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

Midweek & more suggestions for your TBR.

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You probably have a big stack of unread books beside you. And possibly a list, mentally or on paper, about the books you want to buy in the future. Let me add to that.

I’m always on the look out for good suggestions and in the bookstagram-community we encourage and enable each other, in the best possible way of course. Here are some of the lists and round-ups I’ve seen around that you might want to look at for inspiration for further reading.

1. My own summer reading list published a while back: Not obvious choices for summer reading but good books all of them and stuff that doesn’t get much attention. I stand by it. Find the full list here.

2. Life in a cold climate’s fiction list: A few of these books I have already read, in fact I recommended one of them. In addition a someof them have gotten a vote of confidence from people who’s taste is equal to mine notably @biblibimbo and @anicegreenleaf so I will make an effort. I have zero interest in that Carver though, don’t know why. Read the full list here.

3. Life in a cold Climate’s non-fiction list: non-fiction is close to my heart so I made several notes when reading this one. I understand the arguments for not reading Sapiens, I really do,  but I will probably read it just because it is, and I’m paraphrasing, a broad strokes, bombastic macho thing that ignores everything that doesn’t agree with it. I like to make up my own mind despite having all of the confidence in Kate. And unlike Annikky and Kate I cannot apply eyeshadow at all. You can read the whole list here.

4. The booksatchel list of best reads so far in 2017: of the books mentioned in this post The bear and the nightingale is the one I’m most curious about but it will have to wait until winter because anything remotely related to Russia is better read when there is snow on the ground. You can find the list here.

5. Tea with Darcy round up of best reads: Landfalls is high on my list. This vlog-post was the final nudge I needed to start the process of getting my hands on a copy. See it here.

6. The Jen Campbell round-up of best books so far; I don’t watch a lot of booktubers and but Jen is one of them and she has a lot of good suggestions. Mostly her poetry picks intrigue me and then Girls will be girls because feminism is everything. See the video here.

7. Not an actual list; @theartfulelle posted a pic of her TBR-pile(or some of it) and everything in it seems like something I want to read, or rather I few things already are and so I made a note of the rest as our tastes often coincide. See it here.

-Suss

 

Wednesday&Walking

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times when Patrick Leigh Fermor decided to walk from Rotterdam to Konstantinopel in 1933. He was a young man with very little in the way of money, but his life ahead of him whilst Europe was on the verge of war.

A time of gifts is a brilliant book I must say; I do like reading this sort of thing but it really is in a league of its own. This was written much later and is based on his memories and his diaries, as well as reflections on the bigger picture with his story being put into a perspective. These different strands of thought form a narrative that is bigger than the sum of the parts in a way.

It was a different time back then; 5 pounds was a fortune, Czechoslovakia was a new nation and communication across boarders was difficult. For better or for worse he was left to his own devices in large parts. Although Leigh Fermor coming from a good and well-connected background he has letters of introduction to good tables and his roughing it in barns is interspersed with nights at various schloss and dining like a king. Those glamorous interludes does bring more of an adventure to the trip. I’m surprised his life hasn’t been turned into a movie yet. After this he was a bit of hero in the war and then became a writer and hob-nobbed with the aristocracy. He was a looker too; I’ve seen pictures. Nice face to have across the table, if I were to have a “list of hotties from history” he would be on it (I’m not saying I have such a list. Explorer Joseph Banks cirka 1771 would also be on it. Again; not saying I have such a list).

Leigh Fermor was trying to find his way though a Europe but also find his own place in the world; the journey is also a spiritual one. In the introduction Jan Morris makes a reference to the works of Ibn Battutah (which I have yet to read) but maybe The narrow road to the deep North and other travel sketches by Bashō could also be in that category; I feel there is an affinity between them.

He must have had a knack for making friends although as someone who has on occasion travelled alone I find that one does turn on the charm and people do open up to a lone stranger in a way they wouldn’t to a group of friends. As learned as he was (the Shakespeare quotes are many and not far apart) he also acknowledges his naivety in regards to politics ,and German politics in particular, in retrospect. Nazism does throw a dark shade over the whole thing reading it now. But his trip is is about people and places; the meetings along the way, the everyday life and conversations.

With people we do not know we make the most trivial small talk or tell them our deepest secrets; the risk or chance of never having to meet someone again can be a possibility I guess. This also speaks through the ages; who hasn’t pretended to be someone they are not on vacation, or taken the chance to be who they truly are when out of the usual context and role we are given.

All in all; an engaging read that takes you away. It’s a feel-good book it really is. It was an act of generosity from his side to share his adventures I think. And so well-written.

-Suss

 

 

 

Monday&Mothertongue

NB; I wrote a long post about these three books but when I pressed “publish” is just disappeared. I made a sour face, got on with life for a bit and then sat down to try to recreate it. Hence the somewhat short post and dispirited tone.

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Over the years I have kept a reading journal and the sum of books read has stayed much the same over time until I made the decision to stop carrying around big books as they were literally breaking my back. So for the last two year I have read more books but the number of pages has probably stayed roughly the same.

In terms of language though there was a big shift when I created my Instagram account devoted to books; as I use English in my posts and I want to partake in a bigger discussion about those I chose to read it felt more natural. However it came to a point where I started to long for the elevated prose in my first language, Swedish, and also all of a sudden there where so many good books on the literary scene up here.

I was talking about this with someone I know just the other day, when did so many books on the best-seller list and that are being talked about become so interesting?

I’ve already written about Århundradets kärlekskrig by Ebba Witt-Brattström and will probably bring it up again. Today I noticed that one of my fave podcast, Februari-podden, had released a new episode( they are very sporadic but always worth listening to) and it was also on the subject of contemporary relations and what can happen when the woman is the breadwinner, and how it is impossible to be both the one that takes care of house and home whilst being the one that is responsible for paying the bills, at least in the long-term. A discussion by two Swedish male comedians might not sound like the place for great insight but they are men who leave no stone unturned in their talk and are not afraid of uncomfortable topics.

The book by Liv Ullman was a wonderful read. Where I was tickled in the beginning by the fact that she wrote about her famous parents, her mother is actor Linn Ullman and her father was director Ingmar Bergman, it soon became much more. It’s about a child trying to find her place in the world when both her parents are larger than life, and when she does finally find her own footing it starts slipping away again with her fathers aging. Well-written in an airy way as part of the book is transcripts of the recorded conversations they had towards the end of his life, in the hope of a joint project.

Both Witt-Brattström and Ullman call their books “novels” although it is safe to assume that much is based on a true story. The expression roman à clef could probably be used but rarely is anymore. And labeling it as a memoir is tricky as libel-suits can follow and as I recall at least two scandals from the last few years about books label as memoirs that had the percentage of truth questioned (James Frey and that book called “Running with scissors”) I imagine people are shy of that too. And as Bergman has passed away and cannot comment it wouldn’t be fair I guess. But fiction can be a place to explore ideas and say things that are true though not necessarily facts if that makes any sense (not a new insight that last bit admittedly).

The third book in this stack is De polyglotta älskarna by Lina Wolff that got the August-prize last year, and even though I’m only halfway through I understand why. Such characters and great writing. It’s mad up of three short stories that together form an arc on the theme of love and relationships. I’m very much enjoying it.

-Suss

7 reading suggestions for crazy cat people (and everyone else too)

I’m a crazy cat lady at heart and true to stereotype pretty much anything cat-related works for me. I try not to amass loads of tat with cat prints but not surprisingly I do have a few bits and  bobs. Nor am I rarely disappointed when a cat turns up in a book and the bigger part they have to play in the plot, the better usually. The exception would be I am cat by Soseki Natsume which was a struggle from cover to cover. Whoever made me put that on my TBR should be struck of the Christmas card-list (I’m horrible with names so that will never happen, couldn’t figure it out quite simply).

A few good ones then? A very unoriginal list this one, but my cat has temporarily abandoned me in favour of a few more weeks at the cottage,just lounging about out there and being hand feed bits of cheese, so I’m making do with fictional cats.

IMG_22981. The Master and Margarita by Michail Bulgakov

I love this book and that’s that. I’ve read it a bunch of times and always encourage (i.e. bully) others into reading it too. Behemoth is the cat we are introduced to and he is everything; gun-toting,cigarr-smoking and black as the night. Bulgakov is one of the top-Russians to me; I love the bizarre turns that this story takes and the writing is phenomenal.

2. The guest cat by Takashi Hiraide

I read this just this week. I would compare it to a macaroon; it’s sweet and elegant but just the right size. A longer story would have been to sentimental. It does bring home the point that you do not choose cats, they choose you. They really do. And then they boss you around something awful, which you are happy about. But this is a nice book and well worth reading. And if you get a cat do remember that they will try to get food elsewhere, haven’t had a cat yet that doesn’t try to sneak in to the neighbours when there is fish being served next doors.

3. Kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami

Murakami likes cats that is clear, they turn up in many (if not all) his books. In this one there is an old man that can talk to cats, and get reasonable answers (all cat owners talk to cats but it’s usually a rather trite conversation). Of his books this one is the one I like best but I also have fond memories of the cat in the Wind-up bird Chronicle as well.

4. Old possum’s book of practical cats by T.S Eliot

The only book by Eliot that I have read and liked. The musical Cats is famously based on this.

5. The catwalk cats by Grace Coddington

Grace Coddington,of Vogue-magazine fame, is a lover of cats and has a few. She wrote and drew, and Didier Malige photographed, to compile this very sweet and funny book about the spoiled and mischievous creatures and their imagined lives in fashion. Not much of a read as such but a nice thing to browse on a rainy day.

6. Harry Potter by J.K Rowling

I mention this series because of my boy Crookshanks. I have a weak spot for Persian cats quite simply. Of course the brightest witch of our time has a Persian cat, of course she does. (And really I want to reread these books).

7. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Dinah the kitten is cute but it’s the Cheshire cat that steals the show. Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite books and that feline probably does have something to do with that.

-Suss

Country life& catching up

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I started the summer by reading a beloved book and finishing some half-read ones. Its been a hectic few months and my attention span hasn’t been the greatest, nor have I had the time for reading that I would have liked. Oh well, being stuck in the middle of nowhere and with weather that doesn’t allow for anything but sitting indoors (and necessitates getting a fire going because of 12 degrees Celsius outside) I had no more excuses. It feels good to start the summer reads with a clean slate. This is what I read and a few of my thoughts in no particular order.

The Summer book by  Tove Jansson 

No summer without reading this gem of a book. I have a hard time reviewing it as it is so dear to me and is interwoven with the memory of reading it. That is one of the joys of rereading; you grow with a book and see different things and become aware of how much of a book can actually be about your own perception. I know many other who love this bitter sweet collection of small stories that together form the narrative about Sophia and her grandmother, and the summer spent on a small island.

Butcher’s crossing by John Williams

With this I have read the three books available by Williams and Stoner remains my favorite, with Augustus as a second but that doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things. This is a very good read and Williams does here  what he “always” does ; tell the story of rather passive men that just let life happen to them (or in the case of Augustus half the book is that, then Octavian changes his name and begins his long reign). Anyways it was a solid book.

Short stories by Chekov

It’s Chekov but I think, having read a few bits and bobs of his, that I prefer him as playwright. In my head I can almost visualize all of this would look on stage (most of it very good of course) but it doesn’t really work as short stories. Too abrupt somehow. But it was a short book. Mostly it made me try to find a copy of The seagull which I’ve been meaning to read for ages.

Across the Big blue sea by Katja Meier

This was sent to me by the author herself as she saw on IG that have an interest in literature about on the refugee issue (in fact I have an interest in most issues). Meier has written about her time working with women from Nigeria to Italy. What is different with that group is that  it’s a group that has been coming for over 15 years and many of the women end up in prostitution. There seems to be a rather well-established network that sadly maintains itself in this, where some of the women who have been victims of trafficking end up tricking other women into the same trap. And just shaming the women or saying that it’s wrong doesn’t help. An insightful read of the joys and sorrows of trying to make the world a better place.

A place of greater safety by Hilary Mantel

Speaking of people who tried to make the world a better place, how about 870 pages about Robespierre and friends? This is Dickensian in length and level of detail, the shadow of A tale of two cities obviously looms over it (i.e. centered around the French Revolution). I will say that the beginning and end are the best, Mantel really could have cut out a fair bit in the middle. This was published in 1992 and she hadn’t yet reached that “Two times the Manbooker-winner” level of writing but absolutely had grasped the form of the historical novel. I read this to satisfy the craving from the last installment in the Cromwell-trilogy and if you haven’t read those; start there. I will also mention her memoirs Giving up the ghost that I adored last year. And then you could squeeze in The assassination of Margaret Thatcher and other stories. Then read this. It’s very good, but not great.

-Suss

Lilacs&Libations

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Lilacs is one of those scents that I really love, and it is so linked to the early days of summer. I have smelled many perfumes with lilac (it feels like) but only En passant from Frederic Malle has made a good impression on me, as so many of the others are missing the freshness that the smell should evoke, to me at least. Others may have a different view on them.

That constantly referred to source of floral wisdom Frances Bissell has a mere paragraph in her book about cooking with lilacs; basically she hasn’t managed to capture it properly in food or drink but advises that using the blossoms as decoration is always a good idea.

I have tried many times to make cocktails with lilacs, and still haven’t succeeded. Just the other day I made a blueberry-& lilac syrup according to instructions I had been given, and prepared drinks with it. Nice but no lilac-flavour to speak of.

Putting lilac flowers in a cocktail however means that you burrow your nose in them when you take a sip and that does lift the experience and it really is the best option. Very nice to do in a Martini  just make sure you are using lilacs that have not been sprayed with pesticides or have grown near roads. Be cautious about what you let in to your body. Alcohol is a toxin I agree, but lead is so much worse and the effects do not wear off.

The elusiveness of some scents and why they are impossible to capture made me bring Essence & Alchemy by Mandy Aftel down from the shelf looking for answers. This book has meant a lot to me in terms of understanding perfume, and as an extension of that, how I think about cocktails. It is a book in that explains it to someone how knows nothing in an entertaining and understandable way but is still a relevant source of information for the more advanced, in short it is a reference point. Aftel was one of the people that put handmade perfumes back on the map.

And the line between perfumery and mixology is thinner and thinner, the trend to put ambergris in cocktails was just the beginning. Add to that what Tony Conigliaro has been doing for a long time, the Ritz-Carlton in Berlin etc. When I started talking about perfumes and drinks a few years ago I got a few skeptical looks (and I would write so much about this) but the point is that I wasn’t alone in my thinking. I’ve had no influence in this trend whatsoever, it’s more like sometimes when bartenders tell me about the stuff they made I nod my head and think “made that in my kitchen three years ago” because I caught on very early. As I was already interested in perfume and cooking it wasn’t a big step to extend to cocktails, probably shorter then for most.

Aftel has since she wrote this brought not only her perfumes to a wider audience but also her wonderful food essences to the world. Those essences, of which I have sampled a few, are a wonder to work with. Expensive, especially with shipping and taxes, but to be able to make cocktails that taste of fir needles and ceder wood was amazing. She does not have a lilac essence but I hope someone will make that happen.

And now that I have opened “the perfume and cocktail-box” again you’ll never hear the end of it.

Things related to this post;

Aftelier

Which perfume-cocktail are you? There is now a quiz for this FFS!

Ambergris in cocktail

-Suss