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.
So Genji died. I’m not spoiling anything I think, I knew beforehand that he would and I assume everyone knows that he does (it’s on the back cover so whatevs). But not with 400 pages to go!! That’s almost a third of the book, what now? I don’t know really, I cannot bring myself to pick up that or any other book and read at the moment. I’m gonna have to digest the loss of yet another fictional character. Yeah, I know, too invested in a book. But it’s been my daily companion for six weeks, it is now part of my routine. I have experienced pain and joy reading it (some of that pain quite literally; I’ve hurt my hand twice due to the size. The things I endure for art!!). So what then?
–I’ve started to read another blog that praises feminism, Nancy Mitford and probably cocktails (I assume anyways. I’m jumping to conclusions). Incidentally feminism, Mitfords and cocktails are a few of my favorite things.
-Have been dipping in and out of “Nära fåglar” about birds. It’s a very charming coffee table book.
-Catching up on my beauty blogs I have. I’m in good company when it comes to being annoyed with Tata Harper packaging.
-I’ve heard Swalla with Jason Derulo all summer. Danced to it too. I know the lyrics are awful but that’s a summer smash hit for you; all beats and no brain. This breakdown of the text is hilarious though. Let’s not talk about what the text really means.
–Watch episodes of “Hot ones”; the episodes with Russell Brand, YG, Padma Lakshmi and Neil Degrasse Tyson are my faves so far.
-Speaking of Padma; “Bed picknick” is #goalsAF but as a chronic insomniac that takes “sleep hygien” very seriously (and is well rested for it) it will never happen. Will try to make spending hours on the sofa more glamorous in future. When hopefully I’ll have time to just slouch, right now I’m busy, busy, busy.
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.
On my way home yesterday I passed by the florist and picked up a bunch of eucalyptus branches. As I got home I threw some leftovers together and put grated cheese on top, and while that was in the oven, I made a wreath.
I really wish that I was a better blogger, who planned these things and took photos along the way. I However, am the kind to go where the mood takes me and I was doing this while listening to a podcast, and frankly it was done before I could say “Hang on I should document this”.
Luckily, I’m not the only blogger out there (not even close) and variations on eucalyptus wreaths are all over the web. Just Google and you shall find. Mine was three rather long, straight branches bound tighter with some coarse yarn (although I imagine floral tape or thin wire is better). I then used a matte red grosgrain ribbon (I have loads of ribbon, all kinds, ever so useful) to tie a bow and lastly I stitched on a small “pearl” that I have saved since I shortened some dangle-y Bollywood earrings that I bought in Bethnal green once (they ended up being to heavy so I took off the lower two “pearls”). This is heavily influenced by my ERDEMxHM brooch/pin that I use all the time since I bought it.
So there you go; a very simple wreath to make, most things you need are available at a good shop and much room to make it in your own style. A lifetime of making floral wreaths to wear on my head for midsummer helped I guess. This can also be made with other kinds of branches.
A completely different, but equally stylish wreath would be to buy dried slices of orange and glue onto a thin cardboard cutout. Same thing with wrapping matchstick boxes in paper, and tie them with ribbon, and then glue those onto a cardboard cut out. I did that for someone else once and it was very chic. Wrapped them in pages of a paper I did, and used green ribbon. I think maybe I added a little bit of fir to every individual package for an added seasonal touch. (I obviously should get a life).
Nothing on this list is news to anyone, least of all to me. But I post it anyway as a gentle reminder to myself about what needs to be done. The dry eczema patches have started to show up on my legs and I’m itchy all. It’s that time of the year.
- Don’t shower every day. Haha obviously I don’t listen to this advice. I love taking a long shower. It does happen in periods that I cut down to every other day. And if I’m not doing much or seeing anyone I might skip it during a weekend.
- Use shower oil. As I insist on putting water on my skin some kind of product is needed. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it makes a difference it really does. Eucarin is alright.
- Christian Dior Créme Abricot. Crazy expensive but a pot lasts forever and saves my hands and nails; you massage it onto your nail beds. I still miss the sister product Baume de rose which did great things for my very dry lips.
- Body lotion; light weight and often. This is what I’ve learned over the years, that it is so much easier for me to keep my skin hydrated with a light weight body lotion and frequent application. The reason is mostly behavioral; a thicker cream needs to sink into the skin, I don’t have time for that or the inclination to walk around naked in a rather cold flat. And thus I avoid doing it and suffer as a consequence.
- Avoid synthetic fibers. Cashmere is king is king this time of year, as is silk,wool and cotton. I get itchy by synthetic fibers all times of the year just more so now.
- Eat salmon, avocado and other food rich in “good fat”. The kind of thing that I often forget makes a difference. It’s not just an excuse to eat avocado toast (but don’t worry; I never post them).
- Drink water and herbal tea. I forget to drink water during this time of year but I need it more than ever.
There is no getting around that no amount of mindfulness exercises will soothe my soul at this point. I’m having some “mail-drama” with mail being lost and now also my mail being opened when delivered. I filed a formal complaint on Monday and I’ve been advised to file another one and for that I had to sum up the number of things (and the value of them) and I feel gutted. I’ve basically been robbed. It might seem a silly thing to be upset about but it has an effect on my life as I cannot say yes to publishers that want to send me books, I’m not gonna order any myself, birthday present have gone AWOL apparently and I live in dread of getting like the electricity or gas shut off because they will claim I haven’t paid the bills (most of those have arrived. Nobody wants to steal my bills it appears, which is another indication that something is afoot; only the good stuff is missing. If I see any of my neighbors with Glossier blush it might get ugly).
Another reason for distress is that Murasaki died. Yes, I’m legit upset by the death of a fictional character. I’m talking, as so often, about Tale of Genji. I knew she was gonna die, I have read enough about the book and that is often analyzed. And she was awfully sick a few chapters ago which should have prepared me. But no. At this point I have read a chapter (or 30 pages) per day for a month and a half and I’m way to invested. They are family now (even the Kokkiden consort. I haven’t forgotten the malicious lies she told, but I’ll smile and be nice for now).
I’m gonna go watch trailers of Wes Anderson movies (as none of them are on HBO so I cannot watch the real deal). I’ll leave you with a few lists of yesteryear. Note to self; tag Christmas stuff better as to make it easier to find.
This isn’t about Christmas per se but a lot of things from the Asian Supermarket make for a nice present or sticking stuffer.
Gift guide 2016; On the wall
Gift guide 2016; On the vanity
Gift guide 2016; On the hangers
Gift guide 2016; On the bar cart
Gift guide 2016; On the table
Having nobody to create a bit of magic for wold save time and stress, but oh, the sadness.-Lucia Van Der Post
I love a lifestyle book, I really do. When done right it’s the perfect mix of lifehacks and the comforting words of an older sister I never had. I have a few, and for you I flicked through them looking for salient pieces of advice that will hopefully be helpful in the weeks to come. Let’s get cracking.
- Christmas books. I have mentioned The wonderful weekend book many times but I do find it a great seasonal companion, just as a little reminder and source of good ideas. I do not do all of the things all of the time, but since I’ve had it I have tried several recipes, gone with suggestions and embraced the spirit of it. Some of the things I probably did even before, which why it appeals to me. Christmas books is such a thing, I reread A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens every year. I should get more though; Thompson mentions John S. Goodall’s An Edwardian Christmas which sounds like the thing I would love, and The Oxford book of Christmas poems of which I hope to manage to get several as it would make a great Christmas gift.
- Drills make great gifts. Rita Konig’s Domestic Bliss-how to live does not a have a Christmas section, but it does have one dedicated to presents. In that she points out that nice drills, preferable cord free and with a light in the front for drilling in the back of cupboards, is a great gift for men. I will add that it is also a great gift for women. There is no amount of singing “Run the world” by Beyoncé or writing papers about suffragettes that has been as emancipating in my life as the moments when I have been able to put up shelves and paintings for myself. I don’t need no man for that. I have also done it for several of my friends. Just get on with it.
- Don’t ever give children anything that makes a noise. This is from Konig’s book, but also something that I knew before.
- Consider a winter picnic. Mentioned in both Thompson and Konig’s books ( in this case I’m referring to Rita’s culinary trickery) it does mean a very different thing in the U.K. In Sweden we might have some serious snowfall around this time of year. Which mean that you can go sleigh riding down the slopes; no matter how old you are it’s still fun. If you feel like an idiot, volunteer as a babysitter for someone you know’s child and then use the child as an excuse. Kids love it and their parents will be forever grateful for a few hours off during the weekend. But you really must put nice things in the basket; warm apple juice with a bit of cinnamon in it to drink, that sort of large thermos intended for meals is a great investment in any case but for this they are brilliant as you can bring bangers and mash with you, or fried dumplings. Can you imagine that; being out on excursion and being able to enjoy some dumplings, maybe a bit of fried rice and cups of smokey lapsang tea. Glorious. And don’t be naff trying to it with chopstick, just pierce them with a fork. You probably want to keep your mittens on while eating bc. of cold. When it comes to dessert, for lack of a better word, on these kinds of picnics I cannot imagine anything but orange flavored milk chocolate. Integral part of winter adventures in my childhood, it has shaped me for life.
- What Christmas requires is profusion. Lucia van der Post is to the point with that piece of advice. I always say that there is safety in numbers (I’m a bloody economist of course I would say that) but there is also style in numbers. Many a sophisticated person have figured this out and I have learned from them. Twenty tulips look great, a big bowl of tangerines just catches the eye and a long row of tealights, even placed in the cheapest bodega glass, looks wonderful.
- Start small. Again; Van der Post has some good advice. She does point out that decorating the house is a cumulative project, there are layers and layers that get added on. Having the complete thing from the beginning is impossible and even if you went out and bought everything now, you probably wouldn’t like it in a few years becasue it will date quickly, there are trends to Christmas too (and that is saying nothing about the fact that it is lack a sense of time or tradition). If I was to start collection Christmas ornaments now I would probably focus on birds because in a few years it would look incredibly chic with a Christmas tree with just bird baubles, even though they would represent different trees there will still be a theme. That’s not how it will play out though , my tree is an eclectic mix of inherited, bought and made (crochet napkins rings by my pseudo-auntie) and it’s like a photo album. I still love it (and I saw a donut bauble in a shop today and I’m gonna buy it. So there. That makes me happy. In the end there is nothing as boring as too much good taste).
- No shame in a bit of catering. I’m 100% behind Van der Post on this one. This whole “oh, one must do it all oneself” bollocks is gonna make us all go mad. There are some amazing delis, I have a lot of love of the frozen food of Picard and even the supermarket has much to offer in this. Do a few key things that you care about yourself, and let professionals take care of the rest. I haven’t baked a saffron bun in years, I might still bake the gingerbread snaps but I buy the dough. Christmas is about eating good food TOGETHER, not about the food. And don’t both cleaning either; after Christmas you’ll have to do it all agin, just tidy up a few choice areas (my mum always checks the stove top so that sparkles when she visits; just don’t look in larder).
I’ll probably return tomorrow with another list because I’m in the mood for it. False sense of having everything under control being the prime reason.