Goodbye November

Goodbye November, farewell my friend. Your turbulent times have come to an end. Your windswept days, your glorious mornings & equally brilliant midnight skies. The ups & the downs, the highs & the lows. You have been a challenge for the soul, a true sharpening of the senses. And more than anything, you’ve been a rude awakening to us all.

Goodbye Dear November. I feel I’m still trying to come to terms with you, because you haven’t been easy to digest. Like I’ve been put to the test & even now, after all our time together, I’m not sure whether I succeeded or utterly failed. But I’m still here. Still standing. And I guess that should mean something.
I struggled, you know, I struggled a lot. I was taken aback by the world; the shape we’re in, the direction we’ve taken. We felt ever so divided, so scattered as a human race. Everything seemed to spin out of control. For every step once taken forward, we seemingly took two steps back. And it scared me. Everything scared me.
I learned. Yes, I guess I learned. About myself, the world & everything underneath these wide skies. I attempted to reinvent myself at the start of each new day, tried to strap on more armour than I could possibly carry. I came undone, then picked myself up again.
A poet died & he took arms full of inspiration with him as he hurried from this world to the next. I felt at a loss, like nothing was ever going to be simple anymore. And it scared me. Everything scared me.
It was my birthday. I looked at the world where I spend all those beautiful, confusion, incredible, fulfilling years, surrounded by all the best of people, and found I didn’t understand what I saw anymore. And it scared me. Everything scared me.

Dearest November, I don’t want to be scared any longer. I don’t want to give up on hope. Don’t want to let go of the idea that all that is good & right & true in this world will always prevail over everything that is not. ‘It is possible to choose peace over worries’ it said on the magazine I picked up just the other day. Struck by the simple truth of these wonderfully hopeful words, I suddenly understood that it was up to me & no one else where to go from here. Up to me to decide whether to be defeated or to stand tall. So, I will choose peace over worries. I choose hope over fear. Every single time. I know I might sounds naïve, silly even. But I’m rather naïve, than negative. Rather silly, than sad.

Goodbye Beautiful November. I feel for you. I understand your struggle, your endless search for identity. You’re stuck somewhere in the middle of it all. No longer autumn, but not quite winter. No colourful leafs to decorate your hours, no Christmas lights to lighten your days. But I want you to know, you have been beautiful & incredible & meaningful in so many ways. You’ve been unique & moving, challenging & all important. You have brought me thoughts & insights which I will cherish forever. I want you to know that, understand it, before we say our goodbyes. I feel that, because of you & all that you have taught me, I have finally begun to understand how to shift the weight of life, so that it may sit more comfortably as I go. And for that I’ll be forever in your debts.

Love, Naomi

Book:Friday on my mind’ & ‘Saturday Requiem’ by Nicci French. Now it’s time to break-in the newest novel by my all-time favourite author Jonathan Safran Foer.
Series: Showtime original The Affair, which was really honest, confronting & good. And then we started watching ‘Lost’ once again, which will always be one of my favourite shows. After finishing season 1 last night, I’ve turned right into a proud Lostie again;)
Songs of the month:
Come Healing – Leonard Cohen
I’m yours – Jack Savoretti
Night comes on – Leonard Cohen
Destroyer – David Gray
String reprise/Treaty – Leonard Cohen

to Leonard

We stood at the edge of the world together. You & I. You were ready to go. You held your hat in your hand. Your face solemn, at peace, ready to trade this world for the next. The night came on. It was very calm. I wanted the night to go on and on. But you said; go back, go back to the world.

I stood beside you. Silent. My heart felt a little broken, my soul a little shaken, as I thought of all that endless uncertainly that lay before me now. Our roads would part soon. You would finally be going home, while I would go my own way. Back to the world that lay waiting. Some of me wanted to turn to you & tell you of all the fear that was building inside of me.
‘I’m scared, you see’ is what I wanted to explain, ‘scared of what’s to come, scared to see what waits around the corner. Soon, when you leave this world for a better place, please let it truly be a better place. A place where people can still see the difference between right & wrong, a place where hate has no ground to grow its dark roots, where hope may be found in abundance. Find a tower of song to lay your head down & let the sisters of mercy soothe your soul. Because this world, this world where you have lived out the beautiful days of your life, this world might never be the same again. It seems to me that humanity took a blow this time from which we might not easily recover. Like it has all become unsteady now. Justice hanging in the balance & the scales ready to tip the other way’.

The wind, the wind was blowing, through the world the wind was blowing. You freedom soon would come. And you would move from the shadows, towards the skies above. ‘Which heaven will you go to?’ I wondered, ‘when all gates are opened before you, over which threshold will you step?’
There was so much & so little left to say. I thought of you & of me & all the wondrous stories told between us. Stories of a place near the river, where you could hear the boats go by. Stories of a captain whose ship had not been build, stories of a Gypsy’s wife lost in the night, loaded dice & rivers dark.
‘Your passing feels like yet another light turning off,’ I thought quietly, as silence grew deeper around & within us ‘while it seems apparent to me that we can’t effort anymore darkness to nest in our hearts & minds. It’s my birthday today. Or at least it was, until a few minutes ago. And during this special day, I was thinking how I lived this part of my quiet & joyous life with you at my side. Your music, your poetry ran through me like blood has run through my veins. You have been a friend, a silent guide & a great teacher. You were always there, as a silent companion, a soundtrack to accompany me as I travelled down a road filled with new beginnings, frightening farewells & unexpected challenges. You, your whispered words, your wandering mind have taken me by the hand, led me through the sunny days of my childhood, the darker days of adolescence & you are still here in this endless wondering that is my life. Preparing me for your departure with the same grace as you have prepared me for my life.’
There were a thousand things to say. A million thoughts to share. Because you are a gem. A once in a lifetime. A rare find. And now I feared there may be no more diamonds in the mine. But that is our burden to carry. Not yours. I looked at you, one last time I looked at you & knew it was only fair to let you go with a mind free of all that is to be.

You & me. At the end of the world. A moon larger than life. The night came on. It was very calm. I wanted the night to go on & on. But I went back, back to the world….

Goodbye October

Goodbye October, you have come & gone. I have been running late & before long, I might forget what made our time together so special & valuable. And that would be such a waste, wouldn’t it?
So, before you go, let me take a moment to thank you. Thank you for celebrating nature at its best. The showers of yellow, orange, red & brown, the leafs dancing in the streets, the bright blue skies & the silent, early mornings. You amazed me, you had me looking up & up & up. Had me mesmerized; constantly captivated by all your glorious beauty.

Goodbye Beautiful October, I’m sad to see you go, but you have certainly fuelled me for the winter months to come. I will treasure the days, hours & moments we spend together.
As time went by, your days grew shorter, your wind sharper & more whimsical. But at the best of times, I could still leave my coat at home. I got to see the sun climbing into the sky, witnessed the start of so many perfect autumn days. I stared up at the trees, their colourful canopy like a party in the sky. Cycling, I had to course correct, remind myself to put daydreams on hold & pay attention to the world in front of me.
During the comforting time we spend together, I ran into challenges, big & beautiful. And, despite the fear & the mix emotions which go hand in hand with all newness, I grabbed opportunities with both hands, ready to learn, not so ready to stumble. I took a moment to embrace the underrated joy of hearing a new masterpiece. I celebrated the birth of the greatest person on earth. I mourned the loss of those I’d never know. I cooked new things, reintroduced old favourites. As always, I planned & planned, mostly too much, but never really enough. I learned, I read, I loved, I thought & then thought some more. And in the midst of our time together, I ran into a new side to myself. Thinking I knew it all, thinking I had peeled back every single layer of the person I have always aimed to become, I wandered into unfamiliar territory. And I have been wondered about this unexpected insight ever since.

Goodbye Dear October, you have been ever so sweet. But you’ve also been wild, ruthless & unforgiving. You had hurricanes sweeping in, tearing away everything from those who had nothing to begin with. I watched the world as it unravelled into a battle of right & wrong, decent & savage. I felt us inching towards a time in history I’m afraid I will never be able to understand. The overflowing boats, the vicious seize-fires, the never-ending tug of war between rightfulness & reality. And even though I know I am supposed to be some sort of vague part of it all, I never felt further removed from the world & all its boundless violence.

Goodbye lovely October, you will be missed. Your days were busy, unorganised at the worst of times. There were moments I wanted to pause you, take a breath & reset everything. But more than anything, you were magnificent & my life was beautifully whole & lovely incomplete at the same time. Thanks you for everything; the confidence gained, the lessons learned & the beauty given. Thank you for the music, the words & all the inspiration. Thank you for the evenings, spend in the safety of all I know. And thank you for the days full of colourful wonder.
I’ll wrap this up now. November is here, she has already begun & it’s time for you to go. Take care, sweet October, let’s meet again next year.

Love, Naomi

Book: ‘Waiting for Wednesday’ & Thursday’s Child’ both by Nicci French
(now I might aswell finish the series:)
Movie: ‘Das Leben das Anderen’,
a beautiful touching movie, which I have seen about three times now.
Songs of the month:
You want it darker – Leonard Cohen
Deep Waters – Jack Savoretti
It seemed the better way – Leonard Cohen
All of me – Milow (cover)

Melanzane alla Parmigiana (light)

Eggplant, tomato, basil and cheese; what could possible go wrong! This recipe is a little bit of Jamie Oliver, a little bit of me and a whole lot of yumminess!
It’s hearty, full of flavour & it could even be healthy, if you can overlook a little cheese & a generous amount of olive oil:)

I tend not to use a lot of parmesan in this dish. Or to be really honest with you, most of the time I don’t use Parmesan at all. Instead, I often chose an old, Dutch cheese, such as Gouda. More than anything, I feel this lovely Italian Eggplant dish shouldn’t be smothered in cheese to begin with. I’ve had Melanzane alla Parmigiana a number of times in Italian restaurants; it was always nice, rich & flavoursome. But it was also always quite salty & heavy, because of the massive amounts of cheese that covered the eggplants. And even though I’m definitely a cheese lover, I do feel it’s a pity if the salty taste of cheese predominates the whole dish.

Autumn is here & even though this dish, with its basil and tomatoes, has a feeling of summer about it, I find it is still perfect for these colder & shortening days. It fills the house with delicious smells & it warms heart and mind each and every time.

Have fun making this lovely Melanzane alla Jamie alla Naomi alla Italy and I’ll see you again soon.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

  • Servings: 2 to 3
  • Time: approx. 1.5 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:
– 2 large eggplants, sliced in 1 cm thick slices.
– Good quality olive oil.
– Salt & pepper, to taste.
– 1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped.
– 2 garlic cloves, peeled & finely grated.
– 3 teaspoons dried oregano.
– 1 tin plum tomatoes (400 g).
– 1 cup Passata di Pomodoro (thick tomato sauce).
– ½ tablespoon white wine vinegar.
– 1 teaspoon brown sugar.
– ± 4 large hands of fresh basil.
– ± 1 ½ full cup of breadcrumbs.
– 2 large hands of freshly grated parmesan*.

Instructions:
– Place the sliced eggplants on a large cutting board. Using a silicon brush, brush the eggplants with some olive oil and sprinkle with some salt.
– Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F) and heat multi grill/ griddle pan. Make sure the grill is really hot, before you start grilling.
– Start grilling the eggplants and put them aside when done.
– In the meantime, heat a large pan on medium heat and add about 2 tbsp. of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add your onions and fry them for about 10 mins, until they are soft and lightly browned.
– Now add the garlic and 2 tsp. of dried oregano. Fry the mixture for about 2 minutes, while stirring well.
– Now add the plum tomatoes, the Passata de Pomodoro, the white wine vinegar and the brown sugar. When using whole plum tomatoes, use your spatula to break the plum tomatoes into chunky bits. To make life easier, you could also choose to use cubed tomatoes.
– Stir everything well, place the lid on the pan and let the sauce simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
– While your sauce is simmering, prepare the basil by putting the basil leafs into a food processer with a bit of olive oil and blitz the basil to a coarse pulp. Don’t blitz the basil too fine, this way the basil will lose much of its flavour. Put the pulp aside.
– For the breadcrumbs; place the crumbs in a bowl, add about a tbsp. of olive oil, a tsp. of dried oregano and a large hand of parmesan. Using a fork, mix the oil, oregano and parmesan through the breadcrumbs, until the crumbs start sticking together.
– When the sauce has thickened and reduced, season the sauce with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
– Take a large oven dish (± 25 x 15 cm). Spread a small amount of tomato sauce over the bottom, followed by a hand full of breadcrumbs. Now place a layer of grilled eggplants on top of this and spread the blitzed basil on top of the eggplants. Repeat this process until everything is finished. Try to end with tomato sauce and sprinkle the top of the dish with the remaining breadcrumbs and another hand full of parmesan cheese.
– Bake the dish in the middle of the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes, until its golden brown and bubbling at the sides. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.
– Enjoy!

Typically Dutch

New Postcards at Cardcetera!

This is going to sound a little strange, but I was under the impression that I already posted this blogpost. I edited the pictures, I transferred them to WordPress,
I thought of words I wanted to write and then….my holiday started & I forgot all about it. Silly, I know.

So, maybe these ‘new’ postcards of mine, which came out at Cardcetera, aren’t so very new anymore, but they are still as lovely, beautiful & typically Dutch as can be. And I’m still so very proud to present them to you!

These three typically Dutch images can be found in the Cardcetera webshop.
They are part of Cardcetera’s very own card collection, called ‘The Dutch Connection’. You can find all three cards here. And while you’re in the webshop, do make sure to check out the other lovely Dutch postcards in this collection as well.

That’s all for now. I hope to be back shortly with a new recipe blogpost & some additional photos from my holiday last month.

Love for now & see you soon, Naomi

Goodbye September

Goodbye September, with your bright blue skies, uncharacteristically warmth temperatures & your incredible high spirits. You were a holiday, a gift; a getaway from life as it tends to be. You brought me arms full of freedom, legs full of miles & a head full of refreshed dreams. And all I can say to you is: thank you!

Goodbye beautiful September, what a lovely time we had together. So much sunlight, so much air to breath, so many adventures to go on & so many hours to spend exploring the world and my place in it. There was nature everywhere. There was the mesmerizing sea; the cold water stinging, the waves rolling in. Like a child, stretching my arms, trying to catch a ride to shore. There were the wide, empty beaches; there were unexplored possibilities in every direction, there were tracks to follow & there were seagulls going their own way. There was sand, grass & wind. There were birds, like great white clouds, sailing away from me. There were seashells in my hand, there were ships on the horizon, colourful parasols creating shade where needed. There were fields filled with flowers, curious goats at lunch, evenings to stay out & mornings to have breakfast at the break at dawn. The sun turned my skin a golden brown, white feet where my socks used to be.
Days passed. Sunny days. I followed my sand covered shoes around. Sometimes walking, sometimes peddling, sometimes resting in the spaces between. I read books, experimented in the kitchen, happily celebrated new life on the way. I was filled with joy, then filled with doubts. Conversations drifted in & out of me. A head full of things to say, I found words for some things, unexpected silence for others. I thought of all the possible things I said & all the possible things I should have said. I felt happiness & it was large as life itself. I felt both pride & regret. I remembered all the lessons I learned along the way, only to forget them moments later. And through it all, I think I was growing somehow; growing up as well as down.

Goodbye September, goodbye to your never-ending tale of human sorrow. Summer is come & gone and some of us are still waiting in vain. Waiting at borders, waiting in between the rubble which once was a city, waiting for aid, a solution or simply waiting for some compassion. Waiting for this world to become a better place, a safe haven for all & not just for a selected few. As I lived out the days of my incredible life, old & new stories sprang to life all around me. People stood gathered, remembering & mourning. Committees were assembled, summits took place, citizens from far and wide took to the streets & demanded a little bit of everything for everyone. It was good, it was brave, it was the best they could do, while I sat & wondered whether it would ever be enough.

Goodbye dear September, our time to part has come. October is waiting. Autumn is setting in. Leafs are falling. The months ahead will carefully wash the traces of this past summer from my skin. But even as I turn a lighter shade of pale, I won’t forget you, nor the colourful days you brought me. Thank you, sweet September. Thank you for all the time you gave me. All the sleep & all the waking hours. Thank you for the seaside, for the fields, the forest & the cool canopy of its trees. Thank you for the safe travels, the memories made & the promise of moments to come. And more than anything, thank you for granting me the time & space to reinvent my ‘extra’ordinary life, just in time for the holiday to end. Take care & I hope we’ll meet again…

Love, Naomi

Book: I read two Nicci French novels (my guilty holiday-pleasure:), called ‘Blue Monday’ & ‘Tuesday’s gone.
And I read a beautiful little book called ‘For one more day’, written by Mitch Albom. It’s a great story about a son who gets to spend one last day with his deceased mother; beautifully written & great food for thought.
Series: E.R, still:)
Songs of the month:
The promise – Tracy Chapman
Motherland – Natalie Merchant
We must be crazy – Milow
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye – Leonard cohen
Take me home – Jack Savoretti

Goodbye August

Goodbye August, with your bright sunny days & your warm, sleepless nights. How generous you have been; delivering an abundance of sweet summer sun, gorgeous bright mornings & countless numbers of mosquitos. I asked for summer & you gave me summer. And I would like to thank you for it.

Goodbye sweet August, I’ve had a great time with you. Although my legs were heavy sometimes, my throat unexpectedly sore a few days & my arms a little useless every now and then, I still had the best of times with you. Your promising mornings had me longing for fresh air; you took me out into the forest, the fields & onto the water. I went canoeing, I sat at the water’s edge, ate veggies wraps, embraced the world around me, while listening to the voices of the people I have loved all my life & will love forever more. I climbed a hillside, curious cows watched me watching them. Their beautiful brown eyes, those long lashes & the smell of life as I remember it from bygone years. With the world still half asleep, I caught the golden light of day, thanking my mind & eyes for all its wondrous wandering.
Some days, life was as it always is. I made the beds, filled bags with groceries, stood in line & wasted time. I cycled up & down this little town. I saw familiar streets, but every day in a different light. Yes, most of life was as it usually is. But it was lovely, it was sweet & it was how I wanted life to be. New cards arrived, filling me with happiness & pride. Recipes were tested; some worked out, some didn’t. I ate mangoes, blue berries, too many tomatoes & not nearly enough strawberries. My mother came: travelled hours on the train to tell me that she loves me & I couldn’t begin to explain how much that meant to me. I liked almost all of your days; especially the ones spend hiking, exploring, recharging, learning, succeeding, catching up & catching on. There was always something new & always something familiar. And I was grateful for loving the combination of the two.

Goodbye Dear August, this is a summer of broken records. A summer of moments to cheer, moments to cry, moments of joy mixing in with times of disbelieve & cold despair. This is a summer of a trembling earth, victorious athletes, disappearing villages, crazy campaigns, exploding bombs & destructive weddings. The summer of a small boy, a childlike ghost, momentarily shaking us awake, opening our eyes, until it feels appropriate to close them once again. This wondrous world kept spinning & spinning, and I was spinning along as always. Everything changed & changed, yet everything stayed the same & the same. I tried to understand, comprehend & compartmentalize. At the end of every day, I was still there & I felt thankful for it.

Goodbye beautiful August, thank you for being wonderful. Thank you for being warm, bright, kind. Thank you for the golden mornings, the empty streets, the endless walks & the lightness of it all. Thank you for the cats, the cows, the juvenile birds. Thank you for the box of mangoes, which turned out to be juicy and tasty, just like they’re supposed to be. Thanks you for all the talks, the silence & thank you for the quiet reassurance of everyday life.
September is here now; sneaking a chill into the morning air, bringing autumn a little closer. I had a wonderful time with you & hope to see you again, in all your glory, sometime next year…

Love, Naomi

Book: I haven’t been able to finish a book this month. I’m having a holiday soon though, so hopefully I can make it up in September:)
Series: E.R & some episodes of Early Edition. I watched the new episodes of Masterchef Australia 2016, which has been great so far!
Movies: ‘Heaven on Earth‘, the wonderful sequel to the equally wonderful Swedish movie;
As it is in Heaven.
Songs of the month:
Rivers – The Tallest Man on Earth
Humble me – Norah Jones
The Boy in the Bubble  – Paul Simon

Tarte Flambée (with roasted vegetables)


Yesterday I realized it’s the half of August and, besides from an unexpected post last week, it’s been awfully quiet on this blog of mine. Summer has made its appearance at last, half this town has gone on a holiday & these sunny days seem to cause an unintended hiatus on this page. But I suppose that’s alright; it’s not like many of you are at home anyway to miss my updates;)

Having said that, the month would feel incomplete without a monthly recipe to share with you. And what a lovely recipe it is. I’m sure some of you are familiar with Tarte Flambée (otherwise known as Flammkuchen) & there is a variety of similar recipes to be found on the internet. What makes this particular recipe special though, is the superb easy, tasty dough I use as a base for the tarte. Ever since learning about this curd*-based dough, I’ve been using it over & over for pies, quiches & pizzas. As some of you might know, making dough can be tricky; I recall many occasions when my short crust stuck to everything, my homemade pie fell apart or my quiche ended up having holes all over the base. And even though I am not one to get easily frustrated, the perfectionist in me can’t cope very well with broken or crumbling pies/quiches. So, this curd-based dough has been a true blessing for me & I hope it will be for you too. I know it hasn’t failed me so far. It is soft, tasty and ,above all, very easy to work with. It hardly ever sticks, it hardly ever tears & it always tastes yummy.

As for the Tarte Flambée; what can I say? It has a crispy base, it has a creamy layer & it has a delicious, sweet onion topping. It isn’t hard to make & it won’t take forever to prepare. And as for most homemade foods, it just tastes that much better than the store bought version.
The original recipe that I once used just had the onions on top, but since I’m a firm believer in eating enough vegetables each & every day, I decided to use some extra veggies as a topping. I love to add things like grilled fennel, carrots or eggplant. But you can really use any vegetable you like. The tarte is delicious without any of these extra greens, but will taste even better with them.

Well, I will leave you all to it. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below. Have yourself a lovely day, enjoy the rest of your summer & till next time….

Tarte Flambée (with roasted vegetables)

  • Servings: 2 to 4
  • Time: approx 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Dough:
(enough for one large or two medium sized tarte flambées)
– 100 g self-rising flour
– 75 g (low fat) curd*
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– A pinch of salt

In a bowl, combine flour, curd, olive oil and salt, until it forms a firm dough and stops sticking to the side of the bowl. Roll the dough into a ball and place it in the fridge to rest for about 30 min or until you’re ready to roll it.

Topping
– ± 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 600 g onions, thinly sliced into rings/half-rings
– 125 g crème Fraiche
– 125 g (low fat) curd*
– 2 garlic cloves, grated
– ± 100 g strong cheese (gruyere, parmesan or old Gouda cheese)
– 2 tablespoons dried thyme.

Optional:
– 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced and roasted
– ± 8 thin carrots, sliced in two and roasted
– Any other roasted vegetables you like

Instructions:
-Preheat the oven to 200° C.
-Heat the olive oil, add the onion rings, 1 tablespoon thyme and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat and cook the onions until they are softened and start to brown. Stir every so often to prevent the onions from browning too quickly. When the onions are soft, remove them from the heat and set aside.
-In the meantime, combine crème Fraiche, curd, garlic and 1 tablespoon dried thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir well.
-Take out your dough and dust your kitchen surface with some flour. Line a baking tray with baking paper or dust with oil and flour. Roll out the dough as thin as possible, the base of the tarte is supposed to be thin and crusty. Carefully, transport the dough to your baking tray.
-Spread the crème Fraiche/curd mixture over the dough. Make sure to leave a small open space around the edge, this will allow the crust to get nice and crispy.
-Spread the onion mixture over the top. If you decide to use some other roasted vegetables on your Flambée, you should add them now.
-Sprinkle the cheese and place the tarte in the oven.
-Bake for about 20 minutes or until the base is golden brown.
-Allow the tarte Flambée to cool slightly before slicing.
Enjoy!

* Curd is otherwise known as quark or kwark and it commonly used in the many European kitchens. If you can’t find any curd where you live, you can try to use greek yohurt or cottage cheese instead. You might have to experiment a bit with the quantities though:)