Sunday, 30 March 2014

My dear mother has lost her way

Smitonius says:

It has been a rather long time since I logged in and posted anything, as my life has been altering course over the last few years. Hitting 40 has been an extraordinary experience of change, accepting it and learning to let go and flow: health issues that seem to involve hospitals and not just a quick chat with a friendly pharmacist (solution: tablet form); work that becomes, all of a sudden, not 9 to 5 but 50 hour week and not what I signed up for; thinking things like who am I, what is this thing called life, what next? (I have loads of ideas... So no worries there).

I post existential questions, with no appropriate photograph, because my mother phoned to ask - where is the dash board on blogger? I popped in, things look different but not defunct. So, next task, advise Sonata on how she can post things in the near future. By the way, she is still well, looking after her other half, sewing tiny squares, attending gym once a week and emailing me mustard recipes.

From the  Belgian magazine , “Actief Wonen” :
Mustard with beer
ingredients :
4 dessertspoons  yellow mustard seed
1         “                 dark mustard seed
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
125 ml Belgian beer ( they use La Chouffe )
75 ml cider vinegar
1 dessertspoon honey
1        “              brown sugar
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
Method :
Grind 2 dessertspoons yellow mustard seeds fine and mix with the rest of mustard seeds in small bowl .
Finely chop onion and garlic . Put in a pan with beer , vinegar , honey , sugar , turmeric and salt and bring to the boil . Simmer for 15 minutes till reduced by half and add to the mustard seed . Stir and cover . Leave it to stand at room temperature for 2 days and put into sterlised pots .
Makes 2 125g pots .
Thought you'd like to try this sometime . Recipe from the Debremaeker sisters book of preserves , “Ingemaakt”, apparently .love , mummy

Anyway, sounds rather tasty!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Everything From Tattoos To Mice

Luckily , apart from wall to wall Winter Sports ... Clare Balding seems to have moved into our sitting room , together with her trolley ... this week has had a few other diversions .

 Behind the church , I discovered a Tattoo supplies wholesaler  and a rather splendid new graffiti . The Rumanian accordeonist outside the health shop has learnt a new tune  and there's a new Japanese supermarket nearby with deep frozen Swimming Crabs , in case I ever need them .
 A quick trip to Amsterdam for lunch and a wander around Albert Cuypstraat's market was very cheering .... I'm really looking forward to seeing someone carrying one of these bags over one shoulder this spring

 and Disney-esque bluebirds being worn ( you'll find the tattoed lady's on her shoulder ) . Though the restaurant was so full I ended up at a table tucked under the stairs , the company was pleasant ,

 and lunch delicious .
 And , in a strange shop a bit further up the street , I found just the knife I've been hunting for ; devilishly sharp German steel , perfect for peeling potatoes ... and only a couple of Euros , so I bought two  . Since the shop also stocked herbs and spices , a huge supply of fruit and herbal teas , old-fashioned sweets with names like Polkabrokken ( caramel cushions to chew or to melt in hot milk as a bedtime drink ) and Hete Bliksem ( Hot Lightening ) , sage-flavoured cough drops , an enormous range of whisks , garlic presses , cheese slicers , incense and brushes and , they boast  , "592 other things "  , I was there a while .
 Oh , and the mice ?  Well , I met YD later for a drink before I got the train back  and as we sat in the covered terrace with some wine , we were startled to find a tiny brown mouse popping in and out between the tables . When a couple of women sitting at a table further up  squeaked and fled  , we realised that our mouse must have brought his mates with him ... a  party , perhaps ... but there seemed to be enough room for everybody , so we finished our drinks in peace before we left .
Back at home , when not waving the flag for yet another Dutch skating medal ( we won't be asked next time , I fear ! ) .... I've been reading Rosie Tremain's Music And Silence ... and loving it .
 But it's just as well Sochi ends this week . It's about time I got off my behind and stretched .....

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Reduced To Pot Noodles

So far , 2014 hasn't exactly had the Wow! factor .  Even the little , wild-haired chap I see whenever I go to the supermarket , who springs  to attention waving a handful of plastic keyrings , "Hello Madame ... Buy One , Pay For Two ! " , seems deflated . His marketing ploy seems to have lost it's sparkle and his cackle's not so loud . Only Liz , whose photos of her Antarctic advenure are keeping us all enthralled , seems to be having fun .

Bored to a frazzle , Winter Olympics notwithstanding ,  I've been rummaging through my cookery books to find something to perk us up . Ignoring oddities like Mexican Risotto ... bananas , eggs , bacon and almonds  added to the rice  ....  from Lady Maclean's Cook Book (  Lots of worthy staples such as Chicken Liver Patè  , "makes enough for thirty" ... or Lady Sykes Pheasant patè , "will serve eight over a weekend" , as well as the 1960s abberations ) , I hovered over a recipe for Hooihaantjes from the morning paper . Cockerel cooked with hay , apples and beer . Though where , in a first-floor flat in the middle of town , one was supposed to get hold of a small quantity of hay , clean and appetising enough to soak in beer and stuff a chicken with , I didn't know . A pet shop ?  Anyway , we ended up having Pot Noodles for supper .

Well , not the real thing ... I don't even know whether they still exist . But I used  an Indonesian ready-mix for chicken soup

and , instead of the recommended additions of rice and potatoes  ... bleugh! ... , added a leek , egg noodles and baby spinach to the chicken . Looked hideous but cheered us up enormously !

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Things Not To Do In A Museum ...

I don't think it's like the Ten Commandments or anything , but there are fairly definite no-nos when visiting a museum . Most would really rather you didn't eat a bag of chips while wandering through their Impressionists , for instance , or spill Pepsi on the mosaics   . Stretching out on the exhibits for a siesta isn't really on , either , though the staff do occasionally nod off on  their chairs in quiet corners ....

 And , though most museums are happy to allow you to take photographs for private use , fairly high on the list of Things To Avoid Doing would have to be being so hell bent on getting the perfect shot that you back straight into a prize exhibit . Especially when it is a rather large vase . Specially designed for the room  .

But on Sunday that's exactly what a visitor to the  Groninger Museum did , so camera-happy was he . The Jaime Hayon vase broke in a hundred pieces , " beyond the help of glue " , according to a spokesman  .

Though my favourite Oops museum story would have to be of the hapless clot who wandered over the Pindakaasvloer  , a sculpture made from roughly 100 liters of peanut butter tipped over the floor and spread artistically  by Wim T. Schippers in the Boijmans museum in Rotterdam . You'd think , given how it sticks to the roof of your mouth when you eat it ,  you'd feel the pull as you lifted your shoe . There'd be a fairly noticable " thwock " , surely ?    .

Thursday, 23 January 2014

It'll Do Wonders For You ...

You know , the minute they smile brightly at you and say , "You never know , you might  really enjoy it " , that you won't .
 Not any of it . Not the exercise bike nor the stomach muscle finder/developer . Not the rowing machine nor balancing on the rubber ball and certainly not the treadmill ." I'll just set it at ten minutes , to start with , shall I ?  "
When you've finally struggled your way back into your street clothes and escaped  , it seems altogether fitting that the first thing you see is this mural on the building across the street .

Saturday, 18 January 2014

And Once Again , This Year's Black Is .....

Well , black really ....

 Darth knew all about making an impression ... and the importance of having just the right accessory .

 Lola Flores , a hugely admired Spanish singer , was anything but monochrome but could , when out to dazzle , wear black to perfection .

And , of course , there was Coco Chanel


 I went to the Gemeente Museum in Den Haag last week and joined all the Chanel groupies going round its Coco exhibition .They were a strangely colour-coordinated crowd , silver haired and  almost religious in black with touches of white  ... lots of them wearing a large silver brooch with the entwined Chanel logo in black ... rather as though they were a display of handbags  .
 But no one was wearing the jewellery , perhaps understandaly since it was only eleven in the morning .

  It was as frustrating as all costume displays in that  you couldn't examine the clothes properly or feel the material  , but I felt suitably overawed by such elegance , rather like a new tweeny at Downton Abbey . I wished I hadn't worn such a very large red scarf . And then I'd had enough .
I caught sight of a splash of colour beyond the door ....

 Perhaps I'm more a sort of Hans van Bentem person .

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Well , Sort Of ... - ish .....

It started off so well , too . All the ingredients lined. up , wholemeal and white , raising agents , buttermilk  , even the paper muffin cases . Wholewheat Apple Muffins , a  Smitten Kitchen recipe , so I couldn't go wrong . Only it was me making it .
 So ....  . Having measured most of the dry ingredients ( a tablespoon of cinnamon ?  I love cinnamon but ... how about a teaspoon of mixed spice instead )  into one bowl and some of the liquid ones into another , I peeled the two large Elstar apples and blenched at their hideously speckled , soggy interiors . Now what ? It was pouring outside , not the weather to pedal off for more .  Frantic re-reading of  muffin recipes . All I had was a couple of rather ripe bananas so I mashed  and added them  . Now the mix would be too mushy  if I added  all the liquid . O.K., only half the oil , then .
 Now it looks boring without chunks of apple . So folded in a handful of chopped up dried apricots ... and some chia seeds, why not ?  .
 Fill one muffin case ... Rats !! I'd forgotten the brown sugar  Oh , for Heaven's sake . Filled the rest of the cases anyway and shoved the lot in the oven .

I told you a Smitten Kitchen's recipe was fool-proof . They were astonishingly nice ... not to mention low in fat and sugar . I'm just going to eat another . Might make it look less gloomy outside