Monthly Archives: December 2014

…it is customary to reflect over that which has passed. Was this a good year with hindsight as metric? And what are we really measuring here, financial success, accomplishments, health, happiness, personal development?

Before I answer these questions…and at this point I am not entirely sure how to answer them, I have to put them through the perspective of my ever fascination and interest in the old stoic philosophy. The other day someone asked me to sum it up, and I still believe a Christian prayer called the Serenity prayer captures the stoic mindset really well:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

(Although known most widely in its abbreviated form above,
the entire prayer reads as follows…)

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

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I have highlighted the stoic concepts here, which are further expanded on in the works of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus et al.

Thus coming back to 2014… it was not until the last month, I truly let go of the last bit of anger and resentment I harboured over my situation and stopped my efforts to change certain aspects I really have very little control over. I delved into the concepts of Intrinsic Value (or the lack thereof) and Amor Fati, which Nietzsche wrote an interesting passage on:

“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”

So my world became very small, and instead largely centered upon myself (this is quite a paradox, as this may seem the height of narcissism, but it should not be interpret as such). It was based on acceptance of what I can influence/change and what I cannot, the acceptance of what I can control (my thoughts and my intentions) and what I cannot (again we are talking in absolutes here….control vs. influence are two different things!). There is no good or bad – my own judgment is the only thing that makes is so.

With this understanding and acceptance, it brought me – little by little – peace. And with peace there cannot be room for anger. No matter what happens. (NB: Acceptance versus striving for Justice are again not polar points of view, and thus Acceptance should not to be mixed up with being complacent when things can and should be changed for the better)

Stoics place great emphasis on ethics and how to live truthfully, and as faulty humans that we are, this also makes it rather difficult to adhere to. It’s yet in our innate nature to know what is good (using how we want to be treated ourselves can be a pretty useful scale of measurement). Thus being good and doing good is ever in our grasp. Or as Marcus Aurelius puts in:

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

Thus going back to where I started, The year has been good, and it has been blessed with more learnings than ever before. Perhaps this time I took the effort to examine and walk the path in the sunlight of this philosophy. Yet I made mistakes, but those are of course now my lessons.

Work wise…I am glad to say I worked, and work comes in many forms, and one is not more or less shameful than another. So I worked, on external projects, on my own Fashion line, on selling a house which came with a lot of packing and cleaning and ultimately I closed off a chapter that needed closure. I am grateful for that.

Through changes to Sebastian’s afterschool I had more time to spend with the little man and see him grow, whether building lego castles, playing memory games by the fire or watching history documentaries in bed. Right now we are reading a contemporary reprint of the first Edition of A Christmas Carol. Sebastian knows one thing, and so we start every evening… Marley was dead. As dead as a doornail.

I am finalising this year with my family on a beautiful estate just outside Maastricht. Although I wish Victoria could be here, I know she will have fun this evening with her friends. Again I feel blessed for having my family and for their courage to mirror my shortcomings. These are many and I shall do my best to work on them in the coming year.

So I can only conclude it’s been a good year, as I hope I will be able to find every year from now on. With the wisdom of knowing that whatever happens, we can bare it with our backs straight and our heads high, yet find the humbleness to bow when so required.

Yes, I feel I am prepared to take on 2015. It will an interesting year. I finish it off with another quote from Meditations:

“Look at the past – empire succeeding empire – and from that, extrapolate the future: the same thing. No escape from the rhythm or events. Which is why observing life for forty years is as good as a thousand. Would you really see anything new?”

Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but to do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress. ——Charles Pierre Monselet

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Just back from a day of shopping in Maastricht….all in the name of boosting the economy. It’s not quite as bad as in Amsterdam (or Haarlem for that matter) where war would have broken out over who takes the last piece discounted at 70%. Maastricht has a lot more flair than that, and although the streets were full of enthusiastic bargain hunters it was rather civilized. I did get my hands on a couple of items too…an LBD and a pair of jeans. Most of the shopping was done for Sebastian however, who was kitted out with a new wardrobe from my favourite brand from childhood – Polaren & Pyret.

In an hour we are off for dinner at the Chateau – all the reason to look our smartest!

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I got my way (of course 😉 and we went for a meat fondue in Valkenburg. Leuk tentje as R would say…relics were left as they must have once stood ca 1983. Not as delectable as Elysée in Malmö, but good enough if you haven’t had fondue in 20 years. Extra star for the wine – a 2003 Saint Emilion Grand Cru.

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I love being without my iPhone…more time to think, to read, to watch what is going on around me. So I took the opportunity to go for a run in the woods that are behind the Chateau. It was just me, the birds and the winds rustling the trees.

So what is cooking these last few days before the end of the year…

The family has been enjoying themselves. A lot of walks, relaxing, sleeping in (for my part – very happy for this).

I’m close to finish Meditations, which has been a constant companion and something I dip into now and then when needed. I am not a reader in the evening as I can’t sleep then, so I tend to read only when I have time. For that I need good holidays. Will see how long it will take me to plow through Jacques Derrida’s The Death Penalty – but I’m not banking on that this will be anytime soon.

As of tomorrow I will take some time off and stop looking at my emails. I will simply have to pick things up in the New Year. On New Year’s Eve we have a dinner at the Chateau followed by a party here. Looking really quite forward to it…especially since I booked myself a bit of pampering before the event.

Well off for a shower and dinner in Valkenburg with the family. I know this restaurant with meat fondue that I am desperate to try out.

Tot straks!

You very, very silly woman, why on earth did you carry an iPhone 6 to the toilet and then….well you get what happen. I cursed a couple of time, whilst calmly removing the device from the public toilet, wrapped it in a hand-cloth and started resurrection procedures… Sadly it died, over a heater that it was brought to for the revival attempt in question.

Ah well, there was no point in getting upset. Instead I tucked into a duck, which in perspective had all the more reason to be upset, than I had. We had finished off the continuation of the brainstorm, I had taken on a massage appointment which my husband had cancelled last minute and the sky was already shifting to its nighttime incarnation. For the first time since our holiday started, I felt the sudden urge for a nap. I launched an interview with the Iceman with the intent to watch an interesting interview/documentary. Instead I fell asleep to his low, monotone and strangely soothing voice. Something feels quite wrong saying this btw.

In lack of pictures (no iPhone remember!), and for you who are interested in watching the interview with this notorious gangster hitman aka Richard Kuklinski, here it is…

I woke up in a rather decent time, to fit in some work, breakfast, a run (before it starts to snow which they expect), pool and sauna time. Of course its holidays and I’m not one for making plans then, but the coming 4 days saw some meetings planned in, and there is no other way to escape it. Yet I feel rather relaxed and before New Year hits, I shall have a few days of doing absolutely nothing.

Today Rebecca and Peter (from Gijs Brillen) are coming for a brainstorm in the afternoon. But before we commence lunch at the Brasserie awaits.

Speaking of which, had another lovely dinner there yesterday… pictures below…

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For being a self-proclaimed perfume connoisseur…but in reality a mere perfume whore, drifting from bottle to bottle – in very much like the alcoholic that dips his nose into anything with the right percentage…scents needs to be of a certain – other-worldly – kind, but I can rarely distinguish its content. I can of course pick out the narcissus, the tuberose and oud, but give me more complex aldehydes and I am lost. My collection was originally created from a 1997 Elle article, and from there my interest in similar “old-school”, complex, dirty, fragrances grew. Clean scents are as interesting as an IKEA BILLY bookcase in my narrow-minded view, and I would any day prefer to smell of two days unwashed bodily odor, than a a sweet lollipop.

In line with this introduction, I’ve been sitting for most part in bed…unwashed (even forgot to brush my teeth so I must have been stinking to high heaven) hammering away on emails. It was only a little past 6 pm, I decided to jump into the shower (my showers are generally quick and I rarely use soap). I came out, applied some rudimentary make-up before reaching for the collection of scents I have with me…most of them being testers as this proves more practical when I travel. The scent I went for was by an unknown brand for me – Xerjoff. it’s name – Birdie. Yes right, the same Birdie you would do on the golf course…whether by luck or skill.

We were consuming our Boxing Day Christmas dinner at Bistro Liege, when I picked up a whiff. At first I thought it was the natural fragrance of the chateau – although how the scent would have escaped the cellars, equally escaped me. You see, it was one of those very earthy scents, mold, old oak caskets, mixed with something sweet…fermenting grapes? Well we are not talking an excellent Beaumes de Venice here. No we are talking about Birdie. This obscure scent from an equally obscure perfume house.

Well it’s late, and thus the time for me to take my leaves. But if you want to know how I smell…..like an old Chateau on a good day….or the day my body joins the earth in a freshly dug grave. You choose ;)…

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I made my way home….far too late, but in one piece. Mr B. shouted at things that looked like they couldn’t shout back, even less launch a rudimentary defense and I secretly muttered to myself Here we go again… But let me rewind a number of hours prior to this insignificant intermezzo.

Hubby and I was set to dine at the restaurant at Chateau St Gerlach. We were invited for drinks and music at the pavilion and a singing tree (yes you heard me right!) greeted us welcome. Half an hour or so later we were seated in the main building in a large dining room together with a number of other groups with children in their company. Funnily enough a lot of the children flocked to our table and we had to extend the table setting all these momentary orphans. Before I had the opportunity to speak to my neighbours and apologise for any increased noise levels our table was responsible for, one table was escorted to another room. Not wanting for the same to happen to our other neighbours, I asked the hotel manager to ask the afflicted parties to present them with our excuses and complimentary drinks. Mr B. rolled his eyes but I explained bluntly it’s a Swedish thing. Well it’s always a Swedish thing, as I tend to put down any differences between us due to this unfortunate combination of nationalities.

The rest of the evening progressed well. The 5 course was wonderful. We moved back to the Pavilion for more drinks, mingling and dancing. It was the first time since our wedding (7 years ago!) I had seen Mr. B dancing. Well that is not entirely true as there was the short stint of salsa lessons….conclusion: wrong school and he only lasted 2 lessons. But say what you like, he does have the moves! It is a compliment I have to in general extend to his fellow Dutch, but from experience can’t say is true of my own countrymen. Sorry Swedes…but if a man can’t dance…

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Perhaps I have been cured of my infliction of prosopagnosia as I was most delighted to recognize the Duchess of Devonshire – Georgiana Cavendish – on the toilet of all places (there was no name to the colour print so no cheating involved here…promise!). One of many highlights of the evening…others being touring the wine cellars of Chateau Neercanne, and a lovely 4 course menu at the same venue.

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The toilet version…

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…and the real deal – by Thomas Gainsborough

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Touring the wine cellars of Chateau Neercanne

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…which served as bomb shelters during WWII…

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…exhibiting graffiti from now and then

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Daniël Wolf van Dopff, lord of Neercanne

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Menu for the evening

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…starting with my favourite…scallops

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…evening ended on bare feet…free from a pair of beautiful but utterly restraining Valentinos