Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays

I am wishing you the best of holiday times, relax and live in harmony with all who surround you and may the new year bring you all health, love, happiness and success!

Thank you all for reading my blog, commenting so often and being such good companions in a world, where more of the friendliness and kindness is needed!

I appreciate it deeply and thank you all from the bottom of my heart! See you all back in the new year!


From our family to yours! Happy holidays and a happy New Year!

All images by V.Zlotkowski

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

For The Love Of Old

Maybe a year ago I saw this book by Mary Randolph Carter and was intrigued. It stood high up on a shelf, wrapped in cellophane and somewhat out of reach. It looked expensive and, at the time, I just made a mental note of it to save it for later.
Later became months and I had  almost forgotten about it, when I stumbled recently upon it during one of many excursions to a bookstore nearby. This time I did not hesitate and grabbed it for myself at the holidays. This was such a delightful discovery and her other book, 'A Perfectly Kept House is a Sign for a Misspent Life' has grazed my side table for a little while longer! It has, in fact, become something like my regular go-to when I need a pick me up! 

Of course this new one (which is actually the old one, no pun intended) should sit wrapped under the tree, but this year everything is a little different. 
For once we haven't gotten a tree - yet! Will there be one? 
I am not sure...
Secondly we are traveling and I am already making lists and checking them twice. We vowed this time to travel lightly!


Which, of course, gives me reason for plenty of anxiety. I have a hard time being selective! Packing is no exception!
Well, it's simply not in my nature. I collect things. And every once in a while I clean out and begin again. Now, I feel, I found a kindred spirit, for I love old things. Many of them! 
Mary Randolph Carter has put it all in such fine words and images, I can recommend  both books to keep you sane, especially if you are, once in a while, affected by that terrible decease Perfection. And for the fun of it! 
Of course it's not for everyone, I guess this makes the world such a wonderful place. 
Minimalists and modernists will perhaps crawl away in a bright, clean and well lit corner....But I am in the right spot!
So, these books together gave me lot's to think about and I'll keep this mindset for the journey ahead! I'll keep it simple and fun! 

I will not fret over my children's wardrobe for the journey, will let my husband do his own choosing and will not nag when the days come, and we will go out to fine dining at Christmas and New Year's Eve on the road in California...
The question"What? You did not bring a second shirt?" shall not cross my lips!
I will just look serenely the other way! Being where we will be, there will be plenty beautiful to see...

We will be together, old is wonderful and I will cherish the things which lay ahead. Old and new!

What are your plans ahead?

All images via google image.

Monday, December 5, 2011

From my collections and a movie

Last weekend found our family at the annual holiday bazaar at the German School in the neighboring town. A tradition, we have been following for the last 10 years or so, since our daughter attended language classes there when she was a toddler.
It connects me every year with my roots. There are all the small things which remind me of Germany: The food, a Christmas pagan and songs, there is coffee and cake, baked by  the German mothers and I indulge in Kaesekuchen (German cheesecake) and Chocolate tarts. There are typical evergreen wreath sold for the advent time, the ones with four large candles, to be lit successively every Sunday before Christmas. We've met a delightful couple and their young daughter, a diplomat to the UN, from Mexico and his Polish wife...Since my husband is Polish as well and me being German, there was a lot of talk about the cultures and lot's of laughter too! They had lived for 10 years in Germany and their 11 year old daughter speaks four languages with ease! 


There is usually a great tombola - a lottery, where my kids enjoy to win prizes and there is a book fair, which I look forward to the most, every year.  In the past I often found great books for my children, often ones, I read as a child myself. But also modern authors, I know little about, since I left Germany almost 20 years ago. Now my children are not interested in German literature so much, they are now engulfed in their own American reading culture, but I indulge in one of my biggest passions.
This year was no exception and I found a treasure trove. I scored a collection of books. A Rilke edition, selected works, from the renowned Insel Verlag, an old publishing house, with editions, known and collected for their artistic covers.

I absolutely adore this collection with it's marbleized paper on the covers. It's an older edition, with all the markings of, I believe, rather seldom taken out school library books.
Rilke is known for his poetry, the Elegies are his best, I think, and some beautiful prose. 
It has, for time being, a honorable place on our mantle, where I can see it and page through the fine leaves every day!

An example of his writings:

A movie, which I saw with my youngest son on Saturday night fits right in with the poetic motions. We saw Martin Scorsese's HUGO in 3D. It was a feast, for the eye and the soul.
The movie tells the story of Hugo, a young orphan, living in the bowels of a train station in the centre of Paris and the his search for clues to find the key to some mysteries in his life. 

The story unfolds in beautiful images, filled with poetry and a language, so seldom heard in movies these days. The actors are superb and if you love the movies, it's the one to see! It is also a movie about the magic of movies...You do not have to be a child to enjoy it!

A treat for the holidays!
An 11 out of 10!!!

All images as indicated and my own. Hugo image via moviefone.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My book shelf now

I am recycling a post, which I had written a couple of weeks ago on the other blog site, but I have the slightest suspicion this part is still the step-child, nobody wants to look at.... 
In the meantime I have read A Mountain Of Crumbs and finished Falling Leaves, both related in their subjects, by two women, having written their memoirs coming from the East and Far East! It has been more then captivative reading, very moving, something I warmly recommend for everybody interested in history and the effects on our private lives. Both women immigrated eventually, at slightly different times, to the United States and it was with great interest that I, also a resent transplant, learned about their faith. I can relate, more then I sometimes can explain.
I will show some new finds of books about great design in a couple of days!
Here is the old new post:

I wanted to share some more books I have discovered lately, this time for adults. You can read about my children's and teen book recommendations here.

Let's get started: It's a fairly mixed bunch....

From the delightful Alan Bradley comes a new book in the Flavia de Luce series, which I adore! 
I Am  Half-Sick Of Shadows.
If an 11 year old English girl in the 1950's with a talent for chemistry and a nose for murder interests you only remotely, then you will be hooked....
This time it's another murder mystery right before Christmas at the crumbling Buckshaw Estate! 
If you haven't gotten a chance to read his previously written books, I very much recommend them. Absolutely charming!
Perfect for all Anglophiles! 

Another prolific writer, whom I have enjoyed reading over the years, is Bill Bryson. His latest book, At Home, now out in paperback, is another stroke of genius. He describes in entertaining and enlightening ways the history of home as we know it, and, perhaps, as we do not.  
It's a short history of private life and architecture in the English speaking western world from the times the Romans left England to present day America! 
Indeed: Bryson's enthusiasm brightens any dull corner!

Moving along: I have had read Lev Grossman's The Magicians and liked the book. It's fantasy/realism for adults and the comparison to Harry Potter or Narnia does not hold up to his skillful ways with words. It is interesting to notice, that the reviews are widely spread in all directions. From devotion to hate I have found everything. Personally I favor his storytelling and now the sequel has arrived. I will follow up with The Magician King, hopefully worthy its predecessor!

Sticking with a little more magical realism I am also looking forward to reading Karen White's The Strangers On Montagu Street
I enjoyed her previous books, in which she introduces the characters, always with a certain amusement. The main character represents the equivalent to the preppy WASP in the South! 
I feel it's a little antiquated that the author drives this  point home so strongly, but then, of course,  she creates the world the characters live in.  During this summer's break I have had plenty of fun following her around with ghosts in Charleston....It's light fare, but this is what I enjoy in-between...

Memoirs: I recommend three books. The first one - A Mountain Of Crumbs - by a Russian immigrant coming to America and her childhood and youth in the former Soviet Union. It is especially interesting for me, because I share many memories growing up under a communist regime. To read about her realities made me shiver.
She has been compared to Frank McCourt and his memoir Angela's Ashes. I guess this is already a great recommendation.

Another book which had me in it's grip from the first page is Adeline Yen Mah's Falling Leaves. The story of an unwanted Chinese daughter and her incredible journey into freedom, fulfillment and finally writing.

Of course, much has been said and written about Joan Didion's latest venture into memoir writing. After her highly acclaimed book The Year Of Magical Thinking she has now written about her daughter's death at the age of 38. Blue Nights.
I have reflected a little more about it here

Some of you might remember the German writer Bernhard Schlink, who wrote the bestselling story The Reader, which was subsequently made into the movie of the same title. (starring amazing Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes in the main roles)
There are many more great books by him, one I very much 
like is The Gordian Knot. Perhaps the translation from German into English suggests particular ideas (thinking of the Gordian Knot in history) but the more correct translation should be The Gordian Bow. Of course that doesn't sound remotely as good as knot and I guess this was the motivation behind the translation. The difference between a knot and a bow is obvious, the first is practically not to be easily unraveled, but rather  needs to  be cut in half, the latter can be pulled apart...There is of course some meaning behind the original title and this differentiation. Sorry to nit pick....
But go ahead and find out yourself! A classic noir thriller about love and deception.

Another book which has me sitting in anticipation is Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child.  There has been a wonderful interview with him on the Leonard Lopate Show; you can listen to it here. Just about everything in the story, set in England from the beginning  of WWI to the almost present days, has me all excited. Oh, go ahead and buy it already....

Finally I'll end this rather long post with my last book I have waiting in the shelf beside my bed....
The Night Circus.

Maybe it will be the right thing to do, to read it at night....
A little more magic and love and the spinning of one's imagination.... I can't stay away from it! 

But then again, we are in the right time for magic and believe!
Just a few sprinkles....

Happy Friday my dears!

All images via Barnes & Noble website.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I love candle light. May it be just a single light at my bedside, simple wooden holder with tapers at our dinner table or festive ones at the holidays, I just love the glow and gentle light.
Bringing out the Pyramide, the rotating wooden carousel-like structure from my home state Saxony in Germany, is a highlight for all of us. It is a temperamental thing, sensitive to position, sometimes not turning at all. But once it's running, we love to watch it.

They are made in small workshops in Saxony, candles creating the heat to turn the wooden paddles above. There are figures telling the Christmas story or reindeer and Santa Claus on small tiers, moving round and round.

Nutcracker, smoking man and chocolate filled Advent calendars are a must in German holiday traditions. 

The old ironing machine cloth is perfect for a backdrop!

When I sit in the darkened room, just listening to the sounds of the family at home, the dog sleeping next to me, then I feel completely content, the lights filling me with memories and times past. Back, when I was little and looked at my grandma's Christmas decorations, usually foil wrapped candies, chocolates, apples and a few saved Christmas ornaments, which had survived the bombing of Dresden. 
Each piece connected to her own memories.
Or the slowly moving Pyramide at my parent's house and 
visits to a humble holiday market at the main square in my hometown. And singing of carols at Christmas Eve.

What are your memories of holidays past?

Pictures by V.Zlotkowski

Monday, November 28, 2011

Beauty on Monday

Another beautiful morning has risen above the horizon, mild air caressing the bare trees, nothing pointing to a soon arriving winter. I am walking with just jeans and a sweater, a jacket is not needed.

Yet, yesterday was the beginning of the Advent time, the four weeks before Christmas, and I have began to decorate with greenery. The holidays are coming, trees are sold at every corner and since the day after Thanksgiving the shops are filled with everything for a festive time.

Our home at the holiday season 2011

There are dreidels and chocolate filled coins, St. Clauses and reindeers, angels and menorahs. Candles and greenery, stars and more stars blinking everywhere.
All sitting peacefully side by side.


How I wish that the spirit of love and tolerance would spread across the borders, to people who believe burning pipelines, blowing up cars and killing others will bring good change to their world. How much I hope for peace, something I, unfortunately, have too often reason to believe will not happen soon.
How can this small blog spread any goodwill and hope at times (like all others), filled with horror as soon as I look a little further then my backyard?
I feel strongly over the years since I have began writing this blog, how quickly kindness spreads when we are open minded towards others, enjoying their point of view, tolerate the ideas we do not share and stay positive and supportive.
It is wonderful to get to know so many people all over the world, at the same time knowing many more are out there reading this, without leaving a trace. Can goodwill and change come through a small blog, dedicated to beauty, art and the philosophy of life?


I hope my words will make others see for a moment what I see, let them feel how wonder- filled and precious life is and how much love between people can help along our hope for peaceful side by side living.
Getting to know people with different believes and values, being open minded towards their dreams and hopes can bring us closer. Small steps do wonders and just trying to come closer to your odd neighbor or the strange co-worker can make a difference.

Can you imagine?

Our school, like many others, has an annual holiday drive to help children in need to receive a gift for the holidays. My children pick usually more then one of those wish cards from a tree in the school lobby. They feel compassion and hope our gifts will spread more then something material, but love towards someone we do not know, hoping that these children will grow up knowing of love in a world where desperation could rule instead.

Let us stick together, all of us writing beautiful blogs, spreading compassion, tolerance and love towards others.  Let us begin at home and let it grow into the world. 
Let us share more then the beauty of material things, but kindness and goodwill among each other!
Holding one other hand and a chain begins.....

I am wishing you all the beginning of a lovely and peaceful holiday time.

All images as indicated and my own, bumper sticker via google image.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I am so thankful for all what this year has given us.
My heart is filled with Thanksgiving.

My wishes for all of you is that you may feel the same!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tea pot

Today is a gray, rainy day. What better way to lighten the mood but with a cup of golden tea, a touch of milk and a home baked cupcake? Made by my girl last night! 
The tea pot was a special Marshall's score last week! Barbara Barry's Top Note Design for Wedgewood! YES! 
I am sure some of you know the thrill...
But as any tea lover will agree with me: No teapot is really good unless it pours smoothly, without dripping and sputtering! This one is excellent, reminding me a little bit of the genie lamp from Thousand And One Night, which of course gives me an reading ideas for some long winter nights! 

 But I am sure this one will serve us longer than that...

Good night!

Book via and teapot image my own.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mellow yellow

For whatever reason I have lately an infatuation with yellow. I have actually never really liked the color on me or near me. But as many things change in life my love for yellow has emerged. Of course, yellow rooms have been around for the longest time, evoking light and sunshine and warmth. Nancy Lancaster's London yellow drawing room comes to my mind, a classic and often repeated design among the countless admirers.


A wonderful Lancaster inspired living room


I have found Jan Showers use of yellow quite admirable. The soft toned yellows feel more relaxing to the eye and less exciting.

These yellows do not scream, but rather create elegant, happy backdrops for our busy lives.

The last one perhaps does not really qualify for a yellow room, but the overall feeling for me is yellow, rather then neutral.

Some Farrow & Ball wallpapers I love:

Farrow & Ball's Brockhampton Star

Farrow & Ball's Ranlagh papers

Farrow & Ball's Vermicelli papers

Have a happy, sunny week!

All images as indicated and via Jan Showers website.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday thoughts

This weekend looks simple. 
There will be no shopping and no stressful cleaning, I'll take breakfast in bed and give lazy new meaning. 
I might take the dog for a walk in the park.
I could lay in bed and read until dark.
I'll write a few mails and chat with my mother.
I'll have tea on the sofa and a walk through the garden.
The sun will shine through all smudgy windows, but 
I will relax and put all off for Monday.


Picture via google image. Poem by me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A midweek autumn dinner


When the days grow short and darkness rises early, I enjoy cooking comfort food.
Last night I prepared acorn squash and bratwurst,  Brussels Sprouts and some delicious ice cream afterwards.

It's so easy and makes a satisfying meal. The scent of the baking squash is irresistible. Once the sausages are frying, it becomes enticing...

The dog did not leave my site and waited patiently to get a morsel.
My son explained why he needed definitely a test bite before dinner.
My husband asked at six if dinner was ready....
My daughter volunteered to set the table???
Guys, we never eat before seven?!

 Nicely browned, with a hint of butter and brown sugar! Hmmmm!

Alright! Dinner is served!

Top image from Joseph Oregon Fireworks Pottery, bottom google image, inbetween my own.
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