Wednesday 29 February 2012

My big cacao adventure: or how to (learn to) make your own cacao

Beginning of the year I have received an extremely beautiful and colourful surprise. Jojo, the friend living in Reunion island, bought as a present two fresh cacao pods from a local. I was simply speechless, they were in red-yellow nuances: till then I have only seen the cacao pods in yellow, yellow-green or brown, but never red! So at the beginning I did not dare to think of cutting them open....But then the curiosity won over and we first cut one in half!  We were told to try the fresh cocoa beans, which are still covered in the white flesh...The taste is very particular and almost unpleasant but they are supposed to give you a lot of energy.
Once we have tried the fresh beans I have decided to follow the classic way of cacao treatment which is:
step 1: cut open and leave the beans ferment in the sun for several days (from 5 days to 1 week);
at the end of this phase the bean is visible and the white "coat" has disappeared;
step 2: dry the beans for a bit more longer and then roast them;

step 3: now the beans may be ground to make cacao mass, pure chocolate in rough form;

step 4: you have all you need to make a big cup of hot and yummy chocolate by adding water and sugar/honey!
The beans on the left are 1 week in the sun, the two half pods on the right only 1day-see the difference in colour!
ENJOY...and don't forget that the cocoa, known also as "food of God", has several positive effects such as anti-stress, anti-depressant, anti-oxidant, brain-stimulator... this is however valid only for the pure cocoa mass and the dark chocolate, the milk chocolate and the other chocolate bars don't have those effects due to the high concentration of sugar and other additives;
Even my home pet, the lady bug above, was in love with the smell of the dried cocoa beans:-)

Monday 27 February 2012

Around Schmallenberg and Sauerland- the German hiking nature paradise

Around more than a year ago my (then) stagiaire Helene suprised me a voucher for a "nature-weekend". The hotel was to be selected from a list, where the choice included establishments in Holland, Belgium or Germany. I went for the nature area just after the busy Ruhrgebiet, Sauerland. The area is also called by the locals "the land of 1000 mountains". This is a real nature and hiking paradise...The cute and cozy villages Schmallenberg and Bad Fredeburg look like tiny architectural gems with the beautiful "Fachhäuser". Since 2010 one round about in Schmallenberg is decorated with colourful sculptures by the German artist Gabrielle Schulz (second picture).
The weather was something between winter landscape and coming spring, sonot a lot of sunshine...but still some hikes in the forest for fresh air were on the programme:-)

Sunday 19 February 2012

Movies from ice-skating on frozen canals in the Netherlands, February 2012

The "Dutch Ice Age Winter 2012" is over...unfortunately! However some videos are still there to remind us, all the enthusiastic ice-skaters, of this great time.

After several pictures and entries about the fantastic ice-skating between windmills and on frozen canals I would like to show you also two movies... The first movie was taken last Saturday in Kinderdijk (skating on frozen canal), the second movie is in Reeuwijk (skating on a frozen lake) -
enjoy them!

Sunday 12 February 2012

Ice-skating between windmills in Kinderdijk/ Schaatsen&windmolen in Kinderdijk, winter 2012

It is a fact: Ice-skating is the Dutch winter the last 10 days I have the feeling everyone got on the ice for skating:-) So this weekend I have decided to make this icy sport in an even more typical Dutch landscape, surrounded by "windmolen"(windmills)...Kinderdijk is very cute Dutch village with a lot of beautful, old windmills around and one could actually skate on canals having those on each side (right and left), not bad...Enjoy the colours of the sunset and the sunshine we had yesterday on ice:-)
Above in the afternoon, below-shortly before sunset.

...and two happy, but almost frozen (ouside was around minus 4-5) ice-skating enthusiasts:

The boat (above) one sees when leaving Kinderdijk is actually a .... building:-)

Saturday 11 February 2012

Reeuwijkse Plassen and more ice-skating, winter 2012 /Schaatsen in Reeuwijk, Nederland 2012

Yesterday the weather service in the Netherlands informed us that the first 10 days of February 2012 have been the coldest since... 95 years!!! Wowww.....
Next to Gouda (the famous cheese city) one may find the so called lake area Reeuwijkse Plassen, which presents 13 lakes connected with small or bigger canals. As you can imagine this becomes one really huge natural ice-skating rink when it freezes! What I have done 2 years ago and was happy to repeat this year is arriving at the harbour cafe "Het Wappen van Reeuwijk", putting on the skates and slide on the frozen lake just in front of it...
Some of the local houses on the lake were selling warm drinks and warm soup to the skaters (above advertisement was written with red on snow).
One could also skate on the Brevevaart, the canals in front of the cafe, which were nicely cleaned with machine. For the kids there were several attraction such as ice-sleight, with metal picks. Sometimes a "Plassentocht" (a tour of all lakes by skates) is organised. This year only the lake in front of "Het Wappen van Reeuwijk" was cleaned  and ready for safe ice-skating. A great thing to do once one get too cold is to have  a warm chocolate, tea or glühwein in the very cozy cafe!

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Ice-skating in the Netherlands, season 2012/ Schaatsen op natuurijs in Nederland

When the negative temperatures stay long enough for the canals to freeze, the Dutch (and all other ice-skating lovers) start counting the days and the ice depth! This year we were lucky to have the cold and minus 16 to minus 7 (around the Hague, more in the rest of the country) over night for almost a week now and the natural ice skating rings got ready!
For the ones who don't know me: I am the one on the right below...

Ice-skating on frozen canals is something like national sport here. The people first clean the canals from the snow and then everyone gets on: with skates, shoes, sleights or something else! l do love it too, so today I enjoyed a sunny day ice-skating with some local colleagues!
One may skate on frozen canals or lakes or go to some official "ijsbanen" such as the frozen lake in Schipluiden, see last 2 pictures from sunny skating in club "Vlietland" before/by sunset there last Saturday!

Saturday 4 February 2012

Sunny and white "Dutch winter-wonderland 2012" in Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland

Yes, we have been asking for real winter and frozen canals here in the low lands and guess what?! Our prayers were heart! We finally got minus temepartures this week and then 10 cm of fluffy snowfalkes made their way down from the sky Friday lunch time...So today, on Saturday morning, we all woke up to a white and wonderfully frozen winter tulipland (at least in the area of the Hague and north of it).
I got the camera and went out to capture some lovely white moments in white Rijswijk! I did get forzen fingers and toes despite of my thick and warm gloves...But hey, it was worth it. The sun came also out, so I got warm sunshine+my vitamin D for the day!

Friday 3 February 2012

Churches and temples in Reunion island

The religious places in Reunion depict in a very nice way the big melting pot the island is: French, Indian, Africans, Chinese are the "locals" here. Islanders use their ethnic origins to define themselves as "Cafres " (African ancestry) "Z'oreilles " (born in mainland France), "malabars or Tamouls " (from Tamil Nadu southern India), " Z'arabes " (from Gujarat in northern India), "Chinois" (from China), "Malgaches" (from Madagascar), " Comores "(from Comores), "Petits blancs" (poor rural whites living in the highlands), or "Creoles blancs " (white landowners).

I would start with the really vivid colours of the Indian temple in St Andre (which is one of the most famous, although they are some spread over the whole island). Enjoy the mind-blowing colours (some part were just freshly painted) and rich decoration. I was really impressed when I arrived in front of it.
Then I would like to take you to the church "Notre Dame de la Lave" located in St Rose. It is called that way as during several eruptions the lava stopped at its door steps. It is really nice to see how good different religions may co-habitit...