Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Another Debt of Gratitude to Georgette Heyer

I have discovered the one thing that helps me sleep on long plane journeys is Georgette Heyer.  I have tried many many other things, including music and ambient sound, ear plugs and eye masks, not to mention wine and vodka.  However, nothing really helps.  I remain too aware of being on a plane, listening to music/ waves crashing or rain in the woods etc. to sleep. 

However, it turns out that plugging my earphones into a Georgette Heyer audiobook- doesn't matter which one - puts me right to sleep.  It's not that they bore me - never never never think that.  I think it's a brain thing, that listening to words activates or distracts my brain in such a way that I can sleep.  And Georgette Heyer's words, in particular,  are so worn into my brain that I can travel smoothly down those tracks into deep sleep. When I wake for a moment and hear her words in my ears, I am reassured that all is right with the world and I move back into sleep. 

Thank-you once again, Georgette Heyer.  Her books have been my companions since I first discovered them in a store in Canada on a band trip at the age of 15.  I bought The Grand Sophy and Regency Buck the first day.  The second day I went back and bought The Corinthian and Friday's Child and Venetia.   I have never been far from one of herbooks ever since.  They are comfort food for my soul. 

Dawn Over The Irish Sea

The texture of the clouds was wonderful.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Thursday is Date Day

The COG and I 'date' on Thursdays when we can.  Last Thursday ,we went into Boston for lunch and the MFA.  Yesterday, we drove up to Kittery in Maine to the outlet stores.  We did not buy anything, but we had a lovely drive through peak fall colors and a nice lunch.

Kittery is a couple of miles of highway lined on either side with outlet malls that all look pretty much like this:

In other words, faux quaint New England themed temples to Mammon.  It could be any outlet mall in the US.

We had lunch at quite a nice place that fit right in with the general appearance of the place.  But there was one huge difference.  Once we sat down in the back of the restaurant we looked out the windows and saw amazing beauty.  After we ate, we walked around to the back of the restaurant and this was the view. Kittery adjoins Portsmouth - a big harbor since colonial times.  The whole area is full of tidal inlets like this one, but you just don't see them driving down the road looking at outlet shops. 

It was so beautiful.  Highlight of the day, for sure. Make sure you click on the picture to see the whole panorama.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Must Haves?

Spotted this odd display at Joann's.   Not really what I would have called 'Must Have, ' but I guess to each his own.

Then,  Daughter of and I took Miss A. and Miss T. apple picking.  There in the woods we saw some Halloween decorations and one of them featured 3 pretty much identical black birds on a branch stuck in the ground.  Apparently someone took the Joann's display to heart.

Still not really what I'd call a 'must have,' though.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Before and After

BEFORE: - a little cherry side table that we have misused shamefully.  This is why we can't have nice things:

AFTER - sanded and stained a darker color because I wasn't sure I could match the original color of the legs.  The strange V a the bottom is my hands taking the picture.  I've never sanded cherry before - the sawdust is bright orange and very fine. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Son of came home the other night with Chicken of the Wood fungus - one of only 4 absolutely safe fungi.  It's safe because nothing else looks like it, but still we used google to confirm that this was Chicken of the Wood.

We sliced it thinly and sauted it with some onion and some olive oil and some white wine.  It was delicious. And it went very well with our meal of Pepperonata Pasta.  Next, I might try Polenta and Mushrooms.  

Saturday, September 26, 2015


This morning about 11am, we had two deer sleeping in our backyard.   I disturbed them when I opened the door - I hadn't seen them.  They lifted their heads and stared at the house for a while, but didn't leave.

Nice that they feel safe here - even though having them in the yard puts us in the highest risk group for Lyme Disease.

Can you see them?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Son of Buys a Boat

Having spent the summer sailing every day, Son of has bought a boat - actually two boats.  The big boat is a 26 foot double-keeled sailboat made in the UK.  She's a charming boat. Her name is Anna - that's the name she came with and Son of has not decided whether to change it. She's a Ketch - she has two masts.

She is currently in a commercial boatyard in Gloucester - a really fascinating place. Tomorrow she is being moved to Newburyport for the winter.

She needs some work - all the wood needs oiling or recoating and the windows need resealing, but she is surprisingly nice inside.  There's a main cabin and a little sleeping area, and a proper head at the front and at least one more bed at the back. (I am not using the proper nautical terms here because I don't know them.)   Here is the view from the front of the boat - it's a little deceiving because the cabin with the blue roof is from the boat behind.  And the masts are off because it's being moved tomorrow.

And here she is from the back.  

The second boat is also a little gem.  She is a sweet little Dyer Midget - a classic New England Dinghy with a sail and oars.  She is going to be used to get the Son of back and forth to the Anna.  This is not Son of's boat, but one like it. 

On a completely different note - at the moment a boat from the show 'Wicked Tuna' is in the same shipyard.  I don't even know what the show is, but apparently it's popular. We saw someone from it tonight while we were getting the boat ready to move. 

Another Project

I've been working on the shelving in one of the guest rooms.  I'm not sure it looks like much of an improvement, but it is.  The window seat is the obvious change, but the room seems much larger now, without the big top-heavy shelf jutting into the room.  We have lost some storage, but since it was always a mess with unnecessary junk just wedged in it and forgotten, I don't think this will matter.

Unlike the similar unit I built a couple of years ago in our closet, this one has a window seat with storage under it.  I wish I had done the same thing in our closet.  Alas.

Now all I have to do is sew a cushion for the bench.




AFTER WITH CUSHION (from our closet)

Adorable Doll Bed

The Son of made this lovely doll bed for the daughter of a friend's second birthday.

I made the mattress, blanket and pillow.  I think it turned out to be very cute.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Oh The Places They've Been

Note: I have pictures which are not available yet in my icloud stream.  I will add them.  Sometimes I hate Apple

Sister Rose and her husband, Brother Rose, spent last week with us in Brighton.  Before that we had afew days visitng family in the midlands and Herefordshire.  We did many things. Sister Rose, who apparently has more energy than me, has posted about them.  And The COG has also streamed some pictures.  I have more to add on what we did, and I will do that over the next week or so.

However, at the moment we are in Normandy-  Deauville, to be exact.We arrived on Sunday.  This is how we got here:  we took the bus from the foot of our road to Newhaven.  We took the ferry to Dieppe. We took the navette to the Gare (train station).  We took the train to Rouen, then changed to a train for Liseux, then changed to another train for Deauville.  After a brief spat at the Gare about the desirability of just taking a taxi to the place we are staying, we walked, pulling our case, to La Cerisee.  Which proved to be in easy walking distance, so no problems.

A few words here about travel by ferry.  It's wonderful.  The pace of travel is so..... right.  And the hassles - lines, sullen security people, weighing of luggage, prohibitiions on what you carry (liquids, tiny folding scissors etc.) - are minimal.  Even the passport control is easy, with no long lines. Blissful.

Anyway, here we are in Deauville and its twin city of Trouville, just on the other side of the Seine across a bridge. These are seaside towns with great beaches and have been popular resorts since the 19th century.  The Impressionists painted them a million times.  And, famously, as the Daughter of COG reminds us, it is where Gaston took Gigi and her aunt in Gigi. 

We are staying in a charming little house behind a bigger house. It must have been a stable or outbuilding of some sort.  The ground floor is one room with a tiny kitchen a table and a sitting area. There are big beams holding up the second floor. There's a charming old curving staircase that leads to the second floor, where there's a bathroom, toilet and bedroom. It's all beautifully but simply decorated.  If there were just one more room, I would happily move in forever. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Home Improvement

We had a carpenter here for a couple of days doing odd jobs for us.  One of the big things he did was to build doors for this cupboard and to close in the top.  The cupboard is a really useful storage spot, but it was ugly.  And the doors were a bit of a problem because nothing is square. But the carpenter worked his magic.


You can't see it in this picture - and I can't take another one because it is gone now - but there was an ugly gap at the top, with a big hole in it.  There are meters in the back - they're covered normally with a white curtain on a tension rod that I installed a while ago.


This is the outside now.  I think it's a pretty amazing improvement.  I ran out of paint and since I want to paint the inside of the cupboard, maybe put some wallpaper at the back and revamp the shelves, I will show you the interior next time. When it's lovely.  The poster on the left says Keep Calm and Carry Your Kindle, by the way.  That's my personal motto.  


One thing I love about Brighton is the flowers.  Grocery store flowers here are so far superior to grocery store flowers in the US - they are cheaper and more various. I think it must be because there are different sources for them.

Anyway - this bouquet is so pretty. It's grocery store peonies and pink roses and 'mint' from a local florist.  I've never seen the 'mint' before but it's so pretty. The leaves don't smell minty, but the stem is square, like a mint. And they called it 'mint' at the store. It must be some kind of decorative rather than herbal mint.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


We did get into London last week to see an exhibition at the Tate Modern.  It featured Sonia Delaunay - a Russian born French artist, married to another artist, Robert Delaunay.  She did a lot of costume design, and graphic design as well as Art Art.

It was an interesting exhibition and it made me want to go back and see another one at the Tate - Agnes Martin, another woman artist who did abstractions that I love.  Maybe in a couple of weeks.  This is a picture of people taking pictures of St. Paul's and the Millenium Bridge from a balcony at the Tate.

Devil's Dyke

We just haven't been able to go out much and we were longing for the Downs.  So one afternoon, pretty late (5:30) we took the 77 bus up to Devil's Dyke. Which is an Iron Age Hill Fort built next to a geological oddity called Devil's Dyke.

It was also a Victorian sightseeing spot,  and John Constable called the view 'The Grandest View in the World.'  The COG, of course, wanted to take pictures. I just went for the ride.  And it is such a beautiful place.

The thing about it is, you can take the bus there and back, so as we didn't have time for a walk, we at least got the views and a very pleasant couple of hours.

 And the drive up the little country lanes in a double decker bus is, in itself, spectacular.  The COG destroyed all his pictures because they weren't up to his high standards.  I have low standards, so I did not destroy mine, thought I freely admit that they do not do justice to the beautiful view:

In the picture below, the distant hill - just to the right of the midpoint of the picture - is the Chanctonbury Ring. It's another small Iron Age Hill Fort, also the site of a Roman Temple and some Bronze Age stuff, too.   And, barely visible, to the left of the middle is another distant hill. That's the Cissbury Ring the largest Iron Age Hill Fort in Sussex, with a history that goes back at least 5,000 years.  Those early Britons loved hills that over looked the sea. Oh wait. So do I. 

One thing I love about the South Downs - there's Birdsfoot Trefoil all over.  I took a picture but it's not worth uploading it.  Anytime I find Birdsfoot Trefoil, I think about my Dad.  It's always nice to find it. 

Arrived Safely etc.

Arrived safely. The flat is still here, just as we left it.  We've had an odd time.  Have spent a lot of time trapped in the flat waiting for various deliveries. Plus, we had a carpenter here for a couple of days doing various small things.  I'll show some pictures later.

There's a new baby upstairs. He just turned a month old and is starting to respond and look around at the world.  The COG acted as a Baby Whisperer and got him to sleep.  He slept for quite a while, too, completely collapsed and floppy on the COG's arm.  It was really sweet.

Thursday, we pick up a rental car and start the round of visits in the Midlands. First Auntie N, at her caravan in the Cotswolds. Then, some cousins in Herefordshire for a couple of nights. Finally, on Saturday, we will pick up Sister Rose and her husband who will be arriving from the States, exhausted, at Heathrow.  Then, followed by a busy week of sightseeing with The Roses. More about that later, too. As it happens. 

Morning, somewhere over the Irish Sea almost 2 weeks ago

Soon followed by Morning, somewhere over Southern England almost 2 weeks ago.  I tried and tried and couldn't figure out exactly where.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Brighton Kitchen Progress

I promised an update on the work I have done on the kitchen so here it is.  I am embarrassed by the pictures - they are terrible -but they are all I have. And this is mostly for my Mom (+ family members who have been there) so I am hoping to be forgiven.

Click on the photos for the full photo - they have been cut off on the side in the body of the post.

Here is the Before, where we started:

Then, last Fall, I changed the tiles under the window and painted the lower cabinets.  The upper cabinets were still the dingy looking off white, but the lower ones were a nice Farrow and Ball color, Downpipe.  Here is the state of the kitchen after that.:

And here is the other side of the U shaped counter. This gives you a nice sense of the color.

Here are the upper cupboards painted Farrow and Ball All White.  It makes a  huge difference, maybe more than you can see here.  

I also took out the shelf under the cabinet on the left, which was always just annoying.  But the backsplash there is metal and I wasn't sure how to take it off and put something else up.  Then, duh, I bought a drill bit intended for metal and it wasn't that hard to re- site another hanging thing from Ikea, which had been on the side of the fridge.  Again, a small tweak that has made a huge difference.  I also made a cover for the over the rubbish bin.  This is probably the thing that bugged me the most.  I'm not sure the curtain is a permanent solution, but it's great for right now. 

From another angle, so you can see my pretty freesias some more.  I had freesias in my wedding bouquet and I love having them around. 

The other refinement that I made - putting shelves by the fridge - I already showed you here, -  you can go back and see them by clicking.

Still to do, we need to get the soffit put back up.  I have already made another curtain for another opening you don't see here.  I have a shade that needs to get put up. This will happen in the summer when we are back - we have already arranged with the carpenter for this to happen.

And I am going to paint the fridge pale blue. It's not included in any of these pictures, but it's an almond color that just doesn't Go.  I was going to paint it white and then I saw a picture of a blue Smeg refrigerator and I knew that I must have a blue fridge:

And then there's the floor. I dunno.  It's a lime washed old pine (I think, pine).  Very charming but with big gaps between the boards which crumbs fall into and will not brush out.  I'm not sure what to do with it and until I am sure, it will remain as is. Maybe I might paint it in the meantime.  We'll see.

Back in Brighton

It occurs to me that I've never done a 'tour' of our flat here.  That will have to wait until I can take pictures, but here is a picture of our sitting room, which I love.  The light in the room is wonderful and it's a happy place for us.

Here's a close-up of those tulips on the table.

Italy, Food

I was sick the whole time we were in Italy (sinus infection) so eating was a bit of a problem.  Restaurants don't open for dinner until 7:30 or 8 and by then I usually wanted to sleep.  So we ate in our flat a lot. Meals that were not exciting.  But we did have a few lovely meals.  And some nice gelato.

Here's a picture of one from the Stella Maris Restaurant on the beach in Amalfi. It was a local fish - don't know what it was - but it was very fresh and very good.

Lemons and San Marzano tomatoes are the crops grown here. I love lemons, so that's great for me. I also love Limoncello, the local liqueur made from lemons. The story we heard about the San Marzano tomato - which all cooks everywhere agree is the best for tomato sauce - was interesting.  We heard that in the 18th century, seeds of the San Marzano tomato were given as a gift from the King of Peru to the King of Naples.  

You may ask yourself, why did the King of Peru give a gift to the King of Naples? The reason for the gift seems lost to history.  Or at least not in Wikipedia.  I did learn that the San Marzano tomato probably did come from Peru, but also that there was no King of Peru in the 18th century.  So... it's a good story.

We also had a lovely lunch in Positano - the COG had grilled squid and I had lemon pasta, which was so fantastic that I am going to try to make some or find some.  Trader Joes has Lemon Pepper pasta, nice but not the same.   We had an elegant meal on our last night at a fancy restaurant in Ravello - again we had simple fresh delicious food.

But the stand out, in a way, of the whole trip was pizza we had in a restaurant in Ravello one of our first nights there.  This was the BEST pizza I have ever had.  It was so simple, crust-tomato sauce- buffalo mozzarella.  That's it. But the crust was the best crust ever.  The tomato sauce was the best tomato sauce ever - so much flavor. And the buffalo mozzarella was divine.  I had quite a bit of buffalo mozzarella while we were there and it was always good - such a different thing from the pale kind of tasteless stuff we get here, which I love anyway.

The thing that, for me, made this pizza so memorable was that it reinforced what everyone says - good simple ingredients, well-prepared.  One of those lessons for cooking that I knew of course, but when I actually had this pizza, I finally really got it.  I will always aspire to make everything I cook from now on, this good.

Italy: a few odds and ends

Looking straight down from the 'Terrace of Infinity' at Villa Cimbrone. What I wanted to show was those ubiquitous strips of black and green.  Those are covering lemon orchards to keep any frost off of them, according to our driver.  The lemons form from autumn to spring, and this is not an area with heavy frosts, but they do get some light frosts and this protects the trees. 

Here's another view from straight on. This is very much a part of the springtime landscape:

Here's another picture showing the terracing better.  I don't know how old the terracing is. In some places we have walked in France, it was said to be thousands of years old.  This area has always been agriculturally rich, even in Roman times and probably before. Terracing is an old method, but, of course, much of this could be more recent.  

As I'm writing this, I keep looking through my pictures.  Without wishing to belabor the point, this is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  I'm going to stop there.  The COGs pictures are better than mine.  

Italy: This Poster

We saw this poster everywhere - apparently there's a musical, with an 'historical 'storyline.  People on Trip Advisor seem to like it, though no one gives any idea what it is, except there are good vocals and a cheesy story.

However, this poster bugged me.  It's so wrong.  There's a Big Bad Guy and, yet. The Girl is hanging onto The Good Guy's sword arm.  Sweetie- that's a bad idea. I'm not into violent fighting, but if you have to do it, do it right.  Leave his sword arm alone.  Hang on his other arm if you have really must.  I also (full disclosure) was bugged by the way she is looking down and the men are staring out.  It's a feminist knee-jerk reaction.  I know this is only a poster, but it bugged me. 

Just saying.....  

Italy Continued: More Plant Life

Not pruning this time but just a couple of things that impressed me.

First, we saw several of these trees.  No pruning on these that I could see, but such an odd looking thing.  All of the 'leaves' grow straight up from the branches, instead of drooping, or clustering around the branch as in every other evergreen tree I know.

And this beautiful hanging plant with purple flowers is the herb Rosemary used for landscaping.  I've seen it grow wild in massive bushes in the Mediterranean, and I've seen it - even blogged it- used for landscaping, but it always impresses me.  And I've not seen it hanging like this before.  When I think of my sad little Rosemary plant that I bring in each winter so I can use it in cooking... it hardly seems possible that it's the same thing. 

Italy Continued: Pruning

It's a funny thing about travel that the best, most impressive, things are usually surprises.  You can plan all you want, but the highlight ends up something you never thought about. And so it was on this trip.  The COG could not stop talking about pruning.  We have, of course, noticed before that there are all kinds of pruning techniques used in Europe that are not seen much in America.  But this trip was really eye-opening.  I think part of the reason is because trees weren't fully leafed out, so you could see what had been done.  It's rather ruthless - we didn't even realize you could do this to a plant and have it survive.  It's a way of making plants/trees do your bidding entirely.

This is a walkway/road by the church in Ravello - do you see how the trees have been pruned back so that they will form an arch in the summer, but not get too big?

Here's a close-up:

And look at this one from the garden of the Villa Rufalo:

And there was a whole avenue of flowering trees leading to our flat. They were quite remarkable because in places so much had been pruned that the flowers were growing right on the stem. 

Look at this tree from the main square of Ravello - totally reshaped by the hand of man.

There were many other instances of pruning - roses pruned waaaaay back and pergola structures like this one, with vines pruned to create shade in summer.

So we talked about pruning the whole trip - it was probably our most frequent conversation after the one 'OMG isn't that beautiful and look over there.'

Monday, April 13, 2015

Time does not wither, nor custom stale their infinite optimism

The COG and I thought it would be nice to take a walk. Just a little walk from Ravello to Amalfi, a mere 5 kilometers away.  We would stop in Portone on the way for lunch, detouring a bit to see the beautiful views from a belvedere. Then, back to Portone and thence to Atrani,  where we could nip around the corner, a short 20 minutes to Amalfi. Tired, but happy, we would take the bus back to Ravello for dinner.    The notes we had on the walk, from the company through which we reserved the cottage, said it was a 4 hour hike.  

Let me just remind  you of the terrain we are talking about here. This was taken half way down. Click on the pictures to see the whole picture - some are not showing up fully.

or, looking down:

We left Ravello around 10 and began the 'walk' which, we soon discovered was more a matter of going down stairs than actual 'walking'.  And, when I use the word 'stairs,' I mean uneven, steep, often very high,  ancient and crumbling - sometimes repaired- stairs going down and down.  By noon we had arrived at Pontone,where we had a pleasant lunch out doors, as per The Plan.  

We followed the instructions for the walk and, by and by (where 'by and by' means 'up and down' ) we arrived at a beautiful viewing spot.  And it was beautiful.  Well worth seeing.  Note the ancient tower just to the right of the middle of the picture.  Atrani is the town on the left and Amalfi is the town on the right. 

Here's another shot -a panorama taken from the Belvedere.  That's Ravello - the Villa di Cimbrone - on the pointy peak at the middle.  Our flat is just on the other side of that hill, near Villa di Cimbrone, but facing the bay at the far right.  That's Pontone (I think) over on the left. We had come down and crossed the valley, then mounted to Pontone and the Belevedere at this point. 

And so full of  the beautiful sights, a nice lunch, and our usual optimism, we backtracked to Pontone.  Once again forgetting the lesson we never learn, which is that we always get lost.  And so we did.  First we got lost going in one direction, down many steps and then up many steps and then down some more until we came to a tree that had fallen across the path and realized that we were on the wrong path.  So we backtracked to the junction and went in the other direction, up and down and down and up, until we came to the ancient watchtower that we had viewed from above a bit earlier.  
Remember the tower in the picture above?  We saw it up close and personal, but I don't have a picture.   

So back we went again, up and down more steps until we were back at earlier the higher level and on the right path again finally.  This took a couple of hours in all.  And we started back to Pontone, to connect with the path to Atrani.   Before we got to that point, we came to the bottom of a very steep set of stairs we had climbed down earlier. And right by the stairs was a sign and an arrow, pointing to Atrani.  So, naturally, we thought - why go the extra couple of hundred meters to the advised path, we'll just take this one.  This was our second, or third, error depending.

We were never seriously lost-lost. We could see Atrani and the sea and we knew we'd get there eventually.

It was long and very difficult - all steep, ancient, crumbling stairs going down with our backs to Atrani, walking inland when we wanted to arrive at the seafront.

  There was one beautiful moment, among many, a waterfall descending  into pools worn deep in the stone.  

Finally, with both of us complaining that we could hardly walk because our calves and quads were cramping, we joined the path we would have been on the whole time,  had we followed instructions.  This was a broad stone-paved path that sloped gently down into the town. 

 Apparently, it was the path used by donkey carts until the middle of the last century, when the roads were finally completed.  And so, we made it to Atrani. Yay!

I had thought that once we were in Atrani we would just nip round the corner  in to Amalfi, because they are both on the same level, right on the sea.  But, no, it was not to be.  Instead, we followed a path involving many more stairs up and down, through a maze of tiny, ancient, wandering alley ways which were probably just the ticket when you were escaping attack from Saracen invaders a thousand years ago.  

But, then, we were in Amalfi.  Tired, but pleased to have completed the walk, we climbed on the bus for the ride home. 

All in all it was a lovely day.  We did 8 miles and 196 staircases, according to fitbit.  It was so lovely to be out walking in the countryside.