A garden for living in

For the Mach’ Was challenge to do something with gardens, here I’m doing something with mine. We’ve been living in our current house for almost 15 years now, which has both a front and a back garden. Not huge but big enough and green and a bit of an oasis for us. These two gardens have given us so much joy and so many memories over the years…

The summer after we moved in, the back garden became a building ground. We wanted grass and so took out a lot of the stone tiles…

The garden was used as a playground by our children (and our cats) when they were small…

It’s been a bit of a sculpture gallery as well…

Our gardens, front and back, are a place to chill…

… and eat and celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and national holidays…

They are places to be worked on, like trimming the overgrowth or making the front garden look nice again…

… and for our cats to enjoy (I’m including my old black and white cat who died years ago as well)…

… we use it for little family photo sessions with the kids, or with some of my siblings, or for recording video messages for someone’s birthday…

… we sometimes do our actual jobs in our gardens, especially during Covid lockdowns (and our neighbour’s cat sometimes comes to visit as well)…

… we gaze at objects flying over our garden, like a police helicopter a few weeks ago, or, preferably, hot air balloons flying over on some evenings in the spring and summer months…

We enjoy the spring and summer blossoms…

… and the winter…

… and magical lights at night…

Yes, we really enjoy our gardens and the lives we get to lead in them. Mr. Esther and I are talking of moving in a few years time to another town and a nice large flat with a balcony when the kids definitely leave the house. I wonder if we really will do that, though – move to a place without a garden. I think we may miss our own outside green space too much.

Asparagus

Last week I saw Herba’s reminder to do something with asparagus for the latest Mach’ was challenge. I am not a cook and although I do like to eat asparagus, we don’t really cook that much at home with asparagus, so I have no recipes to share. However, due to this challenge, asparagus has really entered my consciousness this past week.

We ate out twice in the past week, once on a Saturday and then again on Monday, when it was a holiday here (Pentecost) and both times green asparagus was served with our meals. I don’t know how they seasoned it but especially the grilled asparagus in the picture on the left was truly delicious.

Yesterday at the supermarket there was a whole asparagus display…

… and in the evening an abbreviated version of this asparagus ad was shown on Dutch television. You’ll have to click “watch on YouTube” to see the whole commercial…

… and it might be worth it, just for this little suggestive blink and you’ll miss it moment…

I think I am seeing asparagus in a whole new light now.

Snowdrops

The ‘Mach’ Was’ theme this time around is to do something with snowdrops (in German “Schneeglöckchen” – such a sweet word!). “Easy!” I thought as I had seen one in our front garden. That snowdrop had been trampled but I figured I’d find others around everywhere. Alas, I did not! For the past few weeks, during every walk, I kept my eyes peeled to the ground in the hope of finding some snowdrops. Last week I finally found a remnant of the last few snowdrops…

… but mostly I found daffodils and hyacinths and even the first tiny daisies…

… but no more snowdrops! Spring has started here, leaving the snowdrops of the end of winter behind.

I figured I should find something more constructive to contribute to this challenge than not finding any snowdrops so I did a little online search and found this video…

For once my ‘Mach’ was’ contribution has something to do with actually making something. However, I’m not a crafter myself, I never have been and I have no patience for it, but this does look like something that is quite easy for someone else to make. So, happy snowdrops crafting, should you be so inclined!

Tea time

This time the Mach’ Was (Do Something) challenge is to do something with tea. I have little inspiration and time (as I want to get back to reading) to do anything original with this topic, but I couldn’t let the challenge go by without making my love for tea known. I don’t drink coffee, have never liked coffee and doubt I ever will. For me it is tea all the way.

I drink tea every day, either a lot during the day in big mugs when I work or after work in the evenings…

I drink tea on holidays, especially when I’m in England. I had tea at Althorp, Princess Diana’s ancestral home…

… and tea and scones in York, Colchester, at the Victoria and Albert museum and once at the chique St Pancras Renaissance hotel in London with my brother and in many more places…

I like herbal teas best and have three kinds of tea I like to drink most. There’s a tea of 20 herbs with small soluble kernels you pour hot water over that I love to drink daily or there’s my other favourite, Rooibos (‘redbush’) tea from South Africa.

Unlike the English, I never drink my tea with milk and hardly ever with sugar, unless it’s my husband’s favourite Early Grey tea, with that I do want a little sugar. The only exception to tea with milk is when I drink my beloved chai tea latte. Here in the Netherlands I drink it at Starbucks but I like the English Costa version better or the chai tea latte I had with Linda in Tynemouth near Newcastle the day after meeting Richard Armitage at the Newcastle Film Festival in 2018.

I really love my daily cups of tea…

In fact, I think I’ll go and enjoy one now.

Orange

This month’s Mach’ Was challenge has the colour orange as its theme. Well, the first thing that pops up in my mind when the word orange is mentioned is my country, The Netherlands. Orange is an important colour here.

Our royal family is from the noble house of Orange-Nassau, the name originates from the municipality of Orange in the south of France. While we do have a monarchy here (since 1815) our king has no real powers, all political power lies with the prime minister and the government. The king can’t even make an official speech that is not approved by the prime minister but the monarchy is popular here, for their representative and symbolic value. I won’t further elaborate on Dutch constitutional politics here, but what is essential to know is that because our King Willem-Alexander is from that house of Orange-Nassau (and his ancestors before him), orange has become our national colour. It’s a conspicuous colour and is used a lot here.

Orange has historically been an important colour because of this royal house association. During the Second World War it became a symbol for Dutch resistance after the Dutch capitulated to the Nazis in May 1940 and Queen Wilhelmina fled to England. During the war “Radio Oranje” became very important to the Dutch resistance, where messages were broadcast to the Dutch from London by Dutch officials and our Dutch queen Wilhelmina in exile. It was forbidden to listen to the radio during the war but secretly it was done a lot.

Official commendations given by the king are in orange. My father received one for his life’s work in 2003 (not actually from the queen at the time but presented to him by the mayor of the town he lived in).

Nowadays, the most popular use of orange is for anything to do with our national football (soccer to the Americans) teams. Football is our national sport and our national team is called “Oranje” (Dutch for orange). Our female football team is doing really well internationally and is called the “Oranje Leeuwinnen” (orange lionesses – the lion is part of the Dutch coat of arms, Mr Esther could tell you all about it, he is a heraldry expert).

Google ‘Oranje supporters’ (see search result here) and you can see how orange the fans get! The sports fans even have a name, they are called “Het Oranje Legioen” (the orange legion). During the football European and World Championships ‘orange fever’ hits the nation and the streets here are decorated in orange, some more than others (more examples of decorations in this article)…

Thankfully, I have never lived in a street that gets that orange. Frankly, such over the top, nationalistic displays always scare me a little. So far these have only ever been in good fun but what if nationalism like this gets taken too seriously, like it was in Nazi Germany and what I see in the US now as well? Not the topic to discuss in this post, but I do wonder sometimes when and if the scale will be tipped. Anyway, back to the colour orange as used by the Dutch…

For any big international sporting event, orange will always be represented somehow. It’s also popular duing speed skating events (the Dutch perform excellently on the world stage when it comes to speed skating)…

… even our king and his wife, Queen Maxima, come to show support dressed in orange…

International sports tournaments aside, there is one day every year where the country also turns orange and that is during King’s Day when our monarch’s birthday is celebrated. It used to be Queen’s Day when we had Queen Beatrix (who abdicated in 2013) but after 7 years I still catch myself sometimes saying “Koninginnedag” (Queen’s Day) instead of “Koningsdag” (King’s Day). I have posted about King’s Day several times before (see the King’s Day tag) and I admit that I give in to nationalist sentiment then when I wear my one orange item of clothing: an orange scarf that I’ve had for many years. It’s the one nationalist day a year that I really do enjoy, as everything is one big outdoor party.

We even have orange pastry to celebrate, with the oblong-shaped tompouce being the most popular orange pastry.

So yeah, when you come to The Netherlands, and especially when you stay here for a longer period, the colour orange can not be escaped! It is the symbol of Dutch togetherness and patriotism.