Monday, June 13, 2011

A Pentecost Birthday

How many times do you get to celebrate your birthday on a holiday, especially if it isn't Christmas, New Year's, or 4th of July! Lucky for me, today is one of 3 holidays in The Netherlands that is officially celebrated for 2 days each: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. So when you're talking about the holiday, you have to be specific about what day you mean. The 2nd Christmas day would be 26 December, for instance. Today is the 2nd Pentecost day, which is always Monday...not Sunday.

AND today is my birthday. #66 to be exact. Because it's a holiday, Astrid is off work, so it really IS a holiday birthday for me. And for her.

A Pentecost Birthday.
That's what my Vision & Verb post is about today.
[Image from the Hammerfest Church, Norway.]

Now you have a hint why we celebrated my birthday in Belgium two weeks ago instead of now. The Dutch go crazy on the highways over holidays. There was no way we would be part of that.

Last week I posted about the lovely Belgium city of Ghent. Next week I'll post about the next day driving home through Dendermonde, Mechelen, and Lier. Today I'll post about our B&B stay in Berlare, outside Ghent. But first, some birthday shenanigans....

TWO (count them!) tarts! First an appeltaart, eaten 3 days in a row (with Astrid's son Jeroen joining us today) and a spinach tart for Sunday (yesterday) and today, the two days of Pentecost. And both made by Astrid!

This part blows me away!
The Dutch don't use measuring cups for their recipes. They WEIGH their ingredients, like sugar and flour. A cup of sugar does not weigh the same as a cup of flour. So, as Astrid says, she gets very confused by my measuring cups. She knows that volume does not equal weight! I guess American recipes take all that into account.
These scales from Germany are over 50 years old, inherited from Astrid's mom. They operate on a counter weight, up to 10 kilos (22 lbs.). Modern scales, of course, are now digitalized.

The dough was supposed to be rolled out with a rolling pin but the butter was a different brand than Astrid was used to and ended up crumbing better than rolling. Did I care? She tossed the apples in cinnamon, added in a few raisins, and then more dough on top. Kinda like an appel crumble, but not really.

Then, into the oven for an hour at 180 C (356 F). This contraption that looks like a microwave IS, but it's also an oven, a broiler, and a convection oven...all wrapped into one. If you have a kitchen here without a built-in oven, this is usually what most people buy because of space. And believe it or not, I have learned to not only use it but to like it!

So, an hour later....

In case you can't tell, that's a springform pan. I love it!

Astrid used to make this appeltaart 5-6 times a year in her past life.
Am I lucky or what to have it for my birthday this year! A labor of my own house.

That was Saturday. On Sunday, yesterday, she made the spinach tart! Enough to last for two days:

The dough is croissant dough and comes in squares that Astrid fit into another springform pan.
The mixture is cooked spinach, corn (both drained), with cheese and beaten eggs. Halfway through a layer of sliced hard-boiled eggs is added, with the remaining mixture on top.
Then the entire top is covered with the remaining dough and baked for 45 minutes at 220 C (428 F).

And just like that, Voilà!
One quarter is a vegetarian meal for one person. To die for!



OK. Now, back to Belgium and the B&B in Berlare. THAT was the main birthday gift from Astrid, spending the night so we didn't have to do Belgium all in one day.

Berlare is a town of only 14K people. We've discovered you can sometimes get a better B&B price if you're willing to go outside the 'cig bity,' which we often do. We were delighted by this sweet little B&B Hagewinde. Our hostess, Monique, was perfect in every way.
We LOVE B&Bs and have never yet been disappointed.

After getting settled, and while it was still light and not too late, we went off to see two churches:

The first church was St. Martinuskerk near the city center, built in 1910.
And locked.

But the second, Bareldonk Chapel from 1302, stole our hearts.
On the property was a path that looped around 7 stations of the cross. In fact, as we were leaving, a group of parishioners was being led around the loop for Vespers recitation.

Midway through the 'stations' is this life-size monument of the sick and wounded coming to the Cross. I grew up being told the difference between Protestants and Catholics was whether or not the crucified Christ was still on the Cross. For Protestants, because we believed in a risen Christ, Jesus was no longer on the Cross.
Today I no longer split those hairs.

This chapel was open!
It's not a huge cathedral. It's not a protestant church.
But it's the kind of cozy church I would be drawn to for worship, truth be known.

Next week I'll take you to 3 more Belgium cities with BIG churches, all Roman Catholic. Till then, here are some more....


...gevelstenen (gable stones).
Well, the last one (sheep) may be a stretch.

Two more water towers, with a bridge thrown in for good measure.

Make that 3 more water towers.

Some more weathervanes (my first moose!)....

...and last but not least, a vending machine for loaves of fresh bread!
This is the first time I've seen this anywhere, period.

That's it for now and my Happy Birthday! More like my Happy BirthMONTH which continues next week. In the meantime, please don't forget my Vision & Verb for today on the sexy number 66!


  1. You blog does make me realize that we never have a dull moment in our lives togehter.
    I just got some advise from a friend in England, who said 'grasp every good opportunity you get'.
    We both do.
    We try to live life at the utmost, even with the long days I make at work, every other week.
    Going to the B&B was wonderful, it was a nice time to restore ourselves.
    Baking those taarten was a delight, I took some pride in the spinach tart, that really turned out to be well, thanks for 'saving' the appeltaart ;)
    Thanks again for one more added memory we can keep.
    Van harte gefeliciteerd, een dikke kus.

  2. Holy cow, those taarten are all I would need for my birthday. Every image of them is elegant, but my favorite is the placement of the apples. Wow.

    Do you have a special coffee maker for those lattes (?)?

    The old scale is so cool. It reminds me of our conversation with Inge and Lar Saturday. We laughed again and wondered why Americans say how many miles it is to a distant place, instead of miles. I said, "I have no idea how many miles we are from Chicago, but I know it takes 4 1/2 hours to get there!"


    It's awfully fun getting to say Happy Birthday again. Love you.

  3. Astrid: I can't imagine anyone having a nicer day here at home, mijn vrouw. Hartstikke bedankt. I do feel so alive, eating up everything around me...especially those wonderful tarts, your labor of love.

    Ruth: I thought of you the whole time Astrid was making the taarten and I was photographing the process. I KNEW you'd be in heaven. Too bad you can't be here to enjoy the day.

    No, there is no coffee maker for those cappuccinos. We have a special powdered mix that makes the best koffies simply by adding hot water. We have a cup every night after supper with something lekkers (like a cookie). So fun. Maybe I'll bring some for July.

    Don't you love how we say things! You're right...we talk about how long it takes instead of how many miles it is. :)

    Thank you AGAIN for your birthday greeting. THANK YOU.

  4. Happy Birthday, Ginnie!

    The "second Christmas Day" here is called Boxing Day. It's nice to have a unique name for it, even if nobody really knows what it means.

    Love your collections of water towers, weather vanes, gable stones and other architectural details. Such richness of visual sustenance available to you.

    Speaking of sustenance, those tarts are lovely to look at. I can only imagine how wonderful eating them must be.

  5. Beautiful Appeltaart and Spinach pie. You are tempting me so much, I have decided to come over ;-)

  6. Karen: Oh, yes. I remember Boxing Day. Here it's just the 2nd Christmas day. I'm glad you delight with me in all the things I collect. HA! What would I do if I had nothing to find and capture. :)

    Thanks for your birthday greetings! Both tarts have been fabulous gifts. In fact, we're getting ready to eat the last of the spinach tart right about now.

    Anyes: HA! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Come right on over, before everything is all gone. :D

  7. Well Happy, Happy Birthday! Wishing you much joy in the year to come, my dear friend.

    66 already? How time flies when you're having fun, eh? Your birthday trip sounds fabulous and just look at how much love went into making those tarts. Delicious!

    Germany has the day off today too and the school kids even have Tuesday off, lucky ducks.

  8. Christina: Thank you, dear friend. Astrid sure knows how to make my day! It's been a wonderful long weekend. Too bad she has to go back to work tomorrow. Those lucky kids!

  9. Ok - those tarts look like they were professionally made. And that oven lesson is very interesting. I would so love to have space like that. Well we can't complain anymore at our nearly unlimited space in our new HOUSE..

    I must say it's 9am here and since last night I have not forgotten about your bday. My dad's was on the 4th.. And he's 1 year younger than you... Not that age matters one bit...

    Happy big 66!! I know you had a great day. :)

  10. ET: So, you could be my daughter, right?! :D I love it, Jen. Your precious daughter would be my granddaughter, the one I've never had. What a sweet thought. 66 has been a great birthday. I'll never forget it.

  11. Wow Ginny, a lot to absorb!

    Can Astrid post her recipe for the apfel tart and spinach tart? They looked so delicious!

    You found all your favourite things in Belgium - Gable stones, Weathervanes, Water towers..

    Bread vending machine!

    Happy Birthday, Ginnie!

  12. It’s almost 3 pm here and I have not had lunch yet – and I looked at your taartens! I am salivating… What a great birthday you had – all the things you love. It was nice to share it with us. I have a birthday present for you on my blog – it’s at the end of the post - in case you don’t have time to read the whole thing. Happy Birthday dear Ginnie!

  13. oh those tarts are tempting. my mouth is watering. great job, astrid.

  14. Happy Birthday Ginnie!!! Looks like you have had a wonderful time celebrating! And happy continued celebrations for the rest of the month!

    Those tarts are mouth watering! I never thought about using a springform for tarts, just cheesecakes or tortes! I guess tortes and tarts aren't really that different now are they?

  15. Stacey: I'll ask Astrid about the recipes...but it'll be in grams instead of cups! :) And yes, Belgium is so close to The Netherlands, it has many of the things I find here, so I wasn't disappointed. What a birthday. Thank you!

    Vagabonde: Aren't those taarten the best! Now that they are both gone, I'm relishing the remembrance of them. :) It was a birthday full of the things I love. I'm so lucky. And now I will look at your new post!

    PC: Astrid is the best, isn't she, Maria! :)

    Mad: I had never used a springform pan in my life, so I got my education. I can definitely see their value. Thanks for your birthday wishes. I have had a GREAT birthday!

  16. A belated Happy Birthday! And you made me hungry with this post. :)

  17. Happy Belated Birthday, Ginnie! Looks like you had a blast. And those tarts...yummy.
    Marc Hall

  18. Tim: HA! I wish I could have invited y'all over to share the goodies. :) Thanks.

    Anon: What a sweetheart, Marc. THANK YOU. Greetings to you and Bob. This is a delightful surprise. :)

  19. And she cooks, too!! You lucky lady, I know you are enjoying your birthday week. As much as I love all of your fantastic photos of the trips y'all take, it was a treat to get a tiny glimpse of the kitchen in your home.
    All the best to you both.

  20. I had dinner with two girlfriends this evening... a tradition started quite a few years ago... we treat each other to dinner on our birthdays. It means we get together for a meal and conversation at least 3 times a year in spite of busy schedules (both of them still work). It's a long way around of saying that I was reminded, in the context of birthdays, that I hadn't yet come back to visit your birthday post which I'd been saving for when I could savor the lovely collages!

    I watched an Aussie friend bake several cakes... using a scale to weigh ALL the dry ingredients... seeing your collage and reading about Astrid's baking reminded me of that. Our recipes which use cup measurements instead of weights would be tricky to translate!

    I absolutely love the collages of Astrid making the tarts... they both look and sound divine. I'm full from a marvelous meal and still find my mouth watering over the apple tart in particular... it is a work of art to behold... especially the collage showing it dressed with whipped cream and ready for eating! And the spinach tart is beautiful too... I think I could give that one a try one of these days just from the details you've posted!

    You do realize that every time I get started writing comments on your posts... I find it very hard to stop... and then I look at the time and realize that I must go do something (so much to do yet to get ready for leaving on Friday) OR I must go to bed (it's late here and I'm tired). So I'll close by saying WOW on the church collages... the weather vanes (I just love the variety and you always put them together in collages so nicely)... and the water towers! Oh, and I am amazed that one can buy fresh bread from a vending machine... now I have truly seen everything... HA!

  21. WS: HAHA! Yes, she cooks, too, Susan. Not often, mind you, because that's my job, now that she's the breadwinner. And it's my great pleasure. But every once in awhile, she gets a hankering to be in the kitchem, and I love it.

    Dutch kitchens are often very small and compact but I have all the space I need, and I love it. Thanks.

    Victoria: Your comments are ones I savor because of all the time you put into them, dear Lady. And NOW when you're so busy before your honor me. Thank you. I have a feeling we'd celebrate each other's birthday well if we were geographically proximate. That would be a real treat.

    Astrid will love that you liked her tarts. I was so proud of her and she was, too. :) It gave her great pleasure to make them for me and to have me post about them. What a gift.

    Thank you for YOUR birthday gift, commenting here!

  22. Hartelijk gefeliciteerd, Ginnie! This post is delicious in every regard. Your opening photo of the Heilige Geest is a beaut. I could never understand why Pinksteren is such a huge holiday in The Netherlands.

    For fluffy ingredients like flour, it is much more accurate to weigh ingredients rather than measuring them by volume. The baking community here spends a great deal of time discussing whether to scoop and drag or to spoon into the measuring cup. Then there's the issue whether to aerate the flour first. Thus, recipes that state ingredients by weight are considered more reliable. I am seriously envious of Astrid's scale and I'm impressed she has the space to store it in your tiny kitchen. If she ever gets weary of storing it... :-D

    Both taarten look impressive and delicious. The egg looks like a delicious surprise ingredient in the spinach taart. Your Astrid is one multi-talented lady!

    I love the weathervane with the rooster looking as if he's about to step off the roof.

    I want a fresh bread automaat in Palo Alto!

  23. DB: I have just read to Astrid your comment and she has a big smile on her face. You have made our day! This is fun, learning about weighing ingredients instead of using measuring cups. To be honest, I'd rather have the ease of the measuring cups, as long as someone else does the math. :) For Astrid, she'll stick to the scales...which she stores in the living room cupboard. HA!

    Thank you, Diana. This is fun.

  24. Hey Ginnie,

    Ik maakte al vaak zo een spinazie taart, wow, voor mij als vegetariër is het heerlijk eten.
    Mooie herinnering heb je hier gemaakt.

    with love,

  25. Ank: I LOVE that spinach tart, so you and Astrid are on the same page. It was such a treat for me. She will definitely make it again, if I have anything to do with it. :) Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting here.

  26. Belated Happy Birthday Ginnie! My gawd the food looks awesome! Can you please send me a recipe of both the spinach and apple tart?

  27. Charles: Thanks for the birthday wishes! The food was definitely awesome and maybe I'll post the two recipes on my next post! Good idea.

  28. Chapel Bareldonk is my type of church. I appreciate all the artistic grandeur in the cathedrals, etc. But I love the coziness and warmth Bareldonk exudes. Wow.

    And those tarts are works of art! I can imagine the aroma and eating them very slowly, tasting all that homemade goodness. HAPPY Birthday, indeed!

  29. Margaret: I'm with you on the coziness of that chapel, definitely. Maybe that's why the cathedrals really do feel like museums to me.

    You would love the tarts. I would have gladly shared a small bite with everyone. :)

  30. My birthday is on January 1st lol... anyways love the spinach pie looks amazing, great posts can't wait for the next ones. ps. happy late b day :)

  31. DES: I sure wish I knew who you are, Dan (?), because the link to your site is faulty. But thanks anyway for the Happy Birthday wishes and comment.