Archive for the ‘Arts and Culture’ Category


Lady Lilith, 1866-68 (altered 1872-73). Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). Oil on canvas, 38 x 33 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935.



John Everett Millais (1829–1896), Cinderella (1881), oil on canvas, 126 x 89 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

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Who else in the UK watched episode 1 of  The Miniaturist on BBC1 last night? I thought it was a great adaptation of Jessie Burton’s first novel. I won’t see episode 2 for a few days, so please don’t spoil it for me!

My favourite thing about the programme is its colour palette. It looks like a Dutch painting in its own right, perhaps by Vermeer.

Family prayers in “The Miniaturist”

The dollhouse at the centre of the plot is particularly beautiful, and it was the reason why I read the book in the first place. I really would love to see the original house owned by Petronella Oortman, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

But with one eye always on a possible subject for the next blog post in the Christmas Feasts series, I remembered Nella’s love of marzipan (a sweet taste we both love). The book goes into more detail about the importance of marzipan in her memories of her home:

‘My mother used to roll it into shapes’. There was always marzipan in the pantry, the only predilection for indulgence in which Mrs Oortman echoed her husband. Mermaids, ships and necklaces of sugared jewels, that almond doughiness melting in their mouths. I no longer belong to my mother, Nella thinks. One day I will roll sugar shapes for otber little clammy hands, voices baying for treats. (p.15)

This takes me back to one of my earlier posts in this series, about marchpane sculptures, inspired by E. T. A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. I wonder if Petronella’s mother ever created such works of art, and if Petronella herself has the talent and patience to do so.  

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Today, the schools in Glasgow broke up for the Christmas holidays. The screams you can hear resounding through the city tonight are a combination of teachers, librarians, technicians, and so on screaming in joy, and parents screaming in horror. It’s been a very busy term, even without the extra problems created by broken bones, and a mostly enjoyable one. I’m very happy to be having two weeks off. The next few days will be dedicated to Christmas preparations – cake decorating, present wrapping (actually, present buying, given I didn’t get everything this evening on the way home, then present wrapping), sending the Christmas cards which will inevitably arrive late (just to let you know, so that you can sit on tenterhooks wondering if you will or will not get one), and a million more tasks which await, but mostly, just trying to keep my ankle rested and not in pain.  But first, an early night tonight, and a lie-in tomorrow morning. I intend to marinade myself in a thick, warm duvet, and heaps of pillows, with books, and chocolate.

Or, as John Keats puts it:

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
      Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
      Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
      In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws
      Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,—
      Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
      Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.

Today’s feast then, is a feast of sleep. Just call me Sleeping Beauty, without the thorny hedge around the old abode.


Edward Burne-Jones, The Rose Bower, the 4th painting in the Briar Rose series, located at Buscot Park, Oxfordshire. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Good night, sweet [readers],
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2,  lines 358-9

Until tomorrow.

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Tomorrow is the last brunch of 2017 for the Glasgow Chapter of Geek Girl Brunch! Our theme is Christmas Films, and tonight I’ve been putting the final touch to brunch activities. So how can I not write today’s Christmas Feast blogpost about the food in Christmas films? I’ve already written one post on the four food groups in Elfso today I thought I would look at something grittier, if you can imagine that adjective been applied to a Christmas film, but still funny. Hello, Trading Places (1983)!


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When thinking about what to write about today, I decided to have a look at Wikipedia’s “Born on this day” feature to see if there was anybody food-related on the list. Happy 49th Birthday, Yotam Ottolenghi! And thank you for being born on this day; this blog post wouldn’t exist without you. I’d never heard of him before – I’ve had quite a few years away from doing any real cooking, so haven’t been adding to my recipe book collection.  His food looks gorgeous, really rich and magical, perfect for a feast. (more…)

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Saint Lucy, by Francesco del Ferrarese Cossa,1473/1474. Tempera on poplar panel, 77.2 x 56 cm (30 3/8 x 22 1/16 in.) Samuel H. Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art (Washington).

It’s only since I started working on this post that I realised I didn’t do a blogging project in December last year; it’s lovely not having to be hunting for a new flat in cold weather like I was doing this time last year. I first started December blogging projects in 2014, the theme being Light, followed by 2015’s theme of Christmas Literature. December 13 is the feast day of Saint Lucy, and she was a perfect fit for both themes – you can read the 2014 entry here, and the 2015 entry here. Happily, she is am equally perfect fit this year, as my reading today has produced recipes and rituals galore. (more…)

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While out today at the annual local Reindeer Day festival, I walked past a woman saying

The best way to spread Christmas cheer…

Instinctively, I joined in on the rest of the truly splendid sentence:

… is singing loud for all to hear!

Thus, how could today’s feast not be one inspired by the perfect Christmas film Elf? If you haven’t seen it yet, please go and watch it immediately. Go, now. Go. Are the cotton-headed ninnymuggins gone? Excellent; then I’ll continue! (more…)

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Yesterday’s post (now with English translation!) looked at the surroundings in which a feast is set, in a medieval setting. Today, I move considerably closer in time and in space to home.

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A true feast must look beautiful as well as taste beautiful. It must take place in rich surroundings, and those attending should wear their finest raiment. While yesterday’s post focused on the hard work of kitchen staff creating the feast, today’s is all about the setting of the stage.

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Despite my continuing to wrack the old brains, I still have not identified the floral feast from an also as yet unremembered childhood tale. Today’s post is nonetheless still redolent of flowers, albeit flowers put to a deadly purpose. May I present Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema‘s The Roses of Heliogabalus? (more…)

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