Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Water Lilies and Sand Sculptures

Earlier this month, my Mum and I went to the palace grounds together. It was a day of mixed weather, and for about 10 minutes we stood huddled together under my Mum's tiny umbrella, seeking additional shelter under a large tree, until a rain shower stopped and we could continue our walk.

The first few pictures are from one of my favourite parts of Ludwigsburg's palace grounds:

The orangery (glass house/conservatory/greenhouse) shows various exhibitions during the season; I have showed you some before on my blog, such as on this post. When we were there on the 5th of August, the topic was water lilies. Have a look at the many varieties, all beautiful:

On we walked, stopping for a drink at one of the caf├ęs, before reaching an exhibition of sand sculptures. Now, don't get me wrong - I do understand it takes real artistic talent and skill to make such sculptures, I do not deny that. But almost all of those sculptures didn't "speak" to me, and some I didn't like outright. That's personal taste for you. But have a look yourselves.

This one is supposed to be modeled after the crown of Wuerttemberg, which can be seen in Stuttgart at the Altes Schloss (old palace) museum:

This one is supposed to show elements of Baroque art:

A bare-bosomed lady riding the waves on a large fish:

I really did not like this lady. To me, she looks like one of those surgically enhanced women you often see on US TV. Her hairdo would do Ivana Trump proud! But I liked the city underneath, with the winding stairs and domed buildings:

View from the terrace a bit more than half way up to the palace. The sand sculptures are positioned around this part of the park:

From the terrace,  King Friedrich of Wuerttemberg has a good view across his garden:

The next one was my favourite. It represents the smaller palace right opposite the big one here in Ludwigsburg. You have seen pictures of it on my blog before, such as here.

The dress and hairdo of this Baroque lady are very well made. From her face and rather strong neck and big hands, I suspect a male model stood in at the making of this sculpture.

Those were the sights at the palace grounds that day. We have season's tickets and so did not have to pay admission to either the water lilies or the sand sculptures exhibitions. And to be honest, if I had travelled to Ludwigsburg all the way, and paid to see the sculptures, I think I would have gone home slightly disappointed.

For us, it was a good day, and very nice to spend time with my Mum.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Read in 2017 - 26: Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management

Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management 
by Isabella Beeton 

This tome, originally published in 1861, contains nearly 2000 pages - a true door-stopper! I read it as a free ebook on my kindle, though, so it did not unduly weigh down my handbag. It accompanied me on my train trips for many weeks, and I did not read each and every word of it. 

The overall reading was interesting, fascinating, sometimes even funny - rarely deliberately so, I must admit. 
The book is neatly sorted into different parts dealing with subjects such as what each household member's tasks should be (the male head of household being conspicuously absent from the list of tasks), how each of these tasks should be done, general remarks about management of house, kitchen, gardens, stables, hen houses etc., plus a large part with recipes for all meals and all purposes. 
There is also a chapter dealing with illnesses and injuries, and another one about bringing up children. 

Throughout the book it is emphasized that most of the advice is suitable for households of a moderate size. When larger establishments are addressed, it is always specifically stated. 
In the recipe part, the various fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, eggs (and the respective animals they come from) are meticulously described, including their countries of origin, seasonal availability and how to choose the best of each on the market or from the grocer's. That part - the recipes - was the one I flicked through rather quickly, only stopping when a particular dish or description caught my attention (such as the one for Yorkshire pudding).. 
Most interesting was to note how everything was made from scratch in most households. For instance, if a recipe for a pudding required gelatine, that recipe pointed towards another one on how to make gelatine from bones, and so on. 

The chapters about servants' work were eye-opening - or they would have been, had I not been reading other books before about what life used to be like for maids and footmen. Frequently, the author refers to the fact that servants are human beings, too, and a lot on how they perform their work depends on how they are lead - on the mistress of the house. That, I am sure, was a novel idea to many readers at the time, who probably saw servants as an inferior class of sub-humans, not much better (if that) than animals. 

Victorians were obsessed with cleanliness, soemthing I find most interesting considering that the times immediately preceding the Victorian era were not exactly famous for high standards personal hygiene and progress in medicine. The number of tasks (and frequency with which they are advised to be performed) involving cleaning, scrubbing, washing, scouring etc. is astonishing - and of course most of it was supposed to be done by servants. 

To give you an idea of what the book is like, here is a quote: "I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife's badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways." 

The book has its own wikipedia-article here. According to the article, Isabella Beeton was only 21 when she started working on the book. She lived from 1836 to 1865 and, before her death at not yet 29 years old, she gave birth to four children. 
Also from the wikipedia article is the following information: It was probably found in more homes than any other cookery book, and was probably the most often consulted, in the years between 1875 and 1914. In 2012 the food economist for the British television period drama Downton Abbey described Beeton's book as an "important guide" for the food served in the series.

When I read that last sentence, I nodded inwardly, because while I was reading the book, I often thought how much this book would be useful to anyone who is writing a novel set in Victorian England, or researching the matter for other purposes. It is definitely one I am not going to delete from my kindle, now that I have read it, but will keep for further reference.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

An Evening to Remember

If you have gotten to know me a little over time through my blog, you probably know that I have a thing for wide open skies, and especially sunsets. I share this fascination probably with millions of people; all of us, I suppose, look up at the sky at least every now and then and stop for a moment, just looking, simply enjoying, maybe contemplating our past, present and future, maybe not thinking about anything in particular.

The weekend before last, thanks to O.K. I had the opportunity to view a particularly beautiful sunset. 

Not far from O.K.'s village is the town of Durbach. The place is completely dominated by wine - there does not seem to be a single house in town that has not, one way or other, something to do with wine, either producing, selling, offering tastings or anything else wine-related going on.

High above the town is Schloss Staufenberg. There has most likely been a castle there as early as the 12th century. A lot of what we see today is from the late 1600s. In 1832, the castle was acquired by the counts of Baden, and adapted in the romantic style of the time to be fit as a home. The family still own it, and the castle nowadays serves as a winery, restaurant and wedding venue.
You can find out a lot more about the place here.

O.K. and I had meant to go there for a while, and finally, we did not only have the time on that Friday evening, but also the weather was right.

We were lucky to find a table on the large terrace; it is a very popular spot, especially on balmy summer nights. Our drinks were refreshing and the view spectacular. It definitely was an evening to remember, made all the more so by being there with O.K.

I don't know the people in one of the pictures, but as they are with their backs to the camera and not very clearly visible at all, it should be alright for them to appear here on my blog. Nearly everybody on the terrace was taking pictures - as I said, I share the love of sunsets with many! Sorry for the last picture being blurry. 

We remained there until it was too dark to see much, and flying insects started to become interested.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Back to Work

My first day back at work was the 24th of July. It started at a relatively relaxed pace, as I was working from home that day. The next day, back at our (so far) biggest customer's for the first time after two weeks, I was in for a surprise: During my absence, something that had been going on for months had finally escalated enough for my current project manager there to replace one of the sub-project managers - with me.
It means I have more work to do there now, and much more responsibility. I hope I will be worth the trust this customer has in me and my work!

At the same time, a new customer I have "been after" for 1 1/2 years and who I have finally started to work for only shortly before going on holiday, wants to prolong our first contract at least until the end of this year, and will still have work for me to do next year.

With these two big customers and my third one (which is my "personal" one and clearly my favourite) all needing a lot of things done before the 25th of May 2018 (when the new EU privacy regulation becomes legally binding), I will certainly not be without work any time soon.

In September, O.K. and I will have two weeks off together; something I am very much looking forward to. After that, it will be one long and very busy stretch until Christmas. But I am confident I'll handle it well, as long as I make sure I get enough rest on weekends, and do not overdo things on week nights (meaning I have to tell myself to go to bed early enough to catch 7-8 hours sleep).

Here are some pictures of my work place on the ninth floor at the new customer's office. The desk with the white cardigan on the chair is mine. I really like the view across my home town from there, although I do not have much time to enjoy it. The mesh is built into the window; it is less visible to the naked eye than how it appears on camera.

Well, here's to work! I am glad I have a job I really like, and plenty to do. In my life I have never been unemployed, and I hope it stays that way for the next 17 years or so :-)

Sunday, 6 August 2017

What I Took Home

Every year, I make sure to take some things home with me from Yorkshire. And every year, two things feature in my "souvenir package": chocolate and books!
This year was no different, although I did not bring as much chocolate as in previous years, and not quite so many books.

The tweed handbag I bought at The Great Yorkshire Show. Of course one could argue that Harris Tweed has nothing to do with Yorkshire, but I liked the colour and design, and the price was really good, too. (Three of the four of us walked away from that booth with new handbags!) It came with a free wallet, too; I chose the one to the left of the bag, with the yellow stripe in the Tartan pattern.

The books were bought at different shops throughout Ripon, our favourite being The Little Ripon Bookshop. The tops, scarves and bracelets etc. are all gifts from my mother-in-law. Last Christmas, her parcel for me and my family was lost, and she generously went, bought and gift-wrapped presents for all of us again! I never expected her to do that, and was quite overwhelmed when she brought in all the gifts for us to unwrap, there was even something for my parents.

The tea towel with the fox print was a surprise find at Ripley Castle's shop - you know I simply had to buy it! The socks with the fox my sister bought for me at Manchester Airport. She also gave me the sticky notes with the fox and flowers print.

When I saw the "superb peanut butter salted chocolate" bar, I could not resist! It was the first time I have come across "The Adult Chocolate Company". I have not tried it yet, since I am keeping it for when O.K. comes to my place next. 

All of them small items I did not "need", strictly speaking, but which I will be putting to good use.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Last Day in Ripon

The last day of this year's Yorkshire Holiday was Wednesday, the 19th of July. Circumstances forced us to pack quite a lot into it, but it was a an appropriate end to what had been a great holiday.

"Our" visiting cat - she came to see us often last year, but these pictures are from this year, taken with my mobile phone while I was sitting on the bench in front of the cottage and she was rolling around on the ground:

We met George Pickles (the former Hornblower of Ripon, who has featured on my blog a few times, for instance on this (sort of) guest post, and his lovely wife Lilian for lunch at the "Water Rat", a popular pub within easy walking distance from our cottage. We had a nice meal in delightful company but ate only lightly - you will see why in a minute.
Anyway, it was wonderful to meet George and Lilian again, and we certainly are going to repeat that next year.

In the afternoon, my sister-in-law picked us up, and we drove to Swinton Park, a large estate outside Masham where we were booked for afternoon tea at Swinton Park Hotel - an experience I can highly recommend!

It had been my sister-in-law's suggestion, as she had been to the hotel at a wedding reception some time ago and really liked the place. Look at the pictures, and you'll understand why!

Our table, seen from different perspectives:

I do not have permission of my companions to show their picture on my blog, so you'll have to make do with me sitting between two black rectangles - but the picture shows the beautiful room so well! We each had a settee to ourselves, we only were sitting on one for the photo which our waitress kindly took:

There was everything you'd expect from a "high tea": sandwiches (four different types for each of us, for instance egg and cress, ham, salmon, and probably cucumber), small cakes (in German, we'd call these petit fours), scones (plain and fruit ones), tea cake with cheese, and some shortbread to top it all off), and of course tea! The tea menue gave you a choice of several very nice teas. I went for a "China Rose", which was delicious. To start with, we had champagne - see the size of our glasses?!

You can learn more about Swinton Park here.

The room where we had our tea was through the open door/window you can see here:

View from the front of the castle:

The former stables are now a cookery school:

We were eating and drinking, chatting and laughing for the better part of two hours. The food and drink were delicious, the service great, and the entire afternoon was simply wonderful and definitely worth every penny of the 25 pounds per person. Afterwards, we were so full we did not need anything to eat in the evening!

Well, that was the last of our holiday. It was great, and we will definitely be back next year.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Read in 2017 - 25: The Cosy Teashop in the Castle

"The Cosy Teashop in the Castle" by Caroline Roberts is exactly the kind of book you expect from looking at the cover and reading the title: a light, cosy read, just right for when you simply want to be entertained by a contemporary story with a nice heroine, a good measure of romance and some humour thrown in.

Ellie is a young woman who loves her close-knit family, but not her office job in Newcastle.

She dreams of doing for a living what she likes best: baking. As a little girl, she spent hours in her Nana's kitchen, watching her bake, and her old recipe book is one of Ellie's most treasured possesssions.

When she has the chance to run a teashop in a remote castle, she can hardly believe her luck.

Of course there are obstacles to ovrcome before Ellie's dream really comes true; important parts in this are played by the handsome estate manager and Lord Henry, owner of the castle.

The reader can guess from the first moment more or less what will happen, and that all will end well. But the road to happiness is not always straight and easy, and just when Ellie thinks life can't get any better - or worse! - something else happens.

I read this while on holiday (I found it on one of the book shelves in our cottage). and I did not mind its lightness; it was just right for a holiday read.

It was the first time I have come across a book by this author, who has her own blog right here on this platform:

Her writing is pleasant, not the kind of in-your-face witty or overly sassy some authors seem to think their (female?) readers like.

Not necessarily a "must read", but definitely a "can".