Friday, 28 June 2013

bon week-end

I was sitting here with my coffee thinking that it just cannot be Friday already, or pizza-day, as we refer to Fridays in this house. What happened to this week? It has flown by but it has been a good one. I spent yesterday morning in the city, as I had to go to the library, and brought home a stack of books and pink peonies. I know, I thought I wasn't feeling them this season but then I saw a bouquet and before I knew it I had purchased it. I enjoyed a latte at a one of my favourite cafés, where I also ran into an old school friend of mine from Iceland, whom I haven't seen for probably 11 years. This world is simply too small sometimes! One of the books I borrowed yesterday was Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, which I'm now reading for the first time and thoroughly enjoying.

Speaking of books, this morning my Amazon birthday package arrived. As my birthday isn't until July, I'm not going to share its entire content with you yet, but believe me, it's a good one! Well, you already knew that I was expecting Blixen's Out of Africa, but I have to finish Hemingway before I go on a journey in Kenya with Blixen.

For the very curious cats reading this blog I will share one of my new coffee table books, just because I have already talked about it: Bringing Nature Home by Ngoc Minh Ngo (the book I meant to give to myself on the Icelandic First Day of Summer, see this blog post). It is even more beautiful than I had imagined - the photographs and the floral arrangements simply take my breath away.

Buy fresh flowers today (or bring some into the house from your garden) and enjoy a wonderful weekend!

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Garden design: a mill house garden in Oxfordshire



An interesting thing happened yesterday. I was uploading these photos from my files, of a garden that belongs to an 18th century mill house by the River Cherwell in Oxfordshire, when A came home from work. He had grabbed the latest copy of House & Garden (July 2013) and I'm not kidding, this same garden is featured in the magazine and there is a short interview with the garden designer, Arne Maynard.

From the feature I learned that Maynard published a book back in 2004, A Sense of Place: How to Create a Garden with Atmosphere, which immediately found its way to my wish list.


It says in the article that the house is 'sandwiched between the River Cherwell and the South Oxford Canal on a finger of land that is almost an island' (p. 102). In the magazine I was able to view different angles of the garden and the house itself and I had to snap the photo below to show you the back of the house, as there is none on Maynard's website.


When Maynard arrived on the scene the garden was overgrown with 'dozens of unpollarded willows and everything [was] covered in ivy.' The garden was in desperate need of breathing space so they started with clearing everything except the beautiful 'New Dawn' and 'Albertine' roses that you can see climbing on the façade of the house.


Close to the house things are kept formal but at its edges the garden looks more natural. There is a herbaceous garden filled with many colourful plants and they also created a parterre that has yew pyramids and box hedges at its borders.

Don't get me started on all that lavender!


In the article, there is a quote from Maynard's book:
A successful garden must relate and respond to the surrounding landscape and its history as well as to the style of the building, to give it a proper sense of belonging.
I think it is safe to say that this garden philosophy is clearly visible in this gorgeous - yet somehow simple - garden.


photo credit:
1-2 + 4-9: Arne Maynard Garden Design / 3: Lisa Hjalt (photo in the magazine taken by Allan Pollok-Morris)

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Karen Blixen museums + quinoa pudding recipe

In my Monday's post Danish author Karen Blixen played a role (Isak Dinesen was her pen name). I'm waiting for her book Out of Africa to arrive in the mail so I can start reading it again.

Karen Blixen's private home in Rungsted Kyst in Denmark (by the coast, north of Copenhagen) is open to the public. Hardly anything has been changed in there since Blixen's death in 1962. I don't know who took the photo of her study above, but I find it fascinating. It's not only her old typewriter sitting on the desk and the beautiful light coming in through window, it is also this sense of peacefulness; an echo of the past.

Blixen not only wrote books, she was also a skilful painter. In 1902-1903 she received training from Charlotte Sode and Julie Meldahl in their art school on Bredgade in Copenhagen, preparing for further studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1910 she also went to an art school in Paris. The two portraits above are of Abdullahi Ahamed (right), the brother of Farah Aden, a Somali who became her right hand on the farm in Kenya, and a young girl from the Kikuyu tribe.

When Ernest Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, he was quoted in an interview saying: "I would have been happy - happier - today if the prize had gone to that beautiful writer Isak Dinesen." She wrote him a thank-you letter that is kept in the museum.

On the website of Karen Blixen Museet you will find more photos of Blixen and the house.

Karen Blixen's old farmhouse "at the foot of the Ngong Hills" in Nairobi, Kenya was also turned into a museum and the photo above is taken there. When I make it to Kenya one day it is on my list of places to visit.

And from Karen Blixen to a delicious pudding.

Earlier today I posted my recipe of quinoa pudding with Greek yoghurt and strawberries on kithcen & aroma. Depending on our mood, it also contains peaches or apricots. This one has become our favourite Sunday treat.

photo credit:
1: unknown source via Writers Write Creative Blog / 2: Karen Blixen Museet / 3: K.R. Hoppe via Karen Blixen Museet / 4: Blixen with Marilyn Monroe in 1959 via ibid. / 5: Phil Douglis via Pinterest / 6: Lisa Hjalt

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

notes à la mode 35

I am not quite done with Africa. In a discussion with my friend this weekend, the one I mentioned yesterday, who has travelled all over East Africa, I was saying that my ideas about Africa, my daydreams, were mainly based on a safari fantasy presented in ad campaigns by brands such as Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren. She answered that it was perfectly fine; their trips were probably somewhere between a Louis Vuitton ad and backpackers style. You see, her brother and his wife have been offering tours to Africa for many years and people can basically choose what kind of a trip they want. They want to show people the real Africa but people can also ask for a bit of luxury.

Let's keep the fantasy going with a few photos from a Louis Vuitton ad campaign from 2010, photographed in South Africa by Carter Smith. It features Dree Hemingway, the great-granddaughter of author Ernest Hemingway, Andrew Cooper, and some beautiful travel items, accessories and vintage luggage.

photo credit:
Carter Smith for Louis Vuitton 2010 Cruise via Quite Continental | models Dree Hemingway + Andrew Cooper styled by Antje Winter

Monday, 24 June 2013

Summer living | Vive l'été

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold.
These are the first sentences in the book Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (1885-1962), which I read many years ago, too young to really understand this incredible woman and her experiences in Africa. I intend to read it again this summer.

During the weekend I was Africa obsessed - there is no other way to describe this feeling that sometimes takes a hold of me. Blame Karen Blixen, scenes from the film Out of Africa (1985), and friends of mine who have travelled all over East Africa on many occasions. I found myself starting to collect photos on the desktop and it wasn't until later that I realised that most of them where from the Masai Mara National Reserve in the south-west part of Kenya. Even the Vogue editorial, featuring actress Keira Knightley, was shot there, in the Cottar's 1920s Safari Camp and its surroundings. In her journal for the magazine she wrote: "Cottar's 1920s Safari Camp is like something out of a fairy tale. Totally in the wild. White tents, huge four-poster beds with draped white mosquito nets. All the furniture is like something from Out of Africa."

There it was again: Out of Africa. I thought to myself, why not make a different SUMMER LIVING | VIVE L'ÉTÉ where the theme is Africa, or the Masai Mara, safari style and, of course, Blixen?

And that's what I did.

How beautiful were the evenings of the Masai Reserve when after sunset we arrived at the river or the water-hole where we were to outspan, travelling in a long file. The plains with the thorn-trees on them were already quite dark, but the air was filled with clarity - and over our heads, to the west, a single star which was to grow big and radiant in the course of the night was now just visible, like a silver point in the sky of citrine topaz. The air was cold to the lungs, the long grass dripping wet, and the herbs on it gave out their spiced astringent scent. In a little while on all sides the cicadas would begin to sing. The grass was me, and the air, the distant invisible mountains were me, the tired oxen were me. I breathed with the slight night-wind in the thorn-trees.
from the chapter 'A War-Time Safari' in Karen Blixen's Out of Africa

photo credit:
01 + 03 + 05: Sigrun Thorsteinsdottir / 02: Eric Lafforgue / 04 + 06 + 09: Arthur Elgort for Vogue US, June 2007 | actress Keira Knightley styled by Grace Coddington / 07 + 10: Travel+Style Magazine (Cottar's 1920s Safari Camp) / 08: Singita/Pinterest

Friday, 21 June 2013

bon week-end

Despite the rain coming down in buckets yesterday, it was a good day. The postman delivered two packages, a book and organic skincare products. Let's start with the book. I had been looking for a certain handbook about plants that I had seen a preview of in an old blog post written by Kit Lee of Style Slicker for Benetton (UK). There was something about the book that looked so appealing but I just couldn't find it. After looking inside endless books on Amazon I gave up and sent an email to Kit. She replied with good advice and links.

The book in question was an old edition of Wild Flowers of Britain and Northwest Europe by Christopher Grey-Wilson, which now has been updated and reprinted, and she told me that she preferred the old edition. I got a used copy on Amazon for only £0.01 and it looks like a new one. I doubt the former owner has ever read the book. The organic skin care products I got for me and the kids are from Green People and I have a good feeling about those. Let me try them for a few weeks before telling you what I think.

This week has flown by and I'm looking forward to the weekend. The National Day of Luxembourg is on Sunday and I'm thinking about making my quinoa pudding again (I will share the recipe next week). Tonight it's of course pizza and red.

Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Summer!

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt

Thursday, 20 June 2013

drawing with light 23

photo credit:
Will Davidson for Harper’s Bazaar Australia, March 2012 via Ada of Classiq/Pinterest | model: Marloes Horst

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Garden design: a French inspired garden in Alabama


The French window above with its gorgeous garden view made me fall completely flat for this feature on the website of Traditional Home. Today I was working in my own humble garden (the roses in front are in bloom, yay!) in 29°C and much humidity, waiting for the right moment to call it a day; sit down with baguette and grapes and share this French inspired beauty on the blog.


In Redmont, a historic neighbourhood in Birmingham, Alabama, stands a beautiful house from 1926 that belongs to interior designer Mary Finch and her husband. They bought it back in 2004 and it was gardener Norman Kent Johnson who helped them designing the gardens, which were bare and had old and overgrown wisteria in desperate need of cutting. Before buying the house, Mary hadn't done much gardening but the property "afforded a blank canvas she couldn't resist." Because of travels to French wineries and to the Provence, French gardens were her inspiration. With pure honesty and laughter she remarks: "Perhaps the most French thing about this garden is the amount of French wine we’ve shared here."


Above you see a purple salvia and the beautiful terrace, which they use to enjoy the morning coffee while admiring the gardens and the view. Today Mary sounds like a true gardener when she says: "There's always something changing ... It's exciting to see a new leaf emerge, foliage change, or a flower about to bloom."


The flower above is a red verbena, which I have never seen before. It also goes by the name 'Voodoo Star' and attracts butterflies, birds, and bees. The flower above the red verbena is called schizanthus.

Below you see 'Purple Flame' (Cyclamen hederifolium) and cherubs in the centre of the parterre.


The view in the back is wonderful, with the terrace overlooking the parterre and the Appalachian Mountains across the valley. It was Mary and gardener Norman Kent Johnson who added the parterre, a nod to formal French design. Four urns standing in its corners mark off the parterre.


There is an open-air patio in the garden, ideal for entertaining guests, with lanterns on the dividing wall that provide a beautiful soft light in the evening.


I didn't use all the photos from the feature but I will end this post with a stone pathway and a charming wrought iron gate, which looks very French.


photo credit:
Jean Allsopp for Traditional Home