Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Grapefruit Diet

Sonata :

While not this ancient , I 'm no spring chicken . I was prescribed Statins a few weeks ago , a low dose , because , as the specialist explained , though my cholesterol levels have been borderline for a couple of years , the borders had recently been lowered . I'm diabetic , have been for decades and am over 55 . Ergo . Statins .
I wasn't very happy about it but it's true , I don't really want to keel over just yet so I started on 20 mg. a day . Reluctantly .... for the rest of my life ? And , when the pharmacist said that I couldn't drink grapefruit juice while taking it , I was sad . Never , ever again then ?

By the second week I was feeling peaky and by the beginning of week three I had agonising pain round one shoulder blade . No , not the statins apparently but a pulled muscle . But I've decided , with the doctor's consent , to stop the wretched pills anyway . I'll give a low cholesterol diet a whirl first . Hard for someone who loves cream and cheese ....but on the bright side , I can go back to squeezing my own pink grapefruit juice again .

And I have some amazing pain killers and an excercise to do . Breathe in and hold ....

though I can't help feeling that overdoing this might be , in itself , stroke inducing . So gently , perhaps .

I'm planning to combine it with the bottom wiggling warm-up one Smitonius taught me a while ago .

Should liven up waits at bus stops now that it's snowing ... again .

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Is this a form of torture?


On speaking last night on the phone with Sonata, she talked about the freezing temperatures and the daily wrestling with icy weather in northern Holland where she lives. Having bought a new gadget over Xmas (the Ipod touch), I have been comparing the difference in the weather between the various cities and countries our relatives live in: press on weather icon, swipe across daily temperature tables for London, Leeuwarden, Leicester and Tiverton, and it is clear that my mother is living through an ice age. So, in the face of this, should I be uploading this photo of my recent visit to Jekyll Island?

I was thinking of her though, see what I wrote on the sand!

Locals were complaining of the cold, but it was like a mild Autumn day for us northern Europeans. Plus, whilst we visited, there was a special treasure hunt for glass floats: click on 'discover island treasures' to have a look. We were not lucky, but plenty of people have been....

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Great Escape


I had to get away for a bit yesterday . What with snow and ice , it's been difficult to leave town for the last few weeks and I was beginning to feel antsy .

So off to Groningen on the train . Even easier now they've added a fast train to the Saturday service . Not that I'm ever unhappy on a train .... I take a book and a crossword and the other passengers can sometimes be rather entertaining too . Except the chap yesterday who whistled ..... he was that horror , a warbling whistler . More trills than a budgie .
This is a little onetrack country service though , if one had the stamina and made the right connections , one could end up , a few days later , in Vladivostock . The couple in front of me were speaking Polish , which rather increased the whole Great Escape feel to the day . Mind you , the family behind were from Cap Verde . Bits of Portugese mingled with Polish , Fresian and even a little Dutch to make , whistling apart , a comfortable white sound and the crossword began to fill up nicely .

Why do I love Groningen so much ? It's very pretty , but then so is Leeuwarden . It's got lots of cafes , but then so does Leeuwarden . I think it's the people . They're chattier and , at the same time , quite happy to leave you alone to wander about , peering into doorways , take photos .

And wonder at odd things

It's full of nice corners , too .

But the big reason has to be The Souk . One of the best North African shops ever . The snows meant that our larder was bare so I stocked up . They have everything . Turkish bread , mint , quinces , Camargue rice , dried Broad Beans to make Byesar ( Morrocan hummus ) , prunes from Agen , bulgur , Turkish figs , 3 kinds of lentils , almonds , a vast array of olives , marinaded anchovies , 6 different sorts of Ras El Hanout , stuffed peppers , 5 different sorts of Feta , about 12 different flours ....... But not meat . For that you have to go down the street to the Halal butcher .

And it was COLD . I stood by one of the canals admiring a weird mosaic of broken ice between the houseboats , wondering how well-heated they'd be . I even took a photo
but the quality leaves something to be desired .

That can happen when you're passing the time of day with a charming woman in a fur coat , green wellies and Day-Glo orange earmuffs . ..

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

On why it is hard to have a Scarlet 17" waist


In Atlanta we visited the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum, given my long term fascination with Gone with the Wind (movie and book). We toured her tiny little flat (restored) with a group of fascinated Japanese tourists - although nothing had been hers, apart from some framed photographs, it looked suitably period. The museum also now has the oil painting of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett used in the movie:

Even if I had to use a corset (heaven forbid!), I would not have a 17" wist, and particularly not after a surfeit of Shrimps n' grits, flounder, she-crab soup, and fried green tomatoes during the holiday:
I found that I really like good quality grits - though, sometimes, they can remind one of tapioca, so wouldn't be to everyones taste! Even the desserts were heavenly: sweet and salted brownie and a red velvet cake...
I think my waistband is closer to this cutie than to Mitchell's Southern heroine (neon sign in Charleston, a place for another tasty favourite 'pulled pork' and BBQ ribs):

Monday, 18 January 2010

touch typing with bandaged finger


A brief entry - longer post to follow! Returned on Friday, and, after unpacking and so on, proceded to prepare supper. A serious prawn addiction has taken hold in this household after dozens of Wild Georgia Shrimp dishes, so I was preparing prawn tagliatelle for supper. Picked up knife, held lemon down, and sliced both the fruit and my finger. So, whose the real lemon?

Received on of these beauties in the post too - thanks Tania! (This is Myrtle and Eunice's own photo BTW)

I should be able to type somewhat more quickly once finger is released from its current cocoon on Wednesday....

Friday, 15 January 2010

Self Service

Sonata :

A busy week has left me determined to sit down and not move till Monday .

So ,to this end , I've made a big pot of proper Baked Beans and that , with good bread , cheese and fruit will be on offer to any fellow residents . Feathered visitors will find a self- service apple with sunflower seeds in the back yard .

If we're really lucky I might rally and throw a stew in the oven with baked potatoes tomorrow .
Normal service might return on Sunday ....

if not there's plenty of bacon and eggs .

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Smitonius: Today Jekyll Island


We should be staying at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel... cannot claim any family history connection at all, this is pure indulgence.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Oyez! Oyez! Blizzard Coming ....or not .

Sonata :
There were blizzard alerts all over North Europe this weekend
We were all veering from "Ooh-er " to "Nah ! " on Saturday . We could have been eating Roasted Tomato Sorbet ( Easy recipe this , just let bag of roasted tomatoes semi-thaw and serve ) by the light of the last Christmas candle .Or it could go just south and incommode someone else .

For any bemused North American reading this and wondering why Europe has collapsed under a couple of feet of snow ...... here you're never far from a bag of crisps and a banana . We don't usually see blizzards or mammoth power cuts and , if it does snow for a while we marvel at helicopters dropping bales of hay to mountain sheep far , far away . The recommendations by the German authorities on Friday to stock up on everything from carbohydrates to camping gas gave me a twinge . By the time the Dutch authorities were recommending filling a jerry can with water , just in case ....three litres per family they suggested ..... I felt mildly uneasy . Dug around and found 4 extra night lights and the Scrabble board .

This morning I can see a beautiful Persil white blanket everywhere I look .... feet of it . The nearby street , where daughter watched children skating ( not sliding , actually skating with skates ) on the inches-thick ice on the pavement , will be the same .

Getting to work should be fun tomorrow !

This lovely drawing by Eve Garnett for her Winter Anthology , published in 1952 and treasured by me since then , shows a gentler snowy day , with Roly Poly Pudding and Custard to look forward to .

Friday, 8 January 2010

Smitonius: today we are in Charleston


A bit of remote and automatic blogging... this is the plan anyway! What really happened and photos on return.

Why Charleston? Well, in this household we often plan trips around family history, and given that I am not tied to a teaching schedule this academic year... we thought we would take a chance and go in the low season. And wouldn't you know it, an unusual arctic front is scheduled for our arrival.

So, travelling back down one of my paternal branches, there are a Smith family and a Torrans family to be found. John Torrans (1702-1780), a merchant, married Elizabeth Blanche Smith (1736-1817), daughter of Judge William Smith of New York. Her brother Thomas Smith, owner of the so called Treason House in Haverstraw, had a son called William Smith (1761-1822) would marry their daughter and his first cousin Rosella Blanche Torrans (1772-1845). From this union, a daughter called Eliza Torranza Smith (1814-1872) was born who would marry an English merchant Stephen Watson and find herself in later life residing in Liverpool - a confederate supporter nonetheless. Although not much remains, given wars and earthquakes, it is a great excuse for travelling - wouldn't you agree?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Don't All Scratch At Once .


When most of Europe seems to be digging itself out of snowdrifts and even generous quantities of pea soup , hot chocolate and Sticky Toffee Pudding ( though perhaps not all at once ) , don't seem to beat off the cold , the only answer is WOOL .
Layers and layers of wool. From dolls

to teapots

from children

to golf clubs

we must all be encased in double-knitting ...with or without a pom-pom or two .

I'm resisting the idea of a hat but , despite myself , am drawn by the promised comfort of these undergarments

"most acceptable for daytime cosiness "according to the ad.

Monday, 4 January 2010

A few extra pounds?


As I am not a) in the dating game or b) in the beautiful people league, I don't risk being axed off this dating site for my two to three extra holiday pounds. And I cannot ennact the new year healthy diet resolution until mid-January as off on holiday tomorrow.... to Georgia and South Carolina. Not sure any of these culinary trends are low fat!

I blame my extra pounds on the following:

An abundance of meat dishes, such as Gennaro Contaldo's Porchetta recipe, which we enjoyed on Xmas day with a side dish of Radicchio, and we did follow Matt Follas' partridge recipe for new years eve too (very good instructions). Selection after selection of cheeses, such as Picos Blue, and St Marcelin. And home made mince pies using Paul A Young 'cocoa nib and chocolate mincemeat' (very tasty out of the jar, but looses its wow factor in a pie - the left over will be going into making an ice cream... or eaten sneakily out of the jar... who me?).

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Not So Much A Resolution , More of a Fond Hope

I know I said that one of my New Year's resolutions was to learn to link effectively , perhaps I should have said New Year's Fond Hopes.

My record , resolution-wise , is patchy . I did give up smoking about 30 years ago but that was more the conviction that a hacking cough might prove an uncongenial permanent fixture . My last year's was to finish WIPS . Hmmmm ..... completed patchily . Sorry about the pun .

But this

and this , seen in Bremen

have inspired me to make bread on a more regular basis , i.e. more than once a year .

I love Sour Dough bread and it's difficult to get locally . And I must have something tasty and hearty to try out the recipes in my new lovely cook book from Smitonius and partner .

Chicken livers , sage and pancetta on toasted Sourdough .....
Crostini with artichokes and Parma ham ....
Merguez sausages with red onions and capers on toasted ciabatta ....