Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Charlotte’s Best of 2006

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As a stay-at-home English-speaking mother-of-three who lives in Germany, I don’t go to cocktail parties, screenings, openings, launches. I very seldom go to concerts, exhibitions or movies. The books I read are found objects; from my book club, happy accidents in German bookshops, presents my husband buys me in the airport. I don’t know are what the latest hip happening restaurants, clubs or bars are. I’ve almost completely stopped buying fashion magazines, so my fashion sense is honed by what I occasionally see in H&M or Zara.

I am in no way qualified to offer a round-up of the zeitgeist 2006. Instead, I give you Charlotte’s Best of 2006:

Best Taste Sensation (Outside the Home)

Lavender ice-cream at Norfolk Lavender. It looked … lavender, and tasted … lavender. A heavenly experience.

Best Taste Sensation (Inside the Home)

Yesterday’s pomegranate pavlova. And the champagne cocktails we made in summer, with elderflower syrup, strawberries and mint.

Best (and Most Fruitful) Shopping Trip

A trip to the factory shops at Stoke-on-Trent with my friend T. I bought an exquisite blue and white cake stand from Portmerion, decorated with flowers and butterflies. I found beautiful blue and white dinner plates at Spode. And at Burleigh’s wonderful red-brick Victorian warehouse, I found smaller plates and bowls in various designs. I now eat off a wildly mixed and matched variety of blue and white crockery. It makes me happy, every single day.

Best Album With Adult Content

Without a doubt, Lily Allen’s Alright, Still. Her lyrics are darkly bitter while the sound is sweet, upbeat, with hints of reggae. It’s British pop at its very best. I’ve only seen her videos on YouTube, webwaif that I am, but I like her style too – she wears ballgowns with trainers and big chavvy earrings. It’s very Charlotte circa 1991 – I was into dresses, with trainers, and tacky jewellery. Her lyrics are explicit, so I can’t listen to it in front of the children. Instead, I like to play it loudly when I’m alone in the car (that in itself is a good feeling) and sing along and pretend I’m 21 again.

Best Album for Singing With Children

Surfer dude Jack Johnson’s soundtrack to the Curious George movie. It’s buzzy and fun, and filled with good messages – share, be kind, recycle. It has a lovely lullaby. We like it a lot. My daughter says he has a “kind voice”.

Best Album for Dancing With Children

Putumayo Kids’ African Playground for its great African rhythms. We put it on when we’re feeling a little crabby or we’re not getting what we want or someone is making us cry (and that would just be me), and it’s an immediate mood enhancer. The children are developing some great “moves” – sometimes accusing each other of “stealing my moves” – and Ollie’s got some real African knee-action going to this one.

Best Re-Read That Turned Out To Be a First Read

Apparently, in my third year of English Literature at the University of Cape Town, we studied Middlemarch. I remember attending some of the lectures, and may possibly have answered an exam question on it. I decided to reread it this year – completely delightful and to my surprise, accessible – but I couldn’t remember a word from supposedly having read it in 1989.

Best Surprise English Find in a German Bookshop

Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness. Reviewed here.

Best Novel Written by a Poet

Finuala Dowling’s What Poets Need. Reviewed here.

Best Film

Die Fetten Jahren Sind Vorbei (in English, The Edukators). This was released in 2004, but I saw it, thanks to Amazon.de’s DVD hire service, this year. It’s a great story: Jan and Peter, two young Berlin anarchists, break into rich people’s houses at night, rearrange their furniture (often to great effect), steal nothing but leave behind messages designed to disconcert the home owners. One night they botch a break-in and end up kidnapping someone. They find themselves on the run, with their abductee and Jan’s girlfriend Jule, with whom Peter is falling in love. As they hide out in a cottage in the mountains, they begin to feel compassion for their victim, the millionaire Hardenberg, and the debate begins – between the idealistic three who long for the passion and anarchy of 1968 and Hardenberg who has become staid and conservative since gathering his millions. It’s a thriller that isn’t, which is often my favourite kind, because it takes you right to the edge where you expect scary stuff to happen, and then it surprises you by doing an about-turn. There’s a bit of wobbly hand-held camera action to lend authenticity and some great acting, especially from Daniel Bruehl (star of Goodbye, Lenin) and Julia Jentsch (of Sophie Scholl fame).

Best Dieting Tip

Thanks to BlogLily, I discovered the Shangri-La Method, which has kept me trim since July. See my post here. I now need to reapply the method in order to recover from birthday and Christmas excess.

Best Style Purchase

A black wrap dress with white polka dots from H&M. It cost all of €15, and I have worn it once a week all year – in summer with flipflops, in winter with a long-sleeve T-shirt underneath and knee-high boots. In honour of Christmas, I glammed it up further with fake pearls. It’s very forgiving when one is carrying a little winterspeck and also very flattering over trousers. Wrap dresses rule.

Best Beauty Mantra

Yesterday’s mascara is today’s eyeliner.

Best Life Mantra

If you speak and act with integrity, you need not take responsibility for the reactions of others. The best decisions are the intuitive ones. Make time to be quiet and go within. Oh, and don’t forget to get up and feed the children.

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Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

13 thoughts on “Charlotte’s Best of 2006

  1. I like all your mantras, Charlotte. I endorse fully the one about eyeliner, and the recognition that one’s own integrity is the essential factor in any choice of behaviour is one I ought to live every day, rather than the childish route I too often take of wanting to please everyone.

  2. Hi Charlotte, I came here via your coment on Mrs Waffle’s blog and really enjoyed reading your “Best of” for 2006. Those are wise words in your Best Life Mantra. I will seek my quiet time for 2007 to make the best choices I can.

  3. Lovely, each and every one of them.

  4. Ooh, I loved this list. I’ve found someone else who likes blue and white china! We have a cupboard full of mismatched crockery too but I prefer that. It makes life more interesting. I bought most of it in Japan so everything has a “memory”.

    I have two Lily Allen songs stuck in my brain right now. One would be OK but these two are playing on top of each other, which is a bit strange!

    I wish we had H&M in Australia. I got loads of stuff from there when I was in UK and wore a H&M dress on Christmas Eve. Oh, and maybe I should re-read Middlemarch? I read it in about 1989 (91?) and can hardly remember any of it…

  5. That film sounds very interesting — and how great to rediscover Middlemarch!

  6. Hi, Charlotte! I’m sorry to comment off-topic but I wanted to thank you for your comment on my blog; I often try to respond by email to do just that but every time I do, the email is immediately bounced back to me.

    Also, for some mysterious reason, your comments are always automatically held for moderation. I have no idea why. I’ve tried to figure it out and can’t, but I didn’t want you to think that I set you up that way!

    Anyway, thanks once again for an always helpul and insightful comment (I will try the brick wall visualization) and I hope that you have a wonderful 2007. And that I can figure out why I can’t email you or get your comments to go straight through… 😉

  7. These are such good recommendations — Lily Allen sounds like someone for 2007 (for me, I mean), and Stoke-on-Trent truly transformative. (I love Burleigh pottery, and am looking at the pitcher I bought in London about five years ago and have used every day since even as I type.)

    And a very big endorsement to behaving as well as you can and then separating yourself from the actions and reactions of others. Not easy, but the best way to go sometimes.

    Happy New Year dear Charlotte. (

  8. Litlove, it is a good mantra, but a hard one to stick to, because we are all trained to be polite and say what we should rather than what we mean. I’m getting better with practise.

    Welcome, AngelFeet! I see you have children too, which makes finding that quiet time even harder. I think something has to give – probably sleep!

    Thanks for your kind words, Lilalia.

    Helen, it is ridiculous how much happiness my blue and white china brings me. I have one Japanese bowl that we got as a wedding present, and I adore it. I usually use it for salad and get all silly about the green leaves in the blue bowl. As for H&M, it is the best – great kids clothes, too.

    Dorothy, I would recommend seeking out The Edukators. I loved it.

    Diana, I’m sorry there’s some electronic breakdown between us. Hope the visualisation works for you.

    BL, Lily Allen is a lot of fun and she sings really well. Glad to hear you’re a Burleigh fan. One day maybe you’ll visit the warehouse and see the pottery stacked in huge piles on trestle tables. It’s quite a sight. As for the mantra, I do believe it’s the way to go.

  9. A Complicated Kindness is on my list of best books of 2006 as well. What a wonderful find. And I’m a big fan of Shangri La, too. I don’t know why it’s called a “diet.” I don’t consider it to be dieting at all, and my skin no longer resembles a crocodile’s the way it used to.

  10. Lavender icecream? Yummm, great idea… Must find out more on that one… Happy new year!

  11. Emily, you’re right, it’s a method rather than a diet and such an effective one that you can be on it for life AND have lovely smooth skin to boot!

    Smithereens, YES, lavender icecream. It was a taste of heaven.

  12. I’m so far behind, but I want to thank you for this great post. (Oh, and yay for Putamayo. I had there children’s lullabyes CD, but it got stolen. I really must replace it. Check it out, if you get a chance….)

  13. This is *THE BEST* “Best of…” list I’ve ever read!!!

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