Sunday, 19 June 2016

Spring 2015 Hanami in Hasselt

Hasselt is home to one of the largest real Japanese gardens (built by Japanese gardeners) in Europe and I'm lucky to live an hour or so away from it.
Traditionally every Spring the garden holds a Hanami.

What better place to wear a kimono ?

Lucky for us the weather was splendid : lots of sun, no rainclouds anywhere ( very unusual here in Belgium !).

 The Japanese garden has a large waterfall cascading down into the upper lake ,

 from where the water flows through a winding stream , with paths alongside it.



Several plants and shrubs were already in bloom , thanks to the warm weather. 
Ofcourse we were here for one blossom only : sakura !

And we weren't disappointed : the sakura were in blossom everywhere around us.

First to arrive : Maaike and Ben, as always impeccably dressed.

Maaike's musubi.

Meeting up with their friends from the tea ceremony , that was held in the tea house later on.

Joining us from the Netherlands : Thirsa , Amy and Jody.

Our party settles down in a choice spot underneath the sakura trees.

And while we're getting comfortable in the sun,
below us in the square, the taiko drummers are getting ready for their performance.


Amy, watching the drummers play.

Thirsa , who's here for the first time, is a professional photographer. She also loves to pose for photographs.

 That's a very dignified look. Stern almost :)

Lovely smile, though :)

Amy and Jody , showing off their sleeves.

Amy at the entrance to the teahouse.

Posing by the tea-house : Thirsa, Amy and Jody.
Personally I prefer not to pose people in the sun, because of the shadows on their face, but here I had no choice.


 What a lovely surprise : Caroline (in kimono) and her sister.

That's a wonderful plushy ! Oh, it's a pirate ?

Everyone posing at the bridge.

The traditional tabi shot ( well at least three are tabi ! ).

When you visit a hanami in kimono, people are always curious and ask what you're wearing :)

and want to have a picture posing together as a memento. It's lots of fun.

 Before we go back to the lower lake by the tea-house , everyone poses
fearlessly on the narrow bridge by the waterfall.

And while Jody is trying to lure the koi and get some free sashimi,

we're taking pictures in the setting sun by the lake.

Tip of the day :) : use a flash or a reflector for this shot, when the sun is behind your model, otherwise this side will be too dark.

Another day over, one last look at the waterfall and we're headed for home.

Till next time, sakura !


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Chicken and leek stew with less calories

The new year hasn't started yet, but I'm already busy pursuing my good intentions for next year : more sports, less calories, more fun , etc..

I have just baked a wonderful pie dish with a rich and moist filling of chicken, leek, smoked bacon, cream, wine and a bit of garlic and an onion.

Here's the dish , just out of the oven.

And it's only half the calories of the 'fat' version and just as tasty . The secret is of stir frying the vegetables in a wok with very little oil, using light cream and using crumpled sheets of filo dough  ( the paper thin one ) coated with a very small amount of oil to cover the dish instead of the usual puff pastry made of wheat flour and butter, which is tasty but very heavy.

And this is how it looks on a plate. Believe me : it tasted just as good as it looks :). I couldn't believe this had so many less calories in it.

Filo (or phyllo ) dough was easier to work with than I thought.
The sheets are paper-thin and don't stick together , but when you take it out of the package and roll it open it does dry out in minutes and cracks, so best keep it covered with foil till you use it or use it immediately.

Have a great end of year and see you all next year !

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Flowers and kimonos : Keukenhof Spring 2014 ( part 1 of 3 )

Spring has finally arrived. Last weekend I went to a meeting with people from the Kimono de Jack NL at the Keukenhof Flower Show,  near the small town of Lisse , located in the West of the  Netherlands, not far from the coast.
The Flower Show is held each year in spring in a very large English style garden , that dates back to the 19th century. It was originally designed to show off the flowers from local flower growers
( mostly bulb flowers like tulips, hyacinths , daffodils ) and these are still the main attraction of the Show.

Each year , nearly 100,000 people visit the Flower Show each week. Luckily  the garden is so large, it never gets really crowded.

Long rows of  hyacinths line the paths. There's hardly any wind today and their sweet smell is everywhere.

Hyacinths come in many varieties and they all smell wonderful.

A mixed border with a footpad in the middle : the garden is full of opportunities to stroll and enjoy the flowers.

Most of the flowers are outside , but there are several large indoor halls at the show where  thousands of flowers are on display.

Hundreds of varieties of tulips and other flowers are on show here.

These are only a few examples.

The tiny blue bell-flowers of Muscari ( grape hyacinth ) : one of my favourite bulb-flowers.

This weekend , the Flower Show has a 'Old Holland' show with people in traditional Dutch costumes from past centuries. These women's caps (headdresses) are made from white cotton or lace and adorned with golden ornaments.

Interestingly , these traditional costumes are different depending on which town and region you live in. You could tell the difference between unmarried people and married people (not unlike furisode !) , widows and widowers and even religions and professions. Children had their own costumes.

Bio-powered go-cart, early Dutch model. You move the handle back and forward to move and steer with your feet.

Nice pose, young girl ! I love the way the artist has used bottle caps to decorate the fish.

After I met up with the other members of KDJ ,we went to look for a place to have lunch.

Sitting down at one of the ponds to enjoy our food and the sunshine.

Mei-ing and Carolien.

Mei-ing's lemon cake was irresistible.

Getting ready to take their own photos home from the event.

Maaike and Ben from Belgium.

Always in a good mood , Maaike is.

Wearing kimono in public always attracts attention : lots of people stop by for a chat.

or take pictures, especially Japanese people. They're always surprised to see their traditional dress worn abroad. We even met a few Japanese kitsuke-sensei there ( none of them wearing a kimono ^^ )

More people arriving : Stephanie, Lizemijn, Tim and in the back Youandi talking to Jordy, Jente and Maxime.

and Katarzyna , who had brought her baby along ( you can see him in the picture above).

While everybody stood around chatting and eating ,  I  took some musubi shots.

Linda is wearing a asa no ha (hemp leaf ) patterned kimono with Dutch themed musubi.

Maaike's musubi.

Mei-ing's musubi.
Carolien's musubi.

Youandi's musubi

Maxime's musubi.

Stephanie trying her hand as a waitress. Very elegant !

After lunch we all went for a walk around the garden and visit the displays in the flower-halls.

The sunny spring weather seems to give everyone extra energy : Stephanie running forward through a sudden shower of cherry petals.

Jente spins her furisode. Quite appropriate, since furisode means ' swinging sleeves' .
Furisode are traditionally only worn by unmarried women.

Posing in front of an old fishing boat , part of the 'Old Holland' exhibition.

At the Keukenhof, you HAVE to pose near the tulips.

Our Kimono de Jack signature shot : a rosette of tabi.

Tulips, a wooden clog, a windmill and everyone saying "cheese" : it cannot possibly get more Dutch than this.

Thanks to Lizemijn taking photographs , I was able to pose in this group shot too.

Water is an essential part of the Netherlands , so we set off looking for a more adventurous location to pose.

One small step for man, but a giant leap if you're in a kimono. Luckily, nobody fell in.

From left to right : Carolien, Linda, Youandi, Barbara, Maaike, Stephanie, Jordy, Maxime, Jente and Ben.

With so many photos , I've split this blog into 3 parts , so you won't have to wait too long because of all of the photos uploading.
(To look at the photos in full size, just left-click on any of them.)
(This post is in three parts, Click Here to go to part 2 , Click here to go to part 3)