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Books to Read

January 10, 2018

The only New Year’s resolution I manage to stick to is reading fifty books a year. For some this might sound a lot, but actually it’s not. Roughly it’s just one book a week – I’m sure anyone could do this, provided they can read, of course. And if you choose a story or a novel that’s very short, this task becomes not that daunting at all, right?

Well, I prefer to choose good books and never count their pages. I love to get lost in worlds that get hold of you and don’t let go till you finish reading the very last word. Some books are like drugs. It might be hard to believe, but they are! For e.g. my 2016 find was an American author Anthony Doerr. His “All the Light We Cannot See” is stunningly good (if you get a chance, do read it). And 2017 is famous for finding an English writer Kate Atkinson. Have you read any of her books? Apparently she’s already published ten.

Anyway, this post is for keen readers, who already know the effect books can have on a human mind, so here’s a list of my ten best 2017 books:

1. Kate Atkinson “Life After Life”

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?” Read more…

2. Kate Atkinson “A God in Ruins” (a sequel to “Life After Life”)

“This gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war – that great fall of Man from grace – and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations. It is also about the infinite magic of fiction.” Read more…

3. Frances Mirales “Wabi Sabi”

Have you already heard this Japanese term – wabi sabi? It can be described as beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Read this short book and start looking for anything what is wabi sabi in your life. Find out more about Japan and its culture, also learn to enjoy the small and simple things, and love the imperfect.

4. Dörte Hansen “This House is Mine!

A bestselling German novel about two women connected by their experiences in and around a special old house.” I guess this sentence describes it best – “an unusual book that combines emotional depth and humor”. Read more…

5. Liane Moriarty “Big Little Lies”

“Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.” Read more…

6. W.M.Paule Young “Eve”

The strangest book I read last year, only the very last pages reveal what’s going on. I’d recommend it to anyone who’d like to know more about Adam and Eve, God’s unconditional love and the very first sin. “Thoroughly researched and exquisitely written, Eve is a masterpiece that will inspire readers for generations to come. Read more…

7. Yaa Gyasi “Homegoing”

A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction. Read more…

8. Jodi Picoult “Small Great Things”

If you’ve read any of Jodi Picoult’s books, you should know what to expect – a brilliant read. “With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Read more…

9. Fiona Barton “The Widow”

One of these books that you want to read in one go. A well written psychological thriller that opens a window into a pedofile’s world. What would you do if you found out the horrible secret your other half is trying to hide?

10. Jussi Valtonen “They Know Not What They Do”

Modern world, the newest technologies and human relationships – this book has been written by a psychologist. Read more…

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If you become a Goodreads member you can easily count the books you read. Set your reading challenge for 2018, keep adding books to your list and at the end of the year you will have some fun statistics! Here’s mine:

I read 50 books or 15167 pages. The shortest book was only 96 and the longest – 581 pages, which makes the average length 303 pages. The most popular book is number 5 in my top 10 list – Liane Moriarty “Big Little Lies”, apparently it was read by 724983 Goodreads members last year.


Happy 2018! (and the Newest Trends)

January 3, 2018

No matter how sad it is to say “Goodbye” to 2017 (although it wasn’t a good year, it’s always hard to see time slipping away), I’m glad we can finally sigh after the biggest marathon of cleaning, decorating, hunting presents, baking and, of course, eating… It’s finally time to slow down… and START AGAIN! How exciting is that? (Over here the new beginning sets in on the 6th of this month, once all of the ornaments and fairy lights are neatly packed in boxes, this means we get some extra days for making big plans for the year that’s just begun.)

The first days of January are perfect to kickoff getting rid of bad habits and replacing them with good ones. Yes, there’s always that desire to make this year different, but how long will it last? If you think that we have 365 days this might seem like a lot, yet it’s only 52 weeks or even better (?) – only 12 months, so, I guess, everything depends on your perspective.

If you think you can’t stick to “once a day” plan, do something at least once a week (or once a month, although this might a bit ineffective) and at the end of the year you’ll still end up with quite a lot of new experiences (fifty-two new dishes you’ve learned to cook, fifty-two books you’ve read, fifty-two paintings you’ve painted, fifty-two sunrises you’ve captured, fifty-two gloves you’ve knitted… use your imagination).

So… New Year’s resolutions – how many have you thought of?

To make things easier you could start with a theme for this year, something simple that would motivate you to make changes (my theme is flowers – I plan to grow heaps of pretty flowers and make the best hand tied bouquets in my area; I’ll let you know how this goes…) and then select your areas of focus, and finally choose goals and habits that you will work on. But if you’re still struggling, I’ll give you a few ideas. Just have a look at the newest trends for 2018.

This is what I managed to find:

Most important words – real and authentic;
Colour of the year – ultra violet;
Lifestyle – more conscious approach to the environment; (This envolves clean eating, superfoods, fitness and relaxation.)
Cuisine – Maroccan;
Foodchoose plant-based foods, reduce sugar and improve your gut health; (Your
nutrient-packed meal should be pureed soup, and don’t forget to add exotic spices – turmeric, cumin, coriander and cardamom.)
Home – resort inspired style, concentrating on the fifth wall – bold ceiling, also statement doors, patterned plants and big wall art;

Fashion – denim jacket is the new hoodie and as for accessories – say “yes” to oversized earrings and patterned socks;
Hobbies – giant knitting + macram
é, also don’t forget to turn your garage into a home workshop – do-it-yourself projects will be mega popular this year.

— — —
Don’t know if this helped, but whatever you choose to pursue in 2018, do everything what make you HAPPY. If you think this might be tricky… simply “rewire” your brain – recall 3 things you are grateful for every day for 21 days.

All the best, K.

Magic Kordes Roses

September 12, 2017

Here’s one of the stories I promised to tell you this September – be prepared to see loads of sweet sweet pinks, bright reds and burning oranges. In just a few words? Welcome to the Kingdom of Roses!

All the colours, sizes and shapes you can imagine… (sadly I can’t convey their smell).

And every single one deserving to be titled the Queen of the season.

This is the lost garden or the garden I managed to loose somewhere in Germany – all I knew was that it was somewhere not far from Hamburg.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you might remember one of my posts from 2014 (Where Do Roses Come From?). This is when, completely by accident, we stumbled upon a lovely rose garden/nursery. At the time I picked up their leaflet as I was going to return the next year, yet I couldn’t find their address. (This was extremely frustrating! No matter how much I stared at the leaflet I couldn’t find any useful information. Maybe that leaflet was for something else and it just happened to have some photos of beautiful roses? Lets say I should improve my German before I start complaining.) Anyway… do you believe in serendipity?

We were going to Pinneberg, took the first turning off the motorway to Hamburg and found this impressive rose garden/nursery completely by accident for the second time!

Before you ask, this time I picked up their catalogue (I plan to order some of their beautiful roses online) and yes, I do have their address and can go back there whenever I want to. I found out that this is the Kordes Rosen nursery or the place to buy the prettiest roses in the world. Apparently it is a family run business that is now being managed by the 4th and 5th generation Kordes family members! They must be as famous as David Austin, yet I am a complete novice in the rose growers’ world, no wonder I’ve never heard of them before…

The nursery is huge! Thousands of plant pots can be found in the greenhouses and even more outside. Try to imagine tidy rows of labled roses with blooms designed for every possible taste. I’d say this place is a keen gardener’s heaven.

As we were traveling by car I decided to get at least one plant and of course I didn’t know which to pick… At first I wanted to go for 2017 season’s hit – a rose named Airbrush (have a look at the colour variations, these petals do look as if they were sprayed with an airbrush).

In the end I chose Firebird – a plant that wasn’t in bloom at the time and was promising to open up as a bright surprise.

(The bush survived the long journey home and has settled really well in the new place, but even though our 2 ha territory is all fenced off some deer managed to sneak in and ate all of the buds! I’m really disappointed I won’t see this plant in all of its beauty this year. As far as I could see only one bud survived and I’m still waiting for the miracle.)

— — —

If you happen to travel in that part of Germany I strongly recommend visiting this place, if not – go to Kordes Rosen website and order a plant or two, they ship to most countries in Europe.

Away for Two Months

September 3, 2017

Almost two months of silence feel like forever.

So much has happened during this period that I had to check if the last post on this blog was really published at the beginning of June. What happened? Well… There were some quite serious health issues, some annoying stressful situations, loads of busy days, not enough sunshine, and too much time spent gardening and worrying about stuff. I was digging and thinking, thinking some more and weeding, then watering and still thinking… (I admit, I do think too much!), meanwhile my blog remained silent.

Today this feels like a brand new start. Just like before publishing the very first post I’m trying to find what to say. I guess we’ll have to simply celebrate the new season, which hopefully will be filled with lots of exciting adventures and inspiration.

Summer wasn’t that exciting (weather wise it actually was awful!) yet I managed to document a few interesting places. So… In the next few weeks I’ll show you:

  • a lovely really BIG and extremely inspiring garden and an amazing rose nursery, both situated not far from Hamburg in Germany;

  • an old Vikings’ settlement;

  • and a few images from Gdansk in Poland.

There’ll also be some ideas for September, so please do get back into the habit of visiting this blog over and over again.

How was your summer? Have you planned anything for autumn? (Apparently making plans can make us feel empowered, happy, excited; just make sure you set realistic goals, otherwise happiness will turn into disappointment.)


Mindful Eating

June 7, 2017

Today’s big question – are you living your life mindfully? (I can tell you that I’m trying to, but it’s proving to be not that easy. I have too much on my mind and on my hands; I have to keep herding my thoughts, that roam like wild horses, and stacking my jobs in the never ending to do lists… Daunting tasks!)  Have you even ever heard the term “mindfulness”? It’s very popular these days. Our rushing non stop lifestyles often push us to look for an alternative – a quiet existence which can be achieved living in the present moment.

As you might have already guessed bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring here and now is mindfulness. So let me ask you again – are you living your life mindfully?

— — —

Mindfulness can be applied to quite a few aspects of your life, but as we have to start somewhere… why don’t we start with eating?

I want to show you a book that is about slow food, about savoring experience, improving your diet, increasing your well-being and even weight loss. All of this can be achieved simply listening to your body. As the authors Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson have described it “this book is about helping you find a way of getting back to what we instinctively know works best as far as food and eating are concerned”.

I loved the fact that each chapter is illustrated with wise quotes and stories – I think that sometimes this is the best way to be reminded of well forgotten truths or maybe shown a path that can lead to the best destinations. You’ll also find some exercises that will be disguised under “food for thought” titles; if you get engaged, you are bound to succeed.

Mindful eating should be taken as an exciting project or a journey. Reading this book you’ll start with getting to know what mindfulness is (you’ll learn to be wide awake and pay attention to the present moment and of course live with purpose); you’ll find some information about diet and lifestyle (especially western diet and the new movement of slow food); you’ll find out how to change your habits and apply the principles of mindful eating, how to lose weight and adopt mindful eating for life.

I almost forgot to mention the superb recipes for teas, salads, soups, mains, desserts and even for an impressive picnic! What do you think to Fresh Virgin Mary, Italian Lentil Salad and Fig, Almond and Raw Cacao Bars?

Summer is a perfect season to slow down and to start savoring every meal of the day, so lets put an end to eating mindlessly and rediscrover the pleasure of eating. No more unhealthy habits, but also no strict diets – the new us can be achieved nourishing our bodies with natural, whole foods.

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Mindful Eating by Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson, published by CICO Books
Illustrations by Amy Louise Evans © CICO Books

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The Art of Living with Nature

May 1, 2017

It’s time to show you another fabulous book!

We are rapidly heading towards summer (it’s unbelievable, but we are in the 5th month) and everyone’s striving to spend as much time as possible outside, yet you must admit that there are occasions when something goes wrong and we get stuck indoors. It can start pouring down unexpectedly (has been happening too often lately) or you might not get a day off for that well planned trip to the beach – I’d say this is when “The Art of Living with Nature” would come in hand.

Its author Willow Crossley offers 50 beautiful projects that will help you to bring the outside in and brighten up these unfortunate days.

Willow has always been fond of Nature. She’s neither a florist nor an interior designer, she’s just “flower mad with a serious passion for decorating”. In her hands any foliage, fruit and vegetables and other natural finds become tiny magical worlds that are bound to draw anyone’s attention.

Yes, I did say fruit and even vegetables! And by other natural finds I mean driftwood and shells, feathers, eggs and antlers. Apparently anything you find has the potential to be turned into something beautiful. Willow experiments with her finds and demonstrates “how natural elements (…) bring an affordable and accessible dimension to an interior” and this book is your chance to join her and have a go at creating lovely arrangements yourself.

“The Art of Living with Nature” is split into five chapters – Woodland, Flora, Fauna, Beach and Edibles; this means that there are quite a few great ideas for any taste and any lifestyle.

The book is full of lovely photographs (Emma Mitchell has done a very good job) and well presented so called recipes – you’ll know what ingredients are needed and what steps should be followed to achieve the best results. One more thing I have to mention is… interesting facts. Be prepared to learn something new while flicking through the pages.

For e.g. did you know that…
The language of flowers was popular in the Victorian era, and tulips were generally seen as a symbol of love. If you were given a red tulip as a declaration of love, you could either accept the romantic gesture by taking the tulip with your right hand or decline it with your left.”
Or that…
“The peony is the traditional floral emblem of China, the state flower of Indiana, and one of the symbols to mark a 12th wedding anniversary.”
You’ll also find great advice on keeping your flowers and foliage looking fresh, a brilliant way to water your orchids and information on what bulbs to choose so that they would flower for Christmas. And of course much more!
So, my question is…  Are you ready to let Nature into your homes?
— — —
The Art of Living with Nature by Willow Crossley, published by CICO Books (£14.99)
Photography by Emma Mitchell © CICO Books


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Awake My Soul

April 18, 2017

Slow? Yes! Our spring is extremely slow. It feels like it steps one step forward and then leaps a few backwards… Hats and gloves can’t stay long in the darkest corners of our wardrobes, they have to keep coming out, preferably together with the new best man’s friend – umbrella.

Two weeks ago we were enjoying a very warm spell (this is when the fresh story started to unfold – pretty butterflies and the first serious pollen in the air) yet today it snowed and the weathermen are swearing it’s going to be a cold night once again! On the other hand the storks are back (always a good sign) and when the sun comes out it’s really lovely out there.

It’s so lovely that I do feel much happier and more awake (if you know what I mean). It’s much easier to get up early in the mornings and I don’t mind taking the dog out a few extra times a day; lets not mention the garden – weeding, raking and sowing takes up most of my spare time. I do feel like we are slowly moving ouside and even the totally unexpected snowflakes can’t stop this natural process.

So… anyone who keeps moaning about the cold should remember how the song (“Awake My Soul” by Mumford & Sons) goes:

“Lend me your eyes I can change what you see”…

I might be taking photographs of the same plants every spring, yet Nature never ceases to amaze me. How can magnolia lock up its beauty in these fluffy buds for winter and then, as if by some misterious command, open them up every April?

Or sedum spectabile – it’s still cold, yet the plant has already formed clumps of sturdy rosettes!

Well, whatever you are busy with these days, I hope you find at least a few minutes to enjoy the emerging beauty around you. This spring might be extremely slow, yet it’s unstoppable – I believe that sooner or later the weather will warm up and coats will be able to have a long looooong break…

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