Wednesday, 29 October 2008

I'm Contagious!

I was telling Bill the other day I felt more and more a part of the sewing group, which is lovely. They are a bunch of really nice women ladies (their preferred name) and they do seem to be taking to me, in spite of the fact that they think (know?) I'm bonkers. They figured that out out when I began collecting the shavings from the overlock machine, the bits of fabric they cut off trousers, skirts and curtains and basically any leftover from their fabric or yarn crafts. They thought that was pretty hilarious, but when I showed them that I did actually use it, they decided I was merely eccentric and probably harmless; they've even been contributing bits and pieces! ( I'll show you what I do with it one day soon.)

Dorothy brought some sheer fabrics a couple of weeks ago to show me how to make little drawstring bags and also some odds and ends of novelty yarns. Norma has taken to bringing me hangers from the dry cleaned priests' robes she picks up and gave me a huge cone of royal blue thread/yarn. Ruby brought me some 'funky fur' yarn, leftover from a completed project.

What I was really pleased about was that yesterday Dorothy said she decided to 'do a Shelley', referring to her idea of taking a big square scarf that she didn't wear and make it into smaller scarves that she would use (and then she gave me the left over scraps). It was a gorgeous black and white print in a very silk-like, if not actual silk, fabric and everyone was pleased with her results. She used the border print to make a long narrow scarf (with a seam at the back of the neck) and make the middle portion into a wider rectangular shape. Dorothy tends to wear silk scarves as mufflers rather than bulkier knitted ones, so I know she will get a lot of use out of these scarves. She has just the right shade of black-and-white / grey hair as well, to go with the black and white print.


Nearly every one of these ladies is at least 20 years older than I and any one of them has forgotten more about sewing and crafting than I will ever know. Still, I now feel as though I'm making my own little contribution to the group, and that's why I feel I belong.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Remember Twiggy?


These days Tuesday nights find me in front of the TV, which is not like me at alll. What's on? Twiggy's Frock Exchange, that's what, and it's a real hoot. I stumbled onto it by accident a couple of weeks ago and I'm going to miss it when it's gone. What constitutes a 'season' of a British TV show apparently varies a great deal and, from my limited tolerance of the TV programming here, tends to be very short.

Anyhow, the format consists of something like 100 women (probably ones with money) being invited and they have to each bring several items of clothing they are willing to swap -- only they call it swishing. A weird name, I know. The women mill around looking at each other's clothing or hanging out in white toweling robes, occasionally disappearing behind screens with each other to exchange outfits.

In addition to Twiggy there are other personalities I don't recognise, but I've looked them up for you. One is Lauren Laverne, a TV presenter from this neck of the woods I found out. Another main person is Paula Kirkwood from TRAIDremade, based in London (of course). It's very much about eco-friendly fashion, which I'm all in favour of. They usually find something really special that's been brought, like an Yves St Laurent suit, and have several women try it on to see who gets to keep it. They generally have an older lady (anywhere from 50s to 70's I gather) that they highlight and make sure she finds something wonderful. They also have some sort of celebrity visit and donate something, (generally pop personalities that I'm not sure you'd know about in the US and I can't be bother to look up), which several women try on and model to find a new owner.

One of my favourite parts is where they take some amazingly hideous outfit from the 80's and transform it into something modern -- not necessarily something I would wear, mind, but something really new and trendy and I'm so impressed with the vision they have to see how to remake the old into the new. You can watch videos at the link I've put in at the top. I've even got the ladies from the sewing circle to watching the show!

The first time I saw it, the programme that followed was about all the tailors on Saville Row in London and it showed a lot about how men's suits have been made over the decades. There was a clip showing Fred Astaire dancing in a Saville Row tux and Roger Moore (one of the James Bond's) and Michael Caine (very well dressed in the Italian Job, one of Bill's favourite movies) were on talking about the good old days.
Paul Smith, a British designer who is big in Japan, was also featured.

Last week the programme that followed Twiggy was about British Rebel Designers, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. One of my favourite blogs, The Thoughtful Dresser, picked up on this programme as well so I felt I was in really good company. Whatever you think about their designs, I was fascinated by the catwalk shows that the programme featured (video in the previous link). I think of it more as art than clothing. That said, Jane and I did actually visit Westwood's store in Newcastle and found that the clothes were really lovely; unexpected, but really nice. These designers have made huge money, so their real clothes must be somewhat different to the shows.

I'm really looking forward to watching again tonight! The funny thing is, I live in jeans, sneaks and cardigans -- the quintessential little old lady, but I can dream, can't I?
(And wouldn't you know, Twiggy still looks great, even holding her own with the younger models in the Marks & Spencer's department store ads)

Monday, 27 October 2008

Let Them Eat (Carrot) Cake


Photo carefully constructed to show remaining half, the first half having disappeared within 24 hours (and I'm not the one with the sweet tooth). It looks a bit well done, but I promise it tastes just fine!

I bought too many carrots and needed to use some up. A few got steamed and frozen, others went into a rice dish for dinner, a few others into soup for lunch. Bill keeps hinting that the cake is contributing to his healthy intake of vegetables. Does that sound right to you? On the other hand, he did paint the front porch and put in a new floor, paint the back porch floor and he's just pulled up the carpet in the bathroom to explore the possibilities there...

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Allotment Envy

We're on a waiting list for an allotment, have been for 13 months now. When I checked on it last month they said the average waiting time for an allotment was 2 years. George from down the street says it's more like 3 years.

I pass this allotment often and spy through the fence to see what's growing and how. It's a little shanty-town of greenhouses and sheds with a streak of self-sufficiency going on there.



I'm always impressed at what packrats allotment gardeners are and how well they reuse things for other purposes, which I think is a big part of the fun in an allotment!



CDs and cassette/video tape can be used as bird-scarers


glass jars as mini-cloches


old windows and doors to build greenhouses.


They collect water off the roofs of their sheds.


Sometimes very substantial sheds



Create neat paths and planting beds



I was amazed at this very raised bed!


There is always a sitting place of some kind, something we never got around to doing.





But sometimes I do wonder if they just hoard wood for the fires they are allowed to burn on Saturdays and Thursdays. I suspect there is a bit of pyromania going on there as well.





I think my gardening skills must be improving because I recognised some of the plants on sight (don't laugh!). Like leeks

and chard,

pumpkin


pumpkin???


Brussel sprouts

and rhubarb

These people could get together

and make some terrific salsa.


I did have to ask Bill what this was...giant chard, apparently!



Of course, it is also a time of starting over and in many cases the new allotment user has to kill off the weeds left by the last user before they can begin planting.


Bill says there are more women and families doing allotment gardening now, where once it was the refuge of retired working class men, escaping from the wives at home. There does seem to be more flowers than there used to be; allotment gardening is definitely becoming 'middle class'.


Some of it looks almost industrial in scale, though the rules in this local authority are that the space is to be used mostly for growing food for personal consumption, not for sale. Allotments are a good size -- Bill estimates about 30 x 60'. When we were trying to keep up within one, it felt huge, I can tell you, but then we had lots of weeds -- particularly nettles -- we were fighting from the start.





This used to be our plot, but someone else with more time and energy has obviously taken it over. Bill loves to tease me about how good it looks now we've left it.


It doesn't look nearly as big as it used to...



Oh well, our name will come to the top of the list,


Eventually...

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Bloody Birds!

Bill did tell me the workman had called to say he'd be here next week, but I forgot all about it by Monday morning. So at 9am he got to see me in my 1980's coke-bottle-bottom glasses with no make-up, in spite of the fact that I'd been up and dressed for a while. Not that I needed him to find me attractive, it just wasn't how I like to start my day. Then the porch door was locked and I had to go back upstairs to get my key. We didn't really need to talk, but it only seemed polite to greet him properly. Mind, he turned out to be sort of a funny character.

He set about unloading ladders and I set about washing the morning dishes (with the addition of lipstick and contacts). Then, remembering something I needed to tell him, I went out to find him driving off in his van at about 10 am. I didn't know if he'd had an emergency phone call or forgotten tools or just went to find a public toilet. The next time I saw him he was parked in front of my kitchen window. As I peeled potatoes and onions he sat in his van reading his paper and having a cup of coffee. It was about 11. I didn't want to disturb his break (I was paying for the job, not his time), but I could see I would have to watch him carefully to catch him working!

There were only two smallish jobs to be done: reattach a gutter that had broken loose in one of the last major rains and replace a triangular piece of wood near the roof line. Our neighbour, George, had mentioned this piece of wood was missing some time back, but we'd not seen to it sharply once Bill established there was no access to the loft. This was a mistake.

Pigeons had taken up roosting over the summer. Whenever I was in the loo I could here them cooing (a more talented or possibly mentally unbalanced person could devise a poem here, there are all sorts of words that rhyme...). They shut up when I banged on the window but it didn't disturb them too much and of course they had a family. There was pigeon poo on the paving in the side yard and the occasional bit of egg, so in addition to the annoying noise, they made a mess.

Anyhow I was telling the workman, Danny, that a guy from another company had given an estimate and just put a screw into the gutter to affix it, something that didn't impress Bill at all and why he didn't get the job, so it still needed fixing properly. Also, when this other guy had gone up the ladder he'd found a chick in the nest and it might still be there. I warned Danny to be careful when he got to the top of the ladder in case the bird attacked. He laughed at me, saying 'It's a pigeon, not an eagle!'



I was curious and he let me climb up to see. The ladder was a bit shaky once you got half way up, about the top of the bay window in my kitchen, but I remembered not to look down. I could see a large chick with not quite mature feathers scuttle to the back of the hole, which was quite deep, maybe about 3 feet. When I came down, Danny said I was like a human cat -- I suppose that was a compliment, but I'm not certain. I'm not afraid of heights, but I wouldn't want a bird flying at me whilst standing at the very top of a shaky ladder.

We didn't want to board up the bird and starve him, besides being cruel a dead bird might stink up the loft even if he couldn't actually get in. We thought it late in the year for a bird not to have left the nest (fledged, I learned is the word). I wondered about moving the nest so he would have to leave and take his chances, thinking him a lazy adolescent bird.

I called the council which does rat control, but they didn't want to know about pigeons. The girl suggested I might call a private exterminator, or I might call the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). I thought that was an interesting dichotomy. I chose the latter on the basis that it might be free.


Well, it was free other than the cost of the phone call, but I was informed that all nesting birds in the UK are protected by law, even pigeons. We could not disturb the bird in its nest. We would have to wait until he happened to fly out and then close up the hole. I did explain that the hole was barely reachable by a very tall ladder and the repair man couldn't spend his days watching for an opportune moment. The guy at the RSPB gave me the number of PiCAS (Pigeon Control Advisory Service) -- no I couldn't make this up.

I rang PiCAS, but had to put the phone down to respond to the smoke detector which had gone off, the potatoes now being boiled down to a black sludge. After throwing open the back door, turning on the extractor fan, and waving a shopping bag at the smoke detector to silence it, she was actually still on the phone upstairs. However, she could only take a message and have someone more qualified return my call. Danny had fixed the gutter by then and packed away his ladder. He said he would come back another time, though he clearly considered it a nuisance.

Disposing of the potato sludge was a problem as my trash bin was now full of compost because Bill painted the back porch floor and I couldn't go out the back door all weekend, but fortunately now I could. So it was a matter of emptying the compost so I could clean the bin and line it, and then put in burnt potatoes, scrub the pan and peel more potatoes. I wondered if I should have got out of bed that morning.


It all did settle down after that. I got some work done on my taxes, made some phone calls about financial stuff, got clothes organised for running that evening. The PiCAS lady did return my call. Pigeons reproduce all year round, so it would be an ongoing problem if not dealt with. It takes about 4 weeks for chicks to fledge so Danny could return in about 3 weeks. It takes 19 days for eggs to hatch and it is legal to get rid of the eggs and the nest if there aren't chicks in. Pigeons that can fly generally leave the nest in the daytime and so it shouldn't be too hard to catch him out, as it were. So, ring PiCAS if you need practical information about pigeons.

The 'potato muffins' turned out great: roast tomatoes in olive oil with basil and puree; make mashed potatoes and mix with this puree, some steamed onions, and tarragon; stuff mixture into a muffin tin and brush top with egg to brown the tops.

It did cross my mind whether going to work was any harder than all this. Then
the next morning Bill went off to catch a 6:30 Metro for a 7am train to Hull, beginning a 14 hour day, while I sat cozied up in bed with coffee and my laptop, and I decided maybe birds and burnt potatoes weren't so bad after all.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Beet It

I grew up eating a relatively narrow range of vegetables, based pretty much on what my Dad liked: potatoes, corn, carrots, green beans, lettuce, green peppers, cucumbers, celery and the occasional sweet potato. I was 21 and married before I ever ate broccoli or cauliflower (with cheese sauce) or mushrooms (sauteed, on top of a steak) at my brother-in-law's house in Nashville. Later I investigated a few others like spinach, eggplant (aubergine), peas (frozen) and zucchini (courgettes) in the course of trying to learn to cook and sometimes to garden.

I had to move to England to experience leeks, parsnips, chard, rhubarb, savoy cabbage, shallots, Brussel sprouts, celeriac, fennel,
asparagus, squashes, red onions and real pumpkins (not canned). To a large extent this is about being more adventurous the older I get, but also because things like leeks and parsnips are run of the mill over here.

I've just discovered a new vegetable. I'm sure you know all about it already, but I'm really excited, as it's probably one of the 'superfoods', only please don't spread the word as the price will go up.

I've tried to make carrots and broccoli a major part of our diet as they are so good for you. All veg is good for you, but some are mainly good because of the fibre they provide and the fact they are low calorie. Others are good because they have excellent nutritional value and most people know these days that those are easily identified because they are colourful.

Meet the beetroot. Nothing I've ever seen matches the amazing, practically dayglo red of a beet. Margaret from the sewing circle brought extra beets one day and I took a couple home. Before this, I'd only ever eaten pickled beets, which were OK but nothing to blog about (I started to say 'write home about' but this is what I'm doing, isn't it?). The ladies recommended warm cooked beetroot as much nicer to eat.

I found a soup recipe that sounded easy enough and it turned out beautifully
(but be warned, once peeled beetroot stains everything it touches, almost immediately; hence the plastic mats to protect the tablecloth). This is the recipe.

Red Onion and Beetroot Soup (serves 6; 76 calories)


Ingredients 10ml/2 tsp olive oil
350g/12oz red onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
275g/10oz cooked beetroot, cut into sticks
1.25 litres/2 pints/5 cups vegetable stock or water (I used the water I boiled the beets in plus more water and added vegetable buillion powder to make up the 5 cups)
50g/2oz/1 cup cooked soup pasta (I just used regular pasta twists)
30 ml/2 TBSP raspberry vinegar (I didn't have any so omitted)
salt and black pepper
low fat yogurt and snipped chives, to garnish (I only had the yogurt on hand)

1. Heat olive oil and add onions and garlic; cook gently for about 20 minutes or until soft and tender.
2. Add beetroot, stock or water, cooked pasta shapes and vinegar; heat through.
3 Adjust seasoning (I guess they mean salt & pepper) to taste. Ladle soup into bowls. Top each one with a spoonful of yogurt and sprinkel with snipped chives. Serve piping hot.

I had planned to show you the book on Amazon, but I can't be certain I've found it. I think this is the link. The title is Fat-Free Cooking - Guilt free food that is full of flavour, edit by Anne Sheasby. Bill bought it for me ages ago and I didn't give it much more thought, mainly because it presents calorie info in Kcals and kJs which I found confusing (Kcals = calories). I picked it up the other day looking for what to do with beets and some spices I bought but rarely used. I'll be doing much more cooking from this book, I think.

My seasonal foods list says the beetroot is available year round but at its best the few months. Though I think he approached with some uncertainty, Bill gave it the thumbs up and was well impressed. I do think there is more to food photography than I've figured out yet, but you get the idea...


Thursday, 23 October 2008

"Safe" Place Discovered


You know that sense of 'I knew it!', sort of like telling yourself 'I told you so'? Well, of course it was always going to happen -- just 3 days later in this instance.

Yep. I found what I'd done with the battery charger. It was in the bag I carry the camera in when we travel, along with the batteries.
(Note I've carefully avoided naming the bag as it doesn't translate well). The connection for downloading pictures onto the PC wasn't with it, but I found that in Bill's box of cords and miscellaneous other electronic gadgetry.

I had hung the bag in my spare closet, not having a good idea for where else it should live. In my parents' house, what photographical equipment wasn't in my Dad's darkroom in the garage resided in the bathroom cabinets of all places. This is why as a child I was always so fascinated by my friends' bathroom cabinets full of fluffy, folded towels.

I'm firmly blaming my parents rather than owning up to senility. Tell me, where do normal people keep their cameras?
I'd be really grateful to know...

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

New Porch


Naturally as soon as I left work the house decided to crumble. Or maybe I just had more time all the sudden to notice what had been happening all along. That said, we knew the porch would need repair soon anyhow, as the rotting wood just wouldn't be mended with caulking and paint anymore.


We'd had an estimate last year for an idea of extending it into something more like a conservatory and adding a downstairs loo and a storage space. However, I couldn't justify spending £36,000 just to avoid walking upstairs, so we ended up just having the porch windows and door replaced with PVC double glazing.

Builders must be doing very well, as about 2/3 of the companies I contacted didn't bother to (a) return phone calls; (b) show up when they said they would (or at all if re-arranged); (c) submit written estimates after they've done the measurements and made notes. So far, touch wood, they do show up to do the work if you get them that far, though they put you off for a month and then call at 7pm to say they are coming the next morning (and wouldn't you know I had company coming for lunch).



In spite of having agreed otherwise, the outside door was initially put in opening into the porch. This is a small space and if you are carrying anything at all or there are two of you, it was impossible to close the front door and then open the porch door. I think the whole point of having that entry porch is to keep the cold wind outside.



The boss came out to talk with me and I think it cost him to have another door made, but I stuck to my guns. I'm very soft and found it difficult, but I couldn't see the point of paying for something I didn't want and I was positive we'd discussed the door, because he had tried to talk me out of it. I'm glad I stood fast because the new porch is lovely.



My last shopping trip I opened the outside door, unloaded the boot (trunk) into the porch, closed the outside door, then opened the door into the house to take the groceries into the kitchen at the back. It gave me a lot of satisfaction, particularly as autumn (with the occasional winter-ish) days are definitely here.



Monday, 20 October 2008

Life & Taxes

Well, no, no pictures again today. I've been doing something MUCH more fun! Completing my UK tax return. See, in spite of the fact that my income is from the US and it is the fire department and police department and the local utility companies that protect and service my houses, the UK feels entitled to collect tax off that income. So entitled that they collected back taxes, penalties and interest when I discussed investment opportunities with an account a couple of years ago and discovered that I should have been paying tax all along. Ouch.

I'm thinking I may actually get a refund this year, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm always interested in understanding the relative tax brackets in each country. I'm sure I've over simplified it, but I gather that 10 percent tax bracket in the

US: up to $7,825
UK: up to £2,230

The next bracket is :

US: $7,825 - $31,850 (15%)
UK: £2,230 - £32,370 (22%)

US: $31,850 - $77,100 (25%)
UK: £32,370+ (40%)

US: $77,100 - $160,850 (28%)
$160,850 - $349,700 (33%)
$349,700+ (35%)


I had a lot of reasons for leaving full time employment that had to do with the job and the employer, but I have to admit that realising I would be paying 40% of any interest or rental income from the US to the UK government was another motivation to downshift. On the other hand, I could afford to downshift in part because I didn't need to worry about having health insurance...


I think you take a foreign country as you find it and so I'll not rant about the high taxes here. I did know the taxes were higher before I came across. On the other hand, I've had a much wider life experience for having lived in another country that makes the rest of the world so accessible...after taxes, of course.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Gismos and Gadgets

Yeah, I've not posted in a while. I could say let's blame it on the Australian invaders, but the truth is I miss my camera. This is because the batteries are dead. I can't recharge the batteries because in getting ready for company we rearranged a couple of rooms (read: shovelled a bunch of STUFF into different locations) and I put the charger away in a place which is now a mystery. So, today we walked into the next village and bought another, which is shameful, but I couldn't see another short term solution. I'm prepared to think about long term solutions for a lot of things to avoid spending money, but this just wasn't one of them. So, when we find the old battery charger, well, I can re-charge twice as many batteries in the same time, right?

Anyhow, I've been meaning to tell you about several things I've discovered on the internet that I think are really cool.

Whichbook.net
If you love to read as much as I do it's fun to discover new authors. For a while at the library I browsed the fiction starting at the beginning of the alphabet (authors' names beginning with 'A') considering only books where the author had at least two book titles on the shelf. I dismissed the obvious chick lit -- easy to overdose on that -- and gave further consideration to books that appeared to have some historical content or were set in a different culture than the usual US/British stuff. I found some good books that way. Then I happened to use the library's internet access and found they had links to the Whichbook website.

I've only used it a few times; I have plenty of books here that I own and I've lately gone through a non-fiction (how to) and biographical phase (women only) so I've not needed to find new authors lately. I did, however, find John Connolly this way, which was excellent. Have a look at this, it is quite amusing.

Picnik
You may or may not have noticed that the quality of the photos here have been improving a bit. If so, this is entirely attributable to this website which allows you to 'fix' pictures. It is streets ahead of any other similar websites I've found because it lets you
straighten pictures, that is rotate them only by a view degrees to make them more parallel. It may not be a big problem for you, but many of my family photos were printed by my photographer parents and they didn't seem to worry too much how straight they cut the photos that were for themselves, so that when they are scanned they go every which way. Also, many of my photos seem lopsided to me and I find that when the lines in the photo -- be they columns on a building or the back of a chair or the picture rail on a wall -- are straight, the picture looks much better.

The site also allows for exposure and colour correction, cropping, sharpening, etc. No membership or login even required if you are happy to do one picture at a time. In fact, I tried to log in and had no luck... Brilliant website, nevertheless.

Rososo
If you are a blog addict like me, you can spend your life loading up blogs only to find there are no new posts. Set up your blog list on this website though, and it only shows you blogs with new posts so you can keep up with a LOT more blogs...which may or may not be a good thing, mind.

Finally -- and this is just for fun, unless you are looking for a new name for your baby (dog, cat, hamster?). NameVoyager has this totally amazing area graph that seems to float as it looks up names. The whole blog has lots of stuff about names, of course, but this time machine is fascinating. Not sure what this might be like for people on dial up, but see what happens.

I'll be back soon with pictures!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Booking and Cooks

My friend Hazel came for lunch today. This is what I made for us.

First of all there was rice dish. Only this was made not with bouillon stock, but with the water and juice from boiling a gammon joint (I think that translates in American to 'a ham'). For dessert I just cut up three or four kinds of fruit and served them with sweetened yoghurt.

The 'main course' if you could call it that, was my second experiment with making crust-less mini-quiches. I've adapted a crust-less quiche recipe from the Tightwad Gazette, reducing the flour, increasing the filling and using a muffin tin instead of a pie plate. I like easily portable food for the nights we take food to eat after the running club.

Mix together 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of cheese (but not processed cheese; use something like Cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack or Parmesan), 1 cup of milk (or cream, powdered milk, evaporated, yoghurt), 1/2 cup plain flour, seasonings that complement the fillings. The filling is 2 cups of cooked meat and/or vegetables. Cook at 425 F (220 C) for about 20-30 minutes, depending on if you have a fan-assisted oven.

In this case, the filling was tuna, leftover steamed cabbage, beetroot, potato and kohlrabi, supplemented with steamed broccoli, carrots, onion and mushrooms to make up the 2 cups. I added a bit of paprika, salt and pepper and a tiny bit of chili powder. Hazel had seconds of everything, so I assume she liked the experiment. Bill certainly wolfed down the leftovers that evening when he got home.

Hazel talked about her recent visit to Krakow. She mentioned visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau and although she described what she saw very matter-of-factly, I found it chilling to hear. I was reminded of my visit to the Holocaust museum in Dallas back in...would have been 1989, and that led us onto discussing the architecture of European houses that whole rooms could be hidden, and people in them.

That seemed to launch us into discussing books about that part of history and I could think of several to recommend, but I couldn't come up with the proper names for any of them, I could only remember the authors. So I've looked them up; I would highly recommend any and all of them.

Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

The Hiding Place, Corrie tenBoom

Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl

A Desert in Bohemia, Jill Paton-Walsh

The first three are written by people who lived in that time about their experiences. The last is fiction, set on the border of the Czech Republic. The first two are set in The Netherlands.

I've been to Anne Frank house, but hadn't thought to visit the ten Boom house which is not far away. Given that Amsterdam is to us much like Vegas is to Salt Lake City or Dallas to Oklahoma City, it's likely I'll go there again sometime. I'll have to remember to check out that museum. Hazel and I agreed that Europe has been a difficult place to live what with all the wars and upheaval, no matter what side one was on. I've definitely had a soft life compared to my European ancestors!

Fortunately the conversation lightened up a bit after that and we had some good laughs before she had to go. I'm definitely going to get together with Hazel more often!