Friday, November 28, 2014

Connecting wildlife

If you are connected with me through me Instagram or Facebook pages, you might have seen me hanging around this tree with this huge bridge behind me. Behind me you see a nature bridge or as the Dutch call it: an Eco duct. This special bridge connects two sides of a natural environment so animals can cross the highway safely. Remember, me talked about it in E is for…. This bridge behind me is called De Kempengrens and it is a very special bridge. Me shall tell you why.

Nature bridges for wildlife
There are many nature bridges in the Netherlands, but they aren’t placed haphazardly around the country. After very long research of animal protectors and conservationists they discovered old wildlife trails that the animals always used to go from A to B. These trails are really ancient and locked up in the DNA of the animals. Cool huh. A bear, wolf, snake or hog really knows how to get somewhere. When the researchers found the trails, they also saw that lots of highways cross the wild trails. So that is why they thought of the nature bridges. Large bridges covered with greenery and possible habitats. The bridges are also crossing highways in Germany and Belgium.

Special & unique
This particular bridge however is a very unique project. It is the first Eco bridge built in cooperation between two countries: the Netherlands and Belgium. Sharing resources and costs to build it. That is cool huh. It is built on Belgium territory (that was easier) and it connects the Dutch and the Belgium part of the Nature Park ‘de Kempen’. This way forest animals and other wildlife can finally meet each other or take a vacation in another country.

A whole new world
To celebrate the realisation of the Eco duct Berry was invited to a press event. And of course me tagged along to Belgium. Hey, me love to travel! The best part of the press event was that we could take a look ON TOP of the Eco duct. The wide bridge also gives animals all kinds of shelters and habitats, so they will feel right at home. It was so cool to see. And to hear. It is really quiet on top of the bridge. You would almost forget the highway in beneath it. Although the bridge needs to grow some more vegetation, me could see how beautiful it will be when it is all finished. Me thinks butterflies, wasps, bees, small snakes, badgers, deer, bunnies and more wildlife will feel right at home. And the bats will love the special bat cave (no Batman wasn’t in there) the people build for them too.

It was very great to see this and made me appreciate the Eco ducts even more!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Every now and then me loves to participate in Throwback Thursday, just like any other monster. Here you see me at Ecomare, Texel. A shelter for seals and other sick animals found on the Dutch beaches. This picture is taken on me first - and until now still me only - visit in 2006. Me really hope to go back there again soon!

O and a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
Save some cookies for me!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cookies Dutch Alphabet

On May 16 me started something new on me blog. Like a true Sesame Street Monster me decided to tell you more about the country that me live in through something called the Alphabet. And Cookies Dutch Alphabet was born! Now last week me concluded the Alphabet with, of course, the letter Z. Me like to recap the Alphabet today. Just click on the pictures or the letters and relive your favourite letter. And feel free to drop a note!

A is for... B is for...

C is for... D is for...

E is for... F is for...

G is for... H is for...

I is for... J is for...

K is for... L is for...

M is for... N is for...

O is for... P is for...

Q is for... R is for...

S is for... T is for...

U is for... V is for...

W is for... X is for...

Y is for... Z is for...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Z is for...

…zee (the sea or ocean)! Me love the ocean. It is the home of many beautiful plants and animals. Like the zeehond (seal) and zeeleeuw (sealion) to name just a few beautiful animals. And – that is no coincidence – their names start with the letter Z! Yes me finally got to the last letter of the alphabet.

Zeehond / zeeleeuw (both living at Dolfinarium in Harderwijk)
Above: Me at the zee in Spain

Also nice and starting with the letter Z is zwembad (swimmingpool). Berry loves to swim (zwemmen) at the pool. She goes every week to the pool for a class of aquarobics. Me will hang out at the lockers though, me do not like to swim that much. Although, me love to chill at the pool!


Next up: yummy food starting with the letter Z! Starting with zuurkool (sauerkraut), mostly mashed with potatoes and pieces of bacon, and a rookworst. You got to love it though. Me? Me love other stuff with the letter Z, like zoethout (liquorice root). It really is a piece of wood that you can chew on. It is also used as an ingredient for tea and drop.

Zuurkool (plain) / zoethout

Me love candies! Really Dutch is the zuurstok (candy cane), but not the white/red ones you hang in the Christmas tree, but the cherry or cinnamon flavoured Old Dutch candy canes. There are – ofcourse – other flavours too. But the cherry and cinnamon ones are really me faves! Oh and me love zuurtjes (sweets or lozenges) too. They are so colourful and often very fruity. Really old Dutch are the raspberry zuurtjes and pear zuurtjes.

Zuurstok / zuurtjes

Also yummy is zwart-wit (black and white liqourice). It combines salty liquorice powder with some peppermint. You can eat it out of a tiny jar, or as some hard liquorice candy. Zwart (black) is also a very exciting colour. Me googly eyes are black. Gorgeous huh. And to end the letter Z, me will tell you a little bit about my favourite fairy tale character: Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). He is the loyal helper of Sinterklaas (like Santa’s Elves) and together they bring gifts to all the children and sweet Monsters a like!

Zwart-wit / Zwarte Piet

And that concludes the letter Z and Cookies Dutch Alphabet. Me had so much fun the past 26 weeks. Me hope you had too. Feel free to drop me a note (a positive one please) about your favourite letter.

Now me have to think of something new to talk about… Ah well, me is a creative blue Monster, me will think of something. Next week me will recap the whole alphabet so you can enjoy it with me one more time!
Bye bye for now!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cookie’s Kitchen: Speculaas

Hello me friends. With Sinterklaas on his way to the Netherlands me will be sharing a yummy cookie recipe for Speculaas. These yummy cookies are really great with a cup of tea, some coffee with whipped cream and ofcourse with a big, tall glass of cold milk…mmmm! Me love Speculaas-cookies, because of the different, rich spices used in the special Speculaas spices mix. Me will share it with you.

Cookie spices
In The Netherlands you can buy jars with already premixed Cookie and Speculaas spices. If you are not living in The Netherlands you can also make your own. It very easy, me will tell you what you need:
40 grams of Cinnamon
10 grams of Nutmeg
5 grams of Cloves
5 grams of Cardamom
5 grams of White Pepper
5 grams of Coriander seed
5 grams of Ginger (powdered)
5 grams of Aniseed
5 grams of Mace (in Dutch called Foelie)
Mix it all together and you have the most yummy cookie spices ever! You do not need the whole mixture of spices for one batch of Speculaas cookies though. Just add some until you think it tastes yummy!

Cookie batter
To make Speculaas cookies you need the following ingredients:
250 grams of self-rising flour
150 grams of dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons of the Cookie & Speculaas spices
100 grams of ice-cold butter
3 tablespoons of milk (om nom nom)

Put the flower in a sieve and shake it gently above a mixing bowl so you won’t have any lumps in it. Then you mix it with a little salt, the sugar and the Cookie spices. Use two knives to cut the butter into the mixture, so you will get little dough crumbs. Quickly knead the dough with cool hands into a smooth ball of dough. Put in the milk when the dough is too dry. Wrap the dough in plastic foil and put it in the fridge for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius (that is 347 degrees Fahrenheit) and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough. Use some flour to ease the rolling. Roll out the dough until it is one to two centimetres thick.

Big cookies or small ones
You can bake the whole dough at once for 35 minutes and let it cool before you break it in big chunks. But you can also use a cookie cutter and make all kinds of Speculaas cookies. Like hearts and gingerbread men and such. Those are baked in 30-35 minutes also. Just have fun with it.

Tradition: wooden shapes
The traditional Speculaas cookies are shaped in a wooden shelf. The shapes of the cookies are carved into it and then the batter is put on it. Push in some dough and mold it into the right shape. After that you carefully take out the figurines and bake them. It is funny but this is the best way to get the gorgeous windmills and other details into the Speculaas cookies.

Well… me hope you love this episode of Cookie’s Kitchen. If you decide to bake Speculaas cookies please let me know how you liked them. And ofcourse show me some pictures! Om nom nom.