Living La Dolce Diva – Part 1

So, I lied. I didn’t mean to, but I did.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />top: 2px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>Last month, I wrote a blog telling about our upcoming trip to Italy. I waxed on about how for once in my life I was going to slow down and smell the roses. That rather than attempting to crunch a Grand Tour of Italy into a week and a half of vacation, that my husband and I had decided to visit just one location – taking it easy, lingering over the sights of Florence, absorbing the culture and romancing the moment. But this intention towards slow traveltowards only studying one site – was a fallacy in my mind before we’d walked out the door, rolling our luggage behind. You see, what I forgot to mention in that particular post was that before we even arrived in Italy, we were taking another trip to visit friends for 4 days and that we allowed an extra 3 days worth of time for taking detours on the 11 ½ hour drive each way from Berlin, Germany to Florence, 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />The plan was quite simple, really, and though we saw lots more than just Florence as I proclaimed, we really did take time to linger as long as possible at each site visited. The vacation started one day after work, driving late into the evening, arriving at our friend’s front door in Stuttgart Germany as the coo-coo tweeted twelve times and the station wagon turned into a pumpkin. Herr and Frau Stuttgart were waiting “chez them”, dressed in PJ’s and we kissed hello, laughing over a glass of wine before slipping under the covers and awoke to the smell of freshly baked bread the next morning.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />For the next two days we lingered at “The Stuttgart Family” house, sitting in their garden, admiring their view, their vineyard and 10,000 rose bushes. On a lazy afternoon we went into town, meandering the Stuttgart Flea Market stalls and visiting antique shops and then spent the evening at a nearby Schloss, listening to music at the regional music festival.

to 10px; width: 320px; cursor: hand; height: 320px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />The next day we drove our black Benz to the Mercedes Benz Museum – a tour that while very interesting to me later came back to haunt WG when I asked him to join me in Florence at the” target=”_blank”>Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. Then the next afternoon the 4 of us hopped in our car and drove to the border where Austria, Germany and Switzerland meet at Lake Constance, taking the funicular to the top of the mountain enjoying the wonderful, panoramic view.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Perhaps it was that very view that inspired our detour for the next day as WG & I departed on our drive towards Italy. As we crossed into Switzerland, I pulled the Europe atlas from the pocket behind my seat to look up the route our GPS was guiding us on, and realized that with a slight detour we could visit St Moritz, a place I’d never been but always wanted to see. As it was June, the roads were clear from snow and ice for the season and the great glacier pass was open for traffic, though around us as we crested the mountains snow still rested on the ground. From St Moritz, we continued our journey south crossing into Italy and arrived just in time for dinner at Bellagio, on Lake Como.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />The next day we arrived in Florence, just as planned, checking into our “oh so humble” hotel, marveling over it’s great location and noting that a mention in 1,000 Places To See Before You Die doesn’t guarantee the hotel won’t have mildew in the shower. Perhaps it was because the room was less than inviting that we found ourselves meandering the streets of Florence, leaving early in the day and returning late at night.

to 10px; width: 300px; cursor: hand; height: 400px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Mornings were started with a jolt of liquid personality, saddling up to the bar at cafes dotted on the Ponte Vecchio, ordering half-priced cappuccino or espresso (discounted because you drink whilst standing). Sufficiently caffeinated, we dashed to and thro across one of the most amazing cities in Europe. Florence – the birth place of the Renaissance – seeped into my soul, causing a rebirth of my artistic sensibility. We visited the Uffizi, the to/home.html” target=”_blank”>Galleria Dell’Accademia, Il Duomo, and the Medici Chapels, not to mention the Palazzo Vecchio and Mercato Nuovo and Mercato San Lorenzo and” target=”_blank”>Church of Santa Croce alongside its famous leather school.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />We took a walking tour with Art Vivia that was the best walking tour I’ve ever taken and we ate copious quantities of gelato, shopped relentlessly for Italian silk ties and purses made by Florentine leather designers.

In a fit of channeling Fitzgerald, WG purchased a silk ascot for those crisp, fall days we lunch at Lutter & Wegner on the Gendarmenmarkt back home in Berlin. And I worshiped at the altar of Ferragamo, visiting Salvatore’s’ namesake museum dragging WG along in a tit-for-tat moment as he drug me through the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart a few days prior. Naturally, I can’t visit a city without checking out the antique scene so we strolled through the antiques district and spent an afternoon shopping the Piazza dei Ciompi Flea market.

to 10px; width: 300px; cursor: hand; height: 400px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />And we reconnected, my husband of 13 years and I, on this trip celebrating our anniversary. We held hands and made public displays of affection, kissing on street corners and snuggling on park benches, rubbing one another’s feet at the end of the day when we’d walked too much. As we took our car from the valet to start our return drive to Berlin, we were delighted in knowing that we’d be back to Florence next summer when we take my niece Tessa on a Grand Tour for her 16th birthday. When asked what she wanted to see while abroad, Italy topped her list, much to our delight, and we’re already planning next summer’s odyssey to Venice, Florence, Milan and Cinque Terre.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 345px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />In the meantime, with Venice on our mind, we detoured there on our drive home, spending an afternoon in Venice and taking in an early dinner before hitting the road yet again, cutting through the Alps and Austria before returning home to Berlin.

to 10px; width: 400px; cursor: hand; height: 300px; text-align: center;” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />We may not have stopped and smelled the roses, but it was indeed a sensational vacation. One you’ll be reading about for weeks on end these coming months as I post hints, tips and addresses from our trip, telling tales and sharing divalicious photos of Living La Dolce Diva!


The Antiques Diva™

(Seen Right rubbing the brass porcellino which legend says will ensure a rapid return to Florence)

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10 Things About Me

Sarah Sophia recently took a blog challenge posting 10 things about herself and now she’s asked me to do the same – to reveal 10 things you might not know about me. So without further adieu…

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1) I may play a diva on the internet, but I’m exceedingly practical in real life. Friends always joke about my CFO husband’s family budget and his multiple spreadsheets but what they don’t know is that while he’s the fall guy I’m the one who holds him accountable for staying on top of things! He’s the impulse shopper – I’m the planner.

2) I’m so obsessed with décor because if my surroundings are unattractive it makes me physically and mentally ill. We have 1 junk room in our house that gives me a headache when I enter it…. However this one junk room allows the rest of the space to be seamless. Did you ever see the Friends episode where Chandler discovers Monica’s junk closet? That’s my junk room!

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Photo: view from my kitchen into living room

3) I dreamed I would marry my husband before I started dating him. We met when we were 16 and had one date, but we were both dating other people at the time. Two years later when I graduated from high school, we began dating but between that time and when I was 16, I had 3 prophetic dreams that I would marry him one day. Funnily enough, my ex-boyfriend’s mother (the mother of the boy I was dating in high school) – who had never met WG – also dreamed that I would marry him and told her son about the dream, asking “Does your girlfriend know anyone named WG?” She also dreamed that WG would work in finance.

4) I got married at the age of 22, two weeks after graduating university! He was 24! We’ve been married 13 years (and together 17) which means I am 35 and for the first time in my life I’m starting to feel old. Next year, he and I will have been together half my life – the best half of my life! Some people struggle with age at 29 or 30, 32 or 35 – for me, it hit me last month at 35 ½. I’m hoping this sensation of age is a passing one. On the bright side, most of my friends are older than me… so no matter how old I get, I’ll always be the younger friend!

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Photo: taken in my Berlin living room

5) My goal is to someday have multiple homes – a pied-a-terre in Paris, a small foothold in Italy, something in Belgium – a central base for my Antiques Diva Tour Business (and more importantly for basing our tax status out of) and another in Oklahoma to be near my family whenever I’m home-sick. Hmmm, I’d also like a gorgeous beach house in Thailand for getting away from it all and to be an Asian base.

6) My top 5 favorite foods in the world are 1. Foie Gras with Toast and Fig Confiture, 2. French Fries, 3. Gigantic American Salads, 4. Lemon Gelato 5.French Cheese Courses (served with a salad). I am obsessed with asparagus season, eating it daily while it’s on sale in the markets. I also love cherry tomatoes and rarely does a day go by without me eating a salad for either lunch, dinner or a first course. Once a year I get a craving for a big fat juicy American cheeseburger – and this craving must be met or else. While in general I prefer European cuisine, the “American” food I miss most while living abroad is “Mexican”.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Photo: taken at my 35th birthday party, at our home in Holland

7) I’ve designed my life so that champagne will be a regular part of it. I always keep a bottle chilling “just in case” the impulse hits – as nothing makes an ordinary day more special than a bottle of bubbly.

to 10px; WIDTH: 240px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Photo: taken in my office – Catpuccino is also a reader!

8) I’ve read every night before bed my entire life. I’m currently reading Lifeguard by James Patterson, just finished When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro and the next two books waiting on my side table are Irving Stone’s 1961 best seller about the life of Michelangelo – The Agony and Ecstasy, and Philippa Gregory’s The Other Queen telling the tale of Mary Queen of Scots.

9) I don’t watch much television – and WG watches even less than me! We are both readers, retiring in the evenings to the library to read with a glass of port in hand – though I must confess, I might have majored in English literature in university, but WG is a more intelligent reader than I am. He’s currently working his way through anything written by an American expat in the 1920’s and 30’s and as of late, he’s been channeling Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Last week in Italy he even bought an ascot. We moved to Berlin a little over 3 months ago, and I still haven’t went to the store to buy the cable cord to hook up our TV to the cable outlet even though cable is provided free in our apartment.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Photo: taken in Starbucks on the Unter den Linden nearby our home in what was East Berlin. And they call this progress?

10) I’m currently writing a novel in my spare time. I’ve written over 100 pages and am going strong. Just last week, I came up with an idea for a follow-up novel when I finish this one. I know it’s cliché, but I’m writing my novel fro
m the Starbucks on the Freiderichstrasse nearby my home in Berlin. I find when working on this book I need a change of scenery, so Starbucks has become my novel-writing office. I sit with a caramel macchiato in hand, me and my laptop for hours on end. I know this is Europe and I should not be frequenting Starbucks, but Starbuck’s wifi access and central location, cliché or not, win over Berlin authenticity and ambiance.

Now, I challenge you – can you tell me 10 things about YOU!?!!

Until next time,
The Antiques Diva™

Photo: taken last week at a stopover for dinner in Bellagio Italy

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Of Valentines Past… Perfectly at Home in Berrrrrlin

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Having recently posted about my “Valentines Affair with LG”, I thought you might appreciate reading about another Valentines gift of years past. WG was away on a business trip that year, freezing in Helsinki, Finland, while I was at home in The Netherlands occupied with Diva Business. He hadn’t bought my Valentines present prior to his trip for he had grand aspirations of buying me a quite unusual present that year. He was searching for a particular item I’d fallen head over heels in love with at a friend’s house.

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Our Dutch friends Ed and Britta have one of the most gorgeously decorated houses in the whole of Holland. If I were to post a picture to give a visual definition of the word “Gezillig”, it would be their dining room with the large table built by Edwin’s father nestled in front of the wall of windows overlooking their sculpted back garden. Across the room sit some wonderful , Flamant-styled chairs pulled close to the roaring fireplace – draped over the back of the chairs are reindeer pelts perfect for snuggling into on a cold Dutch day.
to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 214px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />I had fallen for these pelts and spent half the time at their house petting them idly while chatting with a glass of red wine in hand. Knowing that Ed & Britta’s parents had picked these skins up in Finland while there on holiday, WG set out for his 3 day business trip with plans of sourcing me my own reindeer rug.

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[Photo courtesy of to/beckster/helsinki_turkey/1157740140/04-_fur_stall.jpg/tpod.html” target=”_blank”>Travel Pod
“Reindeer are semi-wild, are not extinct and are killed for their meat. The pelt is a by-product.”]
Fortunately for WG (given he did have work to do and his trip wasn’t entirely devoted to searching for my present) he didn’t have to search far. While I like to think of him cross-country skiing through snow and wind in the Arctic in search of my prized pelt, in reality he checked into his hotel, The Scandic Grand Marina, and there in the lobby of the harbor-view hotel sat a store selling mountainous piles of the pelts for which he’d travelled north.

Several days later he hopped on a plane and returned home to Holland. He carried the reindeer pelt onto the plane and as he was climbing into his seat, the man next to him asked, “What do you have there?” to which WG proudly proclaimed – “A Valentines gift for my wife!” showing him the pelt. Over the course of the flight WG, who is reputed to be downright surly when strangers talk to him on planes, chatted with the stranger about life, love and other mysteries. When the flight landed at Schiphol and WG was gathering his briefcase and pelt from the overhead bin, the stranger tapped WG on the shoulder, dug deep into his coat pocket and pulled out a few bite-size chocolate bars. Putting them in WG’s palm, he nodded with wisdom, “Just in case the pelt doesn’t go over so well… and you need a back-up plan!”

to 10px; WIDTH: 177px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />The stranger need not have worried!! I loved my reindeer pelt but actually never found a place to display it as nicely as Ed and Britta displayed theirs. In Holland it lay in front of a small settee in our bedroom – and while we enjoyed the plush feel of fur between our toes when crawling from bed in the morning, it wasn’t an ideal spot for displaying the V-day treasure.

One of the things I love about moving is the opportunity to redecorate my house time and time again – seeing my favorite items displayed in new ways with each new house. As often happens, what doesn’t work well in one house works better in another and with my reindeer pelt, this is the case. Perhaps because of the freezing cold and damp German winters or maybe it’s the traditional German coal burning stove, but finally, years after receiving it as a present, the Reindeer Skin has found a perfect home chez moi in Berrrrrrrrrrrrlin!

Until next time, stay warm & dry!
May these “April Showers Bring May Flowers!”
The Antiques Diva™

More on Miro

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top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Miro Pozar is a Czech sculptor whose work has appeared throughout Europe and North America. His face and torso are as chiseled as the sandstone sculptures he makes from rock culled from nearby quarries. Miro studies the stone in its rugged raw state and he sees what is not there, but could be – crafting the breast of a woman or the weary face of an old man in the veins of the stone. From time to time, the stone cries out for something different – to be made into more abstract art – and Miro creates from the past the future – making sculptures that appear both medieval and modern in their simplicity.

to 10px; WIDTH: 240px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />When my husband WG & I stumbled into Miro’s gallery in the charming Bohemian village of Cesky Krumlov, he stood like a Czech god with the sun shining only on him as tourists and customers circled in the shadows. As we studied the sculptures, something about Miro’s work niggled and wiggled in the recesses of our minds, reminding us of another artist whose work we had fallen for while visiting Toronto nearly 10 years prior for my 25th birthday. For years we had regretted not purchasing that piece that haunted us. From time to time WG would comment, “Remember that artist in Toronto?” and I would nod claiming this piece was “the one that got away – our great travel-shopping regret.”
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Crowds stumbled in and out of the gallery and when the tourists thinned, Miro sat on the step next to us and started talking, sharing his life story as we shared ours. He told how before the fall of communism he’d been granted a visa to live in the USA and Canada. He spoke of the cold Toronto winters of where his work had been exhibited and WG’s eyes caught mine as we read one another’s mind – “Could Miro Pozar be the artist that got away? Whose work we’d coveted for so many years?”
to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />We’ll never know. Much like reading a book and remembering the main character’s name, but not the author’s, WG & I had over the years forgotten the name of that Toronto-based-artist while the art lived on in our memories. Whether Miro was the mystery artist might have been serendipitous, but it was oddly a moot point in the purchase decision, for upon seeing his chiseled work it was a foregone conclusion that we’d return home to Holland with something from his atelier. We wouldn’t pass a second chance with “coup de foudre” – he wouldn’t be another artist whose work we’d regret letting “get away”.

Miro, upon seeing our joy at his work, offered us a discount for paying in Euros instead of the local currency and smiled as he said, “You are young. The young, they never buy art. It is always the old who buy art. They, of course, can better afford it, but I make art for the young, for the future, not for the past.” He attached the bust we’d chosen to a rolling cart, giving us a stand upon which to display it as a gift with the purchase. As we chatted, he offered to roll the statue to our car which it turned out was parked opposite his atelier and warehouse.

to 10px; WIDTH: 240px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Taking us into his workshop, we studied stones and he pointed out “See this one… It is a child.” Another was bow of a ship, a third a shoulder dropped seductively and a woman’s chin bowing to her lover. Standing in his storeroom surrounded by statues that weren’t yet, I saw the world as he sees it and I felt his hope and his inspiration. Miro Pozar’s imagination came to life and among the rubble of stones laid out for future projects I saw the wings of an eagle – soaring higher and higher above this little Bohemian town, Cesky Krumlov.
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As we drove away, WG released his grip on the steering wheel and reached over to rub my neck, “Do you feel we bought a piece of history?” he asked and with a nod and graze of his leg, I smiled “Perhaps even a piece of our own history” as I thought of that trip to Toronto years prior when we were young and didn’t buy art.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Photo: Miro Pozar – Sculptor – and The Antiques Diva™ along with the statue we purchased

A Valentine’s Affair with LG

LG is the new love in my life. Don’t worry, my husband WG doesn’t have any REAL competition – but LG has helped me get my groove back as I settle into my new life in Germany! Almost a decade ago when WG & I first moved to Paris we were lucky enough to have made friends with an American-Canadian couple who had lived in France for ages. They helped us acclimate to living abroad; to-live-in-europe/” target=”_blank”>teaching us how to do things as a “local” would, giving advice on the ins and outs of Paris life. It is clearly because of their help that we acclimated to life abroad as well as we did.

They were thoroughly integrated, spoke French fluently, had almost exclusively French friends and lived in the Paris suburbs sending their children to the local French school. While I like to think that we brought a little “taste of home” to their life, they, in turn, pastored our church, introduced us to their French friends and foreign foods, drove us places as we didn’t have a car and they even went with us shopping for appliances when we moved out of temporary housing and into our home in Paris

When you move into a Parisian apartment the former tenants truly have taken “everything but the kitchen sink”. Gone are the kitchen counters, the stove, the refrigerator and more. Light bulbs, if they were lucky enough to have been left behind, hang barren from wires about the abode. Being only 27 years old at the time, WG & I had only been married a few years. We were in the “starter stage” of our life together and had not yet purchased our first home. Which is to say, we had also never gone shopping for “serious adult purchases” such as washing machines, refrigerators and the lot. Needless to say, living in a foreign country and on a limited “recently out of university” budget, we were at a loss wondering what to buy and how to go about doing it.

Our American/Canadian couple friends came to the rescue. We loaded up in their car, drove across Paris to the biggest Darty in town and with fists full of francs we set about buying an apartment’s worth of appliances. We picked out a TV, a wonderful bright red refrigerator that screamed Europe for I’d never seen anything like it in America, a dishwasher, a stove & microwave and finally a washing machine. I wanted to buy a washer AND dryer – but it would have to be a stackable unit as the space in our over-priced apartment was too small for the luxury of a side by side unit. Then the salesman led me to the washer/dryer combos and he had me at Bonjour – space saving AND dual purpose. I loved it. But my dear friends, seeing the lust in my eyes, advised….

“You say you want to acclimate…. if you’re going to acclimate, you have to shed your American ways. You don’t need a clothes dryer – All our French friends use drying racks and it works perfectly fine. In fact, it’s really better for the clothes extending the life on all your Parisian frocks. And besides, have you received your first electric bill yet? A dryer sucks down energy and it will send your electric bill through the roof! Trust me on this. To live like a Parisian, You don’t need to buy a dryer.”

Dejected, saddened, I turned away from the washer/dryer combo and trudged back to the washing machine sans dryers, choosing a single washing machine – and life like a local. But if I was going to live like a local I was going to do so with the highest spin cycle possible! “The trick to line drying,” my friend advised, “is you have to get the highest spin to wring the clothes as dry as possible before hanging them.” And for years now, I’ve “lived like a local”.

Years passed. I acclimated to life in Europe. I learned French. I moved to Holland. I tried to learn Dutch. I lost touch with those dear friends who were such an integral part of our first year abroad. WG was promoted more than a few times at work and the life we led as a young married couple just out of university, overjoyed to be “scraping by in Europe”, was a thing of the past. We still loved Europe but we had quit scraping by. At some point, we started living like adults. We got a company car, a bigger paycheck, I started my company and today, living in Germany, we consider ourselves downright blessed during these times of recession.

But for the last decade I’ve washed my clothes in this “little washing machine that could”. At some point, I realized that I was the ONLY one of my expat friends who didn’t have a dryer. I then started surveying my French, Belgian, Dutch, German and other European friends and realized that most of them have dryers too.

“What? They were locals and they had dryers? C’est pas possible!”

With more surveying I discovered that it was mostly my younger European friends in their 20s and early 30’s who were dryer-less and I realized now that I was 35 I could be “acclimated to European life” AND have a dryer too. Drying clothes in a machine became my hidden fantasy. But I’m pragmatic, and with a washing machine that worked I could not justify purchasing a new one. Nor did I have space in my laundry room for a side by side washer AND dryer, so I found myself in a quandary, praying that my washing machine would die.

About 3 weeks ago, just as I moved to Berlin, it happened – our little washer that could, couldn’t. My Parisian washing machine died a peaceful death. I saluted “au revoir” as the men from Berlin’s Media Markt wheeled it out of my apartment and into t
he elevator
. Nearly a decade ago, this washer had been carried up 5 flights into my Parisian apartment by a determined (and well-tipped) delivery man. Now, that unit which had served me well was gone and in its place Media Markt had delivered my beautiful new LG washer-dryer (energy efficient) combo unit! It fluffs, it purrs and makes our whole apartment smell like laundry.

In the evening, in the dim glow of candlelight (for the chandeliers still haven’t been hung) my husband WG comes home at night and nuzzles my neck saying seductively, “You smell like laundry.” In the past, I wouldn’t have taken this as an aphrodisiac, but I know, coming from WG, these whispered words speak volumes of love.

When the LG was delivered, WG plunked a red bow on the unit, claiming it was my Valentines present… the fact that the washer/dryer unit was accompanied by a gorgeous pair of earrings saved him from being forever ridiculed by my friends who would have taunted him with, “You can’t buy your wife an appliance for Valentine’s Day!” But in fact, this year, WG could have gotten away with it. For I love my LG, and did I mention I love my WG too?

Here’s wishing all my Diva Readers a belated Happy Valentine’s Day. In my book, Valentine’s Day is every day, at least from now on, on the days when I do laundry anyway!

Yours Truly,

A Desperate Housewife Who is Starting To Feel Like A Diva Again!

Photo Credit: Man in Spin Cycle photo is Copyright © 2008 Dominick Reed. For more witty photos by Dominick visit his blog I Drink Lead Paint

Bon Voyage to Moi!

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Dearest Diva Readers,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Just a quick blog to say “à bientôt”! This August WG & I are running away for a deliciously long holiday. We’ll set sail on a Holland America Mediterranean Cruise next week after taking a short driving tour through Italy and visiting two of our favorite places – Piedmont and Tuscany. We’ve never a done a cruise and perhaps it wasn’t the brightest idea to book our first cruise for 20 days, but my suitcase is packed and I’m ready to hit the sea! Speaking of suitcases, you should see mine… stuffed to the seams with cocktail dresses, gala gowns, giant straw hats and a sundress for almost every day on board!

Our itinerary looks like something out of a James Bond movie, starting from Civitavecchia to Livorno, on to Monte Carlo before docking at Barcelona and Palma De Mallorca. Then it’s La Goulette, Palermo, Napels and back to Civitavecchia where it all began. While the 10 day passengers disembark, WG and I will sip cocktails in the shade, dreaming of Dubrovnik and the other ports of call in part two of our cruise – Corfu, Katakolon, Santorini, Kusadasi, Valletta and Messina! It’s going to be a vacation to remember.

But don’t worry dear diva readers, I haven’t forgotten you. While I’m away on a dream vacation, I’ll still be thinking of you. In fact, this past month I’ve been thinking of you double time as I wrote not only my July blogs but also pre-blogged and pre-posted for the month I’m away. In addition to featuring some reader questions this next month, you will also find that I got a little help from my friends. La Reine and Lady Lotus take the helm a few times, writing on subjects such as Des Moines, Kimono Shopping in Japan, Hungarian Baby Bath Tubs and they even embark on a Coleslaw War to see whose slaw is the tastiest! So stay tuned for more Antiques Diva previously-prepared postings this August.

I’ll return to you this September sun-kissed and ready to set sail on a Fall filled with adventure.

Yours Truly,

The Antiques Diva™

Desperately Seeking Delft Tiles

Dear Antiques Diva,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Your husband WG told me about your blog and I was hoping you could help me! I’m going to be in Amsterdam on holiday this month and would like to buy some antique Delft tiles while visiting. Do you have any recommendations of where I should shop? Also, do you have any tips of things I should do while in Amsterdam?


Desperately Seeking Delft


Dear Desperately Seeking Delft,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>WG told me you might be emailing! I am quite happy to give you some information on buying antique Delft tiles in Amsterdam! My answer to this question varies depending on the quantity of tiles you are interested in purchasing. The first place I send anyone looking for antique Delft tiles is to one of my favorite stores in Amsterdam!
De Weldaad is a charming shop located in the 9 Streets, my favorite shopping area in Amsterdam!

De Weldaad is an antique store that sells as many reclaimed salvaged goods as it does reproductions & home decorating goods. The shop is simply gorgeous and you’ll be happy to know they have an incredible selection of Delft tiles to choose from. Prices start at about 15E per tile and move upwards to 150E – 200E per tile! Needless to say, buying Delft tiles isn’t cheap! The owner of this shop happens to have a “farm store” located in Abcoude where she sells items at wholesale cost & has a much larger assortment of antiques & painted furniture. Sometimes she gets entire “Delft tile walls” in amongst the reclaimed building materials she sells. If you’re looking for a “wall of tiles” to use in a renovation project of a bathroom or kitchen, it would be worth emailing the owner at to inquire on her inventory.

A second place I personally search for individual antique tiles within Amsterdam is De Looier Antiques Mall. This isn’t a gezellig sort of place like De Weldaad. It’s an antique mall and everything happens to be in a glass case. I personally find this antiques mall to be sterile, as I like to shop in places that look like a home, however it’s a favorite shopping destination of many A’damers. You won’t find “walls of tiles” here, but instead individual tiles in the same price range as above scattered around the mall. And if you like antiques you have about 200 vendors to choose from!

This shop is located on the Elandsgracht where there are a few other antique shops. Usually if I go to De Looier I take the Tram to De Looier, starting my day here I walk from this shop down the Elandsgracht towards the Prinsengracht. Turn left on the Prinsengracht and you’ll find tons of fabulous quirky shops lining the canal! When you are almost opposite the Anne Frank House there is a Delft Shop selling very good quality Delft products (both old & new). I don’t remember the name of the shop – but you can’t miss it!

I’m not sure how long you are in Amsterdam for holiday or what your plans include. However, a trip to Amsterdam is not complete without a visit to The Rijksmuseum. That would be like visiting Paris and not going to The Louvre! My recommendation would be that you pop into the antiques district – The Spiegelkwartier – which is located perpendicular to the museum’s front entrance. Here you’ll find a wide assortment of Delft tiles in miscellaneous antique stores. The Spiegelkwartier is the premier antiques district in Amsterdam and while they have “high end” stores, they have mid-range & low-end shops as well.

WG & I love taking a Saturday afternoon in this district. Not only do you have the antique shopping & Rijksmuseum but also two of my favorite smaller museums are within easy walking distance from the antiques neighborhood: The Van Loon Museum and The Tassen Museum (Purse Museum). Also, I love nothing more than a casual lunch across from the purse museum at Stacey’s Pennywell Brasserie– the carpaccio salad with pine nuts & truffle mayonnaise with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc is to die for.

If you’re serious about buying tiles, then I’d recommend you get out of the city and go to Delft! It’s probably a 45 min train ride away and is a charming town worthy of a visit especially if you are a Vermeer fan as this is the city he is from! Perhaps the best resource for antique tiles is De Porcelijne Lampetkan Antiques. I just visited their store for the first time but I’ve known of them for years as they always have booths at upscale antique fairs. I’ve never seen “walls of tiles” in their display but as always it’s worth asking.

I had an interior decorating client from the USA who wanted to buy a large quantity of antique tiles for her kitchen walls (you can see tiles used in kitchen décor like this if you visit the Van Loon Museum). She was willing to pay the price and readily accepted that this was an expensive way to decorate her home as she & I agreed it was going to make a perfect country kitchen! Once she saw the antique tiles in person, however, she decided she didn’t want to decorate her walls with antique tiles but new ones instead! She thought that the antique tiles looked “too dirty”. And though I love antique Delft tiles, I could understand her point. Thus, instead of buying old, we went straight to the factories in Delft where you can buy giant tile murals or “wall pictures” where an assortment of tiles come together to make 1 picture. A tour through any one of the Delft factories is an interesting hour and educational as it will help “improve your eye” for quality when you’re out shopping for Delft…. I’ve been to several of the Delft factories but the one I remember liking best was De Porceleyne Fles (The Porcelain Jar). Online you will find a “tile catalog” of their inventory.

Hope this info helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Enjoy Amsterdam!

The Antiques Diva™

PS: One more Amsterdam must-do is to visit “Our Lord in the Attic” museum! It’s a baroque cathedral hidden in the attic of a house in the red light district! Also, I don’t know if you are a “foodie” but if you are, one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in my life was in Amsterdam at Restaurant De Kas when WG & I booked the Chef’s Table on a double date with our friends The Gourmet God & Goddess! If you go to De Kas, sitting at the Chef’s Table is essential as from this seat you get to taste every single thing that comes out of the kitchen!


top:5px;float:left;color:white;background:#382900;border:1px solid darkkhaki;font-size:100px;line-height:90px;padding-top:1px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>While sipping an Appletini in Palm Beach this past January with La Reine and her husband, The Big Guy accused me of being a sexist blogger, appealing more often to the senses of my female readers and not focusing enough on antiques that appeal to men.

“Moi?” I protested lamely, flittering my French manicure in shock over his insinuation and then coyly playing with the pearl necklace WG purchased for me in China.

He continued to say that he finds The Antiques Diva™ tales entertaining and uses the brocante dates and antique shop addresses to pad his Palm. “Nonetheless,” he continued, “I want more meat. I want to read more about man-inspired-antiques and I want more addresses of places where manly men go.” This said – I note to paint a picture for the reader – with his giant, linebacker shoulders straining his” target=”_blank”>Tommy Bahama and a cigar dangling unlit from his mouth having just purchased it at The Cigar Connoisseur in Delray.

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Man + Antiques = Mantiques!

As much as I wanted to deny it, I knew I had no excuses. I am a girly-girl and The Big Guy had a point. I had unintentionally, in my nail polish and pearls, neglected my male readership. Boys, I value you and I am ready to eat some humble pie. Thus, I’ve set about remedying this situation at once. Over the next few months I will bring to you a new series titled Mantiques – but I desperately need your help as I can’t write this series alone.

As a girly-girl, I need your input on what “mantiques” you’re interested in, where you shop for them, what you look for when you’re out at a market or boutique, as well as general questions on “Where to find XYZ?” from mantique shoppers. A few questions WG and I have been pondering: “Are mantiques really that different from antiques?” and “What are the differences between what a lady buys and what a man buys? Is this difference merely aesthetic or are there things that a man shopper is more naturally drawn towards?” Ladies, perhaps you can help on this — What mantiques do the men in your life buy or collect that you wouldn’t?

By the way, Big Guy, The Mantiques Series is dedicated to you. Stay tuned for the first Mantiques Exclusive – “An Audience with the Pelikan Pen Guy”.

The Antiques Diva™

P.S. Should you, or someone you love, have a Mantiques Collection you’d like to discuss with The Antiques Diva ™ readers or if you have a question on where to find your favorite Mantique, please email me at

Mangas and Café Coton

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top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>On Friday afternoon, WG rang my mobile requesting we depart for Paris the next morning. He had urgent business in the city of light and needed to go at once. Last month when we were in “gaie Paris”, hitting “les soldes”, WG had ordered a suit to be made from his favorite French tailor. Ironically, his favorite French tailor, Mangas, though located just down the rue from Trocadero, is a Spanish brand and though the suits are fitted in Paris, the work is shipped off to the Costa Brava where the labor rates are lower. A few sunny weeks after the fitting, Mangas suits are made to order and waiting back at 33 Rue de Longchamp as if they’d never traveled abroad.

On Friday at 3pm, WG received an email essentially saying, “Vite, Vite – Votre costume est prêt!” As he was dying to show off his flashy new finery when he speaks at a conference in Stockholm next week, he didn’t want to wait a second longer than necessary. Though I’d helped WG select the made to measure ingredients, mixing his suit recipe, I still had to smile when he modeled the finished product. It was typical WG – on the outside it had that “conservative-pin-striped-London-banker-look” but on the inside there was a party going on. He’d chosen to line this suit with the same shade of shockingly raspberry silk as the interior of my LV Viva Cité sac. Somehow I suspect my father in Oklahoma wouldn’t approve of the interior, but between you and me, it is chic, chic, chic!

A new suit justified a new shirt. We dashed from Mangas in the 16eme to” target=”_blank”>Café Coton in the 6eme, which is not a contender in the to-z_1978/society_1987/parisian-cafes-and-terraces_6836.html” target=”_blank”>famous St Germain des Pres café literary society, but instead a men’s dress shirt store. It’s a tiny little boutique, located at # 3, rue de l’Ancienne Comedie, where their sales are down right sinful, the staff young, hip and jovial and the chemise’s made of excellent quality . The colors do not fade and the quality of the cloth is down-right superior to most of their competitors. Walking into Café Coton is like walking into WG’s wardrobe and I couldn’t help but point out that WG was struggling to find a shirt in their inventory he didn’t yet own. Alas, on this last weekend of the famous Parisian winter sales, he found 2 shirts with a 50% off tag – a virgin blue pin-stripe with French cuffs and a white Italian-collared shirt that he already owned a few replicas of but had practically worn out from frequent wear.

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

Mark Twain

As I fingered a tie, thinking about the store I wanted to go to around the corner, I inquired, “Suit purchased and new shirts in place, do you need new shoes, socks or ties?” But WG, who was enjoying this impromptu weekend in Paris even more than he’d expected, said “No, let’s save that for another surprise weekend away.” Afterall, this would give us an excellent excuse to return to Paris to finish his Spring wardrobe shopping. As I slipped my arm through his, smiling from ear to ear, I whispered, “We’ll be back Paris…”

À bientôt, j’espère,

The Antiques Diva™

Mangas (boutiques around Europe)
33, Rue de Longchamp
75016 Paris
+33 1 47 27 48 72

Cafe Coton
3, rue de l’Ancienne Comedie
75006 Paris
+33 1 46 34 14 64

Around the World Travel Tip

he first time I heard my friend, The Gourmet Goddess, mention that she was taking an “around the world” trip, I was gobsmacked thinking that she must be shelling out a fortune! She was accompanying her husband on a month-long business trip that started in Amsterdam, moved on for several stops in the USA before heading across the Pacific and hitting Singapore and several locations in India. At this point, they were so exhausted from their whirlwind travels that they said “the heck with it all” and took a few days vacation in Dubai before returning home to Holland only a month after it all began. It was such an extravagant journey that I couldn’t imagine what it must have cost!

When I discreetly made a comment about how expensive this trip must have been, the Goddess replied, “No, Not really! An ATW ticket ( around the world ticket) is the best bargain in travel”.

I couldn’t believe this was true, so I did a little research of my own. Lo and behold, she was right! So right, in fact, that I’ve booked my husband, WG, on his own around the world trip.

You know he is in China right now, but in fact his travels are taking him from Holland to London to China, and then on to Japan before landing in Dalls the week before Christmas where he and I will meet up to celebrate with family and friends in Oklahoma. Three weeks later he’ll return from Dallas to London to Holland, having proven that the world is indeed round! Christopher Columbus has nothing on WG!

His airfare for this entire journey cost only 1,600 Euros (or $2,300), a fraction of what it would have cost for WG to travel roundtrip business class from Amsterdam to Beijing. Admittedly, that would have been a much more lavish journey compared to being cramped back in coach, but it was so much more logical and convenient to travel around the world rather than backtracking to Amsterdam only to catch a flight the next day to the USA for the holidays.

Next time you’re in the mood to travel and can’t make up your mind on where to go or what to see, why don’t you do as WG did and fly around the world!

Author Judy Wolf gives great tips on how to book an ATW (also called RTW) and who to book it with! She advises that both One World Alliance and Star Alliance “allow for travel ranging from 10 days to 12 months. While you’re required to set your itinerary in terms of destinations (that’s how they know how much to charge you), both alliances let you decide or change travel dates freely as you go.” Check Judy’s Adventure Travel website (or subscribe to her newsletter) to see how you can live a life without borders!

Happy Travels!

The Antiques Diva™