Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Random Picture, Window in Bavaria

I love this photo of this little window opening into what look like a large loft space of an old house in Bavaria, Germany. What lies beyond? Why so small? Is it to keep out the heat or keep it in when the weather temperature drops to  -20 which it regularly does in this part of the country? The snow often holds people hostage in their homes when it piles up against their doors. My Sister-in-Law has a story that when she tried to enter her car one very cold winter day her key would not fit into the iced up lock, so she climbed in through the boot to get to the driving seat. A window so small as this, then, will certainly help prevent heat loss on these cold cold days and to keep in the warmth from the fire.

Would you like to see the rest of the roof from which this window peaks? Oh, go on then, here it is:

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Our New Sink has made my Heart Sink

Pathetic, I know - both the pun and the sentiment.

But I am in fact disappointed in my new sink as it has proved to be so small. I was very much looking forward to my kitchen extension but there have needed to be so many compromises. For instance we won't have room for a large fridge freezer with added ice maker when the time comes to replace the one we have, there also won't be room for the dining table I envisioned for large family and friend meals, we will only have room for a tiny table to seat two or three people, so gone are the ideas of Christmas dinner sat cheerful and laughing altogether. Several other more minor compromises or losses have been experienced, and now I find my double sink, although classed as two full sized bowls are far smaller than the single I have now. I believe this is due to sinks being made smaller in general now as new houses and kitchens are being built so much smaller than they were and certain appliances are downsizing to fit, plus the use of dishwashers has risen so larger sinks are often generally not needed anyway. Personally I prefer to wash up myself, it's much quicker and you don't have those dirty dishes hanging around in the dishwasher for too long. But it won't be so easy to wash up my larger pots and pans now.

Yes, I know there are worse things to worry about or be-moan but I am allowed to feel sad that my dream kitchen will only be a kitchen now.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Back to School

They've only been back since this morning and I'm missing them already. Yes, even their little tiffs. There's no grumpiness, no sitting in front of the TV and no having to repeat anything I say to their plugged-into-some-music-device ears, and I still find myself missing them. How strange.

At least the boys are still here to keep me company as they carry on working on the kitchen extension. Here is a photo of  our current mess for you to look at

Monday, 3 September 2012

School Bags

                                           Superdry Alumni Bag                                         
School starts back tomorrow and so the last few days have been a time for uniform shopping, shoes, skirts and bags. Who would have thought it would be so hard to get the RIGHT bag. It has to be so big but not too big, the right style, the right colour etc. The last one daughter#2 had was like the one in the picture except it was red. As the zip broke at the end of last term we've been looking for the perfect replacement. We finally found one after much traipsing of shops, the new one is almost exactly the same as the last one after all that but this time from a different shop. I'm glad it wasn't Superdry, which seems to be the IN shop for teens at the moment, as you end up paying for the name - or in other words 'too much' especially when the zip breaks before it's time is out in my estimation.

At least we got in a bit of coffee drinking and cake eating while shopping, one of my favourite pastimes. We shared a delicious Giotto in Patisserie Valerie, which is similar to their Tiramisu shown here. I guess that made up for my tired feet. 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Friday Hunk

It's been a long while since I did a Friday Hunk photo and thought it was time. Colin Farrell is not to everyone's taste but he is to mine. Even though I loved the Arnold Schwarzenegger film 'Total Recall' I am looking forward to seeing Colin's re-make, even though it seems to be a word for word re-make - usually a big no-no in terms of wanting to watch this sort of thing, guess that just goes to show how much I like him even without that gorgeous Irish accent as yet again he is going American. Kate Beckinsale will help elevate it, too, and not just because of her fabulous sky high heels.

Shame they couldn't make it slightly differently, though, or even a follow on. I don't really understand the need for re-makes if the original was good enough first time round. If a follow on film for the Bourne series was thought to be worth it without Bourne, the main man as it were, and has some other character, surely the same can be done for other films? Maybe it will set a precedent so these nuisance re-makes will change tack.

Anyway, here is my Friday Hunk, Colin Farrell, who looks as good in a suit as he does in ripped jeans

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

My Aunt's Home-Made Pasta

One of my Aunts in Italy is a wonderful cook, preferring to make a lot of her food from scratch including ice cream. To be invited to a meal at her house is truly something. Not only does it taste fantastic but it looks great, too. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of any of her feasts with anti pasti of many cheeses, salamis, olives etc, or her several other courses. I only have this photo of her home-made  fettuccine being mixed with some lovely sauce, parmigiana at the ready for sprinkling.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Daughter#1's Trip to Italy and a Bit of an Italian Word Class

It was only a little daunting to fly out there with her cousin as this time they landed at Fiumicino airport which is a lot larger than the airport they are used to travelling to and from. Fiumicino is actually officially named Leonardo Da Vinci although no-one seems to call it by this name but by the name of the nearby town instead. It's as large as Heathrow so daughter#1 and nephew#2 were a little worried but managed perfectly well in the end. Of course on the return journey they needed to walk the entire length of the airport to get from check-in to the departure gate, and, again of course, once arrived there they needed to change gates to one in a completely different area of the place - why this happens every time is one of those little nuisances quirks that only happen in Italy.

They tell me that they enjoyed their time out there very much despite the near 40 degrees temperature out there right now. And the mosquitoes, too. Actually we have had mosquitoes here in the UK recently! I'm going to buy one of those bug swatters which are great fun to use as you just swing them round the room till you hear a satisfying zzzt.

They didn't seem to mind going for walks only to have to stop every hundred feet to meet and kiss yet another cousin or family friend, or even neighbour. Nor to eating huge lunches though they both had to stop eating so much by the end of the holiday as they were both just so stuffed. But they enjoyed the beach, my father hired an umbrella on an ordinary stretch of sand although still near to the section he usually uses with the anziani (or older person) where the pensioners get their ombrelloni (beach umbrellas) a little cheaper.

I'm just a teensy bit disappointed as, although daughter#1 did bring me back some yummy goodies such as favourite Italian biscuits from when I was young, she couldn't get me the fresh figi (figs) and big fat juicy olives from the market as they didn't have quite enough time to visit the mercato (market) athough it was mercato day, but then unless you go early such as 8am then it can get so hot sometimes it's not enjoyable to go, although the busy bustling mercato with it's oh so cheap fruit and veg is one of my favourite places to go - I can't get over how, by the end of the morning, you can buy a whole tray or box of pesche (peaches) for 3 Euro!!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful, One Two Three

1. The weather has taken a turn for the better.

2. We finally have a roof (temporary) and back door to close and protect the building in the extension which is still being built, this means that we can leave the house empty and all go out at the same time - that will be a strange feeling when we do. We will also be able to go to the goodbye camping trip to see off some emigrating friends.

3. (and the biggest) My lovely daughter#1 will be home tomorrow. She's been to Italy to stay with her Grampy for a week. She was going to go alone but in the end her cousin of the same age went out with her. I can't wait to hear their stories of what they did, where they went and who they saw. In the two phone conversations I've had with her the main thing which was discussed was what they had eaten. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised as it is my Dad she's staying with and she will have had his influence for a week. As with most Italians all his conversations turn to food if they don't start with it. Now I want to know the rest of the trip.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Just a Little Olympics Post

There has been so much said, but no wonder as it has all been so fantastic, I just wanted to add a little post to say 'Go team GB, you have done us all proud'!

So far Team GB has notched up 48 medals, other teams I am pitching for are Italy with 17, 3 of them in archery, Germany with 32, and - for Daughter#2's sake who still thinks she is Russian - Russia with 48. Daughter#2 and I watched the synchronised swimming yesterday and she was so pleased with their gold for the doubles. An under-rated sport is synchronised swimming, but there is hope the Olympics will boost take up for learning it.

Keep it up all of you taking part, from all countries, and remember it is the taking part not just the winning, for them to have reached team qualification is fantastic in itself.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Living in a Building Site

I haven't posted in such a long time, partly because things just haven't felt right. All routine has gone.

We are having the long awaited kitchen extension done, and my goodness, what an upheaval. Anyone who has gone through this and lived inside the home while it's going on will relate and understand.

The kitchen cupboards have been moved to the dining room leaving the sink in the actual kitchen but once the wall came down and we needed to use the sink or walk through to the bathroom we were virtually outside. Luckily we are big camping fans as that is exactly what it feels like, going to the toilets and washing facilities at the other end of the field under the sky.

The sky wasn't actually overhead as due to all the very unseasonal rain the builders put up a large tarpaulin, but the sides are still open to the back of our neighbours garden walls.

Our poor neighbours, especially the new one who moved in just days after work started, have been wonderful, not complaining once about the amount of noise and dust they have had to put up with, all weekend too, nights ending at 10pm, they definitely deserve a case of wine and decent box of chocs, I think.

Weeks this has been going on, but the star builders, who happen to also be good friends, are working their bots off to get it done ASAP for us to live in a proper habitable house again.

  It's not just the kitchen extension but also  the bathroom downstairs, and the small bedroom upstairs being turned into a bedroom with small en-suite, so we will have a second bathroom with a long wanted shower. It was a bit of a shock when I walked past and saw the floor being kicked out so we had no ceiling to the kitchen too as the beams turned out to be rotten in the small room above. At least the house will be in tip top condition by the end.

Have a look at the photos and see what we're living in, but do realise, we are getting some strange bit of twisted enjoyment out of it, if enjoyment is the right word, or at least I mean we aren't stressed with it all, and The Chauffeur is learning lots as he is working with them every minute he's not doing his own job.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Real Winners of Eurovision 2012

At least in the minds of myself and daughter#2, should have been Russia. They reached the very respectable number 2 place but, darnit! (that's me slapping my knee there) we thought they should have won it. The actual winners, Sweden, were way out in the lead by around a hundred points which is a heck of a lot, but for quite a while we did think Russia had a chance.

When these little old ladies showed up on the stage in their traditional Russian costumes, daughter#2 who currently has a big penchant for anything Russia and is in fact calling herself Russian (the unfathomable ways of the teenager) started saying, 'I'm ashamed to be Russian', and shaking her head, but 30 seconds in these ladies were completely embedded in our hearts. I got up there and danced along with the song, arms pumping just like theirs, lol, and in complete Eurovision tradition the catchy tune stuck into our heads and we learnt the words after the first chorus - during the first chorus even - not hard as there were only a few words in English.

I don't know if the Swedish winners are going to get the same worldwide and enduring acclaim those other Swedish Eurovision winners did, back in the day, you know that little old band which went by the name of Abba, who have never been out of the minds of anyone ever since and is the pub Karaoke favourite after Elvis. Maybe they will, though I'm not so sure.

I'm going to leave you with the Russia entry now, if you haven't seen or heard it already I do urge you to, and do listen to it to the end, you may find the beginning a little, um well, but you'll soon see why it was so good and they even cooked up a little meal at the end, well, isn't that what Grannies like to do? Come on then 'Come on and Dance!

Buranovskiye Babushki, or Buranovo Grannies - Party for Everybody

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Moving In Laws

For the last couple of years my In Laws have been living in France all the while trying to sell, in a very slow market, their large and pretty house. They have had a few problems with their living arrangements while out in France. They wanted to buy a place of their own and searched for a long time, finding instead what seemed to be the perfect place to rent. Unfortunately for them the owners decided to sell this wonderful house with it's large glass room, but at a price far out of my In Laws reach. So the perfect place with it's own swimming pool surrounded by apple orchards had to be abandoned.

Not so long after they finally had a buyer for the UK house and have also found a lovely place to buy in France. It has all seemed so timely, some good luck for them for a change. So, it is the big move for them now.

They have returned to the UK in their little campervan to get things sorted, and as I type The Chauffeur and Daughter#2 are with them helping out. They have their different piles, these items to go to the tip, those to go to charity and those to sell on a driveway sale. The Chauffeur is also selecting what to keep for ourselves. We are slightly hoarderish so really could do with nothing at all, but he's bringing some antiques he simply can't bear to see go, including an early Victorian chest of drawers. We are also acquiring 3 - yes 3 - sets of golf clubs, great when none of us actually play! I'm a little concerned about what else he's bringing home. He didn't let me or Daughter#1 go with him so as to keep as much space left in the car as possible for goodies. I do feel mean, though, as Mother in Law is packing all her fragile bits herself, apparently the moving firm won't do this.

The photo above is the area they live in, the Haute Pyrenees, surrounded on all sides by large mountains, the largest of them being the Canigou. It's lush and fertile, dry in the Summer and snowy in Winter. They absolutely love it there spending much of their time walking those mountains. I'm sure I'll post more photos of the area once they've moved in to their new abode.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Reflections Post

I am so glad I found out about this challenge. I'm not one for linkys normally but saw a post somewhere or other where this one was mentioned and it caught my imagination. And what a challenge it was. Posting every day even with Sundays off was more difficult than I'd imagined.

Saying that, it was also a practice run for me, that's how I've decided to look at it. Next time there will be a lot more pre-made posts and also a theme - what theme is still to be decided.

Best thing for me about the challenge was meeting other bloggers, especially who were doing the challenge itself as it made for a very close feeling of comradeship, we were all in it together. This feeling was encouraged by the team leaders - Arlee -  who got round to everyone's blogs, and also several of the other team leaders. It was a good feeling to see their names in so many of the comments boxes as I worked around them, as this also gave that feeling of intimacy mentioned just now. Tina, too, with her wonderful email to give us a kinship as part of her team. I've never felt part of any blogging community but this challenge has given me that feeling.

I found a few blogs I have begun to follow, some from the list and some from the comments they had left on other blogs. I'm going to try to work my way through the list for the rest of the year - that's a good idea - leaving the list up giving us all a chance to get round them all.

All in all, looking forward to next years challenge - bring it on!!

Monday, 30 April 2012

Z is for Zinnia

And so we reach the end. I don't know about all of you but I feel a bit ZZZZZ after all those blog posts. I thought about ending with Z is for Zebra as I started with A is for Apple but decided against that. By the way, did you ever wonder what colour zebras actually are? Well, they are black with white stripes - not white with black stripes.

  That post would have been a bit monochrome so  instead this thread is more colourful as I shall add a few pictures of the Zinnia, a very pretty flower from the Americas, mostly situated in Mexico, and a member of the Astor family. Strangely the Spanish used to call them Mal De Ojos or the Evil Eye, but also because they were considered to be ugly! They like hot dry climates so if you want to grow them and don't live in such a place may do better grown in a greenhouse, but can be put outside once it has germinated. There are many different types, and lots of different pretty colours. They attract butterflies which is a bonus.

  I actually had this name on my baby name list for my first child but The Chauffeur discounted it - one of many names I liked. He didn't have any particular choice but I had a huuge list. He wouldn't go for anything unusual, that included Zinnia, but also any 'hippy' type names I liked such as Meadow or Blue. Nor anything too old fashioned, out went my Olde English choices such as Isolde, no foreign names as the surname is foreign and he was worried about bullying, out went Titziana. in fact my huuge list was quite shortened by the end. Not that I chose anything too different, certainly not Talula Does The Hula In Hawaii as had been chosen in Australia, nor Number 16 Bus Shelter - another real choice! With choices like those what on earth is wrong with Zinnia? In the end we went with sensible traditional which luckily I do like a lot, though very popular.

So, we have reached the end and I find it all quite sad. But don't forget the Reflection Post. I will be visiting many more blogs in the coming year as the list will still be up, so that will be fun. In the meantime have a look at some more Zinnias - none of them  mine, of course as she is named something quite different.

Sunday, 29 April 2012


Apologies yet again for being a day late.

Although I don't live in Yorkshire or anywhere near it's the area where The chauffeur's mother is from and I've been to visit. It's beautiful, rugged and wild.

It's the location of my very favourite book - Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Emily was the daughter of a Curate and led a simple quiet life. People often wonder at the passion shown in her book not understanding where she could have found it, but surely the area she lived had some hand in it due to the wild land around, the space and the rugged Dales. I have been to her house and walked those Dales, it is easy to imagine a passionate Cathy and brooding Heathcliffe wandering around there.

  More history of Yorkshire is the War of the Roses, the name of which is so contradictory if you imagine roses to be harmless, sweet smelling flowers. The reality is the House of York was represented by a white rose and were at war against the House of Lancaster, represented by a red rose. This war went on for 30 years before Lancaster won and the Tudors took the throne from the Plantagenets.

Yorkshire's most famous culinary dish is the Yorkshire pudding. Not a sweet or pudding dish at all, it's savoury and made of flour eggs and milk, very similar to a pancake but cooked so it rises, the higher the better. The correct Yorkshire way is to serve it large with gravy, but is usually eaten nowadays smaller with a roast meat dinner, preferably on a Sunday. No roast dinner is complete without a Yorkshire pudding!

 This area had also been taken over by the Vikings who invaded the territory during the 10th century after arriving on the Cumbrian coast in their Longships . It was they who gave the capital of this area the name York, though spelt Jorvik which was Scandinavian for 'Camp of the Cheiftains. There is a legacy for the invasion in the red hair sported by a large number of people from this area, including my mother in law. A recent DNA test of many from here showed a high genetic link back to the Scandinavian countries showing that their ancestors came from there more so than a genetic link to the the UK, even after all these several hundred years. If anyone gets the chance to see a bit of Viking life you can visit the Jorvik Viking Centre where you first watch a little video of the history of Yorkshire, then you get into a sort of trolley which moves around a reconstruction of a Viking village all the while moving along above the village as you look down into it. There are sights, sounds and, quite interestingly, smells that may have been around, nice Viking food smells counteracted by not so nice public toilet smells with sound effects to go with it!!

I have included a link to the website of the centre - warning, you may feel in need of your own shield if you click on this.

Friday, 27 April 2012

XIII and XV...

  ...are the ages of my girls. I am slightly longer (and older) with XLVII, and The Chauffeur is XLIV. We are all presently X rated (sorry, lame joke).

As you can see these are Roman Numerals. Not all numbers start with X of course, and there are certain rules about the use of the numbers so that the X can mean 10 less than the next number letter - does that make sense?

We have all seen Roman Numerals about, most commonly on clocks, but also on door numbers and tombstones among others. They are a very efficient numeral way to write numbers but went out of fashion when we began using the Hindu-Arabic numerals in the 14th century which you can see on your keyboard right now. One big difference between the two systems is that although they were also decimal the Roman Numerology did not have a number for zero which is quite odd to think about now, I'm not sure how they got around that in general but some ancients used Nulla meaning None.

There are a few rules for using Roman Numerals, the first being that the subtractive numbers on the left should only be I, X or C but not the multiply by 'five' numbers, V, L and D. That number must be less than a 10th of the following letter, and only one letter is usually allowed to the left. This is why both The Chauffeur and I have an X before the L in our ages. I won't be too happy when I lose that X before the L and even less so when it moves to the right. I say there are rules but they are often disregarded and some numbers can be written ridiculously long, for instance my age could have been written XXXXVII which looks quite pretty, now I look at it.

Here are the number symbols with our modern number next to them to let you know what they all are in case you are unsure.

I = 1
V = 5
X = 10
L = 50
C = 100
D = 500
M = 1,000

So, can you work out our ages?

Where Did Yesterday Go?

The title is referring to the fact I'm a day late in the W post which was supposed to go up yesterday. The fact is I was pretty busy and didn't get a minute to do one.

Up at 6.30 to get my girls ready for school, I also walk them to their school bus to make sure they won't miss it. I just know if daughter#2 didn't have me to chivvy her along she'd miss it have to return home to take a couple of public buses arriving at school 2 hours late! So, that was an hour of my time walking there and back plus an extra bit of supermarket shopping time (thank goodness for 24 hour shopping giving us the choice to buy a courgette or whatever takes our fancy when we want, but that is a post for another time - do they take away our choice, too?).

Housework, lovely housework took up some time then out with The Chauffeur looking at yet more kitchen cupboard units ready for the kitchen makeover launch in a few weeks (finally). Back just in time for my online work which ran over by an hour, quick bath, prepare meal for family and straight back to work with my meal in one hand and typing with the other. Finished at 11pm. Turned off laptop to unwind in front of inane TV shows and remembered it was my deadline for my invoice to go in, grrr. Switched my laptop back on to get the dates I'd worked last month, switched on The Chauffeur's laptop to do the invoices and timesheets - due to only wanting to pay for Office Word on one machine we keep it on his laptop so all invoices go through that one. I am so happy as I managed to do them all by myself for the very first time. I envisaged waking daughter#2 up as she's always had to help me in the past - I am far too computer illiterate to do it normally - and sent them off at 11.30pm, just in the very nickest of time (I hope, or I don't get paid for last month *shiver*).

I was then too shattered too think of a W topic and get it typed out so watched the inane TV show which turned out to be quite enjoyable in the end. Unfortunately when I went to bed my mind didn't - that means it wouldn't go to sleep and just flicked from one nuisance thought to another, all to do with things I might have done wrong or things I need to do or things which might happen and then go wrong - why is it when you can't sleep you can't at least think nice happy thoughts and only horrid unwanted ones pop up into your mind?

So, that was my day, hectic but not with anything particularly important, just one thing to another to another with no stop and then it was today, so Where Did Yesterday Go?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


Founded in 1978by Gianni Versace, this company makes the most beautiful clothes. Often considered to be extremely elegant. Although Gianni was sadly murdered in 1997 his company carried on, being looked after by various members of his family, the most well known of them being Donnatella who actually only owns 20% of the business while her daughter Allegra owns 50%. The business doesn't seem to have been affected by losing Gianni's creative force.

The design company covers several different things including perfume but is mainly associated with it's clothing, especially the dresses. These are coveted by the wealthy and famous, there is never an Oscar night without at least one of the Versace range of dresses being worn. Here are a few of the 2012 dresses.



Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Life, The Universe and Everything

  I remember listening to my Uncle when I was young while he pondered questions such as 'Where do we come from',  'How did we get here,' 'What's it all for', and feeling fascinated and also quite scared. It was all so BIG, these thoughts he was discussing which I with my young brain was listening to. He wasn't spiritual or religious in any way and neither was I, so we couldn't use faith as an explanation. It was all more scientific and also philosophical. How did the Universe come about, where had it come from and what was it's purpose, if any? How did we little humans happen, why were we the only intelligent beings that we knew of.

My uncle did believe in aliens, not so many people did back then so lots of people thought he was a bit odd for it. He thought there must be life on other planets, that in fact we may have had connections to them in some way. I don't think he knew about the belief of many nowadays, of aliens landing on this planet and somehow starting our life form here, either as a direct result of descendants or that they somehow merged their DNA with apes or some or animal here, but if he had he would have jumped on that theory as quite likely, I feel sure.

Personally, I don't know about that, could be true, might not be. But like most people now do believe I think there has to be other intelligent life forms out there somewhere in one of the millions/billions of planets floating around the stars.

What we know, or surmise, about the Universe is all very fascinating and awesome. It's expanding for one thing, growing outwards and spreading apart the distances between the stars. The things we know which are there but can't actually see such as black holes and the immense power they contain is amazing, but also scary when you know they suck up everything around them including whole stars. If they can do that what hope have we to survive? 

It's so easy to worry about what is out there, what we don't know about, as well as what we do know. But really the answer is already known, Douglas Adams told us in his book 'The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy'. The answer is 42, yes, number Forty Two. So, now we need not worry anymore. It's the answer to it all, Life, the Universe and Everything - 42. Ah now I feel better for knowing that.

Monday, 23 April 2012

T is for Tea

My beverage of choice. I do love a good cup of coffee but drink tea much more often. Several cups a day, large and strong, it needs to be builders brew strength. If I feel the need for a cup later in the evening then I'll go for a Red bush as it's decaffeinated. I first came across this tea after reading Alexander McCall Smiths novels about Precious Ramotswe in Botswana. She is also a big tea drinker, and introduced me to Red Bush, though her assistant private detective Mma Makutsi prefers regular tea.

They also taught me to slow down while drinking tea and just enjoy it while relaxing, it helps them come up with solutions to the often gentle crimes or dilemmas they have been employed to solve. I try to use my tea drinking to just stop a few minutes and just drink, it doesn't give me any insight into anything but I do enjoy it more and feel ready for whatever needs doing next.

When reading other blogs I do like a cup in my hand, too. I hope you are doing the same with the drink you like best.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Seth Thomas

Seth Thomas - Clockmaker.

I know nothing about him except what my partner has told me over the years. He is a very enthusiastic clock lover, whose hobby is buying antique clocks and fixing them up. We have so many now we have stored a lot in the attic, but he still can't stop looking around antique shops, going to auctions and buying off Ebay. To be able to continue his love of buying and restoring he now he has begun selling the ones he has no room for.

Seth Thomas was an American clockmaker from the 19th century. He was an active clockmaker in Plymouth Hollow, Connecticut where he had a factory making mass produced clocks in the American style but with a brass movement. In the event of his death they renamed the town Thomaston. It's a good way to date his clocks, if they had been labelled  'Plymouth Hollow' they were usually made pre 1865, if they were labelled Thomaston they would have been made afterwards.

He had his own clock hands with the symbols S on the minute hand and T on the hour hand which were called, simply, ST hands. If you come across any hands with these symbols you are looking at Seth Thomas hands. He was also famous for producing OG and drop dial wall clocks. The clocks are wooden rectangular boxes with a brass movement inside often with colourful glass tablets symbolising flowers or the American eagle, which were reverse painted.

We have several of his clocks adorning our walls although my preference is for French slate clocks. We have, in fact, clocks of many other kinds around the house, mostly antique but luckily not wound up or there's a cacophony on the hour and half hour. Seth Thomas is my partner's favourite clockmaker. The photos are his, the one above he sold and the one below is the newest acquired awaiting restoration. No pretty picture to show with it yet as the painted urn and flower arrangement is cracked.

Friday, 20 April 2012


'See Rome and Die' as the saying goes (it should be see Naples and die but got twisted over time). I won't talk too much about it as most people know so much already, but if it is at all possible I do recommend you to go visit some time if you haven't already. If you been already have you'll understand why I say this.

Visiting has changed over the years I've been going, there are more street vendors selling handbags and the like with their wares spread over the pavement, and more beggarwomen, the older ones having a little shake which miraculously clears up at home time, and the young girls tugging at your clothes, hands outstretched. But the sites are still there, more and more charging to see them as this is necessary to help keep them looked after. Italy has dire money problems and as much as they love their antiquities there's not much money left over to keep them safe.

Try not to go during the hottest months, August is like a sauna, and whatever you do don't go out at midday, there's another saying, 'Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Midday Sun' and there's a reason for this - it's Too Hot!

But do go and enjoy, sit near a cool fountain and watch the world, wander around, a lot of the touristy sites are within walking distance from each other. Don't stress, if you don't see it all just be happy with what you have seen and enjoy the ambiance, the sights, sounds and smells of Rome itself. It's not just about the famous ancient places as there are ancient buildings and monuments everywhere, but also just know you are there in Rome and enjoy that in and for itself.

Rome is one of the most wonderful of cities, beautiful, can be exhausting, friendly, sometimes expensive, but always well worth it.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


  This post isn't anything so much about the word as about the business my parents in law had which was named Quintessential. They gave it this name due the the quintessentialness of their products and also because it was a play on the word 'essential' as they sold essential oils and products using them.

They made wonderful shampoos, bubble bath, moisturising cream and other items of this nature. The products were made to recipes devised by my mother in law. She had started her career as a nurse, midwife then matron of a private boarding boys school. She left this type of work to study the body in a slightly different way and also aromatherapy and, using this study, became a masseur. This naturally led on to her Quintessential business. I still have never found a better body lotion for my daughter#1's eczema or chest rub for my daughter#2's persistent cough.

They sold their wares in a centuries old manor house along with other craft sellers such as a quilter. There were other craftsmen outside like a blacksmith, some glass makers and potters. A horse and cart carried visitors around the very pretty village situated right next to the house. My in laws had an entire field in the grounds where they grew several varieties of lavender from which, when harvested, they distilled their own lavender oil. It was all quite idyllic.

Quintessential means the best, and their products were the best, being sold in the best setting.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

People Watching

One of the best pastimes, in my opinion. Nothing much beats sitting in a cafe, for instance, with a latte and a piece of cake watching the world go by. Outside,  weather permitting, you can watch people walk past going about their business, shopping in hand or not. I don't buy into this idea that people should not watch others, nor to be interested in them. Why can't we wonder about each other? I've never understood the notion that we should mind our own business and to keep our noses out, that makes for a sadder world, ignoring those who have nothing to do with us. Are we not all connected in some way? Some countries are more likely to believe this than others. In Italy there is no way you can be anonymous, as your neighbours will know what you are doing and don't have any compunction in discussing it with their friends and family. They know what you are doing as they will have observed it, not to be malicious in any way but simply because they are interested. I love this way.

Anyway, back to my cafe watching. I do enjoy wondering where the people walking past will be going, to the opticians just there? Or the bank across the way? Ah, there he goes, into the florists, I wonder what flowers he's buying, are they for his wife, his mother? Indoors I wonder about the other customers, that young couple there, holding hands and giggling so much, is this an early date as they are behaving differently from that couple sitting companionably but not talking much, they look happy but more established. The ladies at that table with several bags of shopping, is this meeting a regular thing or are they here buying for a special occasion and stopping for a quick rest.

Other places to people watch are public places such as a town square or places where lots of people gather. There's a lovely harbourside in my town next to the river where people go, especially on sunny weekends, people just wander up and down which is nice to do and to watch.

Okay, okay, maybe I am a bit nosy, but really I am simply interested as people are interesting. There's no rudeness involved, I don't want to poke my nose in, it's a passing curiosity is all. There is a difference.

What do you think? Is it nosy or is it acceptable?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Here is a little list of cooking oils and their uses.

Sesame - this one often gets used for stir fry dishes. it has been around at least 2,500 years and was one of the first types of oil. Sesame is a good source of Vitamin E and can help lower blood pressure. It sells for a relatively high price due to the difficulty in extracting the oil from the sesame seeds.

Olive - the extra virgin is best used cold for salads, the regular better for cooking. One of the most well known, also reputed to be good for lowering cholesterol. The extra virgin oil is from it's first cold pressing, the rest from further pressings.This oil has been used for around 5,000 years spreading out from the Mediterranean to Northern Africa.

Almond - not often used in cooking, it's a great oil for mixing with scented essential oils for use in massages, etc. it's also very good for the skin, rehydrating dry skin as it absorbs very well.
Walnut - nice for salad dressings, either alone or mixed with vinegar or lemon, and especially if used with walnuts. Like most other oils it should be stored in a cool, dark area to stop it going rancid. Also used by the Renaissance painters as a base thinner. It's a good source of  Omega 3 fatty acids as well as several Vitamins.

Sunflower - Nice and bland, great for cooking with, doesn't leave much of an after taste and can be used at high heat.

Pumpkin seed- a dark brown oil, also used in salad dressing. It has a smoky flavour which doesn't appeal to everyone. An important export from Austria and Slovenia. I've not tried it but apparently is good drizzled on ice cream, or mixed with honey to make a dressing.

Corn - another bland oil. It can be used in all kinds of cooking although it is now being warned that overuse of any kind of corn isn't good for the body, increasing chances of developing certain diseases as well as depression. This is in part due to excessive amounts of Omega 6 fatty acids.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Nasa News

Today's letter N is incorporating one of my occasional posts on anything Nasa. This time I have added this gorgeous photo of 'baby stars creating chaos' as they depict it. The below is copied and pasted from their site about this photograph. Isn't nature amazing?

Chaos in Orion

Baby stars are creating chaos 1,500 light-years away in the cosmic cloud of the Orion Nebula. Four massive stars make up the bright yellow area in the center of this false-color image for NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Green indicates hydrogen and sulfur gas in the nebula, which is a cocoon of gas and dust. Red and orange indicate carbon-rich molecules. Infant stars appear as yellow dots embedded in the nebula.
Image Credit: NASA  

Sunday, 15 April 2012


Mercato in Italian. 

I love markets, the sight and sound and smell of them. The hustle and bustle. I can't understand it when people get irritated by the crowds as that is part and parcel of the charm in my view. Yes, you get jostled but what of it?  I don't mind a bit of jostle, myself.

My favourite markets are in Italy, in particular the one I go to when I stay with my family. It has all the usual stalls, cheap clothes from China, inexpensive jewellery and hair accessories, handbags and many other sundries. But the stalls I go for are the food ones.

The stalls overflow with whatever is in season, fresh as fresh, and smelling absolutely divine. The vendors who aren't in actual transaction call out there wares often with hoarse voices as they've been moving from town to town every day shouting out the same way. They then pack your carrier bags full. People don't just buy 4 or 5 apples at a time they buy kilos so their bags are groaning with the one item, then they'll buy a whole bag full of freshly harvested greens, and a whole bag of artichokes. A lot of people , men included, pull trolleys behind them so they can fit all their bags into them if they want more than a few different items as each one needs a bag of it's own. You can buy a whole tray of figs fresh off a tree, or large tray of eggs which are generally straight from the chicken that morning.

 Then you go to get the meat. This is sold from vans rather than a stall to keep it more hygienic, though often the vendors have set up a table in front to slice the meat which is direct from a hunk of pork shoulder and other types of meat. Our preferred  meat seller in the mercato, the whole family work at the van and have been for generations, but due to EU regulations now don't rear their own pigs so we don't get the individual flavour that used to come from the particular food fed to those pigs. There is also a large choice of salamis, porcetta and sausages among other types of meat to choose from.

 Then people go for the cheeses, most of them regional but a few from other areas, everyone finishes their main lunch meal with cheese so these stalls are important. My favourite stall of all is the olive one which contains several different types and sizes of olive which are kept in large wooden bowls covered in brine but still fresh. There are a few other things such as various nuts and seeds also on offer in these stalls. I usually go for large green olives with no added flavour or stuffing, and some pistachios.

 All the time as you walk around you see friends and family. Getting the groceries becomes an event in itself, stopping and chatting, bit of gossip, bit of world saving discussion, bit of weather moaning - this last is a big topic favourite. People go to buy at the market but also to catch up with other people, you do see many people, generally older men who just wander around, hands behind their backs till they see someone they know and call out to them, stopping for a chat before moving on to see who else is around, or maybe just to experience the actual market itself.

Italian markets are noisy and crowded and just so full of life.