Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Wolfgang, Call Home

"Hello? Constanze? Your hunnybunny Wolfie here. What's for dinner tonight?"

"oh no, not Wiener Schnitzel again......"

Monday, 23 November 2015

Vienna State Opera

Back to my summer Europe trip.... The Vienna State Opera was the first major building on the Vienna Ringstraße and was built between 1861 and 1869. The opening opera was Mozart's Don Giovanni performed on May 25 1869. Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elizabeth were present.

Towards the end of WWII in 1945, American bombardment set the building alight. The front section housing the foyer, staircase, vestibule and tearoom was saved, but the auditorium and stage were destroyed by fire, along with the decor and props for more than 120 operas, and about 150,000 theatrical costumes.

The decision was made to rebuild the Opera House in its original style, and an architectural competition was announced. Even though the target date for opening was 1949, the theatre opened in 1955 with a performance of Beethoven's Fidelio.

The Weiner Saatsoper stages 50 to 60 operas per year, and ten ballet productions. It is common to find a different opera being produced each day of the week. Over 1000 employees work here. I was able to sit and watch the stage crew change the sets for the opera that was being performed that evening.

Immediately before each performance, standing room tickets are sold at a discount. But I think it would be much nicer to occupy one of these comfy boxes. Total audience capacity is 2,200. I've never been to an opera, so would have liked to go, but as always with these vacation tours, no time!

If you can't get a ticket, the next best thing is to sit outside the Opera and watch the performance on the giant 50 square metre screen. Don Giovanni was playing. The screen was installed in 2009, to bring opera to a new audience who had never experienced it.
I couldn't stay to watch Don Giovanni.... a good reason to return to Vienna one day.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Another Year.... Another Decade

I had a birthday recently. It was one of those "milestone" birthdays. So we had a party. That's the best way to celebrate a birthday, any kind of birthday.
My family in England sent me some beautiful flowers. No idea what the long green ones are, but they are spiky. The bouquet included ornamental kale.... what could be better, a bouquet you can eat!

We used the community room at the village. The Bride and The Equestrienne worked so hard decorating the tables with a purple and white theme, while OlderSon appears to take the credit in this picture. The Bride decorated the vases, The Equestrienne provided the flowers. YoungerSon organised the photo slideshow and the music. Callum blew up the balloons. Family team work!
Food.... yes, lots of it. Samosas and pakoras from my favourite Indian bakery, spring rolls, spicy meatballs, a cheese tray, crackers, veggies and dip, French pastries, English trifle, all washed down with a choice of ice water, red or white wine, beer, spiced apple cider, coffee, tea.

A purple theme meant purple table cloths, purple streamers, purple candles on the birthday cake, and I even found the perfect purple scarf to wear with my purple top. As you can see.... there were a lot of candles, but luckily I had professional help close by to help me blow them out. We didn't have to call the Fire Department.

The Albert Street Four entertained us with two sets. I used to live on Albert Street, so I know them well. Lots of singalong songs, including my favourite song of all time..... The Teddybear's Picnic.
If you go down in the woods today......

Thank you to my wonderful family who organized the party and to all my family and friends who helped me celebrate. Next birthday party in 10 years. Everyone's invited.
Which "milestone" birthday was it? Well, look carefully and you might find a clue.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Love Over Fear

These young men live in Montreal, in Canada. On Monday they stood in one of the Montreal subway stations to show a public plea for harmony after the recent terror attacks in Paris and Beirut. They wanted to make a visual statement about fear and hatred. They held hands and wore white T-shirts declaring their origins: New York City, Egypt, and Paris.

Their video is well worth watching. Love Over Fear.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Apple Jelly

OlderSon has an big old apple tree growing behind his house. It hasn't been pruned or looked after for years, and rarely produces apples. But this year, the branches were weighed down with fruit. As the tree hasn't been sprayed with fungicide or insecticide for some years, the apples are a bit dodgy. You have to eat them carefully.
Remember the old joke.... Q: "What's worse than finding a worm in your apple?" A: "Finding half a worm in your apple."
The apples were sweet and crisp and tasty.  I gathered a big bag of apples and took them home, intending to make an apple pie, but changed my mind and chopped them up to make apple jelly instead.

The jelly turned out to be a pale colour as the apples themselves are yellow. In each jar I added a couple of teaspoonfuls of Calvados, apple brandy that I brought back from France a few years ago. It's along the same lines as the American drink Applejack. It made the jelly a little bit less jelly-like, but that just makes it easier to spread!

Should be a great wake-me-up on toast in the morning for breakfast.... just make sure you don't put any in the kids' school lunches.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Mr. Armstrong

Emerald Ash Borer - Photo courtesy of David Cappaert, Michigan State UniversityIn Ontario, millions of ash trees are being killed every year by an non-native invasive species, the Emerald Ash Borer. The nasty little insect feeds under the bark of ash trees, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae get inside the bark and disrupt the circulation of water and nutrients of the tree. The presence of just a few insects in the tree can kill it.

There is a chemical treatment available that will kill the insect, but often the borer has done the damage to the tree before it becomes apparent.

It was too late for the young ash tree in front of my house. This summer it produced hardly any leaves, and tell-tale holes appeared in the bark, indicating the Emerald Ash Borer was at work. So it had to go.

After cutting, the whole tree, trunk, branches, sticks, has to be disposed of safely, making sure the nasty bug isn't spread to any other healthy trees. The stump was taken away, and a surprisingly small hole was left in the grass.

Within half an hour, the digger was back with a young tree, It's an Armstrong Maple. It will be tall, and not very wide, and the leaves turn red in the fall, just what I wanted.  It took just two minutes to plant, and you can see it here. OlderSon and Callum arrived in time to witness the happy event.

All new family members should have a name, so Callum has christened my tree Mr. Armstrong.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Big enough?

On a quiet country road just a 5 minute drive from where I live, someone is building a house. It's not a small modest family house like the other homes further along the street, it's........

........ a gigantic castle!

I'll drive by periodically and post pics of the progress. I'm dying to find out what that cone shape is for.... probably a turret to top off the bell tower? I wonder if there's a dungeon in the basement?
Would you want to live in a house as big as this?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Český Krumlov - Czech Republic

Back to my summer trip to Europe! We only had one afternoon to explore the ancient city of Český Krumlov which is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Czech Republic. Luck was on our side as when we arrived, it was the day of the annual Five Petalled Rose Festival. What better day to see it!

The old medieval town was alive with craftsmen, artists, musicians, jugglers, and local people dressed in costumes from the Middle Ages. Various activities such as jousting, fencing, historical dance performances, and folk theatre take place at the castle and in the town square.

Construction of the town and castle began in the late 13th century at a ford in the Vltava River. Most of the architecture of the old town and castle dates from the 14th through 17th centuries.

 Between the wars Český Krumlov was part of Czechoslovakia. During the Communist era, the old town fell into disrepair, but since 1989, it has been restored and is a major tourist destination now.

A choir were singing folk songs on a stage set up in Svornosti Square. The townspeople were all joining in heartily. There on the wall is the Five Petalled Rose, the symbol of the Rosenberg (Rožmberk) family who ruled the town for 300 years from 1302 to 1602.

It was lunchtime and our tummies were rumbling, so rather than sit at a restaurant, we decided to eat on our feet.... buying cheese and bread from the market stalls that had been set up around the square. I have no idea what kind of cheese I bought, I just pointed and it was delicious!

 So we shared these fruit pie slices... and they were so good that we went back for a second slice. A bit like jammy pizza.

The local townspeople were dressed in medieval costumes and this handsome chap was quite happy to have his picture taken. The costumes were very elaborate and looked really authentic. I didn't ask him what he was smoking in that pipe, perhaps I should have.

This family told us that they spent all winter researching, designing and creating their costumes. Both the husband and the wife worked on cutting and sewing the fabric. They made everything that they were wearing, except the shoes!

This splendidly attired group of medieval beauties were happy to pose for my camera. I wanted to thank them for the photo, but when I reached into my backpack, the red haired lady shouted "No No" and something very fast in Czech..... she thought I wanted to pay them. Then I handed her a Canada flag souvenir pin, my last one..... we all laughed! No language problems when there are lots of smiles.

Yes, those are dark storm clouds above the castle walls. We got drenched on the way back to the coach park and then made our way to our next destination, Prague. More about our trip to come... when I get round to it!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Coffee Time?

Your waitress is ready to take your order....

.... at the funky coffee shop on Main Street.