Local Heart, Global Soul

May 6, 2013

An Unexpected Meal For Two almost Thai’s Us Up In Knots…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It often happens that one of our kids has a play date somewhere for a few hours but it’s fairly rare that both of them are out of the house at the same time.

If we arrange a babysitter it is because Himself and I have a special event to attend and so it’s even rarer  that we find ourselves without kids and no actual appointment to go to and a few free hours to ourselves.

Recently I took some annual leave and spent most of it organising kid stuff,  and helping out several family, friends and neighbours who required  sudden and urgent  help due to life throwing them some nasty and unexpected “curve balls” ( I use this phrase without knowing it’s exact meaning but I like the way it sounds). One suffered a cancer scare and needed an immediate operation to remove a very large tumour (luckily benign, but unluckily so large as to be interfering with other bits of anatomy and causing pain), Mother In Law had problems with her pace maker, another friend has visa issues, and we had house troubles when the electricity and computers (at different times) failed for no apparent reason.

We had fingers in pies all over the place, after-hours repair specialists in,  and extra kids all over the place, as we cooked extra meals, provided  taxi service  and baby sitting services. I’d put my back out and after my physio hammered on all the spots where it hurt, loosened up enough to walk like an 80 year old instead of a 120 year old.  (We went to see one of my Sister in Law’s in a performance and I was embarrassed to see that my 90 year old mother in law was walking faster than I was).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One weekend,  after a busy day  my sister in law phoned. They had been out  and about, were reasonably close to our place and her kids wanted our kids to visit and play, could they swing by our place and collect them for an evening  please?  The kids were already pleading for us to say yes and within half an hour we were suddenly and unexpectedly child free.

There were leftovers that  needing finishing in the fridge  but we looked at each other  and grinned: dinner out!!!  just the two of us, alone! … and preferably somewhere that didn’t  serve pizza or kid friendly food.

We instantly decided to head to the beach for dinner at one of the restaurants on the Promenade. We had tapas in mind.. or anything else that contained a ton of herbs, spices or shot of the exotic.  It was the first evening with decent weather for ages, we were still a good two kilometres from the beach when we got stuck in a traffic jam and it became clear that every man, woman and their dog had the same idea we did.

Twenty minutes later we had advanced so little down the street that I still had the same pretty building in view of my camera lens, albeit a photo in the rear view mirror instead of  from the front windscreen.  This was ridiculous.  Agreement saw us turning off into the nearest side street at the first opportunity and  high tailing it away from the hordes heading to the  beach as fast as we could.

Next came the problem of finding a restaurant … for some reason it appeared that every place we saw was Italian… we went towards the centre of town but they are digging roadworks all over the place and between my back and my foot I wasn’t  feeling like negotiating the detours and hiking to my dinner destination.

It was still very early in the evening and several places looked promising but a quick look at menu boards outside  left us less than inspired. We figured out we didn’t fancy Chinese food, or Greek or the Egyptian shawarma places.  More roadworks lead us all over the place. I’ve lived in this city for twenty years now and on this evening we drove down more streets that I’ve never been in before than I have in the last ten years in total.

We end up driving down the Laan van Meerdervoort (the longest street in the Hague) and see a restaurant by the Conradkade. More menu card reading… it’s packed outside and all the nice seats in the sunshine  have been taken by people smoking like chimneys and the menu sports mushrooms in almost every meal, a no-go for me since I’m allergic to the blighters.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are about to give up and go home to our fridge full of leftovers when Himself spies a menu board just around the corner. ” Thai Restaurant De Sampan”… hmm, sounds like just the ticket.  We go inside, it’s small and quiet so we take a seat by the window and wait to order.

Drinks are ordered and we patiently wait to be offered a menu.  Instead we receive a small plate of krupuk  (prawn crackers) and a spicy dipping sauce. Ok… we are hungry so we begin to nibble. I’m just about to ask about the whereabouts of the menu card when suddenly two bowls of soup are placed on our table.

Surprised, Himself  blurts out that “Sorry, we haven’t ordered soup and we were just waiting for the menu card please“.

Then all is revealed:  this place has no menu in the conventional sense. There is a set menu for a set price that changes every day of the week and every customer gets what’s on offer that day. The soup has mushrooms in it, we quickly explain my allergy problem and ask if  more than just the soup contains mushrooms. Luckily tonight’s menu doesn’t and they even have chicken soup without mushrooms that they bring instead.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

After the soup we are presented this the option of rice or noodles and choosing rice, receive four small bowls each that contain identical contents. Everything including the soup was spicy,  I can handle  a “reasonable” amount of heat and it was good for me most of the time. I got about three mouthfuls of chilli peppers during the meal that were distinctly  out of my comfort zone, but with an extra order of rice to help defuse the fire, I actually really enjoyed my meal.

Himself,  more seasoned when it comes to heat said only the odd mouthful was decently hot.  Dessert afterwards was very simple and refreshing: strawberries and whipped cream.

The service was very good (something not to be expected as standard in the Netherlands) and we enjoyed our relaxing meal for two very much.

I wouldn’t necessarily rate this as haute cuisine, it’s a small menu cooked decently, this is more of a place where you’d go when you want a break from cooking at home and want to  know you will enjoy  your meal, rather than a a place where you’d  plan a  really special event menu that will blow your socks off and probably has a price tag to blow your budget as well.

It’s a meal you can enjoy and leave happy rather than disappointed… true it’s Economy rather than First Class, but you definitely get your money’s worth and it’s Economy done very decently indeed.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 14, 2011

X-Porter … um… Exporting from Where?

Filed under: Beer — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I have a secret, well, more a confession. I hate the taste of beer.

The smell of beer is another thing altogether, I adore the smell and could sit a glass of the stuff beside me and just sniff  at it like an addict all day long, but try as I might I just can’t persuade myself to stomach the taste.

So, what on earth is a non-beer drinker doing making blog posts about beer?

Ah Ha, there is method in my madness as will soon be explained. Himself prefers wine, no actually he probably prefers a good single malt whiskey or cognac or a Pineau des Charantes but he also enjoys a decent beer in the right place and at the right time. (and emphasis on “decent beer” let it be noted)

Himself is even more specifically very appreciative of a very good Porter… a.k.a. Stout, or Dark Beers. Guinness is probably the most Famous name of these but there plenty of contenders for the being  the Best.

We have friends who share Himself’s passion. Andrew and Friedel are an adventurous couple who as “The Travelling Two” have recently cycled around the world for three and a half years. They know a thing or two about working up a thirst and appreciating a beer after a peddling up and down mountains and negotiating almost every type of terrain known to man.

After some 40,000 km  they’ve also probably sampled the biggest variety of beers in a greatest variety of places than most people could even start to get their head around.

After a small scale semi-regular sharing  and reviewing of various Beer ‘finds” that appeared from a specialist beer shop here in The Hague, or from the depths of our suitcases after various trips abroad, our friends have extended the group of aficionados and we aim to meet up throughout the year to Taste and Review various beers.

So, why would a non-beer drinker want to attend? Well,  we are also a group of Foodies and there is food attached to this event. We like to prepare various nibbles and dishes around a theme, and then trade recipes too.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Secondly, It’s an excuse for Himself and I to arrange babysitting and to have a evening out together with friends. Kid-free doesn’t happen very often in our house, and we keep telling ourselves to get around to doing it more often. With this event we’ve started a habit that is good for us to keep.

Thirdly: The aim of the evening is also to taste and review the beers. Clearly some of the group appreciate lighter beers, some favour the darker ones,  and obviously personal taste is everything.

I’m not just recording their comments here so that you can get an idea of what the beer tastes like, but also so that they can remember it themselves later too. After all, realistically in two years time you might remember that “ there was that beer that was FABULOUS… but which one was it again?”

Naturally having someone who is not partaking to write up the comments as they are made is also rather useful…

As “keeper of the reviews” I type out the information from the bottle label before the tasting (and sort out translations where possible). One of the group arranges the beers so knows what the group is getting and the rest of the group get served in a blind tasting so they can have no preconceived ideas based on where the beer comes from/brand etc. ( thus Andrew is the only one  knows what this beer is in this instance).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

BEER: “X-Porter” Snab, bieren met karakter
33cl
Vol.Alc. 4.5%
Cat1

Dit bier is gebrouwen bij de “proef” brouwerij te Lochchristi in opdracht en naar recept van de Stichting Noordhollandse Alternatieve Bierbrouwers.

X-Porter is een levend, niet gepasteuriseerd bovengistend bier. Gebrouwen uitsluitend uit de volgende ingredienten Goldings hop, één specerij en bovengist.  Na vervoer enkele dagen laten rusten. Kelderkoel en donker bewaren. Voorzichtig inschenken op een temperatuur van 10-14 ºC in een droog schoon glas.

Translation:

This beer is brewed by the brewery of Lochchristi commissioned by and in accordance with the recipe of the The Netherlands Foundation of Alternative Brewers

X-Porter is a living, non-pasteurized, fermented beer brewed with the following quality ingredients: Goldings hops , one spice and yeast. After transport it’s left to rest for a few days. Keep cellar cool and in the dark. Best consumed between 10-14 ºC  in a clean, dry glass.

Stichting Noordhollandse Alternatieve Bierbrouwers
Postbus 204, 1440AE Purmerend

http://www.snab.nl/

Review:
Himself:  “I think it’s a Czech beer, I like burntness of it  Rating =6” ( he’s guessed wrong btw it’s a Dutch beer)
Andrew “Surprised, pleasant , thought it would be worse, Rating =6” (he’s the only one who’s seen the label)
Friedel:  “Deeper, darker, toasted, can appreciate it’s qualities but it’s not my kind of beer. Rating=5”
Tamara ” Could be worse, could drink if it we had nothing else to drink, Rating=5″
Evan “Strong after taste, not overpowered by the salsa, Rating =7”
Li “I like it, not your usual kind of beer, goes well with snacks, nice bite at end, Rating=6”
Erik “Steaming leather, Rating=6”
Alicia “Really good, like it, Rating=7”

December 28, 2010

The dna Cafetaria and an Unexpected Local Speciality…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Evening is falling in the northern Portuguese town of Arcos de Valdevez. We have been looking around the area and stopped here for a swim in the river and a look around.

Now tummies are rumbling so we cast our thoughts away from the cooling water to searching for a place where we can eat.

Himself remembers seeing a Cafe/Restaurant  called the “dna cafetaria” at the end of the promenade type area where the jousting statues were located.

The rumbles in the kids tummies are starting to come out of their mouths in the form of sibling bickering  and any wise parent knows that in order to stop this swelling  riptide of whining, the best course of action is to stem the hunger pangs fast…so without any ado we make a bee-line for this place.

It’s still very warm, even as the daylight is fading so photos are getting hard to take, even though we are seated outside under the sun umbrellas. Little Mr. decides that this is an opportune moment in which to request a ” portrait photo-shoot”.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Little Mr. and good camera moments are based solely on the whim and mood of  a positive co-operation level, and the right moment with a camera-to-hand and that these two events converge about as often as full moons. Therefore I seize the moment and grab a ” series” of photos of him in cute pose, actually enjoying the process for the family album.

The camera battery was flashing  “Beware-I’m-getting-empty” messages as the food arrived so today I make do in this blog post with the few shots I took before the battery died on me.

Murphy’s Law was that I thought I was smart because I’d remembered to pack  the extra camera battery but I’d totally forgotten to recharge it first, so as Confucius Says: “Duh, fat lot of use that is“.

Little Mr. went for the Portuguese version of a Hot Dog,  Kiwi Daughter pleaded that since it was one of her last days in Portugal, wanted a special  treat, put her best pleading face on and scored a pancake covered in chocolate sauce, followed by a toasted sandwich with massively thick bread slices.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The sight of this instantly transported me back to my childhood when the bread we bought came only one way: the white unsliced loaf. It was a special treat for us to make what we called “door-step” sandwiches with really fresh super soft and springy bread, super fresh out of it’s paper bag wrapping …the slices cut at least double usual thickness, still warm and very bread-y smelling.

Later we moved to the city and discovered brown bread, wholemeal, ready-sliced, wrapped in plastic, seemingly “progress” but actually not necessarily completely if you look at it  hard with a keen eye.

I fancy a hamburger just a few times a year and once I spied Hamburger on the menu I decided that today was a Hamburger day…

Himself asked in Portuguese if there were any local specialties on the menu and the reply came back that “francesinha especial com batata” was such an item, so he ordered one of those.  And No… he wasn’t exactly sure what it consisted of when he ordered it, but he was due to find out.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We ate well, even if  “francesinha especial com batata” turned out to be very  impressive if  rather heavy meal, (I’m being polite) …

Reality was that it was mega-dripping with cheese , very heavy and the gravy made all the French fries soggy.

It was a somewhat similar construction to Kiwi Daughter’s toasted sandwich, but with more meat in the centre, as well as copious amounts of cheese, a fried egg on top along with yet more cheese, then the whole ensemble was drenched in  gravy and served with fries.

Phew, I feel my arteries hardening a little just typing out the description LOL.

I suppose you could call it the local heart attack experience and we quickly concluded that a) I got a better deal and that b) Himself was happy to persevere this one time, but that it would remain a one-time experience.

He wasn’t just full at the end of it, it was more of a lead weight feeling, and that night’s sleep probably wasn’t the best he had all holiday.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The kids polished off ice-creams for afters and slept in the car on the journey back to camp.

All things considered it was a good meal… and I can’t remember exactly what we paid but I do remember that it was so cheap that I thought they must have forgotten a few things off the bill… they hadn’t.   Definitely can’t say that we didn’t get value for money here, and the service was ok too.

We would come back here in a heartbeat, but Himself, valuing his heart, will likely be ordering something a tad lighter if we return. Oh well, that’s what you get for signing up for the local specialty…  a surprise, a very unforgettable experience and a good laugh.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 23, 2010

Attempting a Restaurant Review when it’s Mostly Lost in Translation.

Filed under: SPAIN — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We’ve just driven from Hebron in north-western Spain, to Padron a very short distance away.

We drive into the centre of town at midday when summer temperatures are souring and are lucky to chance upon a parking lot thats studded with established shade trees.

The centre of town turns out to be smaller than we thought, and we walk quickly into a little maze of narrow pedestrian streets.

After a short 5 minute walk we stumble on a strange ensemble of old buildings…

Imagine a very irregularly-sided small courtyard that has a myriad of tiny alleyways leading into it from every angle and direction… dotted around the courtyard are restaurants, cafe’s, bars and apartments.

Imagine that the courtyard isn’t very big, but that there is a small triangular free-standing building parked in the centre of it, with the areas around it becoming more little alleys.

That’s the best way I can think of to describe the little triangular restaurant we saw as we walked though the small streets.

A slot machine operated toy car on one side ensured that Little Mr. Stopped dead in his tracks, and the sweets machine next to it equally captivated his sister, Kiwi Daughter. They begged but didn’t get.

However, having been firmly trapped into to the marketing  ploy of a  play-car that rendered our children almost immobile and severely reluctant to move on, Himself and I  decided to pick our battles and left them to explore it in hope for a few minutes whilst we checked out the menu-board outside the restaurant a few meters away.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Looks ok…  Himself goes inside to ask if they have a table available… they do, and even better, it’s out the back, under a canopy in deep shade on the other side of the building.

We pass though the front of the building, the inside of which consists of a bar area, a few tables,  a large screen TV, and then small hallway running the length of the building that lead to the tables outside on one side, the public convenience at one end, and by the bar at the wide end of the building, a door that appeared to be to the kitchen.

It’s clear that in this tiny triangular building this is not much inside space. Still it’s blazing hot and we are delighted with our spot in the shade.

Polite inquiry reveals that the staff speak no English, so Himself’s Spanish is put on full stretch as we tackle menu translation.

I’m severely allergic to mushrooms and want to avoid any translation confusion that might mean that they are enthusiastically included in my meal instead of excluded.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It quickly becomes apparent that the single page menu is probably more basic than we thought, since we are having difficulty finding salad on the menu anyway.

We  find that “sasuages” are on the menu and think they should be a kid pleaser, that “papatas fritas” are potatoes fries, identify “pork” as the  fairly safe option when I’m  worried about meat that might arrive that the table raw enough to walk away on its own if I’m not watching, and finally, spot the Spanish Omelette to complete our order.

So, with our menu detective work duly half deducted and half guessed, at we sat wondering about exactly what we had ordered and feeling a little nervous.

The meat certainly contained more fat than I would have wished for, but I should have remembered that, having seen the abundance of dried sasuages in the supermarket in Portugal and knowing that the Spanish have more than their  fair share of local sausage specialties too.

The rest was simple and tasty… the bread was good (but not as good as Portuguese bread in my estimation) and the kids were happy… Result!

We get a scribbled hand written bill and some sign language on my part deduces that they have no business card for me to photograph or take address notes from.

Ah well, the staff were friendly in the limited way that the large language barrier allowed… our stomachs are filled for the time being and we were happy to have taken a break.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The restaurant opposite to where we are sitting… (closed, at least whilst we were there)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Inside ours towards the bar…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The place where we are…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

and finally, we head back down the narrow shady streets towards the car…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

August 31, 2010

A relationship, an affair and a death, that spawned a crush and new love…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Please sit back gently and steady thyself as Kiwidutch needs to make a confession…

After much (but probably still not enough) haggling in a shop in Singapore on a trip to Europe circa 1988… I fell in love and bought a film camera. It was a manual camera but film was expensive,  my wages were meager and shamefully I never put in the time and effort to make our relationship personal and thus never got to grips with anything other than the basic  “auto” setting.

I have to confess that I cheated on my loyal and steadfast Film camera with a younger, digital model somewhere circa  2002-2003. I don’t remember the exact dates any more but I do know that all earliest photos of Kiwi Daughter were still on film. I was however, deep into the digital relationship and besotted with a little beauty called Minolta by the time Little Mr. arrived in 2005.

Somewhere just short of Little Mr’s Second Birthday, I made a very large  and richly decorated ginger-bread house for a large family function. Table on full extension, Gingerbread centerpiece in place and ready for the mountain of food due to emerge from the kitchen, Glasses and plates lined up for Buffet “line” collection. I had pulled out all stops on the “finery” made everything beautiful, including the use of  my best  tablecloth! (big mistake).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

At one end of the room I was taking photos of the  table decorations, when suddenly on the other side, Little Mr. toddled over to table and started yanking very hard at the tablecloth.

Who knew that an almost two year old could pull plates, glasses, cutlery and a massive gingerbread house with such alarming speed towards a table edge? Not just the loss of the items but more worrying,  but also that a lot of it was destined to land on top of him…

I screamed “Noooooooo….” put the camera on the nearest chair and ran to save child and worldly goods… The glassware had surely reached the point of no return and was teetering severely on the edge,  but gravity appeared to have taken a deep breath and a day off and everything hung almost suspended as I snatched boy away and spread out my arms along the table edge in both directions to act as a ledge, as as I did that things started to topple over and rest against my arms. It was in that stance that Himself found me as he ran frantically into the room in response to my screams…

He started frantically grabbing glasses that were laying across my arms before they hit the floor, whist Kiwi Daughter helped save cutlery and plates and the gingerbread house. Just as the last items were being rescued both Himself and I heard an excited chortle from Little Mr. and turned simultaneously  in time to see him raise my camera above his head, look at it in wonder and then drop it on the wooden floor. It grieved me greatly to witness Miss Minolta’s sudden death, but I’m relieved to say it was swift and she suffered not.

The Post mortum revealed that the lens and general functions were reasonably intact and could be fixed, with effort, but that her life giving battery compartment and circuitry in her bowels were damaged beyond repair and not even specialist Minolta surgeons could resurrect her.

Whilst I morned her passing, Himself dashed next day to the shops and presented me with a new and amusing companion called Nikon CoolPix S4, a dandy of a camera with a great capacity for zoom, and clear eye.  Miss Nikon was a beauty and I was soon in Love, but her one limitation was that I never knew how long it would take her to eat the two AA batteries that she required with alarming regularity.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Sometimes a meal of two AA’s would last for well over 400 photos, and at other times I would have taken just 50 shots before she flashed angry red messages at me and demands of ” Battery!!!”.

I bought ridiculously expensive batteries to keep her happy… sometime she was amused and granted many photos, more often than not, she did not. I bought cheap batteries as well, but her greed continued and as her consumption mounted,  my Green conscience poked me harder and harder, I was forced to take steps to revise our relationship.

I tried to break the news to her gently: Due to her needy attitude to AA batteries she was to become the Mistress in the corner, to be visited once in a while, but no longer as the primary love of my digital life.

She appears to have taken it well and seems to like to occasional outing she gets.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Her replacement was a Fijifilm Finepix: a slim youthful point and shoot… she too had a clear eye, enjoyed travel and could slip into the smallest pocket with ease. She has nestled in my handbag or in my jacket pocket on many a walk, and travelled around the world, up hill and down dale, through forests, dust bowls, sea sprays, rain-forests, wilds, towns ancient and modern and I have loved her almost to pieces. I have however  discovered that she has one dirty little secret: her zoom is not the brilliance that it first appeared to have been in the shop when she was showing off her talents.

Miss Fuji has served me well… but there are signs of ill health as she gets elderly.. her zoom button is now stiff and takes several tries before it will respond, and several times of late her lens cover has only opened with difficulty. The writing has been on the wall for some time. She is due for a short visit back to the place of her birth, or at least with a specialist Fuji doctor within Europe who I hope will be able to give her an overhaul, fix her infirmities and restore her to good health once more.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Two weeks ago, Kiwi daughter bought her first camera and whilst with her in the shop I acted on a crush that has been with me for almost three years now: and bought a digital single reflex camera (DSLR). Her name is Canon EOS 500D (a.k.a. in North America as the Canon EOS Rebel T2i).

She is enigmatic and has what appears to be a complicated character… I can already see that I will have to get to know her slowly, to get used to her habits and be patient whilst together we  find the best way to make happy images together. Instantly her perception of colour is apparent, and if I could only tame both her and myself to  be a little more consistent, her focus is sharp and I can see amazing potential in this relationship.

This my friends, is no one-night stand, no casual fling, but a relationship to be fostered and nurtured… Miss Canon and I might only be acquaintances for now, but I see ahead a journey of soul-mates , who together in time will learn to make poetry in colour, composition and will leave memories of our lives together from this point onwards …

First, however, very small steps towards intimacy, we have only just met, after all…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 25, 2010

Embroidered Flowers For Elizabeth, a very crafty book Review…

Filed under: Craft — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Yesterday I received the book in the post that I won in a random draw of new forum members of the Australian stitching company and publisher, Country Bumpkin.

My winning book is called “Embroidered Flowers for Elizabeth” and  is signed by the author Susan O’Connor.

The “Elizabeth” of the title is the English Queen Elizabeth I, and the book depicts flowers in the theme and style that can be found in Elizabethan embroidery.

The Elizabethan era is characterized as a time that enjoyed efficient, stable government largely due to the reforms put in place by Henry’s VII and VIII, and together with successful overseas expansion this era enjoyed an increase of wealth comparative to the era preceding it.

Poetry and music flourished, and whilst leisure time was still rather limited for the masses, festive days were a chance for those who had established some wealth to show off their finery.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Elizabethan and Tudor portraits by notable painters such as Hans Holbein the Younger, Anthony van Dyck and Nicolas Hilliard show richly decorated garments embellished with embroideries, Blackwork, jewelery, fine laces, silver and gold threads, and featuring floral themes as well as insects, birds and fruits.

In the book there is a concise, albeit short historical background, (naturally these are not great volumes of historical information available on embroidery existing at this time in history) and at the beginning of the book (photograph on Page 8, and pictures in the photo at right) showing Margaret Layton’s linen jacket, embroidered with silk circa 1610, an exceptionally beautiful  and very rare surviving specimen of Elizabethan clothing that is an amazing inspiration for any stitcher in itself…

This book continues the A-Z style of instructional diagrams, complete with clear and concise photographs that illustrate each stage of the stitch so that even a beginner could master the technique displayed.

Certainly some stitching experience would be an advantage, so that tension and evenness of the stitching could be maximized in the final stitched result, but I am also sure that with the aid of the photographic sequences, that any determined beginner could also achieve a very acceptable result.

One nice feature of this book is that Susan gives instructions to complete an embroidered blanket, where each of the elements in the book can be put harmoniously together to form a single project…

…but that if the entire project is too big for what the stitcher requires, then each of the parts can easily be used to make a separate, smaller project, ideal for decorating household items, clothes or as a framed piece.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

When I saw the colour code for the yarn used, I had a small panic because I knew that Paternayan Wool Yarn would be next to impossible to find here in The Netherlands, but that’s been thought of too and Page 73 of the book features a tread conversion chart not only Paternayan Wool to DMC stranded cotton, but also to Au Ver à Soie, Soie d’Alger , a beautiful French Silk thread.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One small improvement that I can see and might suggest could be that for instance on Page20-21 where the stitching directions for the Poppy are given, it might have been nice to have the poppy bud stitching directions also in the step-by-step photograph instructional diagrams instead of solely in written text.

For people like me who have a good knowledge of basic embroidery stitches but who have not ever put the stitches together to make a flower like this, and with no possibility of a local class or someone to show me in person, the maxim of “ a picture tells a thousand words” would indeed be helpful as I take my first tentative steps alone into this kind of stitching.

Don’t get me wrong, there are step by step photographic directions for the petals of the Poppy on Page 22, but the bud is more complicated (or appears so, with regards to the positioning of the satin stitch) and there are no step by steps for that. Seeing the entire Poppy project depicted from beginning to end would give beginners like me in this work a little (OK, a lot) more confidence.

Wonderfully detailed photographs both aid and inspire the stitcher…

Thank you Country Bumpkin for a beautiful book… now all I have to do is try and decide where to start…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

All in all, this is a wonderful book, if there were additional step by step photographs showing how the all the flowers were built up in their layers were available for every component of the project, then for me at least,  it would be a perfect book.

My rating for this book would be 8/10 as I read it though… and possibly more, but I’ll have to stitch something out of it first to really test how well a beginner can follow the instructions as they are set out.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Watch this space for a future stitching updates on this post.

Embroidered Flowers for Elizabeth // Author: Susan O’Connor // ISBN 978-0-9805753-4-7

Published in Australia  by Inspirations Books // Country Bumpkin Publications, Australia.

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