Out of the Blue

Being married to a Dutchman has opened up my world to lots of exciting new things. Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, amazing cheeses, De Toppers, cool bicycles, gorgeous architecture, and hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles that you sprinkle on toast slathered with butter–yes, you read that unusual combination correctly, and yes, it is really good).

So let’s talk about architecture for a moment. Specifically a unique representation of Dutch architecture, KLM Delft Houses. Between 1952 and 1993, KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines), produced 60 miniature blue and white Delftware houses that were given as gifts to business class passengers. These souvenir houses were modeled after Dutch canal homes and filled with Jenever, a juniper-flavored liquor (similar to gin).

KLM Delft Houses (photo courtesy Effervescing Elephant via Flickr)

 In 1994, 15 houses were added to the collection to celebrate KLM’s 75th anniversary. Since then, on October 7th of each year to celebrate KLM’s birthday, a new house is added to the collection. No.91 is the most recent addition, released October 7th, 2010.


Needless to say, I’m hooked. Since I decided to start my own collection, I have found people are mad about these cute little houses. According to the Wall Street Journal, even some celebrities are crazy for KLM houses: “Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez once requested a full set of houses as partial payment for writing something for KLM’s in-flight magazine, says Ken Wilkie, the magazine’s longtime editor. KLM refused because it only distributes the trinkets aboard its planes on intercontinental flights, and then only in business class.”

Luckily, thanks to eBay and some Dutch friends, I have 21 houses in my collection. However, it looks like people’s infatuation with KLM houses have gone from collecting and trading these miniatures to inspiring a street of real-life KLM houses in Amsterdam.

The Oudezijds Armsteeg was formerly a badly run-down street in the city’s red-light district. However, it has been given a new lease on life thanks to architect Kees Doornenbal’s “Out of the Blue” designs inspired by the iconic KLM houses.The outside walls of each building are painted in a shiny white to make them look like they are porcelain. The window frames and eaves are even painted in royal blue to mimic the blue used in Delftware. 

Definitely a place to visit next time you are wandering around Amsterdam!


Hot Fun in the Summertime

A friend of mine sent me a note on Facebook, and I thought this was too good not to pass along:

Alright, it’s already super hot.  Every other Facebook status update I read is complaining about the heat.  And it’s not even ACTUALLY summer yet.  As I was reading them, I thought “When I was a kid, summer was awesome.  It was what we LIVED for! So, I decided to do that again. Yep, at the ripe old age of 34, I’m gonna quit bitching about summertime and make it a good thing. 

What was your favorite summer activity as a kid?  The ice cream truck that came through the neighborhood?  Building forts with the neighborhood kids?  Give me your ideas and I’ll try them. My goal: to do an idea a day (I do get Sundays off) until Labor Day.  They can be little things.  They can be big things!

Laser Show at Stone Mountain Park (image courtesy of Jimmy Baikovicius)

Is that not a great idea? So here are a few of mine:

  1. Eating my Mom’s homemade peach ice cream straight out of the ice cream maker. I can remember the sweetness of the peaches against the faintest taste of rock salt that would sometimes sneak its way into the top of the ice cream container as it churned away.
  2. Splashing in the rain puddles that pooled in our driveway after a quick downpour.
  3. Picking up the most pennies on the bottom of the pool and being crowned “Penny Queen” for the day during swim lessons at the neighbor’s pool.
  4. Going to the local Dairy Queen with my Dad and getting a grape Misty or a chocolate dipped cone. After we ate our treat and played on the playground, we would ride home with the windows down with the warm, humid summer air whipping around us. We always had to get home before the Atlanta Braves game started. The Braves may not have been so great in the 80s, but my Dad always made sure he was home to cheer them on as they played in Fulton County Stadium.  
  5. Sitting on Memorial Lawn and being mesmerized by the images from the Lasershow at Stone Mountain Park, all building up to the big finale of fireworks!
  6. Watching lightning from a far away storm while sitting on the dock of my aunt and uncle’s lake house on Kingsley Lake.
  7. Peaches, strawberries, watermelon, warm homemade peach cobbler and ice cream, tomato sandwiches, Sliver Queen corn, Vidalia onions, Mom’s piping hot pound cake straight from the oven, three-bean salad, candy necklaces, penny candy and ice pops.
  8. Watching “Days of Our Lives” with my mom as she folded laundry. I couldn’t leave to go to my swim lessons until 1:56p.m. Monday-Friday, as this is the time “Days” ends each day. While Patch and Kayla, Jack and Jennifer, and Shane and Kimberly may have moved away from Salem, I am glad to see the rivalry between Stefano DiMera and Victor Kiriakis is still going strong.
  9. Playing tag outside with my friends until the streetlights came on. Then we would catch fireflies as our parents talked about the latest neighborhood gossip.
  10. Going to visit my grandparents. I can still feel my Papa, or “The Crusher,” giving me one of his famous bear hugs and my Grandmother telling my Dad to “put some stockings on me so my feet won’t catch cold,” in spite of the blazing summer heat outside.

These are just a few of the countless memories that I have of summer. Do you have a couple that you want to share? Then leave a comment or two here and I will pass them along to Dawn, or you can post your suggestions and follow Dawn’s adventures at Summer of Dawn. Good luck Dawn, and since you are a child of the 80s, don’t forget to wear some Jams! Yes, that is me and my brother rockin’ some Jams shorts (circa 1985, I think). My Mom is going to kill me when she sees I posted this photo. :0)

Hello again, and Hello Summer!

So a lot has transpired since my last post from months ago (insert embarrassing shame for taking so long to post here), but I am back again. Now on to what’s on my mind…

I love trying out new dishes at home from around the world. Aside from the Dutch and German food I cook for the Dutchman, we have feasted on traditional Irish, Jamaican, Thai, French, and Austrian fare, along with the usual Mexican and Italian food. I have to admit I have always shied away from attempting Chinese cooking at home, though. I have enjoyed watching Ming Tsai try to show me a thing or two and I can make a decent Chow Mein, but when it comes to Chinese cooking I am a bit intimidated by some of the ingredients and some of the cooking methods. However, I have recently discovered Ching-He Huang, the cook behind Chinese Food Made Easy on the Cooking Channel and BBC 2. Now I am sure there are a lot of Chinese food purists who would say that her food is not “real Chinese,” but I am just a home cook looking to expand my dinner repertoire, not set the world on fire with my version of Egg Fried Rice.

I recently tried Ching’s recipes for “Pork and Prawn Dumplings” and “Chicken and Vegetable Spring Rolls.” Not only were the recipes easy to follow and did not require a trip to the Asian market located an hour away from home, they were fun to make! I also like that Ching makes substitutions for traditional Chinese ingredients with ones that most home cooks have in their pantry. The dumplings were really great with a dip I made from light soy sauce, rooster sauce, rice wine vinegar, fresh ginger and sliced green onions. The spring rolls were light and crispy, and the five-spice powder that was mixed intro the chicken and mushrooms gave these spring rolls a slightly smoky flavor that went well with the red chili and ginger sauce I served them with. Add an ice-cold beer on a hot Friday night in June and you have a great dinner for the start of summer!

Ching-He Huang