Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Michaelmas Day

Today, September 29, is Michaelmas Day, also known as the Feast of Michael and All Angels.

There are traditionally four “quarter days” in a year (Lady Day (25th March), Midsummer Day (24th June), Michaelmas Day (29th September) and Christmas Day (25th December)). They are spaced three months apart, on religious festivals, usually close to the solstices or equinoxes. 

The quarter days were the four dates on which servants were hired, rents became due or leases begun. It was said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming, land was exchanged and debts were paid. Michaelmas came to be the traditional time for electing magistrates and also the beginning of legal and university terms.

Roast goose is the traditional Michaelmas dinner. It was believed that dining on a well fattened goose fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest guarded against financial need in the family for the next year. Or possibly because Queen Elizabeth I was eating goose when news of the defeat of the Spanish Armada was brought to her. In celebration she said that henceforth she would always eat goose on Michaelmas Day.  

More of the traditions of Michaelmas Day can be found here, here, and here.

So get rid of your debts, hire your servants, pay your rent, roast a well fattened goose, and enjoy Michaelmas Day!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Sketch Day

I've recently joined a group of painters who get together once a week to paint, draw, sketch, and generally have fun with art. This week we enjoyed a full day sketching workshop at the nearby community hall.
The instructor supplied different papers, inks, coloured markers, oil pastels, soft pastels, charcoal, conte crayon, paint, brushes, just about everything needed to make a mess!
He also provided a whole table full of sketch subjects, assorted vegetables, pottery, small model figures, shoes, hats...

We painted with brushes, and then our fingers. My fingernails are still black!

We covered the walls with newspaper and painted to music, interpreting what we heard onto the paper with paints and coloured markers. On the chair is a black marker taped to a stick, ready to start the next masterpiece. The marker was then swapped with a brush. Definitely fun!
At one point, we went outside to sketch trees, and locked ourselves out of the hall, so had to wait until someone with a spare access card came to rescue us. Meanwhile it was a lovely sunny day, so an extra half hour in the sunshine was very welcome.
I really enjoyed trying the different papers, and getting to play with the variety of art supplies that were available. And everyone had a different interpretation of the subject matter. What a fun day, but a lot of hard work!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Four Towheads

What's a towhead?  According to the Oxford Dictionary; a head of tow-coloured or very blond hair, or a person with such hair.

What does tow-coloured mean? Once flax, jute or hemp fibres have been retted (soaked) and prepared for spinning into textiles or ropes, the fibres are very light in colour and are known as tow. The noun “tow” used in the fiber sense came into English in the 14th century. The word may be related to the Old Norse noun , which meant “uncleansed wool or flax, unworked fibre of thread.” 

Any towheads in your family?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Mozart Balls - Vienna

Throughout Austria, the sweet treat to eat is Mozartkugeln. A small ball of pistachio and almond marzipan covered in a layer of nougat, and then enveloped in layers of milk chocolate. First produced in Salzburg by confectioner Paul Furst in 1890 and named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The phrase hyperdeliciously mouthwateringly splendidly mindboggling comes nowhere near describing the taste, believe me.

Sadly, Mozart himself never got a chance to taste these delectable sweets, as he died a century before Paul Furst produced them. But just imagine the inspired music he might have written with a bowl of Mozartkugeln beside him on the harpsichord!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Naschmarkt - Vienna

The Naschmarkt stretches along Wienzeile Street. There has been a market here since the 16th century. From 1793 onwards, all fruit and vegetables brought into the city by cart had to be sold here. The current location was created to cover up the Wien River in 1898. It's a long wide square filled with a busy produce market with over 120 market stands open every day except Sunday. Vienna's top chefs come here for fresh ingredients for their restaurant kitchens.

A selection of seafood, whatever your heart desires.

Renart Boulon Dutch oysters fresh from the North Sea coast.

The gourmet vinegar stall, where you can sample the aromatic vinegars with a drop on your wrist. If you are looking for a special flavour, you are certain to find it here. 
There are 11 different basalmics, and more than 20 fruit vinegars.

Wonderful cheeses, so many I had never heard of. I just wanted to sample them all. 
I'm a confirmed cheese freak!

A dizzying selection of dried fruits and nuts. 

Lokum.... a confection made from a gel of starch and sugar or honey, and delicately flavoured with rosewater, orange, pistachio, dates or lemon, otherwise known as Turkish Delight.  
Also known as Rahat in the Romanian language.
Naschmarkt is the perfect place for browsing, strolling, people watching, or buying lunch at one of the outdoor market cafes, which is what we did. Our friendly "chef" told us he had lived in Vienna only for 3 years and hailed from Tunisia.
I chose chicken schnitzel, which was so large that it was more meat than I would normally eat in 3 days!  But definitely delicious. We sat outside and watched the people go by.
More pictures to come.
If you have visited Vienna, leave a comment and tell me about it.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Shoe Shopping - Vienna

Ahhh... shoe shopping when I'm on vacation.... one of my favourite pastimes. Especially in Europe. Just wandering and looking in the Viennese store windows, and yearning after more and more shoes. I've been blessed with large... um, let's say usefully big feet (I won't blow over in a strong wind!) so if I find shoes I love, and in the right size, and they actually fit and feel good.... I just have to buy them.

Nope, I didn't buy these....

I don't think I could actually navigate my way across a small room in these. I haven't worn heels like this for many years. But they are so gorgeous!

These might be a little easier to walk in, but I couldn't possibly wear them out in the rain in case I got them muddy.

So I'll have to stick to wearing my "old lady" fancy running shoes with the bright neon pink shoelaces. Fun and comfort at the same time for my sightseeing.

It's true.
How many pairs of shoes do you have?
I just counted. Oh dear.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) is visible everywhere in the downtown area of Vienna, and is one of the tallest churches in the world. It is HUGE! If you have lost your bearings in the small streets, just look for the tower. Construction started in the 12th Century on the ruins of two earlier churches. It's the most important religious building in Vienna. And it's shown on Austrian 10 cent euro coins.

St. Stephen's Cathedral is just over 107m long and 34m wide. The tallest of the four towers is 136m high and to get to the top requires climbing 343 steps. Warning: don't attempt it if you have bad knees. The towers are home to 13 bells. The bell called The Pummerin was cast from a cannon captured from the Turks in the 1600s, and is the second biggest free swinging chimed church bell in Europe.

The north side of the roof shows the coats of arms of the City of Vienna and the Republic of Austria. The Imperial double headed eagle of the Hapsburgs appears on the other side. 230,000 glazed ceramic tiles make up the steep roof. 

At the Capistran Chancel, an 18th Century sculpture shows St. Francis trampling on a beaten Turk, under a golden sunrise. St Francis looks pretty happy. I feel rather sorry for the Turk.

There's the Imperial Hapsburg double headed eagle on the roof.

Stephansplatz at night. 
More pictures to come.
If you have visited Vienna, please leave me a comment and tell me about it.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Rabbits! It's September!

A Pinch and a Punch,
the First of the Month
and no returns......
and to bring a month of good luck, my first spoken word this morning was "Rabbits"!

Which brings me to this delightful pink bunny.

Actually not a rabbit, but a hare. A magnificent pink bunny by sculptor Ottmar Hörl. It pays tribute to German artist Albrecht Dürer's 500 year old painting "Young Hare" which hangs in the nearby Albertina Museum in Vienna.