Saturday&Skincare&Sustainability

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I had this great idea, and a little project going on. In my efforts to live more sustainably I had bought a little tester kit of products from the company Neal’s yard; I found it at a shop here in Sweden and the kit was for combination skin i.e. suited to my needs. As all their products it was certified by The soil association meaning it was at least 90% organic content. I was excited, I had heard great things about this brand and was looking forward to try them as I’m ambivalent of spending loads of money on product with the risk of my skin reacting adversely and having to throw it away (it’s happened). Starter kits are great like that (but not as awesome as when brands give you samples to try).

On Monday when I was getting ready to try the cleanser and put on their face mask I realized that the clay mask was crumbling because it was too dry, in fact all of the products had expired. I returned it the next day and got my money back, and an apology for my troubles, but all the other kits on the shelves had expired too. And there I was; running out of my Vichy cleanser and without a sustainable option.

However, the same place that sold the Neal’s yard sells Swedish skin care label Maria Åkerberg. They had travel sizes of a few products (and a few kits but nothing that felt it filled my needs) so I bought The olive cleanser for dry&mature skin as my skin in fairly dry in the colder months (it’s the windiness and the constant change in temperature from indoors to outdoors and back again). It smells really nice of petitgrain and is a nice and mild cleanser. I’ve used it as a first cleanse on dry skin and it removes makeup wonderfully but it should be noted that I haven’t worn mascara in months. I don’t know why, I just ran out of it and haven’t repurchased. I don’t miss it all that much actually and I think I look alright without it. Blush I need not to look dead but the eyes are fairly good without any make-up. But I digress, my point is I don’t know how well this would remove mascara. I like the creamy texture and it leaves my skin feeling soft and clean, but go in with a toner afterwards (Pixi glow tonic preferably). I might buy this, and there is an enzyme peel in the line that I’m curious about.

Having bought that I went to Aesop to see if they had something for me. I have a somewhat checkered history with Aesop. I really want to like their stuff, which feels very natural and if nothing else uses natural ingredients and is made in Australia so i assume they are not jerks in production. That might be naive but whatever. I’ve tried a thirteen Aesop products ’til Wednesday but the Parsley cleanser is the only one I ever really got on with. It’s the scents, they always bothering me. One of the dangers of using natural ingredients I guess. I cannot bear with it. Staff is always super nice however, and they sell The Paris Review there so I’ll keep going there but rarely buying something (and when I do its gifts because I know people who adore their products).

Last but not least I ended up buying a set of miniatures from Le Labo when I went to buy a gift and a few other things at their shop. They launched some skin and hair care last month apparently. So for 90 SEK I got four small tubes and I bought the Body cream (nice but nothing special), The shower oil (nice but nothing special), the shower cream with the basil scented (which smelled amazing) and last but not least the charcoal face mask.

First of all I have to point out that some of these products come hinoki-scented by default. It is like the hottest scent right now; I’ve seen more hinoki products in the last three months then I have ever before. It used to be like what? Two perfumes from Comme de Garçons and that was it. But now? Hinoki is the new Oud, just putting it out there. I do not mind, I just don’t see the point. If they made more products that smells like the Basil shower cream did, then I would buy.

And then there is the face mask. If you don’t know how to use it then you are in good company. I got no instructions from staff and neitherdid I find any on the small tube, nor the internet. I went rough the first time (because I have used face masks before) and then sent of an e-mail. The second time it was as intended.

How to use the Le Labo Charcoal mask; apply to clean face, let it sit on the skin for 5-7 minutes and then rinse of. Can be used ever other day or three times a week. 

I will say that it felt nice, my face did feel clean and my pores smaller afterwards but after having used it only twice that’s more an impression than a review. I doubt that I will buy it, there is one more application in the tube (10 ml goes a long way with the mask, but is only one shower when it comes to the bath oil/shower cream). But my bathroom look like a disaster afterwards. There is a certain grit to the mask so when you rinse it off you get a little peel too. Nice but not worth having to clean my bathroom all the time, and I’m nit sure thse flanels will ever be clean again. Too much hassle.  It should also be noted that this product is “unscented” but here it means they haven’t used any perfume. It smells of bitter almond as there is bitter almond extract in it. Just letting you now if that kind of thing gets to you.

I guess I should just bite the apple and buy the Tata Harper kit with minis, but I’ll wait until there is “double points” at NK. At those prices I will make the most of it.

-Suss

 

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Vendredi&Vin chaud

The other morning when I left the house I noticed that it was nippy out, to the point that I should have either worn my winter coat or put on my little down west underneath the coat I was wearing. Luckily I had a big wooly scarf, and my little thermos of coffee, nice and toasty I was, huddled up with my book in the corner of the train. You can make anywhere cosy if you have good books and coffee.

Later that day however I was shivering in a bad way. Someone had lured me out on a walk in the nice autumn sun, and it was nice as long as we were putting one fot in front of the other. The minute I was standing and waiting for the underground I curled up desperatley in my scarf, and at that point the sun was rapidly disappearing and with it any warmth it brought.

So when I got home I was both hungry and cold, and very much in the need for comfort food. I ended up mixing two things (some left over ragu and one small portion of vegetable stew) I had in the freezer which I ate with pressed potatoes which really is one of the best side orders; fluffy carbs and so light compared to mashed potatoes (which I love don’t get me wrong but there is a lot of butter in that one)

While I was waiting for the whole thing to be ready I made myself some Vin chaud and read entries from Life is meals a food lover’s book of days by James and Kay Salter. I’ve mentioned this book before of course, and I will again. At this point I’ve read all the little sections for different days at least twice. It’s such a lovely kitchen companion, just the right amount to read in between, and so so good for my mood, always.

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Vin chaud; serves two

Mix equal amounts of red wine and boiling hot water in a heat proof glasses ,approx. 2 deciliter of each depending on what glasses you are using (so each glass 1 dl wine+1 dl hot water), and then add 1 teaspoon of caster sugar to each glass, stir, and then garnish with a thin slice of lemon on top. Serve and enjoy responsibly!

This is a very nice aperitif during this time of year as it is quite light, not a lot of sugar and spices as the glow later in the season. It’s easy to make too, which is an added bonus. Why more bars in this town don’t serve it is beyond me, French bistros do however, that’s how I learned about it in the first place. If you want a non-alcoholic option I will always think fondly of blackberry cordial and boiling water with some lemon and possibly cinnamon mixed up.

Now if you excuse me I have to get out some extra blankets, socks and locate the hot water flask because winter is coming, soon.

-Suss

 

Thursday&Trend alert!

I’m gonna bring up The bear and the nightingale one last time and then I’ll stop. But this cover, which is from the hardback that came last year, must have been on the tables of many creative spirits because a quick browse in the shops (when I was looking for jeans and a shirt of the sustainable kind) was like seeing this cover all over.

These are some of the items I found that would make excellent camouflage, and that’s not bringing up all the items that could match it “in spirit” if not outright; I’m talking about blue brocade, Russian style coats, plenty of fur (fake of course but still glamorous). Dressing trendy this season means pretending you are a woman traveling on the Tran-sibirian Railway between Moscow and Beijing as it would be if Chanel made a commercial of it (and pretended that it was the 20s). I also went by a shopwindow and saw children clothes that would also have looked good next to this cover, although I don’t think they should read the book.

This is making me want to shop floral dresses something awful, which obviously is the last thing I need right now. I should however buy my own copy of this book as I will probably want to read it again and again, and look at the cover for inspiration.

-Suss

 

Wednesday& Witchcraft&The Winter King cocktail

Last week I lost myself in the world of The Bear and the nightingale by Katherine Arden. It made my commute an adventure; the time spent on crowded trains, wrapped in a big scarf and with damp feet, was a pleasure as I had this with me.

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Between the covers there is a story about a girl by the name of Vasilisa, called Vasya, whose mother dies when she is born, and who grows up to be a bit of a wild child. It’s not just circumstance though, part of it is in her blood; she has inherited some of her grandmothers blood, a grandmother that was a witch according to gossip.

And thus Vasya sees more than others. She sees what is there, not just what she wants to see, for better of for worse. She makes friends with the domovoi, the household spirit, but also the Rusalka, a sort of aquatic nymph, that lives in the lake nearby. With out her knowledge The Winter king is keeping an eye on her, as is his brother, and at some point there will be a battle. Add to that mix a sexy priest with a taste for power. I don’t want to spoil it completely so I won’t say more, but think of it as Jane Eyre meets Russian fairytales and you have a fairly good description of what to expect. Katherine Arden has taken liberties with the language, and a tiny bit with historical accuracy, to create a more magical setting but it works for me. I mean really. I started to plan cocktails and outfits pretty much immediately.

In terms of ingredients vodka felt like a natural choice even though no vodka is in fact drunk in the book, that’s a spirit of later invention. They do drink honey wine, sometime called mead, throughout so I decided to include that somehow. It should be noted that there are many kinds of mead around, Systembolaget here in Sweden even has a Russian mead that’s organic and all, but I went with the German Imkergut for practical reasons. Several berries are mentioned and I went with blackberries, again with “replicability” in mind.IMG_4885 Several version that included these ingredients were tried. As it turned out though, less was more, and a little creative license was needed too.

Part of this comes down to the mead, it’s got a honey taste for sure but there is also a fermented aftertaste. Not bad but it must be factored in when mixing. It didn’t work as a sour really so I went down the Martini/Martinez alley. Equal amounts of vodka and mead turned out really well but it needed a little something else. The blackberries were a good garnish. I ended up rinsing the glass in smokey whiskey as a reference to the stove in the kitchen where the domovoi sleep (and everyone else too during winter).

Finally, to balance the whole thing, I ended up using a barspoon of ginger syrup which has no justification in the text but it is the magic that makes the whole in this case. The name? I had a few suggestions and I asked friends and “The winter king cocktail” got most votes, and fair enough. He does have a bit of a feast at his house, with mead and all.

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The Winter king cocktail; makes one cocktail

3 cl vodka

3 cl Imkergut honey wine

1 barspoon ginger syrup (from a jar is fine)

1 dash of Angostura aromatic bitters

for serving;

Smokey whiskey, I used Caol Ila

blackberries

a long slice of fresh ginger

  1. Stir the ingredients in a stirring glass full of ice. Rinse the coupette in the whiskey.
  2. Pour the drink into the coupette, no ice should be included.
  3. Put the berries and the ginger on a cocktail stick (see what I did there in the picture?)
  4. Put the cocktail stick in the drink, serve, enjoy responsibly.

So this cocktail should keep the domovoi of this house happy if there is one. I’m sure it lives off of high-end cocktails, expensive scented candles and pain au chocolate, drops of mead and scraps of bread isn’t good enough for the contemporary household spirit living in a big city I suppose (and there are more dangers to protect the household from so worth the investment, if you want to be superstitious).

-Suss

 

Tuesday&The Man Booker prize

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So the winner of the Man Booker prize is announced today. I haven’t read more than two of the books shortlisted, but then again I rarely do.

The first one was Autumn på Ali Smith that was one of the first books I read this year. I loved it and vowed to read more by Smith. I’ve yet to make good on that promise but it will happen, if nothing else because she has released the second part in her quartet; Winter. The fact that both Smith and Knausgaard have started to write series that are made up of four installments and named after the different seasons is a funny little coincidence. But I digress.

The other Man Booker nominee that I have read is Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. I do remember liking The Reluctant fundamentalist, also by him, but I can’t recollect more of it right now than the scene where the man goes to a friend’s or a girlfriend’s house, to meet the parents, and decided to wear a “kurta” a special kind of shirt, pointing out that when flummoxed by dress codes or lack of such, one can always go with the ethnic card. I don’t know why I that passage has stayed with me, but it has.

In any case Exit West is both a very different novel, and somewhat the same. For better or for worse it has the same detached quality. This one is narrated, and there is very little dialogue, the thoughts and actions are attributed to Nadia and Saeed. I felt very little connection to them actually.

What the novel does have a rather genius twist or maybe it’s a plot device; magical doors that open and close and through which people can travel freely. At least to begin with, some doors become heavily guarded quickly. But in the aftermath of the whole discussion we have had in Europe about boarder control, this brings thing to a head; what if we couldn’t keep refugees out? What then?

I’m obviously not saying we should keep refugees out, people are fleeing the most horrible situations and if we call ourselves humanitarians we cannot let them die or rot in refugee camps. And as is always the case; if the burden was shared then there would be less of a problem. Some nations just are not remembering what other nations did for them in troubled times. So maybe the book isn’t about Nadia and Saeed, maybe the doors are the protagonists, or hope. What I did love about this book, that I in general only liked, was the short interludes about what happened with other people thanks to the doors; friendships, reconnected family and love. Those little glimpses gave me more than the rest.

In the end; well worth reading I thought, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 to give some indication but those kind of measurements don’t say much.

It did remind me a bit of Rushdie, The Satanic verses in particular, but that’s the magical realism, the detached storytelling and ,mostly, people flying through time and space. In my head I also started to compile a list of “7 books where they travel though doors and other ordinary objects”. Reaching Naria through the back of the closet comes to mind, and the going from fireplace to fireplace in Harry Potter and, of course, Jonathan Strange  travels through mirrors. Hamid has been inspired by english literature (maybe).

-Suss

Monday and My Greasy spoon adventure

Last weekend I went out to brunch, more or less. My thoughts on brunch are well known I think, but it does happen from time to time. In this case it was a lesser evil as the time for this particular brunch was actually around the time for a late lunch, and we didn’t tuck in at a buffé with scrambled eggs that have been in a canteen for ages, but a place with menus, dishes made  à la carte and there was no limit on how many refills of coffee you could take.

I’m obviously talking about the much hyped Greasy spoon here in Stockholm; they now have two places and as their second venue is located on my side of town, I ended up visiting.

I will say that they food I ordered wasn’t all that, I felt it was a bit overpriced but other around the table made better choices. There is a reason why critics make at least three visits to a restaurant before writing a review.  I probably will go again as the ambiance was nice, it is so convenient with a place that has options for all allergies, diets and convictions when it comes to food and makes it very clear in the menu what is what.  You can find out more about Greasy spoon here.

Something that I have seen in their feed as it is a sometimes “daily special” is the french toast with croissants. I do love different versions of french toast, but this was new to me. When I saw it I just thought how brilliant it was and why hadn’t I thought of it myself? However, I did make it myself.

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Croissant french toast; serves 2

2 croissants

1 egg

1 dl of milk

1 knifes edges of vanilla sugar

butter for frying

for serving;

confectioner’s sugar

fresh berries or fruit

Possibly bacon

  1. Whisk the egg, milk and the vanilla sugar together.
  2. Slice the croissants lengthways.
  3. Heat a non stick frying pan on medium, add butter.
  4. Dip the croissants in the batter on both sides. Let the sides soak up batter for a few seconds.
  5. When the butter is turning brown, add the pieces dipped in batter and fry on both sides until golden.
  6. Serve with the accompaniments of your choice.

This is so easy to make but feels like the most indulgent of breakfasts. This will most certainly become a regular feature on the weekend table.

-Suss

Saturday&Struggles

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I did sleep in this morning, on a Suss scale that is, and having breakfasted in a leisurely pace I headed out to GET THINGS DONE. Saturday morning in the center of the City is insufferable as it is so crowded, because for natural reasons it is the time of week where the shops are open and people have a chance to go.

So how to deal? I put my headphones in and listened to the latest episode of In our time and it was a good one, about Aphra Behn the restoration playwright and proto-feminist. I’ve been meaning to read her, and more importantly make her famous milk punch of which I have a recipe. Now that I know more about her I’m sure I will make a point of it.

I tried to listen to the podcast Lit up as so many of their episodes feature guests that I’m interested in, like Knausgaard and Ariel Levy, but I couldn’t stand the voice of the host. I’m very sorry but I’m particular about voices especially when they go straight into my ears. If you are not sensitive to that sort of thing and like contemporary fiction you might want to check it out.

Voices that I have no problem handling, even though they are talking about things that sometime fly over my head, are Lindsey Kelk and Harriet “difficult eyes” Hadfield and their beauty podcast Full coverage. I’m not that much into make-up (I think I’m more interested in skin care) but the banter of these ladies is very entertaining and there is enough talk about skin and  popular culture to keep me happy. You can find both podcast where you usually find that sort of thing.

Running around I noticed that a new issue of The gentlewoman is here. It is one of my favorite magazines and I usually know it is coming and look forward to it like it’s a little Christmas. Completely passed me by this season ( I blame September).

Coming home I tried to bake which was a disaster, found an email from the library telling my I need to return Exist West by Mohsin Hamid very soon (so getting on that) and realized that I forgot to buy a frame (which was on the top of the list but still I managed to miss it).

So now I will try to recover my dignity by taking a nap on the sofa.

-Suss