Tuesday 31 July 2012

20 Years...

The Professor and I have been married for
20 good years

Looking forward to celebrating in London this weekend!

Monday 30 July 2012

The Man With The Masks

One of Venice's big export article are masks, glass and lace. Venice is full of mask shops and glass shops. The masks are traditionally worn during the carnival, but I won't attempt telling their history as others have written more detailed about them, like here.
Like many tourist places Venice is also full of (expensive) rubbish things to buy. It was obvious that it was hard to judge what was a real piece of craft and what was not so desirable mass produced items, particularly when it comes to the glass beads.
One of the first evenings we were walking about in the warm Venetian air after dinner we entered by chance the mask shop around the corner from our flat. We soon realised that this was a special shop and that all the items were handmade paper-mache masks. While we were admiring the beautiful masks and costumes, I overheard the shop owner talking to somebody and realised he must be Iranian. The Professor then got chatting to him and he told us he had been making masks in Venice for 25 years!
As we showed interest for the history of the masks he invited us to join a group of American tourists he was giving a talk to the next morning in his workshop next door. Never ones for passing up such a chance, we were there bright and early the next morning.
It was fascinating learning about the various characters and the long process each mask went through.
It is a real craft. This is the book and characters he takes much of his inspiration from when creating his masks.
We left quietly after the talk as the owner got busy with customers, but we went back a week later to say goodbye at the end of our stay.
Yes, we did buy a mask, but I won't show it yet, as I have a plan with it before it goes with the Professor to be put on display in our flat in Edinburgh.

In addition to giving us a good price, we all got extra gifts like t-shirts and bags.

And I like to think we made a friend!

Sunday 29 July 2012

Tried and Tested: Citrus and Ginger Cordial

picture borrowed from the web, but is a true representation of the final product
After some lovely sunny days we have had a properly rainy day with thunder and lightening. With the Olympic games keeping us entertained on TV, I got restless and experimented with making this refreshing and supposedly cleansing cordial (Norwegian: saft) after inspiration from a friend of mine.
I didn't add any sugar, but used honey instead, but sugar, Splenda or Stevia would work well depending on how sweet you like it.

Peel and cut up a large piece of ginger (finger length, but twice as thick)
 6 dl of water
The juice of 2 lime and 1 lemon
2 generous spoons of honey

Bring it all to the boil and let it sit for a few hours to infuse.

Strain well and pour into sterilised bottles and store in the fridge.
Apparently, it should keep for a few weeks (if it lasts that long).

When serving - dilute some of the cordial with water to make a refreshing cold drink.
(I prefer to use fizzy water.)

For a more grownup version I could imagine it might also taste nice with a splash of vodka.

Another alternative is to dilute it with water and serve it warm in the wintertime.

Friday 27 July 2012

Back From Venice...!

This blog break was quite unplanned, but it just felt right to take a break from the blog while we were 10 days in marvellously, mad and magical Venice!

But I am back on the blog again now!

Venice... no place like it.

A very different way of life living surrounded by water (and tourists).

We had found a lovely romatic loft apartment 5 mins from St. Mark's with a roof terrace and the most amazing view of Venice. The charming hosts lived in the flat below and were extremely generous and friendly. Truly a lovely place with charm and character - although it had 78 steps to climb since the flat was in the loft... - yes, I counted! But we had air conditioning!

We felt we got to know this maze of a city quite well since we were there for 10 days. Most tourists stay for only a couple of days. Madness, if you ask me as there is so much to see and do.

More stories and views of Venice will follow...

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Ready To Go!

The Ladies Who Dine met last night at the house of our Dutch friend. They have recently bought a new house and I am officially 'jealous'!
We had made it simple by splitting the different dishes between us - somebody brought the dauphinoise potatoes, somebody brought a yummy salad, another brought cheese and crackers, I brought a dessert and the hostess provided the main and a starter. There was wine and water and delicious coffee!
The combination of it all was excellent - it was so scrumptious!
No need for breakfast this morning...

And per usual - at some point in the evening we started reminding each other of favourite songs and singing 70s and 80s classics...
So typical us and always a lot of fun!
Hope we didn't scare the kids (or the neighbours!)!

The group has grown and shrunk over the years. This friendship group began when some of the mothers of boys in the same class started going out for dinner together almost 12-13 years ago. And it became a friendship group which started seeing each other regularly, particularly when a few of us started doing yoga on Tuesdays and we now meet at the pub afterwards.  At the moment we are 7 ladies meeting up (if we can make it) more or less every week after yoga and in addition we occassionally explore various restaurants in the area, each others houses, go to London, the movies or exhibitions.

To me they are a safe place to share happiness, sorrows, concerns, hopes, ideas and dreams. Some have left us and moved to other countries, but at least one of the original Ladies Who Dine is still in the current group. And we have just been told one of our 'old' members is coming over from Canada later this summer!
Thanks, girls - so grateful for your friendship and company!
It was a blast last night!

Monday 9 July 2012

So Close....!

We have endured another wet summer weekend...
Good weather to stay indoors doing some crocheting and watch the Wimbledon finals...

Our Neighbour and I took a friend out for a quick lunch as it was her birthday earlier in the week and then we all hurried home to watch the finals at Wimbledon.

I am normally neither a big fan of watching sports on the telly nor a tennis fan, but this was rather exciting! However, it didn't matter how much I was trying to will Andy Murray to win, Roger Federer was simply the better player - this was his 7th Wimbledon title!

So, Andy didn't win the title, but he won the heart of the nation with his tear filled and gracious speech.
I don't think there was a dry eye in the entire nation...

Come on, Andy!
There is always next year!

Thursday 5 July 2012

Tried and Tested: Sunflower Bread

Not much sun over here this summer...
Heard on the radio it was the wettest June since they started keeping records...
Soooo fed up with the rain!

Last night I started a dough of bread, but left it in the fridge to rise overnight and I baked it this morning before heading to work. I must admit I don't eat much bread, but there is something very satisfying with the smell of home made bread.
Besides, there are others in the house who just can't live without bread!

I used only white flower today along with sunflowerseeds and pumpkin seeds, but I normally use a random mix of flours to get a darker/healthier variety. Note that you must use minimum 1/2 l of white flour, if not,  the bread becomes too heavy. This is my tried and trusted no-work-no-kneading-recipe and I know it by heart! So easy, and so nice to pop the bread in the oven and serve fresh baked bread for breakfast. It makes two smaller breads or one large.

1 l flour
0.5 l water
2 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 generous tablespoons olive oil
2 generous handfuls of sunflowerseeds
2 generous handfuls of pumpkin seeds

Mix well and let it rise on the counter for a few hours.
Pop the bowl with the dough in the fridge and let the dough continue to rise overnight.
Bake on 175 degrees for about 40 mins.

taken with my IPhone via Instagram
Seemed fitting to bake the bread in my sunflower mould as a dear and lovely friend of mine brought me gorgeous sunflowers for no other reason than to brighten my day!

Now, where is that real sun....????

Monday 2 July 2012

Tried and Tested: Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam

5.30 am...

An alarm clock set in error rang somewhere in the house and by the time I found it, I was wide awake.
Light summer mornings help as well... even if it is a Monday!

Well, no point in going back to bed. After a quick shower, I started the washing machine, continued tidying up after the return of Our Boy who came back yesterday afternoon after a successful canoing trip in Sweden (although literally covered in mosquito bites...).

Now what?
An idea!

My former neighbour popped by yesterday and had brought a load of rhubarb from her garden. There was a punnet of strawberries in the fridge 'begging' to be used. 
So, my version of Rhubarb and Strawberry jam was born:

400 grams strawberries
400 grams rhurbarb
400 grams sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Bring it to the boil and let it all cook for about 15 mins and transfer to clean jars.

To add to my productive morning, I also mixed a batch of dough ready to bake some bread when I get home tonight. I think fresh baked bread with some of this rhubarb and strawberry jam will be nice...

I think I hear the washing machine finishing.
Just in time to hang before going to work.
Already a productive day and it isn't even 8 am!

Have a good and productive day
- no matter when it starts for you!

PS: I just realised this is my 501st blog entry.
Who would have thought...

Sunday 1 July 2012

May I Introduce You To...

I popped outside the door to take some pictures of all the lovely flowers in full bloom. Suddenly, I lost concentration and became aware of something making a lot of noice and creeping into view through the lense...
May I introduce you to TenTen?
The neighbourhoods most talkative cat!
He is not our cat.
He kind of "belongs" to one of our neighbours.
Well, he actually belongs to some other people on a different street...
Ok, here is the story of TenTen:

One dark and blustery night (all stories start like that, don't they...) our neighbours had a knock on the door at 10 pm. There was a very concerned lady explaining that she had almost run over a cat as the silly creature was just lying in the middle of the road... Since our neighbours house was the closest she thought perhaps the cat was theirs? It wasn't their cat, but our neighbours are kind and loving people who took the cat in and the cat absolutely loved it! 
They called him TenTen since he arrived at 10 pm on the 10th day of the month...

The neighbours searched for days to find out who TenTen belonged to. Yes, he was chipped, but the owners had changed address so the vet was not able to contact them. To cut a long story short, after a lot of detective work, our neighbours found the real owners. They had several cats and were well used to Ten Ten leaving for days on end. We all think with several other cats in the house it was a bit too much for him.

So, his owners didn't mind that he more or less moved in with our neighbours who fittingly enough are called Charity. He sometimes goes back to visit his original family, but most of the time he likes it around our cul-de-sac with his 'new' family. He is the friendliest of cats and talks to everyone. If you leave your doors open, he will visit and make himself at home.
However, not in our house.
Our Cat sees to that!
They do get along nicely and sometimes TenTen comes to our garden to play with Our Cat, but Our Cat draws the line about visits to OUR house.

I think TenTen's talking is too much for Our Cat who is more of the dark, mysterious and silent type...

All in all, a happy ending to the story of TenTen.

I think the point that you don't choose a cat - the cat chooses you has been well proved!