Different morning view

"There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not." 
 - Spoken by Ratty to Mole in Wind in the Willows a children's book by Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932).
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My 2nd favourite dessert Raspberry Pavlova for Christmas

Raspberry Pavlova

Image courtesy of the internet!   RASPBERRY PAVLOVA

8 egg whites (medium fresh, farm if possible, room temperature)
500g caster sugar (I use the finest grain sugar I can find and substitute 50grs of this for icing sugar (sifted into mixture) including a heaped spoonful of vanilla sugar)
1 tbsp cornflour (maizena – well sifted)
2tsp white vinegar (odourless, colourless)
tiny pinch fine tablesalt

Heat oven to 180 degrees (gas mark 4)
Draw circle onto piece of greaseproof paper about 20cm and place on baking tray (I use two sheets)

Beat egg whites with pinch of salt until firm peaks have formed (slowly using the medium setting on my electric whisk)
Beat in the sugar bit by bit until you have a stiff and shiny texture (it will look polished or varnished), then fold in the cornflour and vinegar

Your mixture will be heavy and thick
Pile it onto the greaseproof paper and smooth it inside the edge of the circle in a heaped flat rounded cowpat
Put it into the oven and immediately turn heat down to 150 degrees (gas mark 2)
Leave the mixture in the oven for 90 minutes then turn off oven and leave the meringue there to cool

My take on the filling is to mix fresh cream with some plain yoghurt for a tang and if I want it sweet, a spoonful of either vanilla or icing sugar. Break the meringue shell gently to create a hollow and pile cream into the centre of the meringue, then cover with fresh raspberries (my favourite), or any fresh fruit.

Following this recipe I have never had a failure; the trick is to take your time, be serene, don’t be abrupt with the mixture from beginning till end. And thank you to our Aussie friends for this fabulous recipe! Enjoy.

Londonnien Juxtaposition of old and new in EC8

One of the joys of doing London on foot is how at any moment you can stumble upon a leafy area or garden in the middle of urban landscape, or turn a corner into a small street straight out of a previous century. Behind many a modest facade in London lies a hidden treasure deserving of discovery and they are not in all the guide books. One such place is Watermens’ Hall, a beautiful building with over 500 years of history attached to it, yet you can’t tell from the facade. I just proofread that paragraph and thought that I might have missed my vocation and I should really be writing tourist blurb… (insert wry, self-mocking dubious smiley in here).

Capital cities have a special energy which is stimulating and motivating, and for me London offers a diversity of interesting contrasts. In the midst of suave sophistication and superbia in all its forms, you also have a culture of friendly simplicity and cheery humanity. It is not all cold or jaded city life.

I was amazed to discover that the fascinating Shard was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano; it just seemed so different from anything he had already designed that learning it was his work was totally unexpected. A hard call, but the Shard might become my favourite Piano building of all time. New addition to my bucket list, go to the top of the Shard for cocktails next time I am feeling flush.

At a great height – on my way to London

Last week I had a business trip to London and decided to take my camera and be an observer for an hour or two if I could make it happen. The first step was some airport and sky photos to set the travel mood.  And here they are.  Next step, I think those photos might be buildings in EC8.

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Memories of a brief visit to Portofino, Ligurian Coast, Italy

The Italian Riviera is beautiful like the French Riviera, only more primitive, less built up: a wonderful area to tour, full of colourful history, architectural splendour, fabulous food and wine, and beautiful countryside and coastline.

Before visiting, I had heard so much about Portofino, and the celebrities who go there, that I had imagined it to be bigger, more impressive, more sophisticated. Instead, it is a small, quaint harbour, probably a former fishing village, where most visiting yachts have to anchor out.

There used to be a boutique there which sold pretty knick-knacks, including costume jewellery made from Murano glass and gold leaf. I bought an unusual bangle during my visit all those years ago which I am still wearing. Maybe that boutique is still there.

I haven’t been back in ages, but I remember eating a marvellous meal in an upstairs restaurant in the harbour.   For our aperitif we had a strawberry Bellini, a cocktail of strawberries and champagne made in paradise! Writing about this makes me want to go back, but there are so many unknown places to visit that I probably won’t return, or at least, not for some time

Sharing my Tiramisu recipe – for a Happy Thanksgiving!

Serves 8 & makes a lovely deep Tiramisu:

3 large eggs or 4 small
60 g sugar. – my tip – replace with icing sugar which gives a lovely smooth texture to the mascarpone cream
400 g mascarpone cheese – I use more than the original recipe (which I found on the internet years ago and adapted to my taste) and I cheat by adding 2 big serving spoonfuls of double cream to make generous, supple layers
4 dl of coffee – the real thing if you have it, freshly made, not too strong, and add half a teaspoonful of vanilla sugar, then add
2 serving spoonfuls of the liqueur of your choice – amaretto or Marsala, my preference is for the latter (can be omitted for young guests)

Big packet of boudoir biscuits (about 30) or sponge cake, or Genoise – boudoir are best, you can buy ready made, or even better make your own.
Pure cocoa powder

Separate the yolks from the whites. Beat the yolks with the sugar until they become lighter in colour and foamy. Then add the mascarpone.
Whip up the whites until they peak then fold gently into your mixture.

Line the bottom of your dish with the biscuits, (choose glass tableware so you can see the layers) – then wet them with the lukewarm coffee just enough to take the dryness from the biscuits, cover with a layer of cream mixture, then sift a light layer of cocoa powder over the mascarpone cream, enough to be seen on the outside of the glass dish as a line of chocolate.

Make a second layer of biscuits laying them gently flat on the mixture and dampen them with the coffee, with parsimony, only a thin line of coffee along the middle of each biscuit or the Tiramisu will be drowned and soggy ! Cover the biscuit layer with the cream mixture. Try to create even, thick layers which will look good seen from the outside.

Cover the dish airtight with cling film and put in the fridge for a few hours. When you are ready, remove the film, powder generously with sifted cocoa and serve!

Best news is that it takes well to freezing so you can keep some for yourself when the party is over…defrost slowly, eat rapidly.

Wines to accompany it? It almost goes without saying that most desserts are sublime with champagne or sparkling wine, prosecco for Tiramisu, but, how about something different?

A dry white Bordeaux
A Rosé from the Loire
A sweet white from the South-East of France (I can’t drink sweet wine with a dessert, but for a mega-sweet tooth it would work)
Vin d’hiver (Winter vendange) or Tokai
Or a subtle dry white like Sancerre – don’t follow the food and wine codes, mix it up based on what you like!

It is also very nice with sparkling water. Buon appetito!

Got drunk last weekend, either stole a cat or it followed me home–charlottesville.craigslist

Absolutely hilarious!!!!

Utopia, you are standing in it!

image 1

So this post is pretty straightforward — if the cat in the picture is yours please email me. I got pretty drunk last weekend and when I woke up (around 9AM this past Sunday) there was a cat sleeping in the corner of my room. No collar but seems trained.

via Got drunk last weekend, either stole a cat or it followed me home.

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Van Gogh – The Church at Auvers-sur-Oise

The building Van Gogh

Or how to creepify a harmless church!

When I was at uni years ago I fell in love with Van Gogh’s work in my history of art class. Amongst others, I remember being fascinated by the way he had taken a fairly anodine church building and turned it into a really creepy work of art. I love that painting, but every time I look at it I think of the Adams’ Family, or Amityville, because of the colours, shapes, and the technique he used to paint it. Was it indicative of his state of mind at the time? Had he drunk a bit too much absinthe at that epoch? Was someone he loved buried close by? Or a love of his life got married to someone else in that very church? Who knows, and no doubt the painting has a story, but if I research the subject it might spoil the pleasure of my imagination.

What I see is that the unstable, lurching church sits between two paths which come out of nowhere, and go nowhere. Maybe subconsciously that meant something to Van Gogh…was that what he thought of the church or organised religion? Or did he see no exit anywhere in his life, even in religion, and despite his brother’s help? I would be interested to hear how other amateurs see this painting without googling it…?

Habitually absent

Thank heavens I am not the only person like this! It is okay to not want to socialise much and yet still care…thanks Wingchair!

Wingchair.

I’m the friend you see four times a year. Though I’m quite social, I very rarely crave company. Friends for me are people whom I’m very fond of, and whose company I enjoy, and who exist as constancies.

That’s a roundabout way of saying that I’m appalling at relationship maintenance. This isn’t something I think about too often. It’s gotten me in trouble before, and it will probably do so again, but luckily most of my friends know me well enough to know that it’s just the way I tick. Better yet, a lot of them are like me.

While I muse, here are some pretty flowers I saw by the train station the other day. While I muse, here are some pretty flowers I saw by the train station the other day.

Case in point: I ran into one of my oldest friends the other day. I hadn’t spoken to her in two years, hadn’t hung out with her in maybe five. We swapped numbers and…

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