Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas

This year is coming to an end and with Christmas approaching I will not post more in the coming days. Our oldest son is here for a long overdue visit and we all enjoy his presence so much.

We have again much to be grateful for:  Health, peace and prosperity have been with us this past year. We do not take it for granted.
May you all enjoy relaxing days ahead, make plans for 2013 and may your dreams and hopes come true. May life be good!

Wishing you all the best!
Merry Christmas and a happy NewYear!


All images by V.Zlotkowski

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Victorians

Some weeks ago we received an unexpected hand -me - down from friends. They had cleaned out their attic and were ready to ship some old, decrepit furniture pieces off to the Salvation Army. But for whatever reason they ask us first if we had any use to fill our house with some more furniture... My husband actually wanted to decline but then asked me if I perhaps should have a look?

You must know, this is always dangerous, for I am known to rescue old abandoned pieces from curb sites, and dig through dumpsters for treasures without a moment's hesitation!  I went over and was confronted with two small, sad looking curio cabinets, literally falling apart, one missing a door in the hinges, tops loose and lining ripped. But I also saw some potential...
What was I to do? I liked them regardless of their situation and in my mind I played out a couple of scenarios.

I'll take them, I told our friends and they were happy when I drove off with them. Problem solved. As I discharged them at home, I was pondering what in the right mind possessed me to get them and what I was going to do with them. They were in no state to be brought into the house and needed serious repair. Which would be expensive, something we could barely afford these days, with a huge bill ahead of us, due to Sandy....
Although I had a fairly good idea where they came from I googled them up. They were indeed about 140 years old English made curio cabinets, for china display or various collections! Not book shelves. Their velvet lining is perfect in its faded beauty to hold on to slippery china.

There they sat, a reminder of my foolishness. Every time I entered the garage they stood there, looking mournfully, silently pleading with me...
I finally spoke to my husband. After all, he put me on their track, he must have known what he unleashed when he asked me to look at them. We decided to have a craftsman looking them over and see what's needed and if there was any hope.
Eric Clingen of Tarrytown Woodworks is a man after my own restoration heart. He is a non-invasive, gentle restorer, trying to leave pieces as original as possible. No need for extensive repairs, he told me. Great, I thrilled inside!
I have worked with him many times before for clients or our own needs. We will glue them back together, clean the fine wood and metal trimmings, we'll leave everything else alone. They will be beautiful! Do you know, the glass in the doors is the most valuable of the pieces? Hand blown... I was happy!
We finally came to a good deal, the price was right and we drove them over to his workshop! 
Yesterday I got them home and after a few trials and errors regarding their placement I found their perfect spot!

I pulled out the few valuable pieces of china I own, things I have had inherited and some I have collected over the years, some Astier de Vilatte and some Meissen.... Some knick knacks and some small pieces I love to see displayed.....

Even the toaster fits right there, close at hand at the dining table....

A few details have to be taken care of, I do not like dangling extension cords for example....
The small painted sideboard moved around and holds now, like many years before, the coffee maker and an additional lamp.

The old chest of drawers, in which I kept my table linens for a few years will have to find a new home, there is no way that I clutter this beautiful dining room with that unfitting piece. I am eclectic, but not messy!

After we marveled at the beauty of these Victorian cabinets for a good while I had the strangest thoughts. You must know, that I come from a family on my mother's side, where wonderful old furniture have been always appreciated, even after the war, when money was short. My parents bought themselves at their wedding an original chippendale dining set, something people were shaking their heads about it at the time, being the sixties and everybody trying to be modern. We love the regal curves of the large buffet, which, until today, holds everything of the china my mother treasures. Christmas displays are highlighted at that piece every year, as far back as I can remember. Do I digress?
Maybe, but hang on! Back to what I was thinking. Now there runs a connecting string in the family, something which also unites me with my grandmother and great grandmother. 
As I finished the set up, I realized, how traditional these pieces looked, something I could perhaps not have embraced a few years ago, when I was younger and wanted to be more contemporary and eclectic. Which still I am I believe. Perhaps this is the first moment of wandering off into the older generation, I thought, laughing to myself.... All I'll need some day (soon?) are admiring grandchildren, which will stand in front of these cabinets, asking about this piece or that, just as I did when I was young and begged my grandmother to share the stories of the pieces behind her glass cabinets, which came directly from the Victorian era, being the time in which she had grown up!
Have I come full circle? If yes, I am happy!
I feel I do not own them, but rather take care of them for a few decades until I'll pass them on, then even older and more beautiful, for they will then have belonged to our family and will have collected memories and carry something which is more then wooden walls and a glass door. By then they'll contain some more stories as well.

I wish I could find out where they have been earlier in their existence and how the ended up on this side of the pond....Who owned them before our friends got them in an antique shop many years back. Who ever had these cabinets, must have loved them too and their spirit is carried on....and well kept with us!

A happy weekend to you all!


All images by V.Zlotkowski

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Saint Nick

It has finally happened: This year I forgot, well, almost! Now I must have become truly American for I can't wait for Thanksgiving and July 4th is something I look forward to. 
But today is St. Nikolaus, the day when in Germany and other European countries the  good children get sweets in their boots and the not so good a symbolic branch with a few pieces of coals hanging from it. Which has not ever happened when I was young.... not that I was always such a good little girl! 

Last year....

So a few days ago I found these lovely St.Nicks in my local grocery shop and I was happy to get them for today. This morning I did not set up boots, something I would have done normally on the evening before, filling one boot for each family member with some chocolate, an orange or apple and some evergreen twigs and deposited them in front of each bedroom door....
Today it did not happen and nothing seemed amiss this morning.
Until we began talking at breakfast of the coming Christmas break, the onset of Hanukkah early this year, when it suddenly hit me! What's the day today, I exclaimed.... The sixth came the replay, OH, I FORGOT!
Hold on everybody, before you rush out of the door, here, some little reminder of St. Nikolaus, although you kids quarrel a lot and should perhaps get some empty branches....
And I handed everybody rather unceremoniously the enchanting chocolate Nikolaus, a glorious specie... large and wrapped in shiny foil!

How could I have forgotten??? My husband reminded me gently that in Poland children get almost more gifts on this day then at Christmas for in Poland Christmas is still more a day celebrated with family in church and with plenty of good food! Thanks honey, sorry, we are not in Kansas anymore....So to speak!
Well, we are almost Americans now after all......and the kids are anyway.....Which is wonderful! It must be normal...
So I forgave myself and beheaded the chocolate Nikolaus with a hearty bite!

Happy Saint Nick's!


All images by V.Zlotkowski

Monday, December 3, 2012

The holidays this year at home

The holidays are close, our oldest is soon coming to visit, we have begun to decorate the house as proof to ourselves, that we keep up the spirits even now, especially in honor of our beloved dog, who always enjoyed family gatherings and the living room, which had been "his" domain....

He presided over all, on top of the large ottoman. We now  have re-arranged the room a little, to give us all a chance to come to terms with his absence.

Traditionally we always have the tree at the spot, where usually his crate stands and this year the tree will replace it and then we will find something new in that space. 
For now, we have a small memorial on top of his crate. 
We will set up the tree on the third Advent weekend with our children.

There is nothing we can do about it and I feel it's better to change things rather quickly.
Thank goodness for the sunshine outside, it helps me in particular to keep my mood up and trying to enjoy the days ahead. 

Pine cones, a cicada shell and a seed pod share a display at the window in the dining room. 
The Buddha sits on top of the piano and watches calmly over all proceedings.

We have picked greenery and branches and have put them in large and small vases, I love simple arrangements, without to much fuss and easy to change, once needles start falling.

We have our small collection of smoking men and the Pyramid, things we've had for as long as I can think at Christmas time.

There are wreaths hanging on the bay windows, greeting neighbors, friends and us, when coming here. Small candles sit in every window, glowing warmly at night. The wreath at the door lites up at night as well, I love the festive glow, which I can see, when I drive up at night!

I decorated the small evergreen on our front porch with dried seed pods, hydrangeas, ivy and grasses.

I am sure, you all out there have your own wonderful traditions and I would love to hear from you, which are dearest to your hearts!
Enjoy these days, slow down, if you can, and just remember it is not all about shopping. Gather your memories, your loved ones, hold them close and share lots of laughter!


All images by V.Zlotkowski
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