7 things that say summer

IMG_3427I’m not saying it’s a heatwave yet but the weather has improved. I’m trying my best to get into a summer mood and books and attire are a part of that. These are a few of the things setting the tone for my life right now.

1.Nuxe oil. There is no getting around it, I love a bit of Nuxe in general and like so many the scent of their classic dry oil is a summer stapel. I was given a small bottle of their oil with shimmer in it and use that on hair and a little bit of everywhere for a nice glow. On top of a proper SPF obviously( La riche-posey Anthelios SPF 50 is my go to).

2.Sandals. The only time of year that you can wear them. I went with a very basic black sandal this year but it is an area where I have been known to be very colorful.

3. Hot pink lips and nails. The nail polish is “So there” from H&M(both on fingers and toes) and the lipstick is “Giacomo” from Tom Ford for daytime and “Electroclash” from H&M Beauty for evenings. I bought a nice tinted lip balm from Tom Ford earlier in the season but it was rubbish and just broke off and then I couldn’t apply it. I guess I should have gotten a little pot to put it in(it was expensive) but I was so pissed off that I just threw it in the bin. Only time I’ve had a bad experience with a product from that range.

4. Sunglasses. Obviously. These are a big pair of Jackie O style things I’ve actually have managed to hold onto since last year. I famously leave sunglasses and umbrellas all over the place and thus stick to inexpensive ones.

5. A big ring. This is something that I’ve made out of an old button but it looks the business. And as I don’t have to worry about gloves it’s the season to wear this in daytime.

6. Un jardin sur le Nil from Hermès. This is a very good scent for summer, almost a cologne but just enough of citrus and herbs to work in heat and yet be refreshing. It smells sweeter on me in summer which I like, still crisp, but softer than when I wear it during the rest of the year (it is s very good perfume if you work in an office environment where people are sensitive).

7. Crime novels. I don’t often read this genre but if I do it’s during June,July and August. I have read two Agatha Christie short stories, The return of Sherlock Holmes and some contemporary stuff, and I’m eyeing the shelves for more. I’ve received some great recommendations so we’ll see where I end up.

-Suss

7 classic cocktails to know.

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.

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

-Suss

Wednesday & What I’ve been wearing

As we have had a bit of sun, but more importantly a lack of rain, in these parts I’ve had the chance to wear a few of my dresses. This is a few of them(i.e. the ones I’ve remembered to take mirror selfies when wearing).

1.Long sleeved dress made of an old curtain. I bought this fabric intending to make a blanket and some cushions. In fact I did, but didn’t use them so it got turned into a dress. It was from a second hand shop and there was only one length, somewhat damaged. Enough to make this however. I use it more in winter because of the sleeves and the colours (which are amazing I think). Probably from the 60’s? IMG_2284 (1)

2. Silk dress with feather print. This is a bit too fancy for daytime according to some. I ignore those people. One of my pet peeves is when buying a nice silk dress from a store they are lined with synthetic fabric. What’s the point rather? This fabric, a nice light silk, was a gift and I had enough of it to line it with silk also, which makes it ideal to wear in summer as it keeps nice and cool. I do love the print but it is one where I feel my glasses don’t match. IMG_3271

3. Remade dutch wax print. This started as a tunic and trousers that my parents got as a gift from a friend. It was folded away in a drawer somewhere until I got my mittens on it. I saved the detail with  the collar and buttons, but fashioned a dress from the rest. Again; lovely colours, it’s got pockets and it’s a nice cotton. And yes; I wear everything with a black cardigan.IMG_3191

4. Long dress made of my mum’s old jacket and skirt. This used to be two pieces that my mum wore in the 90’s. It’s a thin viscose and a some wear and tear(but also the fact that she is several sizes bigger) left enough fabric for a long sleeveless dress. As I’m sensitive to the sun it’s good to have a few longer pieces for summer least I forget to reapply sunscreen. I have worn this a lot and as it was old fabric it’s on it’s last legs sadly. I love the print on this and have a similar print on a woolly winter dress.

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-Suss

7 kimonojackets every woman needs

At this point it is a well known fact that I love a kimonojacket. I’m partial to jackets(and coats) in general which is because they are easy to use and easy to make. When I advocate that people have a kimono-wardrobe I’m only half joking. They make a lot of sense and since a dramatic sleeve is supposedly very trendy now I find myself being a)on point fashion wise and b)in a position to advocate that a kimono sleeve is the kind of dramatic sleeve to consider. They will not go out of style anytime soon.

  1. The actual kimono. I have a vintage one bought in Paris. I’ve used it many times as a dressing gown but also as outerwear. However no pics that I can take of myself will better illustrate the usefulness and beauty of a kimono than these of Life in a Cold climate.
  2. The instead of a blazer one. I have made, out of an old linnen tablecloth that I dyed blue, a jacket and a pair of trousers in a sort of matador style. This is the closest thing I have to a suit. I probably should get a suit to look professional and further my career or whatever, but this works really well and I get a lot of compliments. It is more likely that I at some point make another set like this in pinstripe. Very useful as separates and packs a punch when worn together. Shown here in a more relaxed way with a t-shirt.IMG_3245
  3. The up-cycled one. There is this tradition of mending jackets using Japanese embroidery which was part of what inspired me to make my patchwork jacket that I’ve shown before. I’ve also made a dressing gown from an old worn out Missoni sheet. Due to a combination of cat and my own clumsiness whatever I wear to loaf around the house needs to be washable in 60 degrees. This one is and very soft too. It is more in the ethos of the Japanese tradition then an exact replication of it. As kimono jackets are easy to make they lend themselves to all matter of recycling of materials. I also have one made out of an old tartan blanket from IKEA. Oh and the one I made out of my parents 70’s curtains is well-used. IMG_0494
  4. The leopard print one. I do not have one of these, not yet. It is something I dream of, one of those mad ideas that I get, and the lack of a good leopard print is what’s stopping me. It needs to be just the right size print for it to look good, leopard print is tricky like that. One day it will happen, and it will be glorious.
  5. The Halston rip-off. Halston, that 70’s designer genius, made a kimonojacket in suede. Oh, to have been alive then to see it. ACNE made a similar thing a few years ago, being very open about where the inspiration came from. At some point I will make one in fake-suede. It will look very sexy in say a mint green or a teal with some jeans and a red lip( ha! I wear red lips with everything because RED LIPS!). I’m sure it’s a manrepeller but I do not care, that jacket will happen.
  6. The knitted one. As previously mentioned, they are easy to make. I am no knitter but I do know how to “knit one,pearl one” and that’s all you need. Then I made the different panels(back,two fronts, and the sleeves) in a rather coarse yarn that was only part wool and stitched it all together. It didn’t take that long as I used size 8 knitting pins(that is huge btw). I have a velvet ribbon in the same colour as a belt. Very good as outerwear, mine is in a deep plum so I use it mostly during autumn.
  7. The high-street one. They are often in fashion and buying a nice one with a floral print to use as a cover up during summer is a great idea.

-Suss

7 strategies for tackling big books

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By popular demand I give you my list of strategies for tackling big books(i.e. two people said they were interested). It should be noted that once you go down the big book path your perception changes. I’ve made the cut-off mark att around 700 pages but some would say that anything over 500 is a tome. Like really, 500 pages is big? That’s like half of Bleak house(<– obviously a remark made by a madwoman. But if loving Dickens is wrong I don’t want to be right). It should also be noted that having a rather terrier like personality make it easier to handle a greater number of pages.

1. Make sure it’s a good book to begin with. This is rather self-explanatory. If it’s a good book, then it will draw you in and time will fly as you move from one page to the next. I’ve read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell many times and it never feels like +800 pages. It feels like a minute and a half when I’m immersed in that world. It always ends too soon.

2. Be inspired. There is nothing like a recommendation from a trusted source or a loving introduction to ease the way. I got into reading The story of the stone (five installments à 800 pages) because the man who translated it wrote a column in the paper that was pretty much a love letter, and in every volume there was an introduction that described his process and all the care and devotion that had gone into it. If I at any point swayed in my determination then I thought of that, to respect the work and the love that had gone into it. The same with A little life, when feeling the strain of the story I thought of friends who had recommended it and their praise. In hindsight they were absolutely right. Later, when I heard Hanya Yanigahara speak, she told about her editor wanting to trim it down cirka 300 unspecified pages. It would not have been the same book, and lucky for us she stuck to her guns.

3. Be snowed in/stranded on an island. Not the most applicable advice but I will say that many a big book has been tackled when at the cottage during bad weather( i.e. most of the time). Did I during June of this year finish A place of greater safety by Hilary Mantel(about 800 pages) whilst there? I did indeed. A rainy week will do wonders for my reading. The light version is bringing it on a long haul flight( what are you gonna do instead? Watch the bad movie in-flight movie? Sleep?) or getting the book from the library. That will give you a soft deadline when the first four weeks are up and then a hard deadline when you can no longer extend the loan. Returning a book late is not an option, it would mean disappointing librarians and I cannot bear that( they probably don’t care, I just have a mental image of the librarian we had at school where I grew up. Never mad, just disappointed). I have failed however and returned a book or two half-read.

4. Draw up a strict reading schedule, make sure to have a little treat at every point. Take the books number of pages, divided that by the number of days you want to read it in and bada bing, you have your allowed daily page count. Possibly adjust to fit with chapters. Make sure to devote time to the pages and it’s vital that you have coffee and a few pieces of salty licorice every time (or tea and a brownie; whatever your vices are). Shortly the reading will be something to look forward to. And ticking off the allotted pages is the kind of positive feedback the brain needs ( don’t quote me on that, it’s not scientifically proven I think. But it could be and it is in line with my “good girls do everything they said they would do mentality”. Oh, the satisfaction of checking things of the list). Humming Rihanna’s “Work” in between reading sessions is a good idea. If you attempt this strategy with War and Peace by Tolstoy I will point out, as I always do when reading this novel is the topic, you are allowed to skim when Pierre has his long rants. Tolstoy is just using him as a mouthpiece for his own opinions and it isn’t all that relevant to the plot.

5. Get a reading buddy. Nothing like moral support to get the job done. You can have a karaoke session singing “It takes two” by Marvin Gaye before you start and possibly during the process. Having someone to discuss the agonies of reading that big.old.thing with, and then at a later point discussing who did what with who behind the shed and sending that ” On p.689. Oh no he didn’t!!! So so pissed” message in the middle of the night to. Because beware; the joys and sorrow of a big book is that can draw you into it’s world, and when there you loose yourself, and get too bloody invested. You are a grown woman, and still you cry when fictional characters die? FFS Suss, get a hold of yourself. (full disclosure and preempting the criticism; a big book isn’t needed to move me necessarily. Shakespeare gives me all the feels). I still have the ambition to read Tristram Shandy and Tale of Genji; if anyone is interested in joining me in that, let me know.

6. Be unfaithful. Having your big book at home, caressing it’s spine in the evening and giving it all your devotion might be easier if you have something light in your bag, just a little bit of something to give comfort when you are out and about. I promise I won’t tell. Great undercover lovers include Bashō, Nancy Mitford and How to be a heroine by Samantha Ellis.

7. Think of the rewards. There is no doubt that to many tackling the Russian classics and works of Dickens, means you are part of the elite reader force. You earn a badge of honour, it’s like climbing Mount Everest. I don’t necessarily think in those terms as the reading is enough for me but undoubtedly the fact that I did make it through In search of Lost time by Proust(not a big book but a suite but logic still applies) and have read my fair share of tomes comes in handy in certain conversations. And once you have tackled a few big books it isn’t so intimidating any more which is a good thing in it self. Fear and apprehension shouldn’t rule what you read and not, love and curiosity should.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Probably. I can get Dickensian in my ramblings about books.

Now go forth my minions and tackle Wolf Hall, A little life or anything by a dead Russian. You can do it, I know you can.

-Suss

7 list I should be writing.

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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.

-Suss

7 translations to consider

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I’ve been asked once or twice about Swedish literature. Most of the stuff I like isn’t translated into english, the stream flows the other way, but a few things have gotten through. This is not all of it but a few books in no particular order.

1. The gravity of love by Sara Stridsberg. Stridsberg has a sharp pen, she didn’t get ask to join the Swedish academy for nothing. In this she manages to tell the story of a father who never was just that, but one who spends time in a mental institution and about a child, who like all children, accepts and interprets anything as love. Heartbreaking but also warm and understanding.

2.Bret Easton Ellis and the other dog by Lina Wolff. Full disclosure: I have not read this book. I have read anther of hers and people tell me this is also good. If nothing else Bret Easton Ellis and other dogs is a smashing title.

3. Blackwater by Kerstin Ekman. This novel still brings it. It’s a crime novel that is also the story of a small village in transition. About who belongs and who doesn’t and about trust. I don’t know about the translation but the Swedish original is written in a beautiful language.

4. The Expedition by Bea Uusma. I’m so happy that this books has been translated as it is one I really love. In her twenties Uusma read a book about the Andrée expedition to try to reach the North pole, an expedition that ended in the death of all members for reasons that have never been properly explained. After many years of thinking and reading about it she decided to investigate full time and find out the truth. A book about obsession and the power of hope. This is non-fiction and award winning at that.

5. The summer book by Tove Jansson. I’ve recommended this book many times, and bought copies for friends abroad. Jansson is close to my heart because of Moomin but also this which I reread every year. As a child I didn’t see the darkness in it, at this point in life I think I see nothing but. Small scenes that together paint the picture of a summer and a life.

6. The visit of the royal physician. Elegant and intimate this historical drama from the Danish court in the 18th century  tells the story of a king that may or may not have lost his marbles, a doctor that is supposed to help him but ends up taking his job and his wife and a woman that finds love and freedom in the most unexpected place.

7. The price of water in Finisterre. The much missed, but utterly unique, voice of Malmsteen comes through loud and clear in this her first book about her life in France. One day she had had enough of Sweden and decided to up sticks and move. Her life in Bretagne didn’t end up like she expected but she wrote about it lovingly. It became a blogg and then several books that became collected musings on life,culture and getting older. This first book was more prosaic in a very good way. She did became all of Sweden’s favorite ex-pat I think. Some went on pilgrimage to where she lived.

-Suss