Tuesday 23 February 2021

Read in 2021 - 2: One from the Hart

One from the Hart

Stefanie Powers

Celebrity (auto)biographies come in all shapes and sizes; some don't make a secret of their actual authorship, others try to pretend to be the celebrity's own work, and others still are really written by the person whose life is the subject of the book. This is the case with Stefanie Powers' autobiography, first published in 2010.

If I tell you that there is a nude picture of her inside, and a penis is mentioned as early on as page 12, you may be forgiven to think that this is a juicy Hollywood story, much like a series of yellow press articles of the lowest kind. However, if I tell you that the picture shows little Stefania Zofya as a toddler in the bath, and the scene with the penis - well, let's just say she is not talking about another actor or other Hollywood personality there, and the book's focus is not on the glitzy aspects of her life.

Instead, we learn of a close-knit family and neighbourhood where Stefania grows up, encouraged to do what she loves, which is dancing. Out of that follows acting, but again, you would be mistaken to think that she was one of those poor little girls dragged to endless castings by their over-ambitious mothers. There was plenty of time to just be a child, too; playing on the ranch of relatives, which planted a life-long love of animals in her, and with her brother.

My sister and I love "Hart to Hart" and often have been watching the reruns together; the book was in fact one of her presents for me last Christmas. We were often poking fun at how convenient it was that Jennifer Hart spoke the language of every place they went to, be it Mandarin or Spanish, and how she and Jonathan were able to do everything from horseback riding to classical ballet, singing, fencing, skiing and playing golf.

The reality is that Stefanie Powers does indeed speak all those languages (and did so long before she was cast for Hart to Hart), and both she and Robert Wagner had the classic Hollywood studio education that included all those skills - at least to the extent necessary to look good on film. In the case of singing and dancing, she was certainly more than just looking good on film, but really knew her stuff. In terms of sports, she used to be an accomplished polo player, and knew her way around on a tennis court, too.

Being of the same age as my Dad (born in 1942), Stefanie Powers looks back on decades of not only a very prolific acting career, but many friendships and relationships. She took care of her mother and her aunt until both their deaths, and had her own struggle with cancer. What she considers her most important work is not acting, but the William Holden Wildlife Foundation in Kenya. Much of the book is about her 9 years with "Wild Bill" and Kenya, far from the glamour and the cameras.

Her many travels all across the world are also included, and those were not the kind of trip where an entourage of staff would have looked after her every need; more the sleeping under a mosquito net somewhere in the woods type.

A very readable and entertaining book; honest (never nasty) and touching. Stefanie Powers is a hard-working lady deserving everyone's respect.

Friday 19 February 2021

Sprouts and Sunrises

We have had some extraordinarily beautiful sunrises lately, two of which I am sharing here with you. The first one I took on Monday morning at around 20 past 7.

The day itself was unspectacular.

On Tuesday, I had asked my sister over for dinner. Now that we do not have to be home by 8:00 pm any longer (the curfew was lifted last week Thursday, with the option of being re-introduced should infection numbers rise again), we can visit each other without having to check the clock all the time, which makes for a much more relaxed meal.

I had read a recipe in the supplement of my weekly paper and wanted to try it, but not on my own. We both enjoyed it, and I am sure I will make it again, rather sooner than later:

Brussel sprouts with red pesto and goat or sheep cheese

It is easily made and doesn't take all that long, especially if you go for the lazy option and use ready-made red pesto.

Pre-heat oven to 200C. Clean and half a bag of sprouts (here, they are sold at 500 g a bag). Mix with several spoons of pesto rosso; don't "drown" the sprouts but make sure all halves have at least a bit of pesto on them.

Spread on a baking tray (lightly oiled or lined with paper), put in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Prepare another tray with the cheese; I used sheep camembert, while the original recipe had thick slices of round goat cheese. I cut the camembert in quarters - I could have just as well left it uncut. Drizzle with liquid honey and put in the oven at the highest level, right underneath the grill.

Leave everything for another 5-10 minutes, until the honey is caramelised and before the sprouts turn black ;-) (they will look dark because of the red pesto).

Put sprouts on plates (warm the plates if you like, it makes for a nicer meal - I will do that next time!) and top with the half-melted cheese. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and a bit of dried thyme.


We had well-chilled craft beer with it, a recent local discovery of O.K. and myself, but I can imagine this going very well with a nice rosé wine or a white one, and of course water will be good, too.

And my sister brought another bunch of tulips - actually, two bunches; a yellow and a pink one this time. They look great but were still firmly closed buds on Tuesday, which is why they do not appear properly in the picture.

Another beautifun sunrise was yesterday morning, on the 18th; I took this picture at 10 past 7:

Now there is only today left to work (and another busy one it will be!), and then the weekend is here - phew! :-)

Monday 15 February 2021

Sunny Thursdays (and more)

In my previous post, I told you about how Thursday was a beautiful spring day with sunshine and very mild temperatures, followed by a return to the solid grey skies and rain we have been having for much of this year so far.

Last week started grey again - and very busy. It was only Monday evening when I felt so exhausted already that I was very much inclined to call in sick the next morning. Of course I didn't - I have never been like that, skipping work on the pretence of illness when really I just wanted time off. Decades ago, when I worked at the library, I had colleagues who would call in sick simply because they wanted to wash their curtains or prepare for a family event - and they didn't even try to pretend otherwise in front of us. Of course we would never tell our boss, but it wasn't right.

So I kept plodding on, and on Wednesday, a stretch of several hours without any scheduled meetings meant I was able to start my lunch break early and extend it, not only going for a walk on the fields with my sister, but even stopping at her place for a very welcome bowl of hot vegetable stew.

It kept snowing all day, giving the light a pearly sheen.

And then Thursday came along, and brought back the sun! It was VERY cold at -12C (10 F), but the sun made it bearable for a little while during the day. That was all I could carve out of my day's schedule anyway, and so I went out for a short walk of only 45 minutes in between meetings.

This one is to show you the road where I live - completely covered in snow. This is very close to the city centre, but only the major roads are cleared.

The snow glittering in the sun and the crystal clear air were so good!

For the rest of the week and the weekend, the sun stayed with us. It was great to wake up to bright blue skies on Saturday and Sunday, and rest assured that O.K. and I made the most of both days, walking across the snow-covered fields and enjoying every minute.

Saturday's pictures (all taken by O.K.), visiting Hohenasperg, walking back via the small palace by the lake (Monrepos):

Sunday, walking in the same general direction but on towards the fields and not to the castle:

A quick look at the weather forecast tells me to expect a rather mixed bag this week. We shall see!

Monday 8 February 2021

A Week In Pictures

 ...mostly of skies, but they were so varied last week that no two looked the same.

Monday, the 1st of February, was off to a good start for me, as I woke up to the beautiful song of a blackbird - still one of the sounds that make me happiest.

After work, I went for a walk with my sister.

1st of February, around 5:00 pm

My sister and I met again on Tuesday, this time not for walking, but for an early evening meal together. Usually, neither of us eat our tea/dinner before 8:00 pm, but the curfew means we have to be at our own homes by 8:00, and so my sister came to my place just before 6:00 pm to give us enough time for our cheese and wine tasting. 

Tuesday morning at 7:00

When I spend the weekend at O.K.'s, we often start Friday evening off with a selection of wonderful cheeses, bought by O.K. at a local organic market. Bread and red wine are great company with cheese, and it is our preferred combination. Now that I am not travelling to his place and we are spending our weekends at mine, O.K. has brought our favourite cheeses and a bottle of wine along, enabling us to still have our favourite weekend starter.

We never finish it all over one weekend, and so there was plenty of cheese left, and enough wine as well. O.K. suggested I share it with my sister, and so we did just that.

My sister took this picture, and I have her permission to use it here, even though it shows part of her feet :-)

A nice evening, although of course it had to be cut short; my sister had to leave at 7:45 in order to be home before curfew.

Wednesday was rather mild at 9 Celsius, but I had conference calls almost all afternoon and made it for a short walk just in time to catch the last of the evening light. Later, I rang my mother-in-law in Yorkshire for a chat. She has had her first jab a couple of weeks ago with no ill effects, and told me how well it was all organised and how smoothly the whole process was. What amazes me is how much time seems to be passing in the UK between jabs no. 1 and 2; over here, the official recommendation from our virologists and immunologists is not to allow more than 3, maximum 4, weeks pass before the 2nd jab; Mary says she will have a letter with her next appointment which could be in 2 or 3 months!

Wednesday, just before 6:00 pm

Three minutes later

Thursday was even warmer at 11 Celsius, and for the first time in a long time, a sunny day with blue sky. It can really lift one's spirits, and I spent all of my lunch break outside, walking and soaking up the sunlight.

Just after 9:00 on Thursday morning

Friday was cloudy again but still mild. I did all my shopping and cleaning, and happily welcomed O.K. in the evening, enjoying (you guessed it) another meal of cheese, bread and wine.

Yellow tulips - a messenger of spring, and a beautiful gift from my sister.

Unfortunately, both our walks on Saturday and Sunday ended with rain, but at least Saturday morning had been dry and allowed for a run - our first run together since early December. 

Now the temperatures have dropped, and we are in for a very cold week with more rain and then snow. Well, I'll stay warm and dry working from home - something I am really grateful for!

Monday 1 February 2021

An Investigative Walk

Every now and then, I look up the areas where I have been walking on online maps, just out of curiosity. It can be interesting to retrace my steps on a satellite view and discover where exactly I have been, how close to certain other places I've been, and wether my sense of direction corresponds with reality (it mostly does).

A few evenings ago, I was checking a road I had been walking earlier that week, and zooming out a bit, I spotted a strange structure in the fields nearby, where funnily enough I had never walked. 

It looked like this on my ipad, only without the green marker (I have not activated that on the pad):

I really couldn't work out what it was supposed to be, and when O.K. and I were thinking about where to walk this weekend, I suggested we go investigating this place.

I had a pretty good idea how to get there from where I had been walking last time, and sure enough, we soon arrived at the top of a gentle slope. Looking down, we could clearly see the strange structure:

It is a sundial, with the stones being about chest high for the average adult.

The whole place is called "Grünanlage Hungerberg". The word Grünanlage means that it is a public space, and Hungerberg (literally hunger mountain) is the name of the area of old. 

The sundial is not ancient, but supposed to remind visitors of the ancient history of this area; Celtic tribes settled here many centuries ago. Later, the Romans conquered this part of the world, and the Roman remains I have blogged about here are not far.

There is also a "geological window", allowing a good look at the layers of soil and rock.

Until 1981, the place was not open to the public, but a working quarry. The company operating the quarry still exists; their buildings are at the other end of the green space. There is also a series of small ponds, where toads and other amphibians live, as well as a wooden building where people can learn about nature, bee-keeping, the fragile ecosystem of our area and what is done to protect it.

Around the amphi-theatre like structure are benches and steps, inviting people to sit and have picnics or simply rest. Of course, on a chilly, wet day like this past Sunday, nobody was sitting there, but there were still quite a few people out walking. It still amazes me that I have never walked there before - it is just one path "off" my more familiar walking routes.

I am sure I will be back there on a sunnier day.