Sunday, 27 February 2011

More About Scent

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I find scent a fascinating subject, having written about it here and here.

Also, you will know that I use the train to get to and from work every day, and that this short train trip, waiting at the station and everything else that is involved, often provides me with an idea for a blog post.

Let me combine the two topics today.

Not long ago, I was, as usual, waiting on the platform for my train to arrive.
When it did, and the doors opened, a man with a Golden Retriever puppy got off first, followed by some other passengers.
The puppy looked as cute as they come, and while I was still watching it, cheerfully ambling along the platform on its lead with the man, I got on the train...
...and noticed too late that the floor of the compartment was covered in dog pee and dog poo!

One lady had, apparently, been the specific "target" of the little dog; she had removed her (wet) shoes and put her feet on the seat opposite her, stoically looking out of the window, obviously waiting for her journey to end. I hope she was able to go somewhere to clean her shoes and wash her feet and put fresh socks on.

The smell was unbearable in the confined space of the train compartment, and because it was still very cold, nobody had opened a window.
So I stood near the door, ready to leap out as soon as the train was going to stop at my station, pressing a tissue to my nose and trying not to breathe.

Four minutes later, the train pulled up at my station, and on getting off, I said to the people who wanted to get on right there to better use a different compartment as this one was very smelly. Did they listen to my advice? Of course not. They just looked at me as if they were thinking, "what does she want from me? Why does she even speak to me?" People in Germany usually do not speak to each other on public transport, unless they know each other anyway.

Well, I am sure they found out why I had spoken to them as soon as the doors closed behind them! In the meantime, I enjoyed the "fresh air" of the small industrial town, taking deep breaths to make up for the rather flat breathing I had done for the past minutes.

In the evening, when I was home, I did something nice to my olfactorial sense: I had a shower with wild rose shower oil, used the matching scented body powder and the body oil afterwards, and felt wrapped up in a sense of warmth, relaxation and luxury like a soft blanket.
Later, I had some toast; I love the scent of toasted bread!
That made up for the olfactorial torture I had endured in the morning :-)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Read in 2011 - 4: Poseidon's Gold

For my 3rd read this year, you can click here or find the entries by title; they all start with "Read in 2011".

Some years ago, I first read one of this author's mysteries set in Roman times and all involving Marcus Didius Falco, an informer (we would say detective) whose personal life features just as much in the stories as the quests he is set on by his clients.

this blog, my attention was directed to the series again, and my mum was kind enough to fetch three of these books for me from our local library, Poseidon's Gold being one of them.

I must admit I felt rather indifferent towards the story and its characters for about two thirds of the pages, but I do not blame Lindsey Davis' writing - the problem was more in the way my life looked like for the past few weeks, with many things to do, many people to see and a shifting in priorities as I am on the job hunt for the first time again in almost nine years.

Therefore, I did not stick long enough to reading to really get "into" the book - until two nights during this week when I found myself quite unexpectedly (but rather welcome!) on my own without any appointment for the evening.

Finally, I read more than just a few pages before my eyes would start to close and my hand would turn the bedside lamp off, already half asleep. Finally, I managed to read long enough to appreciate the humour, the amount of research and the witty yet elegant style of the author again. And finally, the story picked up pace - I think that wasn't so in the first half of the book - making me eager to want to keep on reading, finding out what was going to happen next.
The mystery Falco finds himself having to solve this time is closer to home than normally: his own brother, who died a hero in military action, was involved in it, and instead of the usual paying client, his own mother and father are interested in finding out the truth.

To complicate matters further, at first Falco is the main suspect of the only murder the whole book contains - a popular theme for mystery authors of all times: while the detective is working on solving the puzzle, he or she must clear their own name and try to stay out of prison long enough to find all the necessary clues and talk to all the right people.

Falco's girlfriend Helena, his father, his mother, many other relatives and his old friend Petronius as well as a former school teacher of his, a bunch of dishonest and lazy artists, a runaway slave and a mysterious restaurant owner whose existence is doubted, make for a colourful and lively cast.

Rome and the daily live there are described in a manner that make it easy to imagine people really lived that way, and in some ways their lives were not that different from ours.
The plot is credible, but not so simple as to guess the answers from the start.

An all-over good read - and I just am sorry for not having paid much attention for most of the book. I promise I'll do better with my next read.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

(Don't) Cross My Path

Like most humans, cats have firm habits, and one of these habits is that they are quite attached to what they consider their territory (also not unlike humans) and like to patrol it frequently and regularly (again, not so different from some of us).

Don't ask me where and when, but many moons ago, I read in a book about cats that their territorial patrolling is supposed to be fastidiously precise to the point of them covering exactly the same paths in exactly the same way, walking in their own footsteps, so to speak, every time they are out there checking on what they claim as theirs.

What I do remember about reading this is that I was quite impressed by the idea of being able to place one's own feet on precisely the same spot repeatedly without there actually being any visible marks to remind one of the route.

Last Christmas, we've had plenty of snow here, as some of my readers know from entries such as
this one. When it was still fresh, the view of my downstairs neighbours' patio, seen from my bedroom window, looked like this:

You can clearly see that a cat has been there. My downstairs neighbours have a cat who is about 1 1/2 years old now, and he can be seen outdoors in all kinds of weather, unlike my little old lady who prefers spending not only two thirds of her time, but closer to nine tenths of it, curled up somewhere nice, soft and warm (like my bed or her blanket in front of the heating).

Now, if what I read all those years ago in that cat book was true, the feline footprints in the garden should not multiply much, right? Maybe in numbers, yes, but not in patterns - the cat is supposed to keep covering his own tracks every time he patrols his territory.

What happened?
Have a look:

There goes one impressive theory!

And the morale of it all:
Don't always believe everything a so-called expert says; they make mistakes, too, like everyone else.

Friday, 11 February 2011

"Poor Knights"

The other day, I wanted to have something different for lunch than my usual cheese sarnies, and after a quick check of the contents of my fridge, I decided on something that in German is called "Arme Ritter", literally meaning "Poor Knights".

You need bread and eggs - all the other ingredients are entirely up to you and what's there. In my case, I used basil, salt and pepper, and half a cucumber as side dish or edible decoration :-)

Beat two eggs in a soup plate, spice with salt, pepper and basil leaves (or any other condiment, with or without herbs, whatever you prefer).
Cut two thick slices of bread and soak them in the egg mixture.

Heat some olive oil, butter, margarine or whichever is your preferred cooking fat in a pan and fry the slices from both sides until golden brown.

Eat and enjoy!

If you, like me, hate throwing food away, "Poor Knights" is a good way to use bread that is already a bit stale or dry. You can also use white bread, add sugar to the eggs and maybe something like ground hazelnuts or almonds, making this a sweet dish, to be eaten with fruit preserve or jam (the white bread and sugar method is actually the classic "Poor Knight").
It is a nice little dish to have when you do not feel like being in the kitchen for long, don't wish to eat a microwaved meal and yet want something warm - just perfect for the likes of me :-)

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Dramatic Sky

I have been very busy meeting friends, going out, making visits and receiving them, looking for a new (and better paid) job and doing tons of other things (such as going to work every day) that have not only kept me away from writing on here for simple lack of time, but have also kept my mind going whirlwind with so much stuff I am finding it difficult to extract anything consistent enough for a blog entry on any particular subject.

But today, I have decided to finally post these pictures of a very dramatic looking sky, viewed from my kitchen window, which I took quite a while ago (on the 14th of December 2010, to be precise) at sunrise.

Look at the first one; it does not look that spectacular:

Take a closer look now and tell me that the lightning-shaped cloud is not remarkable!

And that's it already for today. There is lots going on at the moment but little time to talk about it all.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Nicking From Others: Sunshine Spotlight

Don't worry - I have not simply nicked the idea, I've asked her permission and Nan kindly allowed me to pick up on her idea of showing some sunny pictures.

Today, I am happy to report an impressive 12 Celsius and sunshine (that's around 53 Fahrenheit, which is rather mild after the frosty days we've have until very recently), and I went for a walk on the quite muddy fields with my sister in the early afternoon.

The pictures here were taken a week ago, when it was still cold but the sun made for some beautiful effects in my flat, with both my living room and bed room facing South: