Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Worried About The Cost Of Easter Eggs ?

Sonata :

If you've decided that , this year , vast expenditure on glittery cardboard boxes with measly inferior Easter eggs inside is to be avoided , then I have a couple of suggestions . From a 1937 children's magazine, it's true , but quick and easy .
Decorating hardboiled eggs is always an option ..... and gives you a tasty breakfast and present in one .

Zonneschijn kindly gives you a few decorating tips if you're stuck for ideas
Alternatively you can present cheaper eggs in natty baskets cut from cardboard ......

Or there's the , admittedly non-animal-welfare option ..... find a small fluffy kitten and present it to your child in a pretty ( re-usable ) cardboard egg . This cannot , unfortunately , cannot be repeated year after year , and has the added disadvantage of the hidden costs involved in feeding a rapidly growing cat for 15 or so years .

Easter lunch can also be a festive , but economical , meal if you prepare Boiled Rabbit with Parsley Sauce and follow it with Chocolate Mould and Custard ( recipes in Newne's Household Encyclopaedia , published 1931 ) .

I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to Millie , in writing this post . She is currently to be found caring for Rachel in her usual competent manner on Slow Lane Life .... see Blog List on the right .

Friday, 26 March 2010

Food in Catalonia


Just back from a quick trip to Barcelona and Vic in Catalonia (Spain). Although the main aim was research, so most of the time was spent in libraries, I still managed to fit in some tasty food! The fresh produce at this market in Vic was exceptional:

And, on my last day, I sat and enjoyed a set menu in the sunshine. So for the total of 10 euros I enjoyed... firstly, a bean stew:

Secondly, a fish dish (which was heavenly but not particularly photogenic, so will spare you the sight of it); and thirdly, a little dish of strawberries:

I should have joined the locals and danced a Sardana to work it all off! This pic was taken in Vic's main square, in fact, after the market had closed a music band from nearby Girona arrived and started to play. The Sardana is a sedate circle dance, and although there appears to be some etiquette involved, people just popped up to the circle and joined the dance as and when.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Final Push

Sonata :
When you get stuck and the WIP won't progress , drastic measures are needed .

Get the house to yourself . Turn off the television and computer . Make a big pot of soothing Rooibos tea . And let that nice Anna Massey read "Wild Swans" to you .

The binding will go on first time with complete success and you'll feel calm , cool and collected ...... until you go through the ghastly process of putting photos of the quilt up on Etsy .

Not even Anna Massey can help with that .

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Charmed Once Again By Haarlem

Last weekend Friend and I , both suffering from severe cabin fever , went off to Haarlem for the day .

It was startlingly cold again and we only had a few hours , so she strode about on her long legs and I did my Shetland pony trot alongside . Haarlem has over 1000 listed monuments and is officially designated Holland's Best Shopping city . So , despite this , seen in a window of a shop undergoing re-fitting , there was no shortage of things to enjoy

There were lots of quirky little shops . Ottomania , for instance , had a profusion of Turkish silks and Indian muslins , Hamam towels in every colour under the sun , Rumanian embroidery , French soaps and a handy ladder to reach the top shelves

Untold boutiques full of clothes for women with exquisite taste and the money to indulge it and an amazing number of places stuffed with beautiful old furniture artfully displayed . I fancied this myself but didn't think I could manage all of it in the train
There was even something for my husband , never an easy man to find a present for

A very nice lunch was eaten and then we popped into the St. Bavo Church and admired the work being done to show a little of what it would have looked like before the Reformation made plain white walls obligatory .

And noticed , to our delight , that a ten year old Mozart had played on the organ in 1766

One hopes he was warmly dressed at the time because I must say I have never been anywhere colder in my life . Apparently the church is known for it locally and I see that in the winter church services are held in a smaller church nearby .

All in all a very successful day and well worth a repeat visit soon . There were lots of things that we couldn't fit in . I'd have loved to have a coffee upstairs in the Douwe Egbert's cafe , for instance , next to this beautiful stained glass window

And , as this sign post showed , if you wanted to you could extend the whole "day out " idea to infinity

The bike path all the way to Santiago de Compostela ....

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

St Patrick's Day - cheers!


Something green is in order:

Personally, I have never made much of this day: no wearing of green, going to pubs galore or drinking a Guinness or more. However, given that building the family tree has revealed how much Irish there is in my maternal tree: O'Donnell; Brannan; Hill; McCall; Torpey and more. Most of whom left Ireland between the 1830s and the 1860s to seek their fortune elsewhere (Scotland; England; India; and Canada) as soldiers, musicians, japaners, and other industrial labourers perhaps I need to celebrate.

In addition, I have a can of Guinness in my fridge....

It has been there since I went to Dublin in September! But I think I should mark today. To all of those who will be raising a glass or two for reasons ancestral, cultural, or a random excuse - cheers!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Happy Mother's Day For British Mums Everywhere

Mothers Day is celebrated on different Sundays all over the world , so today this French card is really just for mothers in Britain .

But , whether you've baked her a Simnel Cake and trudged miles on your day off to give it to her Lark Rise To Candleford style or sent her flowers or help her out every day .... or just remember her with love

know that she thinks there should be a Daughter's Day and a Son's Day too . Because being a mother is perfect the year round , however sentimental and gooey that may sound !

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Cut Price Gardener's World

Sonata :
Lots of bloggers are posting photos of the signs of the end of winter in their gardens but Spring moves north at 15 miles a day apparently and it definitely hasn't reached here yet .There's only so much a fake tulip can do for one

so to cheer myself up I went to the garden centre to admire serried ranks of pansies . They're Reduced this week but none were being bought yet . It's much too cold to plant them out .... it was minus 5 a couple of nights ago

But all that colour was reviving !
I then cruised through the gardening equipment ( since when was the lawn clippings bit at the back an optional 45 Euro extra on a lawnmower ? ) .Then to Gardeners accoutrements .... vaguely Cath Kidston trowels and Gardeners apparel ... vaguely Cath Kidston gloves and wellies . A quick whizz round the tanks of fish and cat toys , a nod to the gnomes

and a goggle at the banks of silk ( nylon ? ) flowers for those who can't wait .

And home , clutching my only purchase

And , by the way , when you get home , frozen solid and famished , it's handy to have a pot of mixed olives and artichoke hearts marinaded in chili oil in the cupboard . Throw some in a pan with a courgette , garlic , onion and a tin of chopped tomatoes and bubble down while you cook pasta . It would wake the dead .

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Flying Zebras


I was all of a grumble yesterday, as I had - in an unguarded moment - agreed to attend a screening of documentaries at the Barbican on Journeys along the Thames and London waterways (partner has a thing about boats and other floating vessels). The screening was at a stupid time, 1.30 and - I wrongly thought - would last two hours. The sun was shining and all I wanted was to do something different.

Loh and behold, when we arrived at the Barbican, men and women were handing out leaflets saying 'Do something different'. The place was heaving, children galore, men and women with painted faces the colour of Avatar beings - though they were, in fact, being Indian deities for the East Festival - and there was yoga, dancing, lentils being stuck on bits of paper, balloons, Asian food... and I stopped grumbling. It was such colourful chaos.

The screening was a mixed bag, I must say (and you can watch the best short film on youtube: 'Barging through London (1924)'), but there was an excellent pianist for the silent film documentaries, and it was a shorter screening than I thought! Fully informed about our liquid history, we then noticed a long queue and thought we would join it.... and saw the cutest happening ever: the guitar playing Zebra Finches in The Curve gallery (do check it out on youtube). CĂ©leste Boursier-Mougenot has created this audio-landscape littered with instruments, where the birds fly about and if they land on a instrument they sort of play it. A walk through aviary with a difference.

So, despite my grumbling... I did do something different after all.

Oh, and because a post isn't a post without some sort of pic... we finally hung up the curtains in the study. Look at that sunshine!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Changing Clan

Sonata :
I love the way families expand . Not that ours has reached the proportions of this Belgian clan yet . Nor , actually , do we all have a trumpet .... not yet any way .

When I was little , everyone congregated at Granny's on Saturdays . A constant coming and going of relations , blending into a mass of teasing young adults , small wriggling children being force-fed calories by great aunts , and random less-frequently seen people like the regimental dancer who demonstrated the Sword Dance when asked nicely . There was the great-grandfather remembered as The Crooked Man Who Walked A Crooked Mile , the cousins who weren't but who may as well have been , and always some poor soul who might otherwise had to do without fifteen cups of tea , a warm by the fire and the chance to listen to an elderly uncle or two .
Now we're all scattered about and I cherish the times I can enjoy family get-togethers , big or small . Grandson needs to take his turn to be stuffed full of food , teased and listened to . My grandmother and my mother would have loved this little boy who wants to be a dipsy diver and who turns into a baby spider when tired .