A Recipe and a Ramble

Hello!

Several of you have asked me for the recipe of the apple-and-blueberry pie I baked at the start of our autumn break. Your wish is my command (sometimes), so here it is. (For those of you not interested in recipes, just scroll on for a ramble and a tiny bit of knitting.)

Apple-and-Blueberry Pie

For a 24 cm/9½” ø spring form cake tin
Makes 8-12 slices

Ingredients

  • 200 g unsalted butter
  • 200 g sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 200 g wholewheat pastry flour
  • 12 g baking powder*
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2-3 apples (depending on size)
  • 150 g blueberries**
  • 1 level tsp cinnamon

* I like making my own half-and-half mixture. Instead of the two types of flour and baking powder you can use 400 g of ordinary or wholewheat self-raising flour. (Voor mijn Nederlandse lezers: ik gebruik een mengsel van gewone bloem, gebuild tarwemeel en wijnsteenbakpoeder i.p.v. zelfrijzend bakmeel)
** When using frozen blueberries, the pie may take a little longer to bake

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200 ˚C/400 ˚F (180 ˚C/350 ˚F fan oven) and grease the cake tin
  • Cream the butter with 175 g of sugar
  • Mix in the egg and the vanilla extract
  • In a separate bowl mix the flours, salt and baking powder. Sieve these dry ingredients and gradually mix them into the butter, sugar and egg mixture to a slightly crumbly dough
  • Peel, core and slice the apples. Mix the apple slices with the blueberries, cinnamon and remaining sugar
  • Cover the base of the tin with two-thirds of the dough, pressing it in evenly
  • Pour in the apples and blueberries
  • Cover with the rest of the dough, crumbled coarsely
  • Bake the pie for about 40 minutes
  • Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin

Enjoy!

Now, let’s go for a ramble. It’s early Sunday morning in one of our favourite places. There has been a slight ground frost and the light is hazy.

This is a small-scale landscape with a meandering brook, some open marsh and farmland, and some woodland.

When it is getting a little lighter, the sun slants across a hillock, showing a strange sort of white veil on the top. What is it?

Zooming in it becomes clear that the grass and fallen oak leaves are covered in spiders’ webs.

A slightly eerie but beautiful blanket of spiders’ webs.

There is some heather as well, although it is partly overgrown with purple moor grass. A small group of sheep is grazing quietly. Not a sound to be heard. The highland cattle that also help keep the heathland open are nowhere to be seen today.

It is getting lighter, but the sun is still low, casting elongated shadows.

Towards the end of our ramble, the sun is fully out, giving the hay and wood in a barn a golden glow.

Time seems to stand still here.

Not so at home. On the knitting front, I’m in the finishing stage of all kinds of things. I’ve just finished another pair of socks. Now there’s only the ends to weave in and then I can try out my new sock blockers.

And what’s that hanging over the back of my knitting chair…………?

Take care and see you again soon!

Autumn Break

Hello!

This week, we’re having an autumn break and I’m greeting you from our holiday cottage. Well, it’s our own home, actually. But we’re acting as if, saying things to each other like, ‘It’s a lovely holiday cottage, isn’t it?’ ‘Yes, it is. Not as tidy as I would have liked it, but it’s reasonably clean and the bed is very comfortable.’

Other holidays usually involve a Konditorei or a Patisserie, but as we’re staying home and don’t have any of those around, I also play acted at being a pâtissier and baked an apple and blueberry crumble pie on our first day off.

I’m sending you a virtual slice. Can you smell that sweet, warm, comforting apple and cinnamon aroma?

We’ve been working all through the summer, and the main aim of this week is to rest, relax and recharge. For us, some of the best ways of doing that (apart from eating apple pie) are going for walks, reading,

knitting (that’s just me),

and generally loafing around. My knitting is all purple this week – my umpteenth pair of socks and a scarf. More about those soon. Now I really want to share some of our walks with you. They are in some of my favourite places. But I don’t want to spend too much time at the computer, so I’ll mainly let the pictures speak for themselves.

Our first walk takes us to Vollenhove, the lovely little town where I sometimes come to buy a pair of good, old-fashioned, sensible shoes. Vollenhove is a former seaside town now surrounded by land. There is still a small harbour for pleasure boats.

It has a rich history, with some old houses beautifully maintained…

… and others a little less well kept.

Vollenhove also has a really, really beautiful walled garden. Maybe we can come back and visit that in spring or summer next year.

Our second walk is a walk down memory lane, outside the dyke on the Frisian coast.

It’s cold, wet and windy and I’m so glad I’m wearing my warm winter coat.

There is nobody around but us…

… and birds, many, many birds.

Ahhh, all that space, fresh air, invigorating wind. We’re outside the dyke here, a part of the country that gets flooded from time to time.

Looking back, you can see a church spire behind the dyke. That’s the village were we lived for 15 years when we were just married and where our daughter was born.

Somebody has painted words on the dyke.

In Frisian:

It lân fan moarn
Freget
De moed van hjoed

Translated:

Tomorrow’s country
Needs
Today’s courage

Hmmm, something to ponder.

Now, on to our last walk. This is just outside the village with the Tiny yarn shop I wrote about a while ago. There is some news about that and I’ll come back to that soon. For now, here is an impression of the area.

Don’t you just love that golden autumn light?

Well, that’s all for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual autumn break. I’m going back to my knitting now and hope to see you here again next week for a yarn-filled post. Bye!

PYO Garden

Hello there!

Following on from last week’s knitting sampler, I was going to show you my Mum’s embroidery sampler today. But I’m keeping that for later.

Instead, I’m taking you along to a Pick-Your-Own flower garden. It’s just outside our village – 10 minutes cycling at most. You can borrow a spare bicycle, if you like. All we need to do is adjust the saddle to your height and we’re good to go.

Through the tunnel underneath the ring road, left and left again and we’re in a lane leading past several farms.

A short stop to say hello to a few grazing cows. Hello girls!

Hop on again, cycle two minutes more, and we’re there.

‘Have a nice day’, the sign says. ‘Open 24/7’. And ‘Relax’ and ‘Enjoy’, too. And that’s exactly what we’re here for – to just relax and enjoy this beautiful spot for a few moments.

The owner comes up, apologizing that there isn’t very much to pick anymore at the end of Summer. I reassure her that it’s fine. We don’t need a huge bunch of flowers. Just being here is a treat in itself. And I can see that there are enough flowers left for a posy.

Besides, there are loads of ornamental gourds as well.

Displayed so attractively. And so many different shades, shapes and sizes.

Basking in the sun, on the very last day of Summer, the garden is filled with butterflies…

…bees and buzzing.

I can feel my heart-rate slowing down already – just what I need.

For me, it works like this: For a while I’m chugging along nicely. Then work/life gets busier, I speed up, am immensely productive for a while and think I’m doing great. But I start forgetting to take breaks, to exercise, and to relax intentionally in the evenings. And suddenly I’m not feeling so great anymore.

It’s an old familiar pattern. Nowadays, it usually isn’t too long before I recognize it, fortunately. And I’m better at thinking of ways to slow down again than I used to be.

So, that’s why we’re here in this PYO garden today. Let’s enjoy it a little more.

Everything shows that a lot of loving care and attention has gone into the garden. It’s not just the flowers and plants. Hidden between them are a few lovely surprises, too. Like this adorable chicken.

Well, it’s time to head for the wooden shed, where the secateurs, the guest book and the money tin are. It’s painted black as many traditional outbuildings around here are.

Inside, the same loving care as in the garden is apparent. It’s in the small, whimsical details.

Now, let’s hurry home, before the flowers wilt. I’ll quickly put them in a vase and put the kettle on. I hope you have time for a cuppa? I’d like to show you something else I did to slow down and relax – I cast on a simple pair of socks.

For me, sock knitting is one of the most relaxing things to do, especially using self-striping yarn.

I’m making these for a friend’s Birthday in early October. I haven’t knit with this yarn before and am not entirely convinced it’s suitable for socks, although it is sold as sock yarn. It’s Rellana Flotte Socke ‘Ariana’ – a single ply yarn with ticker and thinner (some really, really thin) bits here and there. Very soft and slightly fuzzy.

I’m giving it a try because of the beautiful colours. Time will tell if it’s a wise decision. My friend won’t mind being a guinea pig, I’m sure. If the socks shrink and felt, I’ll knit her another pair (or two).

Well, that’s all for today. Thank you for visiting. And with everything that’s happening in the world right now and alongside everything else you’re doing, please remember to rest, relax, knit (if you’re a knitter), and look for things to enjoy.

If the Walls Could Talk

Hello dear readers,

I had a plan. After taking you on blog tours of Giethoorn, Hattem and Vries, I was really going to focus on knitting again. On yarns, UFOs and knitting projects in progress, on techniques and traditions. I had it all mapped out, at least for the coming month or so. But…

… I decided to postpone my plans for a bit. Writing about De Potterij in Zutphen last week, I thought how I’d love to show you a little more of that beautiful walled city.

So, before starting on a yarn-filled autumn, here’s one last virtual summer outing.

Just like Hattem, Zutphen is a Hanseatic city on the river IJssel. Only it is far larger, with interesting museums, impressive churches and an amazing 16th Century reading room filled with chained books. It isn’t any of those I’m focusing on today, though. It’s the walls.

A poem on one of the walls set me thinking.

It isn’t easy to translate, but here is a try.

City in time

In old walls
from a time gone by and
a language no longer spoken
a lot still lingers on

ghosts of distant days
the scent of spent lives
stored by wind
in old walls

Henk Gombert

Yes, the old walls have seen a lot. If only they could talk.

Take the rusty red walls of a building called De Biervoerder, next door to last week’s pottery.

If these walls could talk, they would tell us about wealthy beer merchant Herman Sackers and his wife Fyken, who built the house in 1629, not just to live in, but also as a warehouse and an inn.

They would tell us how it was later used to store grain, converted into a bakery, became a grocery store, and still later an antiques and jewellery shop. They would also tell us that the current occupants still see grain kernels trickling down through cracks between the floor boards hundreds of years later.

Many walls in Zutphen are softened and partly hidden by greenery, often in the shape of narrow pavement gardens.

Shrubs, climbers and flowering plants planted straight into the soil, in pots…

… or in baskets.

In some places the greenery is more substantial. Just outside the old walls on the south side of the inner city, there’s an orchard.

And in the orchard is one of the best places to take a break. Here teas with wise mottoes are served, and the strangest cold brew coffees, stuffed with fruit and herbs.

If these walls could talk, what will they say about 2020? Will it be something like, ‘That was a strange spring. Unnaturally quiet, with people staying inside their homes. But from the summer onwards everything seemed more or less back to normal.’ Or something like, ‘Yes, 2020 was a strange year compared to the years before it, but not much different from 2021’?

There was a section of the wall that whispered, ‘Knit me, knit me!’

But I bet it whispers different things to different people. I imagine it whispering to others, ‘So, you love old walls, do you? Then you must go traveling. Visit Hadrian’s wall and the Great Wall of China!’

If the walls could talk, I wonder what those along this narrow alleyway would tell us.

There is a tiny little door halfway on the left at street level. What was it used for? Why would someone have lavished so much money and attention on it?

Some of Zutphen’s walls whisper, some keep their secrets, and some speak in poetry. To close off today’s post, here is another wall poem.

Translated, it says

Art

the here is the now
make room to rest and contemplate
the now is the here, breathe deep
(the later will wait)

Eke Mannink

August Blues

Hello!

I thought of skipping my blog this week. Sometimes I just don’t know what to say, and nattering about knitting feels totally irrelevant. Rising numbers of covid cases almost anywhere in the world. People losing their homes and children going hungry as a result. People shouting that it’s all a hoax. And then the devastating explosion in Beirut…

How to live in the face of disasters like these? Sometimes, I just don’t know.

It doesn’t help that we’re going through another record-breaking heatwave. I can’t see it as anything other than a sign of rapid climate change – another disaster in the making. I’ve always struggled with hot weather anyway. As temperatures rise, my mood plummets.

One of the best things for me to do when I feel a knot in my stomach, is to go cycling. On hot days first thing in the morning.

I often take my camera with me. It helps me get out of my head and focus on my surroundings instead. And I often follow the same route. Without camera it takes me 30 minutes, with a little longer.

First I cycle through ‘our’ woodland. There are already some early signs of autumn – mushrooms, acorns and blackberries.

As soon as I leave the wood, I come to a school for animal husbandry, hay for their horses stacked high.

On the other side of the road is a small farm with some sheep and cattle. There is a young calf suckling with its mother and another one having a snooze.

There are cornflowers in the field next to it.

Taking photographs as I cycle along also helps me to slow down, which is a good thing in this sweltering heat, too.

Many of the flowers along my route at this time of year are blue. Or is it just that my eye is drawn to them? Along a ditch I squat down to photograph what I think is tufted vetch.

One of the most beautiful flowers of this season, if you ask me, is the harebell. It grows in clusters along my route. There is quite a bit of wind, making the delicate flowers dance, and it takes a lot of patience and concentration to get a good, sharp picture.

The harebells have slender stems and small flowers, but not as small as the sheep’s-bit below. From close up it may seem like quite a big flower…

… but it is just 1 to 2 centimetres in diameter. There’s a clump of them at the top of this post that gives a better impression of their size, I think.

Getting home, an hour or so later, I feel better. I haven’t solved any world problems, but I don’t feel hopeless and powerless anymore. There is always something I can do to make things better. And I realize again that there is still a lot in the world that is beautiful and good, and that small and seemingly irrelevant things can make a big difference to a day.

It’s too hot for knitting – another thing that is making me edgy. But cycling along, I thought of a dear friend of mine. We exchange e-mails every Sunday. Recently, she wrote that all she feels like doing in her spare time when it’s so hot is spinning and reading.

That reminded me of some spinning fibres she gave me a while ago. Merino wool in a gradient of blues with some white Tencel mixed in. I know that spinning those lovely fibres will also help to lift my mood.

Well, those were my thoughts for this week. Thank you for reading. I hope that you are all safe and as well as can be. And for those of you in the grip of the same heatwave, I hope this weekend will bring some rain and relief.

Frog Orchestra

Hello dear readers!

For today’s instalment of my series of armchair trips, I’m taking you to the lovely old town of Hattem. I’ll also show you some of my knitting, or rather frogging, and there’s a little bit of crochet too.

Please fasten your seatbelts. This time we’re travelling by car, as Hattem is too far to cycle from here. Well, it can be done (it’s a 100-kilometre round trip), but we are taking the lazy option.

Actually Hattem isn’t a town, but a city – a Hanseatic city.  Situated strategically on the river IJssel, it was an important commercial centre in past centuries. There is evidence of past wealth everywhere around.

Approaching the centre from the car park along the river, we soon come to the church.

Some of the houses surrounding the church have lovely pavement gardens, like this one:

Maybe we’ll visit some of the museums another time. Today we’re just strolling through Hattem enjoying the sights.

Looking at the signs in the photo below, with the sign in the red circle saying

8 m

it may seem as if Hattem is extra careful, advising a safe distance of 8 metres instead of the usual 1.5…

… but it must mean something else, because I took these pictures last year, in the good old days when nobody had even heard of social distancing.

Walking on along the city walls (mind your head at the end)…

… we come to the moat on the other side. And what do we see in a secluded spot, away from all the tourist hustle and bustle? A complete frog orchestra! Here is the conductor…

… directing a twenty-something-frog-strong orchestra floating on water lily leaves.

Can you hear them?

If you’re a knitter, you are probably familiar with the term frogging. It baffled me for a long time, until I read a book that explained that frogging a piece of knitting means that you rip it. Saying it out loud, ‘Rip-it, rip-it’, I finally got it.

Some people seem to have an entire frog pond, filled with items that need frogging. I don’t. I do hear the frogs croaking frequently, but I usually heed them straightaway. It is only rarely that I ignore them. But ignore them I did with the cardigan below – I ignored them for a long, long time.

I patiently knit on and on, because I thought it would be a useful cardigan in this neutral colour. It wasn’t until I had finished all the knitting, and only needed to sew in the sleeves and sew on the pockets that I lost my drive and it ended up as a UFO (UnFinished Object). Why?

The pattern was fine and the yarn was fine. So what was wrong? Isn’t a useful cardigan a good thing? Well, this I what I learnt from this cardigan: for me, a knitting project first of all needs to ‘spark joy’ (to speak with Marie Kondo). If it doesn’t, useful equals boring and can only end in frogging.

This cardigan didn’t spark any joy at all. So after giving it a rest, I ripped the knitting out. I wound the yarn onto skeins, washed it and then wound it onto balls.

Normally, I don’t enjoy frogging and try to get it over with as quickly as possible. But taking my time, using lovely lavender scented woolwash and reframing the entire process as ‘repurposing’ helped.

Immediately thinking of something else to do with the yarn also helped. I can see several of these useful and joy-sparking manly cap-and-muffler sets in the future for the frogged/repurposed yarn.

This is growing into quite a long blog post again. Sorry about that, but I really need to show you something else. So, let’s take a break in one of the outdoor cafés in the market square before we go on.

Okay, ready for the last lap?

I would have liked to show you the local yarn shop, but forgot to take pictures. I did take pictures of one of their initiatives, though – the cheerful crochet mandalas that can be seen high up above the streets. Did you spot them while you were drinking your coffee or tea?

Here are some more.

And here are three against a white background, so that you can see how they were made. They are not all different, but there are many variations. They all use one colour each, which prevents them from becoming too gaudy.

Well, that brings us to the end of today’s virtual trip. Thank you for coming along and I hope to see you again next week!

A Tiny Yarn Shop

Hello! It’s good to see you here again. For this week’s summer outing, I’m taking you to Vries, another small village in our part of the country. Vries isn’t as picturesque as last week’s destination Giethoorn, and I doubt if it sees many tourists, but it does have some attractive spots.

Generally, the church from the middle of the 12th century is considered the village’s main attraction. Granted, it is beautiful. Surrounded by trees, it wasn’t easy to photograph, but here is a view from the side:

The church is dedicated to Saint Boniface and has doors in a particularly attractive shade of red.

But to me, Vries’ biggest attraction is the smallest yarn shop I know. And when I say small, I mean tiny. It is called Wol zo Eerlijk (Wool so Fair) and is so small that it can only welcome one customer at a time with the 1.5 meter distance rule in place. This little gem is tucked away in a small corner between two other buildings.

Wol zo Eerlijk specializes in sustainable and fair-trade yarns, produced in animal-friendly ways and without child labour.

This may conjure up images of drab and scratchy yarns, but nothing is further from the truth. There are some neutrals, too, of course. But all in all, the first impression is a very colourful one. Let’s go inside to take a look.

Although the selection of yarns is fairly limited (it is a tiny shop, after all) there is a good range of materials, from cotton and linen to different kinds of wool and even yak.

To start with, here is Erika Knight’s ‘Studio Linen’ in some of the loveliest shades imaginable.

What makes this yarn sustainable is that 85% of it is recycled linen. Pure new linen makes up the remaining 15%.

The yarn in the photo below is mYak ‘Baby Yak Lace’. This is a heavy lace-weight yarn spun entirely from baby yak hair, also known as yak down, from Tibet. Soooo soft.

In my mind’s eye I saw those poor little baby yaks shivering and bleating after being shorn, but fortunately that isn’t how it works and there is no need to feel sorry for them. They are not shorn – the down is collected by combing. In fineness and softness this yak down is similar to cashmere.

Selling their yak fibres, enables the nomad families of the Tibetan plateau to continue herding their animals as they’ve done for centuries, in a way that keeps the fragile ecosystem intact. A further sustainable aspect is that the yak down is not bleached or decoloured, and that shows in the skeins. The overdyed natural colours give beautiful, slightly heathered shades.

And here is another yarn in some lovely colours – Rosários 4 ‘Belmonte’.

‘Belmonte’ is an organic wool-and-cotton blend in a dk-weight. Spun in Portugal, this yarn is GOTS certified, which means that it meets the toughest international standards for organic textiles.

Wol zo Eerlijk provides swatches of all the yarns in their shop.

I think this is a wonderful idea. It gives a much better impression of what the knitting will look like than just seeing a yarn in the skein or ball.

And here is one final yarn – ‘Pip Colourwork’, British wool spun and dyed in Yorkshire. Beautiful vibrant as well as more subtle colours in 25 gram balls. Ideal for fair-isle or similar stranded colourwork, but I wouldn’t mind knitting an entire cardigan in duck-egg Bramley Baths, turquoise Lotherton or raspberry Rose window.

I didn’t photograph each and every yarn at Wol zo Eerlijk. Please visit their website (in Dutch and English) for more information and yarns. (As always: I’m not sponsored in any way – I just love looking at, knitting with and talking about yarn. Besides, I think small, lovingly curated shops like this one deserve all the support they can get).

Well, shopping is thirsty work. High time for some refreshments. Take care, and see you next week!

Crochet Curtains in Giethoorn

Hello!

Are you ready for our first summer outing? Do your bicycle tires have enough air? Did you apply sunscreen and put on your sunglasses? Okay, let’s go!

Today, we’re cycling to Giethoorn, one of our regional tourist hot spots. In case you have never heard of it – Giethoorn is a village of about 2,500 souls in a low-lying wetland area in the Netherlands. It is situated on a man-made shallow lake…

… and the old part of the village is incredibly picturesque, with its lovely thatched houses, narrow canals and high bridges. (Many houses can only be reached via these bridges or by boat.)

Giethoorn has a special place in my heart. For several years our daughter had a summer job in one of the souvenir shops. And in previous years, when things got a little too quiet at home, I sometimes hopped on my bicycle to spend some time in Giethoorn. Normally, it is teeming with tourists from all over the world driving whisper boats,

taking guided tours in a canal boat, or strolling along the narrow paths.

I took the pictures you see here last year. This year it has obviously been very different, with the canals looking more like this:

For many people depending on tourism for their incomes it has been a tough, tough time. Now, with most of the Covid measures lifted in the Netherlands, they are breathing a tentative sigh of relief. Tourists are welcome again, although in much smaller numbers than before because of the restrictions that still are in place.

But, hey, we didn’t come here to discuss the local economy. I took you to Giethoorn for some respite from all those kind of worries. And especially to take a look at the lovely crochet curtains that grace many windows. I know that many of you are knitters, but I hope that you are interested in crochet, too.

I’m not sure if I should call them curtains, as most of them are just fairly narrow strips of crochet (like the one to the left of the lamppost above). Perhaps valances is a better word.

These crochet curtains/valances were all the rage in the 1970s and 1980s, at least in the Netherlands. I have no idea about other countries. But now, outside Giethoorn, I very rarely see them anymore.

The ones in Giethoorn are all of white or unbleached cotton. As a child, I had some in my bedroom that were similar to the ones in the house below, but mine were bright green, which made the flowers in them look like Granny Smith’s apples.

Here is a close-up of the ones in the window over the front door:

Most of these curtains are crocheted across, back and forth in narrow rows, with the straight edge at the top of the window on one side, and increasing and decreasing to the points on the other. This way, they can easily be made to fit the width of the window.

And most of them use a technique called ‘filet crochet’, sometimes in combination with other techniques. Filet crochet consists of a kind of grid made up of chain stitches and what is known in the US as double and in the UK as treble crochet stitches. Some of the squares are left open and others are filled with double/treble crochet to make symmetrical shapes, flowers or even intricate pictures.

The ones above are 100% filet crochet, whereas the house below has simple narrow ones…

…which look like filet crochet…

…but where the spaces inside the diamonds are filled in with a kind of crosses in a combination of chain stitches, double/treble crochet and single (US) or double (UK) crochet. (An international standard for these terms would make life a lot easier.)

The house below has wider and more intricate ones.

Here they are in close-up:

Upside-down hearts in filet crochet, with stars in chain stitch around a centre of stitches that I can’t make out. At the top they have the same sort of crosses as the simple narrow valance above.

And I’ve kept the best ones till last – four genuine master pieces. Here are the first two:

Two figures wearing beautifully detailed costumes, holding on to what looks like bean poles.

Unlike the ones so far, these panels were not worked from side to side, but from the bottom to the top. They are a great example of true filet crochet, except for the border at bottom and sides, which was added as a final touch.

And here are two more beauties – the last ones:

I can see lots of birds. The ones on the hands of the figure on the left look like falcons. At first I thought he had long streamers on his sleeves, but they also seem to be hanging from his hands, which is strange. Perhaps it is an open garden gate he’s standing in front of. Who knows?  On the right I see birds that look like geese and ducks. And what is she holding in her hands? Bunches of grapes?

Grapes? That’s interesting. I can place geese and ducks in these surroundings. But falcons and grapes in Giethoorn? Not really. And taking a closer look at the costumes also makes me wonder. All in all it looks as if the patterns for these panels may have come from Germany, or perhaps from France.

Describing Giethoorn’s crochet curtains here has made me look at them in much more detail than I’d done before – I really enjoyed that. I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip, too. Thank you for cycling along and I hope you’ll join me again on next week’s outing!

Summer Break

Hello!

These two simple swatches are all there is to show you of my knitting at the moment. I have plenty of knitting plans and ideas, but it’ll take a while for them to transform into something bloggable. So I thought, Why not take a break? A nice, long summer break! I can certainly do with one. How about you?

Now, before you think that my blog will come to a standstill, that’s not what I mean. What I mean is that I’d like to take a break from talking about my knitting. I’d like to take us on a few outings and write about some other summery things. Mainly knitting-or-other-crafts-related, of course.

I don’t know exactly what it’s all going to look like, and I can’t guarantee that my knitting won’t sneak in here and there, but I hope that it’s going to be fun and something to look forward to every week.

To start with, I’d like to take you on an early morning walk and share a recipe.

Imagine that it’s 7 a.m. We’ve just had a quick breakfast and are still slightly groggy and grumpy, feeling like, ‘Do we really need to get up this early on our day off?’ Then, seeing the sun slanting through the trees, and breathing in the fresh air and the mixed smell of pine trees, sand and heather, all the grumpiness is gone. Aaaaah, it’s so good to be here!

In some places, the ground is carpeted with crowberries dotted with many, many small dewy spider’s webs.

Can you see them? Here is one from close up.

There will be small black berries on the plants later in the season, very bitter when eaten raw. The plants also give off a slightly bitter, but really nice and tangy smell.

And here, on a dead tree trunk, is something giving off a not-so-nice smell:

It’s fox’s spraint. (Forgive me for being so weird to photograph fox poo, but I think it’s really interesting that they deposit it in such a prominent spot.)

Oh, and look, aren’t we lucky today? There, in the distance is a roe deer mum with her kid…

… strolling and grazing along the path. I don’t think they’ve spotted us yet, but we won’t be able to get much closer without being noticed.

And here are their hoof prints, one big and one small:

Aww, that was so sweet. Now, before we head back, let’s just enjoy the peace and quiet for a while on this lovely bench with a dead branch for a footstool.

The wind is soughing softly through the pine branches above us.

The sun is rising in the sky, but our bench is in the shade of the big old pines, so we won’t get too hot. I could sit here all day, enjoying the peaceful view…

… but I shan’t, because I promised to share a recipe with you, too. It’s my recipe for Very Healthy Oat Squares. I make these every other week. They keep very well and are ideal snacks to take on walks and other days out. Why not bake a batch of these (or of something else if you have a sweeter tooth) in preparation for next week’s outing?

Here are the ingredients all set out.

Very Healthy Oat Squares

For a 27 by 27 cm baking tray, makes 16.

Ingredients

  • 200 g thick-rolled oats (not the finer porridge oats)
  • 200 g wholewheat pastry flour*
  • 100 g sultana raisins
  • 50 g currants
  • 50 g dried cranberries
  • 8 g speculaaskruiden**
  • 3 g salt
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil + a little extra for greasing
  • 250 ml cold water or a little less

* Wholewheat pastry flour is more finely ground than ordinary wholewheat flour and is available from most healthfood stores.
** This is a typically Dutch spice blend available online here and there. Gingerbread spice mix is not entirely the same but a good substitute.

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 ˚C (fan oven 160 ˚C)
  • Put all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
  • Stir in 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil and grease the baking tray with the rest of the oil
  • Gradually stir in the water. Try using a little less than the 250 ml at first. The mixture should just stick together and should not be soggy at all. If it is too wet, the oat squares won’t keep as well
  • Knead through (by hand or using a mixer) for a minute or two
  • Drop the mixture onto the baking tray and, using wet hands, distribute it evenly and flatten it
  • Tidy the edges (ragged edges will become brittle and burn)
  • Cut into 16 squares and bake for 35 minutes
  • Remove the baking tray from the oven, transfer the squares to a wire rack and leave to cool before storing

In an airtight container, kept in a cool and dry place, the oat squares will keep up to two weeks.

Enjoy!

A Stroll through our Village

Hello again! Today, I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you while strolling through our village. It isn’t a particularly picturesque village, but I love it because it’s home.

Although the village is already mentioned in 14th century documents, there is little left that reminds us of the distant past. Most of the houses (some more attractive than others) date from the middle of the 20th century, and there’s also a brand new, recently finished housing estate.

But there are several beautiful old reed-roofed houses left, like the one at the top. And here’s the corner of the roof of another one:

I’d like to translate the lovely scallops into the edging for a knitted shawl someday. My mind is always overflowing with ideas. Right now some of the ideas are crowded out by worries, however.

It’s the end of the third week of our ‘intelligent lockdown’, as our Prime Minister calls it. All events, big and small, have been cancelled until June. Schools, restaurants and cafés, theatres, libraries and other public places will remain closed until at least the end of April. People work from home and stay at home as much as they can. Everything to keep this dratted virus from spreading too fast.

We can still go out for our necessary shopping and also for a walk or a bicycle ride, as long as we keep a safe distance. I’m incredibly grateful for that, as for many other things.

Strolling through the village, I’m grateful for spring, with its birdsong and its flowers. For a garden filled with grape hyacinths…

… for flowering magnolia trees…

… for the sunlight reflecting off the bell of a cheerful children’s bike…

… and for the tiny pavement garden that gives passers-by something different to enjoy every month of the year. This month’s treat is scillas and lesser celandine:

I’m grateful for so much. And I’m worried. Although I have the occasional what-if thought, I’m not so much worried for myself and my family. We’re okay, and we’ll manage.

I am worried for the vulnerable people in our society and in the world at large. For the elderly, for those suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, for children in unsafe homes, for people losing their jobs, for people making overtime in hospitals, for people unable to stay at home simply because they have no home.

I know that worrying won’t help, but what can I DO?

Strolling along, I see positive signs of other people wanting to do something. Someone placed this chalkboard along the pavement:

It says, ‘Make room for trust, understanding, wonder, wisdom’.

And I don’t know who it was, but someone somewhere in the world had the idea for a Bear Hunt, meant for small children and their parents, but also very nice for grown-ups. More and more bears are appearing in our village, too. One family crammed their windowsill full of them, and placed two more on their garden table:

Such a simple and sweet gesture. Whoever it was who came up with this idea, I’m grateful to them for thinking of it. It reminds me that small and simple gestures can help. In this spirit, I made a short list of small things I can do:

  • Make phone calls to everybody I can think of who may appreciate some company, even if it is from a distance.
  • Listen to people without trying to push or pull them in any direction.
  • Send someone an uplifting postcard.
  • Donate to organisations supporting people I’m worried about.
  • Chat with neighbours (from a safe distance) and ask if they’re okay.
  • Keep blogging.
  • Keep practising social distancing.
  • Try to stay as nice as I can to the guy I’m staying at home with (not hard at all, because he is a VERY nice guy).
  • Knit something for someone.

Any ideas for things to add to this list are welcome!

Taking action, no matter how small, is what works for me. I realize that not everybody is the same. I hope that you can find things that work for you. If nothing seems to work, please talk about it to someone you trust.

Thank you for strolling along with me and listening to my thoughts and worries. I hope you are still all right. Here’s a big smile for you from our upstairs window.