Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The last weeks have been walking weeks. Days of exploring different places far away and around where I live. It began earlier in Berlin, Germany and now it has taken me from the shoreline of Long Island Sound to Brooklyn, from Croton Dam to my back yard. I enjoy these walks and now I even try to walk to shops which I thought before beyond reach. Sometimes I have a friend with me, but often I enjoy it all by myself. It takes me from a few minutes to sometimes a few hours.
Walking is not so common around here. The world is set up for driving, there are only a few sidewalks where I live and I have a feeling most people think of it as a sport...which I do not!
I'd rather see myself in the tradition of Goethe and Schiller, H.D.Thoreau, William Wordsworth or the Alcott's for whom walking was, apart from necessity, a way to feel nature and source of inspiration, meditation and romantic love. 

I remember long Sunday walks with my parents and sisters, through summer warm valleys, along rivers, snow laden fields or cool forests. Walking was natural and not something we thought of as a chore.
My children miss this almost entirely. They consider it boring. Or - after sports (!) and homework are too tired to go on walks. 

Walking lets me think, I can sort ideas, make plans, I dream and of course I can stop and watch. Something I love to do! I watch nature, animals, my fellow humans, I walk through the largest picture book and it does not tire me in the least.

I love the water. 

And the light.

I watch crumbling houses and smart cats.

The power of water.

Old trees and older stone walls make me feel young and childlike.

But the sky lets me breath and makes me hopeful.
I am grounded.

Just read this:

                                    The immeasurable height
Of woods decaying, never to be decayed,
The stationary blast of waterfalls,
And everywhere along the hollow rent
Winds thwarting winds, bewildered and forlorn,
The torrents shooting from the clear blue sky,
The rocks that muttered close to our ears,
Black drizzling crags that spoke by the wayside
As if a voice were in them, the sick sight
And giddy prospect of a raving stream,
The unfettered clouds and region of the heavens,
Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light -
Were all like workings of the mind, the features
Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree,
Characters of great apocalypse,
The types and symbols of eternity,
Of first and last, and midst, and without end.
  Prelude(1805), vi, 556 -72

William Wordsworth.

No need for anything more! There is no distance between his feelings and mine, there is a bridge of time, I wander back and forth two hundred and six years!

All images by V.Zlotkowski

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Days are passing

Detail of a Eugene Grasset poster, 1892

The days are passing much faster then I always anticipate, my niece has come and gone, birthdays were celebrated this June and suddenly it's almost July! 
As I write this so many thoughts are going through my mind. I wish I had a little more time to follow them to make sense of my observations and feelings. To make sense of where I am heading.
One of those trains of thoughts has been dedicated for a long time now towards writing this blog, which has taken on a life of its own.
My intentions were 'simple' in the beginnings : To write about design and lifestyle.
Now I realize it has become a diary of sorts, a place where I am more and more aware of the importance of being an individual instead an observer and commentator of common design ideas.
Over the last months it has started to bother me to paste and copy images from magazines, 
homes I have seen or of the achievements of designers everywhere. It leaves me more dissatisfied, because I miss my own creativity.
I am not sure why this is. Perhaps I have become aware of the repetitive nature and although I am fully aware of things out there new and exciting, they begin to feel like one and the same.
Inside of me is a rebel buried and this one does not let me sit quietly. I am not able to suppress this feeling nor to ignore it any longer. It sits and nags me. Since I fully realized its there I have not been able to enjoy writing about decor, design other then my personal 
musings on life, house and garden.
I have a feeling this blog will need to be re-invented. I absolutely love following all your dedicated blogs on design, but for me it somewhat has run its curse.
I while ago I would have never believed to admit to the fact that I am slightly bored by daily reflections on the latest trends, chairs or wallpaper. My love for great design is undiminished, it's just that I might not write about it anymore as I used to.  

The last thing I want to come across is as a horrible snob. 

The strength of our blog writing lies in the fact that we all believe in the power and meaning of our messages we are sending out and I want desperately to keep it honest.
Slowly my blog has moved into something else, way more towards reflections on my own life, the style I try to evoke or my ideas I feel worth sharing with you. It has less and less to do with me reflecting on other designers or design products. 

It also has become more about writing.
The experience of writing this blog has - so to speak - sharpened my pencil and my thoughts are flowing out, but more often in different direction as I intended for this blog. 
Has this something to do with my age? Or possibly my many times broken career as an artist? I haven't painted in years, yet I still feel like a painter. The writings lined up in my head have not been really conceived, but the thoughts are sitting unwritten and I feel it's time to begin a different journey.
Maybe it will lead to something new. It feels exciting, but maybe it will lead to nowhere.
I am afraid to jinx it....
I am a little afraid.

So if you are willing to spare here and there a moment to follow me on this new adventure into possibly writing and my reflection on life and (of course) my occasional departure into the design world and dispatches from my garden I invite you to come along.
I cannot promise how entertaining it might be and I am fully aware that I run a huge risk of boring you all to the point of no return, but I would love to have you come along with me!

This summer we will be in South Carolina, we love the beach, the heat and Savannah, GA close by.
I will practice writing and hope to learn to be precise, to collect impressions and to tell you how I feel....

I hope you all enjoy these coming months, I am wishing you a wonderful new season, wherever you are!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blog pause

William George Gillies

I have hit the pause button on the blog, too many things are happening at home, we are having visitors and my attention cannot be divided enough, so I apologize I might not make it back before the summer break!

I miss it terribly, but in order to blog with something to say I need more time to concentrate.
Right now this it is simply not possible.
I am reading your posts, get a chance to comment once in a while, so please come and check in with me, it's a temporary interruption of service.....
Artist unknown to me....

I hope you are all off to a good start of the summer season, I wish you all the best and hopefully I will be back soon!

Take good care,  I miss you already!


With my niece yesterday on Times Square, NYC! The only shot together, unfortunately a little wobbly...

All images via V.Zlotkowski, art work  as indicated and second source unknown.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Storm front

The tree in spring
After the latest string of hot days last night's rainstorm was overdue, but again it took the perhaps most severe toll on our garden. The last of the old maple trees which stood there already for 50 years when we moved here about 10 years ago will have to come down today! We had it cabled a few years back, but a large crack did never heal and a few strong winds yesterday was all it took to break it apart!
Coincidentally it was also the birthday of two of our sons, boys 10 years apart, one 21, the other 11! ( : )) )

Roses from the garden and a giant 'burger' cake for the birthday boys!

The youngest son's impromptu garden party came to an abrupt  halt after we heard the cracking of the tree after the first strong winds. 
A frantic call to our tree guy confirmed the diagnosis and now the man are up there, removing branch by branch. How easy it is to reduce a tall tree to shredded wood after 60 + years of growth....
I can hear the shredder now as I write.

We will leave the last remaining large piece, unable to part with it completely, but it might buy us only a year or two more. It's sentimental, but the character of the garden and the house will be so changed, we can't bear it yet!
You must think by now that this is not a design blog at all, I am talking too much of gardens and trees. But as I understand it, it is all part of the larger picture, the frame to our lives and lifestyle.
Garden design has become of more and more interest and I feel my attention shifting, especially in the summer month!
Still the lasting impressions of our visit last week to one of Europe's most amazing gardens at Sanssouci left me again with the urge to plant and to leave a mark for future generations, more then I can perhaps leave with my interiors. 

250 year old copper beech tree at Sanssouci

A fruit tree, spreading across the ground.

Trees last so much longer!
The small land we have will hold more memories one day for our kids. At least that's what I hope for. And if it should get sold eventually, others may enjoy some large trees one day, then planted long ago, spending much needed shade in future summers.
Often I have thought about the people who build the home we live in, when our neighborhood was developed, right in the years after the Second World War.
They planted azaleas and rhododendrons, which are so large now and gorgeous, Japanese maples and magnolias, and perhaps the old trees which have shaded our house until recently where left from the natural environments, grown wild before the land was sold! 
I thanked them silently many times!
There were forests here and a small pickle farm, where our elementary school now stands since the 50's only a few hundred yards from our house.
We have changed the front face of the house and walk way, planted already a few young trees there, but now with the fall of the last giants we will have to rethink the garden plans again!

I know, perhaps some will say just roll with the punches, you will get used to it, but for us living with our garden is as essential as for others the kitchen renovation....

It's a summer of changes and although I mourn the loss of this big part of the last old tree I am hopeful that new plantings will be done by us with enough foresight to bring joy to us and many more in future years. And perhaps this last one standing will survive a few more withering storms!

I have been writing other posts from my "tree - house", one you might enjoy you can find here!
I guess I am a tree woman and I don't mind that image a bit!


All pictures by V.Zlotkowski

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Berlin my love....

We are back! And as always, it's going to be an extra long post! Get comfortable and enjoy 'my' Berlin!

Pariser Platz with Brandenburg Gate and the American Embassy to the left!
How many times have I returned from a journey to Germany? Especially Berlin lately? But this was special: My husband joined me for the first time after 1992!

Under the Brandenburg Gate!

Quarters around the Nikolai Church! The oldest neighborhood in Berlin.

Last night we came back again, it was wonderful to arrive home after an incredible week, filled with many impressions, the biggest left behind by my two older boys and my oldest son's sweet girlfriend! Again they are more mature, so lovely and attentive and we spend the best of times with them all! Thank you for everything! When grown children become friends it is the most rewarding feeling! 
It is simply wonderful!

My "boys" walking ahead!

We shared so many things, talked the nights away and made plans for the future!

As usual, me trailing behind, marveling at them and being in love!

The time flew by way too fast and I had  - like always - too many things planned and scheduled. But in 8 days can only be crammed so much but the things we did were fabulous!
There was a stroll over Kurfuersten Damm, the large grand street in the western part of the city, filled with shops, hotels and great restaurants. 

Ku' damm party!

It was the famous street's 125 anniversary and it was commemorated with a large street party, and famous German cars from 125 years ago until the present were paraded and displayed. It was lovely.

The Kurfürstendamm or simply Ku'damm is Berlin's most popular shopping street. Stretching for 3.5 km (2 miles) westwards from the Memorial Church it is a wide boulevard flanked by shops, hotels and restaurants and despite competition from the East's up-and-coming shopping areas around Friedrichstrasse and Hackescher Markt is has maintained its image as the place to shop and stroll. The liveliest section is between Breitscheidplatz and the fashionable Fasanenstrasse.

(Read more:

We finished that first evening in a pub, where an important soccer game between Spain and England was broadcasted and the food, crowd and atmosphere were fantastic. Nobody wanted to miss it!

The best of Berlin food!
Images and photograph from GDR times!

Famous and infamous characters of world history - painted on the pub ceiling!

Great design on every street corner!

I looked at a few design shops, but truth be told we simply explored the city, my husband had been there the last time 1992, there were so many changes, it was hard to recognize the city for him! We discovered many parts together, toured the river Spree on a boat, walked miles and miles every day 
(I lost 5 pounds, ha!) and had the kids as our insider tour guides!

We saw a show of Broadway proportions, danced Tango with good friends, went to a classical music concert, visited Sanssouci, the grand summer palast of Frederick the Great, spend hours walking over markets and I felt home again in the big city without a moment's hesitation.

The charming Dutch quarters in Potsdam, a small city just outside Berlin, where Sanssouci is located!

We were so happy to be there together!

Brandenburg gate in Potsdam.

Mostly we were accompanied by our grown kids (the younger ones stayed home this time) who live and study in Berlin. There was nothing better then to feel their energy and enthusiasm to enjoy the ever changing metropolis!

An iron forged folly! There are many like that throughout the park!

The views towards Roman ruins....fashionably 18th century!
The first public art gallery in Europe: Frederick the Great began a collection of French, Italian and Dutch masters, hanging them for the first time in history categorized by origin and artists!

Marble details!

The beauty of the Rococo era!

Sanssouci's gardens are absolutely wonderful! A mix between English and French style, it has the best of both! manicured hedges and mazes as well as park like gardens, filled with orchards!

Back in Berlin we walked Unter den Linden, Berlin's foremost boulevard, literally lined with mature Linden trees! There were moments of commemoration under the Brandenburg Gate, were as a child I gazed towards West Berlin, never imagining then that there would be so many groundbreaking changes! My husband, having grown up in Poland at the same time knew as well how it felt being imprisoned under the communist law. We both appreciate the freedom we and our children enjoy today so much!

One of Berlin's most beloved symbols: The TV tower!

This mural commemorates 20 years of German - Polish friendship! Being married to a Pole for almost 20 years, it makes wonderful sense to me!

A glance back at the Reichstag - seat of the Parliament and daily magnet for thousands of visitors to to magnificent cupola!
Berlin is green and young, full of speed and energy, dirty, loud, creative and artistic. There is this unique combination of historic and modern architecture, parks, street cars and subways, buses and thousands of bikers in-between!

Along the Spree river, view towards the Berlin Dom and the Museum Island.

But what I like the most: It's open minded and friendly! Wherever we went, we were welcomed with kindness and open arms!

A typical Berlin street corner, tall apartment buildings from the turn of the last century, lovingly restored and huge trees everywhere!
Flea market on Sunday at Anklamer Platz!

There is nothing you could not find!

There are almost as many dogs as people, tourists from all over the world, a wonderful world of reasonably prized great cuisine from Asia to Europe. We picked different foods every day, great quality and enormous variety! My great love in Berlin is the food from Vietnam (the best I have eaten) and Berlin's own local food! The beer options beat all! In the summer a mix of beer and lemonade called 
Berliner Weisse is the perfect way to quench the thirst!

Some of the great foods we had! Typical Berliner selection!
Kaffee and Kuchen! A must!

Spanish cuisine!

Every morning began at one cafe near our place, were the friendly waitresses chatted with us about God and the world, were the menu of breakfast choices took 10 minutes
to discover and ended usually long after midnight at our friend's apartment, which we were able to use for the week. Perfectly located in Schoeneberg, one of Berlin's most desirable neighborhoods we could walk to Ku'damm and subway stops, and the city was always ready to receive us!

Our mornings at Phoenix Lounge!
Berlin is wild and wonderful! Many say it has the vibes of 1970's New York, I cannot say, I never knew NYC at this time, but what ever it is, I am in love with Berlin and I can only encourage you to go and see for yourselves!
Berlin is so worth a visit!

Upon returning of course we were captured by our family here, telling all the stories and it took me a few days to be back in the rhythm of things! But here I am now, filled with gratitude for all the wonderful moments, the memories and the time with the kids!


All images by V. Zlotkowski
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