Wednesday 30 November 2011

November Summary

Several times on my blog, I have gone on about how I feel about the beginning of a new month, but I think a summary at the end of a month can also be good.

During November, I worked mostly from home, as usual; went to the office for a day, took a business trip to Austria, read a few books, worked out at the gym, had lunch at my parents' place three or four times, walked across the Christmas market on the opening night, shed some tears around the 2nd anniversary of my husband's death, learnt quite a lot from what I was reading in my weekly paper, on the blogs I am following and also from the comments some of you are kind enough to leave here, enjoyed the mostly mild and sunny weather, went on a family outing, came 2nd with my team at the pub quiz, made a Hefezopf and generally had a good time.
(Most of what I have summarized here can be found in the posts I have written this month)

A "classic" for November in this part of the globe, but such foggy, mysterious mornings like this view from my kitchen window were quite rare this year.

The clear, frosty mornings were more frequent, looking just as beautiful in their own different way.
A close-up of my neighbour's frost-covered roses.

And then there were quinces!
We have a tree in the back garden; it has grown quite out of hand, really, not letting any sunshine through to the ground around it. And every year, it produces an abundance of this delicious looking fruit - trouble is, they can not be eaten just like that; they are rock-hard and need boiling for hours and hours and hours before they turn into anything edible, such as jam, and not many people are willing to go to such lenghts.
Still, because yellow is my favourite colour and these quinces were just so beautiful, I took one and am using it now as one of the very few decorative items in my flat.

These pictures show quite well what the colour of this year's November is in my mind - certainly not the grey typically associated with the month!

Sunday 27 November 2011

Hefezopf - a Classic Swabian Tea (or Coffee) Cake

Time for another recipe!
This one is for Hefezopf (literally "Yeast Plait"), a typical Swabian cake usually had with coffee or tea, no matter what the occasion. It is served in my region all year round, and an all-time favourite for funerals, birthdays, baptisms, weddings, gatherings without any particular reason; for breakfeast or in the afternoon.

Today, my parents had invited all of us (meaning the closest circle of family and friends) to meet for brunch at their place, to start off the Christmas season, since it is the first of the four Advent Sundays today, and everyone was asked to bring something.
My contribution was the Hefezopf, and here is how I made it this morning just before setting off to their house:

You need
500 g plain flour (not of the self-raising kind!)
20 g yeast
80 g sugar
1/4 litre of milk
100 g butter
a pinch of salt
one or two eggs, depending on their size (I used two small ones)
about 100 g raisins

Mix the dry ingredients first. Then add the yeast.
Before you add the eggs, make sure they do not come straight from the fridge but are at room temperature.
Make sure the milk is luke-warm before adding it.
Melt the butter in a pan or in the microwave before adding it.
Do not yet add the raisins.

Mix well. I did not use an electric mixer, but my favourite, very old wooden spoon (I am not sure whether it is from my grandmother's or my mother's household, but I've had it "forever" and it has served me well over the years).

Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for at least an hour.
When the dough has had time to rise a bit, add the raisins and prepare your baking board or table top or kitchen counter work surface or whereever you wish to make the plait on by spreading some flour on it. Add one or two handfuls of flour to the dough as well, and make sure your hands are well covered in flour.

Knead and beat the dough with your hands until it is smooth and does not stick to your hands anymore, at the same time working the raisins into the dough.

When that's done, divide the lump of dough into three parts.
Roll out the three strands into oblong bits of more or less the same length. They really do not have to look perfect, so don't worry if they are a bit uneven or lumpy, as long as the dough in itself is smooth.
Now join the three strands at one end and plait them as you would do with three strands of hair when making a plait, and join them again at the end.
Put into the oven for about 40 minutes at 200 Celsius; of course I do not need to tell you to check after 30 and 35 minutes, because no two ovens are exactly the same.

The Hefezopf is tasty enough on its own, but it is at its best when you spread some butter on it as you would on a slice of bread, and have coffee or tea or hot chocolate with it.
It made a nice additon to our brunch!

Sunday 20 November 2011

Read in 2011 - 27: As the Pig Turns

Years ago, my mother-in-law sent me the first three of four books of a series I have come to really enjoy: the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton.
There is an official website for all things Agatha, and other series by the same author. Now, if you are looking for the most elaborate plots, the most descriptive landscape scenes, the most atmospheric places and high-brow literature, you will be disappointed.
But if you are looking for fast-paced, entertaining and sometimes rather comical "Cosy Mysteries", then I think you will like Agatha Raisin.

"As the Pig Turns" is the latest in the series, and if there is one thing I don't like about these books is that I finish them so quickly.
Things really do happen fast, and sometimes M.C. Beaton (real name Marion Chesney) skips through several months in one brief paragraph. Still, the recurring cast of characters is, in the course of the series, portrayed deeply enough to make you think you "know" those people, and can get a rather clear image in your mind of what they look and speak and move like.

This time, a murder is committed in the nearby Cotswolds village of Winter Parva (it does not really exist, just as Agatha's chosen home village of Carsely does not exist, but the way these villages are described, you can tell they are modeled on real life). The dead body is displayed in the most gruesome fashion, and turns out to be that of a policeman generally hated by everyone - but hated enough to be murdered?
Agatha is set to find out, and in the course of her investigation, unlike in most of the other parts of the series, she herself is never really in danger, but several of her friends and staff at her detective agency are almost killed.

Agatha is famous for always needing a man she can be obsessed about in her life. Her ex-husband makes an appearance, as does her ex-(? really?)lover Charles (I still think she should set up shop with him for good; he is my favourite male character in the series and I know exactly what he looks and speaks like). In the last chapter of the book, though, we witness the start of something new - the author clearly leaves room here for the next instalment, which I am already looking forward to.

Let me give you a few examples of typical Agatha-Raisin-style bits:

While Agatha and her ex-husband James (he had helped her in the past with her investigations) have a meal at a restaurant together, they discuss the latest developments in the case:
"Did Gary Beech leave a will?" asked James.
"Yes. He left everything to Amy." She pulled out her mobile and dialled Patrick [an employee at her detective agency]. When she rang off, she said: "No further news. There are the diamonds, of course. That's probably what they were looking for. Maybe Amy put the house up for sale. The police have surely finished with it."
"Let's just enjoy our dinner, go home and change, and then we'll break in."
Agatha grinned happily. "Quite like old times."
A short but nice description of Agatha's surroundings:
Agatha could almost smell the countryside coming to life after the bitter winter. The sky above was pale blue, and somewhere nearby a blackbird poured down its song.
It was on mornings like this that Agatha realized why she loved living in the Cotswolds so much. Perhaps, she thought, there is nowhere more beautiful in Britain than this man-made piece of England with its thatched cottages and gardens crammed with flowers.
At a banquet held to honour the "Woman of the Year", the "host" is described in a way I can really see and hear him:
Guy Brandon took the microphone. [He] was wearing a pale blue sweater over a striped shirt and very tight jeans.
He began to 'amuse'. He twittered, he clowned, he laughed hilariously at his own jokes, and in all, thought Agatha, he bored for Britain.
One of Agatha's employees, 18-year-old Toni, features quite a lot in this book. She has a rather different life from that of many other 18-year-olds, taking her work seriously:
She often felt quite lonely in the evenings these days. Her old school friends seemed like strangers. She felt she had moved on out of their world: a world of discos and binge drinking and dreaming of becoming celebrities without getting any skills such as acting, singing or dancing.
While I fear this really is true for many teenagers (not only in Britain), I know there are still some Toni-like, responsible and level-headed girls and boys out there; one of them being, for instance, my niece Beth - she takes school seriously, works at a book shop in her spare time and still does not forget to have fun. Last month, she turned 18; next year, she is going to start at Liverpool Uni (if all goes well), to study Egyptology.

Well, this was not intended to be about my family, but simply the book review of my latest read.

And now, I am turning to non-fiction again.

Friday 18 November 2011

Read in 2011 - 26: Friedrich II.

Friedrich II. (born 1196, died 1250) is someone I have been fascinated with since my teenage years, when I first read a biography of him. For Christmas 1985 (I was 17 then), my parents gave me a historic novel (much more a history book than a novel, really, since everything was well researched and based on facts) about Friedrich. Only 3 months before, I had travelled rather extensively on Sicily and seen for myself many of the places where Friedrich lived, and I had stood at his tomb in the cathedral of Palermo (I have written about that here).
More than 25 years later, in the literature section of my weekly newspaper, the ZEIT, was a short article about a new Friedrich biography. Since I still had a gift certificate for one of the book shops in my town, I decided to use it on that biography:  "Friedrich II." by Olaf B. Rader.

It would be too much to go into all the detail here of Friedrich's life and death and the times he lived in; for a summary, you can go to the wikipedia article about him.

Professor Rader did, in my opinion, a very good job in that he does not simply repeat what others had written before him (and believe me, a great deal has been written about Friedrich!) but he puts the contrasting descriptions, legends and myths that started to form even while the man himself was still alive in context with what we actually do know as historically secure information.
A lot of the legends are explained that way; not much different from today's journalism, the "facts" presented about a certain topic, a person or a country dipend very much from the writer's perspective and opinion.

The book is non-fiction, but written so well and entertaining it is not boring for a second. There are illustrations and a map at the end as well as a very useful family tree - with so many Friedrichs and Heinrichs and the succession of wives "our" Friedrich had, it is easy to get confused.
Equally useful is the timeline at the end of the book.

The author looks at Friedrich's life not just from one angle, but scrutinizes his subject under various aspects such as "The Seafarer", "The Lover", "The Poet", "The Tyrant", "The Antichrist", "The Emperor", "The Falconer" and many more. The picture that emerges is that of a highly complex character who lived and ruled in a very complex environment - certainly not an easy life, in spite of all the wealth, and also certainly never boring.

I learnt some (to me) astonishing things about how the administration of an empire and the royal court was organised in the Middle Ages, and how advanced some of the ideas back then were.

This was a book I do not regret having spent a gift certificate on - I am definitely going to read it again at some stage.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Look Above!

No matter where I am, in a private home or a stately one, in a concert hall or a shopping mall, at the hairdresser's or in an office, I look at the ceiling.

My interest in ceilings stems from a time when I was so bored (today people would say I was "underchallenged") at school that I invented a game that helped me through seemingly endless lessons, and it soon developed into something I still do today, not only to keep my mind occupied when there is not much else I can do, but also because it is fun:
In any room, in any building, imagine the room was upside down and the ceiling was the floor, complete with all its arches, stukko ornaments, beams, fire alarms, sound and light systems and so on. Where would you sit? Which part of the room would you explore first? How would you get from one corner to the other? Would you have to jump or climb your way across?

Last Sunday I had the chance to visit parts of Ludwigsburg's castle/stately home I had never been to before (see my previous post for more info), and of course I looked at the ceilings.

Here is some of what I found - not all pictures show the colours as bright as they really are, since lighting was not always ideal for taking pictures.

Let me start with some typical baroque detail; these are, of course, no real jewels; they are made of plaster. What IS real, though, is the gold. All throughout Ludwigsburg castle, the gold ornaments you see on ceilings and walls are covered in 22 1/2 carat cold leaf.

I guess you can easily spot where the detail in the first picture is taken from here on the bigger picture. Good job my camera can zoom in!

All around the room, there are portraits of, I believe, allegories for the arts and crafts, or maybe they are supposed to be muses.

 Some of the portraits deserve a closer llook, such as this beautiful lady.

Or look at him! That haughty look on his face is excellent, isn't it! I like to think the artist portrayed people known to him in real life.

 Another typical baroque ceiling.

 Don't you wish you could join the lady on the balustrade?

One of many doors that are usually closed to the public. I am 5' 8'' and I reach about half way up that door.

 Whoever painted this did not forget to give the owl its dinner!

Detail from the door picture. Now, I usually do have a thing for fauns (I just wish they weren't so hairy), but the wide mouth and big moustache and beard on this one are a bit too much.
 Tucked away in a corner of a staircase normally not open to the public, I found this dog.

 The condition in which they found some of the doors before starting to restore them.

One last look at some roof detail. See Father Time sat beneath the clock? A good reminder right now that it is time for me to get a shower and get dressed and start working!

Tuesday 15 November 2011

A Family Outing

On one of the blogs I have recently begun to follow, the author shows pictures of his family which, even without the accompanying quotes and comments, reveal his love for them. Now, I'd love to show you a picture I took of my parents and my sister on Sunday, but they won't have it - I am strictly forbidden to post pictures of people other than myself, and of course I respect their decision in spite of not fully understanding it.

Still, I can tell you about what we did on Sunday, and show pictures of the event without letting you see my Mystery Family :-)

My home town Ludwigsburg is famous for its castle; I've posted pictures of it several times before, for instance here and here.
It is said to be Germany's biggest Baroque castle still standing, and visitors can go for a guided tour in the state rooms, something I have done so many times (and will keep doing) that I could be a tour guide myself.

Last Sunday, though, a small trade fair was held in and around the castle: several companies of Ludwigsburg and the surrounding area presented themselves and their products. There were stalls where you could buy food, such as the delicious Flammkuchen being baked on site in a big wood oven, jewellery, toys, clothes, Christmas and other ornaments, wine, cosmetics, lingerie and more; there was also a stall of one of several dance schools, advertising for new participants in their courses, a choir, a band and an exhibition about the challenges encountered and the methods used in restoring to their former glory the wall paintings, wooden doors and printed wallpaper serveral centuries old that adorn the castle.
Most interesting for me were not the people or the companies and their products, but the rooms we got to see - these are rooms not normally part of the tour, and I was able to see corners and stair cases and small rooms in the castle where I have never set foot before.

It was lovely to spend this sunny but cold November afternoon with my family, just the four of us, and I hope to convey some of it with these pictures - without acutally showing the most important people attending :-)

View from the South terrace/balcony towards the "tiny hunting lodge" that was built there in order for the Duke of Württemberg to have parties and dinners with his hunting friends and other guests. 
It was still overcast when we arrived at around noon. The dinosaurs to the left are the remnants of the pumpkin exhibition and will not stay there.

 The same view, zoomed in.

 Flammkuchen, straight from the oven! There is mulled wine in the glass behind it.

A little later, the sun came out, and it turned out be yet another glorious SUNday. Cars are not permitted into the inner courtyard of the castle; the one you can see to the left is part of a car dealer's exhibition that was allowed for the day.

 Ever wanted a red Porsche? Well, you probably didn't have this one in mind :-)

There will be a seperate post about some of the odd or beautiful detail I photographed, as well as the ceiling and wall paintings.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Read in 2011 - 25: Der Verräter von Westminster

After "The Audacity of Hope" was such a remarkable, interesting and at the same time pleasant read, my next book was somehow doomed to be a bit disappointing - and sadly, "Der Verräter von Westminster" by Anne Perry was just that.

Having read several parts of Anne Perry's series starring Thomas Pitt and his clever, unconventional wife Charlotte before - and enjoyed them -, I now wonder whether I simply never noticed the shortcomings in the actual writing, or my personal standards of what makes a good book have risen lately, or this one is just not quite as good as the others.

The series featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, plus a cast of recurring characters such as the street-wise, clever and pragmatic house maid Gracie; Charlotte's majestic, beautiful and extremely well-connected octogenarian Great-Aunt Vespasia and Thomas' boss, the lonely Victor Narraway who is secretly in love with Charlotte, is mainly set in Victorian London, with the exception of trips abroad or to places outside London on their various quests. Thomas starts out as a policeman, and later on in the series he is asked to join Her Majesty's secret service. Charlotte married him out of love, below her rank, but because she still has all those contacts in London's High Society, she is often able to help her husband with his inquiries by informally getting information from people who would never speak to him confidentially and in places where he would never be allowed in as a guest, only as a policeman.
You can read more about the series and the author on her website.

Sounds quite good, doesn't it? Well, until recently, I thought it was; I liked the thorough but unpretentious way Victorian life in various households of different class was portrayed, against the backdrop of political, social and economical realities of the time, something that is only possible with a lot of research.
But in this book of the series, by the original title "Betrayal at Lisson Grove" (why on earth did the German publishers think it fit to change this into "Der Verräter von Westminster", which literally means "The Traitor from Westminster"?), for the first time I noticed something odd about Anne Perry's style, and I'm afraid it is not the translator's fault; I guess I would have felt the same had I read the book in English:

The characters seem to have a rather strange way of dealing with their feelings and emotions. No, I do not mean the restrictions Victorian society placed upon men and women alike, only allowing what was deemed "proper conduct" between people who met at parties, at the theatre, on the street or at work. That would have fitted the story well and would have been perfectly explainable.
But every five pages or so (I did not actually count), any one of the characters "shudders" or "shivers" or "quivers" or "twitches" - no matter whether what has been said or thought justifies such a shock. Thomas and Charlotte, Victor Narraway and many others shudder and shiver their way through the elaborate story of a plot directed against Her Majesty and, ultimately, the whole order of the Great British Empire.
At first, I merely felt mildly irritated by all the quivering and trembling, but after a while, I'm afraid I have to say it started to become a bit ridiculous. I even began to wait for the next shudder running down someone's spine, and I was never disappointed. Only towards the end, when the story picks up speed and the plot is uncovered and now must be stopped before anything too dramatic happens, the shivering stops - maybe there wasn't enough time, or maybe the author forgot about it.

I guess I'll read one more book from the series, in order to find out whether that is her "mark" and I just never noticed it or this book was an exception and she tried something new.

Anyway, if you like more or less cosy Victorian mysteries, you will like this book - hopefully, you are less picky than I am :-)

Saturday 12 November 2011

Salzburg Sunrise

Today, I want to show you the view I had from my hotel room in Salzburg, Austria, on Wednesday morning. Don't ask me the name of the mountain - Salzburg is surrounded by similarly dramatic and beautiful formations on all sides, but I am not very good at the geography of the place, I'm afraid.
Salzburg was a business trip; the biggest fair for the gastronomical and hotel industry was held there, and since I provide the point of sale hardware everyone who runs a hotel or restaurant, pub, coffee bar, night club etc. needs, and several of my customers were exhibiting at the fair, I took the train to Austria on Tuesday afternoon and spent Wednesday at the fair.

My hotel room was nice, surprisingly spacious, very clean and I liked the striped curtains (while I do not have any curtains anywhere in my home, I do like them in other people's places).

Something about the rug in my room struck me as odd, and then I realized what it was: among the usual camels, hyenas, llamas and other desert motifs, there was what can only represent a Rubik's cube - see for yourself! Do you remember them from the 1980s?

A cross on the wall is something you'll only find in Bavarian or Austrian hotel rooms (Italy and Spain, too, I guess); I don't think I have seen one anywhere else, and I have seen my fair share of hotel rooms in various parts of Germany.

As mentioned, the fair is all about what people in a restaurant or hotel could ever possibly need, from hair dryers to table cloths to huge industrial dishwashers to scents for the air condition to special pillows for people with back problems to the aprons waiters wear to china and cutlery to hotel room keys and security systems to napkins to lighting to steam cookers to furniture to cakes and meats and pasta and sauces and and and... the list is long, the halls were large and brimming with people and booths, and I had a good time. Anytime I felt a bit hungry, I simply went to one of the stalls where some cooking show or other was going on, patiently listened and watched through the presentation and then had a sample of what they had just made, from burgers to ice cream, it was all there. And of course there were the manufacturers of coffee machines and the companies who roast and sell coffee beans and other coffee products - so, no shortage of that all day, either!

This huge stag (about twice as tall as I) was quite an eyecatcher in one of the halls. I think it is very kitschy - but so kitschy it is cool! I asked the lady at the booth whether it was OK if I took a picture, and she had nothing against it. There; some Christmassy glamour, posted less than two weeks before the Christmas market in my home town begins!

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Read in 2011 - 24: The Audacity of Hope

For a long time, I have meant to read Michelle Obama's biography, but you know what it's like with books on your "To Be Read" list (either physically on a piece of paper or mentally, like mine); sometimes you simply do not happen to come across it at your local library, and you do not feel like buying yet another book that will leave you with even less of the precious space on your shelf.
Therefore, I was pleased to take Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" home from the library some weeks ago, and it was a good choice, a very good choice actually.

Barack Obama wrote this in 2006, when he was the junior U.S. senator from Illinois and lived in Chicago. It wasn't his first book; he had previously published "Dreams from My Father" (which I have not read), a book that made it to the New York Times beststeller list.

The book is divided into nine chapters with headlines such as "Values", "Faith", "Race", "The World Beyond Our Borders" and "Family". The writing is personal and fluent; you can tell the words come from one person and not from a team of ghostwriters.  It is a pleasure to read, and (for me) a rather instructive pleasure at that.
Of course I did learn something about the political system in the U.S. back at school, but there, more emphasis was placed on learning about our own country, and I must admit I can not remember in detail the lessons about political systems in other countries.
So this book gave me an insight not only into the structure of politics in the U.S. but also into the way an American perceives his own country, and the place of that country in relation to the rest of the world.

Some passages I found so remarkable for one reason or other that I want to share them here.
Let me begin at the beginning. When I started reading this, I showed the book to RJ and he asked what it was about. This bit from the prologue is what I read to him:

That's the topic of this book: how we might begin the process of changing our politics and our civic life. This isn't to say that I know exactly how to do it. I don't. Although I discuss in each chapter a number of our most pressing policy challenges, and suggest in broad strokes the path I believe we should follow, my treatment of the issues is often partial and incomplete. I offer no unifying theory of American government, nor do these pages provide a manifesto for action, complete with charts and graphs, timetables and ten-point-plans.
Instead what I offer is something more modest: personal reflections on those values and ideals that have led me to public life, some thoughts on the ways that our current political discourse unnecessarily divides us, and my own best assessment - based on my experience as a senator and lawyer, husband and father, Christian and skeptic - of the ways we can ground our politics in the notion of a common good.

Quite a bit further into the book, under the chapter named "Opportunity", I found this interesting bit about oil:

The United States has 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. We use 25 percent of the world's oil. We can't drill our way out of the problem.
What we can do is create renewable, cleaner energy sources for the twenty-first century.

Obama says about his mother:

...she possessed an abiding sense of wonder, a reverence for life and its precious, tranistory nature that could properly be described as devotional. During the course of the day, she might come across a painting, read a line of poetry, or hear a piece of music, and I would see tears well up in her eyes. Sometimes, as I was growing up, she would wake me up in the middle of the night to have me gaze at a particularly spectacular moon, or she would have me close my eyes as we walked together at twilight to the rustle of leaves.

Throughout the book, we catch glimpses of home life at the Obama's (while the most personal chapter is the last one, titled "Family"), such as this one:
Later that night, back home in Chicago, I sat at the dinner table, watching Malia and Sasha as they laughed and bickered and resisted their string beans before their mother chased them up the stairs and to their baths. Alone in the kitchen washing the dishes, I imagined my two girls growing up, and I felt the ache that every parent must feel at one time or another, that desire to snatch up each moment of your child's presence, and never let go...
The home life bits are never there simply to show us "this is what we live like, we are just an ordinary family"; instead, they are used to introduce or conclude a specific thought or idea, and are always imbedded in the context of the whole chapter.

Some very honest and clear words about U.S. foreign policy can be found in the chapter "The World Beyond Our Borders", for instance:
Indonesia also provides a handy record of U.S. foreign policy over the past fifty years. In broad outline at least, it's all there: our role in liberating former colonies and creating international institutions to help manage the post-World War II order; our tendency to view nations and conflicts through the prism of the Cold War; our tireless promotion of American-style capitalism and multinational corporations; the tolerance and occasional encouragement of tyranny, corruption, and environmental degradation when it served our interest; our optimism once the Cold War ended that Big Macs and the Internet would lead to the end of historical conflicts; [...] the realization that the wonders of globalization might also facilitate economic volatility, the spread of pandemics, and terrorism.

I recommend this book to anyone, regardless of their political orientation or the country they live in. There is, I believe, something in it for all of us.
(And I still want to read Michelle Obama's biography)

Monday 7 November 2011

Lunch at my Mum's

Less than a month ago, I posted about having lunch at my mum's already; you can find the Sauerkraut recipe and pictures here.

Today, as every week (mostly on Mondays or Tuesdays), I found myself walking over to my parents' place at a quarter to one, once again looking forward to what would no doubt be yet another lovely lunch hour, spent eating the most delicious home-made food while chatting to my mum.

She made waffles today, but not like the very lovely-looking ones Nan made Sunday night and showed us on her blog; instead, my mum's waffles were salty ones, meant as my main course and served with a salad consisting of lettuce and radishes that was lip-lickingly well made with croutons and a mustard-spiced dressing.

For starters, we had Hugo - THE cocktail of Summer 2011 in our area, having replaced the formerly most popular Aperol Spritz, which in turn had replaced Caipirinha (you'll still find those two served at any imaginable occasion, but Hugo is certainly No. 1 of the current drinks chart here). Hugo is made of prosecco, elderflower syrup, garnished with slices of lime and leaves of peppermint and sometimes made a little less sweet and strong by adding some sparkling mineral water. It is very refreshing, and we quite like it.
Dessert was a piece of Linzer Torte, a rather rich cake my mum made on the weekend.

Now for the waffles - here is my mum's recipe:

You need
125 g flour
1/2 tea spoon salt
1 table spoon mixed herbs
50 g soft lard
75 g sour cream
4 table spoons grated cheese
2 eggs
some sparkling mineral water
50 g ham or bacon, chopped up

Mix well in a blender or using a mixer. Add the ham or bacon at the very end. The dough should be "viscous", neither too thick nor too thin, sort of half-liquid. To make it right and add that extra bit of "fluff", add a bit of sparkling water (maybe 4 or 5 table spoons).
Of course you can make it without the ham / bacon, if you prefer your food to be vegetarian or if you don't have any at hand.

Put some lard on the waffle iron and, when it is hot, spread about 3 table spoons of dough onto the iron, then close the iron and bake until golden-brown (with crispy edges, yummmmm!!!).

The amount described here is enough for about 6 to 7 waffles, depending on their size. I am not ashamed to tell you that I ate 5 of those lovelies today for lunch!

Thank you, mum, for another delightful meal with you!

By the way, ever since we started this in May of this year, I have not had the same dish twice yet. Don't you wish you had my mum living close to your place? :-)