Friday 31 August 2012

Refreshments Are Now Being Served

For the better part of August, we've had summery days with temperatures reaching up to 37 Celsius (that's about 98-99F), and like most people, I didn't feel like having a cooked meal at all.
Instead, I had something very refreshing:
Cucumber and tomatos cut into slices, and with goat cheese on the cucumber and fresh basil leaves from my window sill on the tomatos. A sprinkle of salt and pepper, et voilà.
No, wait!
The other day, RJ and I went to a large Italian supermarket nearby, and among many other things, bought this bottle of crema di balsamico with white truffle. I sprinkled a bit of that on top of everything, and it turned a very simple and already delicious meal into a gourmet dish :-)

On a day when it wasn't quite so hot, I used some of the fresh produce from my parents' allotment for a cooked meal:
The tortellini are filled with three types of cheese and came from the same Italian supermarket as the crema di balsamico mentioned above. The zucchino, tomato and beans are of course from the allotment.
All combined, my lunch on that day was very nice - and I had enough left to eat more of it on the next day, this time adding some cream to it so that it wouldn't stick to the pan during reheating.

(By the way, I have now been able to upload these pictures without resizing them. Yesterday, when I posted the Fashion Calendar, I had to resize the picture before it would allow me to upload... blogger is rather moody, isn't it!)

Thursday 30 August 2012

Fashion Calendar: August

Summer for many people means travelling, and it was no different for me.
Twice this month I went away; the first time was for the long weekend in France (see my previous posts for the travelog), and the second time for work: like every year since 2005 or so, I have been working for EA (Electronic Arts) at the GamesCom (formerly GamesConvention). This year, I didn't take any pictures at the GamesCom, but you can get a pretty good idea of what it was like from last year's post about the show here.

Since this post is part of my "Fashion Calendar" series, I better get to the point:
What to wear for travelling.

First of all, travelling for me usually means packing lightly, as I need to be able to carry my stuff on my own at all times, sometimes for considerable distances (you know how long the walking ways in airports and at train stations can be). It never takes me longer than half an hour to get ready, being used to both business and leisure travelling.

As for the actual outfit, that depends mainly on the weather, on the distance to cover and on what I expect to be doing upon my arrival.

For instance, for the weekend in France, I knew we were going to be picked up at the airport by W and then driven to the village to spend the rest of the evening with the family, and not going anywhere else. Therefore, casual summer clothes were my choice; not too summery (no spaghetti strap top or lightweight dress or skirt), as I didn't want to be cold on the plane where the airconditioning often makes for chilly temperatures.
This outfit did not only fit all of those criteria, it also went well with the colour of my luggage, as you can see - which happens to be my favourite colour :-)

Wednesday 29 August 2012

A Weekend in France: Good-Bye!

(Please go back to my previous post - since posting it originally, I have added some more pictures from Mâcon.)

A weekend is always short, even when it is a long weekend with Friday and Monday added to it.
We had arrived in France on Friday early evening, and left on the Monday a bit after breakfast. The time in between we passed in such a pleasant manner and at such a comfortable rhythm that it felt much longer than "just" a weekend. Of course this was all thanks to our friends from Australia, who have kindly given me permission to show their picture on here and write about them:
B and W, the "Angels From Down Under" my Mum wrote about in her last guest post, and who taught me my very first words in English when I was about 3.

To end this series of posts about our weekend in France, I want to show you a lovely place in the heart (pun fully intended) of the village: the pottery.
View from the road - and from inside out. I must admit I nicked the outside view from the Saint Amour homepage. The poterie have their own website here, but it is still being set up and so there is nothing to see yet apart from their address.

My sister and I could hardly tear ourselves away from the friendly cat who lives at the pottery - totally unfazed by visitors! When I stroked her, she purred.
Of course I had asked the lady at the shop for permission to take the picture - it was the only sentence in French I uttered all weekend, but that's what you get when you have two Germans visiting Australians in France :-)

I hope you enjoyed my posts about this mini holiday as much as I did writing the posts!

Monday 27 August 2012

A Weekend in France: Mâcon

After yesterday's Sunday stroll (that actually took place on a Saturday) through the picturesque village of Saint Amour Bellevue, come to Mâcon with me today. Mâcon is a small town of about 35.000 inhabitants and the next biggest place from Saint Amour, only a short drive away. Situated on the river Saône, people have lived there since Celtic times, and in Roman times, the place was fortified and developed into a "proper" city (I have this information from the Wikipedia article about Mâcon).

Our Australian friends took us there, and we walked along the river and through the old town centre. It was Sunday, and we could not look inside the church because there was a service going on. It was Sunday, and we could not let four-year-old H. have a ride on the roundabout because it was closed. It was Sunday, and we could not find a place open to sit and have ice cream because they were closed. It was Sunday, and we could only just about manage to buy some sweets from the only shop that seemed to be open for miles around - and was about to close when we found it. It was Sunday, and everything seemed to be shut.

We all thought it strange that such places of interest for tourists and residents would be closed on a day when people certainly have time to go out with their families. Of course we understand that shops aren't kept open 24/7, and for instance in Germany, they are not allowed to be open on Sundays unless they have a special permit, but ice cream parlours and cafés? Roundabouts? Tourist attractions?

Never mind - it was an interesting and beautiful place to visit, and here are some of the pictures I took:

Does anyone know what the tree in the middle picture is?

Some more pictures will have to wait - just now when I tried to upload them, I had the "You have run out of space" message again. It will probably work alright tonight or tomorrow; so far, it always has done after this message... 

You know I have a thing for doors and doorways, and I found several there for my collection.

There were glimpses along narrow streets and into courtyards that I think are worth showing here, too.

You are welcome to look at the complete set of pictures from that weekend in my photobucket album, which can be found here.

And as you can see, I was now able to upload some more pictures without any trouble, and without having to upgrade to more storage space for money!

Sunday 26 August 2012

A Weekend in France: Saint Amour

Yesterday, I promised you a stroll through Saint Amour for today, and here it is:

The village square with the church on one side. 

Inside the church.

A better shot from outside.
In the village; vineyards come right up to the houses.

The mairie (town hall) with a heart-shaped sign (Kay, you'd like to see one like this above every town hall, don't you!). This must be a very popular place for couples to have their marriage registered. (Of course, in real life, neither the road nor the buildings are as lopsided as they appear. Lopsidedness seems to have become my trademark...)

More random pictures from the village.

See that little dog running towards us? He wasn't barking or aggressive; he simply accompanied us on our stroll until he found an an open courtyard with a little boy and a cat and decided they were more entertaining company than us (or is it "than we"?).

This house was completely different from the rest of the buildings here. Apparently it belongs to the same family who own the Hameau Duboeuf, shown in my previous post.
Looking up at those tightly shuttered and bricked up windows, my sister and I were both quite sure this place is inhabited by at least one vampire.

Bye-bye, little dog - and bye for now, Saint Amour!

There'll be a trip to Macon, nearby larger town, tomorrow. And I am now off for my Sunday morning run - the sun is out, the sky is blue, it's beautiful, and so are you!
(Lines borrowed from "Dear Prudence" by The Beatles)

Saturday 25 August 2012

A Weekend in France: Something About Wine

About wine and wine-making, to be precise.
As mentioned in my previous post, my sister and I spent a long weekend with friends in a small village called Saint Amour Bellevue, in the French country side, where the Beaujolais wine is made.

On the Saturday, our friends took us to the Hameau Duboeuf, a theme park about wine, its history, how it is made and how it has formed the region and its inhabitants. Their website is here, and you can look at it in English, German or French.

It was a glorious day, and the first thing we saw after our short drive from Saint Amour to the Hameau was this beautiful old steam engine at the station that had once been specifically built for the wine-makers to facilitate transport to and from this region:

Inside the large entrance area, I was impressed by how immaculately clean and with a lot of polished brass gleaming in constrast to the elegant dark green colour theme everything was, such as this old ice-cream selling trolley:

We then started our tour of the museum, but I only took a few pictures in there:

The exhibition was interesting - and would have been even more interesting to a true wine lover, which I am not, I'm afraid; I hardly ever drink any wine and can't tell the difference between a "good" and a less good wine at all. Of course I can say I like the taste of this one and not the taste of that one, but that's about it; you could probably put the most expensive wine in front of me and I would not appreciate it because it wouldn't be sweet enough for my more cocktail-used palate :-) For meals, I much prefer drinking just water, and for fun (as you know if you have been reading my blog for a while), cocktails and sparkling wine / champagne are my drinks.

So, after looking at many, many instruments (some of them looking very dangerous and war-like) used in vineyards, rows and rows of barrels, animated parts of the exhibition (all very nicely done, and four-year-old H behaved incredibly well throughout, although I am sure she must have been quite bored at times), we left the Hameau and went across the road to the garden and vineyard part of the museum.

I liked this part very much and would have loved to take a peek inside the gypsy caravan, but it was not possible.
My sister and I were both naive enough to think that the roses were planted at the end of the vineyards for beauty and pleasure - but of course, in agriculture, nothing is done without a good reason, and we learnt that the roses were put there as an indicator for any illness or a pest the vines may have, since they are the first to show the signs, and then the vintners can act on that.

Come back tomorrow for a stroll through Saint Amour with me!

Friday 24 August 2012

A Weekend in France: The House

As we are fast approaching the last weekend of August, I realise I have not yet posted about the wonderful first weekend of this month:
My sister and I went to visit friends in France.

The background about these friends is explained in my Mum's latest guest post; W and B came to Europe now for a trip lasting several months, and one stage of the trip was a few weeks in the French countryside, where they rented a large house and had their children with their respective families come over for their holiday, and our whole family was invited to join them.
My parents didn't really feel up to it, but they were very happy about my sister and I going, and so we both took Friday afternoon and all of the Monday off and booked tickets for the plane from Stuttgart to Lyon (that's about an hour's flight).

I always travel lightly, and there is really not much that I need for a long weekend in summer, so that the bag I normally use for my gym stuff was enough, plus my handbag, and my beloved yellow zip-up was the only warmer item I took. 

Have you ever heard a sweeter name for a place than Saint Amour Bellevue? It literally means "Saint Love Beautiful View", and the small community in the Beaujolais region of course do what they can to play on that lovely name. Their website is here.

We were met in Lyon by W and his soon-to-be son-in-law, and although we had never met G before, there wasn't a moment of awkwardness between us or feeling like strangers. They drove us to Saint Amour, where the rest of the family were waiting for us at the beautiful house:

Because of the way the house is placed in the village, and there always being people who of course I am not going to show on my blog, I was unable to get a picture of the whole house. So, don't be fooled - this is only about a third of the length of the building. The house belongs to an old lady who grew up in it; eventually, it became too big for her and so she moved to a smaller place and now rents this out. You can find complete info and contact details about how to rent it here; there are also some very good pictures of the house (inside and out) on that website, so have a look even if you are not interested in going there.

The open plan living/dining area with the big old grandfather clock.

Our bedroom. I slept so well in that bed - it is very narrow compared to my own bed at home, but the mattress was really good for my back. Note the chocolate that our hosts had so kindly placed there for us :-)

This was the start of the Olympics in London, and on the plane, we were given this little sachet; it contained a London Underground map, a Walker's shortbread biscuit and an After Eight mint praliné. The snack that came with it was a turkey sandwich. We both liked the sachet, and it now houses my Kindle cable. 
The little Koala bear holding the Australian flag was a present from H, one of W and B's grandchildren, a girl of almost 5 years who was very sweet and well-behaved and became quite attached to us during our short visit.

This sign greets visitors upon entering the village. Kay, I was thinking of you when I took that picture!

The landscape around Saint Amour.

There will be more pictures and descriptions of what we did and saw over that weekend, but I think this post has become long enough for now!