Happy Birthday, Nijntje!

Birthday Girl
On this day in 1955, Nijntje made her debut. Drawn by Utrecht native, Dick Bruna, she’s gone on to feature in numerous books and cartoons and has become well-known around the world. She’s better known as Miffy to most of the world, since Nijntje is a bit of a puzzle for those not familiar with Dutch. For what it’s worth, Nijntje is a shortened, diminutive form of the word konijn, which means rabbit.
Nijntje Pleintje
She’s got quite the presence here in Utrecht. She has her own square (Nijntje Pleintje as seen in the above photo). She’s also the symbol used for some of the walk/don’t walk lights here in town. She’s being used on some directional signs here in Utrecht, and of course, she plays a huge part in the Dick Bruna Huis, which is a part of the Utrecht Centraal Museum.
Dick Bruna Huis
MuseumWeekend [Day 102/365]
She’s a charming little bunny and a nice thing to have associated with Utrecht. Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Nijntje!

Gefeliciteerd, Utrecht!

Dutch circle party is optional, but gefeliciteerds are in order, because Utrecht is celebrating its 888th birthday today! On June 2, 1122, Emperor Henrik V officially recognized Utrecht as a city. (Don’t forget that Utrecht as an inhabited location has been around since at least 50 CE with the Roman fortifications, although there are possible inhabitants dating back to the Stone Age (2200 BCE.)

There are various events going on around town today and this week to celebrate the birthday, including special discounts and such for people whose name derives from Henrik (Henrietta, Harry, etc.). If you’re in town and curious, there’s information in Dutch here.

The sun is shining and the weather is gorgeous today; perfect weather for a birthday!

There’s lots of interesting history about Utrecht in its Wikipedia page. Check it out. For the record, the diagonal red and white shield seen above is the symbol of Utrecht. Here are a few more random photos of this lovely city.
Light and Lights
Oude Gracht
Flora and Fountain
Toren Arch
Period Piece

Small Round Foods

Birthday Smorgasbord
Usually for my birthday, I like to go out for sushi. This year, I didn’t really feel like going out, but I still wanted to have a variety of small foods from which to choose. So I pulled out the various recipes for appetizers and sides that I’d bookmarked on Foodgawker and put together a menu of small round foods. I’ve often wanted to do a meal with a few of these, but figured it was a bit odd. As birthday girl, though, I could get away with odd! I enjoy cooking, so this was also something fun for me to do. I spent all Monday afternoon and into early evening cooking each of these small food items. Garlic balls and eggplant balls, zucchini and olive pancakes, shrimp cakes, broccoli tikkis, chicken pieces wrapped in bacon and coated with honey mustard, Asian-flavored meatballs coated in rice, corn, goat cheese and leek fritters, and shrimp salad in phyllo cups. Sparkling wine to accompany it all, of course.

It was a fun way to celebrate a birthday I wasn’t particularly excited about. There was birthday cake, too, of course. A big round food! Last year I had thought about making a German chocolate cake — my favorite — but ended up going the chocolate and raspberry route instead. This year I was determined to make my favorite. It’s not quite the same appearance, but it tastes close enough to keep me happy! So despite the snow that started my day, rather than the bright sunshine I’d been hoping for, the day ended up quite cheerful and fun and delicious. The sun even came out later in the day!
Birthday [Day 66/365]


Today is Giovanni’s birthday. He decided to go for a low-key celebration, so we’re staying home and I’m making a wine-based beef stew, as he requested. Tomorrow, though, is a different story. We’re going to see Eddie Izzard perform in Amsterdam. Not too shabby a way to celebrate!


I’m not sure if he actually reads my blog that often, but if he does, I’d like to wish my dad a very happy birthday today. In his honor — since I can’t be there to cook him a big fancy dinner as I used to do — I went wandering around town taking photos. Sure, with digital cameras, the processing nowadays is little more than moving them off the memory card, but I’ll always have fond memories of helping him develop photos in his darkroom set up in the garage. I also hear his voice in my head as I’m framing shots. 😉


Yesterday was my birthday and my first one to be celebrated in the Netherlands. Since cake isn’t as popular here as pies and pastries, I figured I’d make my own — although I probably would have made my own, anyway. I’m not a huge fan of baking, but I do enjoy making the occasional cake.

I knew I wanted chocolate cake — it’s my favorite — but I wasn’t sure if I wanted fruit added in somehow, or if I wanted my beloved German Chocolate Cake. Since pecans aren’t as easy to come by here, I decided to go the fruit route. I went with raspberries, since they have a nice subtle tartness that I thought would offset the chocolate. In the end, I made a three-layer chocolate cake (the middle layer had bits of chopped up dark chocolate added in, just because), with raspberry compote between the layers, all topped off with a cream cheese icing. I think icing is the better term, rather than frosting, as the cream cheese mix was a bit on the thin side.

I spent much of the day making the cake — with a pause for Giovanni to surprise me with a fun new watch — and the rest of the afternoon doing very little. As has been the habit now for the past five or six years, we went out for sushi for my birthday dinner. We stopped in at the Potdeksel for a fluitje, while I decided which of the two sushi restaurants to try. Since we had been planning on going to Graaf Floris on the Oude Gracht for an Irish coffee after dinner, I ultimately decided on the restaurant on Voorstraat, since it’s a bit closer to the Oude Gracht. Unfortunately, it’s a small restaurant and there were no tables free for at least half an hour. With that news, we decided to try the new sushi place on Nachtegaalstraat. Fortunately, they had a table and the food was really quite good. It was much better than the sushi we’d had at the restaurant on Mariaplaats.

After a lovely dinner of salmon, tuna and eel, among other things, we decided to head to Graaf Floris to get the much-anticipated Irish coffee. Sadly, as soon as we stepped outside, we realized it was raining quite heavily! None of us had an umbrella and the wind was blowing quite strongly, so we decided to head back to the Potdeksel for an Irish coffee there, instead! At one point, the wind was blowing so strongly that we ended up with the rain blowing sideways, straight into our ears! Fortunately, by the time we left the Potdeksel — the cake was beckoning — the rain had stopped.

We went home and cut into the cake. Delicious, if I say so myself! Well worth the time and effort! In all, my first birthday here was a low-key but pleasant day. In other words, a pretty good birthday!