Reduce plastic waste #2

Slowly slowly we are getting used to a different way of consuming. And slowly slowly the plastic pile is decreasing.

More and more I try to buy in bulk and make my own.

Really, once you’ve remembered to pour some water on your beans or chickpeas the night before and let ‘m soak, making your own burgers or falafel is hardly any more difficult than tearing open a package of ‘vegan burgers’.

And, promising the kids to make them popcorn once we get home after a trip sounds ( and probably is) a lot more cosy than proposing to open up a bag of crisps. And no, I don’t mean plastic wrapped microwave popcorn. I mean actual corn, bought in big packages, sprinkeled in a pan, and popped. Do you know a little handful of corn easily makes four servings? And a jar filled with corn, means about ten cosy snackmoments, popping corn?

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I’m  a happy person since I’ve discovered our local Turkish supermarket sells big big bags of basic products such as corn, rice and flour.

And I’m an even happier person since we’ve got our own pop up package free store in town. Here, you bring your own bags and jars, and fill ‘m up with mostly organic products. My daughter and I went here for the first time this week and filled up our jar with organic chickpeas and had a nice chat with the guy running this place. Hopefully this fall Leiden will finally have it’s own big, real, permanent package free store! So, lets start saving up our jars, and sew our own cotton bags ( to be continued!)

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Lately I’ve been experimenting with falafel and hummus recipes. Pinterest, and ‘blush’ videos on Youtube have been my rescue! why not give it a try too?

And if you have any succes recipes that include amaranth, let me know. That jar in the picture just doesn’t get emptier since I don’t really know what to do with it …..’blush’, again…..

 

 

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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!

Share what you have and care where you can: refugees are welcome here.

Anyone following the news in Europe knows that at the moment thousands and thousands of refugees are arriving in Europe, and something has to be done. To help the people in need, and to come up with sustainable solutions for the future. A challenge, yes, but not one we can close our eyes to.

Where politicians are having a hard time dealing with the current challenges, and waste time talking, it is heartwarming to see how ‘ordinary’ people have opened their hearts and their homes for the refugees arriving at our doorstep.

We blessed Europeans, do we realise how lucky we are? To be able to travel where ever we want to go? No fragile boats, no walking for miles and stumbling upon fences. An overcrowded train in an exotic place is a good story once we’re back home, that’s all……… lucky people we are.

Currently there are several  Dutch initiatives to help refugees: from apealing to politicians to filling little backpacks for kids, to sending boxes full of warm clothes to Greece, collecting welcome packages for refugees arriving in The Netherlands, and inviting refugees into our homes for a shared meal or a roof above their head.

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It’s wonderful to see how welcoming people are and how ready to help. I hope this spirit lasts because after the bags and warm clothes have been distributed, and a welcoming meal has been shared, people have to start building a new life; a new home, a new language, a job…. and deal with the memory of all they’ve left behind.

While all this is going on, I wonder….as a Dutch mother in a safe country, how do you raise kids to be responsible worldcitizens, to care for those in need, to share what they have and to realize they are blessed and to be grateful for that?

I am trying to find that balance between making them aware but not scaring them. Making them care, but not to burden them too much. They are children after all. Caring and compassionate, and with a growing awareness that the world is bigger than their own town and the people who live in it.

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Because I want them to know, and to care and share, I recently tried to involve the children in a few projects. We filled a large box with wintercoats, warm socks and shirts, for the refugees arriving on Lesbos and sent it all the way to Greece. The girls also filled welcoming packages that will be distributed among refugees in the Netherlands.  In a few days, they will participate in a sponsor run, organised by school.

These are all small drops in the sea full of care that is needed, but they are their drops, drops of love and drops that will grow, as my daughters grow up………

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Are their any special initiatives in your area and how do you involve your kids?

After the rain…… counting my blessings

we’re living in an apartment that seems to shrink with every passing year. The bigger the girls get, the bigger their need for a space of their own, and the more I sometimes long for a bigger house.

But then again, whenever I look out of my window I have to pinch myself: is this true? : living in a city in the most populated part of the country, in a hugh apartment building…and yet… this is our backyard…….

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Today when the sun came out after a long and rainy Saturday, I went for a walk in our ‘backyard’ and took some random pictures of all the green that was surrounding me. I am particularly in love with the cow parsley that grows in abundance at this time of the year.

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No, we won’t move away easily from here… we’ll make do with the lack of space inside for now, and try to venture out as often as we can.