It’s a new year,but I’m still writing 2017 out of habit. That will change sometimes March but what I will hopefully continue writing is in my journal.
I’ve always wanted to keep a journal but never really managed; too much pressure to do it well or something. But it’s a form of writing that takes time to find a rhythm and style for. In many cases my notebooks and calendars form a record of my life, but I’ve wanted more. Not for the sake of prosperity knowing what I’ve done with my life but for the small reflection that it entails. I’ve spent a lot of my life living day-to-day, not wanting to make to grand a plan in fear of failure and not reflecting on what the everyday doings mean to me. Last year I got a great Christmas gift; a day to day journal, but only a few lines to write on. Just enough for me to jot down a few words. No big empty page that I had to fill with my rather mundane musings (side note; mundane musings should be the name of this blog).
However, I did it all last year. Not every day but most. A few lines, nothing lengthy. It became a habit, and one that I sort of enjoy. So I continue. This year I took one of the unused notebooks that I have,and plan to use that ( but I’m running out of unused notebooks can you believe it).
This particular notebook was bought at Liberty in London and it is no ordinary thing; the full title is “Let’s bring back -a journal. For the musings, noting and reminiscences of modern nostalgists”. That’s a mouthful for sure. Scattered among the pages are little tips and recommendation for vintage living in the modern world, all put togheter by Lesley M. M. Blume. I also have the “Let’s bring back- a vintage cocktail book” that I enjoy. But that’s for another day. Speaking of the journal, these are seven suggestions for better living that I’ve come across when browsing it, and that I like. Passing it on to you.
- Watch a black and white Fred Astaire movie.
- Paste bookplates into your favorite books. This one resonates with me. I’m gonna stick with my Chinese stamp but I should get everyone bookplates as gifts from now on.
- Throw a party and build a glistening champagne tower. Popular in the 1920s, such towers are still the prettiest monuments to decadence. I’m soooo putting this on the 2018 “to do-list”. Watch this space.
- Amaze and amuse your friends with a color-themed dinner party menu. One historical “red”supper included cherry soup, roast beef with beets, tomato salad, and raspberry sherbet with ripe strawberries. This one is actually already in the works, my friends and I just need to set a date.
- Write in this diary every day, so you’ll have record of your youthful adventures. She would write that wouldn’t she? Besides, I’m too old to have youthful adventures.
- Purchase several pairs of brightly colored elbow gloves. Smart mid-century women used them to chicly elevate even the plainest little black dresses. This sounds like excellent style advice, but where does one get gloves like that?
- Design a family crest, and put whatever you like on it-from lions and dragons to the family Labrador. I’ve talked it over with the cat and she thinks that it is no more than fair that she gets immortalized in this way.
Sorry about the lack of pictures, you will have to use your imagination. Trying to give you a few ideas at least.
- Actual hangers. When I moved away from home many years ago I started getting IKEA hangers, the sturdy wooden kind, and have added to them little by little. I have all matching hangers, and it makes me feel like I have my shit together. And they also keeps my clothes in good knick. Having good hangers makes dressing easier that way.( That my closet is overstuffed is another problem; the hangers are all that). Try IKEA or those velvet clad, sleek plastic ones; had I started organizing my clothes today that is what I would go for as they take up very little space.
- Cashmere socks. I’m obsessed with cashmere, I know. I also live in fear of cold feet, and I’m not the only one. Give someone you love the gift of warm feet this Christmas.
- Nice bathrobe. A rather classic gift, but useful. There are terry cloth robes for huge amounts of money, or rather cheap ones. Muji has a nice white one in that sort of waffle cloth, the high street has some really sexy ones in bold prints if you want to go down that lane. Think about the recipient and choose accordingly. I would also suggest looking at museums, I know the Museum of south-east Asian art here has some lovely kimonos.
- A nice brooch/pin. May be something that would have been a better in the “on the Vanity gift guide” but I’m throwing it in here (I forgot). They work for all sizes, come in many different styles and can be used endlessly. Don’t by the expensive little thing with gemstones, go for the slightly bigger thing with paste. Second hand shops/antique shops are good places to look.
- Cedar or lavender balls/bags/squares to keep away moth. If you can think about buying some from places like Santa Maria Novella or The White company but again Muji can be your friend here. Probably not a great gift all on its own but with some Cashmere socks? Taking care of your clothes is mentioned in all the Style books.
- A book about style. Speaking of which; a book about style is a good Christmas gift. There are at this point both big coffee table books with pages and pages of pictures of well-dressed people, and smaller books full of very practical advice. Both categories are nice to find underneath the tree. Do make sure to write a little greeting in the book, that personal touch matters.
- A shoe polish set. I’ve included this in gift guides before but it is the kind of thing for which there is a never-ending need. Buying shoe polish is very necessary but also the kind of thing that is too easy to forget. Same with sneaker cleaner.
First of all let me offer you one of my reflections about alcohol and Christmas; it’s not the best of combinations. I love Christmas and all the flavours and find it endlessly inspiring, and cocktails is often the result. So here I offer up a few suggestions, and I do so early in the season as it is the kind of thing that is best enjoyed with friends. Making slightly more advanced cocktails is usually a good way to keep people from drinking too much, or at least people act a little better when they drink in my experience. But when the actual holiday comes along, when it’s time to sit down to a family dinner, then alcohol is probably the last thing you need in that potent mix of rich foods and racist relatives (everyone has a racist uncle it seems). If you are on a diet, or just don’t want to gain weight then chosing water over wine is an easy way to cut calories, if you can live with the questions. Sadly people who don’t drink alcohol get their sanity questioned. Like any kid has ever wanted drunk parents for Christmas.
That said, people do drink and I would like to offer a few nice things, and I tried to make these fairly universal i.e. not dependent on weird Swedish seasonal ingredients.
- Saffron tonic (to be mixed with gin, vodka or white wine based glögg). This is a staple in my home and on the blog. No surprise to anyone but let’s go though it again. You take a small (0.5 dl) bottle of generic tonic like Schweppes and the bottle MUST HAVE A SCREW ON CAP! You also need proper saffron threads, they usually come in a tin or jar. A little harder and more expensive to buy initially but oh so easy to use (and higher quality. You get what you pay for). Then you screw off the cap, add a few saffron threads, screw the cap back on, and let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes. You’ll have a yellow tonic with a lovely flavor, proceed like you would a usual G&T with ice and such. As the tonic has a bit of a bite it make a good non-alcoholic alternative just on its own with ice and a slice of lemon. Very grown-up taste.
- A “Fairytale of New York”. This is a twist on a New York sour that I make this time of year, and I’ve named it after the classic, and brilliant, Christmas tune by The Pogues. It does require cold Glögg or left over mulled wine. Usually it is made with red wine and I replace that with the Christmas tipple. Instruction can be found here.
- A riff on something I drank once. At a bar in Stockholm you can have this drink with dark rum, dry vermouth and coca-cola syrup and smoke. Something that tastes really good is 4 cl of dark rum, 2 cl of dry vermouth, 1.5 cl of syrup made with gingerbread spices and 1 drop of liquid smoke. The syrup is made by mixing 2 dl of sugar, 2 tablespoons of finely ground gingerbread spices with 1,5 dl of boiling water, and whisk until all the sugar has dissolved. Let it cool before transferring to a clean jar, store in the fridge (it will keep around two weeks).
Three very simple things, each trying to pick up on an element of the Christmas palate. Given that Byredo makes three seasonal candle every year, three seasonal cocktails seemed apt. You do not need seven. No really, you don’t. That is not what this holiday is about.
When it comes to gifts for the bar cart, in many ways I recommend all of the things from last years. That list has aged well. But given the chance that you bought all of those things and still would like to give a little something special to the cocktail-enthusiast in your life, let me offer seven suggestions.
- A nice bottle of Cognac or Armagnac. First of all don’t say “Brandy”. Cognac and Armagnac are districts, this is similar to Champagne in that it is a geographical definition but there is very little Cognac that is bad (overpriced however? Possibly). Brandy is is a catch all term for everything from ambrosia to stuff that is better used to clean medical equipment. With Cognac and Armagnac the odds are with you, and I predict a comeback for this grape-derivative. After a few years of bourbon-hype (I blame hipsters) and a much needed tequila/mezcal-revival ( and damn it; hipsters are responsible for that too so I cannot make rude jokes) I think the time is right to bring back Cognac as a cocktail ingredients. In 2018 Margaritas will be replaced by Sidecars to begin with, and I see in my cristal ball that there will be a couple of cool things re discovered and a handful invented. You don’t have to go higher than V.S.O grading as it is for cocktails.
- All of the cocktail books I’ve recommended before+ Cocktail garden. I haven’t bought any new cocktail books lately but had a look at Cocktail garden and it stuck the right note between useable and fun. I really want to encourage people to use more fresh ingredients in their cocktails; it makes a world of difference in taste but also appearance, and it is a chance to play around and be creative without breaking the bank (yours truly has poured a lot of expensive alcohol down the drain as my cocktail making efforts have rendered it undrinkable).
- Metal straws. I read in an interview recently that Tom Ford had replaced all the paper stars with metal ones in his home in an effort to reduce carbon footprint and amount of waste. He has small children so I assume that milk, juice and smoothies are drunk through straws (and besides Ford is a teetotaler? Sober alcoholic?). Good for Tom that he is responsible in that regard. However, that thinking is also applicable when it comes to long drinks. Very stylish that, metal straws for your Gin Fizz.
- Coasters. Cocktail glasses, in fact all glasses, leave rings on tables if not careful. Nice coaster are thus a good gift, and can be adjusted to the recipients taste. Pretty much every museum I’ve been to this year has had a set in their shop.
- Champagne bucket. I’ve spoken lovingly about punch bowls before, and it should be noted that some punch bowls can easily be filled with ice and used to chill champagne, prosecco or many small bottles of tonic should you want to. I personally have a slightly taller and slimmer champagne bucket that also serves double duty as a waste basket under my desk or frequently as a vase for branches or big bunches of flowers.
- Homemade sweet vermouth. My love of a Negroni is well-known I think, and for that (and many other cocktails) you need sweet vermouth. Having started to make my own I have never looked back. An easy and inexpensive gift to give a friend. Find my recipe here.
- Ice moulds. I’ve mentioned this before but it seems that not all of the world has gotten the memo so I repeat; Muji has a few excellent moulds in silicone to make nice ice cubes. Why haven’t you gotten them already? It makes all the difference to a drink.
So let us start the Christmas shopping a little bit. Never hurts to start thinking about it in time, Christmas eve is upon us faster then you know.
Buying books as Christmas gifts (or gifts at all) is both heaven and hell. As a book lover I always want to share that love and make other people excited about reading, but giving them thick Russian classics isn’t always the best way. And that’s not even addressing the minor problems or a) have the recipient possibly already read it b) what does the recipient like to read at all? So my strategy, unless I know for a fact that there is a particular title that is on the wish list ( i.e. books for my father and brother) I usually go with collections, books to browse or a little something feel good.
- Anything by Peter Mayle. A year in Provence is such classic but it is a readily available and super cosy winter read. Reading about their Christmas in France during the holidays brings cheer. And his written several other books in the same style, that also work just fine. Good food, good wine and crazy “frogs”; what’s not to like?
- The Crazy Rich Asian trilogy by Kevin Kwan. I’ve talked about these a lot but I do love them, and think that they are suitable for so many people. They are funny and smart at the same time. Great on a holiday.
- A poem for every night of the year compiled by Allie Esiri. I bought this book last year and I have read a poem most nights, which I think is a great little thing to do. There is now a companion A poem for every day of the year, which I have my eye on. The first one is intended for children but I’d say anyone between the ages 5 and 105 can get something out of it. And you don’t have to read a poem every night, but should you fancy it – you’ll find something very suitable in this (and fear not; there is Byron among them).
- A food lovers book of days by James and Kay Salter. Another one I keep talking about but I think that it is scandalously underrated and unknown. Just these little lovely entries about something food related for every day, a few recepies. Celebrate the season and all that.
- A time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Another book that I think is sort of feel good (or at least very engaging) and suitable for many people. Fermor’s travels through Europe in the 30s does capture the imagination and he writes ever so well.
- On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder. Neither feel good nor something to “dip in and out of”, but as I was putting together this list I decided that this little book might be one of the best stocking stuffer of all time.
- Let Proust change your life by Alain de Boton. Just the right amount of philosophy and air of French intellectual that anyone need during the Christmas holidays. Both fun and informative; you are giving people a possible new outlook on life.
NB: This is a repost from last year; in broad strokes the advice holds up. Thought it be a good idea to share it again. /Suss
I start out months before , thinking to myself”I’ll get something thoughtful. It will be touching, and then I won’t have to spend as much!” And then I think “that’s a lovely idea, well done”. And then I’m so pleased with myself,I don’t do anything about it. So then you have to fudge your way through by overspending on beauty.
– A husband explains his dilemma in an old December issue of British Vogue
On Thursday it’s December first which means that Christmas is coming, and time flies when you are sipping on Mulled wine and listening to Wham. The best way to tackle the shopping is head on with list in hand.
1.Read the whole post before you begin.
2. Get yourself something nice to drink. Get pen and paper. Write a list of all the people you feel you should buy gifts for.
3. Check that list again. Do you really have to buy gifts for all of them? Maybe a suggestion to the family that it’s time to do some kind of “secret Santa”- exchange instead. A lottery maybe? It worth considering.
4. Allocate a budget to each name. It might feel harsh but a lot of people overspend during Christmas and few manage to put away money for it during the year.
5. Gifts are a sensitive issue; most people( adults that is) prefer getting thoughtful gifts rather than expensive last-minute buys. Although we all have sympathy for the situation. There are a few tricks and tips that are worth noting:
- Several small gifts is often a better idea then a big one; statistically you are more likely to get one of them “right”. And everyone loves opening gifts, everyone!
- Few lack things, it is rather a case of having too much already, so making aforementioned several small gifts a mix of consumption goods and a thing or two to keep is a safe bet i.e. a nice cookbook tighter with a premium olive oil and maybe a spice or two related to the cookbook.
- Think of a theme; it doesn’t have to be outspoken but rather as a concept you adhere to. A nice small bottle of Champagne, a cashmere sweater(from Zara or H&M) and a paperback is a nice evening at home. A map of the world, a journal and pen is something to have on the wall to plan trips and to keep a journal while traveling.I think you catch my drift.
- Consider shopping online. Etsy is a great place to find unique gifts, and most big brands have online shops which saves time and energy. Nobody enjoys having to drag around heavy bags or overcrowded stores. Ordering in time is a necessity though.
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.