Wednesday 28 July 2010

Summer adventure

We are living the good life in the south of France while Our Boy and a friend of his are attending a language school. It didn't feel right to let him go on his own, so The Professor and I are staying in a flat nearby... "just in case". So far, there has been no need for parental involvement except providing clean clothes and money.

This means that we have been rather free to do what we like. Not a bad thing when you are on the Riviera. However, being of a rather pale Nordic complexion, the beach is not the best place for me, so I like to explore!

At the spur of the moment one late Sunday afternoon, The Professor and I decided to take the train to the nearby medieval village of Biot. Without looking too much on the map we jumped on a train and got off at Biot.
Well, we were still by the sea and not up in the mountains as was expected from seeing the pictures in the guidebook. Something  was clearly wrong. After enquiring in my broken French it became clear that Biot VILLAGE was three kilometers away - up in the hills. Clearly not discouraged, with good shoes and a bottle of water we set off and found the beautiful village basking in the evening sun with hardly any tourists around. We decided to have dinner there and enjoyed a lovely meal as only the French can make it. 

As we started thinking about the return, we decided not to take the train back, but to find the bus. The waitress just laughed at us and said the last bus  had left hours ago... and the village had no taxi, but MAYBE one could come from Antibes? Our experiences so far with French taxis (or lack thereof) made it clear that the only option was to walk back to the train station. It would have been a piece of cake as it was of course downhill, but the disadvantage was that it was now dark. The road to the train station was a narrow country road with no streetlights and the cars drive like mad. Those who know me, know I am not a runner. However, it is amazing how fast and far you can run when you are scared...

Since I have been able to tell the tale it is obvious that we made it back safely. Although there is a lot to be said for spontaneity, we have learnt that there is something to be said for planning a little, as well!

Sunday 25 July 2010

Recommended reading: The Return
I decided to bring Victoria Hislop's second book, 'The Return' as my holiday novel even if we are not in Spain.

I enjoyed it more than her first book The Island even if her format of family secrets coming to light is wearing a bit thin (having said that - I suspect many families have some 'skeletons' in their closets worthy of a novel if we just dig deep enough).

More than anything else, the book gave a good insight to the Spanish civil war. My previous critisism of her simplistic and repetitive language does not apply to this book.

My only objections would be that the story was a bit long winded and the end a bit predictable. There were also some loose ends she could have explored more, but it was still, an enjoyable book and a good holiday read whether you are going to Spain or not!

Thursday 22 July 2010

Me Time

I don't think I am very high maintenance.
I mean - I don't spend an awful lot of money on beauty products or treatments. I somehow just can't justify it to myself even if I know 
"I am worth it" ;-)

But once a year I treat myself to having a good pedicure before the summer holidays! Particularly when the treatment at Clarins is on half price offer... It feels like walking on clouds and my toes are ready for the sandals!

Sunday 18 July 2010

Water of Leith

I grew up on the coast and I always feel drawn to water, whether it is a river or even better a lake or the OCEAN!
I really miss it now that I live inland with only a small river to satisfy my need for water.
I think I see the water/lake/ocean as a way out - an escape route and feel calmer when I "know it is there"...

I was therefore delighted when I disovered this little pathway along  Water of Leith which is just a few minutes from the flat in Edinburgh.
The weather was not very inviting, but it didn't matter. So many plants were growing without any care and attention. And the bumble bee (can you see him?) was very busy!

This part of the river is not deep, but it still had a lot of force.
The "innocent" looking pigeon made me jump as I didn't see him until I was right next to him because I was too busy looking through the camera. He was quite tame and there were several of them sitting and looking at the river.
To be honest, I don't like pigeons too much, but up close he had really beautiful colors.

Friday 16 July 2010

Scottish Projects

Here are finally some proof of our projects in the flat in Edinburgh! We had bought a cheap (and cheerful) table and 4 chairs from Ikea (before we fell out with them) with the intention of doing something more creative with them. I only had time to do two of the chairs, but perhaps The Professor will surprise me and do the next two on his own...? For those who are interested - I used Farrow and Ball's interior paint, color called "Pointing no 2003" which is fairly white, but not completely - a bit creamish I will also paint the legs of the dining table. I like this combination of colors and think it spruced up the plain looking chair.

This is the burau we found in Bobby Clyde's antique shop as well as the Tiffany lamp we got from Jenners. I would have liked to paint the burau, but I don't think The Professor will let me. The burau is in perfect condition, even the leather is undamaged.

We then got two old fashioned-looking suitcases (they are not old) which we put on top of eachother to use as the nightstand.
I think it works well and is a bit different.
They also give a little bit of storage - which is never a bad thing.
By the way - the Professor is very proud of the lamp (I think I would prefer the shade in another color) which he had bought on his own (!) for £3 in a charity shop...

Thursday 15 July 2010


I am back in Bloglandia after some days of silence.
To be honest, I am never so busy as when I am on my own...! Monday my former neighbour and a friend from Ireland came over for a simple dinner consisting of pizza and fruit salad. We hadn't seen eachother in months so it was lovely to catch up on their news.

The Ladies Who Dine gathered both on Tuesday and Wednesday  this week.
On Tuesday we had planned to go and see Shakespeare's "Love's Labours Lost" in the college garden, but the weather was not too inviting so we ended up with an indoor picnic at home instead. Lovely drinks and chats!

Last night was the opening of the new showroom of our friends in Crofthouse.
The Ladies Who Dine (who also do other things) came out in full force to sample the champagne and nibbles while we admired  Tom's own beautiful kitchen and bathroom ranges in both modern and traditional styles alongside floors, lights, tiles, architectural ironmongery and many other superb items for the home. I have a couple of projects for later in the year I want to discuss with him, so it was great to see his ideas come to life. He is so talented and creative.
It was also a good occassion to catch up with many people we hadn't seen in a long time!

Tomorrow all this "freedom" will come to an end when Our Boy is returning after 10 days scout camp in Wales.
I expect he will be tired, happy, dirty (!), and a bit tanned.
And I will be a very happy mamma who has missed him sooooo much! ;-)

I will get the pictures from our adventure in Edinburgh ready and post later!

Saturday 10 July 2010

Antique shopping

We decided when we bought the flat in Edinburgh to try to furnish it with second hand and perhaps some antique furniture pieces.
It is great fun, but very tiring being on the prowl. 
The essential things are in place like sofa/beds/kitchen stuff - all new.
We are therefore now searching for the other little touches that makes it a home via charity shops and antique stores.
Trying to keep down costs is one issue, but mainly it is nice to see things being used again. 

We were fortunate when we got back to the charity shop yesterday as the little mahogany table we saw the day before was still there.
The Professor was still very sceptical and made me promise that we were not "married" to it. He has a hard time understanding I have a "vision" of what the flat should look like, so he insisted that it could go in the skip if he didn't like it...

"Yes, dear. (As if...!)"

We quickly got it in the taxi (great UK taxi's take a lot of stuff!) and brought it home. 
Needless to say, once in it's place, he fell head over heals in love with it and refused to let me paint it (pictures will come when I am back home as I didn't bring the converter with me).

We immediately went out and found a Tiffany style lamp from the shop with the best selection of lamps in this town, Jenners. It went great with the new table!

Today we have rummaged through the antique shops on the southern side of town. My God, there is a lot of rubbish, but also a lot of really nice places with gorgeous things.

We came across Bobby Clyde's place in Grange road with outstanding furniture and with the most reasonable prices ever. Prices are more fixed than other places we saw, but they were also so much lower so it just seemed more upfront and fair. I am not too good at haggling...We went home with a small bureau (skatoll) and it took over the place of the table bought yesterday.
However, it doesn't matter - the table fits nicely other places in the flat, too.
Particularly since The Professor loooves his table...;-) 

I will certainly make Bobby Clyde's a regular place to visit.
Many of the antique stores we have visited these last few days are full of rubbish and dust making it hard to see the gems. Bobby Clyde's place was also jam packed, but it was all nice and clean. It made such a difference. Apparently, his shop is being featured on BBC2 in the fall in one of the antique shows.

Thursday 8 July 2010


I am up in Edinburgh with the Professor for a couple of days to add some more touches to the flat.
We have spent the day trawling around antique stores and charity shops.
The plan is to find some small side tables, lamps, a desk, a night stand, a console for the hallway etc.
Well, it hasn't gone quite to plan yet.
So far, we have only got a laundry basket and a printer (both of them new)...
But this is a longer term project - we will wait till we see the right thing before getting it.
There is no rush.

I did see a table I liked in the first charity shop we looked in. I think it will be great after a lick of paint...
However, as it was in the very first shop we went to, we didn't want to make any decisions before seeing what else is out there.
But I can't forget it, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that it didn't sell today and will still be there in the morning ;-)
It was so cheap that even if my 'vision' for it doesn't work, it won't be a disaster if it is sent to the skip.

We also came across an antique shop that was a dream
(or a nightmare)
- jam packed of 'stuff' -
over several floors.
It was simply too much to take it all in in one visit.

It was rather overwhelming. But it gave us a couple of ideas for some individual pieces of furniture, but more thinking tonight and perhaps another visit in the morning again...

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Tried and tested: Anita's Bomb!

Earlier this week I tried out Anita's chocolate cake and I tell you - it is a BOMB!
Very delicious and moorish, and very dangerously packed with calories.

I made it using only 1/4 of the measurements.
Not that it makes in any less calori rich, but at least there is less cake!
Still, a big cake!

Below is the recipe in English
- you find it in Norwegian on her blog as well as a picture of it.
It never made it to a picture in our house... 

800 grams butter
16 dl sugar
8 dl flour
8 tsp vanilla sugar (omit if you don't have it)
20 tsb cocoa
12 eggs

Mix the dry ingredients, melt the butter and add the eggs.
Very simple.

Then chop up 4 packs of baking chocolate and poke it in the dough. This is a BIG recipe so ensure your baking tray is big enough.
200 degrees for 40-45 mins

Monday 5 July 2010

Shades of Green

After having spent the morning running around town like a headless chicken trying to remember all the things Our Boy will need for scout camp I decided to relax a little in the garden.
That didn't work as I started looking at all the plants needing pruning and attention.

But I am sooo easily distracted...

In addition to the various crops coming along nicely, I started noticing all the different shades of green in the garden and had to get my camera out :-)

The tomatoes are coming along nicely, I see.
Won't be long now till we can pick our own!

The size of the rhubarb leaves always amaze me!

Nah, that was enough effort in the heat...
better save some work for another day ;-)

Sunday 4 July 2010

Summer Party

Last night was the annual summer party for my office.
True to tradition those who wanted started at 5 pm going punting.
I am ashamed to say that after almost 11 years in this city I have never punted myself. I have been punting maaaany times, but never had to do the deed myself... ;-)
We all felt it was hight time Our Boy learnt "the noble art"!
Our Australian friend taught him and Our Boy took to it right away and did a GREAT job.
Mission acomplished - still no need for me to learn the art of punting... hehehee...;-)

The second part of this summer party tradition is the BBQ in the director's garden. The director is the president of one of the old colleges and we are fortunate to be able to use the garden in the President's Lodge for our party.

The food was lovely,
but the real winner for me was a very simple and delicious

Mango Salad:

Chop very finely a mango with some red onion, coriander and the juice of a lime. Add sweet red chili sauce to the mix.
It is great with any BBQ meat

Saturday 3 July 2010

Fortunate mistake

Last night I had intended to make the Greek dish Spanakopita for dinner. I got this recipe years ago from my good friend in Canada (I will share it some other time) and we absolutely loooove it! It is a great vegetarian dish.

But nothing went to plan:

Firstly, I had no spinach neither in the fridge nor in the freezer, only a packet of green beans....

Secondly, I had by mistake defrosted a packet of puff pastry instead of filo pastry...

Thirdly, I only had one egg in the house...

With a hungry boy lurking around, there was no time to loose so I was forced to think quickly and be inventive:
(The Professor claims I am the Queen of super quick healthy dinners. I say you have no choice when you have hungry kids around your "feet")

  • I mixed a tub of cottage cheese with a good slice of feta cheese and the one egg.

  • I took half of the puff pastry and put in the bottom of a fireproof dish,

  • added the green beans, the cheese/egg mixture and some salt/pepper

  • before I put the rest of the puff pastry on top as a "lid".

  • It all went in the oven on 200 degrees for about 30 mins.
It wasn't Spinakopita, but something similar and very nice!

Friday 2 July 2010

End of school year!

Today is the last school day of the year for Our Boy
- hence the illustration of the empty bench taken in Dr Bass' garden with my mobile ;-).
Well done to Our Boy for a great year! I look forward to not hearing his alarm clock going off at 6 am when he has been getting up to revise for exams... I think he will be appreciating some lazy days at home before he is off on the scout camp in Wales for 10 days.

The Professor is also coming home tonight for a long weekend (yeah!). It looks like it will be a busy weekend as we are all going to my company's summer party tomorrow afternoon which will include punting and BBQ!

So very English... ;-)

Thursday 1 July 2010


Just to be clear - I am NOT complaining!

This laidback raccoon from Shepreth Wildlife Park merely illustrates how we have been feeling these last few days (and nights) with the lovely summer heat we have been enjoying...

Although we are not really used to many days in a row with this kind of weather, and even if work and school is not quite over here yet,
we really appreciate the nice weather.

Now is the time to restore the strength needed for the cold winter season!

Just hope we have some rain tonight as the lawn is showing clear signs of going yellow....

Enjoy the SUMMER!