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Thursday, August 25, 2011


Continuing on with the story of our European adventure... after discovering Düsseldorf and eating our way through Chimay, the husband and I made our way to Brugge, Belgium.


Maybe the prettiest city ever.  Legend has it that Brugge was spared the drab-ification of the Industrial Revolution thanks to the thriving lace-making industry in the area.  Or that's what I was told when I first traveled there in 2003.  On this trip I learned that the city's history is not so simplistic.  Brugge at one point was supposedly the commercial centre of the world, has a history of attracting great European artists, and was once actually a port city (silt deposits now place it a-ways inland).  These days it seems to have a reputation in Europe for being a big tourist trap.  But, like all good cliches, Brugge's reputation is rooted in truth - it's a great spot to visit!

Markt in day

We spent hours on end traipsing over the cobblestoned streets in the historic (UNESCO-historic) city centre.  The streets circle around the Markt and run parallel with the many canals of the city (hence the alias "Venice of the North").    We found tiny cafes, funny little homes, and some hole-in-the-wall-ground beer cafes.


Our lodgings were lovely to look at, though a bit damp in person (I guess that was to be expected in the bargain lodgings of "Venice of the North").

Passages Bruges

The food was excellent.  For an example, see our moules-et-frites, below.  On a few occasions we hit up the grocery stores for picnic fare and lunched near the windmills on the perimeter of the city.  Simple and romantic - fitting for our honeymoon.  We also ate delicious Belgian waffles but they didn't come close to lasting long enough to be photographed.  Luckily, they're safely stored away in my food memory.

Moules et Frites


I can't not mention the beer.  Belgium has so many beer styles, some only to be found in that country.  There's not really beer there - except the odd import - that would really be recognizable as beer to the Canadian mass market.  Many Belgian styles are sweet and/or have a high alcohol content, but really the styles run the gamut.  To generalize, it's the kind of beer you savour and relish.  You won't see a Belgian chugging.  You don't buy a 2-4 in Brugge.  In short, Belgian beer is an art form.  When's the last time you went to a Canadian pub, asked for the house beer and got this:

Beer, the Belgian way

Served on it's own tray, in it's own glass, on a doily, with a side of specially selected local cheese.  Belgian beer.  That's what I'm talking about.

To me, Brugge is a wonderfully rich city and well worth a visit.  I've been there twice and I'd love to go again.

Markt at night

The next European stop will be in the Czech Republic.  So stay tuned...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Garden fresh

Hello again!  It's about time I got back to the blog.  It's been a busy summer with a new house and a new job, so despite having lots of things to blog about I haven't found enough time to actually post!

Back in June, when we moved in to the house, I quickly took advantage of my very first yard (yeah!), and planted veggies straight away.  At the time I said I would be content if I even had a 10% yield, seeing as it was my first year planting anything.

Sure enough, I didn't get a super yield.  Below is a picture (taken last week) of the 'garden' where I planted yellow beans, carrots, and cucumbers.



Yep.  Underwhelming.  Because NOTHING grew!  I noticed when I tilled the garden that there were numerous creepy-crawlies making a home in the dirt.  Cut-worms must have been included in the melange because, aside from a few short-lived bean sprouts, my crop yield was nil.  Mildly disappointing.

But now onto the success story of my garden:  the cherry tomatoes!  I decided to plant potted tomatoes because I've heard good things about container gardening - you know exactly what type of soil you're giving the plants, you can move the containers to get the optimal light, and really, you can put them wherever in/on your yard or deck you please.  I found my plants at VanKampen's Greenhouses here in Charlottetown.


[just after planting]

I planted three cherry tomato plants per container (in retrospect I would have planted two - you'll see why).  One container was a mix of potting soil + PEI compost and the other had potting soil + a Miracle-Gro potting soil.  I was going to experiment to see which plants did better, but of course mixed up the containers before labeling them (all my years experimenting in labs obviously have gone to waste!).


[crazy plants]

In the end, the soil-experiment mix-up was moot.  All plants took off like crazy.  At last count, about three weeks ago, there were over 100 tomatoes on the vines - I'm guessing that number has doubled by now!  If you look closely in the pic above, you can see the green wire frames I'm using to support the vines - compare to the first picture to see how massive the plants actually are!


[pretty tomatoes]

Cherry tomatoes

[enough for dinner!]

The best part is that the tomatoes are actually starting to ripen in useful quantities.  For about two weeks we simply ate them as they ripened one-by-one, but this weekend we had enough to use in our marinated-summer-veggie-and-tofu-kabobs.  We typically go through a container of cherry tomatoes every week or two, so this garden success story will actually help our grocery bill.

Another success in the garden was the pea patch:

before and after - peas

[before and after]

We're starting to see a bit of a yield - looking forward to the first harvest.

pea pod

[so fresh]

Lastly, let me show you our inherited grape vines.  I can claim no part in helping them grow, they just came along with our house.  They seem to be doing wonderfully this season, though.  I might try some grape jelly in the fall if they become plump enough.  They are definitely still sour at this point.


[grape vines on the pergola]


[lotsa grapes!]

Thanks for checking back into the blog despite the summer dormancy.  Hope to have more posts for you soon!