7 pieces of advice on the holidays (by women who know good advice)

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Don’t ever give children anything that makes a noise. This is from Konig’s book, but also something that I knew before.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.

-Suss

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Post-it

img_8926I’m always looking for “life hacks”. I have a thing for this type of advice book with guidelines on “how to live”. Most of them infuriate me however.( I’m slightly suspicions of 25-year olds that have always done everything “just so” and act like they have figured out life. They probably have, they are better people then me obviously but still. I guess that says more about me then them. )

Rita Konig I have a lot of love for. She is a bit bossy yes, but I think she has the advice to back it up. Another person who’s advice I listen to is Lucia van der Post.

She is a columnist for the Financial Times that’s how I came across her in the first place, then I tracked down her books.

Naturally a fair few tips go out the window because I live in a different culture so it doesn’t apply (Guy Fawkes-Night etc.) and some of her recommendations on where to shop are inapplicable most of the time as I live in Stockholm not London.

This time of year it’s suitable to browse the chapter on Christmas. She has some good ideas and what I appreciate is that this is a woman who has lived, worked and raised family. She has experience, and is willing to admit her failures. We do not have to make her mistakes. Which is the point of theses kinds of books.

Van der Post tells us about a few tricks and shortcuts in a very amiable voice. I have probably used Celebrate-the art of the special occasion(published in 2009) the most but I have nothing but good things to say about Things I wish my mother had told me. It will probably grow on me. It was originally published in 2007 but as I go through it much seems still to be relevant. Or the general idea of a thing if not the specific trend. Mostly she deals in timeless things like “how great is museum shops to shop for jewelry and accessories?”Her point in these books, as in her columns for FT, is that stylish don’t have to mean expensive. Which is an ethos I wholeheartedly agree with.

-Suss

Send a little loving…

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There are only two routes to go,aren’t there?Either make your own or buy them from a charity.

-Lucia van der Post in Celebrate-The art of the occasion

I agree with that statement. This year I ended up making my own as it was a nice distraction and it used up loads of materials that has been gathering on my desk.

  1. Marbled cards; I got into marbling with nail polish this spring through a post on Camille Styles that you can find here. The same principle as when marbling eggs as easter decorations applies to making cards. It did’t turn out exactly like I expected; the red became more pink but as someone pointed out “it ends up looking like the cross between a winter sky and my stress levels during this season”. It is made with love at least. I started by folding the A5 water colour paper in half. Then I filled up my bucket with enough water so that I could dip one side. Don’t use to much polish at once and do make sure you work in a well ventilated area. I used polish that I’d been given for this purpose(stuff that was unused, poor quality etc.) because going out to buy it seems like a bad idea for the environment. I have looked for instructions on how to dispose of the water and most say that as long as you make sure there is no polish left(skim off the top with other paper) you should be able to pour it down the drain. I have handed it in to the people at the recycling station just in case. Chemicals should not be dispersed into the environment. Obviously you can buy nice marbled paper and just cut squares and put on the front instead.

 

2.  Book page cards; If you have damaged books lying around cutting shapes an gluing onto the from of folded sturdy paper is very simple and stylish I think.  I have a thing for pine trees and that’s that.

3.Watercolor cards; With the use of just two colours and a simple flat 0,5 cm paintbrush a very simple pine tree can be painted. It’s just a case of figuring out the center and then draw wider and wider green lines until you think it’s big enough and then end with a brown vertical line for the stem.

In addition to this I would like to recommend a post on Camille Styles about how to upgrade your Christmas cards that you can find here.(I will absolutely use 1,2 and 4)

-Suss