Assuming you've already studied the photos above, I imagine you are wondering where this lucky family disappeared to at the weekend. To China? India? Some other exotic part of the world? Well the answer would be: the zoo, of course.
Since we are not going away this summer, we are trying to soak up some exotic experiences locally. On Saturday this involved our usual anchor of the week, the zoo, and afterwards dinner at a Chinese restaurant. To start with the former: the more we frequent the zoo, the more we enjoy it. Visiting once in a while means running around like a headless chicken in order to see as much as possible in one day. Visiting every week means taking time out to enjoy one large corner at our leisure without feeling guilty over not having seen the rest. On Saturday we were in the mood for a bit of China - don't ask me where that came from (I don't know) - and so we spent the afternoon in the cool, shadowy Chinese garden at the zoo, enjoying the beautiful flowers, giant Koi Carps and a small but fine specimen of Chinese architecture. Funnily enough, it was quite idyllic. Highlight of the afternoon was of course seeing the elephants: a baby one with its big sister and mother. Daughter S wanted nothing more than to have Baby Elephant sitting on her lap. Or living in her bedroom. Anyhow. The two bottoms are the sisters, in case you are interested.
Needless to say, all that lounging about made us hungry, and so we took being in Asia to the next level by going to a Chinese restaurant in Rotterdam. I cannot tell you when we last went to a Chinese restaurant, but I suspect it's around eight years ago. The interior was just as I remembered a Chinese restaurant to be: clean, spacious and air-conditioned, with impeccably set tables. The same went for the hospitality: friendly, inviting and helpful. What M and I had both forgotten, however, was... portion size. I mean, my goodness - what is that all about? Mounds of food (we'd only ordered for two people!) was put in front of us in a row as long as the Chinese Wall; half of which, much to our embarrassment, remained uneaten. I humbly apologised to the waitress who smilingly said that never mind, this happens all the time, no one finishes their order, so don't worry, not even in the slightest, and when son S said "but won't the cook be angry?" she burst into fits of giggles. This still left me feeling slightly awkward, I mean: do they throw that food out or do they dish it all up again? I shudder to think. What I had also forgotten was the excessive amount of meat, and the vegetables drenched in corn starch sauces - yikes, I've really outgrown that stuff. After paying ninety euros - yes, you read that right, and as you know, I have complained about money spent on eating out before - we left the restaurant feeling a little ashamed. Son S looked at me, squeezed my hand and said, "that was wonderful, wasn't it mama, are we going there again next week?"
Sunday was spent going back to basics by eating simple, wholesome food (after the previous evening's excessiveness, we were almost ready to become as frugal and austere as Spartans). For dinner we ate carrot soup (made the same way as broccoli soup except with carrots and some freshly grated ginger), followed by a simple salad with lightly battered fried fish. For dessert we had homemade ice lollies. In case you are interested in making them yourself, here is the recipe.
Strawberry Ice Lollies
adapted from It's All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow
1 punnet of strawberries, rinsed and hulled
100ml double cream or coconut cream if you are lactose intolerant
2 tablespoons maple syrup
8 ice lolly moulds
- Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor
- pulse until completely smooth
- pour into moulds and pop into the freezer