Sunday, 30 March 2014

Quote: Marilyn Monroe

I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.
Marilyn Monroe (American actress 1926-1962)

Friday, 28 March 2014

Balcony, spring 2014

The weather here has been really lovely and Spring definately arrived here in The Netherlands. I always want to do things on my balcony when the weather is this soft and warm. It is too early for a lot of plants, but Violets are right for this time of year. And I love Violets, they are easily my favorite flowers.
 On the table, in a little basket.

Is there anything better than Violets?

This already begins to look great. On the left you can see the Snapdragon, that managed to survive the Winter. I cut of all the dead flowers and bits and I hope it will produce great flowers again.

These are the herbs I also kept from last year. They look like they need pruning, but perhaps I should have done that before the winter, I do not know. I will cut them back this weekend and hope for the best.

In the garden centre I could not help myself. I saw all the fruitplants and decided I wanted one for my balcony. This is a Tayberry, a crossing between a Raspberry, a Blackberry and a Loganberry. I planted it in a large pot and I hope it will produce fruit this Summer. Would it not be lovely to eat my own berries. homegrown on my balcony?

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

My little French kitchen, Rachel Khoo

Reading cookbooks is one of my favorite things. I especially love cookbooks that bring a story and give me the idea I could actually make the recepies. I like it when a cookbook makes me feel like one of those people I admire, when I feel like somebody who grows her own tomatoes and makes a beautiful salad or a delicious dish without any effort. Rachel Khoo wrote two books that gave me exactly these feelings.

Rachel Khoo wrote My little Paris kitchen earlier, about the recipies she cooked in her tiny kitchen in het apartment in Paris. That was a great book full of easy to make French recipes.

In this new book Rachel Khoo travelled to different regions of France to find special recipes. She went to Brittany, Basque, Bordeaux, Lyon, Provence and Alsace. There she found (or invented) recipes with the local produce or the dishes characteristic for that region, like the fish recipes from Brittany.

This book contains beautiful photographs of the dishes, the different regions and of course of Rachel herself. The recipes are not that difficult to make. They couldn’t be, since Rachel tried all of them in her tiny Paris kitchen. Knowing that is a good motivation for me to try these recipes in my kitchen as well.
There are vegetarian, meat and fish dishes, sweet and savory, (I especially like the chocolatecake!)
I really like this book and I feel My little French kitchen is an asset in my cookbook collection.  
Published in 2013

Monday, 24 March 2014

Water everywhere

The city I live in has a lot of water. This city was build on land where there once was water, so water is always present around us.
These photographs are from the lake near my house. Usually I take a turn left on the dyke, but this is what I see when I walk to the right.

These photographs are from the Weerwater, it was once water, then land and now it is water again (weer water).


Sunday, 23 March 2014

Quote: Steve McQueen

I'll never be as good an actor as I want to be. But I'll be good.
In memory of Steve McQueen, who would celebrate his 84th birthday tomorrow, if he was still alive.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The others (2001)

Jersey, 1945. WWII just ended and the nazi occupation of Jersey is finally over.
Grace and her two children Anne and Nicolas live in a desolate house. Her husband has not come back from the war yet and probably never will. There is no electricity or radio in the house, all the curtains must be closed always and all the doors must be locked. These last two things are necessary because the two children are allergic to light, it can even be fatal to them.
All these things make it very hard for Grace and the servants have also ran away. Luckily Mrs. Mills, Mr Tuttle and Lydia arrive to fill these positions.

But soon they find out something strange is going on in the house. Anne insists that something happened, although Nicolas refuses to acknowledge it. There are strange sounds, like laughing while there is nobody there or a piano playing inside a locked room. Who are these other people who also seem to live in the house?

The others is one of the scariest movie I ever saw, perhaps even the scariest. It is all due to the telling of the story and the atmosphere. The story is very well told. The first time I saw the movie I did not get what happened until the very last scenes. When I saw the movie again later I was stunned by the amounts of clues I completely overlooked the first time.
Nicole Kidman as Grace
Nicole Kidman is absolutely amazing (and stunning) as Grace. You can see the tension she feels and how she is barely keeping it together. Very beautifully she shows how Grace desperately tries to keep on to the certainties she has, and how she does not want to believe or acknowledge what happened. The confrontations between her and her daughter are difficult to watch, because you can understand the frustration in both of them.
Fionulla Flanagan is also great as Mrs. Mills. It becomes clear there is more than meets the eye and also that Mrs. Mills knows more about it. Christopher Eccleston, Keith Allen and Elaine Cassidy play small parts.
The others is one of my favorite movies and I really recommend it if you haven’t seen it yet.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Great expectations, Charles Dickens

My Dutch version of the novel
Little Pip grows up in the household of his sister who is married to Joe Gargery, the smith. He does not have a happy childhood and the only goodness comes from Joe, who is a kind man who does his best for Pip.
The forge is near a moor where escaped prisoners sometimes end up and Pip has a frightening encounter with one of those criminals on the loose.

Rich and reclused mrs. Havesham asks if Pip can come to her house every now and then, to entertain her and to play with her ward, Estella. In this house and in the dealings with Estella and Mrs. Havesham Pip realizes how common he is. He longs to better himself to become a gentleman and to be worthy of Estella.

His chance comes when solicitor Mr. Jaggers comes to inform him that he has a benefactor who wished Pip will go to London and become a gentleman. The only thing is that Pip cannot know who his benefactor is.

Without any hesitation Pip leaves the forge and goes to London. He does not really live up to the Great Expectations, even though he learns how to behave like a gentleman, mostly he wastes his time and money on nothing. Because he is ashamed of where he came from, he doesn’t keep in touch with Joe. He thinks mrs. Havisham might be his benefactor, so he can become a worthy husband for Estella. Mrs. Havisham has different plans for Estella and when Pip finally finds out who his benefactor is, he realizes the mistakes he made.

Charles Dickens wrote Great expectations in 1860 as a newspaper serial. When it came out, the critics were not that positive about the story, but the opinion has changed and now most people see this as one of Dicken’s best novels.

I have some sort of a Dickens-blockade, I never managed to finish a Dickens novel before. With Great expectations I had no difficulty whatsoever to read it and finish it. I loved it. (which is a good thing, since I read this for my bookclub)

I enjoyed his style of writing, the way he can describe a person in just a few sentences or just a few actions. He is also a master at making the poignant funny and the funny poingnant.
Pip’s childhood it terrible, but some descriptions make you chuckle out loud. Also the clerk at the sollicitor’s office who made a real castle from his home (complete with drawbridge) was an amazing and great character.

Other scenes are moving, like the one where Pip stand by his benefactor at his deathbed and the scenes where Joe explains that he does not blame Pip for his actions because Joe blames himself so very much for not protecting Pip better against the abuse from his sister.

Dickens wrote two separate endings, and I liked the one better that made everything alright, since I wanted Pip to have his happy ending.

Originally published in 1860

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Quote Anton Checkhov

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904, Russian author)

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Swans again

I encountered this gorgeous swan in the street the other day when I was in town. He was walking on the pavement like he owned it.

I have a healthy respect for swans and when it came towards me, I politely went to the other side of the road.

I think this was papa swan, because later I saw these adolescent swans swimming. They swam (glided) towards me, because they thought I had bread for them. I had to disappoint them.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A delusion of Satan, Frances Hill

In 1953 Arthur Miller wrote his play The crucible. He wanted to comment on the political situation of his time, the witch hunt against communists. To do this he used the historical witch hunt of 1692 in Salem.
For his play, he changed the facts to give his story more impact. A delusion of Satan is a well documented non-fiction account of the Salem witchhunt and it gives a good insight into what happened and why.

In 1692 Massachusetts was a colony of the English crown, but it was a colony in political unrest. The English crown had taken away rights some years earlier and colonists tried to get these rights back, without much result.
In this colony the Puritans (strict Calvinists) were the dominant factor.

Life was hard in those days, sickness and death were always present and many children had to live with relatives because their parents had died. Everything had to be made by hand and luxury was hard to find. And of course, luxury was seen as sinful.

The puritans lived a strict life. Feasts, like Christmas, were not celebrated and the services in the church were long and without joy. The devil was an everyday-reality for most people. Many Puritans saw in the many outbreaks of diseases or the attacks from Indians a sign from God that they were not strict enough in their religious observance.
There were no musical instruments, no games and only religious books telling the reader that Satan was everywhere and each activity was potentially sinful.

Boys had some activities outside, like hunting or working on the land. The girls had no such luck, for them there was only the work inside the house.
According to all kinds of different sources many girls suffered from attacks that made them blind, mute or had them shake uncontrollably. In the 19th century Freud would categorize these attacks as hysterical. Nowadays mass hysteria is very uncommon, because almost all girls and women have enough possibilities to lead a fulfilling life. In the 17th century there were no possibilities for girls. Because the term hysteria or the background of this behavior was unknown, people attributed this to witchcraft.

Within Salem there was not so much Christian love for their brothers and fellow men as you would expect. There was Salem village and Salem town and both places were in bitter fights about land and rights. The Putnam family was a key in these fights. They owned much land, but they wanted more.

The new minister, Samuel Parris did not make things better. He was appointed minister against the will of many people and he antagonized many more with his behaviour, demanding more and more for his church and himself. He and his wife had brought with them a slave from Barbados and most villagers looked upon her as she was a devilish creature. It was under her watch that the girls in the village engaged in some magical rituals like pouring an egg into a glass of water to see the form of their future husbands. 

Out of fear for these sinful, magical rituals and the devil the girls became hysterical, showing the typical behavior of being mute, having fits etc. For the first time in their lives these girls felt important, people listened to them and they were the centre of attention.

The first accusations were for people outside the regular community, like the slave or a beggar. But soon the villagers were also accused and people had to confess or be hanged. The Putnam family played a key role in these accusations, their daughter Ann played a leading part in the group of girls and most of the people who were accused were seen by the Putnams as enemies of the family or they would gain something by getting rid of them.
In total 19 people were hanged because they refused to confess their guilt.

Among the people who survived there were many victims, like Dorcas Good who was accused of being a witch with her mother. Dorcas was send to prison and spend eighteen months in a dark cell, chained to the wall. She was only 4 ½ years old at the time and she went insane. Children lost their parents and family of the convicted had no rights to the inheritance.

In 1706 Ann Putnam made a public apology, saying she was sorry for the role she played and that she believed all people to be innocent. According to her it had all been ‘a delusion of Satan’.

Published in 1995 (new version in 2002)
Pages: 228

Sunday, 9 March 2014


The past is not always the best way to the future.
(quote from Rosemary and Thyme, episode Orpheus in the Undergrowth)

Friday, 7 March 2014

Vanished kingdoms, Norman Davies

Did you know there were more than ten kingdoms with the name Burgundy and all of them were in different places? Did you ever hear about the Kingdom Galicia, that existed in the 18th century and formed part of the Austrian Hungarian empire? Or do you know about Alt Clud, the Kingdom of the Rock that existed in Scotland from the 5th to the 12th century? What about Tolosa, Borussia, Etruria, Sabaudia and Tsernagora? If all of these names are not familiar to you, you ought to read Vanished kingdoms by Norman Davies, because then you will know all about it.

Norman Davies describes in his book Vanished kingdoms, decline and fall of all of these kingdoms and a few more. In chronological order he begins with Tolosa, the Visigoth kingdom that existed in the 5th century and he ends with the fall of the Sovjet Union in 1991.

Some of the states he describes were huge empires like Burgundy or Byzanthium, but he also pays attention to small states like the the Saxon state Rosenau, where prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria was born.

In this book we travel from Spain to Russia, to Italy and Ireland and visit all the places in between. Some kingdoms fell because they were conquered by other countries, sometimes the political changes got them into trouble.

What remains are only a few words of the language once spoken there, sometimes only a history people are ashamed of, a history they try to forget. Changing political situations make sure nothing much is left of the old kingdoms, cultures and languages change in time, despite attempts to hold on to the past. We can say that the countries we have in Europe today will also change and some will disappear while new ones will emerge.

Norman Davies is a great historian who is capable of making sense of complicated political history like in the chapters about Aragon or Burgundy.
Each chapter begins with a situation in the present, then the history of the kingdom follows and finally there is a conclusion in which Norman Davies tells what is left of the kingdom.

It is not a book to read fast or to read in one go, there is too much information on each page for that. It took me a very long time to read, because I would read a bit, put it away again and read more some time later.

Vanished kingdoms is a book for everyone who enjoys books about European history, packed with crazy details by a erudite author who knows how to write.

Published in 2011
Pages 797 (in Dutch translation)

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Father Brown (2013-)

The Father Brown stories by G.K. Chesterton have been made into films and movies before. Alec Guiness played the priest/detective in the sixties, and in the seventies a series was made with Kenneth Moore. He did a perfect job, but unfortunately the series have not stood the test of time that well, in my opinion. Due to the way it was filmed it looks like a play that has been recorded and the pace is very, very slow. And, even worse, they kept the pauses in the episodes on the dvds, so three times per episode the screen goes to black. Very annoying.

Last year a new series was made, with Mark Williams as Father Brown. (we know him from Harry Potter where he played Arthur Weasley) I think he does a splendid job as Father Brown, a good man with a good heart. For Father Brown saving a person’s soul is more important than catching the criminal.

If you want a series that follows the stories to the letter, this is not the series for you. They kept some of the stories, but often they wrote a new story or only used the essence of a story.
I personally like it that they gave Father Brown a village and a parish (somewhere in the Cotswolds), because now you also get to know some of the villagers like Lady Felicia or Mrs. McCarthy who is the parish secretary.

If you want gritty stories and clever plots with lots of twists, this is probably also not a series you will like. This series is all about atmosphere. They captured the look and the feel of the fifties perfectly (Father Brown was transported in time). If you like series like Midsomer Murders or Rosemary and Thyme, than Father Brown is a series you will love.

Series one is out on dvd and series 2 was broadcasted on television, and will hopefully be out on dvd somewhere in the (near) future.

Monday, 3 March 2014

New books, spring 2014

Last week I enjoyed Spring holiday (yes, I know, not really Spring yet) and this is always a good excuse to buy some new books.
This is what I brought home:
  • A possible life by Sebastian Faulks. I really enjoyed two other books by him, so I hope I will like this one as well.
  • Norwegian wood by Haruki Murakami. I haven't read anything by this Japanese author yet, but I read a lot about his books, so I am curious to see how I will like it. Love it or hate it, I think are the two options. (in Dutch translation)
  • Staal (steal) by Silvia Avallone, an Italian novel (in Dutch translation) about two girls who are friends and the things that happen in that friendship.
  • Luther, the calling by Neil Cross, I am a huge fan of the series Luther and now I found this book. I read it in one day and it was very, very good!
  • Goodbye to all that by Robert Graves (in Dutch translation). There will be many books about WWI coming out and I will read many of them, and this one seemed like a very interesting one.
  • Reizen zonder John (Travels without John) by Dutch author Geert Mak. He folowed in the footsteps of American author John Steinbeck who travelled around America with his dog. Geert Mak travelled around America and comments on what he saw. Geert Mak wrote many historical non-fiction books and he is a very good writer. I am looking forward to reading this one.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Quote: Saint Augustine

Patience is the companion of wisdom
Augustine of Hippo, (354-430 Churchfather, theologian, saint)
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