Thursday, 17 December 2009
It's been lovely so far, and although hard work, just being in such close contact with the soul of such an old old house is a privilege and a gift: every time I touch its stone walls or scrape tiny bits of new plaster off the layers of paint underneath it, I feel how brief our human time-span is compared with the work of human hands. So being one of those who are passing through this building, I am trying to do minimal damage, so as to leave it healthy for the generations that will come after us.
(For the history of this house and the steps in our reconstruction of it, see previous posts under 'riverside house' label)
Friday, 11 December 2009
The biscuits below are truly scrumptious, and don't take too long to prepare:
Honey sunflower cookies
250g plain flour
250g runny honey (genuine bees' honey)
50g icing sugar
2teaspoons ground cinnamon
half a teaspoon freshly grated ginger
grated lemon rind
2 desertspoons sugar
Knead together the ingredients by hand.
Roll out the pastry, cut out circles, put a spoonful of filling on each of the pastry circle.
Bake pastry and filling together.
Best to keep all the ingredients at room temperature - if cold, could curdle.
And just for fun, have a look at the next photo: would you believe all these biscuits are actually not edible, but croche'd ??? They are made by a local woman: just shows how people here still take their Christmas seriously, and how they are prepared to devote time and energy to prepare for it :-)
Saturday, 28 November 2009
So I thought I'd add a few more, and send them into the aether. (For those who might have landed on this page from the search engine, there are quite a few other recipes in the blog, from last December - search label Christmas biscuits).
these biscuits (see arrow) need two essentials: round dry sponge biscuits, and small metal, plastic or wooden forms - both are easily obtained in the Czech republic, but you may need to improvise to create your own version:
Mix all together into thick paste and leave to rest. Then dust the forms with sugar and fill them with the paste. Make hollows in the paste and fill them with cream filling. Seal the filled 'nest' with a sponge biscuit. When the biscuit is nicely set and won't pull off easily, turn the nests over.
2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp sugar, vanilla sugar to taste, 1 egg yolk, rum
Chocolate nut baskets
300g flour, 150-200g butter, 100g icing sugar, 1 whole egg, 1 yolk, 1/2pack raising agent.
150g digestive or other biscuits, ground, 200g nuts, 1 vanilla sugar, 2 tsps rum or brandy, 300ml milk
Chocolate icing, nuts
1/ Mix together all the pastry ingredients, work into pastry and leave in fridge till the next day. 2/ Mix together filling ingredients apart from milk. Then boil the milk and add the rest of the ingredients, boiling for a little while to form thick paste. 3/ Fill suitable small baking forms with the pastry and bake till golden. 4/ Fill cooled pastry baskets with the filling, and decorate.
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Which means that mornings are cold, there is frost on the ground, and mist sits motionless on the surface of the lake - only to lift with the sunshine, revealing the water surface with not a ripple, like a mirror.
One can sit on the little beach for hours because the place is SO quiet and SO motionless that time seems to disappear altogether...
Meanwhile the roof is almost finished - we are re-using the old tiles, not only because it's cheaper but mainly because I couldn't bear the thought of something spanking new on the old house - it still feels a bit weird with new gutters etc, but it will age soon, I am sure. The garden is still a tip no matter how hard I keep cleaning and tidying after the builders, and works are progressing too slowly for my liking - the facade needs doing sorely, and so does the outhouse, and the new gable end needs its studio window - but the budget is spent so this is almost it for the moment. A final tidy, away with plastic sheeting, and that'll have to do for now. But at least I know when the snows come in all seriousness, the house will be snug and safe.
Monday, 9 November 2009
Saturday, 7 November 2009
Thursday, 29 October 2009
We sat in equal reverence, gazing into the water so clear that you could hardly see it. And we drank - to our health.
Saturday, 24 October 2009
The studio makes all kinds of glass objects, from intricate beads to vases and glasses, to wonderful sculptures. But today we were treated to a brilliant 'performance' by an extraordinarily skilled glass blower. There in front of our eyes came to life birds, shells, and other fabulous creations, seemingly by a flick of a hand, a small touch of a tool, a little puff of breath. I've seen the work of glass artists on film before but nothing compares to the real thing, complete with the heat from the furnace and the scent of the fire.
Czech republic is renowned for its glass, a tradition going back centuries - but most of the well known glass comes from North Bohemia. Not so well known is the fact that Sumava, in the South, also has a rich tradition in glass-making. Here they made what is known as 'forest glass' for example: green-tinged, bubbly stuff, intricately decorated, mostly made during the renaissance and baroque periods (bot perhaps more on the history at some other time).
At lunchtime the owners prepared a veritable feast - you can see on the photo a rusty kind of object which is in fact an outdoor spit-oven: in it was a whole lamb, and there were masses of side dishes and sweet delicacies to go with it. And beer on tap, of course :-)
And then the visitors were able to have a go too. What a treat! Of course this was a special day, but I found out that one can book a whole day for a small group where you can have a go at making glass objects by various methods, and come back the next day to collect the results of your effort - so I am sure I'll be back again: this is a kind of activity that could get addictive....
Thursday, 15 October 2009
And so our own town, Cesky Krumlov, is full of the topic today: the new airport is 15-20 minutes from here. Up till now it only accommodated small planes, but now it will be able to serve planes such as Boeing 737 or Airbus A320. The airport will serve 300,000 passengers a year to start with, and half the money for the essential new terminal and all the other associated buildings and equipment is coming from the EU.
What will this mean for our small, cosy British 'colony' here? Will Ryanair or their like be jumping in to bring a similar wave of British second-home seekers that seems to have sprung up around practically all the cheap European destinations? Might the Brits go for the pretty farmhouses before the prices rocket, might they want a piece of Cesky Krumlov, or seek out the romantic huts in the woods? Well, perhaps not: with the current crisis it could just mean a huge influx of beer-lovers going for boozy stag-nights at Ceske Budejovice's huge Budvar brewery :-)
We'll have to see: whatever happens, the airport is here to come - and stay.
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
even with its provisional old bits of furniture, and, joy of joys, the bathroom is warm and we don't have to use the outside loo any more :-) There still a lot of decorating to be done and much detail to be tidied up, but after all the months of rubble and mess, it's lovely to be able to make tea and wash up and curl up and feel that the house is beginning to feel like a house at last.... even if the outside still looks so terribly sorry for itself - poor old house!
Well, now the roof covering is off - of course as Fate would have it, the weather turned nasty just as the joiners arrived to work on replacing rotten timbers etc, and raising one of the gable ends. Water is getting into the house despite the plastic covering sheets... now it's even starting to snow, so I need lots of crossed fingers to see us through this moment.
Monday, 12 October 2009
This is because it became the home of a British gallerist, Nicholas Treadwell, who moved his famous British gallery here, of all places - into the back of beyond, where he bought the historic Aigen courthouse and town jail, painted it all pink, inside and outside, and voila!, filled it with his collection of paintings and sculptures in what he calls a 'superhumanist' style. His large, fabulous collection ranges from meticulously over-realistic humans, usually in a state of some surprise or torment, to funny, joky, super-colourful views of life as his artists would see it - mostly again with a thorn in the joke somewhere.
Nicholas Treadwell himself is a charismatic man who clearly loves his life in art, and the artists he represents. Besides art, he indulges in theatre and plays music, an iconoclastic figure who proudly puts on his advertising leaflets a quote from a Guardian critic:
'Nicholas Treadwell has done for fine art, what McDonald has done for haute cuisine'.
If you have a few days in Cesky Krumlov, do take a trip there: it only takes half an hour or so. You drive to the Lipno lake and take a delightful ferry ride, and then on through a deep dark forest (empty of humans or dwellings, as this used to be the 'no-man's land' of the ex-Iron Curtain), descending into Aigen which in itself is worth a trip for its Austrian chocolate-box pretty-ness. How apt for the bad taste which Treadwell so loves :-)
When we got there, we were greeted by the man himself, dressed and coiffured in pink, and although there were only three of us, we were given a 2-hr tour with so much information, detail and anecdotes, that it felt like a huge privilege, a true 'insider' view that you simply don't get anywhere else. Certainly not at the immensely boring and stuck-up, grant-fat Egon Shiele centre gallery in Cesky Krumlov!
More on Nicholas Treadwell and his gallery here: take a look.
Monday, 29 June 2009
Potok, I, and a builder were driving through a forest miles from any human habitation when something small and furry crossed the tarmac, making us screech to a halt. The macho builder immediately opened his door and ran to get it. And this is it: a tiny baby kitten, which I of course couldn't leave there - it was looking pathetic, it was shaking and I suppose it wouldn't have survived for much longer. Someone must have dumped it there as I don't see how it could have wandered off so far, let alone not have been eaten by the martens or foxes or one of the many birds of prey that live here.
Well, life is pretty complicated this year for us, and even such a small addition adds a lot to it nevertheless. Luckily the kitten is a survivor: she quickly learned how to lap up kitten milk from a saucer, soon understood about the dirt box, and already by the second day she was playing around with everything and anything. But we worried about our resident 3year old cat: would he accept this little intruder?
Wasn't easy at first! When he came in during the night as he always does, just before dawn, he found the kitten sleeping on our bed - well, HIS bed as far as he was concerned. After some low growling, he left, disgusted. But a few days later they were friends - due to the kitten's persistence in initiating the friendship. Well, now there's a lot of hide and seek, chases and rough play going around now (so much so that I sometimes wonder how the kitten survives), but as you can see, the older one is probably quite pleased to have his little friend - even though he still prefers to be out and about most of the time.The rest of the time, then, the kitten takes up MY time - it's hard to get anything done with this small being needing so much play and attention. Even now she's curled up on my lap as I write. But at least, for the moment now, I don't have to leap about playing games with her, like I am asked to do at any time when she is not sleeping.
Sunday, 28 June 2009
I've written two exhaustive posts about the festival last year, see
Krumlov - British Expats: The Five-petalled Rose
so rather than repeating myself, this time I shall just post a few pics from the market which you can (obviously) see by clicking onto them.