Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Home improvement: the coffee table

Last week I was browsing on Pinterest and I must say this is more inspirational than I ever thought. I especially loved the images of beautifully styled coffee-tables.

I used to have a wooden coffe table that was quite small and to be honest I never gave styling a lot of thought.
But since a couple of months I have a new coffee-table, a beautful large one made of glass. I love it, it is so stylish and chic. Only, I did not quite know what to put on it. Pinterest gave me a lot if ideas. And I learned a few things about styling a coffee-table as well. Grouping things together on a tray for example. In that way you can still put a lot of stuff on it, but it will look composed and put-together.

Adding layers by putting down lovely coffee-table books was another thing, just as putting down plants and something quirky and fun.

Well, I did my best.

Since I already have some beautiful art-catalogs on the lower shelf of my table, I decided not to put another stack of books on top of the coffeetable.

I did buy a tray and opted for a silver one (not too shiney), that was round. I thought it made a nice contrast with the glass squareness of the table.

First I put down some plants on the tray. I already owned the two little orchirds, but I bought the green plant in the tall blue pot. Love that colour!

In a fair trade shop I often buy these little birds made in Zimbabwe. This tall one I bought especially for this display. The little one I already had.
And I put down a little egg, I bought in my favorite Russian museum (The Hermitage in Amsterdam).

I also experimented with other bird statues and a blue and white vase, but this seemed to be the most beautiful display of them all. I also like how the tray is not completely full and stuffed with things. The objects on it are still visible in a very nice way and are highlighted.

The last two things I added were these vase of flowers. I love flowers but I do not always have them. When I do not have flowers, I usually have a nice green plant on that corner. And I added three little tea-lights, in green and blue.

So this is the end result, and I am very pleased with it!! In truth, it is not so much different than it was before, but somehow the tray makes all the difference and I love it!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Ruin, Beppe Fenoglio

Ruin is the story of Agostino Braida. His family rented him to a farmer as a farm-hand when he was just a little boy. For seven gold pieces and a pair of trousers each Christmas, Agostino works every day of the week without taking a break.

Tobia is the farmer who is hard for his little helper, but also for his wife and children. His dream is to once own his own piece of land and not rent it from a rich man in town. He wants to safe his family from the hardship he endured when he was a child, but in the meantime the situation is almost unbearable.

Beppe Fenoglio describes the countryside around his hometown Alba, and he knows how hard the situation for the farmers and the tenants was. He knows about the heartbreaking poverty and the bitter struggle for the next meal, because he witnessed it.
The farmers work hard on their small properties, never growing enough to life from, but too much to die.

There is no escape from this poverty and almost no hope. The little hope Agostino has every now and then is crushed

In the end Agostino will be alone on the piece of land his parents owned and he will be the last one standing, his whole family has succumbed to poverty and illness.

A lesser writer would make this tale of misery into something sentimental or something laughable. 

But not Beppe Fenoglio. His clear way of writing is without embellishments, but that makes it even more powerful. The story of Agostino captures you and does not let go. You cannot escape, just like Agostino cannot escape his fate.

I love the writing of Beppe Fenoglio and for me he is one of the greatest Italian writers of the 20th century. And Ruin is just another example of a wonderful Italian classic.

Original Italian Title: La Malora
Published in 1954

Monday, 10 July 2017

The reading spot of my dreams

Reading is my favourite way to spend time. I can easily read for an entire afternoon and when that happens, I hardly notice the world around me. 

I enjoy imagining my ideal spot to read, and there are a few things that come to mind whenever I design it in my dreams.  

First of all, I like light, a lot of light. This could be natural light from huge windows, or when it is dark outside, from a lamp. 

I love the light from the many windows in this photograph!
Source (pinterest)
I am a bit particular about my lamps, there are not many lamps I like. A bit of an industrial feel to it makes a lamp beautiful for me.
Source:Lighting at Arhaus.com
Secondly, I like somewhere comfortable to sit. A sofa with a lot of cushions is great, but a comfy chair can also work very well. In that case I do need something extra to put my feet up, because for me that is the best way to sit and read.

A very comfortable couch in a beautiful colour, with a lot of cushions. 
Source: Sofa's at Arhaus.com
And these chairs also look comfortable to read in, and I love their colours!
Source: Chairs at Arhaus.com

Source: Living room furniture at Arhaus.com
I prefer neutral colours, like white and grey, for my furniture. That combines very well with my favourite shades of blue, green and turquois.
For me, a room with this colour scheme is not cold or boring. There are splashes of colour, coming from a couple of things: the books, cushions, art and of course, plants.

The pink chair works very well here, although I would prefer it to be green or blue. 
Source (via Pinterest)
Not enough books on these shelves, but I love the idea of putting beautiful ornaments together and I love the colours in this photograph as well.
Source (via Pinterest)
The bookcases are important. I do not like dark wooden bookcases, but prefer light wood or white ones. It is not the English library look I want, more the Scandinavian loft! 😊

I like my bookcases in rows, covering the whole wall. But I also combine books and plants on the shelves and decorate with souvenirs from my vacations or childhood.

These bookcases have both beautiful books and souvernirs and momento's. Lovely. 
Source (via pinterest)
And if you have a bookcase that is a bit irregular, you can also put plants and artwork on top of it, making a lovely display. I love how they made the bookshelves and the art very playful and easy looking. It looks like it came together naturally, and not like a stylist worked on it. 
Source (via Pinterest)
My drink of choice while I read is a cup of tea and you need a place to put your cup, so the last thing in my readingroom would be a large coffee-table. Large enough not only to hold my cup of tea, but also stacks of books, and lots of plants and flowers. Some people can really make something beautiful out of a simple thing like a coffee-table, almost making it a piece of art in itself.

Love these beautiful orchids and those blue pots.
Source (via pinterest
Beautiful light, neutral colours, a comfy couch and a wall full of books. This appartment seems to have it all!
Source (via Pinterest
In a room like this, I do not think I would ever leave! But when I look around my own living room, I know I am very fortunate, because I already see a lot of the elements I love. But it was great fun to look around the web to find the imagines that I felt made my imaginary room visible.
My own reading-spot!

My wall with my bookcases
As you can see this article was a collaboration with Arhaus.com, who asked me to dream about my favorite reading spot and be inspired.
I had fun finding the images that showed my imagination and I hope you are inspired as well!

Friday, 7 July 2017

The other books Agatha Christie wrote

Agatha Christie is a well loved author by many, including myself. I love almost all of her detectives, and enjoy her immaculate plotting and well written scenes.

However, for a long time I did not know that Agatha Christie also wrote six other books, not detectives but novels, under the name Mary Westmacott. Well, I did know, since I read about it in her biographies, but I never realized that these books are also still for sale.

Somehow I came across those novels and decided to buy them. They are published in new, matching jackets and I really like having them on my shelves as well. I intend to read them soon, and I will definately let you know how I like them.

The first book is Giant's bread, published in 1930. It is about a young man who is a musician and the two women he loves.

In 1934 Unfinished portrait was published. It is about a young woman who lost everything and everybody in her life and how she finds the courage to live despite her difficulties.

Ten years later in 1944, Absent in the Spring came out and it is about a middleaged woman who is forced to look back at her life.

After the War in 1947 The rose and the Yew tree was published, a story about a young woman who thinks her life is pretty much settled, but then has to make a choice between love and social status.

In 1952 she wrote A daughter's daughter, a tale about a mother who gives up hope of remarriage because of her daughter, and the resentment that grows between them.

The last book, The burden was published in 1956 and tells about the rivalry and the love between two sisters and the consequenses for both of them.

Agatha Christie used a lot of her own experiences in these novels, and I must say I am looking forward to reading them!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Inspirational art: Alejandro Campins

Last week I was at an exhibition about contemporary Cuban Art. It was very interesting to see the colourful paintings, and see how the artists took their inspiration from the landscape, the culture and the political situation.

I especially loved the work of artist Alejandro Campins. His work was both colourful and very beautiful and a little mysterious. His paintings made you think.

So here are a few impressions of his art, the three paintings I loved the most.
August rain on a January day

The last falling

City of the dead

Monday, 26 June 2017

The ballroom, Anne Hope

An asylum on the Yorkshire moors. There are over 1000 male patients and about the same amount of female patients. In those days, it is 1911, there were no drugs or therapies or counselling to help you if you had psychiatric problems.

The only treatment was rewards when you behaved well and punishment if you behaved badly.
The staff and the doctors did try their best in their limited ways to look after the patients. There was good food and for the male patients who worked outdoors there was also plenty of fresh air.

And of course there was the music. Hippocrates already thought that music could be beneficial to patients and in this asylum the music was taken seriously. A doctor played music for the patients in the wards and each week on Friday there was a dance in the ballroom. Only the patients who deserved it were admitted here and the patients were eager to go, since it was a welcome break in the boring and monotonous week.

Ella worked in a textile mill. Every day she worked for more than 14 hours, cooped up in a factory. At home there was no kindness since her mother died and Ella is very unhappy with her life. She wants to break free, but if she breaks a window in the factory, she is diagnosed a being mad and ends up in the asylum.

John lost his wife and his child and that made him loose himself. So much that he was seen as unfit to live in the outside world and he was also admitted to the asylum.

Clemency has been a patient at the asylum for a long time, but she is there because being there gives her more freedom than a marriage would. Clemency longs to read and wants to go to university instead of being a wife and mother, but the doctors feel it is this unfeminine obsession with reading that led to these unnatural desires.

Charles Fuller is a mediocre man. He only just passed his medical exams and wishes he had enough talent to be a concert player. Unfortunately, he is now only the bandmaster of the asylum and not even the first medical assistant in the asylum.

Dr. Fuller is very interested in the new ideas of eugenics. This was a wide spread movement in the US and in Europe that if you try to be careful about breeding animals, society should also be careful about breeding people. Many of the scientists, doctors and biologists who were involved in the eugenics movement, thought that it would be best to sterilize unfit people, to make sure they would not spread their unhealthy and unfit heritage. 

Dr. Fuller hopes to find a case in the asylum he can write a paper about for the Eugenics conference in London, to impress people like Winston Churchill.

These four people meet in that gloomy asylum in Yorkshire. And while Ella and John dream of being free and John writes letters describing the outside world to Ella, it is doctor Fuller who proves to be the real danger. His own feelings of insecurity and admiration for John (or even more), mix with anger and bitterness and he becomes somebody they should fear.

Anna Hope first wrote Wake, which I really loved, so I was very excited to read this second novel by her.

The ballroom is the story of love in difficult circumstances, of freedom and control, of madness and sanity, of forbidden desires and feelings you are ashamed about. I really liked how we met different people and through their stories we learned more about the workings of an asylum in those days and the society in the beginning of the 20th century.

The psychology of the four different characters was well written and I loved how the story alternates between them.

I also liked how your sympathy shifts, for example, I felt sorry for Dr. Fuller at first, but at the end of the book I wished him a horrible death.

John is a man who I began to love, and I wish the ending could have been a little happier, although it is not exactly an unhappy ending. I also felt very sad for Clemency, although I admired her single-mindedness and how she refused to bend. Dan brought the comic relief, that was sometimes very much needed!

The only thing that bothered me is the fate of Ella, since it was never explained how a simple illiterate girl managed to survive after the asylum and do what she did. I would have loved to read more about that and have it worked out more, since now it was a little unrealistic. But that was the only thing I was not happy about in this very well written and engaging novel.

I read The ballroom with Lark, who also published a review (HERE). Again it was a lot of  fun to discuss the book and the characters while we were reading. A lovely reading project, so thank you Lark, for doing this with me. I hope we will do another one in the future!

Published in 2016
Pages: 345

Friday, 23 June 2017

Flowers on the Forum Romanum

The Forum Romanum in Rome is nog just a place where you can see a lot of stones lying around. Amongst the ruins there is also plenty of room for flowers to bloom. So here are a few floral greetings from Rome.
And oh boy, do I want to go back there right now.

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