Friday, 27 February 2015

Make your own rules diet, Tara Stiles

That yoga and meditation are good for you, is well known. That healthy, home cooked meals are good for you is also well known. And when you combine these three things, you have the basis for a healthy lifestyle.

On the other hand not everybody is the same, and what works for one person may not for for another, and vice-versa.
Following rules saying you have to do this or are not allowed to do that usually do not work so well. People should try listening to themselves; what is healthy for my body and what works for my life?

Tara Stiles owns Strala yoga studio in New York. In this book she does not give you rules to follow, just some advice to see how you can determine what is important and good for you.
The combination of mat, pillow and kitchen makes sure you can find the balance that works for you and lead a happy and healthy life.

Make your own rules diet is full of yoga asanas and combinations of asanas. Also there are many delicious recipes. But mostly, is has some very good advice, the most important one here is to make your own rules. You are the only one who knows what is good for you and the more you listen to yourself, the healthier you will get.
In short, a book full of inspiration.

Published in 2014

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A study in black and white

This is a photograph I took a couple of weeks ago when it snowed a little. This is the view I have from my classroom at school.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The diary of Olga Romanov

In the 19th century most members of Royal houses kept a diary. This was not a diary for describing feelings, but an account of what they did that day. Keeping a diary was an exercise in discipline and a form of archiving, royal diaries were part of the state papers.

The Imperial family in Russia also kept diaries and although many were lost during the Revolution, quite a few remain. Parts of these diaries and their letters are published.
The latest publication is that of the diary of Olga Romanov, the eldest daughter of tsar Nicolas II and tsarina Alexandra. She started writing in her diary when she was nine years old and each evening she wrote down what she did that day.

Grand duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanov was an intelligent young woman who could have accomplished a great deal, if things would have gone differently. Because women could not inherit the throne, Olga did not play an important part in history. She could only have become important due to her marriage, only that never happened.

She and her sisters were brought up very protected and although her parents tried to give her a normal life, this did not quite work. Olga had little knowledge of the world outside the palace, for example when she was young she was astonished that people who travelled by train only had one seat on the train, and not their own carriage.

Only during WWI she had the chance to escape protocol when she, her sister and her mother became nurses and looked after wounded officers.

Many of Olga’s diaries survived the revolution. She wrote her first entry on January 1, 1905 (I went to church with papa and mama) and her last entry dated from March 15th 1917, a few days after her father abdicated.

Grand Duchess Olga Romanov
In this publication of the diaries we start in 1914. It looked like it would become a year like any other, but in the Summer, WWI broke out. Olga’s diaries are supplemented with her letters and diaries and memories from other people, like tsar Nicolas II or Kerenski.
This ensures we get a very interesting perspective on the Russian Revolution. Olga was in the middle of things, but also looked at it from a very special angle. Many events are not understood by her at the time, or not found important. This makes it very sad sometimes for us, because we know what will happen in the end.
And Olga is of course also just a young girl, who falls in love with one of the officers she nurses. A love she must hide and write in code about, for a man whom she could never marry.

Olga and her sisters are often seen as one, but this diary makes Olga step out of the shade and lets us read her own words. This makes her diary a very interesting document and a must have for everyone who wants to know more about Russian history.

Full title: The diary of Olga Romanov, Royal witness to the Russian Revolution
Translated and edited by Helen Azar

Published in 2014

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Collecting writers

My Evelyn Waugh collection
When I like an author I do not only want to read their own books, I also want to read the books written about them.
A collection with books about an author makes me very happy, and there are two collections on my bookshelves I particularly enjoy.

Anton Chekhov
I discovered Anton Chekhov last year when I read a book about him written by a Dutch journalist. I loved this book so much I fell a little bit in love with Chekhov and wanted to read his own works. I began with a couple of his stories and then decided I wanted all his stories. Luckily there is a Dutch publisher (Van Oorschot) who publishes Russian authors in really beautiful editions.(The Russian Library)  I have the five books with all his short stories and a part with his letters. Part six is with his plays and since I do not like to read plays (very hard to read), I do not own that volume. But I must confess there is every chance I will buy it some day, just to complete the collection.
You can also find the letters between Chekhov and his wife Olga Knipper here, the memoires of his brother and a biography.

Virginia Woolf
When I am honest I have to say I am more interested in the person Virginia Woolf than in her novels (is this very bad to say?)
I had a decent collection of books by and about Virginia Woolf, but recently I had a few new additions and the collection has grown to two shelves.

On the first shelf are her letters, biographie and diaries. Here are also the other non-fiction books about the different members of the Bloomsbury group. You can see the letters by Vanessa Bell and the letters by Lenard Woolf and his biography, The Bloomsbury cookbook (amazing book!) etc.

On the second shelf you see Virginia Woolf's own novels and on the pile on the right you see novels that have Virginia Woolf as a character.

I love my collections.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Some of the ladies in Poirot

I think I must have mentioned it hundreds of times, but I will say it again: I love British series and costume dramas. Nobody does it better than they do.

A particular favorite of mine is the series Poirot with David Suchet as the Belgian detective. I have been on a Poirot-binge these past weeks. I do not like all of the films (they completely butchered Appointment with death, The mystery of the blue train or Murder on the Nile and they murdered Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express), but most of them are very good. And although Agatha Christie was sometimes capable of writing a plot that was a little bit ridiculous, most of the time it is very good entertainment.

It is a testament to how good these series are when you look at all the amazing actors who took small roles in it, like Damien Lewis, Martin Shaw or even Edward Fox.

But most of all I love watching the clothes. The series is set in the thirties, so we have plenty of red lipstick and fur-foxes hanging over one shoulder.
But also smart blouses and palazzo pants, twinsets, beautiful hats and cute skirts and dresses.
I would like to draw your attention to two ladies who caught my eye, one is the amazing Zoe Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver who is a regular on the series and the beautiful Megan Dodds who played the artist Henrietta Savernake in The Hollows.

Ariadne Oliver (Zoe Wanamaker)
Love those necklaces

Elegant coat and hat

Black and white with a splash of colour in the bag

I would wear this in a heartbeat. I love the colours and the necklaces.
And I adore the hat and coat. 

Henrietta Savernake (Megan Dodds)
I just need to get a shawl like that!

Next to the victim (who was so down right nasty I did not care he got killed)
She wears a beautiful dress, though...

Love, love, love the hair. So elegant and lovely.
I wish I could my hair like that. 

Better view of the hairstyle. During the day it was a bit messier,
during the evening it was more polished. 

Thursday, 12 February 2015


Making it comfortable in your own home (especially when the weather is cold and wet and grey outside) does not have to cost a fortune. I bought these tulips for 5 euro's and they gave my living room a splash of colour and a hint of spring for almost a week.
It was especially lovely when the sun also showed herself for a moment.

Friday, 6 February 2015

H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald

How do you get over enormous grief? By taking on something else that is enormous, the biggest task you can imagine. When you can tame the wildest bird, it may be possible to tame your pain and loss.
Helen MacDonald’s father died and her world fell apart. Her father had always been her friend and confidant and she cannot imagine living without his support.

Sick with grief Helen decides to tame a wild bird, a hawk. This is not as ludicrous as it sounds, Helen is an experienced falconer and had trained falcons before. Only this time she wants to work with the wildest of them all, the Goshawk.
She goes online and finds someone who has young Goshawks (bred in captivity) and on a wet day on the Scottish coast they have their transaction and Helen gets a box with a Goshawk.

Helen calls her Hawk Mabel and in the weeks that follow she is completely focused on the bird. Nothing else is important, except Mabel.
The bird must get used to Helen and must be trained to sit on a fist and to fly from there and return. Food is the only way to do this, since hawks are not social animals and praise or punishment will not work.

Helen is so consumed by taming the hawk, she loses contact with the rest of the world. She does not want to meet people and every social function (even a normal conversation) is a hurdle. Training Mabel goes with ups and downs, and each up is a reason for joy, each down, real or not, is a reason for despair.
Somewhere in all this Helen feels this is not healthy and only when she attends the memorial service for her father and sees the other people also grieving for him, she realizes that although birds are not social animals, people are. People need contact with other people to function properly.

Parallel to her story is the story of the writer T.H. White, known for his book The once and future king. This tormented man tried to conquer his demons by training a Goshawk. This all went very badly since White had no clue what he was doing and he interpreted ancient methods the wrong way. His hawk, Gos, would finally escape, leaving a lonely and bitter man behind.

For Helen, help comes faster than for T.H. White and her story has a happier ending, both for author as for bird. Helen does not only conquer her depression (because that was what she was suffering from), but she can also have a healthier relationship with Mabel.

Helen (r) and Mabel (l)
H is for Hawk is an unbelievably beautiful book. The style, the beautiful descriptions of falconry, training Mabel and stories about other birds formed a story that I could not let go. I read this book on the bus to work and sometimes I even almost missed my stop, because I was so engrossed in the book. Helen was not acting in a very healthy way when she decided to take on Mabel, but I do understand the reasoning behind it.
Next to Mabel and Helen T.H. White and Gos als capture your heart, sad and tormented as they both were. I felt for both of them and that is why I immediately ordered White’s book The Goshawk and decided to read The once and future king again soon.

You can of course have moral issues with wild animals like birds being used for the entertainment of people. I personally do not feel this way in the case of birds, I think because falconry began centuries ago and is filled with traditions and ancient lore. The historian in me really likes this and finds it fascinating.

It would be nice if we lived in a world where every wild animal was able to live peacefully in its natural habitat, but unfortunately this is not the case. I think birds are lucky there are dedicated and well-trained falconers who take good care of their birds and can pass on the ancient knowledge.

Published in 2014

Monday, 2 February 2015

What Katie Ate, Katie Quinn Davies

This is the Dutch cover
A girl begins a blog, the blog becomes huge and the girl gets a bookdeal, it sounds like a fairytale, right? But sometimes this actually happens. No, not to me, sadly J, but it did happen to Katie Quinn Davies.
She was a graphic designer in Dublin and moved to Australia to be with the love of her life. She wanted another career and finally decided in 2009 to become a food stylist and photographer. I did not know this was an actual profession, but it seems it is.
To showcase her skills, she started a blog called What Katie Ate and the rest, as they say, is history.
What Katie Ate is now cookbook and in it are tons of recipes for breakfast, lunch, salads, snacks and deserts. There are recipes for fish, meat, pasta’s, curry’s and soups, it is not restricted to just one cuisine.
The recipes are easy to follow and often start with a little anecdote about this dish.
And I must say, the book looks amazing. The photographs are all by Katie’s hand and she manages to make everything beautiful and scrumptious and delicious and gorgeous. The photographs make you want to go into the kitchen and start cooking. And that is the best kind of cookbook to have.

Another great addition to my cookbook collection!
Published in 2012
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