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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7 rites of Spring

IMG_1467I’m a creature of habit when it comes to most things, and it should be noted that I take the change of the seasons very seriously. I’ve decided that it’s spring, irrespective of  the weather.

I may or may not have blogged about my spring-rituals before however I do know that I’ve brought up Rita Konig, of whom I’m a fan. I don’t know how old these tear sheets are but they are from British Vogue and they have on them a few tips from then Vogue columnist Konig about “how to spring clean your life”.  And very good advice it is; some of them I’ve integrated to my rite of spring, and then I’ve added a few of my own. This is what I did this weekend.

  1. Give the home a good going over including a washing of the windows. It doesn’t have to be the real deal; windex and an old newspaper is fine. But it makes the world of difference, especially for me as the living room has one HUGE window. I love the light it let’s through but it can be unforgiving if dirty.
  2. Change the scent of the home; out with the sweet and spicy candles, in with the fresh and floral. Predictable as I am I really love Baies from Diptyque this time of year but their Mimosa candle is also lovely.
  3. Get a new soap and handlotion for the bathroom. I have a fondness for Morrocan Tea from Other Stories; the lotion is very good and the scent is suitable for everyone.
  4. Wash all the wool sweaters; I use my cashmere all year round but try not to wash them unless they are actually dirty. A good airing will often do. A few times of year I do however make sure they are all properly hand washed and dried(rolled up in big bath towels).
  5. Get something new on the wall; rehanging paintings or just changing what is in the frames gives me something new to look at and has a bigger impact then you can imagine. I have these five old poster with a Japanese series of prints on that I plan to frame and hang; bought them at a flea market last summer. Did not have time this weekend though but soon, very soon.
  6. Clear out the bookshelves; Konig advises this but I’ve resisted. After the Kon Mari -method I feel otherwise. I’ve tried different strategies but clearing the bookshelves four times of year, making room for new books, seems the ultimate method for me.
  7. Get a new watch strap; this was a piece of advice from the Vogue article that I really took to heart and did for spring for a few years. I really loved having a colourful strap to set the tone. I had dark blue, purple for a period and also green; a racing green one year and a more minty shade another. I had completely forgotten about this since I no longer have a watch. It broke and I haven’t bought a new one. I should do that; I miss having one on my arm, and the opportunity for a dash of colour that it allows.

Things mentioned in this post;

Rita Konig

Baies from Diptyque

Moroccan tea from Other Stories

Kon Mari-method

-Suss

 

 

A handful of advice

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These are a few pieces of advice that I’ve been given, in one way or another, that I have found to be very useful. Passing them on to you.

  1. Keep those wire hangers that you get from the dry-cleaners; The old rule of “no wire hangers in the closet” still stands but the nice man that ran the dry-cleansers where I used to live pointed out that that should be saved for when guests are coming. They take up next to no space in the back of the closet and when visitors are expected they can be whipped out and a lot of coats can be hung un the hallway. A few hours on wire hangers won’t damage the shoulders.
  2. Always wash your hair twice; it’s what the hairdresser does at the salon and I was told to do the same at home. First wash is with just a small dab of shampoo and primarily in the roots. Really rub it in there. Then rinse and do a second wash with a dollop of shampoo and on the whole hair. This way it will be cleaner, by really getting rid of old product, and stay cleaner for longer. On that note I will say that during summer I try ,for the time I’m at the cottage, not to use any product or even wash my hair with shampoo but just rinse it in rainwater. Thus I try to recondition my hair. It works fairly well.
  3. Try serving Champagne on the rocks in tumblers; got this advice from a book by Rita Konig. Never fails to get people excited, so rebellious even when using cheap champagne or prosecco, and very handy for me since I always forget to put the bottle in the fridge so that is chilled.
  4. Have a gift drawer; Yes, I am turning into my nana. It’s a very good thing to have a drawer,box or bag somewhere in the house filled with little goodies for those time when you have forgotten someone’s birthday or get an unexpected invitation and want to bring the host/hostess something. It doesn’t have to be expensive things: I look out for fans like this one as they are very useful in summer, nice notebooks, the odd soap or chic bowls from the flea market. The bowl can for example be filled with fruit when gifting it.
  5. Make time to tell the people you love that they matter to you; obvious but it’s a thing that many people(myself included) forget to do. I need to remind myself sometime, and as it is close to Christmas I thought I’d throw it in there.

-Suss

 

Kon-Mari method in review:how long does the magic of tidying up last?

img_8329-1It’s been a year since I first read The life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo. It had been rather hyped, just released in Swedish and I came across an article in The Financial Times (House&Home supplement; behind their paywall so I can’t link) about it and thus got a copy from the library.

  1. Why did I do it in the first place?

I’m not ignorant about how to tidy. I grew up in a house with every surface filled and cupboards ready to burst; linens enough for a hotel, china to supply several restaurants and assorted knick-knacks that took forever to dust. A lot of clever storage solutions were used.

And I do like stuff. Colors,art,books and fabrics inspire me to create. And I love to create. Sewing and crafting to her hearts content this one. I found out pretty quickly in life that I was not made to dress in all black chic clothing nor have a minimalist home.

But to much stuff can be a problem. There is that saying about “not seeing the forest because of all the trees”. Something I felt I needed then was to have space in my life to create more things, which meant going through materials and being realistic about what was usable and inspiring. That old “could be useful in the future”-mantra that I’ve heard my whole life has proven so rarely to be true; most things are never useful “someday” and when that day comes you’re gonna buy something new anyway.

2. How was it?

Books in this sort of lifestyle/selfhelp category are often written in a way that can get on your nerves in their self righteousness. This one did bother me a fair bit; I felt like she wrote for a naughty child. That said I did read the whole thing and because she recommended a few things that I was already doing I decided to give it a go.

I did like her approach to do it all at once and not do it room by room. So there was a weekend of chaos. I didn’t give away any clothes because they all “spark joy” ( and as pointed out before; my wardrobe will in periods self-destruct *). Had a proper sort of my materials and sewing tools. Gave away a lot of books to charity and recycling. I had saved books from Uni that I will never use again(they are probably outdated even) and books I didn’t like because they had nice covers. I will never make a book cover-outfit unless I like the book so there is no point in saving stuff like that. I would say that I sorted more then threw away and it was an improvement. I’m thinking now that I could have been more ruthless but I still have the opportunity.

3. Did it work?

Kondo claims that no one ever relapses. Maybe that is true. To be fair to her I didn’t really drink the Kool-aid; I basically skimmed her instructions. However; my goal was to make space for creativity and in that regard I have been very successful. I have made more things,clothes mostly, then I have ever before. I have also gone out of my comfort zone and learned new things,tried stuff and been generally more adventurous. With the kit all in one place it is easier to start a project, and to finish it. So I will declare success even if I did’t follow her word to the letter. And I do recommend it.

However I do wonder about recycling, and charity shops being filled up with clothes no one wants to buy and how we got into this mess to begin with. But that’s another book, and another blogpost.

4. Now what?

I will not stop buying or being given books. As much as I like the idea of immediately disposing of books I don’t like that hasn’t happened. A few have been re-gifted or given to free libraries pretty quickly but they also pile up. I let them. I’ve decided to go through my shelves at the beginning of fall every year.

Nor will I do as she recommends and not have seasonal wardrobes: the winters up here demand bulky clothing and I do like the outerwear to be cleaned and stored away during summer.

Did not fold my socks then and won’t start now. I do however keep my tights rolled up though(except the thinnest Wolfords; they stay in the packaging). Bags are not stored in bags despite her claim that it is easiest that way: so many of my bags are the same size so it doesn’t work. I have started folding a lot of things(sweaters,linen) and find that it is a good method.

I’m still looking for a good storage solution for my materials but I  learned that lesson already: don’t buy something you don’t love just because. Not something that big at least. Holding out for the sideboard of my dreams.

As I see it,for me, it will probably be necessary to go through certain areas on a regular basis. My desk is still a mess;it’s where important things end up.As I am much more creative now I don’t think materials will linger very long in future but it’s worth going through now and again. If nothing else just looking through those bags and boxes can give me ideas.

I’m still glad that both that time, and for this post, I have gotten a copy of the book from the library.Despite it having helped I actually wouldn’t like have a copy of it on my shelves. I don’t know why.

Which brings me to the tear-sheets in the picture; when it comes to lifestyle advice choose your guru wisely. Rita Konig is bossy but it’s a bossiness I can handle. This is an article that I tore out of an old UK Vogue ages ago and where as some of the advice has become dated(and some wasn’t relevant to me living in Sweden to begin with) there is common sense there, and reasonable guidelines. This one is about “Spring cleaning” but a lot of it can be applied  to “Autumn cleaning” such as”getting a new scent” and “take any books you don’t care about to a charity shop”. These tear-sheets will be kept, folded up in a book and brought out twice a year. That is a routine I can handle(in fact I have been doing it to some degree for years). I will never be perfect, or an adoring disciple of Marie Kondo. Will be creative and a bit messy which is good enough.

-Suss

*Clothes that have had to be discarded during the last few days; another skirt(that had been made of a dress), a dress, a sequined clutch, a down jacket (it’s lost so much down that it doesn’t keep me warm anymore. I’ve had it for over 10 years) and a pair of leopard print trousers from Zara.

Simple matters and domestic bliss without help;how to live?

img_7910I’m always trying to get better at “life”. This time of year more then usual. I’m one of those people who get all excited about the end of summer,the falling of the leaves,the harvest etc.etc. I wear cashmere sweaters all year around but at least now people won’t frown (people in this country insist on wearing summer clothes during June,July and August even though it might just be one of the coldest summers EVER! I do not comply. Bring me my cashmere cardigan!!).

In London I bought a copy of How to run your home without help by Kay Smallshaw at Persephone books. I read it, and intended to do so all along, as a piece of women history. It is a rather quick read that will leave you with a feeling of gratitude at being alive in this time; cleaning was serious business back in the day. However there are a few tips that are still valid. The kind of advice that still turn up in books of this kind like Domestic Bliss by Rita Konig and Simple Matters by Erin Boyle.

A few word about those books: Domestic Bliss is from 2002. I tracked down a second-hand copy because it is just the most wonderful cover ever: in vinyl. Some of the advice is dated( lattes do not seems so hip anymore, they are pretty standard) but an awful lot makes perfect sense still. I’ve read it from cover to cover once and browsed it several more.

Simple Matters was a book I saw in a shop but got it from the library instead. This would be my own advice: always try to get these books from the library or borrow from a friend first. These lifestyle guides are written in a certain tone and they really can be overbearing and ridiculous. Konig is bossy but in a way that I can relate to, Boyle is not. I will say nothing about her minimalist aesthetic. That is not my style, nor will it ever be, but I was still interested in what she had to offer in terms of living with less, less plastic, trying to be environmentally friendly and so forth. I learned nothing new really; part of it has to do with things being different in the US from where I live. And that’s that. Boyle runs a very successful blog that you can find here if you are interested.

A few things that these books all recommend; which is stuff that I incidentally also do so can vouch for.

Turn old sheets into cloth to dry dishes and clean; I might make them into dresses first and then when the dresses are worn out they become cloths(sometime they are also made into pillowcases). Make them the size of a dishtowel.

Keep your cleaning supplies in one place;You don’t need that many tools or products to get by. I would however recommend a proper feather-duster for all the frames on paintings in addition Tobbe basics. I keep it all in a wicker basket that I bring out.

Use special things for the bathroom; this really is basic hygiene but surprisingly few people do it. Use scrubbers and cloth that are made for bathroom use(so you don’t ruin your tiles) and keep them there. Change them more often then regular ones( the are full of bacteria and the kind of bacteria that can make you sick).

Do listen to the radio when doing chores; I don’t think any housework would get done if it wasn’t for the pleasant distraction of a podcast(much better then music I find).

Have a routine; I try to do the cleaning on Thursday evening because then the flat is still in good knick  if I have guest during the weekend or if anyone should want to drop by. Using the 10 minute rule( tidy as much as you can in 10 minutes) on every room, then a quick dusting (those microfiber-cloth are excellent), a once over with the hoover, change the sheets and all the towels. Wet wipe the floors. It doesn’t take that long once you have gotten into it. That done every week prevents it from getting too bad  and then a few more thorough cleaning-sessions(after Christmas, after the holidays,spring cleaning, when you feel there is need).

-Suss