Pothead, Potato, Pigs, Pussycats, Patchouli, Pat Metheny, Pavlova, Prince, and plenty more.

Pines in the snow

pine branch in snow

Pining for snow

eleven cities tour

1985: After 22 years of pining, at last it was there!

When I left the Netherlands in 1983 I could not remember when snow had last fallen or when the country had been bestowed with a winter harsh enough for the Eleven Cities tour to take place. As a youngster I had loved snow and ice-skating, but from my teens till my early twenties, winters were bland. Humid cold, stormy, rainy days, occasionally snow unworthy of mentioning and although I owned ice skates I didn’t have the need for them anymore. I do not remember any of those last winters hindering my cycling to work.

Down south

winter scene RSA

South Africa: yellowish-brown winter scene

Johannesburg, where I settled at the end of 1983, has a climate very different from the Netherlands. Dry winters and rainy summers down south. That first winter I was stunned and abhorred when everything turned brown and yellow and stayed that way for months. I was told that it snowed once every ten years in the city and that the last time had been in 1981. Hhmmm. Instead of loathing rain, I got to love it (Holland, like England, can be quite gloomy with many drizzly days in a row). You simply look out for it after six months of its absence while suffering the views of the scorched fields and parks, and you, as a new immigrant, start to look forward to it just as much as every other resident in the region.

To this day, more than ten years after leaving South Africa and having lived in the Netherlands for a whole year now, I love rain. But I love snow more. As a child I used to sit on my knees, leaning against the back of an easy chair, looking through the window and up into the millions of whirling snow flakes. Snow flakes seemed huge then!  Is it any wonder that the longer I lived down south the more I longed for a good old fashioned winter? Exactly thirteen months after I left Holland they were able to hold their first Eleven Cities tour in 22 years’ time. A friend sent me a beautiful publication of the event. I was immensely jealous and peeved! It was weird to see pictures of my country fellowmen tackling the frozen ‘tundra’ of Friesland while I enjoyed my second Jo’burg summer.

Holland is good to me

roe in snow

Unfortunately, not my own picture – had to nick it from the net

A year ago I arrived in a certain area because of three reasons. I had googled 1) house to rent, 2) pets allowed, and 3) wifi internet. It was miles away from my family and in a province I had visited once or twice during the summertime several decades earlier. I didn’t know that it would be colder here than at the North Sea coast. That geese and Whooper swans would be flying to and fro all day long. Roes running past me in the forest. A huge forest virtually on my doorstep, sand drifts not much further, as well as an old peat collection area, now protected. I just wanted to live somewhere safe with my pets and be spherically connected, so to speak. No, I would not have dreamt of asking for all those wonderful ‘things’ that I got. But then again, I knew then and know now, and have known for quite a while that Mother Nature loves me (and I’ve loved her right back). It’s as if she opened a treasure chest for me.

Pines in the snow

Here then, some (cell/mobile) pictures of my walk with Pantouf through a recent layer of snow (the second since early December).

Pines in snow

This way please!

Pine - exposed roots


Pine and dog

Old beauties

Pine broken branches

All shapes and sizes

Pine needles in snow

Snowy needles

detail pines in snow

Surprise! Detail of ‘Pine trees in snow’ by Maruyama Ōkyo – a well known painting

Pines and bench in snow


Pine and dog in snow

Born to sniff

pine bark

Close enough?

pine pair

A fine pine pair – till death do us part

pine - angled

Is it tough being an old tree?

dog on path

Time to go home ~ that was fun!

During the last snowfall, the walking paths, pavements and roads seemed to hold too much warmth for the snow to accumulate on them (it had been exceptionally mild for a while).  So no slipping and sliding.  Therefore, the ideal snowfall.


The Gift of Time“Ponty!” I exclaimed earlier this evening, while working the raisins into the scone batter. “That’ll make a good P-post.” Momentarily taking my hands off the scones-in-the-making, I raised my hands and wiggled my hips to the tune of Jean-Luc Ponty’s ‘New Resolutions.’ It’s also my favourite album by him: The Gift Of Time.

In 1984, a South African housemate put a cassette in my hands: “here, I think you will like it.” For several months two of Ponty’s early albums were played to death.  I didn’t like it, I adored it. Her American boyfriend was a fan. Very lucky me.

Altogether, over the years, I bought five albums by him and I went to see him live at the Montreal Jazz Festival. There he performed as one of the members of Trio! – what a show. Stanley Clarke, bass and Béla Fleck, banjo. I will never see a better performance by a musician, I am quite sure of that. He is a powerhouse and his interaction with Clarke was unforgettable.

Why he perked me up?

I was feeling maudlin this evening after Inessa Galante’s Ave Maria (Caccini) suddenly pulled one of my heart strings waaaaay too far out. The ¡thoing! got the waterworks going. I miss my son. Not his warm-hearted, easily approachable personality, because he didn’t have it, but maybe just because they pulled him out of me? I dunno, I only got one kid so I can’t speak from experience. I’ve been trying to accommodate this loss too (how many more times?) but I’m not good at it because I carry my heart on my sleeve. People like me don’t accommodate, we express. We resolve, we want to do something. Doing nothing is like being incarcerated, where you can’t do anything. But I can, and I want to, but I don’t know what. I’ve given it into the hands of the universe but of course I often feel the urge to get involved.

Came to chase the blues away

Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley

old photo

Heart Blues

As my youtube playlist carried on, Ponty was followed by Buckley who came to chase the blues away, which is normally heartwrenching, but now it was so serendipitous that I called “Thank you Baby, I knew I could count on you!” Is that what I do, talk to dead people who overdosed?

Damn good voice though.

EveningScone Delight

sconesNaturally, preparing scones is a kind of therapy and then I got to eat them too, yummie!  I thought I would quickly write a blog post about my perker upper but that never works, of course (quickly).  Still, I got another P in. 🙂

Best scones ever: an old ‘O’ recipe from the Harlem Tea Room.  I always make the raisin variety but add chopped apple or apricot as well.

Gonna have seconds now.  Thanks for listening.


Doesn’t he just look like an Egyptian God, this fellow?

My African Prince

Ah, I know, I’m ridiculously biased!  Aren’t we all, whether cat or dog lover, pointy nose or flat face, virtually bald or a fur ball, big or small, the places they occupy in our hearts are huge.  Way too huge at times, I think.

Do all pet lovers have one?

Long ago I read that there will always be a lifetime pet.  Long after many other, much-loved four-footers have walked over the couch, there will always be that one.  Perhaps it’s one that you can never quite think of without getting a lump in your throat.  Or suddenly (but not inexplicably) feel melancholic.  Or tears well up in your eyes and at times you even cry.

Poirot is that kind of pet for me.  He died 5 1/2 years ago on a country road in Quebec, Canada.  He was eight.  I now have cats that I may be even more besotted with than I was with him.  Yet, he’s my lifetimer.

Never acclimatised

He was born in Africa and never hid his hatred for the Canadian cold, where he experienced five winters in Quebec.  Always full of snow and plenty very cold.  He semi-hibernated during those winters, but what he hated more than the cold was sharing the kitty toilet with the other cats.  So, rush out – tippy-toeing at high speed, do his business on the side of the barn and rush back in to carry on sleeping.

As I’m typing this, I’m thinking “Is it any wonder that he opted out?”  Yes and no.  He departed in May, so he could have had one more clammy summer of mouse hunting, his passion.  He always brought a dead mouse home to show off, usually by late morning.  That’s why I knew that day in May that something was amiss.  By 4 pm he had not shown his face all day.  After 20 minutes of searching, I found him on the side of the road, like a flat grey stone, which is what I thought I saw from a distance.

How do I accommodate this?

A Buddhist friend told me years ago that I should accommodate Poirot’s loss.  I thought I found a way to do this, but after a while the old ache resurfaced.  Perhaps just like the phantom pain experienced after the amputation of a limb, I will experience pain in my heart because he was cut out of my life way too soon?


A tyke in Africa ~ 1999-2007

Where’s the P in all this, you may wonder?

In Pamela Anderson, that’s where.  If you’ve watched Borat you’ll understand.  If not, I can’t explain, that would spoil the movie. 🙂  But trust me, that’s where the P comes from.

I hate having to go alone!

Image from Sevensheaven.nl

Image from Sevensheaven.nl

That’s what a friend of mine said this weekend.  She hates Christmas because she has to drive alone, two hours, to her daughter to spend Christmas with her, the hubby and the cute little kids.  “I just hate being there alone too.”

Gee, how can you set yourself up for something like that?  By focusing on it, I think.  By focusing on what you don’t have.  A partner.  A lover.  A partner is not necessarily always a lover (god, don’t I know it!).  So people like my friend hate December because they focus on the fact that they’re alone, whereas they’re not really.  My sister’s the same.  Plenty of things to do and company to be with, but hates this time of year.  Both these women would prefer to have a steady, loving partner, which is what makes them hate the whole thing.  Is it just my imagination or are they wallowing in self-pity?

What you focus on, expands

I love being alone

But not all the time.  I like people too, just not as often as my sister and my friend.  I feel I am lucky in that.  I can happily potter around on my own for five days and then I may start to long for human company (I always have animal company, so I am never alone in that sense.  However, I’m well aware of the fact that they – nor my great love for nature – can sustain me when it comes to having a fulfilling, stimulating life).

It’s my Xmas and I rejoice if I want to

Alone if I want to

Feelin’ Good

I don’t make a fuss of not having company this time of year.  I could have had, twice over.  Some months ago my sister said this: “I’ll come and stay with you if you want me to.  I’ve been going to Paul for eight years for his Christmas Eve dinner with friends, but I’ll come to you if you want.”

Chris’almighty!  How’s that for an unsolicited sacrifice?  I passed.  I hate it with a passion if people do things for me because they take pity on me.

The Christmas company fallacy

Having company doesn’t mean you don’t feel lonely or downright awful.

What are you doing this Christmas?

People ask, don’t they?  They ask you whether you’re single or have a family, I suppose.  But if you are single and hate it as well as the time of year, that sure is one shitty question to be asked, I understand that.

The last few years, while I was stubbornly single, my standard answer has been (at my most matter-of-fact best): I’ll be cooking a chutney.  Ain’t even lying.   I like cooking a few chutneys this time of year because it’s a good time for gifting them and I have enough for many months to come.  I’m no loner, but I’m also not one for imposed tradition.  I shared supper with friends last week and in a few weeks’ time I’ll be hosting a dinner party.  When I want to.

There’s always the net

These days, net-literate people never, ever have to be lonely.  There are always like-minded people who spend hours on the net those days because almost everyone else is busy with (mandatory) Xmas do’s.  Chat, play a game, always something interactive to do.  If all else fails, one could always write a blog post. 🙂

Help others get what you want

To those who really can’t face the ‘aloneness’ around Xmas time, I’d suggest they spend time with someone who is also lonely.   Perhaps as a volunteer.  There are so many elderly and/or handicapped people out there who would welcome company.

It’s not even his real birthday

For what it’s worth, Christmas is celebrated on December 25/26 because it used to be the date of the pagans’ winter celebrations to spruce up the darkness.  As new religions traditionally steal/stole dates for celebrations from old religions or philosophies, that is why those dates were chosen to celebrate J.C.’s birthday (a.k.a. indoctrination/manipulation).

Celebrate the light!

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, each day is now getting a little more daylight all the way up to 21st June.  If you’re in the southern hemisphere, heck, your days are long already.  Reasons enough to celebrate.  Take care, be good, have fun.

Christmas light

Savage Beauty

poetess Millay

About poetry I can be very brief, and atypically, I will be in this post.

I know very little about it and it will likely be that way for the rest of my life.  However, I was once completely smitten by the memory of Edna St. Vincent Millay.  In 1996, on the Microsoft Bookshelf CD with quotations, she grabbed my attention with a poem that was quoted in a few movies (such as A river runs through it).

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

It was apparently short enough to make me read it, I’d burned the candle at both ends myself many times, and when someone told me she was known as a cheeky poetess, I wanted to know more.


So my journey began.  I read a lot of her poetry, first online and later in books.  Especially the biography Savage Beauty cast a spell on me.  I was in love, in lust, with a long deceased person.  I visited Camden, Maine, Poughkeepsie, New York, and last, Steepletop (her farm) in New York and that’s where the spell was broken.  Poof! in one go, she released me.  She apparently had this effect on both men and women when she was alive, and undoubtedly let them go at the drop of a hat also.  The biographer did a really good job!


Sometimes, oh, often, indeed, in the midst of ugly adversity, beautiful
Memories return.
You awake in wonder, you awake at half-past four,
Wondering what wonder is in store.
You reach for your clothes in the dark and pull them on, you
have no time
Even to wash your face, you have to climb Megunticook.

You run through the sleeping town; you do not arouse
Even a dog, you are so young and so light on your feet.
What a way to live, what a way…
No breakfast, not even hungry. An apple, though,
In the pocket.
And the only people you meet are store-windows.

The path up the mountain is stony and in places steep,
And here it is really dark — wonderful, wonderful,
Wonderful — the smell of bark
And rotten leaves and dew! And nobody awake
In all the world but you! —
Who lie on a high cliff until your elbow ache,
To see the sun come up over Penobscot Bay.

Only two

There are only two poets that have wooed me.  Millay is one and Whitman is the other (click on the first image of the Camino plaque – Song of the Open Road).


Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Pleasurable Prince

train - trein

♫ ♪ ♪ ♫ ♫ ♪

On a train in The Netherlands…

End of 1996, armed with a new Sony Discman and the triple album Emancipation by Prince I was travelling by train to … I don’t remember!

But I do remember the album, still my favourite by him.

Jam of the year… not

Prince Emancipation

The Symbol

It’s just one of the many great songs, but I did not quite have the jam of the year then.  It was my first Xmas and New Year without my son who was with his father.  Daddy’s turn for Xmas.  It was also the year of the divorce.  How could something you wanted for so long hurt so bad?  Prince licked my wounds.

Jam of the year (not great quality – Prince’s people regularly remove good stuff from youtube)

Sex in the summer

Another super, vibey song on this album.  Some of them are great sing-alongs and this sure is one of them.  The following year, my son and his friends giggled every time I played it.  They were almost 10.   I think I was cool about these things and preferred to let him watch sexy movies to war rolling eyesmovies!  Funnily enough, when he was 21 he said my attitude had had repercussions.

I never asked why because he’d always been a very private person.  Afterwards I wished I’d said that all 21-year olds are oversexed, because I had a feeling that his girlfriend accused him of being it.

Soul Sanctuary

My favourite track on this album.  The entire album was my soul sanctuary then and I will always have fond memories of my discovery of it and how it lightened my load.

Contemporary (not a track)

Prince is it, my contemporary.  He does look a lot younger than me, I think, ha ha!


Patterns in the snow

Lo and behold, it was snowing in the Netherlands!

Dry snow, that is.  Had about 3 inches here in the south-east of Friesland.  Boy, did I ever feel at home.

Winter trees in snow

Wintry stillness

So did my dog Pantouf, who was born and raised in the province of Quebec, Canada.  She was still a pup – you know, a real pup, not the kind that is referred to by their doting owners when the dog is already 10 😉 – when she started hunting mice simply because there was a blanket of snow hiding them.  I suspect that she hears them even better, or her instincts are more alert when there is snow (for instance, because coyotes would get hungry during winter and they’d have to hunt more diligently, I dunno, just guessing).

Fat mice hunting

Fat mice hunting

I was just going to post some pictures here with snow patterns, ha ha!  What can I say, I’m a chatterbox.  I’ve been quiet lately, not blogging at all, just because it claims so much of my time.  When I do something, I do it right.  Makes me think immediately of a Joan Armatrading song.  Help Yourself.

That said, I can also be an immense slacker.  Those are the opposites in me – there are many – a perfectionist on the one end and a slacker on the other.  That is one of the reasons why I have been consciously single for a couple of years.  I am hell to share a roof with and I’d feel the same about anyone who’d share it with me!  So I share it with my pets.  Just this morning I was thinking of how wonderful it is to have long-lasting harmony in my home!

Okay, without venturing onto the tangent any further, here then are my snowy pictures with patterns:

As I stepped out of my front door...

As I stepped out of my front door…

Bricks are hiding here...

Bricks are hiding here…

Almost Christmas

Almost Christmas

Not the leaves, but snow is clinging to the trees

Not the leaves, but snow is clinging to the trees



Spot the pattern... :)

Spot the pattern… 🙂

Home again, I noticed this almost Mondriaan painting on my patio

Home again, I noticed this almost Mondriaan painting on my patio

Sunday 9 December

After just one rainy day, most of the snow has washed away

I don’t mind, we had our fun, glad the snow is on the run

Pavements were slippery and roads were icy

To drive or walk was just too dicey!

On Pause & Priority

Why my blogging’s on Pause

woman shoots at pc

Reason #1 why I let myself loose in WordPress seven weeks ago was:

I was planning to make a website for my new & small enterprise, using WordPress.

And I tried that.  But I found it hard to put my ideas across to WordPress and turning the whole thing into an acceptable website with a .com address.

So what did I do?  I blogged about personal matters!  Helluva way to procrastinate and have fun while feelin’ guilty. 😉

Change of mind

After an unproductive time of trial and error I came to the conclusion that I wanted a .nl website instead.  I prepared myself for learning WebMatrix, the Microsoft free web development application.  To my horror I could only install it in Spanish (got Windows Spanish).  After lengthy to and fro communication with various forums it appeared that I was unable to get an English version.  That pissed me off no end.

When something is daunting

So there I was, put off by the daunting prospect of having to relearn html, get acquainted with today’s standards, and learning WebMatrix in Spanish.  I spent a while in cerebral deadlock while blogging away happily.

Saved by the acquaintance!

no such thing as a free lunchYou can imagine my elation when an acquaintance offered to make my website, for free!  I would reciprocate somehow, one day, I would insist, because there is no such thing as a free website.  We talked at length about the vision I had for the site.  I then drew an exact copy of what I wanted in MS Word, software I know quite well in a low-level DTP sense.  For the first time I could see exactly how I wanted it.  He urged me to reserve the .nl domain and I decided to park the .com at the same time for a redirect.  He suggested a certain template and mentioned a program he was going to set it up with.  A program I did not know of.  I felt a little uncomfortable for two reasons:

  1. Was there any online support for this program?
  2. Would I be dependent on him for changes and updates? (Absolutely out of the question!)

Nevertheless I looked into the template he had suggested and I sent him a Messenger IM with two questions, a form of communication he had insisted on.  Two days later I got a reply.  That evening one of my cats dragged in a big rat which quite frankly I had already begun to smell! 😉

Take the bull by the horns

You can do it!I am as much fiercely independent as I am helpless.  These frames of mind alternate.  My contact had alluded to my inability to learn html and working with frames.  Hhmm, I think that that, together with the fact that he would take weeks to finish my site (his words), made my fierce independence kick in.

I started looking for templates and found a really good one.  No frames, but it would do in terms of layout.  I reluctantly downloaded WebMatrix once more (the fiftieth time, probably) having decided that I would just have to weather the Spanish storm.  Follow tutorials in English and find the corresponding functions in Spanish.  Time-consuming, but not insurmountable.

Commitment is not a four-letter word

Then a whole string of things happened which caused me to now have a completed home page with the linked pages not far off from completion.

  1. WebMatrix installed in English (don’t ask me why).
  2. I was able to concentrate on the job for ten hours a day, several days in a row;
  3. I bit into difficult issues like a bulldog, not letting go until I found a solution (it’s not easy deciphering someone else’s template in css if you’ve never seen a stylesheet in your life and div and span still seem like hieroglyphics).
  4. I figured out a way to copy a layer of an image and paste it onto an existing background.  I’d never done that before; for some reason a Layer window appeared in my photo editing software while I was fiddling with this issue, making me experiment with it.  A silly little thing, eh, to get so excited about?  Yeah, that’s what you think. 🙂
  5. It lifted my self-esteem to levels where the entire site, including linked pages, seven or so, took more and more shape in my mind.  I even felt a little euphoric.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it

I really needed to feel bold to tackle the building of my business website.  Instead, for weeks in a row I had felt like a wimp, resulting in an aborted website-building mission causing me to want to abdicate my responsibility.  What did help me in the end was needing to show an exact replica of how I envisaged my website.

All of a sudden the somewhat vague & complicated issue became crystal clear.  I think it also peeved me that he thought I could not learn html (I used it ten years ago to build a simple website), plus I was alarmed by the time it would take him to finish my site as well as the difficulty to communicate with him.

Summing it up

  1. Clarity (visual of my website);
  2. Defiance (what, you think I can’t learn that??!!), and
  3. Independence (you will take how long?!)

spurted me into my very own action!

In his beautiful quote of Goethe, the mountaineer W.H. Murray pointed out to me some 25 years ago that you have to be committed for the ball to really start rolling.  My commitment to make the website finally took concrete form after I designed an image of how I wanted it.  The other two ‘helpers’ were merely emotional motivators.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back…”

“All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.”


Psycho-Cybernetics book

This is such fun to read!

To have a clear picture of your objective – ideally on paper – is therefore also a great way to stop procrastinating!  When I created the image of the website for my acquaintance I never wondered how this was going to be made (because it wouldn’t be me).

Typical psycho-cybernetics: don’t worry about the ways and means to achieve it, just focus on the goal and believe in its feasibility.  I always loved that stuff.

Thanks to:

  1. WordPress for this wonderful outlet
  2. Microsoft for the (free) web development application (WebMatrix)
  3. ELATED for a free template
  4. The acquaintance for his generous offer
  5. Richard B. for sharing a copy of Commitment loooong before it was on the net
  6. Me, myself, I for being so damn stubborn… at times.

Of Pot & Potheads

Pot, Cannabis, Marihuana, Marijuana, Weed, Ganja, Dagga, Grass, Laughing Lawn, Hashish


When I conceived the idea for a P-blog last month, this word was the first one I thought of.  I don’t know why because I never hear it, nor use it.  I even thought then that it was a mere swearword, like idiot.  But wiktionary told me otherwise:

(derogatory slang) A person who smokes cannabis frequently, to excess.

Relaaax, man…

Who came to mind instantly was Derrick, a pothead in the truest sense of the word.  In his fifties, happy-go-lucky with occasional bouts of depression, nature and animal lover, easy to be with, calling a spade a fucking spade.

He had permanently bloodshot eyes.  The only time when he was not smoking pot was when he had just returned from a week-long ayurvedic cleansing retreat.  He looked well.  Was clear-headed and frankly, a bit too serious and intense for my liking, because he was not stoned.  He swore he would never eat another piece of meat or smoke another joint in his life.  He felt SO great!  Holier-than-thou also.

I think his resolution barely survived a week.  I could tell when he accosted me on my way out of his property after a party one evening when he bashed my car, forcing me to open my window.  His pants were down and with a sheepish grin he said ‘Look what you’re getting if you stay the night.’  Ah, the pot, she is a potent temptress.  I laughed, rolled up the window and drove home.  True as Bob, as they say in South Africa.  The last thing I heard was that he was doing well, charming as ever, even twenty years later.  Because you don’t die of smoking pot if used responsibly.  See link #1 below.

True as Bob!

My own experience with pot was a memorable one.  I was 26 and it did not result in a lifetime of pot smoking.  Quite the contrary.  I never smoked it anyway, but I ate it.  Baked in a cake by my friend & housemate who didn’t have the foggiest how much of the stuff to put in, so she just guessed.  It may have been a bit strong, that space cake.

At first I thought that I was immune to it and decided it was a waste of money.  It was a Sunday evening and I had ironing to do!  After about an hour I looked at myself in the mirror while ironing and suddenly wondered ‘Who on earth does her ironing on a Sunday night?!’  It had begun.  I joined my friend in the living room where I got a case of the giggles, while she remained utterly unaffected by it (only to get violently ill the next morning, shame).

She sat in a comfy chair with her knees pulled up around which she held her arms.  In that composition I saw the following scenery (except that she missed a knee, of which shortcoming I informed her):

If you had another knee, they would be the three rondavels!

Gee whiz…

I hated not being able to come down.  Hours and hours later my head was still spinning.  Contrary to what you might have heard or experienced yourself, I did not get hungry.  I did not get horny either.  I just became a wet blanket.  🙂 I didn’t like the long-lasting effect: five hours later I still got dizzy when I tried to sleep.  Just as well.  I’m not keen on bloodshot eyes.

I remember all this as if it was yesterday, as well as the music playing in the background of my stonedness: 1) Pink Floyd and 2) Alan Parsons Project.  I was never able to dissociate the experience from 1) The great gig in the sky, and 2) Sirius

Coffee shops 

Not having lived in the Netherlands during the new coffee shop age, to me a coffee shop has always remained a place where you can sit on a terrace, drink coffee and watch people walk by.  And discuss them if you happen to be with someone.  To call a place like that a coffee shop in Holland would be a faux pas.  Say, if you agree to meet someone in a coffee shop, you are bound to smell a whole lotta pot.  Wikipedia may call it a Cannabis coffee shop, but that’s not what they’re called in Holland.  Just plain coffee shop.

Watch out: There are special regulations for foreign tourists.

For sale in Dutch coffee shops:

Dutch pot

Recently it came to my attention that Dutch marihuana is allegedly far more potent than the same stuff from other countries.  Be ware, brothers and sisters.

Cool runnings!

1. Can you die from weed?

2. 100 celebrities that smoke marijuana

Please note: When it comes to pot, I am like Switzerland.  Do what you like.  You can be for or against: either way, it’s your prerogative.  This is just my little, hopefully a little quirky account of pot (just because I write about anything that starts with a P, and being Dutch may have something to do with it – we are so casual about these things).  No debate or headbutting is condoned.  If you like to share your own (funny) story, please do leave a scribble (I may edit it).

Experimentation is the name of the game

homemade bread with sesame seeds

Also to finally settle on a favourite bread I experimented for ten years with bread-baking before I found the one I’m going to share with you here. (See also my favourite Vital Vinaigrette.)

woman pulling hair(On the side…)  As far as experimenting goes, the same goes for learning how to write a blog in WordPress: sometimes it takes a while before you find what you need or like best.  What a daunting affair at first, even after all those years of working with PC’s.  Now I want to do my business website in WebMatrix but I’m not much of a programmer.  Don’t have the patience for it.  Was quite happy with Frontpage, but can’t use that anymore, and with Windows 7 Home Premium Spanish, WebMatrix only installs in Spanish because WebPI does not accept my English setting!  Tried forums, the lot, no luck so far.  To tackle something you don’t like, in a language you don’t master, aaarrrgh!

So what do I do instead of pulling out my hair?  I bake bread, hoping that after that accomplishment I’ll feel competent enough, albeit briefly, to tackle the challenge once more.  Glorious, homemade bread.  I never eat anything else anymore.  Have you seen that long list of unpronounceable ingredients on factory bread labels?  Those are mainly chemicals.  Were our bodies made to digest chemicals?  Not that kind.  As a supertaster I am particularly fussy.

dough ballOnly 3 minutes of kneading!

The beauty of this dough is that it doesn’t need much kneading.  Just a couple of minutes until it’s smooth.  The more you knead it, the more gluten it releases in any case.

Apologies for the quality of the pictures.  My camera fell a while ago and now only provides pics with a pink hue!  Other than the sesame seed bread, all the bread pics were taken with a mobile phone.  But I hope you’ll also think that it’s the thought that counts.  It’s not a photography blog.  It’s not a food blog.  I can get away with murder, yes?

This is what you’ll be making

homemade spelt bread Pain Provençal

Or two large loaves as on top.

silicon pastry brushThe original recipe (adapted by me here) comes from a Kitchenaid bread machine recipe book.  It’s a cold dough recipe and takes five hours in the machine to prepare.  Then you shape it, let it rise and bake it.  But it’s also very easy to make by hand, and you don’t have to be that proactive!

You’ll need

  • large bowl
  • large wooden spoon
  • measuring jug
  • measuring spoons
  • plastic wrap
  • dough knife (optional)
  • pastry brush (ideally silicon)
  • rolling pin (optional)
  • paper kitchen towels
  • baking tray lined with baking paper
  • aluminium foil
  • draught-free place to let the dough rise
  • oven

See these two columns?  I’m so proud of myself – got into html today: googled ‘two columns in wordpress,’ et voilà, piece of bread. 🙂


  • 500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 625 ml (2½ cups) spelt flour (125 ml (½ cup) of this could also be wholewheat or rye)
  • 125 ml (½ cup) sunflower seeds (optional), more of these for sprinkling (or sesame seeds for sprinkling)
  • 1¾ tsp seasalt
  • 14 g (½ oz) instant yeast, about 1 Tblsp
  • 1 Tblsp brown sugar (or honey, molasses)
  • 375 – 400 ml (1½ cup – 1½ cup + 2 Tblsp) lukewarm water – a little warmer than body temperature.  Boil water and add a little to cold water in measuring jug until you have the right temperature and quantity.
  • 20 ml (4 tsp) olive oil


  • Mix dry ingredients in bowl and mix well with hand whisk (add honey or molasses after this if you replace sugar)
  • Pour the water (but not all) and mix using the wooden spoon; when it begins to be absorbed, add oil and mix well;
    if you can manage, use only one hand to start kneading until it’s well mixed (Martha always told us to keep one hand free for the telephone!)
  • If the flour cannot all be absorbed, add a little more water
  • Oil a clean, smooth counter and drop the dough (scraping any remaining pieces from the bowl with it); now lightly oil the bowl – never mind that it’s not completely clean

TIP: While kneading, the dough should be slightly sticky, but not cling to your hands, nor should it be so dry that you cannot knead the cracks out of it.  Too wet: sprinkle a little more flour on the dough and work this in; too dry: add a little more water but very little at a time because it gets too wet very quickly.

  • Knead well for just a few minutes until the dough is smooth
  • Drop into oiled bowl, turn around, and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap; place in comfortably warm, draught-free space for about 1½ hours (dough doubles in size)

risen dough

Dough rising in bowl

  • dough cutDrop dough onto clean, lightly oiled counter and divide into four equal parts (can use a scale)
  • Roll out one part with roller or press with hands into rectangular shape; gently roll up the dough, but not too tightly

Rolling dough

  • Run a barely wet finger (lukewarm water) along the outer edge and pinch the seam close; place on baking paper, seam down
  • Repeat for remaining three – I forgot it here but at this point you can give a couple of diagonal slashes, not too deep, about 1¼cm (½”) deep
  • Lightly brush dough, one at a time, with lukewarm water and sprinkle with sunflower or sesame seeds
  • Cover with lightly oiled plastic; place in comfortably warm, draught-free space for about 45 minutes – last 10 minutes, preheat oven on 200ºC (425ºF)

Rolled dough is rising

Ready to bake at last!

  • For the small loaves, bake a total of 25 minutes, for the large ones, 35 to 40 minutes – exact time varies per oven
  • The last 10 to 15 minutes you may need to cover them with foil if you see that the tops/seeds are browning too much
  • Remove, let cool on a rack.

Bon appétit!

Mixed lettuce with vinaigrette, homemade bread topped with grilled cheese, chili-tomato chutney and un verre de vin de Bourgogne!

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