Mittwoch, 31. Dezember 2014

Bye-bye 2014 - Hello 2015!

Do you remember how I decided at the end of November to personally have a particularly relaxed and pleasant December this year? 
Enthusiastically, I can tell you that it turned out exactly like that – every single moment was wonderful and instead of stress and hectic, we had a very cheerful Holiday. 

We also...

- drank the best hot chocolate from beautiful enamel mugs,  

- and made small chocolate cakes with fresh pomegranate arils. And an entire winter wonderland snow landscape with gingerbread cake. And then also  open-faced sandwiches – but not boring ones, but far from it! 

- I cuddled up in my XXL scarf, told you about 6 of my winter basics and wore an embroidered festive top – the latter on a real (but unfortunately very blustery) good hair-day,

  • It also got really cozy and festive at home with a velvet throw and we spent a whole December day together,

  • And lastly I did not only make some last minute gift suggestions, but also told you – step by step - how to succeed in managing to not feel bad during the holidays, in particular, if, for example, you receive… 

  • Lastly, in one of my favorite posts of all times, I explained to you how to govern your own country.  Successfully and lastingly, that is.

There were a few external changes for us as a family this year: 
Jil moved to Berlin, my husband started a new, work-related project and moved to Berlin, too, which is why I have been on my own with the younger children since the beginning of the year; the book, I collaborated in making, was published, a TV station was my guest, I celebrated my 40th birthday in Rome, met some of my readers and had the pleasure of hugging them tightly, and we were searching for a new home.  

The latter took more time than expected and the outcome was unsure until the very end – but was lastly fruitful. 

I generally live very much in the moment – so a true review of the year is quite challenging for me – because no matter whether it was good or bad:  
The Now to me is always the most beautiful! 
This is why I simply give you a quick summary of the year in pictures: 













I am full of gratitude that you allow me to inspire and encourage you, to kick your ass and to make you laugh – and every time I am astounded how well this works via the internet as my medium. 
Who would have thought?

We will truly put the pedal to the metal in the New Year – I am really looking forward to everything that will happen! 

We will start with decluttering and organizing in January, and, of course, there will be more details concerning the loft. 
Nobody will suffer from the winter blues, I guarantee it. 
Things will remain somewhat exciting, since such a reconstruction/restoration project cannot be carried out within a few weeks – however, we do not have that amount of time available, since we already extended our period of notice to the max. 
But then what...?

To quote my husband: 
"If you want an extraordinary piece of property, you have to be ready to take an extraordinary path.”  

Well, I am more than ready!
For extraordinary paths – for love – for new things! 
And I am looking forward to spending the new year with you! 



Thank you to Eva Ginnell for translating this post!

Montag, 29. Dezember 2014

Christmas, orange-marmalade and the best snow boots for boys.

I do not have pictures of glossy gifts for you this year – but I only got unphotogenic stuff that I hadn’t wished for at all! 

Admittedly, my wish list this year was super long, but it contained only things such as: 
- underfloor heating,
- 20 windows,
- sanitary facilities,
- banisters, 
- etc.
Go ahead and try to present this in a glamorous fashion under the tree! 

By the way, every year my mother has “something small” for everyone. 
The definition of  “something small” is supposed to be conveyed to her in time – on the quick I couldn’t think of anything other than a book voucher this time and you will find out in a minute what that resulted in. 

But first things first: 

I drag the big family poster for my sister and her man into the room – due to the cumbersome transport from Stuttgart I passed on wrapping it in paper and simply tied a black satin ribbon on it instead. 
In the last minute I realize that the whole thing does not convey the desired…um…festive effect. 

I present the picture to the couple with the remark: 
 "It’s only a funeral, when the bow is placed across one corner!” and point out to them that, strictly speaking, they aren’t even a proper family, since they have not been married yet.  
Emi: "Because we are cohabitating."
Me: "Because you are living in sin."
Emi: "Cohabitating."
Me: "IN SIN!"
Emi to man: "See. In sin. I want a ring.” 

My mother presents my brother-in-law with his “something small”: 
It is a black truffle in a small wooden box and some high-quality olive oil – knowing my parents’ ingenuity, I already look forward to my gift! 
Then I am given my “something small” – it is wrapped in plastic wrap and if I can say one thing without a doubt: 
It is NOT a black truffle. 
What I hold in my hands looks suspiciously like a book voucher and a jar of marmalade (!). 

Me: "Mooooom?! This must be a mix-up?” 
My mother: "Mix-up? No, it isn’t, why?"
Me: "Since when does a truffle look like marmalade?” 
My mother (laughing): "It tastes quite delicious!"
Me: "So? I don’t want it! I want a truffle like the one he has!” 
My mother (laughing harder): "You did not tell me what you wanted.” 

Ben’s gift is a big transformer, which from then on demands his entire attention – so much so that I decide to hold on to his Lego box until the following day. 
Ben is OK with that. 

In the meantime, my little nephew only has eyes for my son. 
Ben explains to my sister in detail the correlations of the transformer saga . 
Emi: "Oh. We are not quite there yet. We are at…nee-nah-nee-nah.” 

Jil tells everyone the story of one of her best friends:  
A girl from a modest background in a Suabian village goes on a short summer vacation to Saint Tropez together with two friends – with very basic means and tight little dresses money. 
There she meets a young, successful and exceedingly handsome Austrian pilot who falls head over heels in love with her, flies her home, places the world at her feet, likes her parents (this being the most incredulous part of the whole story!) and is now having a house built for her in the Austrian mountains. 
No catch. 

Emi looks at her man: "Pilot?! PILOT?! House in the mountains?! Did you hear that?!” 
Me: "Emi, you can still have all that! You live in sin after all, it is not too late yet!” 
Emi (delighted): "Oh, yeah, right! Joanna, let’s go to Saint Tropez in the summer. We still got what it takes!” 
Me: "... and we will lounge on a yacht, until a pilot discovers us.” 
Emi:"... and we say things in passing like “Oh, Wladimir, my favorite animals are fox. And raccoon.” 
Me: "Oh, Sergej... Raccooon!"
Emi: "Raccoon, Dimitrij. RACCOOOOOON!!!"

Jil presents my mother with a huge scarf made of superfine cashmere, woven in a small manufactory. 
My mother: "Jil, really! How can you afford this at all?!” 
Jil: "No problem, grandma. I stopped eating for four weeks.” 
My mother, horrified, stops breathing, as her granddaughter has just uttered the most awful, worst-case-scenario sentence ever to be spoken in a Polish household: “Wha….WHAAAAAAT?!!!!”  
Jil: "But don’t worry, I am a model.” 

I spontaneously decide that we will have a fourth child – my nephew is simply so incredibly cute! 
Everyone thinks it is a bad idea.  
I don’t care, what do they know at all. 

Noelle (having struggled with a cough and earache for days):
"Listen everyone, I just googled my symptoms. I found out that IT IS EBOLA.”

My father is happy with his huge selection of teas and a new pair of pajamas (“so you look good, if a burglar knocks on your door!"), everyone is smitten by my nephew, my mother definitely scores with an iPad (“so you can read Joanna’s blog from now on when you are in your village!”), various cashmere items and jewelry, I am still here with my marmalade. 

Me (in a loud voice for everyone to hear): "I just want to say that I think my gifts this year really, really stink!” 
Emi: "Oh, yay! Let’s all tell each other what we generally find annoying about each other!” 
My mother (stroking her scarf): "Well, I am VERY happy with my gifts his year.” 
Me: "... she said while here fingers lovingly danced over the iPad’s keyboard and her jewelry tinkled with her every move.” 
My mother (still stroking her scarf): "I want to emphasize once more that the marmalade was made with much love.” 
Me : "I want a truffle without ANY love! No, better still TWO of them – who of us do you love most of all, mom?” 
Emi: "Then I want tea like dad next year! Also without love!” 
My mother (still most unimpressed): "My scarf is very, very soft.” 
Me: "Just you wait. I will post it all on the blog, I swear.” 

I have to admit that even if my presents have never been so awful, I also have never laughed so much than this year. 
Definitively the most beautiful Holiday I ever had!  

Apart from the failed gifts there were also tons of wonderful food, fresh air by the seaside, reading until late at night, and watching movies from the 90s together with the kids, such as "Sister Act" and "Prince of Zamunda".
I hadn’t remembered how funny those are! 

We also stayed in Berlin for a few days, watched Exodus (star-studded Hollywood, worth its price for the palace scenes alone) and discovered my own offspring on a poster in a shop window, which prompted us all to screech loudly. 

Just before we left I ordered all of 9 pairs of winter shoes for Ben, returned most of them and kept the best three pairs – he wears a men’s size 11 by now and it is really difficult to find nice boys’ shoes! 
The kids’ department does not work anymore, there are often only classic models in the men’s or else the shoes are way too bulky in proportion to his slim figure. 

If anyone of you deals with the same problems I can absolutely recommend these two pairs: the snow boots are super warm and light, and the Timberland ones have a soft and flexible sole and it isn’t as rigid as this label’s soles usually are! 

1. Sturdy snow boots by Sorel
2. Timberland Boots with flexible sole – if they are too yellow for your taste: Urban Outfitters carries them in black, already on sale, but only available on one size). 
3. The warmest snow boots of them all by Kamik
4. Warm, yet light snow boots by Crocs
5. Lined boots for everyday by Pier One
6. Lined boots for everyday by Palladium (Ben wears those to school, etc.) 


So how about you?
Anyone got a rotten gift? 
Not even last year? 

This post was translated by Eva Ginnell.

Sonntag, 21. Dezember 2014

5 last-minute gifts + how to survive the Holidays.

Of course I am aware of the fact that all my readers are done selecting Christmas gifts for everyone by the end of September and have been at a loss, for these past days, as to how to use all this idle time until Christmas Day. 
So this post addresses the 3 readers who had a brief panic attack after glancing at the calendar.

Just for those:
Keep calm.
We have three whole days left – no problem still finding, making or ordering something truly beautiful, something that will actually bring joy. 

All products from my suggestions below can be purchased at department stores or drug stores, or can even be comfortably ordered from your couch (Amazon delivers until Christmas Eve, if you order until Monday noon). 

One of my favorite special tricks: 
I like giving (and being given) sets rather than single items. 
However, I assemble them myself, as I dislike the ready-made retail ones just as much. 

The easy principle behind it: 
If my gift is a baking book – I add an apron or a stylish whisk. 

If my gift is a beauty bag, I fill it with colorful nail polish and a pretty cosmetic brush, made of real hair. 

If my gift is a calendar, I add a pencil, an eraser and some post-its. 

You get the idea?

Here are a few similar ideas that I have either given or already received as gifts this year. 

1. Tea + teapot. 

Luckily my dad does not read my blog – and I am particularly happy to share this year’s new discovery with him. 
We both share a preference for black tea – this year he will receive some selected tea varieties with a matching tea pot. 

Of course I will give my dad Kusmi tea – I will still purchase a few tins at the shop at Bikini Berlin, as there is not enough time left for ordering from their online store. 

But you can find a simple teapot either at a department store or at Amazon.
Another great tea is, for example, Tea forte, either as black tea or herbal tea.

2. Book, bookmark + scented candle. 

In my opinion there is hardly anything more pleasant than reading a brand new book, fresh off the printing press, during the holidays – honestly, this is exactly the thing I almost look forward to the most! 
It gets cozy with a lovely scented candle – and a bookmark is the perfect addition

My book recommendations are all about suspense and espionage this year – 2 of them are from a friend of mine, who really loves reading and reads a lot, he passed on his top favorites. 

1. Breaking News by Frank Schätzing

An amazing thriller based on the conflict in the Middle East with a lot of interesting, historical background information viewed from an entirely neutral perspective. 

2. The Sebastian Bergmann series (only available in German).

I do enjoy reading these books a lot myself, and a new title was published recently – it will be under our Christmas tree and I am looking forward to it very much! 

Here is the order of appearance:

3. The Rembrandt Affair (Gabriel-Allon series, volume 10)

Tenth volume in the Gabriel Allon series, an Israeli secret agent who is retired by now, but does not manage to keep still. Wonderful espionage subject matter with a lot of information about paintings and their restauration. 

4. Geschlossene Gesellschaft (Private Function) by Denis Gastmann (only available in German)

Written  in an easy and entertaining manner – how to live completely without financial worries, and what effect being rich has on you. 
The author immersed himself in the  world of the rich, and reports about it free of envy and prejudice.

5. "Move and work" and "live and work" by Marlene Birger.

Both are my prettiest new discoveries in the world of interior design books. If you like reduced black-and-white interior decoration, these books will please you – a lovely idea, if you like giving something of higher value. 

My scented candle is by Diptyque, but you can also order pretty ones online, such as this one by Impuro or Parks.
If you like, you can make or order a nice book mark to add!

3. Pillow + mug.

The fashion illustrator, and my friend, Nicole sent me this pillow, lovely like a dream – printed with my initials and the meaning of my name. 
I can cuddle up with it while drinking my hot chocolate from the matching mug.

You can find the mug in a black-and-white version at Anthropologie – apart from many other magically beautiful things on sale, such as these pillows.

4. "40 Facts about you" list.

As mentioned a few times before, yet the most beautiful Christmas gift of all times – and at no cost to boot: 
Write down 40 facts in a list format about a person close to you. 
Or 20. 
Or 15. 
No matter how many: 
It is important that it is a mix of funny, weird and loving things – without the pressure of only noting fantastically wonderful things. 
Here is part of my 40 facts list, that my daughters wrote down for me last year. 

5. Personal photo book.

An idea for the very last moment: 
Design, instantly order and send the completed order for a personal photo book, a photo collage or some pretty greeting cards directly to a store near you, all within a few minutes, comfortably from your computer, tablet or smartphone. 
In not time at all, on the same day, you can go and pick up the order – in Kodak quality.

The whole thing works via the new Kodak Moments-App, with the help of which you can design your personal Christmas cards on your smartphone, as easily as even on the bus ride home, and pick them up the same day anywhere where they have a Kodak kiosk (most drug stores, etc.). 

This is how it works:
- you assemble everything in peace at home with the help of the  Kodak Moments-Software (instead of standing in front of the printing machine). 
- then you send off the order – and get a mail with your order number. 
- a short time later you can go to the nearest store (which will be suggested by the App) – and collect your completed order with your order number.
- you only pay for the pictures that you like. 

The Kodak Moments App is free, the photo book costs about $12.00. 
My advice: choose the landscape format for the book and definitely make sure to pick the picture detail beforehand, as you unfortunately cannot do that with the app. 

I did not only create the photo book like that, but also the square winter pictures that are pinned to the magnetic bulletin board – a simple and beautiful decorating idea. 
My advice here, too: crop the picture beforehand and then order via the app. 

OK, so we are good on the gifts. 

Any other Holiday-related last-minute issues, such as…

"... what shall I wear?" (well, something with sequins. If you don’t have anything with sequins in your closet, something which always works: a big statement necklace combined with a white blouse + jeans. Or a LBD.) 

"... and what shall I cook?" ( médaillons of pork fillets with mushrooms. Or fondue. And definitely the  cinnamon parfait for dessert, so that everyone will be deeply impressed by so much deliciousness.) 

"... how shall I decorate?" (Position a whole lot of candles everywhere. Small, big votive candles, everything randomly thrown together, main thing: plenty. Place some white baubles in different sizes on the table: done.) 

"... and what shall I bake?" (this small gingerbread cake. Get a ready-made cinnamon cookie dough from the refrigerated section of your grocery store and embellish the cake with them.) 

"... and what shall I do, if I only get very few or no gifts at all?” (you are utterly happy, that you did not get very few or no UGLY gifts at all. You would have had to pretend you’re happy – would have been way worse!) 

"... and what shall I do, if I feel lonely, cranky or simply blah on Christmas?” (Up yours. Your country, your rules.)

"... and what shall I do, if there will never ever be anything to eat again after December 25?” 
(just do what every other German person around you does: you buy as much food as is needed to feed a whole army for a whole year, if necessary. Just to be safe. You never know whether a famine will descend after the Holidays, do you? See.) 

My services are hereby complete, I can dismiss you into the Holidays with a clear conscience. 
Happy Holidays and see you soon!



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This post was translated by Ginnell Studio, thank you very much!