Category Archives: Books and Films

harvesting and knitting and dyeing

The tomatoes keep on coming.
harvest. tidytipsy
I grew four varieties on our balcony this year. The sweet and tiny red one are easiest to grow in containers whereas the Green Zebras and Black Plums were a bit disappointing. The tastiest is a pink beef tomato from Spain, the seeds coming from the brother of a friend’s own garden. It produced only a few fruits but they were very good!
My mom grew them in her garden and when allowed to root deeply these grow into the hugest tomatoes ever.
harvest. tidytipsy
She’s picking them to ripen indoors since the weather has turned cooler.

Speaking of cooler weather, I’ve picked up some knitting again that got cast aside in spring. This pea green cowl in seed stitch turned out to be almost done, it just needed joining and weaving in the ends.
pea green cowl. tidytipsy
pea green cowl. tidytipsy
The dress I’m wearing is years old and was originally a dark grey. I’ve always loved the fit but hated the color, so I decided to try dyeing it in the washing machine. It was that or putting it on the donation pile. The dyeing turned out to be the easiest thing ever! Here’s a before and after:
dyeing clothes. tidytipsy
Now I can’t stop thinking what else I’d like to dye! I dyed an old blazer as well but unfortunately it didn’t take the color much. I should have looked at the fiber content first…still, it’s a bit better than before:
dyeing clothes. tidytipsy
The fall sock knitting is progressing nicely too. A couple more nights and these should be done.
knitting . tidytipsy
Recently I’ve been digging out old books again. Some of the books you read as a child always stay with you I guess and it’s lovely getting back into the old stories. Some of these are quite old and were actually handed down to me by my mother.
One of my favourites is a story about a young norwegian girl leaving the isolated area she grew up in to live and work in the city, going through many hardships but finally achieving not only a school diploma but also starting her own business. A simple but heartwarming story and quite modern considering it was published in the 1950’s and is set sometime in the 1930’s and 1940’s! In fact, there are only a few passages that clearly date the story (for example when the protagonist gets pregnant and everyone she announces it to insists on downing a bottle of bubbly with her!). Apparently these were only published in german and scandinavian languages, but if you can read either, look up the author Berte Bratt for the “Anne” trilogy.



It’s obviously been around for some time but I only just found out about this new “adaptation” of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice for Social Media: It’s P & P as a vlog started by Lizzie!

I’ve been watching and laughing so hard! I’m half way through and I think it’s fantastic. Can’t wait to see what they came up with for the Lydia situation!

inspiration day

We have this great rule at work that every employee can take one day a year off to do something inspiring for him/herself.
Normally that would involve going somewhere to see something or participate in a day course but I chose to spend my inspiration day at home with this book:

It’s a decorating book but different from any I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t give you tons of rules or advice to follow but makes you work hard at finding out, step by step, what you need, what you want and what you like.
The book is organized in 18 consecutive steps toward your dream room (it makes you tackle just one room). My goal was to complete the first 5 steps and I barely got finished in the one day, even though I had prepared beforehand and already compiled lots and lots of image inspiration on pinterest.
The first steps are discovering your aspirations (what do you want to do in the room), your functional needs (what do you need to realize your aspirations) and your emotional needs (how do you want to feel to do your aspirations). Now Meghan really makes you work here, filling out dozens of work sheets which can be downloaded on her website.

I picked the hardest room (naturally) and did a combined living and dining room.
Since functional needs can tell us what things we need to put in our room but we have trouble translating emotional needs to actual items of furniture/lighting/accessories etc., Meghan concludes we have to find a muse and a style to translate them. Once we find a muse (1 to 3 pictures that perfectly capture your emotional needs which you’ve written down) she helps you break it up into actual, usable information like shapes, patterns, colors, textures.

Sources: image 1 | image 2 | image 3

Image Source

Image Source

Once you’ve done that your next task is to look at hundreds of room pictures and pick the ones you love and that represents the feelings you’ve written down on your emotional needs worksheet. When you’ve got at least a dozen of those, you go about dissecting them much the same way.

Sources: image 1 | image 2 | image 3

By now you have gotten a pretty clear idea what you need and want and what items and characteristics can help you build a room that fits you and your needs perfectly.
There will likely be some surprises. For example I always thought I was a color person and my styles pictures very clearly showed a preference for the colors brown, cream and white. This tells me to stick to neutral colors for the big pictures and choose colorful items (with colors from my muse pictures) as eye catchers and accessories instead of covering a whole wall in them.
There were also things I knew subconsciously, like that I need to surround myself with natural, warm and smooth materials like wood and fabric, instead of sparkly, cool ones like glass and metal.
All in all, a perfect inspiration day for me and the things I found out about myself will come in very handy planning and decorating the new apartment. I probably won’t be following the next steps in the book as closely, simply because of lack of time. But before I start buying stuff and throwing it together because I have a vague idea it could look good together, I will read definitely through them and look things up and pause to consider and plan and match it up to my insights from this day.

listening to

Deb Talan. Forgiven.
I recommend huddling up on the couch with a quilt for this, closing your eyes and soaking up the beauty that is the raw combination of guitar and the human voice.

Deb’s music, to me, is perfection.
Also recommended: Deb Talan. Comfort.

We’ve been having a quiet weekend here, but I’ll be back during the week hopefully with a knitting post.


As a big movie fan I have to put in these trailers from two new films I am very excited about: ‘Water for Elephants’, opening 14 April (such a long time to wait!) which looks absolutely magical in the trailer. It’s also a wonderful book, definitely a recommended read.

The second one is ‘The King’s Speech’ which has opened in the US already but we in Germany will have to wait for until February (not fair!). Colin Firth’s work is always superb.

With all the bland movies that are being put out all the time I hope these two will stand out both because of great character development and beautiful cinematography. All it takes to sell me on a movie is a good story beautifully told, but I haven’t seen anything that really convinced me for a good while. I’m always happy for suggestions on films I don’t know about however, so if you have a favourite to share, I’d love to hear about it! There are tons of films that never make it out of the US and us european folks never even hear about sadly.

winter reading

Reading is complusive for me. Whether it be novels or non-fiction, books transport me to a different world, open up new possibilities and motivate me. A day on the couch with a book is a day well spent for me.
I believe education and learning is a central part of life and even after finishing my official education I am constantly learning and loving it. We’re planning on becoming more self-sufficient and healthy next year which involves growing our own vegetables. Besides the huge amount of free education on the internet through websites and blogs I do love having an actual book to get back to from time to time.
Here’s an overview of books I’ve recently read or am planning to read soon:

Clockwise from the left:
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls – I’m about a third through it, utterly fascinating read about a fiercely independent (horse)woman in the first half of the 20th century (the author`s grandmother), who always comes out on top no matter what.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Simple and wonderful. Read it a couple of weeks ago and am still pondering over the meaning(s).
Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich. Loved her stories of office-worker gone farmer. Definitely some great inspiration in there. This book more or less nudges you in the right direction instead of providing detailed descriptions.
The Bountiful Container by McGee & Stuckey. The bible for any container gardener. Extremely detailed and helpful, even though very tailored to the US market. I actually spent weeks on this (and I usually finish a book in a day or two). If you only get one book on container gardening, this is it!
Canning & Preserving with Ashley English. I am only a third through with this but I can already see that I won’t get much use out of it. Sadly, american canning practices seem to be too different from european ones (from different lids to different processes) to help me with my canning. It is a pretty book though and probably very helpful if you are in the US.
Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail. Beautiful book, lots of gorgeous pictures and inspiration. This will be a great supplement to the Bountiful Container, though it doesn’t contain enough information as a stand alone for me (that could just be me though, I like to be really thorough in my research before I try something).
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. What can I say, the Shakespeare fad hits me every couple of years. I’m a sucker for pretty words.
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Picked this up when I bought Half Broke Horses but ended up reading it first. Disturbing and fascinating (especially to me with a bit of background on childhood psychology through college). Definitely a must-read!

I’m always on the look-out for more great reading, so if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them!

birthday calendar – tutorial

Our circle of friends is rather small, but still we keep forgetting birthdays of friends and family. There’s Facebook and other networks that send out reminders but I prefer the old paper wall calendar. I didn’t find a birthday calendar I liked on Etsy, so I made one myself.
I had some leather samples that I liked and wanted to use. Just make a template and cut two (one each for front and back).

Grab some scrapbook paper and cut out 12 pages from your template. Label the pages for month and dates using real ink for a nice look.

Punch a hole on each page and on the two leather pages at the top at and use a key ring to keep all pages together.

Now take your time to go through old calendars, social networks and pieces of paper to find the birthdays of friends and family to write down. Quick and easy but oh so helpful 😉

surprise compost

The first night frosts are not far off and we’re slowly but surely getting our balcony ready for winter, potting baby strawberries, cutting back perennials, throwing out dying plants and generally cleaning up.

We still have some harvest, the raspberries keep on coming and the peppers continue to ripen.

Everything that doesn’t get eaten right away goes in the overflowing freezer (I still haven’t found the time to make jam and syrup). I like to freeze basil and oregano whole and crush it over pizza and tomatoes when I need it.

It’s a pitiable amount this year but I just got this great book for my birthday and now have all winter to devise a strategical plan to use every ounce of balcony space for gardening next spring.
The biggest surprise in cleaning up was this huge pot: It housed bamboo for a couple of years until the cold winter 2008/2009 killed it off. We never really got around to emptying it and used it as a trash can for the last 2 years, dumping weeds and dead plants and even whole plants we wanted to get rid of in it. This weekend I finally put my foot down and demanded my boyfriend haul it down to the real trash can (2 stories below). When clearing off the thin top layer of dead plant material however, we discovered that all the other material had been in it long enough to have turned into beautiful rich compost soil!

So now we’re keeping it until next spring and can then mix the soil with potting soil and hopefully save on chemical fertilizers 🙂
The other great news is: my friend is planning a monthly cooking class for us, so we will finally learn to cook and eat healthy. By next summer we will hopefully have learned to use our then hopefully plentiful harvest well.


days at the barn, gorgeous light, fresh fall air, no cell phone reception.

I read a very interesting article the other day about how we have forgotten or unlearned to really let go and relax (I am just realizing there is no english equivalent for the german term “Muße”). That we are always tense, feeling the need to do stuff, to get things done, to answer the phone, answer emails and text messages.
I am guilty of that too, although we do try to slow down our lifestyle. Have a little experiment: Turn off the TV, the radio, the cell phone for a week or two. You’ll be amazed how you start noticing high noise levels elsewhere and how annoying they are, how glaring TV ads and how stupid most shows.

You’ll be amazed at how happy simplicity makes.

My weakness of course is the internet, but I’m working on it 🙂