Thursday, 29 November 2012

Quite A Few Shades Of Grey

The tail end of Autumn has been horrid this year  . The whole world seems to have gone grey .... every shade from anthracite and charcoal to dust and fag-ash . So I feel  the least I can do is to offer a couple of splashes of colour seen around this week :
This shimmering golden poster for a ballet company

some wreaths in the market

and my favourite , these two old illustrations , artist unknown , that I found in a Collector's Fair last Saturday .

A visit to the playschool and a therapeutic half hour making things out of plasticine with giggly three-year-olds , television with the BBC series "Last Tango In Halifax" and culinary adventures in Professional Masterchef , and a wonderfully bouncy CD  "Congolese Soukous"  which promises 'guitar action from the heart of danceness' have all made sure that , grey or not , ít's been a good week .
And may I wish you all a wonderful and cosy weekend ....

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Determined To Have Fun

She who leaves everything , including using a free day travel card , to the last minute can't be picky , which is why I ended up in Utrecht on the coldest , foggiest day of the week . Luckily , I'd put on layers of warm clothes  ( though drew the line at the 1930's stomach warmer above, pattern available on request , since it looks rather itchy )  and could spend a happy half-hour doing what retired chaps /chapesses do everywhere and watch men dig holes . 

Not having the level of expertise the other spectators had , it took me a while to work out how they'd got the heavy machinery down there . And then a large barge went past with a crane ... Duh !
Then it was time to thaw out and the Museum of Modern Aboriginal Art is just the place to do it . The permanent exhibition on the top floor was a mass of warm ochre , caramel and chocolate and the Education Room was full of local children's own wonderful interpretations of aboriginal paintings .
Actually , Utrecht is full of colour and paintings even on gloomy days .

It's satisfyingly full of little shops , odd corners and little alleyways and you can always find something new . I loved these paintings , stuck in a window of a silent , empty building

and definitely wanted this Azbekhistani rug to tuck over my knees on the journey home .

Talking of which , by this stage I was chilled to the bone and resisted this last temptation on the corner of a sidestreet

and caught the next train home instead .

Sunday, 11 November 2012

SO Busted !

Today, it's St.Martin's Day and the evening Dutch children celebrate his life by going house to house after dark , carrying home-made lanterns and singing songs in the hope of being rewarded with sweets . So it was a surprise to open the door this afternoon , shortly after lunch  , to a tiny , very perky "ghost" and friend who promptly burst into song , a lively rendition of  "Saint Martin , Saint Martin , the cows have tails ...."  ( it sounds better in the original ) ... ending in a grand Al Jolson flourish and extra Tah-Dah !! Irrepressible as ever , the little girl from a few doors down was delighted to be given some cake by YD , who was tickled by their chutzpah .
Fast forward to 7.30 .... and a puzzled mum trying to haul carefully polished daughter out from behind her , "Oh come on , don't be shy , poppet  They'd love to hear you sing , wouldn't you? "
" Oh yes , don't be shy . I'd love to hear a St Martin's song . Do you know any ? "
So we all sang along , while lantern waggled and saucer eyes peered round mum's legs , begging not to be given away .
And I didn't . I just popped a chocolate bar in her goodie bag and wished YD hadn't  missed the encore .

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Foraging for mushrooms


Our local farmer's market has a stall which is run by the Mushroom Man (well, his name is Matthew actually). In the Autumn he organizes foraging walks in a wood near Colchester, and this year (unlike last year) there were mushrooms to be found. About 15 or so people, most of us unknown to each other, gathered on the fringes of the wood to be split up into three groups: one of whom I found myself calling 'the Mushroom Warriors', as the strapping lads stomped off to the ramparts (there are remains of an Iron Age settlement nearby). Our group tentatively and quietly set off, all eyes to the foliage covered ground and soon spotted our first (edible) mushroom.

Just look at how well disguised it is in among the leaves. It was relatively tricky to spot them until you learned about which types liked to grow near which trees. My other half was determined to find a parasol mushroom, and had been told to look among the holly, and there was sucess:

That came home and ended up in a risotto later that evening. Of course, not all the mushrooms were edible, although quite striking like this one straight out of a fairy tale:

 These little ones, like butterflies resting on a branch, are not edible as too tough but are believed to help cancer sufferers if made into a tea:

And, as we walked, all of our group quiet and focused found out about mushrooms and also a little about each other: the one whose father would benefit from drinking this mushroom tea, or where recent holidays had been spent, or who had rudimentary Latin. It was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon and concluded with a mushroom fry up. All the groups did well, our basket was fairly filled with Wood Blewits, among others. The 'Mushroom warriors', of course, found the rather dramatic looking beefheart mushroom (apologies for blurry photo of their basket). Can you spot it?

And, as we all said farewell, their leader was seen to hold it aloft in one hand and a knife in the other in order to carve up the spoils. I kid you not, mushroom foraging can bring out the wild one within.... and, after all, we were in Queen Boudicca's part of the world.