December 2010 Archives
They inched their way along the limb, Mrs. Frisby gripping the rough bark tightly, being careful not to stumble; and as they came closer, she could dimly perceive a shape like a squat vase sitting back in the hollow of the tree. Near the top of the vase, wide apart, two round yellow eyes glowed in the dark."He can't see us," Jeremy whispered. "It's still too light."Perhaps not, but he could hear, for now a deep round voice, a voice like an organ tone, echoed out of the hollow trunk:"Who is standing outside my house?"
"I understand," said the owl, moving closer to the round entrance of his hollow. "Mrs. Mouse, I cannot see you, for the glare of the daylight is too bright. But if you will step inside my house, I will listen to what you have to say."Mrs. Frisby hesitated. She knew something of the dietary habits of owls...
In the back the walls narrowed to a corner, and there she saw that the owl had built himself a nest, as big as a water bucket, of twigs and leaves; from the top she could see protruding some wisps of the feathers with which he had lined it.When she got near this nest, she stopped and faced the owl, who had turned from the light of the doorway and was peering at her with his great yellow eyes. Jeremy was nowhere to be seen. She could only hope he was still waiting on the limb outside."Now," said the owl, "you may state your problem."
Another vintage postcard from Nuremberg.
I had a hankering for something sweet and pumpkiny but not pie, so I just jazzed up the Irish Cardamom Cake recipe and the resulting cake came out perfectly. Moist, flavorful, easy.
Preheat oven to 350º.
2 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups sour cream
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. each of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Mix wet ingredients, fold in dry ingredients, pour into greased 9" loaf pans, bake for 45 minutes. Yields two.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
I picked up a couple of these vintage postcards from the Nuremberg Christmas market two years ago. From the reverse:
Aus der Sammlung des Spielzeugmuseums im Alten Rathausturm München.
(From the Toy Museum collection in the Old Town Hall, Munich.)
After London I spent a night in York (yes, "Old York") en route to Edinburgh. It was just as atmospheric a place as I expected--I really enjoyed walking the walls and wandering through the reconstructed Victorian streets inside the York Castle Museum. The Minster was closed for graduation ceremonies both days I was there, which was very disappointing, but at least it's something to look forward to for next time.
Walking the medieval city walls.
Spotted in the confectioner's window at the York Castle Museum. I wonder what they tasted like.
The York Minster.
One of the many charming things about this town: all the cafés in what used to be tollhouses. I had a delicious gingerbread latté in this one, on the Skeldergate Bridge.
I went on a ghost walk that night. There are several options, and I can't say I recommend the one I went on (this one, so you can avoid it)--so heavy on theatrics that he only told us four or five stories in the space of an hour and fifteen minutes. I wasn't all that disappointed until I passed another guide in the Shambles (the quaintest street in York), and heard what I was missing.
Anyway, the house above is the site of the saddest story I heard that night: a little girl had come down with buboes, and after they'd put her to bed for the night her parents locked her room, put an X over the front door, and fled the city. In the morning she called out but no one passing by would help her, and now people say they can see her face peering down out of the bedroom window (sometimes even in the daytime).
The other day I was browsing through a book about the plague in England, and I found this quote:
Father abandoned child; wife, husband; one brother, another...and none could be found to bury the dead for money or friendship.
--Agnolo di Tura, Siena, 1348.
I can't imagine abandoning a child in any circumstances, let alone leaving a child to die alone in agony, but it sounds like it happened all the time. I sat down on a park bench opposite the house and stared at the window for awhile, but I didn't see her.
Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, which dates mostly from the fifteenth century. This is the only church in York to have retained its box pews (an intriguing feature, as I'm not sure why it would be necessary to have that much 'privacy' at Sunday service). You only get a slight sense of this from the photo, but the walls are seriously wonky--you look up and think 'I know it's been around for six hundred years and all, but I really hope today isn't the day the whole place crumbles around my ears.'
I (surprise, surprise) also indulged in a crafting geek-out at Ramshambles (tiny shop, but very friendly) and Duttons Buttons (thanks to Kate Davies' great York Craft Tour post from spring '09). The stock at Duttons wasn't as quirky as those little red teacup buttons would suggest, and the staff weren't particularly nice, but I picked up some really lovely ones for two 2011 (!) sweater projects.
Next post: SCOTLAND!
(We realized not long afterward that we were a teensy bit lost, and had to hoof it back to Stanton along the main road. Oh well.)
It was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice.
I despise the N-word. It makes my skin crawl every time I hear it, no matter the context. I finished Heart of Darkness a few days ago, and I get that the book's about colonialism and capitalist greed and exploitation, and that a white man of that time period would likely speak that way, but did Conrad HAVE to drop that word on every other page?
If you haven't read it, here's my condensed version: a white man named Marlow gets a job captaining a steamboat transporting hoards of ivory back from the African jungle, finds himself mesmerized by the completely corrupted ivory dealer Kurtz, and years later (back in England) he recounts the story to a group of amateur sailors who have expressed no interest whatsoever in hearing it. Marlow is a supremely irritating narrator partly for that reason ('Why do you sigh in this beastly way, somebody?' HAH!), but I have to admit that Conrad's prose often had me fumbling for my pen.
Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once--somewhere--far away--in another existence perhaps.
While the racism in this book ('they had faces like grotesque masks') repulsed me again and again, I wonder if it isn't rather small-minded to level that accusation on the author himself, as many critics have; but I suppose that basic distinction--between the narrator who grinningly tucks into her filet mignon, say, and the author who will never put her fork in a steak ever again--seems to fall by the wayside when the subject is this serious. At any rate, I understand why Paré hates this book with a red-hot fiery passion, and it's a relief to have it ticked off the list.
(See my 100 Great Books list here.)
Did I keep busy in London! I went Christmas shopping at Liberty's with Amy (thanks to Maggie's introduction), met up with Marian for a late lunch, went to a cookbook launch event at the Freemasons' Hall (thanks to Henry), did the British Museum and a few great pubs with Steve and Andy (who were on a short vacation in London and Paris), and reveled in tea and knitting at Drink, Shop & Do with Emma. Plus Westminster Abbey, the Jewel Tower, St. Bart's, the National Gallery, and a few other places I'm sure I'm forgetting.
Below: St. Bart's, two photos from the Freemasons' Hall, Steve and Andy at the Lamb & Flag on Rose Street in Covent Garden, the Tree of Life at the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood.
(So many more photos to put up...York, Edinburgh and the Scotland tour, and I still haven't gotten to Maryland or the last Peru post!)