If we are talking about gifts in terms of clothes we are in tricky territory, but a few suggestions.
- Slow fashion by Jennie Johansson and Johanna Nilsson or any other book of that nature; about how clothes impact the environment and how to care for clothes is a good gift; not because I think that sending someone on a guilt trip is advisable but as a key to betterment. Or as I said before; nice books on the topic of fashion,the coffee table kind.
- Actual hangers. This is what I’ve asked for. When I moved away from home I started buying the one kind of wooden hanger from IKEA so that they all match(I’m OCD like that) but I’ve asked for the sturdy plastic kind clad in black velvet; they take up less space.
- A little sewing kit or a shoe polish kit. Again; very useful and they come in some very nice sets actually if you look around.
- A cashmere sweater; everyone loves a cashmere sweater. I’ve had great experiences with the ones from ZARA but if you can afford some Brora ,go for it.
- A matching scarf and beanie; they kind of thing that is always needed and having matching stuff does elevate an outfit.
Here is my simple solution to the dilemma of Christmas cocktails; two syrups.
- Gingerbread spice syrup; In Sweden, and in a lot of other countries, this sort spice blend is sold ready made to be used in cookies and cakes. And in works beautifully in syrups. 1 cup of caster sugar and 1 cup of water is brought to the boil, 1-2 teaspoons of spice blend(I use to because I want a bit of bite) is added and then it gets to simmer for 5-10 minutes. Let cool before pouring into a clean bottle. This will last in the fridge around 2 weeks. And it will be empty by then. This is obviously great in regular coffe instead of sugar or in a hot chocolate. Also poured over ice cream; you get the drift. It’s a good thing to have around this time of year. When entertaining friends the other night I used it in an Irish Coffee(here) instead of sugar. It hit all the right spots(it was a lot better then the Glögg,coffee and whipped cream I tried the other week). I Also made a Christmas-fashioned (here) but use orange bitters instead of Angostura for balance. It probably would have tasted even better had I thrown convention completely aside and used a really smokey whiskey. Last year I used this kind of syrup for Whiskey sours (here) which was also a treat.
- Saffron Syrup; To be fair I love saffron all year around. The syrup procedure is much the same. 1 cup of caster sugar and 1 cup of water is brought to the boil and a pinch of saffron is added. Let simmer for a couple of minutes or until all the sugar has dissolved. Let cool before pouring into a clean bottle. Will last in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Like the gingerbread spice-syrup this has a multitude of uses but it does go particularly well with gin I think. Adding a dash to a gin and tonic is a brilliant idea. Halving the amount of Cointreau in a White lady(here) and using this instead makes for a nice saffrony-citrusy cocktail. What I also made was a twist on a Martini by adding a reasonable slug of this and serving it with a cherry instead of olives(olives would have tasted great also I think).
Those are my suggestions, but these syrups are easy to make and a twist on the traditional holiday tipples while staying within the framework of the Christmas flavours.
Cheers and Drink responsibly!
NB; this is a translated and edited post from my old cocktail-blog.
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
-First line of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
As much as I love Tolstoy in general and Anna Karenina in particular, that sentence is rubbish. People point at it as some kind of genius insight and it is frequently quoted as such when a quick look around society will tell you that many unhappy families suffer from the same unhappiness ; substance abuse.
I do not want to diminish anyones tragedy but it is a fact that time and time again people feel the same guilt and shame because they are effected by the destructive behavior of others. Alcoholism is the most common and that’s why I’m writing this post.
There is a little Christmas cocktail thing coming. But I would first like to point out that no child ever asked for drunk parents for Christmas, and this is the children’s holiday.
Coming from me that might sound odd but I’ve always tried to explain that I’m obsessed with cocktails because I just don’t drink that much and I want those things to be worth it.
And by all means: drink and be merry but do so responsibly and in the company of other adults. And if there is someone in your surrounding with a drinking problem I understand that confronting them is much to ask, but don’t enable it either.
Put out bottles of water; with all the rich food this time of year you’ll need it. Try having a few non-alcoholic options around; apple juice is good, citrus is at it’s prime, in Sweden we are going crazy for our “julmust” and non-alcoholic mulled wine/glögg tastes really good cold with plain old tonic. Throw in an orange slice for a festive touch.
Also; being sober makes it easier not to get into a political discussion with aunts and uncles. Because those never end well.
Weekend is coming to an end and Christmas is getting closer. However I’m finally done with the gift shopping and I feel the need to say a few things about wrapping presents.
It’s been pointed out before, and will be again, that traditional wrapping paper is not the best thing for the environment. A lot is used but it isn’t recyclable. There are options however.
As I’m going with themes that are countries I’ve been buying newspapers from that specific country for the last few years. It ties in to the theme and frankly I think it looks very stylish. And when the unwrapping is done it goes to the recycling station no problem. I used proper string to tie them and that string will be used over and over. It originally came from the packages of tea that I buy. Also very good to use when making homemade tree ornaments.
Another option is using plain brown paper with some black ribbon which I think can look very elegant. Wrapping in left over fabric is also an idea that I’ve used and it has great effect and can be reused. My nana told me how they used to wrap gifts in tea towels when she was a kid; the tea towel could be a part of the gift in fact.
It’s something to think about at least.
I also found that as myrrh is one of the scents in the John Galliano candle from Diptyque is goes really well with this Christmas; it rather smells like in an greek-orthodox church. Trying not to use it all up before the big day.
The dinner table will end up looking something like this on Christmas eve I think. It should be noted that the 24th is the big day of celebration in Sweden; that’s when families gather to overeat and desperately try to avoid sensitive topics.
As the theme is “Greece” I’m going with a white linen tablecloth (inherited) to start with, a blue linen runner that I made years ago (reusing fabric from when I friend got married and had medieval themes wedding and I made an outfit). The same plates,glasses and cutlery as usual(it’s the everyday stuff) and I’ll bring out the brass cover plates because the should be used. I need to give them a proper polish before though. The linen napkin as a knot will appear; I’m really into it right now. As the big serving plates I have are these green ones(I have two) they will appear probably. I also have a few brown plates somewhere that could look nice. Pared down and a bit rustic is the feeling I’m going for. A jar of pine cones might look nice instead of flowers. Or maybe spread the pine cones one the table?
The little houses that I bought as a kid(when Greece stilled used drachma as their currency; the price tag is still underneath) with be table decorations I’ve decided. Throw in some tea lights and that’s all there is room for.
Menuwise I’ve been looking at these two books(in addition to my own culinary memories). Danyel Couet’s book Paris-from chèvre chaud till couscous merguez is in Swedish but he basically visits all the neighborhoods in Paris and cooks a few dishes from each including the area around Saint-Michel which is the Greek quarter. Falling Cloudberries-a world of family recipes by Tessa Kiros is of a similar kind but she explores her family tree and cooks accordingly, which means a touchdown in Greece.
There will be a bowl of olives. Instead of classic Swedish meatballs there will be the kind with mint, keftedes. Instead of Tzatsziki, the classic yoghurt,garlic and cucumber sauce, there will be a yoghurt,saffron and cucumber one. Roast potatoes. A salad of beetroot(very classic Swedish stuff) but without mayonnaise and instead some nuts,feta cheese and some kind of dressing. My mother will make a lemony roast pork fillet. I’m gonna visit the greek deli this week and see what nice things they have on offer to add to this. Maybe some dolmades just because I really like the sweet and sour taste of them. The dessert will be some kind of apple pie using filopastry, loads of honey and spices; served,again, with yoghurt or yoghurt ice-cream. I might throw a couple of drops of orange blossom water on the apple pies for a baklava-feel. Does any of this make sense to anyone else?
Last year I was given a big box of tablecloths and doilies; many of which were damaged. Could I do something with it? Of course I can, but sometimes it takes me a while.
A big part of the box were Christmas-stuff; embroidered or printed doilies and a few were actually meant to hang on the wall I think.
My solution was to make a patchwork of them, creating a big tablecloth which is the only kind I use. The match isn’t perfect; I had to cut out bad bits and do the best I could. I used what is called a “table blanket” as the canvas to stick them all to; it ended up being like a laying a puzzle.
The effect is obviously maximalist. It won’t be used this Christmas(as I’m going for a white,blue,turquoise and green thing) but hopefully in the future. The dining room table is filled with sewing projects otherwise I would have kept it on there for the weeks leading up to the big event.
When I use it I will probably try to keep everything else simple; just a bunch of mismatched red candlesticks, white plates(might bring out the inherited brass cover plates now that I think of it), and the green ceramics from Swedish firm Uppsala-Ekeby that I sort of collect. Tying the linen napkins like this,into a knot, is something that I saw in an ad the other day and I’m really into it right now. It looks so nice, such a simple thing really, but just the dot over the i somehow.
Who doesn’t want to get a Christmas gift that keeps on giving? Something to look at and provide inspiration?
- A nice calendar to hang on the wall, helping with organization throughout the year, which can then be converted into art? I bought myself this Alice in Wonderland calendar last year and it has been a feast for the yeas. Rifle paper& Co makes all kind of drool worthy things(here).
- If not stylish then charitable is an option when it comes to calendars. In the kitchen there has been a calendar with cute cats sold by the local shelter; all the proceeds go to their good work.
- Silhouettes are super cool and timeless. This one is from a flea market which is a good place to look for them. Another option is to make them yourself. I did for Mothers day and it did take a couple of tries but I got it done. I used instructions similar to the ones you can find here
- Everyone loves maps, I’m pretty sure of that. Again looking at flea markets and second hand book shops can be time well spent, something very original might turn up but a lot of high street stores carry nice ones. Getting it framed or mounted on foam board adds that extra touch because that’s the worst bit when it comes to decorating the walls.
- However; “On the wall” doesn’t have to mean actual things to hang on the wall. Art books are a joy to have as they are often pleasing to the eye and informative. A membership in an art club or a museum is another way to provide eye-candy, and getting a membership for yourself so you and your friend(or partner) can go together makes it more special.