Wednesday, 29 July 2015

11 questions and their answers

My friend over at the beautiful Almond Valley sent me 11 rather summery questions. I've done this before (with different questions) and it was a lot of fun fun, so a big Thank you to Susanna for remembering my blog, and let's move on to the questions.

1. The most beautiful thing you've seen/experienced today?
I saw many beautiful things today, but I'm going to go with this one:

2. Your favourite ice-cream flavour this summer?
You want me to write an essay, do you? ;) Ah, as if I could choose only one… If you've been reading this blog, you have some idea of how much I love chocolate, so, naturally, I love just about any chocolate ice-cream. My current favourite, though, is “mudcake” - a dark chocolate ice-cream with chocolate sauce, chocolate shavings and brownie bits. However, I'm also extremely fond of ice-cream and caramel combination. Another current favourite is Creme Brule, which includes plenty of caramel (caramel sauce and toffee bits). It's very sweet, but, oh, so delicious! (The picture below is of my favourite... okay, one of them... flavour from last summer: an ice-cream cone with chocolate and caramel! Unfrotunately, I haven't been able to find them anywhere this summer. But then, that gives me an opportunity to try other flavours!)

3. Do you have a pet?
I kind of have two. One of them is big and hairy, the other small, noisy and very energetic. I must feed them regularly, clean up after them and play with them for they want plenty of attention. That's the answer I give my daughter when she asks why we don't have a pet. She and her father keep me busy, I don't need any more creatures to take care of.

4. Which country would you want to visit?
There's something interesting/worth seeing in just about anywhere. That makes me terrible at choosing holiday destinations – I have no favourites, no particular “must see” places. On the other hand, just about any place is fine with me, because I'm convinced it's going to be interesting.

5. Your healthiest treat?
Can I write about ice-cream again? ;) I absolutely love berries and fruits, so for me they count as a treat, and they're pretty healthy. That's one of the reasons I love summer: strawberries, cherries, nectarines… But other than those… dark chocolate, obviously! ;) Or these little treats I sometimes make.

6. When's the last time you sent someone a hand-written letter?
I'm afraid it's been so long I can't even remember! I used to write a lot of letters (and I mean a lot), but things have changed... I just don't have the time any more, and emails are so convenient. I am aware that it is not the same thing, though.

7. What makes you smile when you think about the summer holiday?
A thought of warm, sunny days (not that we've seen many of those this summer!) when there is plenty of time and little to do. Just sitting on the jetty, maybe reading, watching the lake and the sky and the birds and dreaming away.

8. Summer place or a holiday abroad?
Well, a holiday abroad is always an adventure and I love seeing new places. Then again, my family's summer place is very dear to me. On an island – by a lake and near a forest – it is a very quiet place, and the one constant place in my life. Before I met my DH I used to spend time alone there. No phones, no TV, no other people for a couple of weeks. A hermit's paradise!

9. Have you grown any new flowers this summer?
I'm afraid I don't grow any flowers, ever. I'm not much of a gardener. Our little yard has simply adopted a style best characterised as “Bohemian wilderness”… if I were to grow something, it would likely be some herbs or, I don't know, carrots? No, an apple tree!

10. Have you ever written poetry?
Do pathetic adolescent ramblings count? :P Hmm. I used to have a habit of sometimes writing a diary entry in a form that looks like poetry (short lines etc.) but that was just how certain thoughts/feelings/moods appeared to me rather than any conscious effort to write poetry. It was fun though. One of the stories I once wrote required me to experiment with poetry (since one of the main characters is a poet), and that was a tough challenge.

11. If you could thank the universe for one thing today, what would that be?
I'd just give thanks for another lovely day.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Review: Goddess by Kelly Gardiner

Now, I’ll confess that, growing up, I was a huge “The Three Musketeers” fan. I loved the books and read them over and over, laughing out loud at the most amusing parts. Therefore, while I have many other favourite historical eras, there’s just something about the 17th century France and romantic swashbuckling adventures that intrigues me. If you know me at all, you’ll know I also admire women with weapons... so when I first heard about Kelly Gardiner’s “Goddess”, I knew I had to read it.

“Goddess” is a story of Julie d’Aubigny, aka La Maupin, a 17th century swordswoman and a famous opera singer. She received an upbringing of a page, had various lovers, caused numerous scandals, fought duels (she was once challenged by three noblemen – for kissing a lady in a ballroom – and she beat them all), entered a convent only to be with her beloved and to elope with her, a deed for which she was condemned to death by fire... I could go on, but you get the idea: there’s more than enough material for a novel there.

The novel starts with Julie d’Aubigny confessing her sins to a priest on her deathbed. I was somewhat disappointed by this narrative device – it’s not exactly new and it deprives the story of some suspense (obviously; we know how it’s going to end). However, it does give the narrative a certain feel of doom, of tragedy.

And I’d bet Gardiner did that on purpose. La Maupin is an opera star, a diva. She compares life to a performance, a show. And the reader never forgets that. Her voice is dramatic and theatrical; her story certainly doesn’t lack in striking, intriguing events – and, knowing the outcome, the reader can’t escape the feeling that she is watching a tragedy. In addition, the story has been divided into acts and scenes rather than traditional chapters. Every other scene (“Recitative”) was narrated by Julie in first person, while every other scene (titled “A duet”, “The Ballet”, “Ensemble” etc.) employed a third person narrator.

These are interesting choices from the author, but unfortunately they made me feel like I was an audience: I was watching a performance rather than truly suffering and exulting and despairing and falling in love with Julie. That’s a pity, for she has so much potential to be an unforgettable heroine. She is bold, she is brave, she is confident, she is passionate, she is formidable – and fragile. Her vulnerability, though there, didn’t come through very well; perhaps that was a part of her act (show must go on), but I can’t help feeling that she might have made a more likeable heroine, had we seen more of that side of her.

Gardiner has clearly done a tremendous amount of research, even tracking down La Maupin’s opera performances etc. However, the stage setting leaves something to hope for. A little more historical detail would have easily fixed that.

I particularly enjoyed the author’s notes – the records concerning Julie d’Aubigny’s life are many and varied, yet there is much we don’t know about her. That makes her even more intriguing.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Summer reading

Well, no. I don't have specific summer reads, if by that one means that one reads a particular genre or certain types of books during the summer. I don't have beach books, either, because I don't go to the beach. This reminds me of a little anecdote... way back when I was much younger, a friend and I went on a holiday in Greece. It was supposed to be a sun and parties kind of holiday... when we arrived at the hotel, the first thing I unpacked was a huge, thick volume (volume one of two, English edition) of Les Miserables. You should've seen my friend's face! :D

But in general, I read whatever I happen to feel like, and the weather or the season has little to do with that. Holiday reads are another matter, however... and if you have a favourite summer read, please go ahead and leave a comment, I would love to hear about it. :)

Anyway, it being summer (= mostly wet and cold) and me feeling too lazy to actually write a blog post, I've decided to simply post a couple of reading pictures.

When glancing up from the book:

Those were the few warm, sunny days we've had so far... more often it's been like this:

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Turku Medieval Fair 2015

Last weekend, my DH and I spent a mini holiday in Turku, travelling back to the Medieval times. The fair was a lot of fun, as always - we've been going there for nearly a decade now, but enjoy it immensely every time. A small collection of pictures follows...

 A meal at Viking tavern Harald is always a must...

...and these cunning Vikings seem to have invented chocolate cake! :D

The fair features many merchants...

... and music...



... and provides the visitors with random romantic moments.