Friday, July 28, 2017

Non-Holland Interlude

The morning's sweet pea and bean harvest from the front 40 atop some sprawling lavender
As we were walking around in the Fill the other day, Alex mentioned that I hadn't shared any photos of the garden lately, so this morning I thought I'd take a few quick snaps with the iPad (about the only thing I can do relatively easily with the iPad is take photos. Well, after I overcame that tendency to take videos rather than photos) and toss them up on blahdeblah before getting on with the rest of my day. Oh, the trilling laughter that has ensued. It took me a while to locate the photos (wouldn't you think they'd just be in "photos"?), and then to find a way to convey them to blogger. I'm still not clear which combination of maneuvers worked. Oh, first decade of the third millennium, how I miss you!

Fingers crossed that some photos appear below. (They are not, of course, edited in any way because god knows I'm not about to try to get that tricky on this absurd machine.)

I told Alex it was running a little wild. On looking at this snap, I'm reminded of the  powdery mildew as well.
[And it was just about here that I switched over to Myrna because, by god, there must be an app for blogger that I need to put together a post on the iPad. How did I manage to split a photo?]

That's my "secret garden" chair hidden behind the flourishing crocosmia and a geranium we call "Sticky."
More of that overgrown effect of which I'm so fond. I call it wilderness habitat.

Gradka, unamused by the papparazzi, has a wash on her lounger.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Holland, Take One

The mandatory aping of the painting photo
Holland is known for bicycles, maybe, and for Vermeer, of course, and for cheese, and for Heineken. Also tulips. Perhaps as the birthplace of Van Gogh. Oh, and Rembrandt too. So when we went to Holland a few weeks ago we planned to do some cycling, see some Vermeers, eat some cheese, etc.

We opted to skip the Heineken. Scott developed quite a fondness for Skuumkoppe beer instead.

What we discovered is that the seats on Dutch rental bikes are far less comfortable than those found on our bikes at home and also that Dutch bikes, in general, are insanely heavy. Somehow, we were always riding into a headwind on our longer excursions and, come to think of it, on some that were supposed to be pretty short as well.

Dutch rental bikes, Round 2: Our trusty steeds of Texel
Next time, I swear I'm bringing Bessie. And I sort of feel like there will be a next time because riding in Amsterdam was mighty fine. Who has the right of way in all situations? The cyclist. You get to be a pretty damned alert pedestrian walking in Amsterdam, and I can't imagine what it's like to drive there. Oh, wait. It's probably like being a cyclist in Seattle. A driver who hit a cyclist in Amsterdam would probably be torn limb from limb.

The thing you don't expect so much, maybe, is that that tulip business is a blind. The national flower of Holland is clearly the hollyhock. They grow absolutely everywhere, including along the sidewalks in central Amsterdam. And most hollyhocks, it seems, contain a few very hardworking bumblebees who are seriously coated in pollen. They put those mason bees to shame, I tell you.
One of great many bee-hosting hollyhocks
The other thing you see a lot of in Holland are cats. I could, I think, be very happy living in Holland, though Gradka would probably get tired of having to chase so many interlopers off the premises.

A frenzied turf war on a quiet street in Den Burg on Texel
Cocktails at Vesper
Of course, we also saw a number of new birds (and some old friends who clearly were as surprised to see us as we were to see them), a great many sheep, a handful of goats, and a pig named Walter. Perhaps one of these days, I'll order my thoughts and share some of those, along with the helpful travel tips that I was mentally compiling while in Europe that somehow abandoned me entirely somewhere over Iceland.

Four tips that I can remember just now:
1) Stock up on your ginger beer before getting on the ferry in Den Helder.
2) Your ov-chipkaart will work on train travel as well as on mainland trams, metro, and buses, but not on Texel.
3) Order the green beans with miso dip at Vesper. (Mmmm, Vesper . . .)
4) Which reminds me of a fourth tip, courtesy of Jules, the very helpful bartender at Vesper, eat at d&a hummus bistro. Delicious and cheap!
Preening Eurasian oystercatcher (Zuiderzee, Texel)

For a much more literary account of our time in Amsterdam, see Scott's account here.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Of jam making and iPad learning curves

In no particular order because technology has pretty much outwitted me for the last 24 hours or more, I present three photos (I hope) illustrating how Independence Day was observed chez Aurora. Madame Gradka does not so much recognize national holidays, not when there are ten pounds of apricots and three or four quarts of raspberries waiting to be processed in the factory kitchen.

 This year we decided to go for smaller batches but make two different types of jam in the same day. There were challenges--like the large burner which we use for heating the huge canner full of water for sterilizing the jars not working half the time--and distractions (like me using the iPad for taking photos and not realizing that I had it set to take video instead), not to mention the unfortunate discovery, well after we'd finished the whole business, of a dozen or more extra-soft apricots that had been put into the refrigerator for safe keeping. But I insist that this year's output is the most jewel-like ever and we think it taste pretty okay too. 

Apparently, I won't be adding any captions to the photos nor moving them neither. And I'll be learning how to write a post entirely in the HTML window because plain "compose" bounces around madly. I'd kill to know how to get rid of the oh-so-helpful auto-correct feature too. Bon appetit!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

What Julia said

. . . it seemed that this desperate power-monger was supported by Texas oil millionaires and that everyone in Washington was scared to death of him. It was beyond me how anybody of any sense of what our country was supposed to stand for could have anything to do with him, no matter how many votes he brought in.

 In the blood-heat of pursuing the enemy, many people are forgetting what we're fighting for. We are fighting for our hard-won liberty and freedom; for our Constitution and the due processes of our laws and for the right to differ in ideas, religion, and politics. I am convinced that in your zeal to fight against our enemies, you, too, have forgotten what you are fighting for.
 --from pages 200 and 202 of My Life in France

I'm reading  Julia Child's memoir of, as the title hints, her time in France. It was recommended to me by the bookseller at Book Larder in Fremont on Independent Bookstore Day and I bought it, in part, because I wanted to buy something at every store I went to that day. In truth, I did not have the highest expectations. The book was put together with, one suspects, coauthor Alex Prudhomme doing most of the work, when Julia was in her early 90s, but it's based on old letters and journals and the like so I expect it's pretty accurate. It isn't the most brilliantly written book ever but I am loving it--in part because who wouldn't love France in the late '40s and early '50s, and in part for the odd bits of cooking instruction scattered throughout, and--in part--because her opinions on the politics of her day could so readily be her opinions on the politics of the 21st century.

 On reflection, maybe that shouldn't be so comforting. But to read her on the topic of "fake news" is pretty damned fine:

"Glad? I should say we are!" Big John thundered. "Why, who wouldn't be? Everybody's glad. But of course you people over there, you wouldn't know how the country feels--all your news is slanted."
   This was hard to take, especially from the man who read only the right-leaning L.A. Times. For the record, Paul and I were avid devourers of the New York Times, the Herald Tribune, Le Figaro, Time, Fortune, The Reporter, Harper's, The New Yorker, even L'Humanitie, not to mention a flood of embassy cables, intelligence briefs, and twenty-four hour wire service and ticker sheets pouring in from around the world. So whose news was slanted?