Friday, October 28, 2011

Success Creates Happiness

I wasn’t buying it: success has nothing to do with happiness. You, yourself, need to be prepared to be happy from inside. That is how it works. Outward circumstances have nothing to do with it.
Not so! It has gradually become abundantly clear to me that success indeed does lead to a stronger feeling of well-being.
When I got the job I had hoped for, I jumped in the air. When the children tell us good news, I glow contentedly. And now that I am about to publish a novel, I am ecstatic! I am!
All I need to do to get in a good mood is to think about the story I wrote, about what the cover looks like, about how it feels to hold the actual paperback proof in my hands.
Sorry, I was all wrong, and the psychologists were right: success does lead to an intense feeling of bliss!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gooey Chocolate Cake

S. started a cookbook series many years ago: a notebook in which we and our guests would write our favourite recipes, and the dishes that were created on the spur of the moment.
This blog has already seen many of them.
Our guests from the house swap left us this wonderful chocolate cake; not difficult to make, and a winner!

125 gr. really dark chocolate;
125 gr. butter;
3 eggs;
100 gr. sugar;
100 gr. flour;
1 tsp. baking powder.

1. Melt chocolate and butter -- let it cool to room temperature;
2. Beat eggs and sugar till pale and thick;
3. Fold in sifted flour and baking powder;
4. Fold in chocolate and butter mixture;
5. Pour into greased (and lined) loose bottom tin;
6. Bake at 220 C. for 12-14 minutes. It should just be set on top;
7. Chill in fridge until completely cold;
8. Carefully turn upside down onto cooking tray and remove baking tin;
9. Put plate on bottom of cake, turn upside down (holding on to plate), dust with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream.

Don't think I put this on my blog for your sake. O no! I want to be able to make it back home, and this is the easiest way to transport it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Drying the Laundry

I can see why people want driers. But they miss out on so much laundry folklore!

This morning we woke up to a misty dawn that turned into a clear sky. At breakfast we decided on 2 things: to go for a good walk in the morning, and to load the washer. The walk was lovely through the crisp, warming autumn air.

When we arrived home I hung the washing in the sun. However, clouds were gathering overhead, and within an hour it was pouring with rain. Not for long, but enough to soak the clothes in the line. This continued all afternoon: warm, bright sun and showers.

It seems a big price for refusing to move into the twenty-first century. But I know: tomorrow will be a better day, and everything will be dry eventually.

And no drier can beat the smell of clothes-line dried coarse linen sheets on a bed at night.

Absolutely nothing!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The First Day

The first day after arrival
we are always so eager.
Off to the market
to stock up
on honey, butter, vegetables,
fresh walnuts.
Eager for the smells,
the silver mist over the fields,
the apple trees laden down.

At home
we hardly have time for coffee,
but we make it to go
with the boule de meringue that we bought.
Grass needs to be mown and
there is lots of weeding to be done.
Look! We have a crop of raspberries,
and the first fig ever!
The grapes are succulent and sweet,
and the lettuces have not been frozen over.
How lucky we are!
So lucky to be here in the cool, warming air,
the pale light against the house,
the dog lying on the sunny terrace,
the cat strutting through the tall stalks of grass.

The first day is never long enough,
never ending.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Raasdonders met Spek en Uien

Toen de regen raasde, en ik kleddernat door de stad fietste kreeg ik een groot verlangen naar kapucijners met spek en uien. Het was te kort dag om de kapucijners een nacht te weken, en dan te koken. Dat is nog het allerlekkerste, maar dit deed het ook heel best:

Laat gerookte spekblokjes uitbakken in een braadpan.
Schep ze eruit als ze krokant zijn, en al flink wat vet hebben uitgezweten.
Voeg wat (olijf)olie toe, en fruit er een paar uien in ringen in.
Als ze wat aangebakken zijn, deksel op de pan en zachtjes gaar stoven.
Uitgelekte kapucijners erbij, en de spekblokjes. Goed doorwarmen.
Serveren met stroop en een enorme salade.

O, o, wat is dat smullen!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Getting inside a Character

I had a manuscript on the shelf that I decided to rewrite. The plot was there, and the characters, but the whole was not very exciting. So I started tackling it. Not an easy job, but I’m gradually getting my teeth into it.

My colleague writers have had a few bits, and made suggestions. One of them was to turn the third person narrative into a first person narrative. Good point!

But less easy than it seems. It is not a matter of find and replace she => I, and adjusting the grammar. Then turning past tense into present tense. I now really need to get inside her head.

In a narrative you can write: “While she was mopping the kitchen floor, the telephone rang. She stood with the mop in her hands trying to decide whether to answer it.”

Inside one’s head it doesn’t happen that way. “I have filled the bucket with soapy water. The chairs are sitting upside down on the table. I have rolled up my sleeves, ready to dip the mop into the suds. Damn! There is the telephone ringing. Shall I let it go? It might be John. No, he wouldn’t call me at this hour. My hands are wet. I won’t make it anyhow. There, it has stopped. Damn!”

This is a silly example. I cannot think of a better one right now. I just want to illustrate that occurrences inside one’s brain don’t follow a logic of sequence. They happen simultaneously, and in a jumble.

It calls for a lot of rewriting.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Apple Crumble

Apple Season. This year is going to be a record in yield. More apples than ever. So what to do?

This is the simplest way to deal with them:

Melt butter (50 grams, or rather 75? I don't know) in a ovenproof bowl at 180 degrees. Metal of stoneware. In the meantime peel and slice apples into a pie dish. You may mix in some cinnamon and honey.
When the butter has melted add equal amounts of flour and sugar, a tablespoon at the time, until the dough has a crumbly consistency. Mix in some cinnamon.
Spread over the apples and bake in the now preheated oven until golden.
Serve with crème fraîche, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.