I cannot contain myself any longer, I declare the Christmas season open!! Obviously the best way is to start small, and then build up slowly, to prolong the enjoyment but also by spreading it out there is less risk of overload I think. Here are seven ways to say “Hello!” to the Christmas season.
- Get out the Christmas books. Just having a moment with a coffee and looking in Christmas books (and in my case saved issues of interior design magazines Christmas issues) is a way to get into the spirit and find inspiration.
- Visit the florist. There is a certain selection of flowers and plats that go with the season; hyacinths, paper whites, Amaryllis and Helleborus are what comes to mind. They set the tone, this year I think I’m gonna go for all white flowers I think. And some leafy greens like eucalyptus.
- Agonize over the Christmas candle. All the fancy labels and a few cheap ones have a special candle this time of year, or a few. This year Diptyque is doing a wonderful series with magic animals on the containers (unicorn! Dragon! phoenix bird!). The unicorn one smells of hinoki, obviously because hinoki is everywhere. I also have my eye on the Byredo candles and feel the “Incense” one and the “Rose water” one are both calling my name. To me, it is very important what candle I have this time of year as I live in a small flat, and to me scents really set the tone. I need to make a decision soon.
- Dress thyself in a kitschy sweater. I usually wear a lot of holiday themed tights (a bit of tartan works wonders) but I really want to look like a Christmas tree. Nothing sexier on a man either.
- Drink the Gin& saffron tonics. There is a list of holiday cocktails coming for sure but let me remind you of the wonder that happens when adding just a few saffron threads to a tonic bottle with a screw cork/topper and letting it sit for 20 minutes. Saffron tonic is best made with Schweppes and I also encourage you to a dash of something sweet like orange liqueur to it.
- Buy big bowls of clementines. The citrus fruit is starting to turn up in stores and it is at it’s best right about now so enjoy. And it looks cheerful to have big bowls of orange goodness on the table.
- Listen to holiday music. And when I say holiday music I mean Wham’s “Last Christmas”. I have the cheesiest taste in Christmas music and I’m not even ashamed.
Let me make an effort to round up a few things that have been on my mind lately…
So I keep claiming that I’m not that much into dessert, which isn’t strictly true. I don’t understand people that get all uppity about chocolate fondants and I think Créme Brûlée is overrated. However, a few things from the dessert cart can really get me going and those usually involve fruit.
This time of year is great for one of the easiest and tastiest ways to end a dinner; poached pears. Like really, very little work involved and you don’t need much more then sugar, a bit of spice and the pears. Maybe a bit of cream or ice cream to serve it with. As far as the sugar goes this is an excellent time to use the flavored sugars I have mentioned before. This time I used the Christmas flavored sugar and the cinnamon, cardamom etc. worked beautifully with the pears, and then I reduced the fluids with a little cream for an excellent sauce. These pears were soft from the beginning so the poaching no more then 7 minutes.
Poached pears; serves two
2 pears, peeled (leave the stem on, it looks nice)
3 tablespoons caster sugar (preferably flavoured)
1,5 tablespoons of water
(2 tablespoons of heavy cream)
- Put the pears standing in a saucepan with a solid bottom, then add the sugar and water.
- Put on the lid, and let it come to the boil on medium heat.
- Keep the lid on whilst they poach which might take every thing from 5 to 25 minutes depending on how firm they are. Do check with a kitchen needle/knife.
- When the pears are done, take them out and place them in serving bowls. Bring the syrup to a boil and let it reduce a bit (possibly adding a day of cream to make it into more of a sauce).
- Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, with a bit of syrup drizzled on top.
This is moorish and I love this sort of thing after a heavier meal. If the dinner is lighter I might go all in an make a chocolate sauce to serve with the pears and ice cream, basically making it into Poires Belle Hélène. JK JK JK, even after a heavy dinner that can happen because pears, chocolate and vanilla is just the best combo, Escoffier wasn’t joking with that one.
(And yes; I’ve got the Christmas books out already. This recipe isn’t in that one though, however I think it should be. If I ever make a Christmas book I will make sure to include poached pears. It’s an integral part of the Winter kitchen as far as I am concerned)
First of all let’s be very clear; I’m not a beauty blogger or a skin care professional. I’m at best entry-level skin care nerd and I’ve quickly become rather niche as I’m trying to find something that is organic/sustainable yet still suitable for my skin i.e. I have skin and I care about it.Furthermore this is not review of Tata Harper products as such, this is review of the small “daily essentials set” that is a discovery kit of sorts. I have an opinion or two after using the kit which has products for about a week.
It should here be mentioned that I have combination skin, with an oily t-zone (pretty common affliction) and the discrepancy between dry cheeks and oily nose is greater during the cold months of the year because of weather. In summer my skin is pretty alright and fairly balanced actually. This time of year though? My cheeks are oh so parched due to wind etc.
I also have rather sensitive skin, and what I mean by that is that I don’t trust labels or their staff for a second. This harks back to when I developed cystic acne basically over night and went around looking for products, and so many labels gave me the whole “your skin is dirty you need to clean it more” and sold me often expensive products that obviously made everything worse. I say obviously because people who actually know anything about skin/care know that cleaning with harsh products (and there are a lot of them out there, known labels and pricey AF) isn’t the solution. At a few counters the staff were like “you need to talk to your doctor about a prescription and a regimen but we have a few products that will give some hydration back and take down the redness”. Those labels are forever in my good book, and a few other labels are dead to me. D.E.A.D.
This is also the reason that I haven’t really stepped up my skin care routine earlier, pure fear of rocking the boat. I’ve been so happy of not having painful acne and aching skin that I haven’t dealt with my hyper-pigmentation (the result of having very sensitive skin when I was on medication for my acne), pores, a few scars and anti-aging. This year though I’ve started to make changes, but I also have gotten more informed and thus more concerned about environmental issues which leaves me with difficult choices. And thus we end up where we started ; the Tata Harper discovery kit which contains seven products.
- Restorative eye cream. This comes in a little sachet and the amount is way to much for one application but you can’t just leave the sachet open to use the day after because then the consistency will change. I know this because it happened to me. I should have put it in a little jar I guess, a bit to tired to think of it at the time.
- Regeneration cleanser. This is good, smells quite a bit though. Has tiny granules of something in it so gives you a bit of physical exfoliant, especially when used on dry skin as recommended on the box. Can also be used on damp skin I say and then the effect is less regenerating I guess but also more gentle. When I bought the box I also got samples of the purifying cleanser which was nice.
- Resurfacing mask. This is the product that I really loved of the bunch. You are supposed to use it first for a few days to really give your skin a going over, and then do it a few times a week to top up. It made my pores appear smaller. Winning. The effect might be short-term but with pores that all one can ever hope for apparently.
- Hydrating floral essence. Don’t like and that is very much related to the scent.
- Reparative moisturizer. That’s a no from me. Mostly based on the fact that it doesn’t go well with my foundation, it totally “jacks it up” because of how it sits on the skin. Also the scent is a bother.
- Rejuvenating serum. Feels more like a cream to be honest but yeah, it’s alright. Wouldn’t ever buy it though, very pricey and more so in Sweden. This is deluxe organic skin care for sure but I’ve looked online and the prices are extra high in Sweden.
- Replenishing nutrient complex. I’ve barely used this. I found instructions online that said to add a drop or two of this in the moisturizer but due to the roller-ball applicator on this mini version that isn’t possible. So I’ve rolled a bit on my checks, every time with a face that was essentially a question mark, wondering why they couldn’t have put this in the sachet and offered a more substantial vial of eye cream.
So, those are my thoughts. I found one product that I’m thinking about, and if I buy it I will probably do so online. But I don’t ever want to buy something like this on a whim or without having tried at least once. I bought products from The ordinary without prior testing but at that price it wasn’t really an issue. With these though? Satisfaction must be guaranteed before parting with that much money. Still, I’m glad I tried. Now I will go back to my old routine for a bit to calm things down (my skin hasn’t reacted badly to any of the products but I don’t want to provoke it either with new poducts every week) and then upwards and onwards in my search for sustainable skincare.
I had plans to make sloe gin but my excursions have come up short of berries; there aren’t that much sloes on the bushes because the spring was so cold, and what little is I’ll leave for the birds. Instead I decided to go all in with the quince liqueur this autumn.
Quinces I bought at the market, I went with a less expensive cognac but not the cheapest because in my experience that’s just nasty. It’s worth spending a little extra on this, especially since I’m thinking about giving some away as Christmas presents.
I’ve made this before with light rum and spices, with cognac and spices and this time it’s just fruit and booze. And a little sugar. The real sweetening however is done in six weeks time, and then it can be adjust to taste. The first recipe I used was from the web, this is a pared down version of that from The wonderful weekend book by Elspeth Thompson.
Quince brandy-based liqueur; yields almost 1 liter in the end
750 ml cognac/brandy (spend as much as you feel you can afford)
1 large quince
4 tablespoons of castersugar
- Rinse and dry the fruit. Then spilt it in quarters.
- Put the fruit pieces in a clean 1 liter jar, add the sugar and the pour the cognac/brandy over it. Closer the lid.
- Let infuse for at least six weeks.
- After six weeks; pour through a sieve and add around 2 dl of freshly made sugar syrup to the cognac/brandy, stir so it blends and put into clean bottles.
This is so easy to make, and such a great thing to have. Impossible to buy something similar in the shops. I’ve made several cocktails with it but just mixed with some champagne it’s wonderful.
I can’t really believe it either; I got up early yesterday and made it by an H&M before getting on with my day. And then at the end of the day I went back for another bout of shopping. My bank account probably thought is was “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. But I’ve earned that money and I rarely shop anyways. Yes, I have thoughts on H&M (and the efficacy of their sustainability work) but more importantly the effects of overconsumption in which I think there is an individual responsibility. However, the things I bought will most certainly be used and I have high hopes in terms of quality.
I rarely get excited about these designer collaborations, I watch from afar and have snagged a few pieces over the years. A few things have also been picked up second-hand, it’s not always hysterical prices on eBay and similar sites, the prices there are not always outrageous. I have also used a few of those pieces until they fell apart (as I’m wont to do). I did find a Stella MacCartneyxHM coat in perfect condition in a consignment store once, I regret not buying that as it was very nice, especially for 1000 kr (and how had kept it like that for what? 10 years?). I personally think that the long-term collectors value of these pieces is somewhat overrated, but I might be wrong. Short term though? the hype kicks in and people get a little crazy.
I had forgotten how poorly I handle situations where a sort of plebiscite mentality is the norm, and even encouraged. It started to come back to me when I was standing outside, and the queue wasn’t that long, so I could hear the staff start to clap their hands and count down very loudly to create excitement. A few people rushed in, but most of us very like “chill staff, we are trying to shop”. But there were a lot of shoppers and I had enough very quickly. Taking something to try on was out of the question. I bought a few things; scarf, socks and sparkly brooch, and then left.
However my eyes on the town sent a message that there was quite a few things left in store in the afternoon, and not much of a crowd, so off I went.
Ended up trying on several things (as witnessed by my changing room selfies). Ended up with one dress (not included) and the trousers. I will think of the coats fondly, because I love a nice coat, but the first was a bad fit on me all things considered (and I really would prefer a homemade leopard print kimonojacket) and the latter was just too big. I need a cool blogger life for that to be useful. Now I will spend all my time trying to find the blazer coordinating with the trousers. And wearing that brooch on everything (everything!).