Wednesday, 1 May 2013

... to Celebrate May Day

May Day at a Munich beer garden
In New Zealand, the first day of May comes and goes without any fanfare.  But I am in Germany now and finding that May Day is a cause for celebration.
It's been a very long, hard winter in Europe. Now spring flowers are bursting into vibrant blooms, the blossom trees are laden and the trees have bright, light green leaves.
May Day is a holiday and has traditions to celebrate this burst of new life - music, meeting with friends, drinking and picnicking outdoors.
We joined hundreds of others in the park and at the beer garden. There was an 'oompah' band playing, the food stalls were busy selling huge pretzels, pork knuckles and many types of sausages and little children were queueing up for a turn on the carousel.
Another tradition is dancing round the maypole. There was a maypole at the beer garden, but no one was dancing round it. I  think they were all too busy eating, drinking and enjoying the company of family and friends.
It's been a lovely day.
The 'oompah' brass band in traditional Bavarian costume

Friday, 19 April 2013

... to Leave Ordinary Life Behind

There is something magical about stepping on board a plane or ship. There is the realisation that a whole wide world is out there, away from your normal life,  just waiting to be explored. 

If you can travel with that attitude you can deal with the queues, the delays,    the cramped airline seats, even (and I hope it doesn't happen) the lost luggage!

For me travel is the excitement of seeing new places, or even seeing familiar ones from a different viewpoint; hearing other languages; observing people; learning about different cultures and customs; interacting with others in ways that enrich my life.

And taking lots of photos and keeping a journal so that when I return to my ordinary life, I can see and read about my travels and relive them over and over.

It can take courage to leave the familiar behind, to cast off from your home, routines, family and friends. 

You need to travel with an open mind and generous heart; to not expect a life that mirrors your everyday existence; to leave behind the props and habits that have anchored you in your ordinary life; to be prepared to embrace the unfamiliar and learn from it. 

Then you can truly say that you 'crossed the ocean and lost sight of the shore.'

Bon voyage!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

... to Think About Travel

Travel Inspires the Mind
Several years ago I compiled a book of travel quotations for Reed Publishing called 'Wish You Were Here'. It was a joyful task - reading widely to find comments that famous people had made about travelling. Some of the things they said made me laugh out loud; some made me roll my eyes in disbelief; some made me think, Oh, that's just what happened to me.'
  I've chosen a selection of my favourites to share with you. I hope you like them.

  • When you go on a vacation to forget everything, you generally find when you open your bag at the hotel, you have. (Anon)
  • Thanks to the big jets you can have your breakfast in London, lunch in New York, dinner in Los Angeles - and all of this while your luggage is on its way to Buenos Aires. (Derek Nimmo)
  • Only fools want to travel all the time; sensible men want to arrive. (Prince Metternich)
  • 'Sip and buzz on by,' as the flower said to the honeybee, which is not bad advice for the traveller either.' (Ivor Herbert)
  • There's nothing wrong with guided tours if you regard them as a good way to get around and don't pay any attention to what the guide is saying. (Robert Allen)
  • The summer tourist soon finds that the cheaper rooms in the beach hotel overlook the ocean - completely. (Herbert Prochnow)
  • Standing among savage scenery, the hotel offers stupendous revelations. There is a French widow in every bedroom, affording delightful prospects. (Gerard Hoffnung, quoting a Tyrolean landlord)
I'll finish with some good travel advice from a camping ground proprietor in Switzerland: 
   Do not depose your litter. To abuse the showers is punishable. Between 23.00 -06.00 hours everyone should keep calme.
   I guess that means you can go hysterical the rest of the time! 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

... to Trust

I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time planning this trip to Europe, to the point that I think I have over-planned. A little voice in my head keeps thinking of situations - What if...? or What if...? so I have imagined scenarios for the good and the bad and how I would deal with them.
  Which means I have probably been worrying about things that may never happen and I have been living in the future rather than the 'now'.
  So today I decided to let all that 'What if?' thinking go and just trust that everything will work out and all the arrangements will go smoothly.
  Maybe I'll sleep better tonight!

Monday, 1 April 2013

... Using Summer Produce: Oven-dry Tomatoes

Home-grown Tomatoes
This seemingly endless summer has been tough on farmers and produce growers. But winemakers are expecting an excellent vintage from this year's grapes, and home gardeners are thrilled with their tomato crops. All that sunshine has made the grapes and tomatoes sweet and delicious.
  I'm growing Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and a miniature acid-free Italian type. We've eaten them almost every day for months; raw in salads, roasted, chopped up for guacamole, in tarts and cooked in olive oil with garlic and parsley for pasta sauce. We are almost all-tomatoed out! And still the plants keep producing!
  So I decided to oven-dry some and see what they were like. Here's what I did. You don't need to be precise about quantities.

Oven-dried Tomatoes

As many ripe tomatoes (smaller are better than bigger ones) as will fit, halved, on a wire rack
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
a good sprinkling of fresh thyme (less if you're using dried thyme) or mixed herbs
olive oil

  1. Halve the tomatoes & place cut side down on a wire rack to drain. I use the cake cooling rack I have for baking.
  2. Leave for about 1/2 an hour.
  3. Turn tomatoes cut side up.
  4. Mix the sugar, salt and herbs together and sprinkle over tomatoes.
  5. Stand the wire rack on a baking tray and bake for several hours at 50 degrees centigrade.
You'll know when the tomatoes are done as they will be shriveled up and almost dry to touch. You want them with a leathery, not crisp, texture.
Layer into sterilized jars and fill with olive oil till the tomatoes are covered.

We really liked these. They give bursts of sweet, concentrated tomato flavour in dishes. Another recipe to add to my tomato repertoire.

Friday, 29 March 2013

... for Easter Greetings

My first attempt at Hot Cross buns
Celebrating Easter this weekend, visiting with friends and baking hot cross buns. I used the recipe from the latest edition of the Australian Women's Weekly magazine. I was really pleased with the way the buns turned out, very tasty and light, but I must say my skills at piping the crosses left a lot to be desired! Maybe I need to practise a bit before next Easter.
  Easter is traditionally a celebration of new life and our family had a wonderful new life to celebrate this week - the birth of my daughter and son-in-law's first child, a girl called Carys, a Welsh name meaning 'Beloved'. 
  So whether Easter for you means chocolate eggs, fluffy bunnies and chicks, hot cross buns or Simnel cakes, or you remember the reason for the season, I hope you have a safe and happy long weekend.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

... to Have Fun With 'Giggle' Translate!

I have spent many happy hours lately planning our trip to Europe. And part of the fun has been reading the translations into English of websites in other languages. In fact I have renamed 'Google Translate' as 'Giggle Translate'.
  The flowery English hypes up the hotels and locations into flights of fantasy. Sometimes the translations are completely impenetrable; sometimes they are laugh-out-loud hilarious. Here are some examples to bring a smile to your day. See if you can guess what they're about!

  1. 'The innumerable traditional settlements outspread all over the impeccable natural scenery in combination with the unique mentality of the hospitable inhabitants compose the unparalleled amalgam of excellence.' 
  2.  'Watch your next 3 ride options to a selected compound will always find on my path.'
  3.  'The area has limited traffic, you can still get under the Hotel to download the pack, then it will be our care to send fighters to the plate for the transition took place.'  
  4. 'To tinker the canopy for the bedtime story is the purest breeze.'
  5. '... to feel smitten by the exquisiteness of this metropolis.'

 And the answers are....
  1. A region in Crete
  2. Booking a ticket on German rail
  3. Arranging valet parking at an Italian hotel
  4. In the catalogue for the children's section of a German department store
  5. A town in Italy
I  love it!