Monday 29 February 2016

Read in 2016 - 5: Seagulls in the Attic

The second book by Tessa Hainsworth about her family moving from London to Cornwall and starting a new life there was as enjoyable as the first one.

By now, we find the author fully settled in her work as a postwoman. Her children have made many friends and seem to go through their daily lives entirely trouble-free. Her husband still works at a café to make ends meet, but has also found work as an actor again. This takes him away from the family home for months, with only brief visits in between, but that does not cause any major problems, either.

In her spare time, Tessa works on her allotment, raises a baby seagull, tries to find her son's pet snake* and helps with the planning of a wedding.
There isn't a minute boredom in her life, and she greatly enjoys Cornwall's wonderful landscape and being so close to the Sea.

The reader meets again some of the characters that were introduced in the first book, but new ones also appear - some less pleasant than others.

In the first book, I liked the division into chapters according to the months of the year. This one is not quite so "neat", but we still follow the family for a whole year. They even manage to have a camping holiday together, but the year's highlight is certainly their friends' wedding, which is described in amazingly little detail.

Of course, the book leaves room for more, and I will soon read the 3rd one of the series.

*In my opinion, snakes don’t make good pets. I am just not convinced that the average family home can offer a suitable environment for a snake, in order for it to live its life the way a snake is supposed to. Also, as recommendable as it is from Tessa to try and overcome her snake phobia to make her son happy, maybe there would have been other ways to help a little boy developing his sense of responsibility and indulge his love for animals.

Friday 26 February 2016

Read in 2016 - 4: Future Agenda - The World in 2020

A free find in Amazon's kindle shop, this book kept my mind busy for weeks during my trips to and from work. There is real food for thought there, and I recommend at least looking at the future agenda website to get a better idea of what it's all about - and maybe get "hooked" and start reading... and thinking... and doing something.

For me, it was particularly interesting to know that the book was published in 2010, looking at probable and possible scenarios of our world in 2020. We are more than halfway there. To look at where we stand now in so many areas touched by the book, and compare it to what the future agenda team thought most likely to happen in mid-term developments, was fascinating.

So much of what will undoubtedly change things forever and shape the future of millions (if not billions) of individuals just as much as of organizations, countries and whole regions, had not yet happened in 2010. Just think of the terrible war in Syria, of the Ukraine conflict, the Ebola outbreak or the refugees crisis in Europe.

There were some new insights for me in it, too, although nothing too surprising, since I already do read quite a lot about many of the topics put up for discussion in the book.

What I liked very much was that each topic is presented factually and neutrally, not moralizing or judging, and not even preferring one point of view to the other. On the contrary, the authors acknowledge diverse perspectives on the same problem and admit that there is not necessarily a "right" or "wrong" way of doing things.
Of course, some things are not arguable - we ALL know, no matter where we live and how wealthy or poor we may be, that the way humanity is going about wasting the planet's resources is not good and can not go on for much longer. But there is no pointing the finger at one nation or region to be more "at fault" than others.
It is not a political book, although each and everyone of the topics covered has political implications.

Again, if you can, take at least a look at the website. Unlike with many other books on my kindle, I have not deleted this one after reading it. I am sure I am going to refer to it again in the future.

Saturday 20 February 2016

Cookies and a Love Story

Do you remember this post from last summer? If you don't, and have no time or inclination to click back to read yet another old post on my blog, here is a brief summary:

Last year in April, my Mum wrote this guest post with her recipe for Easter Bunny Cookies. They were a big hit with someone living on a different continent - you could almost say these cookies (or at least their recipe) travelled the world.
One very kind lady in Canada, herself a fellow blogger, shared the recipe with a friend, and they both decided to give it a try and made the cookies for two events: First to offer them as welcome nibbles to visitors at their church, and then in the shape of eighth-notes for a fund raising event at a women's music club.

On Monday, just after Valentine's Day, I received a special Valentine in the shape of a very kind email from the same lady. Once again, I shared it with my Mum, who loves how much her cookies are being appreciated - and that someone takes the time to let her know. Just like with the email I received last summer, again I asked the sender for permission to turn it into a blog post, along with the photos that were included in the email. And once more, the answer was "yes".

Here it is:

Hello Meike (and Meike's Mum),

Another word on your cookies: they've had another outing. This time they were on the dessert table at a reception following a concert (13 Feb.) in the ballroom of Winnipeg's historic Moss House. 
The high-ceilinged ballroom runs the full width of the house; light streams in through the front and back arched windows, and a very large bow window (not visible in the photo) area that accommodates a gorgeous grand piano on the east side.  

Meike, you take your readers on tours - allow me, please, to take you on one. Moss House has a bit of a romantic history, and, I think, a notable love story - perhaps more than one, and I hope the brief history herein will light your imagination as it has mine.

Moss House (1901) was built for the entrepreneurial Walter P. Moss, who had done very well for himself with one of the first department stores in the city in the 1890s. It remained in the Moss family until it was sold in 1956 to Max Kantor who similarily did very well for himself in the insurance business. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Max was a Canadian champion runner in 1938. (There's a story here of an athlete - one of many the world over - whose career was foiled by the War). 

Max and his wife, Mireille Grandpierre, met in Paris, where they married following the liberation of France, and forthwith established themselves in Winnipeg. Mireille Grandpierre-Kantor was a world-class dancer who first performed at the age of 5. At the age of 8, following a performance of La Mort du Cygne, she came into acclaim as a protegee. She danced for the President of France at age 9, joined the Paris Opera at 11, and the Russian Ballet at age 15. In 1939, she was a world gold medal winner for France, and went on to become Prima Ballerina at the Marseille Opera.

In Winnipeg, Mme. Grandpierre converted the ballroom of Moss House to a barre and set up her Conservatory of Dance in a city that, despite its rich cultural history that included The Royal Winnipeg Ballet (1939), The Winnipeg  Symphony Orchestra (1946), The Royal Manitoba Theatre (1958) and The Manitoba Opera Association (1969) (among other cultural institutions), must have challenged her to the n-th degree! She and Max were married for 61 years until his death separated them in 2007. Mme Grandpierre-Kantor died the following year. 

It was a lovely bit of synchronicity to be in Moss House in time for Valentine's Day, in the ballroom of a house filled once again with the sounds of dance by a Russian-born violinist with the heart of a dancer (himself a violin and piano protege), who opened the concert with a Tarantella, and later played Russian dance music as well.

That house caught my imagination the first time someone pointed it out to me, so after being there, I wanted to know a little more about it. Having decided to send the photos of the cookies, what could I do but give them context? I am now looking forward to reporting on the next outing (May or June) for which I will once again make the cookies in the shape of eighth-notes. Maybe photos, though, as few venues will have the history or romance of Moss House! 

- - - End of guest post - - -

I very much enjoyed not only receiving such kind words of appreciation, but also learning about a place I am most likely never going to see for myself.

Thank you, dear K.! My Mum and I are also looking forward to reading about "our" cookies' next outing :-)

Tuesday 16 February 2016

My Choice

Yesterday was a day very much to my liking: I worked from home (my sister would say that I "worked" from home...), had a delicious home-cooked lunch at my Mum's, went to the gym with a friend after work, and then to the shop where my sister helped me to look at wallpapers last week.

This time, I went there to tell the people at the shop which wallpapers I have chosen, to find matching paint for the other three walls in each room and the dividing line between walls and ceiling. So far, this line has been painted a deep, warm terracotta shade, chosen by Steve and matching the general colour theme in our rooms. The only exception is my current bedroom, where the line is in a strong blue shade to match the one light blue and the other three pale yellow walls.

Here's what I've come up with:

The "feature wall" in the living room is going to have the grey version, and my bedroom the blue.

The three other walls in both rooms are going to be done in this yellow.

In the living room, the line between walls and ceiling will be painted like this. (Of course, each computer monitors shows colours in a shlightly different way, so if the grey does not match the wallpaper for you, don't worry - in reality, it matches perfectly.)

For the line in the bedroom, I have chosen this light blue. It is exactly the same as the flowers on the wallpaper.

Next Monday, Mr. PaintShop will come to have a look at my place, see what exactly I want to have done and then give me his cost estimate. I have absolutely no idea what to expect in terms of money, but I have options. If it seems too much, I'll only let the professionals do the wallpapering and will ask a friend (who is very good at this) to do the painting for me. Of course, he'll be paid as well.

It's going to be fun!

Friday 12 February 2016

Some More Colour

If you've been following my blog for a while, you will have seen quite a few "fashion posts" over the years. Not just to show off a new outfit, but I've sometimes written about what clothes and fashion mean to me, how I perceive colours and the way they can influence how I feel about myself all day.

For those of you who are interested, here are the links to some of those older posts:
here is one about dressing up (or down); here one about colours in general, and this one is about the colour red.

Last week, I was given a shirt I would have never chosen myself. It is very colourful (as you will see in a minute), and at first I wasn't sure at all whether I was going to keep it (and actually wear it). But then I found that there were bits of navy blue in the pattern, and I tried the shirt with a navy pair of trousers. I wore it to the office and felt good in it all day. And this morning, I find it goes well with my pair of red denims, too (although I would never wear those to the office):

Sometimes maybe we can not imagine something being good or suitable for us, but once we give it a try, we find out we actually like it. (Not just referring to clothes here!)

Also, I said I was going to show you another picture of the new, shorter hair. I like it better now than when I just came out of the hairdresser's:

Time to go to work. It looks like it's going to be a sunny day. Have a good one, everyone!  

Thursday 11 February 2016

Off to the Bedroom!

Thank you all for your comments about my choice of wallpapers for the living room. Now let's move on to the bedroom - the two will be swapped, and I want to have a "feature wall" (I've read somewhere that it is called that when you have one of the four walls in a room papered, or a mural painted on it) in the bedroom, too.

For more than six years now, my bedroom has looked pretty much like this (minus the Christmas decoration, of course, and don't think I usually leave bags on my bed):

You can see it has a very different colour scheme from the living room. In the first picture, if you look at the right side, you can see the vanilla yellow paint that covers three of the four walls in that room (Steve did that for me). Only the "head" wall is done in pale blue, and I'd like to stick to a similar colour scheme in my "new" bedroom.

The wallpaper I have chosen for that room is this one:

Looks familiar, doesn't it? Yes, it's exactly the same design as the first one of the three I've put before you in my previous post.

Call me boring, but I could even imagine having the same wallpaper in both rooms - the grey one in the living room, the light blue in the bedroom. As the furniture and colour schemes would still be very different from one room to the other, I don't think it would look boring at all.

Anyway, I think I've made my mind up; for the bedroom, anyway! As for the living room, I still need to think about it.

By the way, I'll have the papering done by a professional. The patterns have to be joined perfectly, and I know I won't be able to do that myself. Painting the walls and shifting the furniture will be done by me and a team of friends and family. But not before Easter :-)

Monday 8 February 2016


These days, I am faced with a VERY first-world problem - which actually is not a problem at all: I want to swap my living room and bedroom, and in the process, redecorate. The idea is to have one wall in each of the two rooms papered, and the other three walls painted. 
The living room (she calls it lounge, my mother-in-law would call it front room) of one of my sisters-in-law in England is like that, one wall covered in a very beautiful wallpaper, and the others painted in a matching shade. I like her room very much, and although mine will never (and is not supposed to) look exactly like hers, the idea is the same.

I need to decide on a pattern for my living room and the bedroom. It wasn't difficult to decide about colours: Since Steve redecorated the entire flat in 2009, the living room has always looked like it does in this picture, all done in warm, earthy tones; a peachy shade for the wall, terracotta-coloured borders matching the armchair, and a brown-beige settee that I would have never chosen. Don't get me wrong - I liked this room, but it isn't really "me".
My colours are different, and my favourite combination is yellow and grey, as shown here. That is what I am thinking of when I picture my new living room. 

The new settee (which has not yet been chosen) shall be grey (neither too light nor too dark). The coffee table (an original 1960s one which belonged to my grandparents, just as their 1930s sideboards and the 1950s armchair) and sideboards will stay. The armchair is going to get a new (grey?) cover. The TV table is going to be replaced, and the desk can go - I have three desks for one person in this flat, which is really not necessary.

Today, my sister accompanied me to a shop where I was given a wide choice of wallpapers. I have narrowed it down to three, but not yet made my decision. They are all really beautiful, but will I like looking at them on one wall for longer than a year? I am certainly not going to start redecorating all the time - this is supposed to last a few more years.

I am of course not under any pressure to decide quickly, but I would like to finish the whole project in the course of this spring - probably some time after Easter.

First-world problems indeed...!

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Read in 2016 - 3: Alle Toten fliegen hoch - Amerika

"Alle Toten fliegen hoch - Amerika" by Joachim Meyerhoff was a recommendation from my sister. She lent me her copy, and I am glad she did: It is a book I enjoyed very much.

The author was born the same year as my sister (1967), just one year before me. In this autobiographic novel, he focuses on his year as an exchange student in the US when he was 17 years old. But he also refers to things that happened in his childhood, and we learn about his life in a small town in northern Germany in the months before and after the exchange year. As he is the same age as my sister and I, a lot of what he describes is familiar; we were children and teenagers at the same time in the same country.

His year in the US brings him into contact with people so different from anyone he ever knew back home; their ways of life are unlike everything he took for granted.
His host family live on the outskirts of a small settlement in Wyoming. The landscape in all its immensity, the climate, the house and garden, the food, the clothes; all different.
School is nothing like school at home, either; subjects such as History and Sports have a completely different approach to what he is used to.

Joachim soon settles in and grows to like his host family a lot, with the exception of their youngest son, who makes it clear from the start that the German guest is not at all welcome.

The young man's adventures during that year range from taming a horse to making friends with a prisoner on Death Row, from visiting the Grand Canyon to having dinner with a family of bodybuilders.

Three months into his exchange year, tragedy strikes back home: one of his brothers dies in a car crash. Joachim travels home to be with his family for the funeral, but finds coping with their collective grief very hard. He decides to go back to Wyoming and complete his year there.

When he finally returns to Germany for good, getting back into his old life is impossible - he has grown and changed, but the small town has not. His family has seemingly come to terms with the loss of Joachim's brother, but the underlying sadness is palpable.

During the year that is the story's focus, the young man learns a lot about life and about himself.

I highly recommend this book, but as far as I know, it has not (yet?) been translated into any other language from German. It is the first in a series of (so far) three, and I am looking forward to reading the next one - it is already on my TBR pile :-)