Life&London

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I’ve taken you to Venice, I’ve taken you to Paris; might I invite you to one of my favourite places in London too?

I shall not pretend that I’m not very comfortable in Mayfair or around Sloan Square. Which very much has to do with the fact that I actually not belong there; I’m a cat among the ermines and I enjoy it. As a Scandinavian (albeit one that doesn’t look it because short and a brunette) I pretend I own the place. In the east end it’s the same thing but opposite; I don’t belong because I’m not hip nor genuin enough. But I do love that part of London.

The flower market at Columbia Road is so wonderful. I also very much enjoy shopping for fabrics and Bollywood earrings in the Indian shops that I pass getting there. Dennis Sever’s house is one of my fave museums(except it isn’t a museum,it’s a living tableaux). Oh and the beigle bakery in Brick lane. Get the strudel; almost as good as in Vienna. And if If I want a bit of that east end vibe when I don’t have a chance to go ? The Gentle Author takes me there.

I actually saw this book at the Brick lane bookshop when I was in London in 2014 but didn’t buy it because it was a brick of a book(pun intended) and my bags were already full to the brim. But I had a look when I got home and found it online. It started as a blog so it’s divided into many small chapters about the people,places and past of Spitalfields in the East end. There are probably very strict geographical lines to adhere to, as a bloody Swedish tourist it’s all the East End to me and I can’t tell Spitalfields from Shoreditch. I think I might just be a tad proud of that in fact.

The point is that this book is a darling thing to read and it has all those kinds of sweet nostalgic stories that I love on paper but don’t know how to deal with in real life. Like the story about the pigeon fanciers. That’s lovely that is, that someone is still keeping postal pigeons that carry messages. I also think that they are nasty birds, all of them. The kind of thing that I love to read about, I might even throw in an “we have culture anymore. Carrier pigeons was a sign of civilization and now we have the Kardashians”. I don’t mean it at all.

But many of the things in this book I do love, and I do appreciate diversity in real life. It should be noted that because it’s so many small chapters,and about a variety of things it doesn’t have to be read from cover to cover, and it’s an easy read too or browse. But possibly hard to get. I would advice to read the book before going to London,not after. Or you know, make another trip. London is always a good idea.

Things mentioned in this post;

The Gentle Author

-Suss

Carbs&Chignons

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So the world is rejoicing that the French decided not to elect a right wing populist as president. Of course,always contrarian the french; electing a right wing leader is what everyone else is doing. So I guess the fascination with them will continue. The food,the style and the attitude. Paris, the city of lights, the undulating hills of Provence and the glamorous life in Nice; they are the object of our dreams and desires. How to get there without leaving the comfort of your own home?

Many a books have been written by the french, by people living in France and about the french themselves. And on a few occasions by the french about the french;  to explain to us mere mortals how they do it. I’ve read more then one of those books, and even when I open the book with the intention of not liking it and assume they are making fun of me, I still manage to find a few tips and tricks along the way.

Why french women don’t get fat supposedly got quite a buzz when it was published. I have the Swedish translation that I bought at a gift shop a few years back. And Giuliano is a bit full of herself, i.e. lives up to the myth of the french woman, but many of the recipes are good I have to admit. I don’t know how “valid” it still is. She advocates a life with carbs,and I agree, but many of the food fads continue to rage, get exchanged for new ones and obesity is still one of the biggest health problems in the world.  So maybe she sold a lot of books but her solutions probably mostly preached to the gospel. I don’t think she did intend to save the world however.

A book more recently published is How to be Parisian wherever you are-love style and bad habits written by a group of very chic french women. the kind that has an inherited Hermés bag, a cool piece of new Chanel and has perfected the art of messy hair. I would say that this book,also intended for the hapless non-french, doesn’t take itself to seriously. And it does involve some good recipes. If we are talking style ideals and role models I would say that this bunch isn’t all that bad. I’m obviously biased; I think french pharmacies are brilliant with their affordable skincare, love good food and have a had a penchant for striped tops since childhood. Also any excuse not to wash my hair to often,or brush it, will be used. They say it’s chic, I nod my head and wear my hair in a messy bun for the 19th day in a row. But it is a fun book to browse through. I liked it more then I thought I would.

One thing that the french has figured out is that older women aren’t a menace to society. Yes, they do love young women, the femme-infant has a place in the french heart, but there seems to be room for all women.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I just thought I would mention these two books, that have in common that I gained more from them then I thought I would. The good thing about advice from a book about how to be french is that you can pick what you like and ignore the rest, which really is the best kind advice book. And I haven’t visited France since 2015 so aching to go back.

-Suss

 

Gin&Juice

It seems like a thought but only today did I discover,by accident, that Jo Malone products are available in Stockholm. They just started selling it at Åhléns City. But that’s not why I made a drink inspired by one of the scents in their range yesterday,

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That reason is simply because I’ve been wearing Earl grey&Cucumber for the last week or so; let’s start with a few words on “the juice” . It’s a classic cologne, non intrusive but nice. With it’s warm from bergamot and cold notes from the cucumber it’s a very good scent for the days that go from cold,to warm and then to cold again; much like we’ve had. Typical spring basically. Although the sun has been shining so three cheers for that, it’s Gin&Tonic season for real now.

Because that’s what it is, a twist on the classic. I decided to name it Gin&Tonic in a cold climate as the bottle of perfume that I have was a gift from @lifeinacoldclimate. I had smelled it on a visit to London, put off purchase until I was at the airport and ,of course, they were all out of it at the Heathrow Jo Malone-shop. Annikky was nice enough to send me a bottle.

So; I basically made a earl grey syrup with 2 dl of caster sugar,1,5 dl of boiling water and 3 tablespoons of good quality earl grey.

  1. Put the sugar in a heat proof bowl, pour over the boiling water and then stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add the tea leaves and let steep for about 7 minutes. Don’t worry about it becoming bitter, the sugar will balance but don’t let it steep for too long.

My trick to making good tea, in general, is using a bit more tea leaves then recommended but then letting it infuse for shorter. I find with earl grey this gives more of the lovely bergamot. Make sure to sieve the syrup when the 7 minutes are over, and then let it cool. Otherwise it will be to sticky to sieve easily.

Then it’s just a case of filling a glass with ice cubes, add 1,5 cl of the syrup and the amount of gin and stir. Then add the tonic you prefer; Schweppes is perfect for this as it doesn’t overpower the bergamot. Serve with a sizable cucumber chunk. Also good for stirring. A citrusy gin is a god idea.

This is nothing revolutionary but a nice take on a classic with a lot of nice roundness from the bergamot. Enjoy responsibly.

-Suss

Tangerines&a thousand columns

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In her bok Husmoderns död och andra texter, Sara Danius points out how everyone can play the role of the intellectual and analyst of our times by putting editions of the same cookbook, but from different eras, side by side you have the material to critic the contemporary by comparing it to the past.

Another way to fiddle around in the field between the then and know, to alternate between the historian and the critic and think vertically is;

1.Be a french sociologist in which case you will have rockstar status and opinions on everything

2. Repeat what has been done. Cook through a cookbook someone else has written, live like Gwyneth Paltrow for a week or travel in the footsteps of a man who lived cirka 700 years ago.

Obviously it is a good framework; “a year of” is a good start for a book title or a blog like the famous example Julie&Julia about cooking though the cookbook of Julia Child. Living a week like Gwyneth Paltrow(which is probably the maximum amount of time anyone can manage) is high level social anthropology and there should be an award for it. Tim Mackintosh-Smith chose to walk all the way from Tangiers to Mecca, and then he walks some more. The man he is following is Ibn Battutah, the man in green, and the great Arab traveler.

Battutah’s own travels happens between 1325 to 1355 and he did write an account of it, one that has remained in publication and I know that Penguin has a version of it that I keep meaning to read. I have however read Both Travels with a Tangerine and The hall of a thousand columns,both by Mackintosh-Smith. The latter did not take 30 years to traverse the world but he did the best he could and I recommend both warmly.

Here I find it a good time to point out that Mackintosh-Smith is fluent in Arabic, lives or has lived in San’a,Yemen and has written a book called Yemen-the unknown Arabia which was published in 1996. I do recommend that also, especially since it’s one of the few books written about Yemen and it’s a region of conflict(even though it seems to have dropped of the media radar). And my copy seems lost somewhere on my shelves.

The travel books came after that; from 2000 to 2005 was when the traveling and writing happened although it is hard to tell or I should say that it’s been a while since I’ve read them, and then they already had a few years on them. But they had that timeless quality which is partly because so much of what is discussed is the travels of Ibn Battutah and,partly at least, Mackintosh-Smith’s decision to highlight the personal encounters. And that dry english wit always get me in a good mood.

I still enjoy watching clips of when Micheal Palin traveled around the world in 80 days(again; repeating what someone else has already done lends legitimacy to both them and you actually) and he is given the advice at some point that the best thing is to never apologize or acknowledge danger but just go ahead with his BBC-self “jolly good chaps, coming through. Just the BBC. Toodles”. And he was very clever in that series to refer to the camera crew as Passepartout; which was the servant in Jules Verne’s story.

In fact I much imagine it was the same when Mackintosh-Smith undertook his journey. I romanticize wildly, and will continue to do so as far as this is concerned. Travel writing might just be the last bastion of romance and glamour. Which is enhanced by the fact that both books,and the one about Yemen too I think, have wonderful illustrations by Martin Yeoman.

Things mentioned in this post;

A snippet of that Palin show from 1988(I had a look at this and now I want to see the whole thing again).

An example of living like Gwyneth 

More of living like Gwyneth

-Suss

7 lots from an auction catalogue

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Important artifacts and personal property from the collection of Leonore Doolan and Harold Morris, including books,street fashion, and jewelry by Leanne Shapton is a novel told in the way of an auction catalogue. It’s a brilliant idea and it plays to my weaknesses, as I’m the nosey kind. But, and I’ve pointed this out before, no harm done as these are not real people. A few of the items “for sale” that I might just have put a bid on.

  1. Lot 1026- A Smythson of Bond Street day to a page diary; I have a weak spot for anything Smythson. At some point  I will get some personalized stationary. And a few of their notebooks. My hot pink camera case from Smythson that I use for my emergency meds has been in my bag every day for three years, still in great knick. Quality goods.
  2. Lot 1069 -A group of striped clothing items; I can never have enough striped clothing but I’m suffering a shortage due to things falling apart, and my reluctance to buy anything new has intensified since reading yet another book about the fashion industry. Buying second hand is a reasonable middle way. This lot includes both cashmere and Sonia Rykiel so all my bases are covered.
  3. Lot 1077 -Du Maurier,Daphne Don’t look now and other stories; wonderful cover on this edition(the one in the catalogue that is) pure 80’s kitsch. Since reading Rebecca I’ve been meaning to read more by du Maurier.
  4. Lot 1012 -Cast-iron flower frogs; I already have one of those clever little Japanese “hedgehogs” to put at the bottom of vases when making arrangements but have been on the look out for “frogs” i.e. slightly bigger and often with spirals you can but flowers in. Makes arranging flowers easier.
  5. Lot 1177 -Six jars of homemade strawberry jam; I often give away homemade things around Christmas but these have the words “Tidings of comfort and jam, love from Hal and Lenore” and “have a Berry Christmas, love from Hal and Lenore”. Great puns, I wish I would have come up with them and I must use it sometime(bc. puns are lyfe as the kids say)
  6. Lot 1242 -Elsa Schiaparelli astrakhan coat; An amazing coat in size 36 with a short sleeve. Supposedly belonged to Maria Callas at some point. Doesn’t everyone want this coat?
  7. Lot 1267 -A candle with a handmade label; to make my own scented candles is something I very much would like to manage, and I have failed a few times already so I’m getting there. I dissect candles and try to figure out what works and not. This would be purchased for research purposes. Also it looks like it’s a reused Diptyque glass and I need a few of those as they make great double old-fashioned glasses when used up. However this one is a bit overpriced. No reserve noted so might make a sham bid.

-Suss

Florals for spring..

As winter has had us in a tight grip(and I’ll continue moaning until the lilacs blossom OK?) I’m still in my big ol’ coat, wrapped in a woolly scarf and thinking about warm drinks. But I made an effort to make something  more interesting when the sun came out for a few hours.

Jasmine green tea is not my usual tea of choice but I do like it, and make sure to have some on hand for when mood takes me there. With jasmine green tea it is the case that you get what you pay for; I splurge and buy “jasmine pearls” which is the whole tea leaf rolled into a small pearl. Pricey to buy but it has the most intense jasmine flavor which is what I’m after and I’ve found that they do stretch a long way; several brewing of the same leaves turn out just fine. This time I used them as a base for cocktails. The thing to remember with green tea is to not use boiling water when brewing, that’s when you get that bitterness. 70 degrees Celsius at most.

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Jasmine Martinis with tea-infused dry vermouth;

This is very easy, all you need to do is plan ahead; Pour the amount of dry vermouth that you want to infuse in a jar, add a reasonable amount of jasmin green tea,I’d say a pinch per deciliter, screw on the lid,let it infuse for 3-5 hours and then filter the vermouth. Then make Martinis as usual. I will also say that this vermouth is equally wonderful in a Negroni.

All vermouth should be kept in the fridge BTW.

White Nixons with cold jasmine green tea;

I got the recipe for this from Martha Stewart magazine actually, from an article focusing on tea-purveyor Bellocq that sell very exclusive tea in Brooklyn. I don’t have access to their teas but the ideas for food and drink in that spread were noted. I think this drink was originally made with lemon vodka, not a bad idea, but I use gin bc. I never have lemon vodka around. Here I made it into a shaken cocktail but in the heat of summer its wonderful as a long drink with more green tea and loads of ice.

White nixon; yields one cocktail

5 cl gin

2 cl cold jasmin green tea

2 cl pink grapefruit juice

1 cl ginger syrup (from a jar of gingembre confit is fine. Don’t know what it’s called in english)

Either shake the ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and serve in a coupette or pour them into a tumbler filled with ice. Using pink grapefruit juice makes all the difference as the colour is so inviting, that pink blush. Exclude the gin and add a bit more ginger syrup and you have a very nice non-alcoholic cocktail that I like to call “The dim sum-Sunday

G&T with jasmin-syrup;

According to bartenders here G&T:s are over. Over. O.V.E.R. Whatevs boys. Don’t care about your hip cocktails. However I discovered a long time ago that adding a little something sweet, like ginger syrup or elderflower liqueur, improves it. This time I went with a green tea syrup and as the jasmin goes so well with the gin, it turned out nice. Stuck to Schweppes, a fancier tonic would just overpower the jasmine I think.

Jasmin green tea syrup;

Pour 1 dl of boiling water over 2 dl of caster sugar placed in a heatproof bowl. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Add 2 pinches of green tea/10 jasmine pearls and let steep until cool. Filter the tea(or just fish out the leafs if using pearls, they really are a charm to work with)

Add 1 to 1,5 cl of the syrup when making a G&T and then proceed as you normally would. Garnish with a grapefruit peel.

 

Things mentioned in this post;

Bellocq

Ginger syrup

-Suss

Weekend & wrap-up

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April is coming to an end, although winter still has us in a tight grip. As I’ve started A place of greater safety by Hilary Mantel which will take me well into May I decided to do my wrap-up now. These are my monthly stats;

Books read; 10. All of which were good or great. I loved Augustus by John Williams and look forward to reading Butcher’s crossing soon. Six of crows and Stet were both books that I very much enjoyed, as was the book by Gessen. I do enjoy reading different things and this month was a nice mix, also in terms of language. The only reading goal I had this year was to read more in Swedish and that I have done. I also managed to finish the Ferrant book and will read the second when I have time to really get in to it.

Re-reads; 0, all new to me this time, despite being a notorious re-reader.

Most worn perfume; L’ombre dans L’eau by Diptyque followed by Flagrant délices by Terry de Ginzburg on cold days(then I need that sweetness).

Accessory watch; It’s been all about the cameos this month. Have not found a third pin sadly but after posting about Jewels-a secret history I dug out my aquamarine pendant and have been using that with my brown intaglio/cameo pendant. Necklaces often look good in twos.

Complaints about the weather; all day, every day. April weather is notoriously unstable but it’s been worse then usual(which swedes say every year to be honest. We never learn).

Happy moment; Lent is over, I’m back on sugar.

-Suss