Thursday, July 31, 2014

Heavenly figs……………

Good morning dear friends. Come join me in the 
kitchen this morning where I'm cooking up fig and 
ginger jam……first of the season.

Yesterday we picked this first batch of beautiful fresh figs………..a little earlier than 
usual in the season.  We've been watching those hundreds of tiny fruits for a couple of 
months now, hard and bright green, tucked between the lovely huge hand-shaped leaves. 
Nothing bothered them, not a squirrel or bird took a peck. Now, within three short days,
all has changed, their cheeks are blushing pink, they droop a wee bit on their tiny stems, 
meaning they are ripe, ready for eating, cooking, preserving.

We discontinued filling the nearby bird feeder several weeks ago, however the birds 
are coming in droves, especially robins, and we take turns playing 'scarecrow', 
dashing outside shouting and hand clapping. The birds fly off but return as soon 
as the screen door slams shut. This morning I spied a squirrel on a branch……our
garden residents are nibbling the sweet, ripening figs like there's no tomorrow.
We can't throw netting over the trees, now about 15 feet tall, and it would be 
awkward picking the fruits, so we'll share Nature's bounty as we have other years. 
We feel blessed that those two tiny trees planted several years ago are healthy and 
now extremely productive. 

Bob is the official fig picker around here. We have two trees, one a 
Brown Turkey, the other a Celeste. Last year only the Celeste bore fruit, this 
year both trees are loaded. I am the jam maker/chef.  
This fabulous cook book was a gift last year from my friend Sara in 
Southern California - I will be using it constantly during the fig harvesting 
weeks ahead - and hope to share more great recipes with you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Waste not, want not…Italian style

The name of this delicious, easy to make Summer salad is panzanella. 
Said with an Italian accent it sounds almost romantic - go ahead say it in your best 
Italian accent, it's adorable.
 When you see it being made, the bowl of wet bread couldn't be more unappetizing!
Panzanella actually comes from the word pantanella meaning 'little swap'.
In the picturesque hills of Tuscany, leftover bread is used in many dishes such as 
bruschetta, crostini and the wonderful ribollita soup I enjoy making in Winter.
Panzanella salad is one of the mainstays of the long and languid Summer 
luncheon, or supper under the pergola in the flower-filled garden.
The quality of the ingredients are what make it delicious. 

Panzanella (Tomato & Bread Salad)

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz stale white Italian bread cut into 2" chunks
About 6 cups of cold water
3-4 medium size ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion sliced thinly
1 cup fresh basil leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

Cook to Cook:  Use only sturdy crumbed white Italian bread such as 
ciabatta or foccacia - not fine crumb wheat or whole grain style breads.
You can remove the crusts - I leave mine on.

Pour vinegar into a small bowl and whisk in the oil
Place bread in a large bowl, add water to cover, and soak for 5 mins. 
Drain well in a colander then squeeze bread to remove as much water as possible
Coarsely crumble bread back into large bowl
Add tomatoes, onion and basil, toss gently with enough vinaigrette to coat 
Add salt and pepper to taste

Salad can be made ahead - cover and refrigerate. Let 
stand at least one hour at room temperature before serving.
Leftover panzanella is good for another day or so.


The finished salad - we enjoyed it last evening with penne Gorgonzola - leftovers 
will make a quick, tasty lunch today.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rostock Part II ~~~~ Auf Wiedersehen Germany

We continued to wander around attractive Rostock until late afternoon, stopping for a sandwich 
in an outdoor cafe, people watching over a coffee…

…and noting this very ornate frontage for TK Maxx (in the US known as TJ Maxx), 
we have nothing as elegant as this for a chain store venue.

Enjoyed visiting two historical churches……

St. Petrikirche (St. Peter's Church) in the oldest part of the town, started as a wooden church in the 
13th century, followed by a brick Gothic construction with a 380ft tower which served as a 
landmark for sailors for centuries. Air raids destroyed the tower and part of the church in 1942. 
After a long wait of 52 years, the tower was rebuilt to a height of 410ft, still the main landmark 
from the Baltic Sea.

We had a giggle walking down a cobblestone lane from the church when we stopped to view the colorful and quite unexpected murals - note the nudes enjoying the Bacchanalian-style feast.

Above, the beautiful St. Marienkirche (St. Mary's Church) was begun in the mid-13th century, but collapsed in 1398. The present building in late Gothic style contains a fascinating astronomical clock behind the altar dating back to 1472. It is amazingly elaborate and still works, able to predict phases of the moon with absolute accuracy - it is the oldest remaining piece of its kind. 


Later, a quick 20 min. ride back to Warnemunde - how we loved the comfy, spotlessly clean 
train and tram - then embarked Queen Victoria for the early evening sail away.

The people were out in force to wave us off…………from land and at sea.

It's not until you see small watercraft - here a car ferry and a Zodiac boat - up against a cruise ship,
that you can truly see/feel the difference in size!

…note the lighthouse, built in 1897 and still in use.

Beach still busy as the sun went down - it stays lighter much later in this part of Europe 
during the Summer months which is great for outdoor evenings on the water, entertainment etc.

Views from our balcony as we sailed away assisted by the Pilot boat.
Loved this sunny, fun part of Germany - certainly beat the Frankfurt airport!

Next port of call ~~~~~~ Copenhagen, Denmark.
See you there I hope!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blog tour 2014~~~~~~~~~

I've been invited by my dear friend Jane, well known in the blogosphere as "Blondie"
at Blondie's Journals, to be a part of the current blog tour……known as 
Touring Through Blogland.
I've met Jane, and her charming husband in person - in Asheville, NC and here in 
Raleigh, NC, and we had so much fun each time.
Jane's blog is awesome and enjoyed by a lot of gals who are into decorating their homes, 
enjoying time with their families, spending time lakeside in Summer, gardening, cooking etc.  
She always writes candidly and has a great sense of humor. Jane is the perfect blogger and if 
you don't already visit her I suggest you head on over soon.

I started my first blog, Across The Pond, in 2007, this current one in 2010, so have been 
blogging over seven years. In the early years it was a lot different of course, fewer 
bloggers and limited editing programs for posting great photos - and let's face it, we all 
want to share our photos don't we?

I'm to answer four questions………so here goes. 
All photos are my own.

My cottage home.

1.  What are you working on right now?
To be quite honest, not much!  In the oppressive heat of Summer here in the southeast,
being lazy seems to be the best thing, and having recently returned from a busy trip to the
Baltic and Russia, I'm just catching up on regular things around the cottage, while sipping
chilled beverages on the side!  Being British I do not like hot weather one bit. If it wasn't for
the humidity, bad evening storms bringing an overabundance of rain, followed by clouds of
mosquitoes, I would be outside gardening, perhaps painting some bits of furniture I see waiting
out in the potting shed, and of course walking much more. I am cooking a lot lately - easy hot
weather dishes - after buying a really great new vegetarian cookbook - will share that with you
another time.

2. How does my work differ from others in this genre?
I travel often and love taking photos of amazing places around this awesome planet.
Besides the usual vacation venues, I have been fortunate to do a lot of expedition travel via
small ships, not something enjoyed by the majority perhaps, but a special way of seeing areas
of other countries usually off the radar for regular travelers. Having now visited all seven
continents, Antarctica last year being the 'jewel in the crown', I have so loved sharing these
wild and wondrous places with blogging friends.

There are several thumbnails in the right column of my blog page which open up to many of the
places I've visited.  If you've not read those posts and would like to see my photos from around 
the world, please click on them.

My Garden over the past few Summers.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?
I am a creative person, born and bred, sharing my late talented mother's genes I suppose.

She was an amazing dressmaker who actually made clothes for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the mother of our present Queen, in the mid-1900's, then taught me to sew and acquire a great interest in textiles and fashion.

She let me redecorate my bedroom, over and over again, helping me choose wild
wallpaper designs of the '50's - hence perhaps my love of interior design.

She was a great 'from scratch' cook - doing it professionally for a while, and yes I love to cook too.

In my childhood garden she showed me how to raise and care for beautiful flowers,
from climbing sweet peas to dinner plate sized dahlias, fuchsia bushes the size of small trees,
and always gorgeous roses. Gardening, a very creative pastime and, as they say,
"A thing of beauty but a job forever",  I certainly agree.

Having worked in several professions, my most-loved were the years spent in the art and advertising business. My blog, though started as a way to journal and hopefully share aspects of my life for my children/grandchildren in the future, has really become my personal creative outlet. I love words and therefore try my best to write interesting content on my blog. As for photography skills, those I've had to teach myself. I was a lousy photographer with a basic camera when I started blogging, now with better equipment and fabulous places, wild animals, flora and fauna appearing in my lens, I'm doing much better but still have a long way to go. I am also prepared to spend hours editing my photos - this alone is probably the most creative time for me these days - I love playing with my photos!

Places I've been around the world.

4. How does your writing/creating process work?
I confess I spend perhaps too much time on blogging! Each morning when at home I'm here raring to go - to bring something cheerful to my readers' day. I don't post every day, sometimes writing one and then leaving it in draft for a later date. I could post daily as I'm never without something niggling at my brain, some subject to expound on, or a photo about which I can tell a little story. I do understand though that we bloggers already have a hard time keeping up with each other……there's just so much to read and comment on, right? When traveling I always carry my trusty MacBook Air, using it to post when Internet is available, and also downloading the photos I take each day so they are backed up in a second safe location. Although I have no further 'big trips' lined up for 2014, next year appears to be another busy travel period and I'm hoping to share many more interesting places with you here.

Thanks as always for stopping by - I love it when you have time to leave a comment but understand if you're too busy, then I just hope you enjoy peeking at something I've enjoyed sharing with you.

I now have to pass the baton to two more bloggers who hopefully will share their stories with you.
How about these two lovely ladies who lead interesting lives and take us along to special places~~~

My wonderful 'keeps me young' friend……whom I've spent so much creative time with 
over the past several years……Vanessa of Dreaming Shabby
My 'hope to meet in person' some day……long time, very kind Southern California blog friend
Sara of Come Away With Me 

Happy weekend everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rostock Part I ~ Sunday in the Park

Medieval Rostock appears smaller than it really is due to miles of undulating countryside and forests around the town. Sadly some of the magnificent buildings were destroyed in WWII, however you can still see grand marketplaces, bridges, city ramparts and gates. Even the newer buildings were designed in the traditional style of red brick and stepped gables. 
Rostock has the distinction of being Northern Germany's oldest university town and has a top school for the performing arts…..and apparently brews an excellent beer.

That said, we did notice Rostock's complement of artistic public places, so clean and displaying some beautiful statuary, such as the park fountains which had become climbing, and resting, places for the locals enjoying their Sunday afternoon. The town center is relatively compact so it was easy to take in many sites during our enjoyable couple of hours of walking.

Can you imagine a warm 'day in the park' here - the atmosphere was really wonderful…….

……foot tapping music enjoyed by all age groups……

…and the huge community family picnic set up in the lovely colorful square….

The pedestrian shopping area……..

We loved Sunday in the Park here - and having spectacular weather with such 
blue skies made it perfect.

Part II coming soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A German surprise ~ Warnemunde…

Other than a stopover in Frankfurt's less than friendly airport, I had never visited Germany.
Knowing this cruise included a German port of call at a place I'd never heard of, I was not overly excited. Quite honestly, expectations were somewhat low. I was happily surprised when we sailed in, docked, were straight off the ship, and just a few minutes walk in brilliant sunshine brought us into a pretty town right on the edge of a busy beach.

Founded around 1200, Warnemunde at the mouth of the river Warnow, was for centuries a small fishing village of minor importance. In 1323 it lost its autonomous status when purchased by the nearby city of Rostock in order to safeguard the city's access to the Baltic Sea. In the 19th century Warnemunde began to develop into an important seaside resort and today has a population of approx. 15,000. Still a fishing port, it also has a shipyard. The construction of a modern cruise line center in 2005 has contributed to Warnemunde's establishment as the most important harbor for cruise ships in Germany, and is a jumping off-point for Berlin.

Warnemunde from our balcony - couldn't dock much closer than this!

Sauntering along the waterfront, colorful market stands where everything from local honey to fish, some still smoking, and many interesting seafood items, were for sale. Being a Sunday, families were obviously arriving from other nearby towns to shop, eat an ice cream or meal, and have a swim.

Rows of houses, hotels, shops lined the riverside………………

…and in the back streets the smaller houses and shops were 
smothered in the most wonderful roses.

The beach is windswept with vast dunes and sweeping stretches of sand on each side of the river's mouth.  I loved the shoreline at the beach - no crowds early morning - if I'd come prepared I would have been dashing into that water in no time flat!

Next time, making use of the always great local transportation in most of Europe, we took a quick trolley ride and then a train into Rostock……a great town where families gathered for fun and a huge Sunday picnic. 
Even just one day in Germany was marvelous………join me in Rostock soon.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Beautiful Stockholm, Sweden……

Early on a cool June morning aboard Queen Victoria - embarkation of Swedish pilots - then careful 
negotiation of the narrow 57 mile passage towards Stockholm. Those of us who were early
 risers were treated to spectacular scenes of small villages, islands, lighthouses, inlets and lush forests.

Glimpses of the many Swedish islands on the way to Stockholm port.

Stockholm is the largest city and capital of Sweden, site of the Swedish government, parliament, 
and the official residence of the Swedish monarch.  Central part of the city consists of 14 islands 
and the geographical city center is virtually situated on the water. I loved the parts of the city we 
visited - comfortable temperatures and a partly sunny day made lots of walking enjoyable.

Royal palace mounted guards.

Along the cobbled streets the buildings surprised me……all those warm almost Italian feeling colors. 
I thought for sure Sweden would be all white and blue!

Lots of neat shops with great handcrafted items lined the streets.  Have to admit we found prices very high - we'd already been warned they would be in all the Scandinavian countries, so shopping was minimal………

………however I managed to purchase the one Swedish item I wanted for my home, an authentic white painted Dala Horse, the symbol of the Kingdom of Sweden.  Finding a non massed-produced horse was a little difficult, they were the only offerings in souvenir shops. Fortunately I found this made in Sweden beauty in a tiny home decor shop.  The earliest reference to wooden horses is from 1624 and the pattern used today is 150 years old.  The style of painting the pine horse is known as 'Kurbits' where two colors are used in the same brush, this is the traditional way, and these authentic horses are now only made in one Swedish village, Nusnas.

Stockholm was entrancing - more time in Sweden would have been better, to look up old friends,
see more of the countryside etc. - another time hopefully.