In my search for serenity one of the biggest distraction and time-thieves needed to be addressed; my phone and all that is in it. These are the seven steps I took in order to organize all the digital clutter.
Make sure that pics from phone are on my computer. Then deleted a lot of them. I take photos of everything and the person how showed me how to screen grab back in the day did me a disservice. Not really obviously, but it adds up quickly. So there was a purge, a creation of specific albums for certain things (pic of the hoover, the coffee filter packaging etc. so I know what to buy as I cannot remember all the specifics and I need it on hand) or pics that I want to show certain friends. Things that I want to keep has been downloaded to a USB-stick and I will have them developed. I actually do this from time to time and enjoy putting them into my photo album on a rainy night.
Un-subscribe. I went through my mail and un-subscribed to a lot of things, mostly companies and such. Less mail means less to manage. I wasn’t sure why I was on all those lists to begin with.
Un-followed. I went through the accounts I follow on Instagram and removed a few. Mostly they are accounts that are not related to books, and a few rude people, so that when I go on there it’s a joy to see what people are reading and partaking in that discussion. I might seem harsh but most things I un-followed are big corporations or big accounts that I don’t interact with anyways. I won’t be missed is what I’m saying.
Created folders for apps and made sure the desktop in my phone is functional and rather clean. I’ve hidden apps that I don’t use that often, I’ve deleted a few (must not have Tetris on my phone if I want to get anything done). Should have done this ages ago. I’ve also put the Mindfulness-app front and center.
Made a choice regarding podcasts. I have subscribed to a lot of podcasts over the year but I realized that there are only a handful that I really listen to. The rest mostly give me a guilty conscience (because everything does). So I sorted that out.
Changed the background picture on my phone. New season, new me. I want my mind-palace to look like the cosy library on photo*, not like an episode from “Hoarders”, and it’s on my phone now as a gentle reminder. That pic puts me in a good mood really.
Bought a new case for it. My old one was knackered and so I decided my phone needed new clothes for the season. I does make it easier to find in my bag. I could also do with a new protective screen as the current one is getting frayed at the edges. Considering how I treat my phone (dropped on stone floors, being thrown in my bag, used with greasy fingers) those extra glasses that you put on really are a necessity. Best 200 SEK I’ve spent probably. It’s saved me from having to, at a very high price, change the screen on my Iphone several times (again, dropped it on stone floors more then once because clumsy AF).
* I don’t know who to credit with this photo, found it in my phone. Probably a screen grab that I’ve edited. Lovely library.
One of the books that I’ve read lately is Giulia Enders book about the stomach and digestive system. Called Gut in English and Charmen med tarmen in Swedish. I’m one of the last people in the world to read this so I don’t know what I can add to the conversation. Enders is passionate about her subject and tries to make that come through in the text. It’s on the verge of being too silly for me but reading a little then and now solved that dilemma, then the tone of it is diluted by time. I did learn a lot; like so many others I have had tummy-aches and problems for most of my life and even though I have gotten help from doctors, this is a good reminder to take care of myself and use the information I have. And these are things that nobody really want’s to talk about so I’m glad that this book is out there for people to read. It’s hard getting good answers from a doctor if you are not asking good questions, I do wish this had been around a couple of years ago.
I found myself rather between books the other day. I have two “buddy reads” lined up but one is put on hold as my dear friend is waiting for the book (online book purchases always fail when there is a deadline or obligation involved) and the other is planned for later in the month. So I picked up something to have at home to read that was rather hefty (more about that later) but still needed a little small something in my bag. Luckily I found Välkommen till Amerika by Linda Boström Knausgård. It’s so thin it was hidden in the stacks. But as I have already said about this book elsewhere, those 100 pages manages to tell an engaging story about love, loss and life. The young girl who’s thoughts we follow has lost her father so there is grief. But the father was mentally ill and tore the family apart and was a threat to not only himself but also his wife and children as he was unable to control his impulses. So in a sense the child is happy he’s not there anymore. But did as she make it happen? When she wished for peace and quiet, to let the light rule in her life, did she actually wish for her dad to die? And did the heavens grant her wish? Her thoughts are whirling around, in fact she stops speaking because she feels the need to think and figure out the world. This book was intense and more so since you read it in one sitting which is the point. It’s like a maelstrom of thoughts and you get sucked in. I will try to read more by Boström Knausgård.
The hefty thing that I’ve been reading at home is Gutenberggalaxens nova by Nina Burton. It has an under-title that translates to something like a story in essays about Erasmus of Rotterdam, the 1600th century media revolution and humanism with special appearances by Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein jr, Paracelsus, Martin Luther, various popes and a few rebels. This is a heavy book due to the thick paper it’s printed on and space devoted to illustrations. The story is of Erasmus is lovingly told with a light hand however. It would have been odd not to spend money on the actual book and giving it a nice shape and weight since this is the story of how books conquered the world. In just a few decades Europe went from a society where books were rare handmade objects to being a continent that had several publishers, celebrated authors and books on a variety of subjects. No longer was the Bible the only thing widely spread although with books having become more accessible and humanism and independent thought being in the air, Erasmus translation of the Bible obviously was one of the biggest successes. It paved the way for reformation although he did not see that one coming. When Burton says that this is “a story in essays” what she means that all the chapters are about a certain period or Erasmus meetings with another of the famous men of that era. It’s nicely proportioned that way but it gets a tiny bit repetitive after a while. But I must say that I have loved it. As Burton isn’t writing a traditional memoir but rather a portrait of a man and his time she doesn’t get bogged down in minutiae but uses broad strokes, a few anedcotes and liberally scattered reflections about then and now. I cannot stress enough that I have loved reading this, it doesn’t sound like it when I try to describe it but for me this is the ultimate feel-good book. It’s well-written, using a very playful language, and it’s infused with a love of books, learning and celebrates “the good conversation”. Erasmus had about 500 people that he corresponded with regularly and was a firm believer that if you couldn’t find an intelligent human to discuss with amongst your contemporaries then dead authors were readily available, in fact he semmed to count them as some of his best friends. This book has been a delight to read, I feel a tiny bit more intellectual just by reading this and it’s the kind of thing that restores a bit of my faith in humanity. It one the August prize for best non-fiction last year and The August prize is THE literary prize up here. Let’s hope that it gets translated to English.
So I did warn you that I’m on a detox of sorts, a vain attempt to deal with things in my life. The little things mind you, in general I’m still a gigantic failure. But at least I coming closer to having my stuff in order and then let us hope that it all becomes very freudian and that dealing with this is cathartic and that other things will fall into place as well. On my list of thirty things to do in September I have gotten these out of the way.
Cleaned the bathroom. Sorely needed this one. I did a proper clean of the drain in both the zink and the shower. As I have long hair it tends to accumulate in there and if you hear that a strange new biohazard has been discovered in Sweden those nasty lumps are probably to blame. Having got rid of my little monster I cleared out the bathroom cabinet of all the useless hairbands, eye make-up that hasn’t been used for ages (thus festering with bacteria) and cleaned the make-up brushes. Brushes should be cleaned on a regular basis but I rarely use them nowadays: I rely on my fingers to apply make up and my hands are always clean (at least I have that). I’m running low on product so I’ve written little shopping list that I’ll get to in time but for now I don’t have to rummage around things that are useless to find the things that work. I also made a foray into the market for sustainable cleaning products and this one is good. I’ve tried a few in the past but they don’t get the job done. This one left both tiles and conscience clean.
Defrosted the freezer and cleaned the fridge. This was another one that felt urgent. It’s not hard to do, just very time-consuming. But at least now it’s done and there is room in the freezer for ready-made meals (that I make myself. Mostly anyways) and there is nothing in the fridge that will make me sick. I hate throwing away food but a few of those pastes and condiments have been around since last year and probably aren’t safe to eat. Also bought three new containers for lunch, glass boxes with a plastic lid so I can bring food to work. Just doing this has made me feel healthier.
Edited my shelves. There is no getting around the fact that my shelves are overflowing. I have come to the conclusion that there is no space for anything but books on there so the Foo dogs will have to be placed elsewhere, as have to the odd frame with a photo or collections of notebooks (I’ll save those in a nice box). It is also the case that I’m not so hung up on owning books in general any more, I just want the ones I love or use. So a few duplicates or books I will surely never read again will go to charity or friends. Lets be honest, I’ll never read The dice man again. I decided to be realistic about the TBR-pile too. Still there isn’t space enough on the shelves if I actually manage to read everything on the TBR. This is why I will remain loyal to the public libraries of Stockholm. All of the reading pleasure, none of the trying to fit them onto the shelves-hassle.
Cleaned the bar cart and drew up a shopping list. As I blogged about yesterday it’s time to start restocking the bar. I will veer of track, famously so, and buy esoteric bitters, make infused vodkas and questionable syrups becasue I’m a cocktail nerd. But in theory I will work with the kind of spirits that are readily available so that my cocktails can be replicated by the masses. It’s high time people stopped trying to get drunk and concerned themselves with drinking well (accidental drunkenness is something all together different and I will tell you that a cocktail hangover is much more glamorous and bearable then one from wine. I haven’t had enough beer in my life to be hung over from it. My hypothesis is that it’s rather ghastly, much like drinking beer in the first place. But that’s just me).
Taken care of the mess under the zink. Naturally the list would have been a lot shorter if I had just written “deal with the kitchen” as an item. However that would have taken a day in and of itself, and I’m not sure I would have gotten around to it. It’s like when you write “eat healthier” on a to-do list. That’s a statement and a goal, not a strategy or a realistic proposition. “Buy healthy snacks”, “make lunch boxes for three days this week” or “sign up for weekly delivery of organic fruit and vegetables” are the kind of things that written on a list helps you to achieve something. Break it down into manageable things and increase the probability of them happening is my way around this. Taking care of the mess under the zink was about a few trips to the recycling station (it’s not far but in bad weather it’s the worst so I took the chance when the sun was shining the other day). I’ve kind of been just skimming of the top of my recycling bin so that I can close the door. And then a special round to the place where old light bulbs,batteries and electronics are handed in for recycling. Then I scrubbed it out. It was a right mess the other week when I had to open up the water-lock to deal with the clogged drain and I could hardly get in there due to all the old packaging. I eat a lot of eggs apparently. I will try to think of a system to keep this more manageable in future.
I have gotten to the lowest possible point when it comes to items on the bar cart. There is a bottle of absinth, some Fernet, Cointreau, that Amarelle bourbon I made and an array of bitters. That’s it. So the time has come to give it a proper cleaning and then start to restock. So what should I reasonably have on there? What are the priorities and best options for a small but useful set of bottles to make good cocktails? These are my seven suggestions.
Good London dry gin. I know some people love their Bombay Sapphire but keep that for your G&T’s if you insist on that blue bottle. For cocktails a simpler, more citrus-y gin is preferable. I suggest a Beefeater,Gilbey’s or Gordon’s. I love Tanqueray which works well too, that it has that tinge of cardamom suits me and my cocktail making just fine.
Blended whiskey. Scottish or Irish doesn’t matter. Jameson is nothing to scoff at, it works really well in whiskey sours and that sort of thing.
Light rum for the summer bar, dark rum for the winter bar. Mojitos, or in my case Rosa Cubanas, is a fave with many in summer and there is no reason not to indulge. For winter you might want to get a nice bottle of dark rum and experiment with making an old-fashioned with rum (very good) and other twists on classic cocktails.
Cointreau. To be sure Cointreau has its flaws. Triple sec might be an option. I famously make my own orange liqueur nowadays. But Cointreau is a bar staple and it’s in so many classic cocktails. With Cointreau you know what you are getting and can adjust accordingly. Triple sec can be both heaven and hell as there are many versions/brands on the market.
Campari. Because you want to make Negronis. There was no realistic substitute (unless you want the very hard to get Nardini bitter or something similar).
Single malt whiskey. Using single malt instead of blended whiskey or bourbon in classic drinks is entry level “twist on cocktail” and very often a great one. Also good for sipping and in cooking.
Angostura Aromatic. The most classic of cocktail bitters, with its iconic bottle that is to small for the label, is a must have. It cannot be replaced. It’s also the case that one bottle will last you a lifetime.
So there is an absence of vermouth on the list and that’s because those should be kept in the fridge. They are based on wine and once you open them they will deteriorate in taste if kept in room temperature. Not overnight but still. For dry vermouth Noilly Prat is great, readily available and affordable. Sweet vermouth is a trickier proposition. Antica Formula is the golden standard but it has a ridiculous price tag in this country so I’ve started to make my own. The important thing is to avoid Martini Rosso like your life depended on it.
A bottle of Maraschino is good to have on hand but not essential; if you invest in proper cocktail cherries (NB: this is not a suggestion. Those bright cherries of cellulose that are sometimes sold are not OK, get the real deal) you can use a bit of the syrup they come in for Hemingway Daqiuries, Aviations and the odd Martinez. The cherries should also be kept in the fridge but as a bonus in emergencies they can be served with ice cream as a dessert.
Then on occasions you will have to stock up on fresh herbs, citrus fruit, a few other fruits and berries for a seasonal touch, tonic and maybe champagne. But those are all complements.
When it comes to kit then a barspoon to stir drinks, a measuring jigger, a nice shaker is pleasant to look at and easy to use but I’ve shaken up cocktails in jars and thermos flasks too. I like stirring glasses as they are often very decorative but you can use any old pitcher. Glasses to drink from obviously; I really like rummaging flea markets and antique shops for old glasses as they used to be a bit smaller with nicer proportions. When it comes to the accessories for the bar cart you can have fun in an inexpensive way with napkins, coasters and straws, feel free to get silly. I predict that cocktails with a little umbrella will be huge again in 2018.
Slowly but surely I’m making my way through the list of museums in Stockholm that have free admission. And so the time has come to the one most out of the beaten path, The museum of Natural history.
I must have visited once at least with school, that is highly probable, but I have no memories of it. Maybe I was sick that day? It’s not exactly the kind of thing I would go for, or so I thought, so it has remained unvisited.
However, now that I know of it I might just go again because I’m enthralled by the collections of minerals. I came in through the big entrance and sort of made my way through the exhibitions. A lot of taxidermy going on and a few skeletons. Some very pedagogical displays of how neanderthals lived, about life in the oceans and a space devoted to the effects of environmental degradation. I saw school classes going through them, taking notes and their professors pointing out important things.
Meanwhile I sort of wandered off unto the far most corner and there they were; the collections of minerals. Some of them come from the time of the museums foundation and were displayed in old-fashioned cabinets. Many others had been placed in a more modern contraption that you could pull out so see the chunks of rock and get a little info about from where they came and so forth. And it was one of the most amazing things, I wanted to smash and grab many of them; they would make excellent jewelry. The combinations of colours that mother nature has produced, and the shapes and textures is truly amazing. The collection is vast and I looked at all of them I think. Some are even fluorescent! None of them could easily be photographed as they are encased in glass. Still tried though.
I get inspiration from the most unusual places, there is no getting around that. These pieces were like sculptures of modern art. In fact I think I’ve seen something like it that was art. Furthermore the combination of colors and textures makes me think in terms of clothes. Most things do in the end to be honest, although I haven’t figured out how I will go from this to something I can dress in.
A straighter line can be drawn between this collection of shells on a pale jade green background. I want it as a print by the yard that I can make into a summer dress.
All in all I had an excellent time at the museum, and the shop is good too. Maybe not the first stop if you’re a tourist and have no interest in this sort of thing but If you are in the neighbourhood maybe? (You should visit the botanical gardens first, they are on the other side of the road).
I have Harry Potter “top of mind” right now. It’s the celebration of it being 20 years since the first book was published, it has been around a lot on “the gram” and in the media so apparently it lodged itself firmly in my subconscious. And then Snyder mentioned it which was just great, now I cannot get the idea of a reread out of my head. I blame this for the way I look at clothes right now because there is a Hogwarts theme to outfits and potential purchases.
It started with this thing on Monday. snake-skin print skirt I made myself the other year, good ol’ black top and my trusted green jacket. Not a bad look I think but then someone said to me “Got a bit of Slytherin going on today have you?” which made me look in the mirror again and realize that I was indeed wearing the Slytherin colours and snake print to boot, their symbol is a snake after all.
And later that day I was going through my phone trying to delete photos (as to not use up all the memory) I found the ones I had taken while trying on outfits at Zara. I was primarily looking for a fall coat and this bronze-ish number was something I tried with a blue top underneath. I was never planning on wearing them together but now that I had my Potter-spectacles on I could see that I was essentially dressing in Ravenclaw colours. In the book they have blue and bronze, had I worn an eagle pin on the lapel the outfit would have been complete (note to self; buy eagle pin). In the movies they changed the colours to blue and silver for whatever reason. Which makes me think that all Ravenclaws use Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche as their signature scent, because the bottle it comes in matches the house colours (note to self; maybe Rive Gauche would be a nice scent for me).
Another thing I tried was this yellow coat. It was in the other end of the store so different dressing room, one not so good for photo-ops. And my scruffy sneaks should be ignored. Wearing yellow with black is a bit tricky in this town as it is the colors of one of the football teams. I do not care for them ,or any other team for that matter, bit it’s a reference I cannot get away from. But I like the slouchy cut of the coat, and a bit of yellow. I think it’s an underrated color and I’m glad it’s getting a bit of spotlight.
Which brings me to this old saffron blouse from H&m and my homemade wine red coat; on Saturdays we Gryffindor? This is an excellent combo for going out for a cup of coffee with a friend and then running some errands. As I already have this coat, the yellow one will not be needed. So I have something soft and slouchy in a non-neutral but the sharp bronze/brown one would actually fill a gap in my closet (but unfortunately not keep me very warm). I have a soft spot for cobalt blue but will try to find something knitted of better quality. The green jacket I have worn for three years and will continue to do so until it fall apart. Ditto the snake print skirt.
To be fair, when I read the book I always felt that I would not have ended up at Hogwarts but would have preferred Beauxbatons. I need one of those little blue capes, it would complete all my outfits. It really would.
I’m running out of umbrellas and tights (very necessary this time of year), there is a bit of the North Wall connecting my fridge and freezer (and there shouldn’t be) and I spend to much time every morning trying to find something to use to put up my hair ( and then I put hair bands with no elastic in them back into the bowl thus setting myself up for the same thing next morning). The other week there was a clog in my kitchen zink. I didn’t have time to deal with it for three days, the most disgusting thing ever. And as I finally got around to cleaning it (a nasty process that we don’t have to discuss in detail) I had to come to terms with the fact that;
a. I’m very short on time right now.
b. If I spent a little time on a few things I would save a lot of time in the end.
So I have now complied a list of thirty things that I need to do around the house in order to make my life easier and run a little smoother. Basically it’s the kind of thing that people do in January but I have always been more excited about the fall ,when everything gets back to normal after the holidays, then that month long bleak January with no money. This is the start of the year for me really.
I will try to do one thing a day, some take a lot of time (go through my closet) some are done rather quickly (get rid of books I don’t want to keep). A few of these things will probably make it unto the blog, so be prepared.