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The winter has finally kicked in. The leaves have long been gone, the trees stand bare and the temperature keeps dropping steadily. The birds have started to immigrate to warmer climates and the snails appeared alongside with the very first raindrops.

Walking the dog everyday I have started to observe these little things that betray the coming and the passing of the seasons and for the first time in my life, a feeling of excitement envelopes my heart.

Its been a week though that I feel incredibly tired. The days come and go and all i want is to crawl in my bed, cuddle with the blankets and sleep. A pile of books on my nightstand is getting dusty.

Am I just tired? Or is it the winter blues?

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Oh the winter blues.. You know them, dont you?
They have this greyish blue hue, feel like a soft woolen scarf and have the taste of marshmellows roasting on the fireplace. The sound of a scratched billy holiday record thats been turned one too many times and the smell like vanilla and christmas cinamon cupcakes. Now and then you can hear a little bell or maybe just the rain ticking on your window. You must listen carefully cause soon, the snow will fall and will dumb with it the world in a silent white coat.
Knitting socks, reading books, making cranberry marmelade..waking up early, going to be early..trying to catch the few rays of sun.. waiting patiently for another spring..
I really like the winter blues..
If only I had more energy..

So today, i decided to indulge in a delicious lunch.
I chopped vegetables, rolled out dough, cut little circles and boil some tomato basil sauce.
Sprinkled the cheese on the little dough circles and added veggies. Sprinkled with herbs and garlic and baked for 15 min at 200oC..
Healthy mini pizzas with vegetables and goatcheese for an energy boost.
And the winter blues get slightly tinted with red..

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I have been baking coffee flavored cupcakes all morning without realising that today, 29 of September is actually Coffee Day! This may come too late, but dont worry.. in Japan coffee day is yet to come

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And what a better way to celebrate than by munching on some soft vanilla cupcakes tinted with a luscious, aromatic, buttercream frosting made with freshly ground coffee beans.

And since we are at it, my ultimate favorite top 10 with all the things, we need to know about coffee.

1. Coffee is…consumed at the rate of 1400 million cups per day!!!
Fact which makes me wonder if homo sapiens actually runs on coffee as a specie…

2. Coffee is the most popular drink after water.
Fact which verifies the hypothesis that perhaps humans do run on coffee!?!

3. Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world today!
With the first one being..oil.

4. Coffee was imported to Europe first by the Dutch!(YAY!) who actually (HMM?) eventually smuggled coffee seeds to Europe, defying the Arab Prohibition around 1690! Other sources claim it was Indians who smuggled it out towards the East but of course we can not be sure.

5. Coffee beans are seeds, found inside brightly red colored berries!
The berries are handpicked and the skin of them is removed usually by a machine. After this, a fermentation process takes place and allows the green coffee bean to be roasted to what we know as dark brown coffee bean!

6. Coffee develops its particular aroma at the exact 10th minute of roasting!

7. Coffee has more than 800 different aromatic compands, as scientist discovered.

8. While one can find many aromas in coffee beans, there are only two species of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. 70% of us consumes Arabica coffee which is mild and aromatic, while the other 30% opt for Robusta which may be more bitter but contains twice as much caffeine..

9. It takes 40 coffee beans for your daily espresso cup..

10. Since, one coffee tree yields less than half a kilo of coffee per year I would suggest we ease up on coffee.. Unless we make sure its fair trade?

and last but not least, if you are curious like me, the name “coffee” has a disputable “provenance”. Yet, even though we cant be sure, these are the most popular beliefs of the origin of the name of the most popular drink man ever created!

-Kaffa? A province in Ethiopia where it was first discovered.
-Kaaba? The holy building in Mecca.
-Kavus Kai? A Persian king who was able to defy gravity and levitate by drinking coffee.
-Kahwe? Meaning roasted in Turkish.
-Cahouah? A hunger curing drink in Arabic.
-Cohuet? Meaning strength or vigour in Arabic.

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Mmm..I dont know about you..but I would like to have yet another coffee cupcake..or perhaps a nice cup of coffee? Inhaling its aroma, tasting its dark and full bodied flavor.. What a delight!
Enjoy your coffee everyone and see you soon!

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Days of Autumn come and go. The sun seems to have lost its warmth and yet keeps on playing hide and seek with my soul, poking in and out of sight.

Yesterday was a sunny day. We put the bikes in the car and drove to the dunes.

Riding the bikes on the dunes somehow has a magically calming effect. The flora and fauna seem to have taken control of the landscape forcing it to entropy.
You might think, so what? Entropy is the rule of the universe. And you may be right.
Yet, this is a rare phenomenon in a country like the Netherlands where man has been fighting nature for centuries, trying to create dry land from the seabed. The sand of the dunes forced in place once serves to protect the recuperated land from the claims of the sea waters.
And it is on this piece of land, that birds find dwelling, swans bat their wings and plants find a way to grow and thrive.. An ecosystem evolves and dazzles with its complexity and its indifference to the man made expectation and claims.

In a way, it is ironic. In another way it is mystical. Nature finds a way.

So, we went biking. And biking. Stopping now and then to observe the landscape. By the mid afternoon, we reached the beach. There was barely any wind and everything seemed extremely peaceful. Not many people either. Just a few seagulls.
We had cookies and tea and stayed there until sundawn.

No cooking for today:)

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I heard once, many many years ago, that the most unfortunate aspect of our lives is the lack of a soundtrack. A music score, playing parallel to our existence, lifting up our spirit and warming up our soul, embellishing the moments of pleasure and subduing the moments of grief..

I woke up today singing along the tune of nouvelle vague’s , melt with you…

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Mini, tiny, bite size chocolate souffles, topped with chocolate, chocolate crispie tiny balls and a small blueberry.. One bite to release the chocolate that still in its liquid form, merges the flavors of the chocolate crisps and blueberry into a pleasurable explosion that lasts a second…

mmmm… a tiny dose of pleasure melting together on a Sunday afternoon..

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Today has been equally grey around here.
I’m going through paperwork listening to Gotye, “Somebody That I Used To Know” drinking a cup of tea and nibbling on a dry fig.

I always loved figs.
We had a big fig tree in the garden at the vacation house. Every August, around the time of my birthday the first figs would ripe. They would grow considerably in size their bright green skin slowly turning pale green and their firmness would give way to a certain softness.
Some of them would have honey dripping from them sparkling like gold under the midday summer sun..
You had to look carefully between the leaves and the branches to locate the figs that were ripe enough as not all the fruit would ripe at the same time.
Once located, the “target” fig would be plucked from the tree by gently grabbing it and twisting it around until the stem would release the fig from the branch.
If milk would come out of the stem then you knew the fig wasnt ripe enough. If not you knew, a delicious sweet fig was yours!

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This year, I introduced mister to the fig hunting routine. During our stay at the tiny village of Greece where the vacation house is, I taught him everything I know. And in return, mister offered his help, fig hunting and then sorting,drying out and preparing the surplus of figs gathered.

In the area, almost every household hunts for figs during August.
Wearing a big hat, holding a basket and a metal stick ending on a hook, called the fig hunting tool, men, women and children would wander around the forest edges and hunt for figs.

My grandmother used to say that the best figs to dry out are the ones that fall from the tree by themselves. They are sweet and already a bit dry and thus perfect for preserving them for the winter. Never the less, any fig can be dried and preserved as long as it is ripe enough to be eaten.

Once collected the figs have to be sliced in half and left open with the seeds exposed to the summer sun on a basket. The air needs to be able to circulate during the drying stage so if a basket is not available one could use chicken wire elevated on a wooden frame.

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After a few days, the figs have to be turned over so that their skin gets golden and dry on the outside as well. Once the figs are completely dried out, a “sterilising” process has to take place to ensure the figs wont get worms but will stay nice all winter long.
Traditionally, this is done by a boiling bath. Nowadays one can opt for freezing them for 10 days.

After that, the figs are ready to be stored and enjoyed for as long as 5 years!:)

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Did you know?
In Greek mythology, the god Apollo sends a crow to collect water from a stream for him. The crow sees a fig tree and tempted by the fruit sits under the thick shadow of the fig tree, waiting for the figs to ripe.. He knows that he is late and that his tardiness will be punished, so he gets a snake from the stream and collects the water. He presents Apollo with the water and uses the snake as an excuse. Apollo sees through the crow’s lie and throws the crow, goblet, and snake into the sky where they form the constellations Hydra, Crater, and Corvus.

And now that you know the story behind the Hydra, Crater and Corvus constellation, here is a handy link that shows you a glimse of the sky and helps you learn to identify the above mentioned groups of stars.
http://www.davidmalin.com/fujii/source/Crt.html