Moment of VAN GOGH: SUNFLOWERS

“You may know that the peony is Jeannin’s, the hollyhock belongs to Quost, but the sunflower is mine in a way.”

Vincent van Gogh
(written in a letter to his brother Theo)

Vincent van Gogh was a great painter. I did not really like his work until I went to the museum bearing his name in Amsterdam where his work is displayed and saw with my own eyes the mastery of his paintings and read many of his letters to his brother, Theo.

Yellow and Sunny

The Sunflower paintings of Vincent Van Gogh show a mental connection not only between the artist’s name and the painting, but also between the artist and the influence of Sunflowers on the development of art through these paintings. Van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings have altered mankind’s perspective of art and life. (Van Gogh Gallery site)

Full of golden yellow

Did you know that Europe and the USSR produce over 60% of the world’s Sunflowers. Sunflowers make up the genus Helianthus. In Greek helios means sun and anthos means flower, thus Sunflower. The genus, which contains about 67 species, is thought to be native to the Americas (North, South) originally, and were domesticated around 1000 B.C. Although, Sunflowers are now distributed almost worldwide. (Sunflower Plant, Care, Growing site)

Opening up

Sunflower is the national flower of Russia and the state flower of Kansas, USA. Sunflower is notable for turning to face the Sun, a behaviour known as heliotropism. Sunflowers were cultivated by Native Americans well over 1000 years ago. Sunflower heads consist of 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers joined together by a receptacle base. The large petals around the edge of a sunflower head are individual ray flowers which do not develop into seed. Sunflower seeds have lots of calcium and 11 other important minerals. They do have 50% fat, but it is mostly polyunsaturated linoleic acid.

Sunflowers can be eaten, would you believe? The flower is best eaten in the bud stage when it tastes similar to artichokes. Once the flower opens, the petals may be used like chrysanthemums, the flavour is distinctly bittersweet. The unopened flower buds can also be steamed like artichokes. (New Hampshire Magazine online)

Yellow and Sunny

“We spend our whole lives in unconscious exercise of
the art of expressing our thoughts with the help of words.”

Vincent van Gogh
(New York Times online article has more on this)

Weather is such at present that we in Finland need reminders of the sun in the form of SUNFLOWERS!

Tis for now, Rii xx

Photos: Riihele. All rights reserved.

A great site for all things Vincent van Gogh.

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Gardening in the Emerald Isle

My Hanging Flower Basket

The 40-shades of greens with the multitude of rainbow colours of various plants and flowers make it very pleasing to the eyes in Ireland. People take the gardening rather seriously there. When one is passing by the houses, it is clear that the competition for the best neighbourhood garden is a close call in many instances – it would be nearly too difficult to vote the best one. It is the temperate climate that makes everything sprout at fast speed and it is the rain that keeps the growth lush all year round. Yet, the Irish are not big into growing fruit and vegetable for their own use or for the export. The saying over there was:

‘If the Dutch lived in Ireland, they would feed the world.
If the Irish lived in Holland, they would drown.’

I had an apple tree and a plum tree planted in this garden where this hanging basket was. This picture was taken in the early stages of the basket, as it grew to nearly to touch the ground.The hanging basket plants were all sown and grown by yours truly! do enjoy growing things and find it really therapeutic.The encouraging thing for anybody, of course, is if everything grows and blossoms for them. It would not be the most cheerful thing if everything died that one went close to!

The apple tree begun to really get going and to produce fruit at a furious rate, only after I had given it a Mulligan – a chop! The reason being that it took it for years and years on end to get growing, flowering, never mind to produce any ripe fruit. I know, patience is a virtue regarding gardening and many other things in life. The plum tree got a good ‘haircut’ by one of the cats that decided to climb up this most fragile of newly planted trees for a view – her life was in grave, grave danger after that, I tell you. The next-door neighbour that had been a professional gardener for fifty years comforted me by saying:

‘Never mind. She did a good job at pruning that tree.
It will begin to produce for you now on.’

Sure enough, it did: first year after that misshap with the cat it produced eight whole fruit, but the years after that, there were hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of the most gorgeous, juicy fruit on it! The cat was back in favour.

The year that this apple tree out of the blue decided to spring into action was thus: I was cooking inside one spring and happened to glance out of the window when, suddenly, I became aware that there was a pink flower bud on the tree. ‘What the sandhills’ – I said to myself and barged out to check the situation whether there would be a Harvest Thanksgiving with this tree finally or not! Yes, the tree was alive. It gave a fabulous show of apple blossoms like nobody’s business that year and every year after it!! Hooray.

I baked Apple Pies, Apple Tarts, Tarte Tatins, Apple Crumbles, Apple Cobblers – tis amazing just how many variations one can do when one puts one’s mind to it! I did apple puddings of every type and style to get rid of the abundant harvest of these apples and the plums, using the fruit in the best possible way before they went off. We gave lots of the fruit to the friends and neighbours, too.

There are a good few very admired and famous gardens that were located close to us: The Mount Usher Gardens in Ashford and the Kilruddery House in Bray are two examples . Another one is the Powerscourt Gardens in Enniskerry which is my absolute favourite as to just walking and enjoying the scenery. Also, the ambience there is so lovely in every way: fresh, clean air, plenty of space and the breathtaking views to every direction.

In the city centre of Dublin there is the St. Stephen’s Green – a park right at the heart of Dublin. It is great to go for just a break with all the shopping or during the lunch if working in the city. That is what I did when I was working in Dublin. There are smaller parks as well, such as the Herbert Park, the Fitzwilliam Park and the Merrion Park right close to one another at the city centre.

Tis for now. Riihele xx.

Travels: Amsterdam

TULIPSFROMAMST

“A mouse lived in a windmill in old Amsterdam
A windmill with a mouse in and he wasn’t grousin’
He sang every morning “How lucky I am
Living in a windmill in old Amsterdam”.

CHORUS

I saw a mouse – where? There on the stair
Where on the stair? Right there
A little mouse with clogs on – well, I declare
Going clip-clippety-clop on the stair – oh yeah…

“WINDMILL IN OLD AMSTERDAM” (Dicks / Rudge)
sung by Ronnie Hilton *
Taken from the Music Enquires, Music Questions, Music Queries online

Aaahh, tulips from Amsterdam!! Amsterdam is a city of dykes and waterways. A city where the easiest and possibly the best way to see the places and to get the feel of the city is just by walking or perhaps renting a bike. The city has an excellent system of the trams as well. I and himself, occasionally took the trams; but mostly, we walked, walked and walked our feet off, it felt like.

The hotel where we stayed was right at the heart of the best shopping streets at the time. The shops had the most beautiful and, also, extremely expensive goods for sale, anyway, in that district where we stayed. It was fun to look at what exactly was on offer, but as to buying anything much, no way in those prices. I do not remember what I did get there but I do recall the fabulous ice-creams that were sold in a store in the street we stayed in. Twas Cinnamon Ice-cream. Delicious. The first and only time that this kind of ice-cream was anywhere to buy where I have been in. I have made it since myself, though.

The highlight for me was the visits to the museums such as The Rijksmuseum, The Van Gogh Museum and The Anne Frank House. I had so looked forward to being able to see the Rembrandt paintings in real life, but when I saw and read more about the man himself, I became rather disappointed. The man had a plum-life as a court painter. The most famous painting of Rembrandt is possibly ‘The Night Watch‘ – well, would you believe that what one is shown, normally, of that painting is only a minute fraction of the whole thing! The painting in its full size is absolutely enormous.

Vincent Van Gogh had not been one my favourites before this trip – but he became after it! I spent hours in the museum reading his letters – displayed in the glass cabinets, yet easy to see – to his brother Theo and some other people as well. The paintings of his really came to life and felt more interesting with that background of his descriptive letters of them.

The horror of the Nazi era came alive in the Anne Frank House where we spent hours looking, thinking and going from room to room in the Annex as it still looks like it was when the people and Anne herself were hiding in there. The bookshelf – so familiar from the book of Anne’s, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ – is still there…

Vermeer and Monet are my very top favourite painters of all time. Vermeer’s style of painting is to me, really, very modern in the way that it looks rather like photographing with its sharp and stark contrasts between the dark and the light. The colours are strong and vibrant, so pleasing to look at. I was very impressed by his paintings in the ‘real’ – well, the way one is allowed to admire them in the museum.’The Milkmaid‘ is, perhaps, Vermeer’s most well-known painting.

The streets, like the Prinsengracht, where the Anne Frank House is located and the Herrengracht, are another site as they go over the dykes in a semicircle. The houses are high and so narrow that one nearly gets the feeling that one has to move about in the houses sideways!! They are kept in spick and span- order. Order, really, is the word of the northern regions of the world. Everything has its place and purpose. That is the way that the business of any sort thrives in, of course. The creativity and the like, often, suffocates.

The food was not expensive and it was soo delicious, especially, the Rijsttafel – akin to the Middle Eastern Mezes and the Spanish Tapas – yet distinctively Indonesian in its style and taste. We ate these ‘rice tables’, that is the literal translation of the word, several times and always, always twas outstanding and reasonable in cost. ‘Yum’, said my tum!

The Dutch language, I found to my great surprise, was one that I could understand after a while quite well, both in spoken as in TV and written forms as in the newspapers. It is related to German and having also Swedish and English helped to get the ‘lingo’. Everywhere I was addressed to in Nederlands – that is the Dutch language in Dutch – as people were thinking that I was Dutch! It was nice not to be taught as an alien but a part of the scenery… Yes, I liked it very much, indeed.

Tis for this travel for now – until the next posting. Riihele xx.

* He was one of Britains most popular singers in the 1950s.