Ons huis een thuis maken

(Making our house a home.)

So, I’m officially an expat. Eek!! I moved to the Netherlands late on Saturday evening so this is my third full day living here. The past two days have been spent unpacking what seems like a million boxes! How on earth we fit all that stuff in a one-bedroom flat is beyond me…

Home is where the tea is.

Home is where the tea is.

Naturally, the first thing to be unpacked was the kettle and tea making facilities! Actually the kettle is new, can you tell? ;-)

Second on the priority list was our music. The Dutchie and I are massive music fans, so our “CD wall” is one of our most prized possessions!

CD wall - before

CD wall – before

It was also a quick and easy way to empty at least 10 boxes!! After picture to follow… we need to get our London Calling framed album on the wall first! ;-)

After a really early start on Sunday morning we worked hard all day and decided to get out of the house for some fresh air and something to eat about 7pm or so. It’s amazing how you forget to eat when you’re that busy!! We discovered a lovely local kroeg (pub/bar) called Het Cafe van Aemstel. I was confused by Aemstel at first as I’m used to it being Amstel – but the Dutchie informed me it was old Dutch and that the pronunciation was exactly the same. Phew!!

Our local - Het Cafe van Aemstel

Our local – Het Cafe van Aemstel

On Monday, while the Dutchie was at work,  I took on the role of Wonder Woman and transformed our house (at least the downstairs anyway!) into a home. Gone are ALL of the boxes and packing stuff, it actually looks like a real home. I worked tirelessly all day and got more done than I thought humanely possible! It was all worth it though to see the reaction on his face when he got back from work – priceless!

Ons huisje

Ons huisje

 

The Dutchie’s Mum also came over for een kopje koffie (a cup of coffee) and paid me the ultimate Dutch compliment… that I had made the house gezellig!! If you’re Dutch, learning Dutch or have visited the Netherlands you will know that this word has no direct translation in English. It can be most closely described as cosy or comfortable… but that doesn’t quite do this unique word justice. I won’t go into too much detail as it’s been done already on the lovely site Stuff Dutch People Like so you can read more there if you want to. Anyway, it’s a huge compliment and I was so happy that all my hard work paid off.

Hayley x

 

 

 

Onderweg

The countdown has begun! 10 days to go!! I’ve been running around like a headless chicken for the past couple of months, but finally, in 10 days it will all be worth it when I move to the Netherlands! Our new home is in Hilversum and I am so excited I’m about to burst!!

Onderweg

Onderweg

I have **just** about time enough to finish packing, see all of my close friends and family and sort out any last-minute things in the UK and then it’s Bon Voyage to start my new life in NL.

Spannend!!!

Hayley x

Being Dutch – Part 5: The Albert Heijn Bonuskaart

I must be officially 1% Dutch now. I have my Albert Heijn bonuskaart and I asked for it in Dutch and everything! Ik ben apetrots op mezelf! (Lit: I am monkey proud on myself! Nice Dutchism there… What it really means: I’m very proud of myself!)

Bonuskaart2

I have a little head start because I’ve been learning Dutch on and off for a couple of years whilst living in the UK. I understand A LOT and I can speak the basics (all self-taught)… but now I’m going to be living here I need to step it up a gear. That’s #1 on my “when-I-live-here-list”: to sign up for classes as soon as I’m an official resident!

Anyway… I digress… The AH bonuskaart is a must-have in you live in NL (and you shop at AH! It’s kind of hard not to… they’re everywhere!) Without it you can’t get the special offers and deals in store, so naturally, everyone has one. So for me, that’s one very small thing ticked off a very, very long to-do list…

AH bonuskaart

AH bonuskaart

Hayley x

Living in the Netherlands: Test Run

This week I’m living in the Netherlands. Naarden to be precise. We’re staying at our friend’s place (good timing – he’s on holiday).  So I’m here to work, test out my new kit and spend some time with the Dutchie after being apart for 2 weeks.

After two dreary days of weather on Monday and Tuesday, yesterday was glorious and I made the most of it by going for a walk to Bussum centrum (centre). As you can see: Spring has sprung!!

Spring in Naarden

Spring in Naarden

Even though I’ve visited the Netherlands countless times before, I’m now looking at it with different eyes. In just over 3 weeks, I’m going to live here. That’s strange to get my head around. One of the first things which made me chuckle was bike lanes compared to the space given to pedestrians. This is something you’d NEVER see in the UK. I’m looking forward to buying a fiets (bike) and joining the cycling community asap.

Cycle lane vs pedestrians

Cycle lane vs pedestrians

Bussum is a very pretty place – who knew? I’ve only been here a handful of times, by car, so it was great to explore on foot and check out the local sights. This lovely church has an even lovelier name: Mariakerk (kerk = church) and it looked simply stunning in the spring sunshine.

Mariakerk, Bussum

Mariakerk, Bussum

I also stopped briefly in Bilderdijkpark which looked zo mooi (so beautiful). Everything looks better in the sun, right?! I found out afterwards that the Dutchie used to go to school just around the corner and had spent many a happy afternoon chilling in this very park with his friends.

Bilderdijkpark, Bussum

Bilderdijkpark, Bussum

This friendly little fella was certainly enjoying the sun too!! :)

My ginger friend

My ginger friend

I’ve always wanted a ginger cat so I’m drawn to them. Now to persuade the Dutchie we need another one ;-)

My gorgeous spring walk concluded with a little Dutch pride. I saw loads of flags flying on my walk, but none so proud as that attached to the local NH hotel.

Dutch flag

Dutch flag

Bussum – you’re beautiful – I will be back!

Hayley x

Happy Chilli

My version of a chilli con carne, but happier. It’s happy because it’s low budget, low fat and packed with vegetables! Happy AND healthy!

Happy chilli

Happy chilli

Ingredients

  • Fry light spray (or olive/sunflower oil)
  • Large onion – finely chopped
  • Garlic – finely chopped or even better, use a garlic press (I use about 4 cloves, but use less if you’re not a garlic fiend like me!)
  • Beef mince (I use extra lean steak mince as recommended by Slimming World but you can use whatever you like – Quorn mince etc…)
  • Chillies – dried or fresh – if you’re anything like me, the hottest you can get your hands on. If fresh – slice them thinly
  • OXO stock cubes – one each of beef and vegetable
  • Another brand of beef stock cube – whatever you have in your “store cupboard”
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Marmite – small blob (optional)
  • Tinned tomatoes – I use 2 x 400g tins
  • Tomato puree
  • Cumin, Coriander, Tumeric (about 2-3 teaspoons of each depending on your taste)
  • Paprika or Cayenne Pepper (1-2 teaspoons)
  • Oregano or mixed herbs (1-2 teaspoons)
  • Glass of red wine
  • Tin of red kidney beans
  • Vegetables of your choice (I normally add at least mushrooms and mixed peppers – fresh or frozen)
  • Sugar or Stevia sweetener to taste

To serve

I used nachos, grated mature cheddar cheese, Red Leicester, red & green jalapenos and yil’driz knoflooksaus (a branded Turkish garlic sauce sold in the Netherlands)… you can be as adventurous as you like! Or just keep it simple (and low fat!) by serving with rice, a jacket potato or homemade potato wedges.

Method

1. Put a large saucepan / wok on medium heat and once the pan is warm add your cooking lubricant… I use my “hero” ingredient (Fry light 1 cal spray)

Fry light (1 calorie spray)

Fry light (1 calorie spray)

2. Cook the onions for about 5 mins, stirring frequently. A little bit of colour is ok but they shouldn’t be brown. Add the cumin, coriander, tumeric, paprika / cayenne pepper and chillies and continue cooking for a few minutes (stirring often.)

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3. Add the garlic and continue cooking / stirring. If you’re using mushrooms add these in at this point and fry for a few minutes.

4. Add the mince to the pan and brown. Increase the heat a bit so it fries rather than stews. This should take around 5 mins. While it’s cooking, break the mince up with your wooden spoon so it’s all in small pieces and you don’t get huge lumps in your meal.

5. Add the stock cubes (with a little bit of boiling water if necessary.) Little tip: with OXO cubes, you can easily open them without getting your hands dirty. Just pull out the four corners and then squeeze the middle so it fills the foil package. Then just rip down one of the sides :)

P1070022

P1070024

6. Add the red wine, tinned tomatoes, oregano / mixed herbs, tomato puree, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a blob of Marmite (if using.) Bring to a simmer. If you’re using frozen peppers add these in now.

7.  Season with salt and pepper and give the chilli a thorough stir. Make sure it’s bubbling gently and then cover and simmer for minimum 20 mins. If you have time, cook for 1-2 hours for more depth of flavour.

8. Stir occasionally (every 20 mins or so) to check it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan. If it looks too thick, add a little water.

9. Add the red kidney beans and cook for another 10 minutes. Give it a little taste and add sugar or sweetener if required. (And seasoning.)

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10. When ready, the sauce should be thick. If not, add a little flour or simmer for longer with the top off. Once it’s the right consistency, take it off the hob for 5 – 10 mins before plating up.

Are you happy? :)

Happy chilli

Hayley x

Mijn tuin (My garden)

I am REALLY going to miss my garden. We’ve been house-hunting almost 3 weeks now and the one thing we simply can’t compromise on is having a garden, or at least some outside space. I want to be able to grow veg, sunbathe and read outside, the Dutchie wants somewhere to put his BBQ :-) and Paris is an outdoor cat. She would go crazy staying in all the time, so it’s top of our priority list to have a garden.

Mijn tuin (My garden) circa 2008

Mijn tuin (My garden) circa 2008

Also, once you’ve had one – it’s very hard to go back. The Dutchie used to live in an apartment on the 4th floor in Hilversum (around 30 mins from Amsterdam) where he only had a balcony. Now he’s used to having that extra space, he doesn’t want to go back to an apartment either! Our current garden is pretty large, considering we only have a one-bedroom flat. In fact, our garden is probably as big as the flat itself!!

Garden in full swing

Garden in full swing

Much to the amusement of my friends (they think it’s hilarious that anyone under 50 grows their own veg) I’m a keen gardener. I started off with the easy stuff:

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • French beans
  • Courgettes
  • Marrows
  • Tomatoes
Veggies from garden

Veggies from my garden

All pretty successful except the tomatoes. Somehow I could never get them all to go red… and I tried all the tricks (bananas, dark place, cardboard box etc) but alas, I still ended up with loads of green ones. There was a simple answer though – I just made green tomato chutney!

Green tomatoes

Green tomatoes

I’m going to miss that lovely view from my kitchen. It always brings a smile to my face… even when I’m washing up! (And believe me –  that’s a hard thing to do! I hate washing up. The Dutchie is chief bottle washer in our household!)

So, the search is on to find a place in Netherlands with a nice garden. Can we find an equal (or better) view? Fingers crossed!

Hayley x