By dint of working through endless weekends over the winter , supervising the rehousing of her firm's headquarters to larger premises the other side of town , Youngest Daughter earned two extra weeks holiday this summer .The offer of a flat in Budapest , a friend's desire to go to the Opera in Vienna and a love of Italian food ... and she was off on a 2016 version of the Grand Tour .
I'd get 'phone calls from minor airports , Alpine river banks , libraries , forests or street corner cafes ( preferably next to a tram line ) .
She was having the time of her life , and not even a superfluity of " potatoes and pig's elbows " on Munich lunch menus was daunting . A couple of German castles revived her spirits swiftly .
The fact that Prague smelled of forests , had a municipal diving center in the middle
of the city and that the people all seemed to love living there made her want to stay for ever .
A huge park in Salzburg , breakfasts in Budapest , chocolate cakes in Austria , the Kunshistorisches Museum in Vienna and having the Vermeers to herself ... surviving the Marriage of Figaro in a 38C degree Opera House , ... the apericena in Venice with Aperol spritzers and buffets of endless delight , five hours in Florence's Uffizi and some risotto ,
the market and food in Milan and a treasure hunt in its Salvation Army thrift shop made it all most uplifting and every bit as educational as any Grand Tour could hope to be .
The first card is a self portrait of Sofonisba Anguissola , "Her eyes look like mine in a Viennese cake shop "
And the second is Agnolo di Cosimo's portrait of Giovanni de'Medici as a child in the Uffizi ... is it possible to adopt a postcard ?
It didn't rain on Thursday so I sat on the balcony and took stock .
The lavender hasn't died . The two cherry tomato plants are looking pale but brave and when I got down on hands and knees and squinted , I counted five tomatoes . One this size , O and four this size .
My Wildflower Plantation , a large-ish earthenware pot , sewn with a packet of Bee and Butterfly attracting plant seeds that the housing association gave each of us this year
has burst forth into one white flower too tiny to identify , two pink ditto , a pretty purple sweetpea affair and a cornflower .
Local bees seem to be reluctant to venture forth however , though I have seen two hoverflies doing their silent best to fill the gap .
Never mind , with a balcony 10 by 6 foot , I was hardly hoping to be self-sufficient but yesterday's paper has a large article on page 2 telling us that due to flooding and hailstorms spinach , paksoi , lettuce and rocket will be in short supply till September , at least ... and I'm already a little tired of carrots ...
It's chicken barley soup for supper and a kiwi fruit .
P.S. The plant pots and labels aren't mine . Not even I am that optimistic . They were stacked ín a corner of the Orangery in Utrecht's Hortus , where the cactii were sheltering from the rain .
When I go into town during the day , I'm passed by throngs of students all talking about everything under the sun . Chinese , German , Iranian , Spanish , Canadian , Italian , Dutch and Danes . They're exchanging ideas , networking , chatting each other up ... learning about the world and all its possibilities . Learning about each other , how to work with each other and how to get on .
That Europe consists of a lot more than hen nights in Amsterdam , making out in Magaluf or getting frustrated in a traffic jam on the way to a tent in Brittany . That there are many different ways to organise train networks , schools , theaters , hospitals , hotels and libraries . That not everyone remembers the 20th century the same ...
These students aren't the future elite , our college is the equivalent of an old polytechnic , but what they pick up in the next few years will affect daily life for us all for years .
British students need to be able to join them , they need to have the freedom to get work experience in Bremen or Bologna . To sofa-surf in Munich or Lisbon or to commute in Salzburg . To eat something ribsticking in Budapest and to swing through Antwerp in a tram .
I want this for my grandchildren and their friends . But thanks to Brexit , it's just got a lot harder .
Do you actually like roasted cauliflower ?
Or is it just me ? Perhaps I didn't cook it very well ... but I come from a generation that ate cauliflower decently cloaked in cheese sauce or later , influenced by Mahdur Jaffrey , as Gingery Cauliflower soup . I watch young cooks now making couscous from it ... and rather wonder why they don't just use couscous .
But then , I'm post Fanny Craddock and pre no-carbs . We post-war children were encouraged to eat everything in sight by grannies who'd battled through rationing , and experimented on by Festival of Britain mothers who wildly added gherkins or pineapple chunks to things .
My generation , armed with Elizabeth David and complete ignorance , burst with brio into a world of olive oil and After Eight mints .
I have memories of cheerfully deciding to make Beef Wellington for a dinner party ... I was 20 , I think , and only had a rough idea of how to make pastry but we and the guests survived ... though both I and the beef had turned grey with worry by the time it was served .
Still , we all learnt and ventured into moussaka , chilli and kebabs . Chicken became clichéd , cod scarcer , rabbit stew a curiosity ...
I ran away to Spain and lived there for twenty years , so I learnt how to clean and cook fish , make tortillas and hearty lentil stews and what to do with pigs trotters . Then we came to Holland and ate lots of good cheese and searched for a decent tomato and non-watery cucumber . More and more North Africans appeared and they opened shops , filled with olives and feta , proper tomatoes and chick peas . The world slowly became more organic , bread better and pineapples broke free from their tins . Had it stopped there , all would have been well ...
But somehow or other , the last year or two have taken another giant step forward ;
gluten's bad , milk's bad if it's been anywhere near a cow , carbohydrates are unmentionable in polite society , butter was bad but is now good , and this week's taste sensation appears to be ice cream made from coconut milk , green tea powder and vanilla .
And anyone worth their salt can perform miracles with cauliflowers . Well , anyone except me ...
Still , I'll just celebrate a recent brunch , simply and perfectly delicious and eaten in the best of company : perfectly fresh free range eggs with green asparagus 'soldiers ' to dip in , and freshly baked , still warm Turkish rolls from a nearby baker . And best of all , not cooked by me .
* A rather tatty recipe leaflet given out in 1928 by the Dutch Confederation of Potato Merchants , containing 90 recipes ranging from mashed potatoes to mashed potatoes with cheese ...
Had someone told me a few years ago that the best way to widen one's circle of acquaintances was to hang over a bridge with a handful of similarly idle adults , exchanging breathless updates on a bird's nest , I wouldn't have believed them .
The eight eggs have become three plump fledgelings and are , as of today , allowed out of the nest , carefully shepherded by both parents . The gloomier among us who predicted instant disaster in the form of ingestion by huge fish or being turned into mincemeat by outboard motor have been proved wrong .
The woman who won't feed them even a crust of bread in case they become "too reliant on Fast Food" is being ignored by another fan who buys them biscuits .
And the man who knows everything now says he knew they'd have three , because coots always do ... even though at first he'd said it was a ( adjective deleted ) stupid place to have nested and no good would come of it .
And , so far , I've managed not to drop my camera in the water .
I've only lived here for twenty years so can't hope to know everyone yet , unlike an extremely elderly neighbour who pointed out a wizened old chap in a scootmobile to me , yesterday , "He was my mother's milkman , you know " .
But now I'll be able to say in fifty years time , "That's the Gwyneth Paltrow woman of us waterfowl fanciers , you know ."
Of course I have been doing other things , too .
The Annual Scarf gets a centimeter longer every day . It was inspired , in part , by this poster
And by a couple of recently painted houses in Groningen
Oh , and talking of posters ...
I now find myself considering every cat I come across ... The power of advertising .
I've always liked coots. They're excellent mothers , impeccably smart in their black and white ensembles and they do build very designer-y nests .
And , as if that weren't enough , they can run on water . Magnificent !
This year ,there's a family ensconced next to the supermarket , in one of the strange emergency housing/floating window box affairs the council puts up along the canal where the water's too enclosed by high walls for nest-building .
Everyone going past is stopping to see how they're doing . On Friday we could all see eight eggs !
By yesterday evening , as passersby were hanging over the railing trying to see if any had hatched , we were rewarded by a glimpse of a rather squashed redheaded chick . And after I'd bought some tomatoes and a yoghurt , there were two ... and even more onlookers .
We're all going to have to nip along to buy something else today . Maybe we should have a club scarf ... black and white with a narrow red stripe ?
Oh , and talking about fan clubs ... It's no wonder the lady from my last post looks rather pleased with herself ; here she is in the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam , still drawing admiring glances !
Thankyou for the advice ... you're right , of course .
This season's wardobe must have a touch of pink ; and deep olive green does go so well with certain shades of pink . Definitely a paisley shawl and a somewhat larger bonnet with slightly larger ribbons for high days and holidays . And , given the chilly wind , the football socks sound cosy .
Just not the gardening clogs or Twinkletoe's gold trainers ... I'm not convinced they're me , somehow .
J.A. Kruseman's anonymous lady* , painted in 1829 , looks so delighted with her outfit and I'm sure I will be , too .
* Doesn't she look like Mrs. Bumble !
SmitoniusAndSonata is a mother and daughter collective blog.
London based Smitonius (Jessamy) makes one of a kind jewellery using vintage buttons, as well as a combination of beads from all over Europe: from lampwork ones by a range of UK artists to vintage and modern glass beads.
Sonata is a miniature quilt maker based in the North of Holland (Leeuwarden). Geraldine Keyzer is already known to collectors of Hitty dolls and owners of vintage dollhouses. She likes to use vintage as well modern cotton to create a range of quilts from simple One Patch to the more complex Grandmother's Garden.