Monday, 30 September 2013

Luxembourg in autumn

I never get tired of this view. This is the old part of Luxembourg City called Grund and to me these houses look more like doll's houses when seen from above. The last time I shared photos of it on the blog it was wintertime. I snapped this one on Saturday when taking friends visiting from Iceland for a walk down into the Pétrusse Valley. They were of course in awe of the view and the scenery. It was a beautiful and warm autumn day; the Valley was at its best.

I hope your week is starting off well!

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Friday, 27 September 2013

bon week-end

As an avid reader this photo resonated with me the minute I saw it. There is something about sitting at a café, wrapped in a pashmina (or a blanket) and reading that makes my heart tick.

It is a rare sight to see people with books these days. Just this morning at the train station in the city my teenage daughter said to me that everyone was either on the phone or listening to music on the phone. Everyone had the head buried in their phone and no one seemed to be looking up. People even walked without looking up from their phone. Interesting observation by a teenager, I have to say. At cafés and on the train my head is often buried in a book or a magazine. I like the noise and distraction by something going on in my surroundings; I don’t want to block out the environment completely. When I walk I walk with my app-free phone in the bag, if I remember to bring it with me. I guess I'm not much of a phone person. I like looking straight ahead when walking.

Have a wonderful weekend!

photo credit:
Dmitry Kutuzov Photography, discovered via Tumblr

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Thursday, 26 September 2013

autumn in my corner + k&a soup recipe

It is a beautiful and sunny autumn day in my corner of the world. There are hardly any visible autumn colours yet but I'm guessing nature will soon get busy. I know I have already mentioned this soup twice this week but now I have added the recipe of sweet potato soup with toasted pumpkin seeds to my kitchen & aroma food blog.

Last Friday I was telling you about two books that I have now finished reading. I have to say that Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann is one of the best novels I have read in years. It's a book I will be reading again one day. I enjoyed the story Louise Erdrich tells in her The Master Butchers Singing Club and the characters grew well on me, but there were a few things in the narrative that I would have liked to see her weave differently. There was nothing that annoyed me but it sometimes felt as if the author was maybe telling too many stories in one. I also got the feeling that she had decided on the title before finishing the story in her mind. The title hadn't really much to do with the essence of the book.

It doesn't mean that I'm giving up on Erdrich because I'm currently reading her first novel, Love Medicine, and I have borrowed The Plague of Doves, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Price for fiction back in 2009. I also borrowed Home by Marilynne Robinson, who won the Pulitzer Price for fiction in 2005 for Gilead. As I held these books in my hands at the library, I wondered if I was the first borrower. I honestly don't think these copies have ever been read. Have people stopped using libraries?

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

space: a dining room in an old boathouse

The arrival of autumn always makes me recipe-crazier than usual (if you saw my stack you would understand why I use the word crazy). I find myself viewing endless recipes, especially soups. Pies too. I also find myself more drawn to rustic countryside homes that look both homey and stylish. My eyes go straight to the photos of the kitchen and dining area, and I get particularly happy if the table has been set. The dining room in the photo is in an old boathouse, which has been renovated and is used as a summer house. I like that they keep cushions on the benches and blankets to keep warm. It looks so snug.

I have to tell you that for dinner yesterday I made the Sweet Potato Soup (it contains carrots as well) that I mentioned in my yesterday's post. I used Greek yoghurt instead of heavy cream and I added fresh ginger and I loved it. It reminded me of this Zanzibar Carrot and Coconut Soup that I like serving when the weather gets colder.

photo credit:
Lina Ikse Bergman for Country life #1, 2011 via Sköna hem

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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

brighter shade than pale 15 - autumn

Autumn has officially arrived and even though we are still enjoying wonderful weather, I find myself embracing the new season. In fact, for years I haven't been as excited about the arrival of autumn as I am now (the plums in our garden are definitely helping ... trust me, that plum pie was delicious). There is something in the air, not only the crispness that greets me when I head out the door in the morning, something else that I cannot quite put my finger on. Maybe I'm just waiting to see the autumn colours slowly appearing. I'm also excited about making this Sweet Potato Soup later today.

photo credit:
1: Rebecca Arthurs Photography via Seasonal Love / 2: Mark Roper for Country Style / 3: M. Reichel via The Fuller View / 4: Hanna Skoog of Moodboard / 5: Lisa Hjalt / 6: Garance Doré

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Monday, 23 September 2013

notes à la mode 37

Today I'm taking you back to the year 2006 and to the streets of Paris (Audrey was spot on, Paris is always a good idea). These first three images are part of an old Zara ad campaign, featuring model Anja Rubik. The one below has been in my files for a long time and it wasn't until I began viewing the others better that I fell flat for the one above, taken in a narrow street called Rue de Bourbon le Château in the 6th district (an Isabel Marant boutique is close by). I still remember this street; it was close to my hotel when I visited Paris last year.

A beautiful street in Paris and a coat with 3/4 sleeves - now, that is something to make my heart beat a little faster!

In my NOTES À LA MODE 36 I was in the mood for some herringbone and I still am. This autumn my wardrobe is craving a herringbone piece. I'm feeling these two Calvin Klein trousers, part of the autumn 2006 collection.


photo credit:
1-3: Zara Autumn 2006 ad campaign via Fashion Ad Explorer | models: Anja Rubik + Will Chalker / 4-5: Marcio Madeira via Vogue US | Calvin Klein Collection Autumn 2006

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Friday, 20 September 2013

bon week-end

This novel, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, is keeping me company on the train these days and I'm now on the last pages. I love its style. A book that tells many stories in one. This one is set in New York and it's Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the Twin Towers back in 1974 that ties the stories together. It was Mary Jo who recommended it to me and also a book called The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich, which I got at the library yesterday. Just felt it was right to share these recommendations with all the book lovers out there.

When I got back home the postman had brought me the October issue of Harper's Bazaar UK to add to my weekend reading. It's been a busy week and I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend. I just have to run out the door one more time and after that it's relaxation and Friday-pizza time.

For those interested in architecture and interior design, today I'm a guest blogger at Igor's Happy Interior Blog, sharing a stylish home on the Greek island Mykonos.

Have a wonderful weekend!

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Thursday, 19 September 2013

drawing with light 26

Grand Canal, Venice.

photo credit:
Neil Cherry

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

the old quarter of Grund

I am having a busy week; going into the city a lot. It seemed fitting today to post this old travel poster of the oldest part of Luxembourg before I head out again.

Have a wonderful day!

photo credit:
Los Angeles Public Library

Monday, 16 September 2013

the plum season

We have entered the plum season and, unlike last year, it is literally raining plums in our garden. Yesterday I went out with a bucket to pick some and I made a crumble with almonds and maple syrup, served with whipped cream. It was oh so delicious!

When we are done eating all the plums we will have had our fair share of potassium and vitamins A and C. For those of you who are so unfortunate to be dealing with depression, I read somewhere that plums contain something, which I no longer remember the name of, that helps the brain to produce serotonin.

In the garden there are also mirabelles (Mirabelle de Nancy), as my neighbour calls them, and they are more yellowish. She uses them to make jam and we allowed her to pick as many as she needed. The rest has already started falling down higher from the tree and I would need a big ladder to reach them. Maybe I should just let our son climb up there; put his climbing skills to good use!

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Sunday, 15 September 2013

my Sunday moment

This is more like my weekend moment. I'm devouring the pages of this Elle Decoration issue, there is so much inspiration and wonderful to see familiar faces from blogosphere in short interviews like Kara Rosenlund and Paul Lowe of Sweet Paul Magazine (his blog was the first I started following long before I began blogging myself). The kids are going back to school tomorrow and buying school and art supplies left me inspired. By the way, that chinoiserie style painting on the card is by artist Kathe Fraga, whom I blogged about here.

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Friday, 13 September 2013

the White Cliffs of Dover

I'm dealing with slight post-travel blues. I miss the sea and I miss being at sea. We took a ferry from Dunkirk to Dover in beautiful weather; I drank latte on the deck and ate home-made biscotti = bliss. It's only a two-hour ferry ride and when the White Cliffs of Dover start rising out of the sea it gives me a big thrill. Such a beautiful landscape!

Bon week-end!

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

drawing with light 25

This was the morning light coming through our bedroom window in the West Midlands cottage. I don't even know if the photo does it justice. I was in awe the first morning when I woke up and saw the light.

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

styling: herbs and rustic elements

Yesterday I gave you a sneak peek of the place we stayed at during our road trip to England last week and I showed you the lavender in the courtyard. While I'm still sorting through my own photos I wanted to borrow a few from this photo shoot that I came across on Style Me Pretty. A beautiful table setting always speaks to my heart, and more so when it has that natural look, where organic products are used to create something special. I love the idea of decorating a table with herbs, especially twine-wrapped herbs placed on top of eco-friendly napkins. It's perfect for this farmhouse style venue; the rustic wood adds more depth to the setting.

photo credit:
Kristyn Hogan via Style Me Pretty | styling: Cedarwood Weddings

Monday, 9 September 2013

lavender in a peaceful West Midlands courtyard



We spent last week in the English countryside, in the West Midlands. We stayed in a renovated cottage that belongs to a farmhouse, which dates back to the 14th century (see our entrance in the background of the photo below). It had this beautiful private courtyard filled with lavender and all kinds of trees and flowers. It was such a peaceful and wonderful place. During the day we explored the surrounding area and we also drove into Warwickshire - Shakespeare's Country.


The initial plan was to rent a cottage in the northern part of the Cotswolds but it didn't work out and afterwards we were glad; this was the perfect place for us. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm, and the only reminder of the arrival of autumn was the lavender that had slowly begun to lose its colour.


photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Monday, 2 September 2013

book: My Greek Island Home by Claire Lloyd



Above you see my copy of Claire Lloyd's beautiful book, My Greek Island Home, and by that I mean both its content and the book design. It was a birthday present from a close friend, who knew how much I wanted to read it. As I picked it up and started reading, I couldn't put it down. Claire lured me into her peaceful world on the Greek island Lesvos, where she bought a house with her partner Matthew Usmar Lauder. Her book is one of those personal accounts that go straight to the heart and once you finish it, it stays with you. It is not just a glimpse into life on the island, more like touching its core. The inhabitants of the island, the individuals she talks about, stay with you after you finish reading the book.


I first learned about the book through an inspiring interview with Claire Lloyd on the blog of Carla Coulson (they are fellow Australians, both expats living in Europe). To make a long story short, Claire is an artist, designer and photographer who was feeling exhausted by her hectic life in London and after a conversation with a friend found herself on the Greek island of Lesvos where she bought a house.

After reading the book I knew I wanted to feature it on the blog and I contacted Claire who was so generous to provide photographs and answer a few questions, which you will find below.

What struck me during the reading was the respect Claire and Matthew have for the island and its inhabitants. They didn't show up on the island, waving money and bringing in a container with materials for renovation. They did nothing of the sort. Well, the funny thing is that Claire had to bring 'a bag of cash' (p. 35) to the island to pay for the house and after that Matthew and his friend 'worked obsessively, to the point of exhaustion, over many, many weeks to create something quirky but beautiful' (p. 36). They cleared the house, painted it and reused the material already there to make what was needed.
We pared back the house, painting everything white with occasional touches of the original
turquoise colour, to bring out the simple beauty of each detail. Even the most ordinary
objects - a stone, a shell, a pair of sandals - are worthy of attention. p. 41
The sense of peace and calm pulls you in; it's profoundly restful to sit
at the water's edge and gaze into the vivid, intense blue. p. 20


Claire and her partner don't live on the island as outsiders; they are members of the society and Claire is even learning Greek, which she admits that she struggles with.

Claire, are you planning to grow old on the island?
I am not planning on getting old and I am not planning my future. I am living a life that I love. I have always lived a life I love and will continue to live a life I love in Greece or wherever I am.


Because of the news about the Greek economy, how are the inhabitants of the island experiencing the recession? In your book it appears that the island is very sustainable so it made me wonder that maybe life on the island is in a way much simpler than on the mainland; maybe the recession hasn't hit the people as hard.
The Greek people are resilient and they are tenacious, they are also very generous people. There is no denying the current crisis and the infrastructure is suffering. However, people in the villages live simply, they look out for each other. They also grow their own produce, work hard and are pretty self-sufficient. Our Greek village friends make the most of what they have and share it. They know how to enjoy themselves and don’t take life to seriously.

This island is large, in fact it’s the third largest and there are around 14 million olive trees. A lot of the land is farmed. There are goats, sheep and wonderful seasonal fruit and vegetables. The locals use the land around them to sustain themselves. I am really interested in this way of living as I feel living in big cities has disconnected us with nature, our neighbors and animals. We have lost respect for the simple things in life. There is a lot to be learned here, just being aware of the seasons and eating the food available seasonally is fantastic. When I walk the dogs down the track in early spring I find young wild asparagus growing. I can just pick it there and then and eat it raw, delicious. People as I say are generous we often find fresh vegetables on our door step and we don’t know who to thank for them. This morning one of our neighbors left 10 litres of wine she had made. She had trodden the grapes herself. I feel very privileged to be accepted in this village and to live here in Greece.
Creativity suffuses everyday life in the village - people are constantly making lace, painting
flowerpots, baking and drying herbs. It's a very self-sufficient society - a way of life that
has worked for thousands of years. I often think we could learn a lot from them. p. 19


See this man above? His name is Pandelis and he runs a store on the island. If you ever find yourself in his store without having had any breakfast or lunch then all I can say is: run! You will have to read the book to understand why I'm warning you. Just remember that I did warn you!


It wasn't just the photos of Claire's tranquil house on the island and life on the island that fascinated me. The design of the book itself deserves a praise and I had to ask Claire about it (I'm not the only one! Everyone who has seen the book on my coffee table mentions how beautiful it is). Her answers are repeated below.

The book's endpapers are a painting of the sea in Lesvos by her partner Matthew. On the other side is a flower-butterflies print that I was very curious about. It's the same print as the cushion fabric behind the cat. Claire told me that it is a paper lining from the inside of an old suitcase that Matthew found. She loves the print so much that she wanted it to be in the book. It was Matthew who did a repeat of it so it could be printed onto fabric.

The design of the book was a close collaboration between Claire and Evi Oetomo from Penguin Lantern. Evi produced the design for the cover. Claire didn't want a photograph on the cover, as she felt strongly that there was not one photographic image that represented the book. She wanted the book to feel personal hence her handwriting and the pink tape ribbon. The cover is embossed - it was important for her to have the book tactile. She wanted the readers to have every sense touched when they held the book. She wanted the readers to be transported to a beautiful place when they turned the pages.

Trust me, it worked!


I cannot finish this post without mentioning the animal rescue on the island. Claire talks about it in her book and says that her 'love affair with four-legged creatures' started when she moved there. She and Matthew have taken on two dogs - one is the beautiful Nellie in the photo above - and a few cats. She mentions a non-profit organisation called EreSOS for Animals that is always in need of donation and volunteers.
The gentleman in the photo above passed away after the publication of the book.

Thank you Claire for this beautiful journey that your book is. Thank you for providing images for this blog post and for taking time to answer my questions.


Dear readers and blog friends, I will be away this week on vacation. See you next Monday!

photo credit:
1: Lisa Hjalt / 2-14: Claire Lloyd - all her images appear in the book My Greek Island Home, except for No. 11 (cat + cushion) and images of herself, which are from a private collection.
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia/Lantern. Also available at Amazon US and Amazon UK.
Website: Claire Lloyd. Blog: Claire Lloyd Loves