Monday, December 31, 2012

The New Year's Eve

Monday has become more or less the day of the classical music over here. Today being the New Year's Eve, I had an inclination for something frivolous, and found this:

I don't care for the story itself, but I do like this number. If you want to watch the whole thing, click here.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Table Manners

Proper table manners are important if you want to produce a good impression on your guests. They add the necessary refinement which is sadly missed in the days of everything casual. Luckily, we live in the times of the technical progress and in case we didn't learn them at home, there is always YouTube.
There I found this little gem from the good old times:

Emily Post Table Manners 1947

Actually, YouTube has an abundance of videos on this topic, which proves that a lot of people are still interested in the art of fine dining. You can find the guides on how to set the table properly, or what to do with your napkin:
or your glassware .

Of course, when alone at home with one's family one can be less formal, but as they say, practice makes perfect. The best way to remember all those rules is to practise them regularly. After all, dinner was once considered such an important meal, that people used to change for it.  I'm not saying at your house it should be like this (minus getting drunk part, of course), but more along these lines:

a date with your family

Have fun with your New Year celebration!

Friday, December 28, 2012

On Losing Weight

An old ladies' magazine which I possess has an article starting with the following sentence: "You may well be 40, but why should you be fat?"

The author was right, it's not necessary to be fat at any age. Unfortunately, obesity has become a problem in most developed countries. Contrary to popular opinion, it's not only the women who suffer from it. For instance, in my neck of the woods there are currently 53% of men vs 51% of women who are overweight, according to the government statistics. For the contrast, in France only 10% of the population is overweight.

Losing weight is much more difficult than putting it on, unfortunately. (Especially during the holidays!). Part of the problem is the unhealthy modern diet. It starts at an early age, with children eating enormous amounts of chips and drinking soft drinks which are full of sugar. (BTW, the drinks based on juice often have nearly the same amount of sugar in them, so you should always check the labels).

Sugar is everywhere, it's used as a conserving agent in foods like ketchup and all commercially baked cakes, pies, muffins etc are simply too sweet, in my opinion. Even in modern recipes for home baking I often have to cut the amount of sugar suggested by the recipe. Overconsumption of sugar is very unhealthy and can lead to the development of diabetes type 2 and as one article I had read stated, it even can stimulate the growth of cancerous cells.

There are other factors which can lead to obesity, and while the unhealthy diet is regularly mentioned in every article on this topic, I think some of them are probably overlooked. One of them could be climate control in modern houses. The very same magazine I mentioned in the beginning has an article on taking care of babies. Babies, it says, should be bathed in a warm room, with the temperature about +18*C... Yes, that's what they considered a warm room, back then. From my personal experience I must add that when I set the central heating lower a couple of years ago to reduce the costs of gas, I started losing weight in winter months. It  seems to take a lot of energy to keep one's body warm!

Cheryl Mendelson in her book "Home Comforts" states that the World Health Organisation recommends 61*F (16*C) as a minimum temperature inside the house for healthy adults and older children. For young children, the handicapped and the sedentary elderly, the temperature has to be slightly higher, about 64.4*F or 18*C; at night, the temperature can be as low as 60*F (or 15.5*C) even in the houses with small children (except the very young, elderly or vulnerable people). (the edition of 1999, pp. 396-397).

I also read somewhere that if you set your heating system one point lower, you save 6% on the costs of fuel. Thus you can probably both save money and lose weight at the same time, isn't it great?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a British film from 1982 based on a novel by Baroness Orczy with the same name. Actually she wrote a series of stories about the same character. The events in the film take place during the French Revolution. The chief character, Sir Percy Blakeney is an Englishman who leads a double life. He pretends to be an idiot  interested in nothing except fashion, while at the same time under the name of the Scarlet Pimpernel he is saving innocent French aristocrats from Madame Guillotine. As a result of his actions, the whole police force of France are seeking him, with no success. Robespierre orders Citizen Chauvelin to catch him. Chauvelin is in love with Marguerite St Just who is called the most beautiful actress of France. Sir Percy accidentally meets her, and falls in love with her, too. He proposes and she accepts, however, they seem not to be destined for the marital bliss as on their wedding day Percy learns that his wife sent an innocent man to the guillotine. In reality, it wasn't Marguerite's fault, as Chauvelin used her name on the arrest warrant to pay her back for ditching him. Percy, however, believes in Marguerite's betrayal and treats her accordingly. Poor Marguerite doesn't understand what she did wrong. To complicate things even further, Chauvelin comes to England and with threats and blackmail forces Marguerite to help him identify the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel. When she realises that Scarlet Pimpernel is in fact, her own husband, it's too late as Chauvelin has learned it, too. In despair, Marguerite leaves for France as to try and warn Percy or to die together with him.

There are lots of fan videos on YouTube, here is one of them:

Sir Percy is played by Anthony Andrews, the actor who also played Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited. Marguerite is played by Jane Seymour, and Chauvelin by Ian McKellen, whom you all probably have seen as Gandalf in Lord Of The Rings.

The whole film can be watched on YouTube, here is the link to Part1:

The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982

The were more screen adaptations of the novel, the very first one dates from 1934, and it is also a good one, chiefly due to the brilliant acting of the main characters. Sir Percy is played by Leslie Howard, the same actor who played Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind. Citizen Chauvelin is played by Raymond Massey and Marguerite by Merle Oberon. The story differs slightly in some details, the chief difference is that Sir Percy gets motivated to action by his wife's supposed betrayal. It also can be watched on YouTube, captioned:

The Scarlet Pimpernel 1934

There was a Broadway musical based on the book, plus a lot of amateur productions:

The Falcon In The Dive

I find it a very uplifting story, because it shows that all it takes to fight injustice is for one man with principles and honour to take a stand. And oh yes, because Sir Percy is hawt!:)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent, so there were four candles burning on my coffee table:

We lit them after we came back home from church. Since the weather outside has been  frightful the whole of the last week, with a lot of wind and darkness, we felt like we were in need of a little cheer so we opened the bottle of chocolate liqueur which my husband got as a present for his birthday:

It tasted delicious. The cat found a place of his own, too. He decided the tree didn't look properly decorated without him:

I do think he makes the scene rather cosy, don't you agree?

This year I got some darling tree ornaments as a Christmas present from a friend:

Here is one more:

They add to the festive atmosphere:

The angels I made myself. OK, with the help of  the dear husband, who had to cut them out of wood with a saw (Tante is not good with the carpenter's tools:):

I do tend to light a lot of candles, those I got from my mother-in-law:

It's getting rather late over here and tomorrow will be a very busy day, as there is still a lot to do at Casa di Tante, so that I'd better quit writing. Tomorrow I probably won't be able to post, so I want to wish those of my readers who are Catholic a blessed Holy Evening.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Elaine Croche

All those who like crochet should check this blog:
Elaine Croche

It is a blog by a Brazilian lady who gives crochet lessons. She also posts her videos on YouTube. Here is the link to her channel. My Portuguese is very inferior to say the least, but I do enjoy watching the photos of her creations. I only wish I could crochet like this!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Prisoner of Zenda

The Prisoner of Zenda is a Victorian adventure novel by an English author called Anthony Hope. It tells the story of an Englishman named Rudolf Rassendyll who goes on vacation to a fictional mid-European country of Ruritania, where he gets involved in political intrigues. Rassendyll is nearly an identical twin of the local king, also named Rudolf, whose half-brother Michael is plotting to seize the power.  The king gets first drugged, and then kidnapped and Rassendyll is persuaded by the king's friends to take his place as to save the country from civil war. Rudolf of Ruritania is engaged to Princess Flavia, but doesn't seem to care much about her, being a closet alcoholic. His English cousin, however, falls in love with the girl, and she answers his feelings. At this moment, Rassendyll gets thoroughly tempted to abandon the king to his fate, but he withstands the temptation and chooses to do his duty, and so, in the end, does Flavia.

There have been several film adaptations of the novel. I have only watched the 1937 version, and I would recommend it to everyone who likes retro films and Victorian love stories. Here is the duel scene where you can see Russendyll and the "dashing villain" of the novel, caddish Count Rupert of Hentzau, played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Another famous actor in this film was Raymond Massey who also played Citizen Chauvelin in the 1934 version of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

There was also the screen version from 1952 which I haven't seen.
You can read the novel over here:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Knusper, Knusper, Knauschen...Wir backen uns ein Hauschen!

I hope my readers will forgive me the mistakes in the title of this post, as I don't have umlaut signs on my computer. Oh, I know they sit somewhere buried in the keyboard, but I have neither time nor inclination to search for them right now. You see, Tante was very busy the whole day - I baked and assembled the Gingerbread House.

Isn't it just perfect? I find it very cute. Unfortunately it was much more work than the article in the magazine stated it would be, of which I had been dimly aware before I started, but I was determined to finish it all today. Dear husband came home from work and got really excited about my little project, so that he helped me with assembling and decorating it.

I think that he did great job with coloured icing, don't you agree? The idea comes from Bild der Frau, a special Christmas edition. I slightly changed the recipe, using both butter and margarine instead of butter only, because I didn't have enough. They also don't sell Lebkuchen spices over here, so I bought cake spices. I also miss the Witch, and the black cat, as featured in the magazine. Well, may be some elfs will come and live in it:)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mission Accomplished

I finally wrote and posted nearly all of my Christmas cards! I bought them on sale and they had words Merry Christmas and Happy Hew Year printed inside, which made it so much easier for me. Actually I had a lot of other things to do, but duty called...So now one more task is crossed off my Christmas preparation list and I can fully concentrate on the horrors of Christmas Shopping.
Among domestic cares, I still found time to think of higher things of life, and thus in continuing the tradition of Classical Mondays, and also the Scandinavian theme, I'd like to introduce In the Hall of the Mountain King
from Peer Gynt, by Edvard Grieg. I hope you'll enjoy it just as much as I do.

By some strange reason, Blogger doesn't allow me to embed this video, so I'm posting the link instead:

The story of Peer Gynt can be read here:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Third Sunday of Advent

We couldn't go to church today because my husband is down with cold, so I used this time to dig out some Christmas decorations. I must admit I'm late with decorating for Christmas this year, just like the year before...I guess I haven't quite earned the title of Domestic Goddess yet:) Anyway, here is what I found in my closet:
Those cute little houses are nowadays a collector's items. In fact, my mother-in-law has a whole village of them, which takes quite a part of her living-room. Myself, being somewhat a minimalist, I'm satisfied with only one.

The Christmas Choir were also allowed out of the box:

Don't they just look like someone out of a story by Dickens? I love their Victorian outfits. The cupcake on the right was a present by a dear friend, when I have time, I'll take a closeup of it.
Ít's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas here at Casa di tante! Tomorrow I'm planning to finally write my Christmas cards and hopefully to send them, too. So much to do, so little time...

I'd like to end this post with one of my favourite Christmas carrols:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nordic Myths

To continue with the Scandinavian topic, I'd like to write about a book I'm currently reading. Just like most books I own, I found it in a second-hand store for the price of 2.50. It's called "Nordic Myths" and retells various old myths and sagas of the Germanic people, including Eddas, The Song of Nibelungs (one of my favourite books) and the like. I had to study some of them for my education while at the Uni, but this book is much more detailed, and has a lot of information about the traditions and customs of  Northern European people. I definitely learned some new things while reading it, for instance that TYR was the name of the god of war who sacrificed his hand to save the inhabitants of Asgard from Loki's son Fenris. Well, that figures:)

I'm currently in the middle of the book, while trying simultaneously to read another one, about which I'll post later. I would highly recommend this particular book by H.A. Guerber to anyone, but I'm afraid it's currently out of print, since it was the 1930s edition.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Scandinavian Style

I must admit I like the Scandinavian style in interior decorating very much. It's always inspiring for a housewife to watch other people's homes, and learn new ideas about how to make your own house cosier. There is a lady in Norway who blogs about her country life whom I find a great inspiration. She is so talented and creative and always encourages me to go a extra mile. Even though this year I'm really late with my Christmas decorations.

Some time ago I discovered a website dedicated to the works of a Swedish painter Carl Larsson and I simply fell in love with them. He was famous for painting the simple scenes of domestic life, his wife and children. He and his wife are credited for creating the modern cottage style and in being an inspiration for the modern Swedish decorating style as featured in IKEA. I wish I could buy a book of his works, but this lacking, at least I can enjoy them on the net.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Recently I have rediscovered for myself classical music. It's not like I have been raised musically illiterate, in fact, my parents (especially mother) did everything to get me acquainted with the works of great composers, I had to watch operas (and ballet) and the classical music channel on the radio was often on. However, when I was growing up, it was Metallica and Iron Maiden we all were listening to (not that there is anything wrong with them either). Then it was hard rock, gothic, folks metal... stuff like that. Yet as I'm getting  older there is a longing for something more profound. The problem with classical music is that you actually have to take time to listen to it, it doesn't really make a good background music in my opinion. And the pieces tend to be rather long. Luckily, nowadays we have YouTube, where you can find a lot of short clips. Here is one of them, Lacrimosa by Mozart, which is one of my favourites.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The 2nd Sunday of Advent

December is known as the darkest month of the year. Yet it's also the month when we celebrate Christmas, which means there is a lot of work for the homemaker. She has to write and send Christmas cards, to choose presents, to decorate the house, to plan the Christmas dinner menues, to invite guests etc etc. It can be quite trying for one's nerves. and the weather makes it easy to get depressed. I found that one of the ways to fight the winter depression is to light a lot of candles. Today is the 2nd Sunday of Advent, which means that there are two candles burning on my Advent candelabrum.  

Recently we bought a decorative open fireplace, which burns on lamp oil, you can see it behind the salon table. It's great for creating a cosy atmosphere in the house, especially on long and dreary winter evenings, when the wind is howling outside (like now). The bulbs were the present from my husband for the St. Nicholas's Day.