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

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Dear readers and friends,

Today we lost our dog. After a short, but painful decline we had to part with him.  We could not, with responsibility and love, see him suffer from what we now know was cancer of the bone. We are dreadfully sorry to have lost him and our grief is beyond measure. This dog has accompanied us since we moved here, was around for much of the life of our two youngest children and we have a hard time thinking of the days stretching ahead without him. 
He will be remembered by all, who loved his gentle soul and wonderful, happy nature.
We love you.

Oscar,  December 2000 - November 2012


Image by V.Zlotkowski

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The future

We have been living in our house for a dozen years now and we have changed little in the grand scheme of things. Our house is colorful, spontaneously adapting to continuously arising problems, typical of old, but not so charming homes. 
This house is filled with many makeshift fixes, waiting for the break through renovations, which might never happen. My desire to change clashes often hard with the necessities at hand and the limits in our budget. Which cannot be helped.  The hoped for changes at home reflect my personal, I have departed quite far from who I used to be, even four, five years ago. 

Departed from once so harmonious ideas of how to live in this space. Less is now more appealing. Different rooms and different colors, different pieces would reflect so much better my different needs and who I am today.... They should be the fitting background to my stage in life, on which I perform daily.

I do not want to change everything. But some essential things. I admit, much more essential to me.
I do not always see eye to eye with my husband. He is in no hurry, least need for any change. He is happy with most around him and tells me to get occupied with other things, so I will stop nagging. His preferences lay elsewhere to begin with. He does not see peeling wallpapers or mildew in the bathrooms, he is seemingly oblivious to many things in need of improvement. Oh, my happy man!

Repairs we have to defer to later, due to other pressing issues and needs. And my reading of design blogs does not help at all. On the contrary. Regularly I read about massive improvements. No blogs are written about the lack of it.  Oftentimes it leaves me drained lately. I have to remind myself that these renovating mavens are a minority among the many folks, just living their common lives...making ends meet.

The irony of being so interested in design, but being incapable of acting on it sooner then later, is not lost on me. I am a dreamer, but this often comes close to self inflicted torture. I am certainly in no need for extra motivation.
There are endless scenarios which play out in my head, from better bathrooms to a modern kitchen, finished guest quarters in the basement, which has been a stepchild to us, playing evil mental games of let's pretend. I am so tired of it. 

Shall I surrender to the facts of life and remain silent from now on? I have to pinch myself to stay focused on the things at hand... To take every day and make the best out of it....
Are these the rantings of a suburban housewife with no other problems? I can assure you, it is not. I am busy with many things, some even involve making money. 
Am I sure I am the same person talking of Thanksgiving only a few days ago? These reminders are not forgotten, but there is this, the darker side, something else which needs to be voiced as well. 

Clouds over the Green House

There is a new roof coming after all. Soon. And I try to make the best of it, hoping to sneak in some changes, hoping it will pass muster. And the budget, of course. Why does everything have to be so expensive? I am not talking about the fancy stuff anymore. Contractors take much more then I do per hour. There would be no chance for me at all, if I would insist on these charges.

At Perch, New Orleans

I have been thinking hard about all that, feeling partly guilty of being so difficult and partly virtuous about me and my, hopefully, more self-controlled complaining, bitchy self.   
Now I have concluded I should try a different route. I'll will begin with myself. Begin to change on my end, free of cost and with a little more hope of success. Not the bathrooms, for I am not capable of such handiwork, but with the closets, the clutter. The stuff. 

The endless magazines, which have held my dreams and for that reason I could never part with them. As if I would loose the actual things, I so desire, by parting with these pages. The hoarded bits and pieces, which will never make it into once dreamed up projects. Unfinished THINGS, resisting for years and years under the bed and in dark corners of the basement, waiting to be discovered. All which have filled me with restless desire and pain. Constant, highly unpleasant reminders of unfinished business. They have become memories of past yearnings, ideas, with which I should have parted long ago. They have become millstones, which drag me under water. I realize that so many THINGS are connected to our 'selves', our being us, which led me to believe they are me. I am thinking about these, who loose everything through terrible events, or the cards of life, dealt to them. These unfortunate ones, might they actually gain eventually some wisdom, which is still avoiding me? Or are they simply endlessly suffering and missing things? 
Perhaps I'll learn finally to look inside myself for those THINGS, I desire on the outside?
I have read many books, stories of mindfulness and the practical help books, the un-clutter your space books and the ones pertaining to the 'un-clutter your mind'.
Where is that knowledge in my head? It takes more then reading, experiencing it on my own has always been the best way for me. Unfortunately I seem not capable of changing by theories and thinking about it alone. Learning for me is by doing. I do not want to loose the peace in my four walls, and the fine balance with my husband, who lives rather happily in the house, which is our home. 

That sunny window

This will surely be a departure not free of pain and some doubts, perhaps some regrets of leaving something behind, which I might miss later? I am a little scared of the implied consequences. But there is no change without loss along the way. What I hope to find is better balance of wants and needs in the long run. And a more clutter free existence. I feel, I can do that, but I still need to convince myself of my capability to pull through. To come out the other end with a different feeling and state of mind.
I am sure, I am not the only one suffering from imbalanced and painful hopes and desires, from dreams, we should wake up from not depressed but actually strengthened.
And to be at peace. This is my desire now. And in the future.

Our trees in spring


Images byV. Zlotkowski

Friday, November 23, 2012

Late late late autumn


As much as everywhere the next holidays are pushed, I am not quite ready for this... Traditional we are decking the halls not before the first Advent Sunday, which gives me still about 8 days without preparing for Christmas. 
I want to stretch these days, hold on to the late, late, late autumn days. 

Still making the few in between days after Thanksgiving count. I do love the early Christmas time, but also waiting until up to the moment. 

It seems allover to arrive a little earlier each year. Often I joke why not to keep the stuff up around all year, why bother? A little earlier to  shop a little longer, so I guess. It annoys me to see, how commercial reasons push us in the fast lanes. I refuse as usual and manage to overlook the early Christmas craze.

Of course I am thinking of the holidays long before these days, sometimes in summer and make my lists for the children, or my husband and friends....
But deep inside and at home I wait, wait for the first truly icy days, when I see the frozen garden holding still in the blue light of a late afternoon in early December, when chickadees and bluebirds begin to show up in my backyard for the morsels I lay out for them on the deck.

When on mornings around four the fox slowly makes his way through our garden and neighbor's cats look unsuccessful for chipmunks, now safely buried deep in their small cozy dens.

Then I feel the moment is right to pick evergreens to fill buckets and wreaths to hang on the doors and windows, to find the smoking man and stockings, more candles then at other times and to listen to Bach's cantatas or oratorios. 
Then the time is right for me to get ready for the next holidays...
Maybe it's because I am getting older that I want the time less and less to fly....

Until then I work, clean, order, catch up, finish with things I feel I need to complete this year, which passes, faster and faster.
Slow down, I think.
Do you feel like me?

Images as indicated and by V.Zlotkowski
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