Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Foreign animals

When I am on holiday, I always enjoy taking photographs. And when I am home and look at the photographs, I notice I do not only like to make snapshots of buildings and other landmarks, somehow all kinds of animals also manage to catch my attention. I am always on the lookout for cats, but birds and even small lizards also find their way into my photographs.

This beautiful cat was watching everything that was going on at the Forum Romanum. It was clear this cat and his feline colleagues owned the place.

A little lizard was baking in the sun, also at the Forum Romanum

Some beautiful bird, I must admit I have no idea what kind of bird. At the Forum Romanum

A cat lying in the sun in the getto of Venice.

Pigeon on San Marco's square, Venice.

A very shy cat in a little park in Venice, that was waiting for somebody from the neighbourhood who always came and fed this cat and the other cats in the park.

Al these photographs were take by me, The ones in Rome in 2012, the ones in Venice in 2011.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Thomas Moore

And the heart that is soonest awake to the flowers is always the first to be touch'd by the thorns.
Photograph made by me, Rome 2012

Thomas Moore (1779-1852, Irish poet)

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Mouthwatering cookbooks

I am not a great cook, but I do like to read cookbooks. The fun part for me is not just reading the recipes, but reading the extra information. I like it when the author not just tells you how many eggs you need, but also tells you stories about their lives or their experiences. Luckily for me, most cookbooks today have this extra information, and even more important, photographs. Photographs of beautiful plates of food, but also of vegetables, of cutlery, china plates and bowls, beautiful linen and stunning combinations of all these things. 

Two of my favorite cookbooks are the two Sophie Dahl wrote. ‘Miss Dahl’s voluptuous delights’, and ‘From season to season, a year in recipes’.

I know a lot of people criticize  her for not being a ‘real chef’, but she never claimed she was. In her own words (more or less);  she is just somebody who loves food and who like to write about it.
For me, her recipes are simple to make and taste good.
The amazing pictures just add to the pleasure I have when I use these books. I have the Dutch translation, because in cookbooks I otherwise get confused with different measurements etc.
Just look at these pictures, do they not make you want to go into the kitchen and start cooking?

I also enjoy this cookbook, 'The Paris neighbourhood cookbook' by Danyel Couet. This book is about Paris and the different recipies for the different neighbourhoods of the city. This book also has loads of beautiful photographs of food, but also of Paris. A book that makes you feel like you are in Paris, and not just sitting on your couch in your own home.

And of course, being a fan of Italy and Italian food, I have a couple of Italian cookbooks as well. I enjoy reading the delicous recipies, and admiring the gorgeous pictures. Now all I have to do is find the courage to actually make some of these recipies!

Sunday, 18 November 2012


Good people do not need laws to know what their responsibility is, bad people always find a way around the laws.

Plato, Greek philosopher 427-347

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Home improvement on a budget

Sometimes you want to make some changes in your house. You can re-arrange your furniture, but if you live like I do, that is not really a possibility. All my walls are lined with bookcases, and those cannot be moved, therefore things like couches, beds, chairs, the dining table etc must all stay where they are.

And if you do not have a lot of money to buy new furniture, how can you create a new look in your living room? The answer is, as most of you will probably now: change the accessories.

I have a brown couch, and last year I bought a new chair, that is blue. I must admit, it does not look so good together as I hoped it would when I bought the chair, somehow it is a little bit bigger and also more blue than I expected. To bring the couch and the chair together I bought two dark blue cushions for the couch, the bright pink one is for an extra spark of colour, since it did look very dark together. It looked okay, but I was not crazy about it.
The brown couch, the blue cushions and a cat
The blue chair, and part of the brown couch with a blue cushion
Last week I found the solution. First of all I bought a white fleece blanket, to drape over the couch. I also bought two white cushion covers for the dark blue cushions. I chanced the bright pink one for a pale purple one. One white cushion on the chair, one white and the light purple cushion on one side of the couch, and the white blanket hanging from the other end. Now, the chair and couch look as if they belong together, and my living rooms looks much brighter.

It looks brighter
On the coffee table I also did something different. During the winter months I always have a tray with bright coloured candles on my coffee table. I have candles again, but now I put a white and two light brown candles on the tray. Again, now it looks like it belongs together. The colour of the brown candles is almost the same as the colour of the couch.
So, a new look for under 15 Euros, and I did not have to make huge changes, buy new things, or change my entire living room. Just a few things can make a difference.  
Now it looks like it belongs together

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Charles Dickens

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, ninteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds, ought and six, result misery'.

Mr Micawber in David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A few things to indulge myself

When the weather is grey and cold, you must make it comfortable in your own home. Here are a few things I gathered to make sure I have all I need to enjoy myself.

First of all: something to eat and drink: tea and chocolate. I always drink my tea with milk, English fashion.

Beautiful flowers brighten up every room, and these cute little roses look very nice in the glass jug that passes as a vase.

And books, what would a good day be without books? Currently I am reading the last part of the trilogie by Katherine Pancol, a Dutch translation of the original French book. The first two parts were funny and a good read and I hope this one is too. The price for most original titels certainly goes to Katherine Pancol. The first two books were called: 'The yellow eyes of crocodiles', and 'The turtles' slow waltz'. This one is called 'Central Park's squirrels are sad on Mondays'. (De eekhoorns huilen op maandag)
Corrado and the books
Also the new book by Kate Mosse arrived today, so when I am finished with the squirrels, 'Citadel' is the next one on my list. 

Have a good weekend!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Impressions of Amsterdam

Last week, best friend M. and I went to Amsterdam. Every now and then we go there, to drink coffee, have lunch at our favorite little lunchroom next to the flowermarket, visit some bookshops and of course: talk.
This time I also wanted to make some photographs, some impressions of Amsterdam. Unfortunately the day was very gloomy and later it also started to rain. So my photographs are not as light as I wanted them to be, but they still give a good impression.

Here we have two of the many famous canals, de 'grachten' of Amsterdam

Some of these houses have beautiful facades.
We walked through the little streets and canals of the 'Jordaan', and I noticed how people always try to make things look a bit nicer and greener, using pots and plants even if there is no garden.

Here are two photographs I made earlier (as you can see, that was a sunny day). Somewhere in Amsterdam, in the middle of the pavement, people put these pots of flowers. It looks nice, it is surprising, and of course it also prevents other to park their cars on this pavement. But even if this was the main reason, it still looks great I think.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Steve McQueen, 1930-1980

Today 32 years ago, Steve McQueen died in a hospital in Mexico. The ‘King of Cool’  was no more.
He suffered from cancer due to working with asbestos while he was in the Navy. Of course, years of smoking did not do him any good either.

Steve McQueen was an amazing movie star and the best paid actor of his generation. He played in movies that are still watched today, and certain roles he played are engraved into the collective memories of his fans.
So this post is dedicated to Steve McQueen.


Monday, 5 November 2012

The Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society

I read this book for the first time a couple of years ago, and recently I re-read it, and fell in love with it again.

The story is set in 1946 when the war is over, but the damage done by the bombs is still visible and rationing is a daily problem for everyone.
Juliet Ashton is a writer, who wrote cheerful columns during the war and is now looking for a topic for a book. She receives a letter from the isle of Guernsey, from a man called Dawsey Adams. He found her address in a second hand book she once owned about the writer Charles Lamb and he asks her if she can recommend more books by Charles Lamb. He mentions in his letter the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Juliet is intrigued. She starts corresponding with Dawsey and the other members of the society and finds out how the residents of Guernsey lived during the war and the German occupation and which role their friend Elizabeth played. Juliet finally decides to go to Guernsey herself to meet everybody in person and is welcomed by the eccentric society.

The book is told through the letters Juliet writes to the members of the society in Guernsey and to her friend and publisher, and the letters she receives from them. The epistolary novel was quite popular in the 18th century, but after that not so much. I think the form really works in this book.

The tone of ‘The Guernsey literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ is funny and witty, but the story has more layers than that. First there is also the story of the German occupation. The Channel Islands were the only part of Britain that were occupied during the war. Here in the Netherlands we were also occupied, so we can relate to this, although Guernsey being a small island made the situation even more dire.
In situations like these people need courage, and Elizabeth had courage. She was very brave. But other people also had courage, perhaps not always so visible, but no less important.
The final thing that is important in this novel is the love for books. Books that give people hope, new insights and new perspectives. It does not matter if it is a book by Seneca or Jane Austen, each book comes to the person who need it the most.

I loved this book and I can recommend it to everybody who wants to read a heartwarming tale about books, courage and love.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Theresa of Avila

To reach something good is is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience.

Saint Theresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Beautiful autumn

I always feel very privileged that I live in a country that has four very different seasons. Each season has its own character, but for me the autumn is especially breathtaking. Of course there are some days with heavy rains and stormy winds, but there are also still plenty days full of sun and great weather.
And for me there is almost nothing more beautiful than the sunlight on the autumnleaves with their different shades of reds, yellows and greens.
Here are a few of the photographs I took in the past weeks, and a few of the photographs my father made. (he gave me permission to use them, thanks dad!)

And the ones my father made:

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Something to do during the evening

Outside it is cold and dark, and every evening I close the curtains early. During these long autumn and winter evenings, I think it is always nice to have something to do, something creative. These months are the best for taking up arts and crafts projects. And although I am fond of arts and crafts, the projects have to meet a few conditions before I take them on.

First, the project mustn’t take loads of preparations to get started, it must be easy to set up. Also it mustn’t take up a lot of space or create a huge mess. And last, I need to be able to pick it up and put it back within seconds.
I once tried weaving, but the drawback was the huge weaving loom in my living room, taking up space even when I was not using it. I found out I do not like knitting, or crochet.

But I also found out I do like embroidery. So last week I went to the craft shop and I bought an embroidery kit. It is a pillow cover with purple and pink hydrangeas. It is perfect for beginners, because it is done with wool (not real wool) so you see results very quickly, and the colours and the pattern are printed on the fabric, so I cannot go wrong.
For these past days every evening I take out my basket, do some cross stitching and when I am done I can put it away very easily.  
Perhaps it is a bit old-fashioned, but I really enjoy it, and for me that is more important than being ‘in-fashion’.
Look at the lovely colours!

The beginning

My lovely little scissors in the form of a bird.
Since the beginning of time it seems that needlework it connected to feminine accomplishments, from the working women who knitted socks for husbands and children, to upper class ladies who did fine embroidery. Women knitting, sowing or doing other needlework also inspired lots of artists and painters, as you can see below.

(I do not onw any rights to these pictures, so if I need to remove them please let me know and I will do so.)

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