Happy 20 sweet 16!

No better place to spend the first day of a new year, than on the beach!

We didn’t jump into the sea, like so many others do for a real ‘Nieuwjaarsduik’, a dive into the new year, but we did get our shoes and socks wet.

 

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Happy New Year to all of you, let’s make it a good one!

A walk in the woods

No fall holiday is complete without a good walk in the woods.

I’s a 20 minute bike ride out of town, to a forest on the edge of the dunes, where magical wooden creatures live…..

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A good walk, a good ride, hot chocolate and apple pie in the middle of the forrest, rosy cheeks, bright eyes and early to bed! A walk through  Panbos is very, very good way of spending your Fall Sunday!

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Vegan ‘hutspot’ and a celebration

In October 1574, after a siege that had lasted for months and left many people starving, a young boy climbed upon the citywalls of Leiden. He saw how  the Spanish soldiers  had left their campements, fearing the rising water. They left, leaving everything behind. This boy, Cornelis Joppensz, ventured outside the city walls to explore the deserted army camps. He found a pot, filled with a mixture of carrots and onions, and brought it home. Ever since that day, people in Leiden eat ‘hutspot’ on the 3rd of October.  And so did we….

3 oktober 2015 leiden After an eventful day on the fairground, I cooked a large pot of hutspot to end our 3 Oktober celebration in style.

Hutspot is usually eaten together with meat, but I went for a vegan variety!

For a hungry family of four you will need:

1 kg potatoes, 750 gr carrots, 2 medium parsnips, 3 medium onions, vegetable stock, olive oil, ground black pepper.

optional: vegan ‘meatballs’.

hutspot 2Clean the potatoes, carrots and parsnip, chop in roughly equal cubes, cover with water and cook for about 15-20 minutes (check in between: you want to mash your veggies, not make porridge).

Chop the onions and glaze them in some olive oil, and powdered vegetable stock and pepper to taste.

Drain potatoes,carrot and parsnip,  add onions and mash. You can make it as smooth or as lumpy as you like. Add some more oil and vegetable stock or pepper according to taste.

Et voila, you’re done!

Just fry some vegan meatballs or even falafel (did that last year..) to go with your hutspot and you’ve got yourself the vegan version of  Leidens ‘signature dish’.

Eet smakelijk!

Growing up in Leiden #2

Growing up in Leiden is all about traditions this time of year. On the 3rd of October (and the days preceding it) Leideners celebrate the fact that on the 3rd of October 1574, the town of Leiden was liberated after it had been under Spanish siege for months and the population nearly starved to death.

We celebrate this year after year in a celebration loaded with tradition. Children in Leiden learn that ‘3 oktober’ is about much more than going to the Lunapark, and coming home with toys won, and teeth aching from all the cotton candy they ate.

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For example,they share a meal of hutspot in school (mashed potatoes with carrots, after the food that was found by a little boy from Leiden after the Spanish soldiers had deserted their camps outside the town). They also join in a ceremony where schoolchildren all come together to sing songs about the history of 3 oktober. Many children also participate in a grand parade through town,a tribute to the heroes of 3 oktober 1574.

Tonight my eldest daughter participated in this parade, the taptoe. The youngest 2 spent some time on the historical fairground outside the Pieterskerk, and then waited on the side of the road for the parade to pass.

Tomorrow, we will go to the big, modern lunapark, and yes, probably eat some cotton candy too….but only after they’ve finished another plate of hutspot…homemade…..

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And I can’t help but wonder….look how important freedom is, how important it is to be safe, to have food on the table, to be able to move in and out of town freely, no soldiers waiting for you out there. It is so important to us, that we still celebrate this historical event, even after more than 400 years.  And I can’t help but think about all those people who are fleeing wars, or are living in cities under siege today…….

Growing up in Leiden #1

I’m planning to write a series of blogposts on things to do with kids in Leiden. I want to share with you some suggestions for nice outings, aswell as some of the surprises we’ve stumbled upon ourselves, and enjoyed very much.

Leiden I think is a wonderful place to grow up. It’s a very old town, not too big to feel lost, not too small to feel trapped. It is situated in a beautiful part of the country, and is surrounded by some really lovely nature worth enjoying and exploring. In Leiden itself there is always a lot to see and do.

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Like today, for example. While walking throug town on our way to our favorite icecream man, we stumbled upon a bride and groom on the bridge behind the city hall. They were surrounded by kids holding little radios, listening to directions and all running off at once. It turned out the bride and groom were taking part in what is said to be the largerst ‘foxhunt’ in The Netherlands. All over the historical city centre of Leiden, 50 groups of LCKV- volunteers could be found, dressed up, sometimes really putting on an act for the children en encouraging them to participate in singing, dancing, communicating without  words and having their face painted. The challenge was to find all 50 ‘foxes’ and to collect a stamp from all of them. The kids could tune in to Unity FM on the little radios that were handed out to them, to listen for directions.

We decided to join in and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the streets of Leiden, searching for foxes and having  really great time. We came home with painful legs and sore feet, but big smiles on our face. We’d spent the whole afternoon enjoying the sun, the city, the enthusiasm of all the volunteer foxes who were really dedicated to give the kids the time of their life, the sight of 300 kids exploring the streets armed with little radios and purple backpacks, helpful parents giving eachother directions, and in the end, we even came home with a price: entrance tickets to the Museum of Ethnography, won by my youngest daughter, who found 26 foxes!

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The foxhunt took place during OPEN, a cultural event that takes place every last Sunday of the month in the streets of Leiden. I like these kinds of events because they really encourage you to explore your own town and to appreciate all the social and cultural initiatives that take place here.

Oh and back home I baked a really tasty vegan bananabread. I will share the recipe with you later this week. Now the house smells sweet (banana and cinnamon yumm), and the kids have all gone to sleep peacefully…..Sunday evening bliss!