Thursday, 26 December 2013

Better Late Than Never

The last ten days whirled by . By some sort of miracle there was a turkey and industrial quantities of olives  . YD worked her own miracle by managing to make a detour via Marks on her dash from work, leaping on and off trams , and grabbing one of the last Chritmas puds. on her way to the train north from Amsterdam , on Tuesday . Husband persuaded our wizened tree to perch in the corner without toppling , though rather ruined it by his aside ,  "That's a very ugly tree" . I keep on expecting it to keel over , its self confidence totally destroyed . I find myself murmuring encouragement , every time I pass it .
Never mind , if needs be , I'll hastily copy the local library's clever idea ....

So , with apologies for the delay , I wish you all a wonderfully Merry Christmas however you're celebrating, !

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Some Graffiti Is Cosier Than Others

When I was little and went to the cinema with my mother , she'd censor the film . Whenever there was a scary bit ... the burning of Atlanta in Gone With The Wind , for instance ... her hand would suddenly be clapped in front of my eyes till she judged it suitabe to watch again .
Whenever I cycle past a wall of graffiti I think of her . I don't think the above would have got past her but she'd have liked this , even though cats always made her sneeze .

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Doing Good , One Way Or Another

Knitted kittens apart , the big aim in town this month is to raise lots of money for 3FM - Serious Request 's drive to provide clean water and sanitation in Third World countries . And I love the Nature Museum's fundraiser this weekend ... two whole days of poop and pee , specially aimed at children , if you see what I mean . Lots of delightfully Ee-uugh!  exhibits , films of wiggly bacteria and shedding tapeworms , sewers and smells and farts galore . A guaranteed success  . I expect it's been full of giggly little boys revelling in the rudeness of it all !
 If shit's not your thing and you missed the Auction and the Popmarathon , there's always the Christmas Market next weekend . Later  there's a three day rowing marathon following the Elfstedentocht route ...for once ,  we'll have to hope that there isn't a freeze . And for those who love wearing tickly fake beards , red dressing gowns and black wellie boots , there's a Santa run on the 21st .
 Meanwhile I should really clear out the kichen drawers ... there's a schoolgirl who's collecting up everone's old ballpoint pens . 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Sucking Eggs

One each side , Mum and daughter hoisted Gran up into the train and helped her down the carriage , her feet hardly touching the ground . They parked her next to me , after checking for draughts and possible noisy ,  neighbouring children .  Then grandaughter retreated behind her 'phone and Mum heaved a sigh of relief . Everyone in the carriage who'd ever had anything to do with the day-to-day care of an elderly relative looked on in sympathy .
Gran opened her enormous handbag ... one of those that open with a clasp at the top ... and started rummaging . I , who tend to do the same , watched fascinated . What was she looking for ... reading glasses ? hanky ? or a packet of Wilhelmina Extra Strong Peppermints ?
No . With a smart click of her wrist , she pulled a tablet out of the depths , opened it and announced to her daughter ,
"I'm going to read the paper. " . And did ... the online version .
I wish she'd give me a few tips ... my laptop and I need to be re-trained . Hence the infrequent posts  lately .

Friday, 15 November 2013

Ch...mas Shopping

It's nearly time to start Christmas shopping . I like to think about it for a while , ponder all the possibilities , ask everyone what they'd like , make lists , narrow it down . Usually by the time I've done all this , it's suddenly nine days before Christmas  , I still haven't bought anything and the shops look as though looters have swept through . So , instead , yesterday I set the alarm and went down to Amsterdam on the first train .
 And now I'm back ... with a pop-up book about  a goose for Small Grandson ....No , not just any old pop-up book . It's in English and from Waterstone's in Kalverstraat  ( only because I temporarily mislaid the American Bookshop round the corner ) . You might think that the language it's written in is of minor importance , given that he's still not quite two , but his big brother felt that it was , so I complied . Of course , I know that he'd really have preferred his own baby elephant and a banana plantation but his parents haven't really got room for a howdah and the neighbours might complain ..
Still , I'd made a start and  after a break for lunch , a bowl of sweet potato and coconut soup ( delicious ! ) and a chunk of homemade bread  in this corner of a tiny side-street cafè  , I

went window-shopping and managed to find a few stocking fillers .

But the real breakthrough present-wise came when I got back to Leeuwarden in the evening . Stowed next to mine in the bike racks was this !

Look! The perfect Christmas present for everyone ... crocheted mud guards . It's enough to tempt me to conquer my inability to crochet

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Kittensssss .... or how to avoid doing something else

Displacement activity can take many forms ,. Ideally it involves doing something non-essential that still leaves you feeling that you've been mildly virtuous ;  throwing out old bus tickets is good . Making somethig small , knitted and for charity is better . May I present the perfect example ?

At the moment the Dutch Animal Protection website has the pattern for a kitten :   "Knitten een kitten". The plan is to collect as many as possible to raise cash to get all the litters of  kittens  that are abandoned each year at their door ,   socialised and vaccinated ready for adoption .
So here's Hoskins  (   spending extra time to think of a  name wastes even more time. A definite plus-point )   . Heather followed and now I seem inadvertently to have cast on the as yet unamed third ...
I'm now at risk of being locked up with a couple of other volunteers .
Posted by Picasa

Monday, 28 October 2013

One Minute We Had A Bus Stop , The Next ...

Having decided not to cycle to the hospital this morning , given the Red Alert , we were to take the 12 o'clock bus . But , as I stood on the balcony watching the storm just after eleven , a big tree dropped across the road and landed right  on top of the bus stop . When I phoned to cancel  , the receptionist didn't sound too surprised .
Meanwhile at the other end of the road , a smaller tree keeled over on the river bank and the lovely weeping willow lashed back and forth , branches ripping off and dropped into the water .Amazingly,  a few students were still riding their bikes up to the college and back . I wouldn't have dared .

I hope the storm treated you ... and your trees ... kindly . Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Wooly Hats In The Rijksmuseum

Now that it's been re-opened , beautifully refurbished and reorganised , I decided to go down to Amsterdam and  have a day in the Rijks Museum .
And loved it all , of course . No , not the queues or the crowds ... it's apparently best to go early on Monday mornings , difficult unless you live round the corner ... but the excellence and variety of the collections is stunning .
And therein lies the problem . Even after a pause for lunch , by Floor 2 and the Seventeenth century  I was slightly overwhelmed . Bewigged gentlemen , tapestries and silver , Renaissance angels and Greek gods , pomegranates , hunting scenes and men-of-war had become  indistinguishable ....
Then I turned a corner and , under a large painting of  another stormtossed boat  , I found a small cabinet of wooly hats .

In 1980 , while excavating the graves of 185 Dutch whalers who had died while working in Spitsbergen in the seventeenth century , archaologists found that the bodies were still wearing their woolen caps . In the bitter cold of an Artic winter , the caps , all different ,  had been the only way to distinguish one sailor from another , muffled up as they all were to the eyes .
And , for me , nothing made the past more real than this little group of wooly hats , stocking-stitch stll clear and colours fresh . You could picture them all : lanky Piet with his stripey stovepipe , pompous Hendrijk in his brimmed hat and little Jan in his beige bunnet . And the wives and mothers who'd knitted each cap and waited for the boat's return .

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

What Have We Here ?

At the moment , I seem to have lost control of this blog . The inclusion of photos is purely random and exclusively Blogger's , though the photos themselves are mine . So all I can do , it seems is throw a selection in the air and add a few words to whatever appears . 
Anyway , first you have the ingredients of my new love , the Do-It-Yourself Muesli from Mimi Spencer's Fast Diet recipe book . It could be more accurately named The Most Expensive Muesli In The World , I must add ... but it's delicious  , and , since you just add what you actually like , needn't contain anything unappetising . I've added chia seeds because I had them and left out pumpkin seeds because I didn't ... and am delighted with the result . I'm not too convinced , though , of its place in a diet book . Far too decadent ! As are her chicken meatballs or Romano peppers ...
And next , we seem to have a collage of two photos , one taken in Amsterdam's Jordaan district and the other in London's Westfield Center .  So readers ... which shoes are you likely to totter out of the shop wearing and which would you be eating ? 
( And now , with a devil-may-care flourish , I'm going to press Publish and see if any photos actually appear at all . If , in fact , you're now looking at photos of tomatoes and of Harry Selfridge reconstucted in Jelly Beans , I apologise . )


Sunday, 22 September 2013

Catching Up ...

I know , we faded from view ...  My laptop felt peaky , WiFi vanished and I rediscovered Outside .
Since when , a lot has been done and thoroughly enjoyed ....

 There's been very old buildings ... with  stairs  , spiral and endless ... and not such old ones . Surprises . I discovered that , on hot days ,  Selfridges staff enjoy a roof terrace with bean bags , deck chairs and Astroturf
and that our local mayor has a hard hat and clogs handy by the fireplace in his office .

There were museums and a talk on interior architecture in Leeuwarden during the Golden Age . Ancient wallpaper

 and not such ancient three-piece suites .

 And unexpected details .
Animals , herb gardens and city farms .

 And, best of all ,  grandchildren . Air guitar and chocolate buttons . Fearless holding of falcons , and having to hunt for a suddenly lost front tooth till we agreed that it must have been swallowed ...  and the ensuing discussions about the Tooth Fairy's job description as laid down in her work contract . Books and songs , swings and all manner of furry elephants  . And loving presents of squashed bananas and beaming smiles ...
 Trains , buses ( you have no idea just how long ten hours can be till you go from Amsterdam to London on a Eurolines bus ) and boats . Sunsets and stained glass


And food , lots and lots of delicious food ... which , sensibly,  I just ate without taking a single photo .

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Back To Earth With A Bump

Sonata :
 After a busy week of , sometimes almost hedonistic , delights ranging from cafe-crawling and tapas in Amsterdam to celebrate YD's birthday and a delectably fishy dinner in Leeuwarden to celebrate friend's ditto ,  to a plateless Book Fair all-in Special in Deventer

 ( though this , to be honest , did belong more to the Food As Fuel school of mass catering ... but was served with speed and a smile ) , I was beginning to see myself in a whole new light . No , I'm not a medium-sized , white-haired , nosy older woman in sensible shoes at all . That's just a disguise . Really , I look like this :

 Or at least I did , until I picked up my new glasses yesterday . I'm obviously now being re-cast as an elderly gent .

So , I'm back on the sofa with the most sensible of my Book Fair finds , Daughter of Persia by Sattereh Farman Farmaian and Donna Munker ... plus a couple of elderly Italian cooker magazines .
Oh yes , and there's Always the Swiss Gospel Choir's concert on Friday in a nearby village ....

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Retail Therapy ... Of A Modest Nature

 By this weekend I'd recovered sufficiently to have a Nice Day Out .... Smitonius' idea .... and , as always , she was quite right .
I always enjoy a trip to Groningen and yesterday , with the sun blazing , it was particularly lively . The cafè on the corner of the market square , where you'd only sit if you had all the time in the world and no desire to eat anything till tomorrow , had a terrace full of comatose clients and no visible staff but did have a very nice black upright piano outside , which a young man was playing Thirties show tunes on . Very tempting , but I decided to save time and  chose a cafè a bit further along , which served coffee so strong it gave me palpitations . Perfect ! I had a lot to do .
So off to  Cook&Co for a handy gadget to add to YD's ever-growing collection of toys for her kitchen and yet another cookery book ... they might console her for being even more ancient than she was last week . The Italian deli for Lomo Adobado and vinegar . A browse through the C.D.s in a little shop that specialises in harder to find recordings .
 Then on to little places with lovely soaps , French stationery , pretty scarves or vintage china  . Past a tiny place where you can order a bespoke table or bookshelves , whose owner sat playing the clarinet . Cyclists wove in and out , a child bounced past on a Skippy Ball ( they must be in again . That's the second I''ve seen this week ) . People strolled along with ice creams or bags of cherries from the market .
Then suddenly the sky went black , it poured weirdly warm rain and I discovered I'd brought the umbrella that only opens half way up so nipped into the second-hand bookshop that stocks English paperbacks for a Euro and found six , including Armistead Maupin's Babycakes .
And finally the North African shop for the best dried apricots ever and lots of herby olives . All in all , great fun and not at all an extravagant day out .
 No , the real , rather disastrous,  loss of control was a few days earlier ... My unbending resolve to disembarrass myself of clutter and Not Buy Any More collapsed in the face of a snail . Meet Stanley ...

He did  only cost a Euro ....

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

It's Probably Too Early To Claim A Miracle Cure But ...

Sonata: I've been getting more and more weary , lately  . By last week , I thought if it got any worse , I'd be clinging onto the furniture to get round the flat and having to climb a flight of stairs was enough to put me off going to the library .
Today , while I'm not running the four-minute mile or auditioning for the Cambuur cheerleaders , I do look a lot less like Dracula's latest victim . Almost perky , in fact . I've started taking iron tablets and feel as though I've risen from the dead .
It's just a pity that I still can't do high kicks .... Next week , perhaps .

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Oma's Erupting Spiced Apple Cake


 You're not to laugh , it's not funny .

 Note to self : When recipe  makes a startling amount of cake batter , don't just pour it all into the loaf tin as instructed , till you think it's going to overflow . Use your common sense and  stop . You won't regret it .
 And no , you're not going to see a luscious slice of Oma's Actually Rather Nice Spiced Apple Cake sitting on a pretty plate . Having been sniggered at , it's gone all shy .

Nearly as shy as me , when the house painters swooped early this morning to do next door's windows . 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Not Totally Predictable , No .

  Friko , in her latest post , talks about the predictability ... or otherwise ... of  life  and , unlike others ,  feels that day-to-day control lies within one's grasp . I'd like to think it's true  I suppose it depends on whether you're  a glass half full or glass half empty person , certainly once you reach your sixties .

*But much as I'd  love to live a life of wild spontaneity , treats and new experiences , I don't . The occasional Day Out to somewhere unfamiliar apart , days tend to follow one another , rather like a procession of cowled monks .
 Still , it doesn't have to be dull .  There's always one's fellow man to provide entertainment , even on routine trips to the supermarket ... Yesterday  a couple ahead of me were rushing about with their trolley stacked  with an odd assortiment of groceries . "How about a magazine ? ", he asked  , sounding slightly desperate,  handing her one about cars .
 "No ! I've  explained this already  ! I said I only want blue and white things " .
 " Look , they've got blue Durex . Will that do ? "
"Perfect!... now a gift token and we can give it to him when we get there ".
 I think they were putting together a care package for their son who'd moved out and was a new flat-sharer . I went off trying to imagine previous generations of parents tossing condoms in among the instant mash and tins of soup , let alone colour co-ordinate it .

* P.S. No , Husband and I aren't  quite like this ... I don't really have whiskers  fortunately .. .but , when Y.D . packed up her things the other day to take them down to Amsterdam ,  I rescued  the contents  of  her doll's house and have put them in our storeroom . Yes , I know , I'm not very good at de-cluttering , but suppose there's ever a granddaughter ?

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Hang on , I'll Just Google it ....

A few of the things Googled this week ....
How to open an old Cable Turtle  ( you can't if it's really old and not bendy , I gather ) , which leads me onto How to Cable Stitch Crochet , bypassing the unattractive sounding Cable Gland , which two pages later segues into How to clean a turtle tank ( no , you can't just hand them each a dish mop )

Tashkent ..

How to cook Red Camargue Rice .... again ..... it's my recurring Senior Moment . I can never remember how much water to use .

Victor Mature .

Lotus Eating .

How much cholesterol in liver ( too much if you're on a low cholesterol diet . You'd be safer just eating the bacon ) .

Springing hedgehogs .... don't panic ! Macrocranion Tupaiodon lived thousands of years ago and was  wooly rather than spikey , anyway . There's a very nice  fossil in our local Nature museum , if you're passing .

Junket .

This year''s Top Names For Babies .But somehow I can't see Will and Kate choosing  Atticus , Magnus or Hank if it's a boy , while neither Juno nor Lizzie seem quite right if it's a girl . We'll just have to wait and see .

Encyclopaedia Britannica .
See , hours of fun !

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Summer Popped In For A Brief Visit

Sonata :
 The sun shone and the new shorts were worn and declared good ( well , O.K. was actually  the expression used . They'll only be accepted wholeheartedly when worn to a shred )  . We lounged by the river

 and ate an inelegant number of sandwiches and tiny cherry tomatoes . Clouds of Queen Anne's Lace frothed everywhere and distinctly beefy-looking sheep chewed endlessly .

 A stork played peek-a-boo , rising up above the trees every time I'd put the camera away  .Idyllic .
But  Husband declared himself all pic-nicked out after this ... he prefers eating at a table ... so I went out on my own as often as possible while the good weather lasted and packed as much summer as I could into the next few days .
 Back up the bike path with the unlikely name ,

 past the genuine ramshackle country bits

 and the picture-postcard country bits

through yet more Queen Anne's Lace

 and horses in buttercup fields .

Past the odd sudden surprise ,

 little churchyards and the rather grandly named Leeuwarden Wood , planted twenty years ago and finally looking almost woodlike

 And I'm very glad I did . It's raining and early dark again today . Summer 2013 at its best .
 Never mind .There's Cumin Crusted Aubergines and apples with cinnamon baking in the oven and another Anne Perry Victorian whodunnit to read ... Who needs a heatwave ?