Friday, 19 December 2014

The One Thing You Can't Be Without This Year

Among all the usual seasonal activities ; nearly forgetting to order the turkey , buying enough gift wrap to wallpaper St Peter's , buying yet more foil , lightbulbs and batteries , writing cards to relatives so distant that I can't remember what their children are called , hunting for globe artichokes that are smaller than footballs ... there now seems to be another  :

crocheting a Santa's beard for yourself or for a loved one ... preferably out of non-itchy wool .
( Sorry for the graininess of the photo . Our local free paper seems to be having an economy drive and is saving on ink )

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Are You Dreaming Of A Pink Christmas ?

No , neither am I .
But , according to the local garden center , various supermarkets and generous amounts of junk mail , that's what we're going to get , Bing Crosby notwithstanding .
Pink tinsel ,
      cup cakes ,
            poinsettias ,
                    paper napkins and
                            three foot high glittery squirrels .

 !!! Girl Power !!!
By which I don't mean feminism . ... no , I mean the Margaret Thatcher grip and iron control of the average seven year-old girl on her extended family.

Still , if your life is nor run by a small "princess " and you prefer a jokier Christmas tree , I've seen glittery tortoises in sailor hats , cows on skis and a bulldog in a feather boa ... oh sorry , he's pink .

Though you may , like this hairdresser in Groningen , have a more austere approach altogether .

Thursday, 20 November 2014

A Varied Diet

A few years ago , somebody or other recommended eating 40 different foods a week and I remember trying , and discovering that it was perfectly possible but a bit of a nuisance , really . Dozens of boxes of grains , seeds , cereals , nuts and pulses filled the cupboards and made me feel oddly guilty . And did a handful of capers and some chopped parsley really count as two separate items ?
Every now and then I'm prompted to try it again , so  when I saw Quaker's Multi Grain on the supermarket shelf  it seemed worth widening my porridge-bound breakfast horizons . Oats , rye and barley !

If you've not yet tried it  ..... in a word , DON'T.
If you really must have a go , ignore the cooking instructions entirely . Instead , unless you're smaller than a Borrower , mix  two  sachets of the stuff with extra water and bring to the boil , stirring ... you're aiming for the consistency of runny honey ... cook for 4-5 minutes , only letting it thicken/solidify at the end . Eat with lots of cream . Or , better still , throw it away and keep the cream for something nice .
I'll go back to making porridge my grandmother's way , soaking the oats overnight in water and then cooking slowly with a pinch of salt . A ham on rye sandwich for lunch and chicken soup with pot barley for supper will provide me with all three grains digestibly .

But I inadvertently discovered an instant answer to the 40 A Week quest when I grabbed a tuna and tomato sandwich at a station buffet on Tuesday . It tasted unremarkable if rather mayonnaise-y  . BUT , when I read the list of contents I was astonished to see that it had 53 ingredients ! To be fair , 4 were water and 5 were E numbers but even so ... one of these a week and I could give up the whole attempt to include amaranth and goji berries in normal meals .

Anyway , if I'm in need of a change , our local supermarket has just started stocking chocolate covered grasshoppers ...

though the reviews are mixed .

Friday, 14 November 2014

Sometimes Matchy-Matchy Can Be Recommended

I know that  'matchy-matchy'  is fashion death these days and one doesn't see many twin-sets any more , with or without pearls , but I have to say that having matching eyes again is rather nice . The second cataract has been removed and depth perception has been restored . Bliss !

No more gingerly tapping round with one's foot before going down unfamiliar , badly lit stairs  .... though now I absentmindedly grope for my specs instead , till I remember that I don't have any  at the moment . Once I've had a checkup I'll get some new ones , less strong and less like jam jar bottoms .

But of course , looking decidedly co-ordinated hasn't always been a no-no  . Whole families went in for it ! From Hebden Bridge ( left ) to Belgium ( right ) it was considered very smart .


I caught the last half-hour of Gilles Porte's Autoportraits on TV5 Monde this week . So I've found a bit for you on YouTube , in case you haven't seen it . It's quite long ... every time you think it's finished , they show a bit more ... but it'll give you time for another cup of coffee ... and the children's faces are wonderful . Such concentration !

Monday, 3 November 2014

Sunshine , Pink Tea and Runny Cheese

Now that I have a day to myself each week , the world's grown a bit and I can go to Groningen again  for a couple of hours .
Just long enough to wander past the museum and through  the town enjoying the sun , finding odd corners and  playing the 'what would it be like to live in this street ' game

Rummaging for second hand CDs in the recycling shop to play at least once ... the soundtrack from a French film about Seville

and Verdi's Il Trovatore with Leontyne Price this time  , both to be played again .

A 'Seventies relic which I bore off in triumph , much to the surprise of the junk shop's owner  ... "It doesn't go any more " he warned . Good , these always had a deafening tic and only a masochist would repair it  but I couldn't resist it for a Euro , could I ?

 Treating myself to a quarter of exceedingly fruity Apple and Hibiscus tea and a cheerful Father Christmas tin to keep it in , lest the whole flat smells of it .
Buying good bread , runny cheese and tiny sweet tomatoes  for supper and running to the train clutching a ham baguette . Putting my feet up in the evening with that morning's paper and a cup of gorgeously pink hibiscus tea .

 Nothing earth-shattering ... just fun .

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Weekend Supplement Delusions

Workshops are the thing these days . You can try anything crafty ; felt making , jewellery , papier machè , screenprinting , upholstery ....  A few years ago , my great-aunts , then in their mid-eighties , started painting plates for their many relations after a workshop on pottery painting .... before they turned to ragdoll making after another .The trouble is I don't really want to do these things . Nor do I want to want to become an online fashion editor courtesy of a Guardian media course , 99 Pounds , book included ... I haven't got the clothes for it . 
But after reading the Volkskrant weekend supplement yesterday ,  I was entranced by a workshop offered by . In the space of two days you learn enough to build your own wooden skis . Pepperblue , a German company , give weekend courses in Beieren or Innsbruk . It woke all my old Chalet School fantasies .
Actually I've never skied and if I really wanted to , I could buy a pair from Zai in Switzerland or Ronning in Norway ... but I've never fantasised about Norway ....

While I was Googling to find a vintage Chalet School cover with skis on ( YD having taken all hers with her when she moved out ) , I was astonished to find that there's a fanclub . Perhaps I'll just join this instead .

P.S. At Friday lunchtime a student , cycling past back from the college , was singing Queen's I Want To Break Free very , very loudly .  Whatever class he'd had hadn't gone well ...

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Our Madonna With Cherries

There are hundreds of representations of The Madonna With Cherries , all of them beautiful . But today I stood admiring our local version and had to think that it was one of the best I've ever seen .

It used to stand , almost unnoticed , in a corner by the lift in the old hospital ... the one that was run by the nuns ,

and is still remembered with gratitude by generations of ailing Leeuwarders . The town now has a spiffy new hospital with dozens of lifts and every machine known to man and the old Bonnehûs   ( St Bonifatius hospital  ) has been demolished with exec. residences put up on the land instead .
But dotted about the splendid shiny new Medical Center  (I still think Bonnehûs sounds more comforting )   there are little reminders .
This statue is perfect and children , in particular , must have loved it . Symbolically , cherries represent sweetness of character derived from good works and cherries in the hand of The Christ Child suggest the delights of the blessed  .
And over his ears ?