Wednesday, October 29, 2008


The illustrations for this episode of "The Lady of the Ring" can be found here, with many thanks to Alice C (Mrs M).

The lovely lady rushed from one corner of the courtyard to the next, bent down, pushing at the snow, shuffling the powder with her feet, rifling through it with her fingers, desperately searching for the ring. Finally, the lovely lady accepted defeat, sighed, and turned towards the house. She reached out her hand to open the doors and found, much to her astonishment, that the entire house had disappeared. Yes, it was simply gone, gone, and in its place, standing beside her feet, was a tiny doll's house. When the lovely lady knelt down on the snowy ground and peered in through the little windows she could see her tiny bed beside a tiny carpet, a miniature staircase leading down to the shortest of corridors, and there was the breakfast table and the kitchen. In the kitchen was a doll-sized bowl of eggs waiting to be broken and whisked, a plate of triangular sandwiches and an iced chocolate cake the size of a ten pence coin. At first, she feared that she may be dreaming, and then she feared that her past may have been a mere dream. Perhaps all of her memories of the house, and the kitchen, the bed and the food and the staircase, maybe they had all been a twenty-year dream. Maybe her reality was, in fact, so very small that it she could pick it up with one hand and walk down the street with it. Maybe she could pick up her tiny reality and walk all the way into town with it swinging from her hand. Maybe she could walk all the way into town with it and find a fuller house to live in, and in which to store the tiny house.

Well, dear reader, the truth is that the lovely lady did not actually walk into town that day, as the sun began to rise and the birds began to sing. No. The lovely lady was met at her street corner by a large horse-drawn carriage which took her all the way into the big city together with a collection of other people from her local neighbourhood. The lovely lady’s eyes opened wide with wonder as she looked at each of her fellow travellers in turn, noticing the clothes they were wearing and the objects they were carrying, and all the time shaking her head in amazement that she had lived for so long in her big-little house with the Mother Ring and had never ever seen such living creatures before.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Go visit Esti!!

Hello dear reader!
Stop everything and go have a look at Esti's latest drawing.
It is magical. MAGICAL.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A screeching halt

The illustration for this episode of "The Lady of the Ring" can be found here.

Then, one deep dark winter’s night, those two decades of housebound, jewelled wonder came to a screeching halt. It was that screech which woke the lovely lady with a start in the middle of the night and made her sit up in bed, fearful and shocked. She stared into the cold darkness of her bedroom, instinctively standing up, pushing her feet into her thick sheepskin boots , gathering her woollen cloak around her shoulders, and racing down the stairs, along the corridor, through the french doors and into the courtyard.

She found herself standing on a smooth, crisp layer of freshly fallen snow. Her terrified eyes looked down and saw a white expanse of moonlit dust, and on it were the small imprints of a bird’s feet, which she followed, silently, intently, until she saw the two scaly legs, thin and sharp, scratch, scratch, scratching through the snow. As she slowly raised her head, she took in the thick feathered torso, the curve of the neck, and the glossy staring eye. There was the unforgiving beak, the trembling crown, and then, with a rush of air and a rustle reminiscent of the shuffling of a portentous deck of cards, the beast displayed a fan of feathers so magnificent that they brought the lovely lady, with full force, to her knees.

The lovely lady knelt there in the snow, silent, still, watching, and slowly raising her arms towards the beast as if to greet it. As she did so, she felt a painful tugging on the second finger of her left hand which forced her to squeeze her eyes shut and grimace. When she next opened her eyes the feathered beast was gone, and as she pushed herself off the ground her left hand felt strangely free, and as she brought it up before her face, she realised the fabulous, horrifying truth. The ring had departed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pitter patter tiny footsteps

How true were the peacock lady’s words. How very true. The lovely lady truly was at the mercy of the ring; unable to step out of her own front door without fear of being discovered, imprisoned, and sentenced to death. She did, at first, try to leave the house. She donned a pair of long silk gloves, kept her hands in her pockets and, during one long, cold winter, she even held a small fur muff. But the ring forbade it; at night, it glowed with a phosphorescence powerful enough to illuminate the depths of the ocean, and during the day, it throbbed with an intense heated glow, spitting tiny, sizzling embers into the air.

The lovely lady soon grew accustomed to the shape of her walls, her front door, her windows. Days turned into months, months to years, and the years continued, one after the other, until two entire decades could be heard running through the lovely lady’s corridors, pitter patter, pitter patter, tiny footsteps. During those years, the ring’s jewel expanded until it was twice its previous size, and its sparkle became brighter until it almost blinded the lovely lady as she went about her daily house-duties. It was both stunningly beautiful and unbearably overpowering. Not a day went by that didn’t have the lovely lady wringing her hands in painful desperation, while simultaneously holding her left hand up to the light so as to marvel at the miraculous beauty glowing on her finger.

***I could not decide on an illustration for this continuation of the tale. So, I ask you, dear silent reader, can a poem illustrate a story? All in favour, say "aye." The ayes have it! So here it is:

THE PEACOCK (By Judith Wright)

Shame on the aldermen who locked
the Peacock in a dirty cage!
his blue and copper sheens are mocked
by habit, hopelessness and age.

The weary Sunday families
along their gravelled paths repeat
the pattern of monotonies
that he treads out with restless feet.

And yet the Peacock shines alone;
and if one metal feather fall
another grows where that was grown.
Love clothes him still, in spite of all.

How pure the hidden spring must rise
that time and custom cannot stain!
It speaks its joy again - again.
Perhaps the aldermen are wise.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The drawing room

Just in case you are a new reader, here is an explanation:

I am in the middle of a short and continuing tale titled "The Lady of the Ring", posted every so often. Due to a coincidental discovery of this photograph which I found here (thanks Suse!), I realised that it would be interesting to illustrate each chapter with a picture or photograph from another blog. So, for Chapter Four, I linked to this photograph (thanks Julia and C) as my "illustration".

I hope that you will understand that I am not copying other artists' work by doing this, but rather linking to it, because the thing I love most about blogging is the constant artistic energy generated by so many wonderful bloggers I read, and communicate with, every day. I really do feel as if I am living in a global village, as corny as that may sound!

The three illustrations I have chosen for Chapter 5 can be found here. They are three photographs of the multi-talented Journeymama, taken by her multi-talented husband.

Chapter Five

Upon entering the drawing room, everything came back in a flash, for standing before her was the woman in black, and on her head was a small, velvet black beret with a very long peacock feather which was attached to one side and formed an extended arc over her head. The feather quivered slightly as the woman blinked, and its colours were emerald and turquoise and topaz and jet, all glistening silk and feathered sharpness. The young lady gasped and pointed at the woman in black and said, “It was you, that night.” “Yes,” the woman nodded and the feather waved, twice, in affirmation. Still pointing, her voice now a vicious, accusing whisper, the lovely lady said “You are the jewel thief, the jewel thief,” and then she raised her left hand from its pocketed hiding-place and thrust it towards the lady’s wide-eyed gaze. “Take it off and take it back, you thief, take it off, take it back,” she shouted with all her might, and as she repeated herself, her voice become even louder and stronger and desperately urgent in a way which was quite terrible to witness. But what was worse, far worse, was that the lady in black simply shook her head and said, quite clearly and calmly, “No, I’m afraid that ring is yours now.”

The young woman let out a deep howl which brought her to her knees and then pushed her down until she was in the most dreadful state known to woman – a state of complete and utter helplessness, cruelly combined with an acute self-knowledge which scraped up against the truth, over and over again. The wind whipped through the tall firs which lined the driveway, the walls of the house shook, the staircase expanded and contracted like an old-time accordion, the flowered wallpaper wilted, a piano was heard from a distance playing an eerily familiar tune, and a tiny baby’s cry pierced through the thick sunlight and cut a hole in a window-pane. The two women, one lying on the thick carpet beside the marble fireplace, the other standing beside the large, forest-green armchair, stared at each other, and then everything stopped.

The lovely lady crawled towards the chair and slowly, painfully pulled herself up. She paused for a moment and then, in a burst of energy most surprising, she hurled herself towards the door of the drawing room. The door was pushed aside and there she was, racing down the long corridor, limping slightly, sweat beading on her brow, lips trembling in anger, and fear, and then she reached the kitchen. Steadying herself on the counter, she reached down and flicked her wrist so that an entire drawer and its contents landed on the black and white tiled floor. With one hand still holding on to the counter, she bent down, reached out, and grasped the thick black handle of a long, butcher knife. The knife glistened in its silvery sharpness, her knuckles turned white as she closed her fist tighter and tighter, and she prepared her left hand by bending each of its fingers, except for the ring-bearing one which lay long and steady, waiting. Her right hand raised the knife and prepared it for the fall, but just as it began its descent, a third hand reached out and grasped it, stopping it in mid-flight.

“No, my dear,” said the woman in black, in her low, calm voice, “Your flesh, and blood, and bone, my sweet, are no longer at the mercy of the knife, but at the mercy of the ring.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The statue, the mother ring and the strange visitor

After having discovered an illustration for Chapter Three through a lovely blogging coincidence, I realised that it would be most fitting to continue linking to illustrations in other people's blogs. My little fable is, after all, inspired by the many blogs I read.

Chapter Four's illustration can be found here, and I thank Julia very much for having inspired the statue-like pause experienced by my protagonist.

Chapter Four

The emotions contained in that one lovely lady as she stood before her mirror were so powerful and so chilling that they literally froze her into a statue of herself. The lovely lady remained a statue for a very, very long time. You will possibly not believe me when I tell you this, dear reader, but that is of no consequence, for the truth is always stranger than fiction. You see, the lady remained a statue for many, many months. In fact, for almost a year. Or thereabouts. Until, one bright morning, without the slightest warning, the statue liberated itself into the image of the lovely lady reflected in the mirror, and this lovely lady could hear, crystal clear, the sound of a horse-drawn carriage making its way down the pebbled driveway. She heard the carriage stop in front of her house. She heard the faint social mutterings of a visitor. She heard the brisk footsteps of her maid, a knocking outside her bedroom, and the lovely lady could now see her maid’s bright, pink-cheeked face peeking in through a crack in the door. Apparently, a visitor had arrived, insisting that she was expected. “A proper lady, ma’am, terribly tall with a long black dress and quite the strangest hat I have ever seen.” She had asked her to sit in the drawing room. To wait.

The lovely lady stood and thought, and thought some more, and then she remembered something, and forgot something, and she touched the ring. The ring was firmly lodged on her slim and elegant finger, and as she pulled and twisted it the ring simply became tighter and tighter, until the skin around it was red and swollen and chafed. Tears sprang to her eyes as she confronted her dilemma of the jewel thief, the precious ring, and the strange visiting woman waiting for her in the drawing room. As if in a trance, the lovely lady slowly walked towards her wardrobe and carefully dressed herself in the sprigged muslin dress with the pearl buttons, the lace collar and the deep pockets. Tucking her left hand into a pocket, she walked resolutely out of the bedroom, down the staircase and along the corridor. She paused for a moment, gave her hair a little pat, secured a loose pin, smoothed a rebellious curl, breathed in, and out, and turned the doorknob.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It takes two floors to make a story

Way back in August I wrote about going to a Jason Mraz concert with my daughter. You might remember that I added a second clip to the post, one which shows Mraz singing "Life is Wonderful". One of the first phrases of that song is: "It takes two floors to make a storey," and I just love that kind of wordplay.

I read an article a while back about how many of Mraz's most popular songs were composed as part of a game he played with his fellow musician friends. One of his friends would set a challenge - "Let's see who can write the best song about _____". A bit of competitive fun can really get the creative juices flowing, and because each person's songs are always unique to that person, it ultimately isn't a real competition, it only starts off as one so as to get the artists working.

Now, what was my point?

Ah, yes.

I really want to get back to that lady and her ring, and I am a bit annoyed at myself for getting carried away with other posts and losing the flow of the story. So, to make myself feel a bit better, I have decided to think of Chapter One and Chapter Two as being the two floors which are needed to make the story, now I need to entice you to come inside. So then I think to myself "I have to find a fabulous illustration". So far, I've been using the peacock feather pictures, and I like the way they brighten up the endless black words, but what will I use to illustrate Chapter Three?

No idea.

So I decide to put it off for another day. Instead of organising the next chapter, I visit my blog friends to see what they have been up to during the last few days. Imagine my surprise when I visit Suse and see that she has only just posted the perfect illustration for Chapter Three?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have kept the chapter, word for word, as I wrote it before seeing Suse's beautiful photograph of her own hand. Except for one little word. You see, I felt compelled to somehow add Suse into the text, as a token of my appreciation. Originally, the lovely lady slipped her small, pale feet into a pair of quilted slippers. Well...I changed them to knitted slippers, for Suse.

Chapter three

The next morning, she opened her eyes to see sunlight glittering in the crack between the curtains, and she saw a small sparkle of light on the wall. She slowly sat up in bed, and found that the light sparkle was following her. She brushed some stray hair away from her eyes, and there was the sparkle darting back and forth across the wall. She stretched both her arms above her head, and there was the sparkle, stretching across the ceiling in a hurried flash. She pushed the blanket off, folded her arms, and took a good long look around the room. She checked all four walls, the chair, the cupboard door and the lampshade. She was doubly careful when looking at the folds of the curtains and the frames of the hanging pictures, and she even scanned the mirror for a long time, although the likelihood of a sparkle hiding there seemed far too obvious to be true. The sparkle had disappeared as mysteriously as it had entered her bedroom.

The lovely lady stood up, slowly and carefully, and twisted her back, first to the right, then to the left, checking whether she was still suffering from the previous night’s injury. In her delight at discovering that she felt no pain, she failed to notice the little sparkle which mimicked her movements to the right and left and back again. Covering herself with a silk dressing-gown, and slipping her small pale feet into a pair of knitted slippers, she floated dreamily towards the dining room. Breakfast was ready and waiting for her, as it always was. There was the plate, the cup, the silverware, the neatly folded newspaper, all ready for her and her alone. As she nibbled on her marmalade toast and sipped her tea, the day’s headline suddenly came into sharp focus before her eyes. JEWEL THIEF STRIKES AGAIN. Well, oh dear, that was rather strange. Her manicured fingers moved towards the newspaper, pulling it closer to her, flapping the front page open, holding it up towards the ray of light which was streaming in from the large french doors, and then her eyes slid sideways and rested on her left hand. There was a ring on that hand which she had never seen before. The ring was very large, and it seemed to pull the light, and then push it towards the ceiling, where it left a shivering sparkle, not unlike the one she had seen in her bedroom.

Her hands were now shaking uncontrollably. She knew they were shaking because of that noise she was hearing, that rustle rustling dry shivering shaking noise the newspaper was making as its pages flip-flapped between her arms. She steadied herself by digging her elbows into the dining table and leaning forward, and it was at that exact moment that the small black letters gathered before her eyes and told her that the jewel thief had struck again, last night, at the masquerade ball, by opening a safe, and removing from it one item. This item was considered to be the most precious jewel in the entire world, which made it, in actual fact, priceless. The article referred to it as “The Mother Ring.” She gasped, the newspaper fell from her fingers and slowly wafted down onto her lap, and then the floor, and then she stood up and ran as fast as she could, kicking off her slippers as she went, back to the bedroom. She stood before her mirror and stared at her own reflection, then she slowly raised her left arm and held it up towards the mirror, as if to show an acquaintance a newly acquired jewel. Her reflection looked down at the ring and nodded. Yes. It was real.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Some answers

Thanks for all of your comments concerning the last post! I shall try to answer your questions...

The decorations on the outside of the Sukkah are pictures of "the seven species" - grains and fruits that are special products of the Land of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, figs, olives and dates.

The sign above the doorway says (in Hebrew) "Blessed are you as you enter." On the other side of the sign it says "Blessed are you as you depart."

The traditional greeting for almost all festivals is "Chag Sameach" (the "ch" being that deep throat-clearing sound and not "ch" as in "cheesecake") which means "happy festival". But saying "Happy Sukkot" is beautiful...thank you!!

Still not the cheesecake festival, but there is certainly no Rabbinical ruling FORBIDDING the eating of cheesecake in the sukkah....I will now always laugh whenever reading of Moses and the tablets, picturing him instead carrying a large round cheesecake. Hepsibah......she must have been the competing kosher caterer of the time...was she the one who sneaked up behind Mo and pushed him?

The very observant eat all meals and snacks in the sukkah, and actually sleep in it as well. But I am not very observant at we eat in it on the first night, and then on and off during the week if the weather holds up. I should mention that it is almost invariably rainy and windy during sukkot...and, yes, it rained all day today. Naturally.

What did we eat last night? Well....chicken soup (again, of course), chopped liver (my mom's special), crispy chicken, roasted beetroot and pumpkin, green salad, chocolate mousse for dessert. You all asked for seconds, and we found Eurolush trying to hide a chocolate mousse in her handbag.....we were all terribly embarrassed for her and so looked the other way.

Thanks so much for your interest, humour and kind words.

Chag sameach!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Not what, but where

Sorry about this, but Chapter 3 is still on hold due to yet another Jewish festival which commences tonight - Sukkot.

But do not fret, because the lady of the ring is never very far from any of my posts. That lady...she lurks behind my words and huddles behind my comment boxes, always there in the background, always waiting for the right moment in which to reveal a little bit more of herself. Take care, dear reader, for she is watching you too.

Ahem...sorry about that....getting a bit carried away there...

So... I thought you might like to see the sukkah we built in our backyard. If you like, you can read more about this festival here. A few years ago, we bought this "modular sukkah", and putting it together is a family activity.

I meant to take photos during the process, but I had to concentrate on the task at know, ensuring the kids don't kill each other, stopping my son from disappearing into the house to play X-Box, arguing with my husband about the proper positioning of the door. This kind of thing can end in tears, so, you know, not much camera-work was going on.

All ended well, and here is the finished product. My daughter was in charge of the traditional decorations. I kept thinking of all the bloggers I know who would have loved to get their hands on this sukkah - to sew curtains for it, knit fruit for it, add colours to it, take photos of it, compose poems about it, write funny essays about the people sitting in it. Yeah, that's right, you know who you are, yes, I mean YOU. I was thinking of all of you. So then I invited you to come over and have dinner in the sukkah, and you all came over and we had so much fun. Because, you see, Sukkot is not so much about WHAT you eat, but WHERE you eat, and we all ate in the temporary shelter offered by a comment box which materialised in my back garden in the shape of four plastic walls, a metal frame and a bamboo ceiling.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A telephone conversation

Hello dear readers,

I know, I know, I have only just posted something, and here I am at the post office again. Most unusual. So, as an explanation -

My fabulous grandfather just called me and we had the most wonderful conversation. If you have been hanging around my comment box for a while, you will most likely know that this is my grandfather who sent me his library, who is currently living in Manhattan, and whose mission in life is to teach every single person he meets a poem.

Today I decided to ask him a few questions about my grandma. Although my grandma died several years ago, Grandpa still feels that he is living with her and he talks to her, and about her, very often. He calls her his "girlfriend". So I asked him to try to describe what Grandma was like before I knew her, when she was the mother of three teenagers. He immediately recited the following poem as his answer:

On Being A Woman / By Dorothy Parker

Why is it, when I am in Rome,
I'd give an eye to be at home,
But when on native earth I be,
My soul is sick for Italy?

And why with you, my love, my lord,
Am I spectacularly bored,
Yet do you up and leave me- then
I scream to have you back again?

As Grandpa recited this poem by heart to me, over the telephone, I was already planning to post it because it was just too wonderful not to share around! So then, of course, Grandpa started to recite a second poem. This second poem perfectly reflected what I was hoping to do by posting the first poem. Grandpa is amazing.

Here is the second poem:

The Arrow and the Song / By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

Hide and seek

THE LADY OF THE RING / Chapter two

When she next opened her eyes, she was lying on a high, soft bed. She turned slightly and felt a piercing pain in her back. “Don’t move,” said a deep voice to her right, “Nothing’s broken, but still, don’t move.” She did move, despite the pain, and found herself straining to see a figure in the far corner of the room. She could see a large dark mass, and it was holding still, but then every so often wavering, becoming slightly smaller and then larger again. The dark mass made rustling sounds once in a while, and then a clicking, very tiny click, click, clicking. Then it laughed, very softly, to itself, and made a scraping sound, and rustled over and over again until it was suddenly standing right in front of her, beside the bed, in the shape of a tall woman in a long black dress and a peacock mask, holding something very small in her right hand, and smiling.
“Now listen to me,” said the peacock lady, “and listen well, for we have to be quick if we are to succeed.”
“What did you just say?” the injured woman whispered.
“You heard me, I know you did.”
The injured one furrowed her brow and grunted slightly as she tried to understand.
“Now listen here,” the creature continued, “In a moment, you will give me your left hand, and I will place a ring on your fourth finger, and then you will forget everything. It will be, for you, as if this meeting never happened.”
“What?” The injured one pronounced the word, and instantly the creature shushed it away.

A ring was placed on the finger as was predicted, and just as predicted the injured one forgot everything. It was just as well she did too, because the very next second there was a great knocking on the door of that grand bedroom, and then a doorknob was turned and a crowd of men with concerned masks of fresh-faced affection came rushing at her from all directions. She laughed, and then cried out at the pain in her chest, and several of the men came forward claiming to be doctors, only too willing and able to heal the lovely lady. However, as luck would have it, the hostess of that grand masked ball, owner of the grand house, and concerned friend of the woman currently ensconced in the guest bedroom, bustled in and quite delightfully waved away the lovely lady’s many suitors, insisting that only one of them was needed, the one who was tallest and strongest. This chosen man would help the lovely lady out of the bed and into the waiting carriage, a carriage which would carry the lovely lady back to her own home and her own little bed. And that is exactly what happened.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Virtual inspiration

My imagination thrives on reading blogs.

As I travel around the world at the speed of light, flipping through journal pages that are not mine, I feel both elation and a sense of loss. Comment boxes seem to have become smaller and smaller; they close in on me, and at times I am unable to write anything at all.

So then my imagination kicks in.

That is how I started seeing peacock feathers. It didn't make any sense, really. Oh, and I saw a masked ball with dancing figures and the colour black.

So here is my really long comment, which would not fit into any box, no matter how much I tried to squash it in. Well...I did try to fit it into a hat box (as you will see later on, probably) but even that was quite unsuccessful...those feathers are so very long and delicate.

The story is not really mine at all. It belongs to several different bloggers whose words and images sparked my imagination and gave me much pleasure.


It was not for lack of trying that she felt such an emptiness in her heart, and it certainly was not for lack of men, for there they were, everywhere she looked. A glance to the left, a blink of the eye, a glint of the candlelight, and there they were before her, so many, all ready for her at a moment’s notice. “Come dance sweet darling, come take my hand,” she heard them whisper in her little shell of an ear. But all is never what it seems at a masked ball, and those men would have done better had they recognised the lacklustre turn of her phrase, and the soft white hand laying limp and lifeless in theirs.

Dance after dance she found herself swept away in the arms of yet another masked man. Dance after dance she bit her bottom lip and held her dress as she swirled round and round and round. Feeling dizzy and slightly sick, she begged off the last dance and steadied herself on the wall, which soon became the platform of a whirling carousel, pushing her on and on until, suddenly, it stopped, and she was enveloped in a tight blackness which squeezed her chest and then opened her eyes, with a pop.

Directly above her, almost too close to see, were two round eyes, staring down at her curiously, and then, oh my, one of them winked. She propped herself up on her elbows, stretching her neck up to see the strange animal properly. What was it? A bird of some sort, perhaps, or a beast. Peacock feathers, she thought to herself, lovely multicoloured peacock feathers gathered around a deep purple velvet covered in tiny jewels, and a glistening black beak, curved and sharp. Then blackness again.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

For Alice


The binding, in natural-colour half-linen imported from the Netherlands, is stamped in dark brown on the shelfback and blind-stamped on the front cover.

Small, monster-like, curly-tailed creatures also adorn the cover!
The end-leaves are a rust laid stock from Strathmore,
echoing the colour used within the book.

First published in 1669,
this is "the earliest work in German literature
to deal with contemporary events in everyday language."

Simplicissimus would have loved blogging.

This would have been his avatar in your comment box:

His comments would have been quite cynical and world-weary.
But written with great wit and humour.

He travelled quite a bit, and met such interesting people
from all over
and under
the world.
He would have adored your beautiful photographs
of food and housewares.

He led a simple life,
but based in fact.
Much like all good bloggers do.


So, dear Alice, I hope you enjoyed Simplicissimus.
It is certainly a huge book,
and I am quite certain that I will never actually read it from cover to cover,
but that is of no consequence.
For Simplicissimus will now always remind me of a dear blogging friend
from England
who knocked on the door of my library,
and spent some time with me.
Alice is the last borrower of the day.
I hope to be able to share many more of my bookshelves with you in the near future. Until then, I am toying with the idea of starting another short story in installments.
Oh, yes, I should also mention that another Jewish festival is coming up -this Thursday is the most solemn day of the year, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). No, this is not the cheesecake holiday, but rather a day of fasting.
Wishing you all a wonderful week! Your book choices have been inspiring, and your comments have been so very interesting!
Eleanor xxxx

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Julia's book

The library has officially reopened!


Welcome, welcome, come in, please, make yourself at home.

Today I am pleased to introduce you to a brand-new member of the library. Everyone, please make Julia feel welcome as she browses the bookshelves. Julia has come here all the way from Prague, so she's a little tired and needs some tender loving care and extra attention. What was that Eurolush? You've come all the way from Germany? Now, Eurolush...we've talked about this's not always ALL ABOUT YOU...excuse me...young lady....where do you think you're going with that chocolate croissant??!! STRICTLY NO FOOD ALLOWED IN THE LIBRARY!!! VERBOTTEN!!

There, that's better. What was that Badger? Why, of COURSE you can keep sipping on your cocktail. Dude....alcohol consumption is ENCOURAGED in the library. Now...where was I? Yes. Right. Before we begin our discussion of Julia's book, I'd like to commend the following borrowers for their marvellous book choices last week, as well as the prompt returning of said books - RW, Tuli, Mary and Suse. These four members managed to borrow their books without needing to resort to physical violence, unlike two sisters we all (ahem) remember well from last week. The Unfortunate Incident Involving The Bronte Sisters is a lesson to us all - reading and sibling rivalry is a lethal combination.

Ahem, now Julia, what a wonderful first choice you have made with this simply divine edition of Northanger Abbey. Its multicoloured, striped cloth cover brings to mind the hues of a rainbow, as it subtly makes its way out from behind the dark grey clouds of a winter's day in Prague.

It is not garishly bright, but there are just enough yellow sunbeams in it to bring a smile to your face. least, I hope so.

I thought you might like to see the decorative line which signals the beginning of each chapter. Also, the simple elegance of the embellishment of the first letter.

You may have noticed that a small connecting flourish is used whenever a 'c' and 't' are printed next to each other

Also between 's' and 't'. I find it quite annoying, actually. Perhaps someone knows the reason for this style of print?

I know you were hoping for an illustration, well...there are many:

What do you think Julia? I was, at first, quite surprised at the darkness of the illustrations. They have a melancholy air about them which is quite beautiful, but unexpected.

Below is the colophon which is found on the very last page of the book. Isn't that simply gorgeous?

I hope you enjoy your choice, and please do return to the library whenever you wish.
Good evening all, and may all your endings be happy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rosh Hashanah

My fab friend Sarah lived with us for many months a while back, and she enjoyed the Jewish festivals a great deal. Not being Jewish herself, everything that I completely took for granted instantly transformed into something strange and exotic when viewed through her eyes.

The look on her face when I explained to her "So..this is the milky cutlery, this is the meaty cutlery, these are the meaty dishes, these are the milky dishes" was priceless. The way she deliberately stopped and stared at the handles of the kitchen drawers before she chose one to open in the search for a spoon for her yogurt was a portrait of true true friendship.

In the words of the fabulous Sarah - "So what do we eat on THIS holiday? Is this the one with the cheesecake? Is this the one with the matzah? Is this the one with the fried potato pancakes? Is this the one with the triangular poppy biscuits?" Well..this is the one with the very sweet foods. Sarah liked the fried potato pancake holiday best.

But I digress.

So you all came over to my parent's apartment for Rosh Hashanah dinner, and boy was it crowded. But that's just fine, because my mother always cooks enough food "for an entire army troop" (my father's words). I have been living in a different country from my parents since I was 18, and they only moved to Australia a couple of years ago, therefore my mother and I are making up for lost time. She cooks and I eat. It's a great system.

To bring in the new year, the women of the household light the candles. Two each for me and mum, one for my daughter. Can you see the pomegranates? They are a traditional new year food (lots of sweet little seeds to symbolise a fruitful new year) which my mum is using here for decoration. See the sweetpeas? My mum is unstoppable when it comes to symbolic decorations, just wait and see....

Here is the magnificent table ready for the traditional blessing of the wine and bread (challah). In the centre are the two challahs, but you can't see them because they are covered by a challah-cover. The cover is especially made for Rosh Hashanah and has a decoration of apples on it, apple dipped in honey being a traditional new year food. My mum found a couple of apple candles too!

On Friday nights and Saturdays (Shabbat) we usually have two challahs which are long and plaited, but for the High Holy Days we have round challahs with raisins. My mother even bought one (the one on the left) with sweet streusel topping, mmmmmm......

My mother has a special plate for the apple and honey, can you see the decorative fish motif? Fish is another symbol, fertility I think.

Mr. Commentbox was happy to demonstrate. Oh, by the way, the silverware was my great-grandma's, and it has her initials engraved on it. Yes, this is the meaty set, we're having turkey.

Usually, gefilte fish is made into boiled balls. But that's so last year. My mother made gefilte fish fish molds, with pickle scales and a bed of lettuce "seaweed".

Chicken soup with matzah balls. Mmmmm.....

Potato kugel (pudding) is usually made in a rectangular pan, but again, that's so boring, so my mum made little round kugels. So, so cute.

Spot the apple mosaic! My mother actually made it herself a few years ago. The orange dish on the left is carrot tsimmes (great-grandma's recipe). It has a dumpling-type base (much like the matzah balls) which is sweetened, and then a layer of sweetened, boiled carrots is placed on top, and crisped in the oven. Step away from the tsimmes ladies, it's MINE, ALL MINE.

I took a picture of the HUGE turkey, but it looked kind of....obscene. So here is a very polite picture of my plate with a slice of turkey. After I took the photo I doubled all of the portions, but you can all believe this is the actual amount I ate, because we are virtual friends, so as far as you know I eat like a bird and have a sylph-like figure. I'd like to maintain that virtual image for as long as I can.

I grew up with this china pattern - it was our "meaty set" for as long as I can remember. My mother always insisted that when I set the table the "basket" had to be facing up. My one major rebellion during my teenage years was having the basket facing sideways or even, GASP, down. I was a wild child.

Most honey cakes are square or rectangular, but that's BORING, so my mother's is in the shape of a flower. Of course.

So thanks for joining us, I'm glad you had such a good time, and I hope each and every one of you enjoyed the little "goodie bag" my mother gave you, you know, for your trip back home, so you wouldn't, god forbid, get hungry.

Oh, and a recipe, as promised! This cake freezes very well and, in fact, tastes even better after being frozen and then defrosted. Really!

ELEANOR’S FAMILY HONEY CAKE [rectangular pan 9” x 13”]
4 eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinammon
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 rounded tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon brandy
½ cup oil (canola/sunflower)
[ 3 cups self-raising flour]

Cream all well **EXCEPT FLOUR** using large bowl of mixmaster.
Then add flour – beat until mixed through.

Last: While beating on lowest speed add: 1 ½ cups boiling water.

Beat till mixed through.

The batter will be very thin. Don’t worry!

Bake slowly – 320 degrees (160 celsius) – for 1 hour approx.