Let’s talk Christmas decorations for a second. I have a few bits and bobs that has accumulated over the years; I sometimes go for the more is more look with everything I have in the tree, sometimes just a few things. But you don’t have to be limited to what the shops are telling you are Christmas ornaments; whether you are short on time or big on creative tree decorations, here are a few things that make great Christmas tree decorations, although that’s not necessarily what they are intended as.
- Holiday cards. This just occurred to me the other day, to take last years Holiday cards (saved to remember who I should send to; sent out of “The school of Nana”), use a glass to draw a circle, cut that circle out, punch a hole and out some string through it som I could hang it in the tree. I’m sure someone has thought about this before but I haven’t seen it. One card I chose to follow the shape of the print because it was so pretty but in general this is dead easy. I messed up a few because I punched the hole to close to the edge, be careful with that.
- Origami cranes. One year I folded a bunch of origami cranes in what paper and put in the tree. Very minimalist chic. Cranes are the only thing I can fold but I imagine other shapes would also be cool.
- Bows. Get thee a bunch of ribbon and just cover the tree in bows. Tying them around the branches is super easy and very stylish.
- Candy canes, cookies and candy. In short; things you can eat. I like the idea of telling guests “just help yourself to a little treat from the tree”. I usually don’t use the words “cookies” or “candy”, I did that for the alliteration, I mean gingerbread and nice chocolate in wrappers (some of those come ready with string to hang them up).
- Childhood trinkets. I thought of this the other year, how easy and fun it was to combine small childhood toys and trinkets with some gold ribbon and hang in the tree. One of my better ideas frankly.
- Playing cards. I saw this when I was out and about recently and I cannot get over it. So so brilliant.
- Crystals from a chandelier. You know how in antique shops and in flea markets they have these big boxes of crystals from old chandeliers that you can buy? Those are ever so useful and loads of nice things can be made with them actually (I’m forever about the up cycling) but having a handful to hang in the tree is a good idea, it is ever so pretty, the light obviously bounce of them like they were made for, like icicles.
So Black Friday is upon us; how this phenomena even made it to these shores is unclear (no it’s not; Swedes love everything American, that is just the way it is sadly). And the whole point of it to kick of the shopping frenzy that can be Christmas. We don’t needs this, not really*.
As noted, I love Christmas. The stressed out people spending crazy money on stuff they’ll never use? Not so much. It doesn’t have to be like that, overspending and overeating all December, leaving you felling heavier and the wallet a lot lighter in January. There is another way.
Why not slow down the pace, think about the important things that really matter and make a few but good choices this year? For everyone, including Mother Nature that might the greatest gift of all.
- Choose wrapping paper with care. I love wrapping all sorts of presents in newspaper which, unlike conventional wrapping paper, can be recycled. In my family we also have a few really nice boxes and gift bags that go round and around, they get re-used every year.
- Buy gifts second-hand. Lovely old books, cool accessories from the a flea market maybe, look in charity shops for old cool maps and the like to frame. If you start looking now you might find great things, for less money, that use up fewer resources (as they have already been made) and that are unique.
- Make gifts yourself. If I’m a huge fan of both giving and receiving home-made marmalade, infused spirits and spice blends. A trip to the local grocery store is all that is needed, and some time. (But seriously though; marmalade and jam is so easy to make it’s silly).
- Only make food you actually like for Christmas dinner. There is a growing realisation in Sweden that ye’ old Christmas ham isn’t all that special in the end. The “traditional Christmas buffé” is a myth, traditions change slowly but they change. I’m all for vegetarian Christmas food. Honestly I can tell the difference between turkey and tofurkey anyway. It’s a tasteless protein that no one knows how to cock properly so whatever. And don’t let food go to waste, that goes without saying.
- Treat yourself to some nice linen napkins to improve the look of the table and the carbon footprint. Paper napkins have a time and a place I agree but proper napkins are so much nicer, washing isn’t that big of a deal honestly and in a few years you’ll have saved money.
- Use decorations that have less impact. Think about what flowers you buy (can they bloom again, be planted outside, go on the compost heap?), try to avoid plastic as much as you can, make them yourself by old stuff around the house (blog post might come on that), buy ornaments second-hand ( some of the loveliest baubles I have ever seen have been in antique shops) and I have to say eatable decorations (peppermint canes, gingerbread snaps, oranges, that sort of thing) is brilliant. Takes up less space to as you eat them during the holidays and don’t have to pack them away. And often fun to make too.
- Instead of buying new decoration; swap with friends and family. Some things you have an attachment too, but not everything. Why not mix up the stuff you love with a few things borrowed or swapped? Just make sure you are not all going for the same theme, because then it could get awkward.
*and don’t give me that whole “It’s good for the economy argument. It isn’t. Buying fewer and better things is what’s good for the economy because all these cheap electronics,toys and clothes come with a hidden cost that is environmental degradation and at this point mitigation is gonna be so expensive. I hate to be a kill joy but truth hurts, what can I say).
I had plans to make sloe gin but my excursions have come up short of berries; there aren’t that much sloes on the bushes because the spring was so cold, and what little is I’ll leave for the birds. Instead I decided to go all in with the quince liqueur this autumn.
Quinces I bought at the market, I went with a less expensive cognac but not the cheapest because in my experience that’s just nasty. It’s worth spending a little extra on this, especially since I’m thinking about giving some away as Christmas presents.
I’ve made this before with light rum and spices, with cognac and spices and this time it’s just fruit and booze. And a little sugar. The real sweetening however is done in six weeks time, and then it can be adjust to taste. The first recipe I used was from the web, this is a pared down version of that from The wonderful weekend book by Elspeth Thompson.
Quince brandy-based liqueur; yields almost 1 liter in the end
750 ml cognac/brandy (spend as much as you feel you can afford)
1 large quince
4 tablespoons of castersugar
- Rinse and dry the fruit. Then spilt it in quarters.
- Put the fruit pieces in a clean 1 liter jar, add the sugar and the pour the cognac/brandy over it. Closer the lid.
- Let infuse for at least six weeks.
- After six weeks; pour through a sieve and add around 2 dl of freshly made sugar syrup to the cognac/brandy, stir so it blends and put into clean bottles.
This is so easy to make, and such a great thing to have. Impossible to buy something similar in the shops. I’ve made several cocktails with it but just mixed with some champagne it’s wonderful.
I love a scented candle, I really do, to the point that it doesn’t feel like home without it. And the sad truth is that once you go down the road of the fancier kind, there really is no turning back. Not that all expensive candles are good quality (let’s never talk about Overrose again) but they always get me excited and I do want to try. They can get awful pricey however. When I travel I let myself get confused when converting SEK into Euros or Pounds and I may or may not have spent a lot of money on scented candles at Jo Malone/Cire Trudon/several shops in Italy but that’s a different story. In general I draw the line at the Svenskt Tenn and Byredo collaboration; 850 SEK is just too much, no matter how nice the the glass it comes in and the lid that is included.
And speaking of the the glass it comes in; i’m not the only on that has noticed that many of us have more of those jars and glasses then we know how to upcycle. You need one or two in the bathroom for brushes and stuff (and a cute little glass from a flea market for Q-tips), then possibly one or two at the desk for pens. I love Diptyque candles and those have a label that is easy to peel of and then the glasses gets used for cocktails (perfect size for an Old fashioned). But that’s about it. Some can be recycled pure and simple. But nowadays they can also be reused.
I’ve seen two companies that do the same thing; offer little kits for around 250 SEK that consist of scented wax and a wick so that you can “make your own scented candle”. Except you are not really doing anything; it’s already scented, all you do is melt the wax in the bag it comes in and pour it into the container of your choice.
The one I tried this time is from L:a Bruket that also make candles in nice brown jars, so I guess it is intended to refill those, but you can use one from another label; just make sure they are approx. the same size. I used an old fave of mine with illustrations by Liselott Watkins. L:a Bruket has four scents, I bought Tabac that “creates a golden aura of mindfulness and anticipation to give life and focus to your mind”. Mighty big words for a soft scent of musk, lemon, tobacco leaves and a hint of jasmine, does it make me coffee in the morning too? But it really is a lovely scent and it makes it smell like the flat is full of freshly laundered clothes, which is a lovely to be sure.
We will see how it develops over time, but I can say that the instructions were easy to understand and accurate. I will try this again, possibly with another scent from L:a Bruket (as they make theirs in biodegradable soy wax) but I have seen another company that also work with the same concept, and they might have something that’s for me.
Refills? Seems like a very good idea actually.
The other day I went to the haberdasher. No really, I go to the old-fashioned kind of place when it comes to buying buttons, zippers and what not. I cherish their interiors, their service and most of all their superior selection. The agony of choice that is the result of being able to choose between five different kinds of beaded trimming is a delicious one. So what did I end up buying?
- Brown fake suede elbow patches. So that I could patch up my cashmere sweater, again. I liked the clash of colour.
- Same sort of patches, but grey. To try to save another cashmere sweater. I prefer fake suede/fabric patches because they are more supple. On a jacket I might put fake leather but on a cardigan I want it to be soft.
- Buttons. I needed new ones to change on a jacket I have (one of the current ones broke so I have to replace all of them). It’s also a very easy way to upgrade the look of an outer garment. Old buttons from beloved coats that have been worn to shreds have been turned into pins, I like wearing them together on my lapel.
- A big safety-pin. You know the kind to use on kilts? I also use one on my “blanket kimono jacket”. I had one before and it went back and forth between the two items and that was a recipe for disaster really. But having such a pin is a good thing in general, it’s a very nice way to quickly transform look of say a chunky knitted cardigan, to close it with a pin and make it a lot tighter, instead of using a belt or the buttons.
- A big sequined tiger patch. This will be used to cover up the stains on a nice sweater and I guess it will be just off trend enough (I’m talking about the Gucci-look of the last few seasons, for me to be able to wear that someone said is on the way out) for me to be able to wear it. This is an old trick of mine; was I love both light tops and Spaghetti Bolognese but refuse to wear a bib then I will forever be plagued but tomato sauce stains. My solution is this sort of cool patch that can easily be sewn on to a garment and thus prolong it’s life, and when the item does have to be retired then the patch can move on to another garment. Can obviously be used for an upgrade of an item that has no stains but just feels a bit worn and tired. I’m a big fan of floral or bird patches and try to buy them when I can. This is trendy right now as I saw Other Stories are seeking a set of small iron on patches.
- Silk thread. This is for a particular project and the thread as such is no different from the silk thread from the “big sewing shop” but it comes on an old-fashioned wooden roll and it’s just so nice.
- Some nice grosgrain ribbon. Some of it is for a secret project but mostly I find that the sort of 3 centimeter wide grosgrain ribbon in a crazy colour, put together with a pin of the sparkly kind, as a kind of belt, is a great way to put a bit of “pop” to an outfit, generally a dress. And when I tire of lime green (which is never gonna happen) I can use it for wrapping presents or tying all my dust bags. Also potential cat toy.
All of my clothes are falling apart, as I keep complaining, but this was probably the last round of trying to patch some of these items up. With the cashmere there is also other parts that are worn thin and not as easy to repair. It’s like when jeans rip at the on the inside of the thighs, there is no getting around that repairing them will make them uncomfortable but you cannot wear them otherwise. My two pair that I had to retire latest have been cut up actually and I’m planning on using parts of them for a jacket, we’ll see how it goes. But I also feel that from now on it is time to let go of things as they fall apart (HA! not gonna happen. Sentimental fool this one).
The elderflower season is short but sweet. On these few days in June when the trees blossom their scent spreads with the wind, and the freshness after a rain is augmented by that distinct smell released by the droplets hitting the flower heads. The allusiveness is probably part of the allure. It’s a scent and taste so connected with a certain time of year; the end of the school year and the midsummer celebrations, in short; the beginning of summer.
The other day I made the by now annual collecting of elderflower; as always with foraging make sure you know what you are picking, that it’s allowed and do so away from roads with heavy traffic. Then it’s off to the kitchen!
I do not rinse them as some do, I just give them a proper shake to make sure no bugs make it into cordials etc. So far this year I’ve made vinegar, cordial and liqueur.
This is a recipe I got from the oft mentioned Frances Bissell. It’s very simple; add flower heads to white vinegar. Bissell recommends using 2-3 flower heads for a small bottle of white wine vinegar( which I’ve interpreted as the 37.5 cl ones). She thinks that the flowers should be replaced after a week but I have never done that because of time and availability. I find that infusing the vinegar for two weeks give a good result and supermarket vinegar is just fine. I usually make a few small bottles as it’s the kind of thing I don’t use loads but love giving away to culinary mined friends. I use it mostly when making sallad dressing or mayonnaise that’s gonna be served with seafood. Elderflower and salmon go very well together.
I’m not gonna give you an exact recipe as the internet is full of them. It’s well worth making as mixed with water or mineral water it’s a wonderful thirst quencher to say nothing of the possibilities as far as cocktails are concerned. I will say this; play around with the choice of citrus fruit. I’ve used lemons and limes which is quite traditional but also grapefruit peels and those of oranges. I’ve used bergamot syrup instead of sugar with great results. There is room for improvising as far as that is concerned.
I use vodka as the base. The thing is to pour a a couple of centiliters (like 4 cl) from the bottle, then add all the elderflower and just a bit of simple syrup* (like 5 cl) as it helps the flavor develops. Then use the poured vodka to seal the whole thing. Elderflower that are in contact with air will oxidize and turn brown, giving the whole thing a bi-taste and less then savory colour. Then it should sit on the window sill for a week, a two three more weeks in the back of the cupboard. Not until it’s done do I really mix it with syrup to the desired level of sweetness. The flowers will turn a little brown and give the vodka a slightly yellow colour but usually that just looks nice. Makes it artisanal looking or something. Cordial is also a shade of yellow and no one minds that?
I don’t know if the seal is visible but there is one. Since it’s there feel free to open the bottle up and smell it during the time it infuses. Depending on how much elderflower you add it will take different amounts of time. I make a strong one, I can always dilute it with plain vodka in the end.
*I refer here to simple syrup made with caster sugar and water. It’s easier to use then pouring caster sugar into the bottle as I don’t have to shake or turn the bottle during the time it infuses to make sure everything blends.
Hopefully this can be of some help to someone.
Most startling of all, a splendid dark cartoon of a black eye was stamped in a ring on my eye socket, in the richest ink of Tyrian, chartreuse and, and plum.
Earlier this year, when I was rereading The secret history by Donna Tartt, I did say that I wanted a dress in the colours of Richard Papen’s bruise. Et voilà;
Of course this is not chartreuse, it’s yellow, but that’s as close as I’m gonna get I think. I do love a good batik or ombré but I always wear it in the same way; with a black cardigan, black shoes and plenty of lipstick (which is how I wear most things frankly). Must avoid looking like a hippie at all cost.
The fabric came from Mum (as so often), it was an old tunic with matching scarf that had been bought at some point but never used. Well now that the weather has improved I’m wearing this loads.
Things mentioned in this post;
My thoughts on The secret history