Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Off we go

Today's tour begins in the Scottish Highlands at what many consider to be the most beautiful castle in Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle.  This is an oft-used setting for movies, such as "The Highlander" and the 1999 James Bond film, "The World Is Not Enough".

The castle sits on a small island in Loch Duich. Supposedly, a sea creature similar to the Loch Ness monster has been filmed in this body of water. However, the film is said to be held in a private trust and few people have seen it.  Hmm.

Well then, if that first abode is too much house for you, how about something more compact - in Iceland?

A cozy turf-roofed chapel originally built in the 17th century is shown here. As late as the 1950s, mud huts like this were still used as housing around the Icelandic countryside.

Now we go from isolated Iceland countryside to heavily populated Santiago in Chile. 

They've got themselves some serious mountains there, don't they? 

This card came with a recipe for a "Pisco Sour", made from pisco, lemon (or lime) juice, sugar, and egg white, all mixed together in a blender. So what is pisco, you ask? That's exactly what I said!  I have since learned that it is a very popular brandy made from white muscat grapes. It is considered the national drink of Chile.  It was also very popular with 19th century Californians, who had it imported from South America. Here is a recipe if you'd like to go mix up a batch for yourself.

After all that traveling and the pitcher of pisco you are probably pooped, so why not draw yourself a nice hot bath?  And while you're at it, draw a duck as well.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Tips for Healthy Living

Have at least one pet. They help reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol, and are a great help in relieving loneliness. Just be aware that they expect to be rewarded accordingly.

Incorporate a daily stretching routine into your schedule. If you do not have a stretching tree in your yard, indoor stretching is a less desirable, but acceptable, substitute. Seriously consider planting that tree though. Not only does tree stretching include the benefits of fresh air and sunlight, but your neighbors will be greatly entertained.

Be kind to your parents. Mama can get pretty testy when you don't compliment her biscuits.

Do not forget the importance of fashion.  Be sure to dress appropriately when picking out your shoes for the day.  Don't you just love the clunkers that are second from the right?

Stand by your man, as long as he shaves properly.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Quiet Sunday Scenes

Hi, folks. From Eppstein, Germany, I give you a peaceful village scene.

Eppstein lies west of Frankfurt at the edge of the Taunus mountains. The sender of this card said she loves to go walking in the woods outside the village. The old city center of Eppstein contains the ruins of the Eppstein Castle, first mentioned in 1122 (in one of the earliest known blog posts).

This is the Lutheran Cathedral in downtown Helsinki, Finland, probably one of the most famous buildings in Finland.  It receives over 350,000 visitors a year. This church was built as a tribute to Nicholas I, the Tsar of Russia, and was completed in 1852.  When Finland achieved its independence in 1917, the church was no longer called St. Nicholas' Church. 

Somehow I can't look at this photo without seeing Sylvester Stallone running up the steps and raising his arms in triumph at the top.

The mention of Russian Tsars brings to mind the book "Nicholas and Alexandra" by Robert K. Massie. I highly recommend it. I think it's time for me to read it again - it was that good.

Nicholas and Alexandra

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Eye Candy

Today I'm sharing with you (or forcing upon you, depending on your point of view) some more of the beautiful art cards I've received from around the world.  I hope you enjoy them.

First, from Finland, an intriguing painting by Raija Nokkala.

I haven't been able so far to find out anything about this painter and, not knowing Finnish, I don't know what the title "Suojelija" means.  Can anyone enlighten me?  (Yes, I am now begging for comments.)

This card actually came from Germany, but the lovely fräulein above was created by Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861).  The title is "Young woman holding a fan". (My guess was "Young woman chewing a large rice cracker while being attacked by space noodles".) This woodblock print is now in a collection in The Netherlands. A card from Germany showing a Japanese artwork from a Dutch collection. I think this is a good example of globalization.

Now, two cards from the U.S. The first by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) is titled "The Cellist".  

This was painted in 1909.  If the young man continued his practicing, he must be quite good by now.

And finally, by the French Impressionist Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), "Hanging the Laundry out to Dry", painted in 1875.

Berthe was supposed to be helping with the laundry, but instead was upstairs playing with her paints. Lucky for us, huh?

Berthe Morisot101 Great Samurai PrintsAmedeo ModiglianiImpressionist Quartet: The Intimate Genius of Manet and Morisot, Degas and Cassatt

Friday, June 25, 2010

Shall we do Estonian tonight?

Photographer Anne Geddes is popular all over the world for her pictures of babies and flowers.  This card was sent to me from Estonia. Some things are universal.

Another card from Estonia, this one from the beautiful old city of Tallinn.

I've read that when Estonians go abroad, the food they miss the most is their black rye bread. Good hearty bread has always been held in high esteem in Estonia.  As someone who finds most American bread uninteresting, I can definitely relate to that. In olden days, if a piece of bread was accidentally dropped on the floor, it had to be picked up and kissed.  I still do this with cookies.

It's been said that Estonian food tastes much better than it sounds. This must be true.

Boiled pork in jelly 
Baltic fish in acid sauce
Fermented Oat Flummery  
Herring and potato salad
Marinated Eel
Blood Sausages 

Just a piece of black rye bread for me, please. 


Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's Here!!

Shh...  Don't tell anyone but I think summer has finally come to Salem, Oregon.  I will probably regret saying that, but it's looking good today.

Malcolm has been a house cat since his bump-up with an automobile a couple of summers ago, so he asked me to go outside and take some photos. It's hard to say "no" to Malcolm when he gives me that look.  He used to be pretty good with a camera himself, until he got grounded.

First of all, the roses.  Huge this year.

I'm not sure what this is, but I like it. Something rhody-ish or azalea-ish probably.

The blueberries are beginning to turn blue. Very healthy eating. Until I put them in decadently rich muffins with struesel topping, when they simply become part of something else I shouldn't eat.

The cherries are starting to get pinkish. These are sweet cherries and so good. Thank goodness they aren't pie cherries or I'd have to bake pie.

Days like this make me want to be more of an outdoorsy person - gardening, hiking, photography, biking.  So what am I doing?  Sitting inside writing about it.  It sometimes seem hopeless. I should never have had this computer surgically attached.

I'm new to taking video, so this is a little rough, but if you'd like to see Clyde (my brother's parrot, whom we are baby-sitting for a month), here's your big chance. Rusti wrote a special song for Clyde and he sings (?) along, completely off-key.  But then Rusti's a little off-key herself.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Siberian cats

This postcard is unique to me for two reasons: it is the only card I've received so far from Siberia, and is the only card I have received with nine stamps on it.  Remember this tip if you ever feel obligated to send someone a postcard but really have nothing to say to them: use LOTS of stamps, leaving just enough room to write "HI!" on the card.

Have you ever heard of the Siberian cat?  Probably not, because they are uncommon in the U.S. (In Siberia, not so much.)

This breed is known as "the dog of the cat world".  They will come when called, are highly intelligent and have wonderful personalities. They like to have long chirp-like conversations with their owners. In Russian. They are great lap-cats and tend to follow their owners from room to room. I want one, or two. Ah heck, I'll take the whole pile.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ski Mt. Ruapehu!

I'm pretty sure that most of my two readers live in the Northern Hemisphere, where it is most likely summer -  unless you live in Oregon, where it's an iffy proposition from one day to the next.  However, in case I should develop a large following in New Zealand, I thought today's post would be appreciated.

Yes, it is now winter in New Zealand, and for all I know it's Wednesday as well.

If you have absolutely no fear of injury or death, you really should consider Mt. Ruapehu, on New Zealand's northern island, as a vacation spot.  The following checklist should be used to decide if you are a good candidate for this destination. You must answer "No" to each of the following questions in order to qualify as a Raupehu visitor.
  1. Do you have any concerns about the dangers of skiing? 
  2. Do you have any concerns about being on one of the world's most active volcanoes?
  3. Does walking on icy glaciers make you edgy?
  4. Are you easily chilled?
  5. Do you run slowly when chased by lava? 
  6. Would anyone miss you if you did not return home?
So consider carefully, and please send a post card should you survive.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Royal Painting

This card shows a painting made by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand.  She is frequently called "princess angel" by the Thai people.

The list of this woman's achievements and honors is truly staggering.

Her full title is also staggering: “Somdet Phra Theprat Ratsuda Chao Fa Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Ratthasima Khunakon Piyachat Sayam Borommaratchakumari” (in Thai: สมเด็จพระเทพรัตนราชสุดา เจ้าฟ้ามหาจักรีสิรินธร รัฐสีมาคุณากรปิยชาติ สยามบรมราชกุมารี).

Quirky Fact about Bangkok
An earlier blog post discussed the custom of adding the city of one's birth to one's last name with a hyphen.  Here is why no one born in Bangkok has ever done this:

The full name of the city is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit (in Thai: กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุทธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์).

This is in the Guinness Book of World Records. Not a record likely to be broken anytime soon, I'd say.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

It Isn't Sunday Everywhere

The International Date Line has always confused me.

For the longest time I thought it was something Dionne Warwick had set up to help people find someone to go out with on Saturday night.  If it hadn't been for a kindly Information operator, I would probably still be laboring under this misconception.

Now I realize that if I leave Juneau, Alaska on Monday and fly to Tokyo, I will arrive on Tuesday.  However, if I leave Tokyo on Tuesday and fly to Juneau, I will NOT arrive on Monday, but on Sunday.  What good this does anyone, I don't know.

So now a card from Taiwan, where it is Monday (I think). Obviously, the person in the photo DID have a date for Saturday night.