Amsterdam

Amsterdam

My brood and I are traveling to Amsterdam for the holidays.  Amsterdam is the same size as Fort Worth, Texas, about 800,000 citizens, and it lies on the same latitude as Saskatchewan province in Canada.  Brrr…   Amsterdam is famous for canals and cannabis cafes and is considered a most liberal place — free, open and permissive.  Just what we need after the last few months living in the land of “make America great again.”  The city is also architecturally unique and culturally important to us in the United States.  New York City was originally called New Amsterdam.

It is also the land of herring.  The Dutch cornered the herring market and this led to an unusual degree of cooperation around water management.  Building up dikes and dredging canals were massive communal activities.  Herring merchants demanded the local government to get involved.  Hence, the canal systems in Amsterdam are often compared to Venice. About 1500, as Michelangelo was working on his David statue, Amsterdam was a lively shipping port and one of the most Catholic cities in Europe.

Amsterdam’s tolerance attracts people with alternative lifestyles, even way back then in the 1500’s.  After many wars and much strife including some gruesome beheadings, Calvinist worship was permitted and then in turn the Catholic priests, monks and nuns were brutalized.  Between 1500 and 1700,  those were dark times in the city’s history with many conflicts, wars and changes in governance.

Rembrandt got his start by painting scenes from the Bible that were highly sought and fairly affordable to homeowners in Amsterdam at the time, particularly women.  Rembrandt even painted himself into the compositions. At the Rijksmuseum,  we can see not only the largest but also the most representative collection of works spanning his entire career.  I look forward to spotting him in these paintings when we visit.  We can also tour his historic home and workshop in the heart of Amsterdam. Dutch born painter, Vincent Van Gogh, has many of his masterpieces, including my personal favorites of sunflowers and Wheatfields with Crows, showcased at the Van Gogh Museum.  No doubt, I am attracted to these particular pieces due to my Kansas upbringing.

Shipping played a huge role in the economy of Amsterdam and made the city rich in the 1800’s. Shipping companies, like the Dutch East and West India Companies, sought resources by sea from places like Indonesia, West Africa as well colonies around the world including a party that landed in an area that would become New York. Multatuli wrote Max Havelaar in 1860 in protest against colonial policies told through the eyes of a coffee merchant. It was an instant success at the time and quite influential in Dutch literature and politics of the day.  I have it downloaded to my Kindle to read during our travels.

These explorations resulted in a large population in Holland who identify themselves as Indisch, Indo-European or for short, Indo.  After the Indonesian revolution, hundreds of thousands of these people, who held Dutch passports, were given the choice:  renounce Dutch citizenship and become Indonesian or leave the country.  Many left Indonesia and settled in the Netherlands.  Indisch now means yummy food while eating in Amsterdam including rijsttafel, the Indo version of an Indonesian multicourse feast.  I am seeking out such a feast as I don’t care for pickled herring.

The Nazi occupation essentially channeled Amsterdam people into distinct categories.  There were the hunted Jews, Gypsies and other undesirables.  There were collaborators, who out of either conviction or self-preservation aided the occupiers.  There was a small section of society, numbering probably in the tens of thousands who formed active resistance. Most people just tried to protect themselves , their families and their property.  Approximately 80,000 Jews were in Amsterdam at the start of the war, an estimated 58,000 were dead by the time it was over, most of them in concentration camps.

The story of Anne Frank and her family weaves in and out of this narrative and provides insight about a surreal world and time that must never be forgotten.  Especially as we listen to influential leaders censoring legitimate news outlets as “fake news” sources. We will visit Dam Square where the Canadian forces arrived after the German surrender as well as a visit to the Anne Frank House where she went into hiding and wrote her diary.

Currently, the social welfare system in Amsterdam reflects a real commitment to individual rights with a nod to the understanding that what is good for the whole must be part of the national priority. Amsterdam has found a way to blend economics with social liberalism.  And it helps that it is small and according to writer, Russel Shorto, a bit of a “pokey place”.  I look forward to a week of poking around and trying my best to be a bit more pokey myself with my dear family in the Venice of the North.

If you want to learn a lot more about the history of Amsterdam, please read Amsterdam:  A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russel Shorto.

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Furikake Rice Seasoning

Furikake Rice Seasoning

I discovered furikake seasoning when reading a blog by Sean Brock, chef of several great restaurants located in the low-country of South Carolina.  I like his cooking because he is all about the vinegar,  bbq sauces, and other secret ingredients from the pantry.

Furikake is a savory and salty seasoning used in Japanese cuisine for sprinkling on rice.  The main ingredients in a good furikake is dried fish, seaweed and the ALL important toasted sesame seeds which combined emote a sublime salty and umami flavor.

I order my supply of furikake from Furikake Rice Seasoning

Recently, I sprinkled some of this seasoning on my avocado toast along with a splash of soy sauce and srirachi and it took it to new heights.  You can sprinkle furikake on salads, soups and of course on steamed rice.  I  also say out loud furikake, three times fast in a row,  and amaze RM with my japanese vocabulary.

Furikake

Furikake

Furikake

Enjoy!

 

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Veteran’s Day Tribute

Veteran’s Day Tribute

My dad was a First Lieutenant in the United States Air Force from 1952-54 and served in Japan.  None of his children or grandchildren followed his path of military service as we came of age during the Vietnam War.  My brothers received draft cards but opted to stay in college to delay a call to active duty much to my mother’s delight.

My dad helped run a commissary and he shared stories of the rebuilding years in Japan after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  He and my mother employed a young Japanese woman to help with my older two brothers, a toddler and an infant, she then traveled home into the country on week-ends but she lived with my parents during the week.  My father talked of the hunger of the Japanese people, especially the children, at that time due to food shortages and a poor economy after the lengthy and brutal war.

Recently, RM and I watched the series The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novak on PBS. If you have a loved one who has a story to share about their experience during the Vietnam War, click the link above where they can upload their personal story or read others.  Remembering and sharing stories are important of this war or of other more current conflicts.

How did you experience the Vietnam era? While this period in our history is often controversial and sometimes divisive, what struck me, while watching the documentary, was how much I had forgotten about the sequence of events, the dimensions of the war, but not the sacrifices on both sides.  During WWII, estimates are 60 million people died in all. During Vietnam the casualty counts vary from 1.3 million to 3.9 million.

This Veteran’s Day, I mourn the lives lost and for those struggling for normalcy after their tours of service.  This Veteran’s Day do something meaningful for a veteran in your life.  Ask them about their service.  Encourage them to tell their story.  Help them mow their lawn or babysit their kids for the night.

Watch the documentary and remember their sacrifice and the many sacrifices of young men and women in other wars. And pray for peace and for the keepers of peace and for no more war.veterans day

Pumpkin Jam

Pumpkin Jam

img_1164When C3 and I vacationed in Boston this summer, we scoped out a restaurant in Cambridge called Sofra Bakery and Cafe,  Our dirty little secret is to  someday co-create a coffee/bakery concept. When we travel to explore new places, we look for  bakeries, cafes and bistros to steal ideas and recipes from for our little fantasy bake shop.

Sofra is a turkish word meaning picnic, a special table preparation of food, or a small kilim rug for eating. At Sofra, they serve aromatic turkish coffee and chai along with a wide variety of middle eastern inspired breads, meze, shawarmas, savory pies and persian spiced donuts.

So, this week-end, when everything is pumpkin-inspired for the autumnal season that refuses to come to Texas,  I attempted to copy Sofra’s pumpkin jam recipe.  I had two smaller sugar or pie pumpkins left from Halloween that I cut up and roasted and then pureed in the food processor before combining with sugar and spices.  Here is the link to the recipe Sofra’s pumpkin jam

This recipe makes enough for gifts for the holidays.  I hanker for a special pairing with soft dinner rolls for Thanksgiving dinner.  I added a pinch of mace to the recipe which I think made it even better.  The aroma alone of the jam is worth the toil of cutting up the pumpkin.

This jam is extra rich and exotic. So, pumpkin jam, is definitely on the menu for our daydream bakery.

Day of the Girl

Day of the Girl

Friday is the Day of the Girl Walk in Fort Worth sponsored by Girls Inc. of Tarrant County.  A day to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold and to support awareness of issues that girls face in our world today.

The event starts at 2 p.m. on Friday, October 20th.  It’s not too late to join us in celebrating the Day of the Girl with hundreds of other supporters as we March on Main Street.  If you don’t have anyone to walk with, please join us — the  Grants Team from Fort Worth ISD.  Meet up on the west lawn of the Tarrant County Courthouse.  Register by clicking on this link:   March on Main Registration

While so many women are speaking out against violence against women recently due to high-profile cases in the news, this march is an empowering way to show your support for the spirit of all women but especially for our younger women who need us to fight for and protect their rights as women to live and work without fear for their safety and wellbeing.

Join us for a peaceful march down Main Street.  It promises to be an AMAZING day.

gallery_Jennifer_20and_20Girls_20at_20Courthouse

My mother-in-law’s tuna salad

My mother-in-law’s tuna salad

RM’s mother is lionized in his family for her tuna salad recipe.  Whenever we visit her home in Topeka over these many years, the meal on the first night of our stay was always tuna salad with a side of applesauce.  The meal is flawless for guests arriving from a long road trip, like the eight hours the drive takes for us from the Fort, because she could make it ahead, prepare the quantity needed for the number of her guests (it scales up and down easily), chill it in the refrigerator and then just wait for her guests to finally arrive.

This trip from the Fort to Topeka varies for us dependent on age of the travelers, construction, distractions, speed, start time, road conditions, amount of liquid consumed and other delays on the open road.  My mother-in-law never really knew when we would show up in her driveway but she was always ready with tuna salad.

The tuna salad works also for arriving road warriors because after being cramped in a car all day nobody is very hungry especially due to the quantity of sugary and salty car snacks purchased and consumed along the way and just general inertia.  A light protein salad just works for us Kansans born with mayonnaise in our veins.  Plus it is a tradition.  There is nothing spicy in this dish either so you don’t have to worry about acid reflux in the middle of the night just look out for the second-hand smoke from Grandpa’s cigar.

So on our recent return trip from Topeka after visiting Dave’s parents, RM was reminiscing about the tuna salad and he was missing it.  His parents have downsized now and are living in an apartment.  Dave’s mother doesn’t cook anymore. It’s been a while since he tasted her tuna salad.

So, today, as RM was feeling down from allergies and the last heat wave of 2017, I whipped us up a batch of tuna salad for lunch.  I even mixed and served it in the same metal bowl his Mom always used when preparing this salad.  Somehow that bowl makes it taste better.  I think it’s because it gets super cold in the refrigerator before serving.


So, here is the recipe so that it might live on in your family’s recipe box too.   If you don’t like tuna just substitute chicken, salmon or ham.


Sally’s Tuna Salad for 4

  • 1 can of top grade tuna drained and flaked — I use Merinos
  • Small 7 ounce package of pasta — I like the La Moderna small shell pasta boiled and drained
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs diced
  • 1 rib of celery diced with the celery leaves
  • handful of basil and chives chopped – Sally used dried but I like fresh from the garden
  • 2 T brown mustard – Sally used yellow
  • 1/4 cup of Hellman’s mayonnaise or to taste
  • 2 T sweet relish
  • lots of salt and pepper – the right amount of salt makes the dish
  • a squeeze of lemon (this is my addition)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl,  mix by hand with spoon, taste for seasoning, and then chill it thoroughly  in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (the day before is better).

Serve with fresh tomatoes, apple sauce and crackers. Iced coffee compliments it well. Hope you like it as much as RM remembers.

Stylish Stud Earrings DIY

Stylish Stud Earrings DIY

Crafting is therapeutic. I love to create things.  Are we not all born with the desire to create something? Crafting creates connections with others.  Crafting can be frustrating and tries our patience, tests our resiliency,  requires problem-solving skills (these DIYs never go like they should from the pictures) and practice with lesser used tactile skills.  I have always enjoyed crafting but now that I am an empty nester, I have more time to enjoy the process.  There is no rush or time restrictions as I dabble with jewelry making, paper crafting, cake decorating and more.

Here is my design for stylish stud earrings.  You will need a package of studs.  I liked the ones from Amazon called cone spike nail heads.  You will also need the posts and safety backs in gold to match found at where else?  Amazon. 


I used chipboard (a heavy cardboard) and gorilla glue to adhere everything together. You will also need a push-pin, utility knife and needle nose pliers.


Cut out the chipboard using a utility knife to fit snugly in the back of the stud.  Use a push-pin to make a small hole to push the back post through.  Use super glue to glue the chipboard to the back.


Using the needle nose pliers, gently bend the triangles down to hold the back to the stud. Add a safety back and you are done. Below are the finished pairs. Wear them proudly like the stud you are!