They are so huge, loud and yes, they can be wild once prompted.

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Huge black horses carrying the carriage of the Nordbrau { PfingstenVolksfest 2017}

The parade starts from the assembly area in front of the Alstadt /Rathausplatz and continues to go in the Festplatz where our Town mayor  officially open the festival  or  O ‘zafpt is ! Inside the fair grounds are huge arena full of different rides for children and adults to enjoy. There’s the giant Ferris wheel, roller coasters, carousels, and other head-spinning rides. If you are not afraid of the heights, I’m sure you will have a blast here. There are also numerous stalls which sells traditional goods, 2 large Beer tents, and other beer gardens.Outside the tents are lines of  food shops which sells finger foods, sandwiches, hotdogs, Pretzels ( or Breze), currywurst and other sausages, crepes, burgers,cheeses, Lebkuchen and other sweet delicacies, and so much more.

You can never get hungry inside. If you opt for more appetizing meals, there are lots of grilled foods you can find inside the beer tents! Pretty waitresses in Dirndles would be so glad to serve you.

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Ferris wheel and other rides  inside the fair grounds

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O’zapft is! The tapping of the first barrel of Beer, signalling the opening of the festival.

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Shops selling the traditional Bavarian Tracht ( Lederhosen and Dirndls)
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Horses taking a spin while waiting for the horse show to start

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Volksfest is a festival for all ages.When you visit Bavaria, you will really feel the authentic and “Bavarian thing” in the way they celebrate things. This is totally different compared to other parts of Germany and here, festival like this is more than just a mug of beer. Oktoberfest is another thing but during Volksfest, I see all people, expats and locals, children, young and old celebrate in their own ways. The tables inside the Beer tents are full of smiling people, enjoying the day drinking their beer, singing, dancing, and gathering with their love ones.

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PROST!!!!
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Currywurst swimming in sauce and Pommes – A Volksfest best snack !

The festival grounds are always well maintained and clean. There are ample parking spaces for bicycles and cars and the traffic is moderated. Compared from last year, I noticed that there are more security persons roving around the place, but not harassing.There are plenty of toilets and bathrooms, even Baby changing rooms. What can be more cozy than seeing a group of young men in Lederhosen playing their trombone, flute, and singing Bavarian music?

With the warm weather we are having now, visiting the Volksfest is a perfect time to spent as a family and with friends. They have different programs everyday, like on Wednesday afternoon is the Children’s day , Tuesday afternoon is for Senior’s Day were discounted prices are offered to make the feast more enjoyable. There are also special programs where big companies like Audi and Ingolstädter Schanzer Football club have their own special gathering.

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If you have the chance to travel to Germany during the months of June and September, make sure not to miss seeing an event like this, it is definitely a showcase of the Bavarian culture. Even if you are not a beer drinker, there is always an activity that will suit your lifestyle. For the many times I have visited Volksfest, I have never seen a drunk person ran amok or making a scene, totally not a German thing.

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Bavarian Lebkuchen !

Have you ever tasted a German Lebkuchen?

Do you know that this yummy cookie is best known for its authentic German flavors? A typical Volksfest memento that you could bring to your loveones!Read more here.

See you in the Autumn Festival this year and yes, don’t forget to say PROST!

If you enjoyed this post, please make sure you follow my Facebook page/ JustbluedutchArt  for my personal Artwork gallery  and if you are in Instagram, connect with me by adding me as your friends. Thank you for reading and Frohe Pfingsten! 

40 Little things that (really) matters

“It’s the Little Things that make Life Big … “

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Cherry Blossoms from Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse, The Netherlands

Today I wanted to make a “Gratitude post”.  I want to share with you the 40  Little things that really matters to me personally and to everyday life, and that I am forever grateful for. Many times, my mind is cluttered with worries as a mother, nuisances as a woman and grievances of a normal human being. I’m sure I am not the only one who feels like this, but our responses to situations could be different.

Sometimes I felt like Life can be so big and I become  so overwhelmed by it. Maybe I am overreacting but  would you believe that I am constantly worrying about the weather, on my future, of the health of my love ones, or would I pass the exams after I finished the course I registered, or  would I really be fluent in German? Everyday, I’m plagued with questions on what to feed my tiny human ( or does she eats enough?), or when will she completely potty-trained?, on how to  improve my painting skills, and what have I accomplished in my life? etc.. etc…

Just the other day, I asked myself after I put my daughter to bed : “Am I being a good mother to her? Is this the best that I can give…? and my mind drifts far away…

Social media can be  superficial. Our real lives is not as perfect as the perfect Instagram feeds, or the flawless Blog posts. Sometimes, or rather unsolicited and unwanted, my feed is  full of materialistic things that make me feel so little, giving me pressure to follow the trend and desire to get appreciation from others. The way we see things affect so much on how we respond to it. I decided to change my perspective and shift into being optimistic. Rather than focusing on my worries, why not list down things that REALLY matters to me. I realized that through this, I felt thankful, I felt even more grateful to be able to realize this.

Have you ever thought of “What really matters to you?”

 

 

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Dramatic beauty of cherry blossoms in the Netherlands

“Never get tired of doing Little things for others, sometimes those Little Things occupy the biggest parts of their Hearts…”

During our first legit Bike tour last Sunday, I learned a big lesson.

When cycling, especially on tour, it is so easy to focus on speed and missed out. The thing is,it is  very vital to enjoy the journey.  I took time to notice the fields, the glistening lake against the sunshine, the only red Poppies flower among the vast green fields, the yellow rapeseed farm with the ICE train passing by behind it, the heavily ornamented spire of the church, the clouds and its formations & so on…At the end of the tour, I felt so grateful that I had experience all of these, sweat, aching muscles & everything!

I have tried to find beauty in everything. I took notice of the LITTLE THINGS!

Here are my 40 personal “Little Things”that makes a BIG part in my life:

1.Our little garden. It’s a haven for us.

2.Warm Coffee before the toddler wakes up!

3.Making hand made cards for my friends and love-ones.

4. Tulips! having a vase full of Tulips in our home really makes my day. Anytime.

5.Peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwich.

6.Reading my mother’s offline messages to me, facts of living in different time-zones!

7.Watching the  sunrise and clouds every morning in my kitchen while I prepare breakfast.

8.German Brötchen, and warm bread straight from the oven for breakfast.

9.Lazy sunday walks.

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Glory days for the Cherry Blossoms | Keukenhof, the Netherlands

“YES, Small things, matter..”

10.My husband. For his love , support, tolerance and when He comes home in time!

11. Dutch Gevuldekoek and receiving surprise goodies from my parents in law !

12.Running along the woods, nature parks , river, and a lake all within 30 minutes!

13.The smell of fresh laundry.

14.Eating German pretzels ( Brezen)!

15.Beach walks.

16.Complimentary buffet  breakfast in hotels.

17.The muscle ache after I run, it means I got active.

18.Living 10 minutes away from beautiful nature and river.

19.Painting sessions in my kitchen counter top.

20.Smelling my favorite perfume.

21.Shopping in IKEA .

22.My Father-in-Law subscribe and reads my Blog!

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Pure beauty…No filter needed.

“Each morning, we are born again.What we do TODAY,is what really matters most… ~Buddha

23.Playgrounds in Bavaria. They are heaven’s gift.

24.Listening to  my real soundtrack music ( a break from the nursery rhymes!)

25.My daughter’s hug every time she wakes up.

26. My  very kind neighbors.

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“Enjoy and be grateful for the little things in life,for one day you will look back and realize they were the BIG Things…”

27.Eating ice cream in Spring.

28.A great comment on my Blog.

29.Roses in our garden that blooms wildly and taking photos of it!

30.Making and receiving hand written letters, Snail mails!

31.BBQ’s in our garden in Spring and Summer.

32.Watching sunsets.

33.Cooking home-made meals for my friends.

34.Cards from the mailbox ! Especially from someone unexpected.

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It all starts from a bud. | Keukenhof Gardens, The Netherlands

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter…~ Martin Luther King Jr.

35.When my new German friends invited me to their homes just after they’ve met me. I feel flattered.

36.A good running shoes.

37.Cycling  on a sunny day.

38.When people  want to buy ( & actually bought) my paintings!

39. A jeans that perfectly fit on me .

40.A smiling stranger that I come across the street and say  “Morgen“!

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Don’t miss out the little things, they can be really Great!

“We can not do great things. We can only do little things with great love…” ~ Mother Theresa

 

 

What about you, what are the ‘Little Things’ that matters to you?

 

The law of reversed effort

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The Law of Reversed Effort 

A personal post about what I’m experiencing for the past days.There were days where my mind is like a muddy puddle, unclear and chaotic, and desperately in need of clarity.

The truth is, a struggle  creates struggle and  my life as an expat  is not all  bed of roses.Let’s face it, everyday, more often, it’s bleak and grey ,you are  faced with the hard realities, instead of the fairy-tale fantasies of living in a world of different culture and language. I don’t know, maybe I need to blame the weather, the cold, the situations or my attitude and the way that I reacted to events.

I needed clarity but it is so elusive, the harder I tried to figure it out, the less output I get,  it only gives me all the blurry ones.I’ve felt like I’m in a rat hole that I couldn’t get out.I can’t say what I wanted to say in exact words that I wanted to say. I feel helpless.

I wanted to do things but it doesn’t work the way I wanted it to be.It felt awkward.I felt like my effort were all wasted.I even tried to paint my emotions but I ended up making a mess.

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C’mon Spring, do your thing!

I heard you, I know you might say; isn’t it should be “Try and try until you succeed? ”

So I decided to take a walk in the park one day and just sit there and wait for clarity. At best, I am hoping to just stop fighting myself. As usual, the sun is elusive, hiding behind the clouds.I gazed upon the buds in the branches and the sprouting leaves in the bushes. The grounds start to get greener once again. I saw signs of new beginnings, new chances. A rebirth.Spring is definitely on the way.

How odd but sometimes I felt like I am a plant who wants to grow in the middle of cold winter. I realized that my negative thoughts are apt to be more effective than the positive because the negative usually has more feeling with it.

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A budding signaling a rebirth

“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone”. – Alan Watts

Like a muddy puddle, it’s best to leave it alone to clear.I let my mind rest and my body to just do nothing. Literally nothing. Like my daughter in tantrums, I let her sort her own emotions by staying calm, just watching how things naturally sort themselves out without my constant “interventions “.

Today,the clarity that I needed came.Along the way,and out of my stubbornness, I discovered something beautiful about the law of reversed effort.This came like a wake up call. Many times, things in life only sort themselves out only when we don’t do anything, taking the concept of the Law of Reversed Effort a bit further, it sometimes refers instead to a state of mind, a state of  mind of ‘not doing’, perhaps this is akin to a flow state of automatic action, a mindset of effortless concentration that only resides when we are present and ‘in the now’, because if we try to mentally push things too far in this mindset we just get the opposite result.

Isn’t this also the truth when writing a blog post? Or finishing a project? Our deep need for a clear slate to write down our thoughts? A state of mental relaxation is the only way for clarity to be achieved. Easier said than done but yes, it’s the only way to get things done, naturally, without causing stress in my mind.

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The Law of reversed effort

Like these buds which reminds me that nature has its own course to follow. It’s an autopilot that only nature comprehends.Nobody can intervene. I can’t hurry up the seasons or mold the people around me the way I wanted them to be.Nature has its own way, and it’s definitely not My way.

Here is the original quote from Huxley about the Law of Reversed effort.

“The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent unknown quantity may take hold. We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us”. Aldous Huxley (The Law of Reversed Effort).

Any thoughts ?

Have you ever felt like this? How did you overcome it?

If you love this post, Share it with your friends and leave your comments!

 

Pussy willow home decor

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Twigs with bulbs with fur-like an animal- Wow!

A typical Bavarian home decoration during early days of Spring up to Easter is a bunch of pussy willow branches decorated with painted plastic eggs hanging on them. But it can also be a great home decor to create a “Spring-y“ambiance. The name of pussy willow in German-Palmkätzchen  translates as “palm kittens” or “willow kittens.” Same thing. Since they don’t have many palm trees in Germany, so they use pussy willow for Easter decorations.

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These delightful branches of pussy willow were sold at the local ‘Wochenmarkt ‘ ( wet market)  we visited  this morning. I don’t wanna go home without grabbing some because I really adore these branches at first sight. I didn’t even know what it’s called so we just asked the woman who’s selling these twigs. It’s Palmkätzchen, she said. My husband called them sticks but for me they are so much more. I mean, they really look nice, in a very unique way. Most important thing, here in Bavaria, they are a real sign of spring! Most locals I have seen today are carrying a bunch in their hands, from out and about and even while cycling way home.

The silk-like buds that cover the branches appeal to the Chinese apparently, who use them as a major display at Chinese New Year.  In Northern and Eastern Europe and in America they are often used as a replacement for palm leaves (a practical issue rather than aesthetic, I think – palms don’t grow naturally that far north) on Palm Sunday.But in Philippines, we grew up using palm leaves during Palm Sunday.The blessed wreaths are placed in doors, believing that the household will be protected from tribulations, or natural disaster like lightning strike.

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The pussy willow is the first bush that blooms after the harsh winter. No wonder it is a prominent Easter symbol because out of its dry twig, bursts a beautiful flower of life.It has many uses beyond decoration and spanking.  Willow branches have long been used for weaving baskets and furniture, and even coffins.  The ancient Egyptians as well as back in the eighteenth century, and Oxfordshire man used ground willow bark to cure rheumatic pain and this eventually led to the development of aspirin. A more recent use is in biomass burning to generate electricity, for example at the Drax power station in Yorkshire.

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Easter is a big thing here in Germany and Germans take the egg-decorations seriously. The shops are flooded now with so many Easter decorations, especially the painted plastic eggs, easter bunnies and other mementos.The busyness of having an Ósternbaum (or  Easter Tree) is also one of the traditions which every household look forward. I guess every house also have a vase of these pussy willows.

If you are into decorating your living room, or you want to create a centerpiece for the coming Easter, you can try Pussy willows for an ideal minimalist home decor.Put it in a white transparent vase without water and allow them to dry. If you got them shipped, simply remove them from packaging and allow them to start drying.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend and all is well.

Thank you for reading my friends. Stay tuned for more local sightings stories. Oh by the way, did you know that here in Germany, the egg box which normally comes in 12 pieces only comes in 10? Dunno why but I only found out today…

What surprising things you have learned lately?Any thoughts?

 

 

 

 

Smakelijk! traditional Dutch Apple pie

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Traditionl Dutch apple pie with cinnamon crumble

Koffee met appeltaart “, or coffee with apple pie is the Dutch’s way of celebrating..well, of everything! It’s sold in every bakery , bars and featured on every café menu, sometimes being the only sweet option listed. Now, as I am married to a dutch guy, I discovered that Dutch cuisine is not the most celebrated cuisine in the whole world , nor it is something you can say as unique- but it has a character, especially in their baked goodies and pastry. My personal favorites amongst all other delicious Dutch pastries are Gevuldekoek, kozakken, the Roomboter staaf , and of course, dutch authentic Stroofwafels. You haven’t fully experience Dutch’s culture unless you tasted one of these. I gave in to this treat when we were in the Netherlands. It’s a good thing that my generous parents in law are bringing us these Dutch goodies whenever they come for a visit.

Appeltaart is Holland’s magnificent national pastry. It dates as far back as the Middle Ages and it is said that during that time, because ovens with temperature control didn’t exist, baking time was measured by the number of prayers a person had to say until the pie was ready.

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Where it all started – Last 2014 , my first taste of the delicious Dutch Appeltaart that I devoured during our visit in the Netherlands.Warm, gooey, with rich cream on the side, paired with my favorite coffee and I’m good.

Here in Germany, it’s almost similar where in I fully  integrated as well  to their “Kafee und Kuchen” habit. Germans have a sweet habit of cofee-ing & cake-iing,  in the coziest way. To tell you, I was surprised to see Germans having a slice of cake and coffee for lunch, dinner & as early as 9 am.

So I dedicated myself to baking , and making apple pie is my favorite. My  version of Dutch apple pie crumble is proven crowd pleaser when I serve it. Once in a while, I opt for my simple recipe since it’s so easy to make with all the ingredients that can be found already in our kitchen, no special ingredients!

My daughter eats apple like crazy, she can down 2 pieces in a day! Before, she only eat parts of it, gnawing on them. I don’t throw the apples,I peeled off the good part and use them since I don’t want to waste. Since  the sight of apples always make me think of a warm gooey apple pie, with lots of crumble, and I mean those soft, slutty cinnamon crumble, the mere thought makes me wanna bake. Our house smells heavenly that my neighbors sniff the smell from 10 meters radius. Now that it’s still officially a snuggle season and everyone loves comfort food, there’s always a  reason to indulge from time to time. Last Fall, I started making my own apple pie from scratch. Making my own pie crust was a success, with the little help from my Google friend and thought why I didn’t make this before.

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The cinnamon crumble topping that I add-on every pie I made. I also made a pie lattice once but I love how these crumble melts into my mouth.

The Dutch’s Gezelligheid and their love for appeltaart is just so wonderful, and sometimes it is  contagious. This recipe is for Mamas on the go,  super easy  to make that you’ll find yourself baking your own pies. I tell you, I forget and stop buying ones from the store.

To create a flavorful, deep-dish apple pie recipe worthy of recommending to others, I used the old-time trick that I’ve learned. I am used to making this filling for topping in our weekend pancakes. My husband loves them so much. I sautéed a combination of  apples ( or whatever is in your local grocery shop) in  brown sugar, cinnamon,nutmeg, pinch of salt, raisins, add some chia seeds (optional)  and butter. Once they were softened, I removed them from the pan and added heavy cream to reduce and deglaze the pan. Combine the apples and cream mixture in a prebaked pie crust and topping the pie with a crunchy streusel and crumble heaven for the finishing. The more crumble on top, the better!

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Juicy gooey and soft apple cinnamon filling of my Dutch apple pie crumble.

If you’re interested in making an apple pie the Dutch way, here I wanna share with you how to make one.

Traditional Dutch Apple pie crumble

Prep  time : 30~45 mins., serves 10.

For the crust
1½ cups [360 g] unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
1 1/3 cups [240 g] brown sugar, packed firmly
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
5 cups [600 g] all-purpose flour ( type 405, the one I used here in Germany)

For the filling
5 firm apples or 3 soft apples (such as Golden Delicious or Pink Lady)
Finely grated zest of ½ orange and ½ lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1/3 cup [80 ml] brown sugar (plus more for the crumble)
2 tsp [10 ml] speculaaskruiden (I use Verstegen Koek & Speculaas)
2 tsp [10 ml of cornstarch ]

Dash of cinnamon (zimt)  and nutmeg (muskatnuss gemahlen)
½ cup [125 ml] sultanas (or raisins )
½ cup [125 ml] chopped walnuts (optional)

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Traditional Dutch apple pie with cinnamon crumble

To make the crust:
In a medium bowl , mix the butter and brown sugar together until creamed. Sprinkle with the salt and add almost all of the eggs, keeping a tablespoonful [15 ml] to brush over the pie later. Pulse until the eggs are well-incorporated. Pour in the flour while incorporating it gradually. Add the remaining flour and pulse just until the dough comes together into a ball. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven at 375°F [190°C].

To make the filling:
Peel and core the apples, then cut them into bite-size pieces. In a very large bowl, mix the apple pieces with the orange and lemon zest, lemon juice, brown sugar, spices, cornstarch, dash of cinnamon & nutmeg, sultanas (if using), and walnuts (if using). Add a pinch of the spekulaas spice. Sautee in medium heat until it starts to steam a bit. Remove from the heat and add the heavy cream & let it cool while you make the crumble. Set aside.

To make the crumble :

175g all- purpose flour

110 g brown sugar

110g cold butter, cut into cubes

In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar and flour.Mix in butter with a fork or stand mixer ( I prefer to use my hands ) just until the topping is crumbly. Top your pie with this before baking.

Assemble the apple filling in your pie crust and top it with the crumble. Bake for 40-45 minutes and check once the crumble turns golden or brown. Serve with dollop of  whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on the side. Enjoy!

 

Are you a pie person? What is your favorite comfort food?