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My bookish Christmas gifts

Two bookish gifts for me that I am really looking forward to read and watch:

A cabinet of Roman curiosities

A cabinet of Roman curiosities by J.C. McKeown.

This one has been on my wishlist for a long time. In structure it reminds me a bit of Schott’s Miscellany, in that it is just a number of “strange tales and surprising facts”.

 

Night train to Lisbon

 

The movie “Night train to Lisbon” with Jeremy Irons. I just hope they didn’t butcher the wonderful Nachtzug nach Lissabon by Pascal Mercier. Relying on Bille August here.

Will be watching it tonight. 

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Crafty Tuesday: Balcony update and PRV Challenge

crafty_tuesday

Even though the weather is far from appropriate my balcony project is finished and everything is ready. Now we only need the sun and warmth to enjoy our improved balcony. You remember, this was my first post about my plan of action.

Now our balcony looks like this – and I just can’t wait for summer to arrive.

Table and chairs

Sitting area

Triangle pillow

I LOVE my new triangle pillow from which my view is like this:

View - if you are lucky

Pretty neat, eh?

As I am now in the home decor mood I decided to turn this into a long term project and joined the Post Road Vintage Challenge. I am planning to improve some part of our home every month. The balcony is only the beginning. If you are looking for some inspiration for home decor and a lovely style for the home, check out Heather’s website, it is awesome.

Have you done anything crafty lately? Let me know, I am always looking for inspiration.

This post is part of

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Crafty Tuesday: Busy with balcony transformation

crafty_tuesday

Nothing too crafty today but rather a home decor project. As I have already done some very basic sewing for our balcony in 2011 I feel I can sort it under Crafty Tuesday.

Curtain shelfCurtain table

We are living in a flat and the balcony faces the soccer pitch of a small local club – which makes for some loud and amusing entertainment on weekends. About two weeks ago I decided that its current looks is not very inducive to relaxation so I am in the process of transforming it into a wellness heaven (well, sort of).

This is its state during a preliminary cleaning (with a little helper):

Balcony cleaning

My plan of action (already set in motion):

  • Buy plants and pots at the garden center
  • Order a bamboo rug for the stone floor on ebay
  • Buy a couple more cushions for the chairs at IKEA
  • Find a triangle pillow for the floor to lounge and read on
  • Buy large pillows for the floor at IKEA
  • Get prayer flags as decoration on ebay
  • At my swap site I discovered a couple of cute bottle holders that you can loop around the railing.

I will keep you posted over the next few weeks. Once everything gets here my balcony will be ready for summer. Can’t wait!

Do you have a balcony, patio or garden? Show me some pictures, please!

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Movie: Jules et Jim

Jules et Jim

Reasons I watched this movie: All I ever knew about it was this one scene with the two guys and the woman running over the bridge and I wanted to know more. I like Oskar Werner. I liked Jeanne Moreau in “Les amants”. I like the ménage à trois theme.

When I started watching this I had no idea what to expect except for a love triangle. I was immediately drawn in by the voice of the narrator who started telling the story of how Jules and Jim met in this detached and very fast way. As I had decided to watch the film in French with German subtitles it was very hard to take it all in at first, my French being somewhat rusty. After a while, however, I got used to it, especially thanks to Oskar Werner who spoke rather slowly and precisely, a fact that made Truffaut cast Werner in the first place. At least that is what I read somewhere on the net and it makes sense; after all Jules is no native speaker, but a German. Then again, Werner is an Austrian which made we wonder whether Germans and Austrians are interchangeable to most people?

Anyway, once the introductions are made we get quickly to the moment where Catherine is entering the two friends’ lives and the ball gets rolling. Both men are instantly infatuated with Catherine who is most ambiguous and completely selfish. She takes what she wants and when she wants it. Emotional matureness seems to be completely foreign to her. I don’t know whether I am happy with either her character or how she is depicted. It is not that Catherine is playing with men – it’s rather that she can’t help herself –, but her constant “I love you” – “You disgust me”  routine gets very tedious. But at least she breaks out of the traditional female role that society would love to impose on women. Her counterpart is Gilberte who patiently waits in the background and provides Jim with a back up plan. Very considerate of her! I don’t know whether the book by Henri-Pierre Roché the film is based on ends the same way, but I definitely disliked the price that Catherine had to pay for her lifestyle in Truffaut’s version. Is it supposed to be the rightful punishment for being so unconventional?

But no matter how much I disliked the character of Catherine and her fate, I loved the film. The time just flew by and I loved the experience. If you have the chance, watch the original version /with subtitles.

Watch a trailer

Jules et Jim on imdb.

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Movie: George and the dragon

George and the dragon

The reason I watched this movie:
I absolutely ADORE James Purefoy ever since I saw him as Mark Antony in “Rome”. When I saw him again in a small part in “A Knight’s Tale” I checked what other films he had done and came across this one. Knights, dragons, what’s not to like?

The movie:
I loved all the actors in it. I have never been a big fan of Patrick Swayze, but I really liked him here. Normally, in a film with this plot, he would be the super evil fiancé, looking for HIS woman, in the manner of Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride. Here, even though a bit insistent – the kidnapping was not the best idea- , he is a really nice fellow. Just like all the villains; they are sort of mean, but in a way you can’t be too mad at them. Val Kilmer makes a short appearance as one of them, which also made my day.
Piper Perabo of whom I had never heard before is incredibly good looking and a great heroine. Gentle lamb, my butt! She kicks ass like the best of them and stands her ground.
Somehow you get the feeling everybody in the movie has a great time, and so has the audience.

The dragon legend is turned upside down here; if you expect slaughtered dragons and the like, go elsewhere! It is great family entertainment.
Little bonus: During the end credits they show out-takes which are fun to watch as well.

George and the dragon on imdb.

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Movie: The Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm

I’m getting into movie mode. For the 200 year anniversary of the publication of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales it was only fitting to watch “The Brothers Grimm” with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. The description on the cover sounded very nice so I gave it a go. I shouldn’t have. To me this movie must be the disappointment of the century. What utter crap! Its only saving grace are the pictures that, I have to admit, are rather magnificent.

Other than that the Grimm brothers and the whole topic of German fairytales were slaughtered until you didn’t recognize them anymore. I wasn’t aware that the Grimms (often referred to as the “Grimmy” by a sidekick in the person of an Italian torture master – typical Italian accent included) were con-artists who travelled far and wide to “free” the country from enchantments that they had previously created themselves. Obviously the real Grimm characters were too boring and needed some embellishing. In fact, to me the film was a mixture of “Dirty, rotten scoundrels”, “Ghostbusters” and “Sleepy Hollow” that went awfully wrong.

The fairytale allusions all started kind of ok and then disappeared into nothing. Hans and Greta (totally rubbed me the wrong way, they are Hänsel and Gretel!) go into the forest and she gets lured away by a piece of cloth. Wow! Where is the witch, where the gingerbread house? And it went on and on like that. What on Earth does a gingerbread man have to do with German fairytales? Why is Hesse called Westphalia and what is the Thuringian queen doing there? And why has she been living in Rapunzel’s tower? The whole story is a very odd hodgepodge of half baked but never finished ideas about which horrific tales might appeal to an audience who has never read a Grimm fairytale before.

There was one sentence that I found quite amusing (and symptomatic for the movie). The Grimm brothers come to Marbaden where they have never been heard of and introduce themselves as the guys who have fought off “the cannibal chef of the Schwarzwald in the gingerbread house of terror”. There you have it. If you like murderous chefs in gingerbread houses and a bit of comic relief then the movie might be for you. If you like fairytales in their original form and a less horror-like approach, then stay away from it.

What to watch instead? My suggestion is “The company of wolves” by Neil Jordan,  which I am going to re-watch tonight to get yesterday’s taste out of my mouth.

The Brothers Grimm on imdb.

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The year in review

Review 2012

Here are the relevant links to the mentioned posts in case you want to see what you missed:

Don’t you just love infographics? Check out Piktochart to make yours!

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What I like…besides books: TV – Hamish Macbeth

I really like the Hamish Macbeth books by M.C. Beaton, so I thought it might be nice to watch the TV series which is based on the books.

There are three seasons and so far I am in the middle of season two and can compare books and TV series. Nothing could be further apart. As far as I can see, only the name of Hamish and the village Lochdubh, a few aspects of the plots and a very loose resemblance of some of the other characters remind us of the books.

Hamish Macbeth Title Screen

Most of the names have been changed, there are many characters who never turn up in the books and the personality of Hamish is quite different. However, the series is quite good and cozy in its own right, just do not expect to find the books in it. And, oh, the Scottish accent is to die for.

Hamish himself.

Hamish’s looks are not at all like in the book. No tall, lanky and red-haired Hamish here. But this is not the only difference. Yes, he is rather indulgent when it comes to not abiding by the law, but on the other hand he shows some traits that are definitely not nice, not to say disturbing.

Like in the books he is jealous, but here his jealousy manifests itself in deliberately damaging other potential suitors’ cars and generally harassing the guys in a petty way.

Then there is one episode where his dog (Wee Jock, not Towser) gets killed in a car accident. A dog, by the way, that is so used to being fed by John McIver that he won’t even take food from Hamish. What does Hamish do? He goes out, follows the two convicts who ran Wee Jock over, befriends them, lies to them and lures them to a certain spot to kill them. Only the arrival of his Lochdubh friends stop him. Now, don’t tell me that he would not have been able to shoot them! It doesn’t change a thing.
Apart from the fact that at the time of their rescue the two men were only holding on to a rope and could have easily allen into an abyss, resulting in their death with Hamish not even shooting them, the idea that he planned to go after them with a gun in his pocket, becoming their friend and leader through the rough Scottish landscape, pretending to wanting to help them only to take them to a safe spot to kill them shows a rather nasty and evil disposition. The fact that that man is a police officer makes it only worse. And to top this all, the two men only killed his DOG by accident! I find this side of his personality rather disturbing and from that episode on I am not sympathizing with him anymore.

The women

Priscilla is now called Alex and is not the beauty she is supposed to be. Also she is extremely jealous and behaves rather idiotic. Hamish and Alex are engaged by now (different situation but also rather awkward), but already one can see that this is not a match made in heaven.

Isobel is a new character that loves Hamish and that Hamish fancies in spite of his engagement with Alex. Tension everywhere.

Villagers

There are many new characters that do not appear in the book.

  • TV John McIver is Hamish’s “housekeeper”, part Hamish’s counsellor, part helper, part stand in for the seer Angus MacDonald with his premonitions.
  • Rory, the shopkeeper, stand in for the Indian Patel. Obviously an Indian wouldn’t fit into the Scottish setting. Rory has an affair with
  • Esme, the teacher. They are quite an interesting couple, those two.
  • Barney and his wife Agnes are the pub/hotel owners.
  • My favourite characters: Father and son McCrae. Lachlan and Lachie jr., the local entrepreneurs. Those two are so funny and make sure the necessary comic relief is there.
  • Doc Brown, a young doctor instead of the old fellow, who is Hamish’s pot smoking buddie (yeah, really!)

I would recommend the series to everyone who likes cozy mysteries (not necessarily with murder) in an interesting setting. You don’t have to know the books, on the contrary, knowing the “real” characters you might even be disappointed a bit. But it is entertaining nevertheless. Do not forget to put on the subtitles on your DVD player, though!

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Readers’ workout #7

Readers' Workouts

I have nothing to tell this week. I had to go for a biopsy last week and was not allowed any sports until the end of the week. However, on Sunday, I at least went for my usual swimming. It will be the same this week, because I had a second appointment on Tuesday.

What has everybody else been up to work out wise?

 

 

To see other participants’ progress go to Joy’s Book Blog.

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Top Ten Blogs/Sites I Read That Aren’t about Books

Top Ten Tuesday

My Google reader is full of feeds for various topics, but I only skim most of them. Some sites, however, I spend a fair amount of time at. Here they are:

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Blogs/Sites I Read That AREN’T about Books
  1. The Daily Digi
    A site with digital scrapbooking news that gives a good overview of what is going on in the digiscrapping community.
  2. Better After
    I just love makeovers of any kind. Before and after photos fascinate me. The amount of time people put into making over furniture that other people consider trash is amazing.
  3. iPhone Ticker
    German iPhone info site. All the latest news on apps and iPhone related topics.
  4. The Geek Art Gallery and the Great Geek Manual
    Everything geeky under the sun, photos, art, movies, links etc…
  5. Just something I made
    Crafty site with plenty of ideas – and freebies.
  6. Funky Junk Interiors
    Look how you can create a beautiful and original home with repurposing, up-cycling and re-using things.
  7. Mamas kram
    Craft site with beautiful home decor, sewing, decorating, you name it. In German.
  8. House of Svea
    See above, just in English and Swedish.
  9. SPIEGEL online
    Online service of the German news magazine. Everything I want to know about what is going on in the world. My hangout during morning coffee.
  10. Martha Stewart
    My go-to site for recipes, household tips, craft ideas, kids’ activities and what not.

What are your Top Ten blogs or sites you read that AREN’T about books?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. You will find tons of more Top Ten Tuesday participants there.

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Readers’ workout #5

Readers' Workouts

This week I did much better and got my Wii Fit board out every day (except on the one day when I went swimming). My total workout minutes are 151 (goal is 90/week), so I am quite pleased with myself.

I got rid of one of my Wii Fitness programs which is a total waste of money and time. If you ever feel tempted to get Exerbeat, don’t bother. After every exercise – some of them are only 90 seconds – you are forced to watch your Mii wander all across the globe on a “tour around the world” and listen to educational little tidbits about the countries you are visiting. I have heard that eventually you unlock the option to put a workout sequence together without interruptions, but I never even got that far because I was so annoyed by this pseudo-historical-geographical chatter. There is no possibility to turn it off in the general settings.

My search for a good Wii fitness program goes on. Does anyone have any recommendations? Preferably with (Step-)Aerobics exercises and boxing and not so much dancing. Thanks already in advance!

To see other participants’ progress go to Joy’s Book Blog.

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Readers’ workouts #4

Readers' WorkoutsI have been very busy this week (the usual excuse) and haven’t done much, but if you knew me personally you would know that even going swimming for three weeks in a row is a success.

Yesterday evening I got my WII Fitboard out because I quite enjoy doing the exercises with it. That way at least I got something done. My new plan is do use it every evening, we will see how that goes.

How is everybody else doing?

 

 

To see other participants’ progress go to Joy’s Book Blog.

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Readers’ workouts #2

Readers' Workouts

Last week was my first week to actually DO someting. I had planned to working out 90 minutes/week and that “worked out” alright.

I rode my bike at home while watching TV (time just flies that way – sort of) and once I went swimming with my swimming buddy. I counted that with 20 minutes even though we were at the pool much longer (basically chatting and having fun in the hot outdoor pool).

All in all I managed 95 minutes which is  perfectly fine with me.

I love My Fitness Pal and am always so pleased when I can enter another exercise or weigh in. This is such fun!

How is everybody else doing?

To see other participants’ progress go to Joy’s Book Blog.

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The Paris myth

Don’t get me wrong. I like Paris, it is a great city that is well worth visiting.

However, reviews of "Paris in Love" made me realize that people have all sorts of ideas about Paris. Yes, Paris is lovely, it is wonderful, beautiful when the cherry trees are in bloom (if there are cherry trees, that is), the people are friendly, the food is gorgeous and the people have an unequalled sense of fashion. Yes, but this is so in every other city on the planet when you go to the right spot, the orchard, the right restaurant, when you are in the right frame of mind and when you are off (and preferably everybody else is, too).

I don’t know what it is about Paris that people seem to think that it is different from any other metropolitan area on Earth. I am sorry to say it is not. Not every Parisian ambles down the street to meet his friends for a Pernod and spends two minutes kissing before settling down to chat for hours. Not every Parisian gets up leisurely before slowly taking a stroll to his local boulangerie to get a delicious croissant and then go home again to enjoy his French pressed coffee and breakfast on his cast iron balcony looking over the roofs of Paris while the sun is slowly rising on the horizon, bathing the Eiffel tower in a soft light.

Instead people are just as pressed for time as in every other part of the world, they hurry to work, complain about rude waiters, get mugged and spend hours in a tunnel in a stinking subway squeezed in between cursing commuters during rush hour because some miserable sap has committed suicide on the tracks ahead. I am talking from experience.

So, yes, there are picturesque scenes in Paris, just like there are in New York, Copenhagen, Riga and Tokyo. Please, don’t give me all that stuff about Paris being the ultimate romantic lovers’ city with rose petals scattered in the streets.  It is perfectly fine to project your dreams about the perfect place into Paris and conjure it up in your head, but don’t make it sound as if this was reality. Because it is not.

Animum debes mutare, non caelum. ~Horace, and later Seneca

Just to counteract all that Paris glorification I am giving away a used copy of “A year in the merde” by Stephen Clarke today.

Sorry – the giveaway has ended.  

year

Paul West arrives in Paris to start a new job – and finds out what the French are really like.

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Readers’ workouts

workouts

Joy from Joy’s Book Blog has taken over a workout project from another blog that she now calls Readers’ workouts. This is what Joy says about it:

The idea is that each Tuesday, we report our exercise progress for the previous week and state goals for the upcoming week. Setting and tracking goals as part of a community is great for both accountability and support. Set up your goals and reporting system in any way that works for you.

The target group are people who are more bookish than athletic; guess what! That sounds just like me. Athletic I am not! Bookish? Rather! Of course, Joy’s own account of her workout in March made me hang my head in shame, but you have to start somewhere. Also, because I have a thing for online tools, I remembered that Judith mentioned an online site the other day where you can track your calories, workouts, progress etc. which sounded just like my cup of tea. It is called My Fitness Pal.

So the most important things (except the actual working out part) are already under way.

  • Join at Joy’s site
  • Register at My Fitness Pal 
  • Determine how often I want to work out 
  • Get a swimming pal 
  • Set a date to start (after Easter)

You feel like working out? Check out Readers’ workouts at Joy’s Book Blog!

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Checking out again

I am checking out again for a few days. I need to go to hospital for surgery and am planning to be back next week. At least this intermezzo will give me plenty of time to read again while recovering, let’s just hope my roommates won’t be too talkative. The last thing I want is people I don’t know wittering on non stop about their ailments, expecting me to answer. Or is that common hospital tradition? Oh, well, they won’t kick me out for misbehaviour, will they?

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My new tumblelog

OK, so I finally broke down and got a tumblelog. I keptseeing those nice, clean tumblr posts and always wondered what tumblr was. Actually it is quite a nice way to post things that don’t fit exactly on the blog but I want to have together in one place anyway. Photos, quotes, videos, random stuff….So, there I am, at the (still very empty) Teleidoscope 2.0. Have a look and follow me if you like!

Have you got a tumblelog? If so, link me up, please!

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The Christmas tree

My 24 days of Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

Tree in Rothenburg o.d. TauberThe Christmas tree is another German tradition that made its way all over the world. People always decorated their homes with evergreen twigs or branches on Christmas because they symbolize health, and it has been customary to decorate whole trees for certain occasions since the middle ages (e.g. Maypole).

It is said that in Freiburg a tree was used in 1419 for the first time to be decorated with sweets, fruit and nuts that the kids could eat from it after New Year’s Day, but this cannot be proven anymore. The first official date where Christmas trees were mentioned is 1521. They stood in the homes of the rich as Christmas decoration. Christmas tree

After a while the Christmas tree became more popular in other countries in middle Europe and in 1832 the first Christmas tree was put up by a German born Harvard professor in Massachusetts. After Queen Victoria married Albert von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, the tree was introduced in London and also came to other countries like Russia, the Netherlands or Italy. 

When I was a girl we used to put up our Christmas tree only on December 24, but nowadays people put up and decorate their trees earlier and earlier. The tree normally gets taken down again on Epiphany (January 6).

Christmas treeThe most popular tree for a Christmas tree is the fir tree (especially the Caucasian fir), but people also use pine trees or spruce. Artificial trees are not that popular in Germany; nothing beats a real tree and its scent. To use tinsel to decorate the tree is an idea that was born in Nuremberg in 1878. It is supposed to symbolize glittering icicles. A lot of people decorate their trees with glass baubles and lights, but also straw stars, wooden ornaments and bows are very popular. Some people even use real candles even though I wouldn’t recommend it, especially when you have kids. Just like with the advent wreath there is no  limit as to what you can use as decoration. Homemade or bought, inexpensive or very pricey, traditional or funky colour combinations – everything goes.

 

Tree images from flickr users MightyPirate Threepwood, onnola and hombertho.

What does YOUR Christmas tree look like?