In the realm of “corporate social responsibility” (also know as the twilight zone) there is something that is called the Green&Gold theory i.e. by “going green” you will make more money in the end with savings in production (making energy use more effective), more motivated staff (people want to work, and work better, for an employer they can defend morally) etc. It’s not that easy obviously. And if saving money is possible through efficiency measures to reduce energy use you should have done so anyways you silly capitalist. Anyways it’s been on my mind lately as I’ve been catching up on reading sustainability blogs, research and internal memos on the subject of ISO standards and GRI reporting. As these readings whirled in my mind I ended up writing the list of seven things people can do that save both money and a little bit of the environment. Nothing new but a gentle reminder.
- Don’t buy take-away coffee too often. It really is silly expensive given what you get if you prefer a basic black drip (and I do). I had a thermos mug before but it broken and I finally got around to buying a new one, from Stelton this is a reasonable size unlike many other that are huge.
- Bring a lunch box. Eating out can be great fun and sometimes it’s the only option. In my case it’s also a food intolerance thing to factor in. But by bringing a lunch box to work you are saving money and you know what you are eating. So few restaurants serve organic vegetables and well-sourced meats and those that do usually set you back even more.
- Borrow books from the library. I realize not everyone are as spoiled as I am with public libraries, and books are probably not the worst environmental offenders, but still. Less paper and resources being put in to making books and a penny saved.
- Don’t do more laundry than you have to. Some things need to be washed, and washed properly. Sweaters and jeans? Not so much. Many garments need no more than a proper airing before being used again. If it doesn’t have any stains and don’t stink then save yourself the time, the money that detergent cost and the bother. Less washing also means less tear on the clothes themselves.
- Buy vintage and second-hand. High street fashion can be inexpensive to buy but doesn’t always last all that long. By going to good second-hand and vintage shops you can get high quality clothing at a fraction of the cost i.e. at a price point that is similar to what the big chains offer. I live by this and not only because I’m obsessed with a model of jeans that has been discontinued. There is research backing it up.
- Cut the packaging. At a later point we’ll go through arguments for and against buying organic products, which certifications to look for and how to reason. For now let’s just agree that by using every drop of product you are doing nature and your wallet a good thing. I do think that they try to trick me sometimes by selling things in packaging that doesn’t easily empty.
- Get a nice fabric tote. Plastic bags cost money at the grocery store and well-known way to save money has for a long time been to bring your own bag. Except now it’s been elevated to government policy with the environment in mind. Shops have to inform about the negative aspects of plastic bag use and many stores have started charging to encourage people to think twice.
The gift drawer is a clever invention. I cannot credit who came up with the idea or how I came to have one. But I do, and I went through it yesterday to see what I had and what I needed to restock.
What is it then? Exactly what it sounds like. A drawer (or in my case, a box) full of little things that make good gifts, the kind of thing it’s good to have around when you forget birthdays until the same day, someone gets a promotion, name days (a certain easter influence in my life and to some select people this matters) and something to give to the host and hostess if should, against all odds, be invited to dine at someone else’s house. Nothing very personal or grand but just thoughtful knick-knacks. Some are better at the art of the gift drawer then I but these are the kind of things I try to keep on hand.
- Hand creams. Look at any gift guide around Christmas and invariably hand creams are included as “stocking-stuffers” or for cases of secret Santa, and with good reason. They are useful and nowadays there are many that smell rather unisex so they can be given to men to. They need them just as much. I like the ones from Other Stories, especially the one called “Moroccan tea”. The scent is a hit with pretty much everyone.
- Fans. I’ve spoken about these before (in fact I may have written this whole post before). Usually found in Asian supermarkets but is also a great thing to stock up on trips. Such a good thing to in the handbag but people rarely think about them, until I give them one and totally change their lives.
- Books, poetry in particular. I no longer lend books because I’ve lost a few ones I really loved and having to nag to get them back is the worst. And it’s always the books I love and get excited about that I loose. So inspired by my friend Van I now by nice copies of books I love plus Penguin little black classics so that I have a few things to give away if I want people to read it. There has to be a certain trade-off between how likely it is that they have read it already and if they want to. But lucky for me I love non-fiction on diverse subjects and many of those are suitable for a surprising amount of people. I will start buying A time of gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor in bulk as it is a brilliant book that touches on many subjects and thus makes a great gift. Little books of poetry are also great gifts as it is the kind of thing that people don’t often buy for themselves and it takes up no room if they don’t read it.
- Notebooks. And pens. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that everyone loves notebooks. Moleskins can even get men excited. Not everyone uses them but they love them. Lacroix makes ridiculous notebooks that I think that everyone should have, this is something I picked up I don’t know where. But it says “Kitchen notes” on it so I might give it to someone who likes to cook. This is also a good thing to stock up on when traveling.
- Nice bags for toiletries, shoes etc. There are so many tote bags with funny things printed on the side that I don’t know where to start. And we should all reduce our use of plastic bags so give someone the gift of helping them reduce environmental degradation, and be organized when doing it.
- Stirring glasses. As I’ve mentioned before I buy nice stirring glasses when I find them in antique shops and at flea markets. They make excellent gifts and can in addition be used as decoration or vases.
- A nice set of playing cards. Or a Yatzy. Or the classic Swedish game “Throw the pig”. Cheap and fun. Everyone loves to have one of these around.
What gifts do you find yourself buying over and over again for people?
I took my time reading The organized mind by Daniel Levity, there was much I wanted to learn and think about in the process. The pages of this book are thus filled with margin notes and phrases highlighted with a fluorescent pen.
What this book does well is that it takes bits and pieces of research and put it together in a readable and interesting way. There are a lot of books floating around, on how to be more effective, on how to think sharper not harder etc. I haven’t read all of those, they might still be a great books on that topic but this is a good overview it seems.
I’m in familiar territory; his whole chapter on probability I just swam through as I studied statistics at university level. I have also read Daniel Kahnemans Thinking fast and slow, which Levity refers to more than once. The writer was a pupil of Amos Tversky who was a friend and research partner with Kahneman for long time. This is much in that vein of thinking (and the same dry humor as well).
Levitin also applies his findings, or the results of research by him and others, to everyday situations. There is an arc of the scientific base, examples from real life and then how you can use that to your own advantage, with the clear understanding that everyone is different. What I take away from this book might not be what you find most relevant. Again; I have an understanding of statistics (even though I’m as fallible as any human and ignore what I know to be scientifically reasonable in line of my ever so gullible gut-instinct). I was fairly organized to begin with, I could not manage my life if I wasn’t, so this book rather explained why I do some of the things I do. And as always, it’s good to re-evaluate habits and reasoning. These are seven things that I will take with me from this book, in no particular order.
- Notebooks make total sense. I had someone in my life that often questioned my love of calendars and notebooks, and instead extolled the virtues of using the phone for everything. It should come as no surpirse that I’m the person who never misses an appointment (unless I cancel because of an emergency) , remembers people’s birthdays and keep my promises. That person with everything in the phone? Not so much. I’m being a bit facetious, I also know people who manage life with their phones pretty well but usually that’s in tandem with something as old-fashioned as a piece of paper with a to-do list. The first thing to be more organized is to de-clutter the mind by storing information elsewhere. What pen and paper,whether it’s notebooks or index cards, allow for, simply put, is the storing and the restructuring of the information should need arise. I have ideas for many things and I couldn’t possibly keep it all in my head, so I use notebooks a lot. I don’t always know what I know, but I know where I keep the data. There is also a mounting amount of anecdotal evidence in favor of analogues systems. A calendar will give a very different overview of a week than a iPhone calendar. If you use the Google calendar its better but still. Obviously a lot of people would argue that my instance on this being a valid piece of advice from Levitin is my silly love of stationary making itself known. I would answer that with the argument that the increased popularity of bullet journaling is because it’s a great way of handling information and avoiding overload.
- Fiction is good for you. On page 119 Levintin points out that research has found that people who read literary fiction, i.e. not popular fiction or nonfiction, are better at detecting the emotions of others. Which means you are learning empathy in short. That’s what you do when you read; you engage with the thoughts and feelings of another and place your self in their shoes. I feel here that the caveats must be made that good literature can be best-selling, evidenced by the fact that A little life is on the best seller list in Sweden, popular fiction probably refers more to the likes of those Kepler-Mysteries that I have become fond of lately.
- You cannot catch up on sleep, but the solution to a problem might be found at the other end of nap. As a chronic insomniac I stick to sleep hygiene semi-religiously but I too have believed for a long time that a few nights of sleep deprivation can be ameliorated by a long weekend of relaxing. Not so. Being tired makes you, for a lack of a better word, stupid and you can’t make up for it. That said; if you have small children, things that need to be done or a job that requires a lot then there is nothing you can do. Oh wait; you can take naps. Those are really good for you, just make sure they are no longer then 20 minutes and not to late in the day. That whole siesta thing? There is now research to back up the Mediterranean lifestyle. Why not? The food in that area is great and I’m totally onboard with that whole nap thing. On the other hand they have a penchant for fascist leaders so maybe they haven’t got it all figured out just yet. And as thinking is hard, and uses a lot of energy, it is sometimes a really good idea to proverbially “sleep on it”. It really helps. In dreams we find a lot of solutions and having a fresh and alert brain doesn’t hurt either. Old wives tale backed up by science, once again.
- I need a wristwatch something awful. Levitin quotes someone who said something about “a man who has one watch knows the time, a man with two is never sure”. Well, a woman with no watch who has to use her phone to check the time is constantly distracted by information. I’m talking about myself here obviously. My beloved Seiko broke, I’m having a devil of a time finding a replacement because watches are huge nowadays and my wrists are tiny, and I have to resort to looking at my phone. And then I’m down the rabbit hole of IG comments, FB messages and what not. And I’m not alone in this. We are all easily distracted by stuff like that. Writing a blog post like this with my phone beside me is nearly impossible because I cannot stop checking updates. Flight mode+ timer is the solution here. Setting aside time everyday to reply to emails (most of which are superfluous to begin with) is a good routine. In between, try to avoid the phone or use one of those apps that filters communication.
- Make sure your ideas find you. Levitin brings up “daydreaming mode” a lot. It’s when your brain wanders from thought to thought and solutions and ideas present themselves, the brain at it’s most creative. Cultivate that mode. Remember what Gilbert/King said about ideas? By sitting at the desk everyday at a certain time, and being in the moment the ideas come. By making sure your brain recognizes that it can switch off (i.e. no distractions) when you sit at your desk and you let your thoughts roam free, then things will come to you. The brains ability to switch is the real magic here.
- There is a good argument for the Junk drawer. There is a place for everything, ad if you have less stuff there is good chance that you will be able to keep everything with other things in that category. Or you could buy staplers for every room so you don’t have to look for it /go get it. And things that are not in any other category make up one of their own. Marie Kondo will be horrified, famously so, but there is a time and place for things you do not know where to put. And so they end up in the junk drawer. The trick is to go through it every now and again and make sure that thing leave it. Some things will find a place in a newly arranged category (books that I’ve been given by publishers that I feel I want to read) or you find that it is no longer relevant (books that I’ve bought that I no longer want to read so I can give it away). And don’t have multiple junk drawers please, make a decision.
- Routines save a lot of time. I know this and have known it for a long time. I almost put my keys in the same place (and the only time I lose them is when I don’t). I have a sign on my door that ask “Do you have phone?Keys?Wallet?. I have no idea when books need to be returned to the library BUT I have signed up for the service where they send an email a few days before. I do not have to think about these things. I spend a lot of time looking for the cat for obvious reason but rarely waste time or incur fees for lost keys or unpaid bills. I know this to be true and will continue to live by it. It allows me to read without a nagging voice in my head telling me I should be doing other things becasue those things are already done. Being organized is essentially about doing the things that need to be done so that you can spend time doing what you want to do.
As things have resumed their normal pace, and schools are about to start, we finally have some sun and warmth in Stockholm. Better late than never? So let’s discuss summer cocktails and a few things pertaining to that. In fact let’s talk about ice in particular.
The standard for ice in cocktails has gone up the last few years. Any bartender with self-esteem will be seen hacking away at chunks of ice behind the bar because ready-made cubes are not so not OK anymore. Some bars have ready made cubes with their logo but that’s as close as it gets.
If I were to speculate at the reason for thither are primarily two; one being the revival of cocktails and the insight that a big ice cube melts slower and thus doesn’t dilute the drink as much. Which is correct and very reasonable. The other is those lovely Muji silicone spheres allowing the “at home bartender” to make big cubes with no fuss. As the whole point of going to bars is the experience and that it should be above the level of mere mortals they have had to up their game. That’s my theory anyways.
I have nothing but love for the Muji spheres and have gifted many a friend with a kit of one of those, some cool raw suger cubes and a decent cocktail spoon. I don’t use them myself though. I have a tray to make ice cubes in the shape of diamonds which I like, but the spheres are a little to big for the glasses I use. Instead I reuse those little plastic containers that they use for soy sauce at my local sushi place(sidenote; I rarely buy the sushi but prefer their dumplings). Ordinary as they may seem those little cups they make an excellent cube and can, if handled with care, be reused several times. Then it’s put in the recycling bin.
If you want to add further oomph to the visual appearance of your cocktail there are a slew of things that can be put in the ice as garnish. Fresh flowers is a classic, I tried using dried rosebuds this week and that looks OK. One thing I often do is put pink peppercorns in; it’s from a variation on a G&T that I found online the other year. Pink peppercorns in the ice, gin, tonic, grapefruit juice and dash of rosewater or rosewater syrup. Looks nice and tastes great. I encourage experimenting with this, many things loose their colour when frozen but something like juniper berries look very cool and ties nicely to gin in a G&T. They don’t release much flavor as they stay in the ice mostly.
Another obvious trick is to use frozen berries as ice. Excellent in a white wine spritzer or something like that. Try to use a little fresh basil with frozen strawberries; looks nice and a good combination of flavours.
Another good thing about putting things in the ice is that it obscures “the view”. With the nerdiness/snobbishness with ice bartenders talk about clarity in ice like my mother talks about diamonds. It has to be clear and see through to rate. Seriously. Spending to much time on achieving clear ice is the sign of a clouded judgement.
Have a great weekend everyone!
I don’t understand why people talk so much about cinnamon buns, cardamom has so much more to offer. This is not a best of list, mainly because I haven’t tried them all. A worthy goal it would be but lactose and I don’t agree so it’s a treat for sometimes when I can deal with the consequences. In no particular order, here are seven suggestions for where to cardamom buns in Stockholm. You people need more Swedish “fika” in your lives.
1. In the home of someone who bakes, and does it well. No surprise that homebaked goods are some of the best. I admire people who make the effort.
2. Fabrique. This chain has places scattered all over Stockholm(and one in London I think) and it’s very popular. Rather pricey but good coffee and buns and their places are very Instagram-able. Worth a visit.
3. Snickarbacken 7. I’ve blogged about this café before (here) and there is nothing I can add to that, except great cardamom buns. I don’t think they make them on site but rather by from a nice bakery but I don’t care.
4. Bröd och Salt. This is my “go to” as almost all their pastries are lactose free. I can indulge without repercussions. They have a few places around town, the one at Sveavägen is nicest for a “sit down fika”.
5. Saturnus. Another place I have mentioned before (here). Their cardamom buns are expensive but also big enough for two to share. Legendary.
6. Valhalla bageriet. This is where I think many cafés actually order theirs from. It’s a hole in the wall on Valhallavägen, so of the beaten path, but if you are in the neighborhood do swing by and also make sure to stock up on their sourdough bread.
7. Albert’s & Jacks. At the corner of Humlegården this place is found, great for lunch but also”fika”. I rate them very highly.
When I say “7 classic cocktails to know” what I’m getting at is proportions and techniques. Once you have those baseline parameters everything is just an extension or an adjustment of that. If you take a White lady and replace the lemon juice with limejuice and the gin with tequila, you have a Margarita. If you know how to make a Mojito you can figure out a Mint Julep, or replace the one of the ingredients like say the mint with basil for a twist on a classic. The last is obviously arbitrary, we could discuss which one’s to included for days, but these are well-known cocktails that most people like and knowing how to make them is an investment that pays off, even though it might make you a very picky customer if you go to a bar.
- Negroni. I love a Negroni, I really do. Campari is a complex ingredients as it is so keeping it simple was probably the best idea all along. Supposedly the idea came from Count Camillo Negroni who wanted to make a twist on what we now know as an Americano(Campari and red(sweet) vermouth) by adding gin, all in equal proportions. A third of each is a good idea for many cocktails And I often exchange the sweet vermouth for dry, or use sloe gin insert of of regular. Change the gin for whiskey and you have a Boulevardier if I remember correctly. I don’t know is swapping gin for tequila has a name but it should because it’s delicious. I have blogged more about this here.
- Martinez. Many people are familiar with Martinis but not all like them. Somewhere in the evolution there was a thing called a Martinez and I would like to bring that to your attention. With a base of gin it has both dry and sweet vermouth as well as some Maraschino( a cherry liqueur) and a few dashes of oranges bitters. More aromatic, and a bit sweeter, than a Martini it is the best of many worlds. That said I like it best with gin,dry vermouth only and the Maraschino and bitters. What I have also learned in my cocktails explorations is that 4 cl of gin, 2 cl of dry vermouth, a barspoon of whatever sweet and some bitters is a great start for a cocktail. Like this one.
- Old fashioned. I spoke about the deceptive simplicity and the usefulness of this cocktail not so long ago. It’s strong but is also such a treat to get. Mad Men has made it very popular gain and I for one am very glad about that. Now if only people stopped getting their knickers in a twist about Maker’s mark which comes in a cool bottle but really is overly sweet. Get a bourbon with some complexity people!! Instructions etc. here.
- Mojito. I could make a bit of a face and mumble “10 out of 10 basic bitches would choose” but Mojitos done right? A fresh good thing. What I mind when getting these are when they are stingy with the mint. And nowadays I only make Rosa Cubanas for myself because I’m always gonna be the oddball who likes the taste of roses in my glass. I do think you should join me in that, here is how.
- French 75. Another great template to play around with. The base is gin and then there is sugar,lemon juice and topped with champagne. If you swap the champagne for soda water you have a Tom Collins.I’ve fiddled around with this cocktail to make my own La Colombe (here). It’s great with light rum,limejuice,sugar and champagne too.
- The White lady. To mix a bas spirit with citrus juice and Cointreau is a winning concept. A White lady does is with gin and lemon juice, A margarita uses tequila and limejuice and a Sidecar contains cognac and lemon juice; the first and the last is usually shook with an egg white in the mix. Many people adhere to the notion of equal proportions with all of these but let me tell you those people are either deluded or lazy(or both) The best way is to use them in 4 cl of base spirit, 3 cl of juice and 2 cl of Cointreau. And then, as I’m always myself sadly, I go and swap some of the Cointreau for either homemade orange liqueur or bergamot syrup. Hopelessly trying to achieve the perfect balance. It really is a wonderful concept to work with, like here.
- Kir Royal. The basic concept of something sweet in the bottom of the flute topped with sparkling wine rarely fails. Kir Royal is with Créme de cassis and champagne but many have enjoyed a Bellini which is peach purée(at Harry’s bar in Venice where the Bellini was invented they only use white peaches) and that brunch time staple the Mimosa is in that vein. I love to use elderflower cordial, strawberry purée or sloe gin to mix with. Either of those three are wonderful with sparkling wine, so you can adjust to the season.
1. Seven kimonojackets every woman needs. I’m actually low-key working on this list but I get so many ideas for kimonojackets, then have to go off and make them. The list started as kind of sarcasm but quickly derailed. Full disclosure; I have something like dozen something items that can be filed under “kimono” at this point. All of them very necessary.
2. Seven classic cocktails everyone needs to know. This list will come. I just made the choice to clear out the bottles with rather esoteric content first, to start building a more user-friendly home bar and take it from there. All I hope now is that I don’t read something great and start making cocktails that is 50% home-infused something crazy and 50% very hard to get alcohol and thus make things that are too odd for most people to bother with( this is probably what will happen however because NERD).
3. Seven great ways to save money. I should apply myself and be more frugal or whatever and then write a list. I’m hopeless however.
4. Seven great tricks and things when working with calligraphy. I totally lost track of my calligraphy efforts. I should get back on that, with nibs, inks and everything else.
5. Seven ways to make your own fabric patterns. I only know like three or four but if I ponder the issue I will come up with more. I do have fabric in my home that has received my magic touch. It’s good fun. But do people actually want to see more photos of my home and closet?
6. Seven tricks to tackle big books. I like big books and I cannot lie. I should really write this list even though “make sure that you are snowed in” isn’t exactly helpful advice (but one of the reasons that I have managed War&Peace)
7. Seven great places to visit in Tokyo. I still want to go to Japan. My first two efforts failed(due to illness etc.) but one day it will happen and then I will write this list.