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Posts Tagged ‘Blogging with Friends’

Week 11 of Blogging with Friends

 

I have always enjoyed what the Danish call hygge – cosiness, comfort, content. It’s not unlike the Thai concept of sabai, though because of the different climate, sabai conjures less cosiness, but pleasure, a gentle cooling breeze, and a feeling of contentment or even bliss in a moment. (Though they use it to mean “well” – as in “are you well?” – it’s meaning takes on that much broader context too.) I like a culture that encourages us to think about the joy of a moment, rather than FOMO or endless comparison with others, or ambition.

Autumn and winter are the perfect seasons for hygge. Spring and summer bring sabai. And as we’re in autumn now with winter fast approaching, it’s easy to turn my mind to what is hygge in my little world. Especially now, when we can’t go out, and can’t visit friends, hygge needs to be found at home, alone or with any other members of our household. I can definitely find it on my own, but it’s good to share when I can too.

A perfect Friday night, with the weekend stretching ahead, embodies hygge. Cold outside, maybe even raining, enjoying a warm and cosy house inside. There has to be comfort food. That’s either fish and chips (a Friday ritual for NZers – though I feel that hygge requires the meal to be homemade), a favourite Thai curry (which always seems to me to be more appropriate for winter nights, and is definitely homemade), or a hearty stew, probably my favourite lamb shanks recipe with prunes and barley and orange juice. A good red wine with the meal is definitely more hygge than a crisp, sauvignon blanc or a favourite chardonnay, though they definitely qualify as sabai. The feeling of hygge continues if there’s a cosy evening planned as I’m finishing the red wine – perhaps a special rugby game on TV or just some favourite viewing with my husband, or a good book with some good music. It’s all so much better knowing that I can sleep in the next morning, and that it is the end of the week.

What’s your personal  hygge?

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Week Nine of Blogging with Friends

When I was kid, I used to look forward to Sunday evenings. We’d have tea, a bath, and dash into the living room (sometimes wearing nothing but a towel) to catch the beginning of the weekly Disneyland programme. My favourite was always Fantasyland. I adored it. The magical landscapes, the fantasy of magic, the cute gingerbread-like houses. I wanted to be there.

I was in my late 20s when I finally got to Europe. I remember being amazed at how old the city centres were, how authentically they were kept, how magical they felt. The Left Bank in Paris, the old city in Bern, Rothenberg in Germany were all so much more like the fantasy lands I had watched on TV than I had ever expected. Ten years later, we went to France for a much longer trip. And I fell in love with Sarlat-la-Canéda, in the Dordogne. The market square of Sarlat was straight out of Disneyland. Cinderella could have grown up in one of the stone houses in the narrow winding streets. We sat at a bar at one end of the square sheltering from the rain, sipping an aperitif – a kir royal for me – and writing postcards, whilst gazing at the buildings around the square. I was entranced* and could have stayed there forever. And – apart from the drink –  I felt like a delighted 10-year-old.

But we ventured out to other nearby villages, and discovered each one could have been the fantasy of a Disney artist; Rocamadour, La Roque-Gageac, and Domme were all gorgeous too.

I continue to adore European old towns and villages. There are a number in Italy that are very special to me, but those villages in France stole my heart, and kept the child in me alive.

 

* So entranced, that I forgot to take a photograph that day, though perhaps I can blame the rain.

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Week Seven of Blogging with Friends

Are you free for brunch on Saturday? Weekend brunch is the perfect meal to catch up – it doesn’t take all day, but it can if you want! And, if you’re so inclined, you can have an afternoon nap to recover later. It’s also great if you’ve over-indulged the night before. Skip breakfast, and choose brunch, anytime from 10 am to 1-1.30 pm. We regularly go at 1 pm or just after, giving us time to build up an appetite if we’ve slept in! But if we’re meeting friends, it is often earlier, to give us time to linger and enjoy.

Let’s meet at Taste, our favourite brunch place, in a lovely old house on the corner of the Khandallah shopping village. When we were both earning, we used to go regularly – fortnightly and sometimes weekly – but these days we have to ration our visits. It means that they are appreciated so much more when we do get there.

When we arrive, Gary or David or both will greet us, throwing a bit of shade, making a few quips, making sure they welcome every person in the party, and then show us into the light-filled dining room. We’ll sit in the tables at the end, and half of us will snuggle into the banquet seating, settling in for the long haul. Or perhaps if we’re there on a hot sunny day, we could sit outside on the porch, and not worry about disturbing the other patrons. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any opportunities to do that this windy summer.

This is not a brunch café, with a box of toys for the kids, ordering at the counter, and lots of noise. It is not a child-friendly restaurant, and you see the occasional baby in a carrier, or older children who know how to behave. They’re not unfriendly though. Many children who come see it as the height of sophistication, and choose it for their birthday dinners! Decorated in calm neutrals and white, this is a restaurant inviting you to relax, to enjoy good food and good wine and good company, in a little break from the chaos of the world.

Given the occasion, I think we should start with a pre-meal champagne – or prosecco, given our budget these days – toast. Though they have a few cocktails on the menu, and would love to have the chance to make them. And they’d no doubt be delighted to figure out the recipe of anything that you wanted. Here’s to friendship, companionship at the table, and long-lasting relationships.

Their brunch menu ranges from their delicious pate, a vegetarian soup, or a blue cheese toast on the light side, through to some of the usual breakfast suspects – French toast, eggs any which way, with a salad or roast potatoes, bacon or mushrooms, and a delicious tomato relish – and their own twists. One of my favourites is their seasonal asparagus with poached eggs on Turkish bread, with a cheesy sauce. In winter it turns into a toasted ham and tomato sandwich, with poached eggs on top, with the same cheesy sauce. Some days, when we turn up at 1 pm and I’m starving, that’s all I want! The do a couple of more substantial meals, a chicken and bacon sandwich with a yummy salad and Indian curry-flavoured mayonnaise that is to die for, and a fish dish that always looks good when other diners order it, but which I always overlook for one of the other options always mentioned. And in winter, I adore the creamy sherried mushrooms on Turkish bread, though it doesn’t always appear on the menu. Hint, hint! (Just in case Gary or David see this.) The Husband loves their chunky chips (you might know them as fries), and I’ve been known to eat a few from his bowl too, when he’s looking elsewhere.

When we’re there in a group, the service is unobtrusive, unless we all get chatting to our hosts, or they have a recent anecdote to share. Our hosts are funny, kind, and meticulous, and it always feels rude to ignore them, because they are as much a part of the experience of Taste as the food. When I go here, it’s usually just with my husband, though occasionally we’ll meet up with a group of old friends, or I’ll take guests who are staying with us (when I can’t be bothered cooking breakfast at home). But how wonderful to have you all here with us today!

This is a great opportunity to get to know each other better, meeting in person for perhaps the first time. Any nervousness at this will have been dispelled with that first glass of prosecco, and one of Gary’s jokes, and by the time we turn to the Elephant Hill Chardonnay, Peregrine Pinot Gris, or Bird in the Hand Shiraz (these are our favourites), we’ll be relaxed and old friends. After all, thanks to technology, we’re already old friends.  We’ve witnessed life-altering events, shared happiness and loss, watched kids grow up, and showed each other our inner selves. We’ve just not met yet.

As it’s a special occasion, we might indulge in dessert – profiteroles filled with ice-cream and chocolate sauce, a trifle or white chocolate mousse might take your fancy. We usually share their sweet treats – a tiny triangle of a lemon slice – that goes perfectly with their excellent, strong coffee. But I’m sure they’ll try and tempt us with a dessert wine or port or something stronger! By now, the restaurant is emptying out. They close at 2 pm, but are happy for us to stay longer. It’s a peaceful, happy environment. And we can always regroup down the road at our house, after a post-prandial hike back up the hill to work off the calories. Wine on the deck, anyone?

 

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