BFF – fresh fruit and cake

BFF – fresh fruit and cake

BFF –  Best Friends Forever! Fresh fruit of the season combined with a simple cake recipe that goes a long way, because adaptable to your needs. If you have guests, you can just up the recipe to 250 g each or downsize to 150 g each ingredient. 

Preheat your oven to 200° (360° F)

You need:

200 g butter / margarine (1 cup = 250 g)

200 g sugar, white refined or cane sugar

2 – 3 eggs

Schnapps or vanilla or butternut aroma (a dash)

200 g flour

2 tsps. baking powder / soda

about 2 cups / 500 g fresh fruit: apples, rhubarb,  red currants, plums (or mix!)

nuts for topping if you like

lots of cinnamon on top of the apples or quinces or plums or pears

a bit of extra sugar for sour berries

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Whip the butter and sugar till creamy, add in eggs one by one and beat till frothy. Add in the flavoring / aroma and beat some more, till the sugar is dissolved.

Put in the flour with the baking soda and stir in carefully. Add nuts and / or raisins if desired.

Spoon the batter into a cake form (mine is 26 cm) lined with baking paper at the bottom. Spread evenly. Top on the fruit and press into the batter delicately.  The fruit will sink in while baking. Bake approx. 35 min. on the 2nd bottom-most rack or until a toothpick inserted will come out clean again.

The above photo shows my currants while ripening from green to a brilliant red as of end of July, as well as plums, pears, and gooseberries. Yes, I am busy. But then again, straight from Mother Nature’s abundance into my mouth, yumyum! Enjoy!

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly
Lavender’s green
When I am king, dilly dilly
You shall be queen
Call up your men, dilly, dilly
Set them to work
Some to the plow, dilly dilly
Some to the cart
Some to make hay, dilly dilly
Some to cut corn
While you and I, dilly dilly
Keep ourselves warm
woman in blue and white skated dress
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com               
adults beach couple enjoyment
Photo by Adam Kontor on Pexels.com
Lavender’s green, dilly dilly
Lavender’s blue
If you love me, dilly dilly
I will love you

So goes the song and so must every garden have a few lavender shrubs to chase away bugs from the rose bushes.  I prefer the kind of lavender with the long stalks so I can make pretty braids and or cut the tips short to fill up my sachets with fresh lavender and place them inside the closets and wardrobes.

The braids are easy to make. You take a bunch of fresh cut stalks and bind them tight towards the cut ends. Then fold them upside down to hide the ends on the inside. Braid the stalks like a thick braid of hair and finish with a nice satin ribbon in your favorite color to hang wherever you please. The smell is hypnotizing, the only one like it is Aqua Lavanda Puig which I buy in Spain.

The most common use of lavender, if not in the perfume and olfactory business, is the sachet (tiny bag)  of lavender flowers to perfume your linen closet, keeping out moths and making everything hanging inside smell delectable.

For the sachets you take a pretty  length of cotton cloth about 18 cm x 6 cm, stitch up the sides and run a wide band around the top to put in a drawstring. The flowers are culled, sewn into a tiny bag of mesh and covered by a cotton bag with embroidery or the like, then tied with a length of satin ribbon.

If possible, construe the outer bag so the inside one can be replaced each year. Fill the sachet with the mesh bag of lavender blossoms and pull the string tight. The flowers need replacing every year since the aromatic oils evaporate after a short while.20180723_sachet lav.jpg

For those who wish to use lavender in soap, there are the fantastic Savon de Marseille blocks. There are several shops in Marseille that offer a private visit in their factory at the back. Pure savon de Marseile is made of nothing but soda and olive oil and lavender oil. One can buy them in a fish form or as blocks and in various other combinations.

grey and yellow salt fish
Photo by Uncoated on Pexels.com

I myself am a Pisces, so naturally, I bought fish soaps to give to my friends and family. Sniffi sniffidee snuff, now it is enough!

Wrap a Wreath of W(hite)Roses

This is for fun when you have nothing else to do for 10 – 15 minutes and feel like a quick-fix for your home and / or garden. The only prerequisite is abundant creativity and a few cheap items which can be found in any sizeable garden.

Start out with a ring. Mine is metal with holders (cf. infra) which I found at a crafts fair, but you can just as well use a sturdy styrofoam ring, a ring of straw bound with raffia, willow branches bound with string, anything you can use as a base. I like the metal ring for the sake of its being stainless steel (rostfrei und unkaputtbar, ca. €16) and endlessly re-usable. I redo my wreath every couple of weeks.

The first layer is long supple green branches. Here I have used cherry laurel or Kirschlorbeer (prunus laurocerasus). Lay one branch end to end with the next, slightly overlapping the ends. Start at one point (12 o’clock) and work your way around clockwise. If you don’t have holders like my ring, simply wrap some raffia or string around your base.

The second layer can be from the same plant or a different one. Since I was clipping overhanging branches, I had yew or Eibe (taxus). Start at 12 o’clock again and overlap the branches. Take the younger, supple ones and cut away anything that is in your way. Now your base should be green.

In the photo on the left you can see the green leafy base. In the photo on the right is an example of what the wreath can look like when placing an artificial rose wreath on top. Personally I prefer fresh flowers, which I have in abundance, but they dry up so quickly. That would entail replacing them every day (alas, no time!). I have also tried the florists’ trick with the little tube vases of water tucked inside the branches. It goes without saying that this variant also takes time and patience and flowers that will last.

My quick-fix is mixing fresh green leaves and single artificial flowers (cf. photo in the middle). I have different color schemes according to the season or holidays, for Easter I am more into yellow and orange with ‘forsythia’ and ‘daffodils’. Now in June with the high temperatures, I opted for white ‘freesias’ and blue ‘hyacinths’.

As before, start with the longer stems, always tucking them in clockwise fashion, then the shorter stems and finally the short stems with the largest blooms,  in this case large white ‘roses’.

I like adding little ribbons in matching colors pinched in the middle with wire. The wires wrap around the branches, helping to hold down any stray ends and slipping stems.

The final touch is wrapping longer lengths of ribbons in different widths and colors and tying a big bow,  a little off-center for the best effect.

The raffia to hang the wreath on the wall with has an extra knot every ten cm / four inches. If the wreath has to switch spots, then I can hang it at different heights depending on the wall –  or simply hang it out of the way. Laying it on a large platter and putting candles all around or in the middle is another way to use your wreath.

Wishing you fun with your wreath!

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Playing Chess

Check out this anecdote sent to me by a good friend from Sri Lanka:
When Nelson Mandela was studying law at the University, a white professor, whose last name was Peters, disliked him intensely.
One day, Mr. Peters was having lunch at the dining room when Mandela  came along with his tray & sat next to the professor.
The professor said,
“Mr Mandela, you do not understand, a pig & a bird do not sit together to eat
Mandela looked at him as a parent would a rude child & calmly replied,
“Do not worry professor. I’ll fly away,
& he went & sat at another table.
Mr. Peters,  reddened with rage, decided to take revenge.
The next day in class he posed the following question:
“Mr. Mandela, if you were walking down the street & found a package, & within was a bag of wisdom & another bag with money, which one would you take ?”
Without hesitating, Mandela responded, “The one with the money, of course.”
Mr. Peters , smiling sarcastically said,
I, in your place, would have taken the wisdom.” 
Nelson Mandela  shrugged & responded, “Each one takes what he doesn’t have.”
Mr. Peters, by this time was fit to be tied*.  So great was his anger that he wrote on Nelson Mandela’s exam sheet the word “IDIOT”
& gave it to Mandela.
Mandela took the exam sheet & sat down at his desk trying very hard to remain calm while he contemplated his next move. 
A  few  minutes later, Nelson Mandela got up, went to the professor & told him in a dignified polite tone,
“Mr. Peters, you signed the sheet, but you did not give me the grade.
Don’t mess with intelligent people….pass it on to your intellectual friends….

* informal:  very angry.   “Daddy was fit to be tied when I separated from Hugh”    Synonyms:   livid, furious, angry, infuriated, irate, fuming, raging, seething, incensed, enraged, angered, beside oneself, wrathful, ireful, maddened, cross, annoyed, irritated, exasperated, indignant                                   (source: Google)

 

Now ain’t that just fine? Mandela is truly inspiring. I am not a good chess player, but I know how to play. I most certainly admire those who do. Stefan Zweig’s Schachnovelle (The Royal Game, “Chess Novella”, first published in 1941.[1] ) fascinated me, also in its film version (DE 1960) with Kurt Jürgens. Maintaining one’s mental health by concentrating on something precise, mathematical, calm and cool, I love that kind of intellectual challenge. You will have guessed by now that I attended the maths section and always played with the guys, never with dolls.

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Make it look like an accident, 007!

BTW, snorkeling in the Maldives, Caribbean or Hawaii is another way of cooling your temper and regaining your calm. But then again, that will be the topic of another post.

Guts Over Fear – eminently

Most of  you will know this song title by Eminem and Sia (Album Shady XV, 2014). While I greatly admire Eminem for being and eminent WHITE rapper, I must admit I am not much into rap.

As to Sia, I loved the voice but didn’t know a thing about her until I looked her up and found out why: she is eminently shy! Not that I can see any reason for that, her voice is great and I just loved (most of) the lyrics:

Afraid I will never find a way out, out, out,

So here I am and I will not run
Guts over fear (the time is here)     (…)

It is a truth that holds true time and time again. Sometimes you must just overcome that innate fear. You must pull yourself up, proud and tall, and assert your right to your own life, not necessarily against all odds, but against taller, louder, more assertive people who have no qualms howsoever at quashing any kind of resistance or creative thinking, especially when it comes to women:

An angry man’s power will shut you up

Which reminds me of Thumper, the cute bunny friend in Bambi, whose momma commented on what is the best way to react in such a situation of extreme pressure :

“If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

It definitely pays to be patient and consider your next move, somewhat like on a chessboard. In many cases, it is wiser to remain silent and gather up your courage for the next confrontation.

My heroines are – mostly – courageous women who have stood up for their beliefs. One of them, Maija Plissezkaya (1925-2015), lived in Munich in the Theresienstraße for many years. Russian prima ballerina assoluta. Courage, thy name is woman. Try reading her two books “Ich, Maija” (1996 I, Maija) and “Haltung bewahren” (2009  Retain your Composure/ Posture, a pun on the meaning of Haltung). Both books moved me to tears, as there is a lot of Russian history background, Stalinism among other scenarios, against which this brave female had to battle. For many, many years the men in power refused to let her leave her country and dance elsewhere.

I was reading the first tome sitting in the underground train / subway with the cover photo turned up –  and the two ladies who sat down across from me gasped. As it turned out, mother and daughter were Russians and were delighted to see their brilliant ‘star’ shining in Germany as well. Later, I wrote a note to her editor to tell her how fascinated I was by her life story and I even received a pleasant thank you note in return, shortly before she passed away in Schwabing in the summer of 2015 at the age of 89. She appeared on stage at the age of 70 even. The usual age to stop one’s dancing career is about 40.

My second heroine is Lucia Lacarra. A Spanish Basque, Lacarra saw her first ballet at the age of 14 – which is terribly late for a ballerina – and made it all the way up. When I heard that the Munich National Theater was dismissing her “for being too old” (sic!), I hooted and swore I’d head up to Dortmund some day to see her and her fantastic husband Marlon Dino again. At least Dortmund’s director Xin Peng Wang had the sense to ‘sweep her off her feet’ and invite her to his theater. Lucky him/ Dortmunders.

IMG-20160104-be the girl on right

My third role model doesn’t even realize that she has helped me in my darkest hours with her determination and elegance and pluckiness. She has danced in Tokyo and Salzburg and has taught me how to stand proud and tall. I get to go to her classes on Saturdays and now that I have improved, I really look forward to every class.

Guts Over Fear, Haltung bewahren, stand TALL.  Like a dancer.  “Such stuff as dreams are made on”  says Shakespeare in The Tempest). Ah, dream ….

Hedwig’s Hundred Household Helpers – Scintillating Silverware

Here is another simple and inexpensive, very old household trick for scintillating silverware and shining silver jewelry :

  • Make sure that no artificial patina coating will be removed off your silver items, you may regret it later. Some silver handles have been treated with a coat of dark color to make them look old20180630_silberbad 2.jpg
  • Take a large bowl or basin – depends on the size of your forks and teapots and jewelry – and line it with household aluminum foil, shiny side showing
  • carefully place your silver pots or necklaces inside
  • Add in a few tablespoons of household salt
  • Pour in hot water until all silver items are well covered
  • Let the bowl stand for a few hours, ensuring that all silver surfaces are exposed to the salt water and aluminum
  • Take out each item and rub the silver gently with a soft cloth, changing sides often to take off the oxidized coating
  • Smile as much as you can to shine along with your sparkling silver20180630_silberbad.jpg

Have you heard this one?

Says one neighbor to the other: “My husband is in his metal age”.

Inquires the neighbor, “Whatever do you mean, ‘metal age’?”

States neighbor no. 1 flatly, “Silver in his hair, gold in his teeth and lead in his legs.”

Cheers!

Bullying and histrionics

Be the girl on the right! is the caption of a pic with 5 little ballet girls at the barre. The one on the right refuses to do exactly what she is told. She is “told off” by her teacher.

IMG-20160104-be the girl on right

Marguerite, Margarethe or Gretchen from Faust and Marguerite (1900) also stands on the right. She is unsure of what to do:

„Nun sag, wie hast du’s mit der Religion? Du bist ein herzlich guter Mann, allein ich glaub, du hältst nicht viel davon.“  Goethe has her ask the seducer. When she decides to trust Faust, she is sorely betrayed and shall later kill the newborn ‘child’ – whom I also see as a symbol of her feelings of guilt and shame.

Have you ever considered the fact that your boss might be using the exact same ploy to “seduce” his employees to do exactly what they are told? Nowadays, such behavior is no longer considered seducing, but bullying. However, if any one individual offers a piece of constructive criticism, he/ she is immediately quashed?

Vae victi! We alle know what the consequences are, such as burnout, di-stress (as compared to eu-stress), feelings of insecurity and angst. Of guilt and shame that we are no longer standing up to our own convictions, but meekly accepting another ambitious person’s will  –  voluntas  –  over our own. Of no longer believing in ourselves!

When I hit upon the word HISTRIONICS on OWAD (One Word A Day, Paul does a fine job) the other day, I had to laugh, the definitions and examples reminded me sooo much of a certain person. A person I had trusted, believed in, considered a role-model for many years,  who suddenly turned the tables.

The word histrionics was either formed from the English histrion, meaning actor, or it was borrowed from the Late Latin histrionicus, which also referred to an actor, theatrics or pretence. (…)
Histrionics, which at its core means overly dramatic and superficial behaviour, can be a useful skill if one has chosen an acting career. On the other hand, for the layperson it can lead to a personality disorder called HPD, or Histrionics Personality Disorder.
(source: https://owad.de/)

How can you get out of this emotional turmoil?

Step One: Listen closely to what that person says and analyze the underlying meaning of those words. Did I accept these words at face value? Or was the said person’s intention quite another?  Write down those typical quotes and try to look at them from different angles.

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?      Hamlet: Words, words, words.

Step Two: Believe in yourself, your personality, your talents, your life’s goals again. No matter what anybody says to or about you. So what if you do not live up to someone else’s expectations? All it means is that you and him/ her were not meant to be – it takes two to tango. Find some more congenial surroundings, another job, another place, another hobby, other soulmates.

Step Three:  (The hard part!) Be patient. It took me many years to come to the realization that I hadn’t been the one with the problem, but that bully!  Start by feeling sorry for that person –  and then forget him/ her ASAP (as soon as possible). The feeling of relief is immense, be assured!

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pinchpot

So, now you can pretty well do as you like. My therapy was / is ballet and gym, music and instrumental lessons, choir, arts and crafts, friends’ support, being with children who are more spontaneous than adults : “Kinder und Narren sagen die Wahrheit” (Children and fools speak the truth).

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Don’t we all wish for a Happy End? Thankfully, I have found my Prince Charming   –  and my peace of mind.