Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Shampoo - for some odd reason or not I haven't tried the TIGI Bead Head range until now. My obvious choice when out hunting for a new shampoo and conditioner was of course the Brunette Goddess one, oh goodness that did speak volume to me! I also liked the fact that the shampoo came in a pump bottle which would certainly made dispensing in the shower easier and the scent of sweet toffee, fudge, caramel was mesmerising.
The pump bit turned out to be crap, since the bottle is made of soft plastic the pump doesn't work properly if you don't grab it with both hands hence completely useless for its purpose. The shampoo itself is rather luscious and above all of a scent that makes one feel all snug and happy inside a candy factory. Even if I of course don't need a shampoo to make me feel like a brunette goddess, I do believe the hair gets a certain oomf and rather goddess like shine when dried. Or perhaps I'm just high on the toffee scent.
Conditioner - TIGI Bed Head Brunette Goddess, wonderful creamy, fudgey scent like its companion the shampoo. In the case of the conditioner the scent is also followed by rather decent features when it comes to conditioning and being economical. I just might get me another bottle when this one is finished.
Shower cream - Björk & Berries lingonberry rose, gorgeous fragrance, though an average shower cream in a spiffy bottle.
Shower cream too - the Sanctuary body wash with sesame, jojoba and essential oils, lovely spicy scent as always, lots of cute pink airbubbles in the gel, nice shower companion for a decent price.
Body scrub - Björk & Berries wild strawberry sugar scrub, which is lovely beyond words in scrub aspect, scent aspect as well as the cocoa butter that moisturizes the skin and makes body lotion afterwards superfluous. One negative aspect is the jar being way too small at a mere 200 grams.
The other negative aspect, which is pretty unforgivable and unprofessional in this day and age of proofreading and automatic spell checking is the fact that the jar label is grossly misspelled. So okay, that doesn't make the product inside any worse, but really, very annoying for a spell and word stickler, not to mention from a professional point of view...
Body butter - Björk & Berries lingonberry rose, the gorgeous fragrance from the shower gel is intensified in this creamy lovely body butter. It made wonders for my dry winter skin and the scent lingers on in a delightful non obvious way. I loved it, although it was rather uneconomical. But when I want to treat myself I'll definitely buy it again.
Body lotion - hooray, I did manage to make a very more than decent goodie bag exchange with a fellow blogger in the US, in the bag I received were some much coveted body products from the brand I'm hopelessly infatuated with not available in Europe, Bath & Body Works. So this wonderful as ever black raspberry vanilla body lotion is and will be treasured to the very last dollop. Such a moodlifter for both my inner and outer self!
Hair mousse - Aussie dual personality curl defining + shine mousse, as far as I'm concerned (and in general being a great fan of the Aussie range of hair care products, that's actually going to be launched properly in Sweden soon, but more about that exciting new later) this is just such a complete disappointment of a mousse that *promises* curl defining bounce and shine. Instead it does quite the opposite for me, if flattens and weigh down my hair plus leaves it listless. Will so not buy again.
Lipstick - in the above mentined good bag exchange I had wished for a MAC lipgloss that wasn't available in Sweden. Turned out it was a lim ed in US too, and this slimline lipstick long stem rose was supposedly the closest one to it. I'm so glad we met, because I love the slim and practial shape of the casing, the scent is lovely vanilla-raspberryish and the medium pink colour is sweet. If I would comment on one negative aspect it is that it dries the lips (like the Laura Mercier lipgloss I'm fond of despite that detail).
Hand soap - a pink handsoap with what supposedly was strawberry scent with an unreadable label brought home from China by M. Very average. And if I could get my hands on it again I simply wouldn't.
Hand soap too - Funky Farm apple, pigs on the bottle, pink soap, apple scent. Nice one.
Nail cream - Burt's Bees lemon butter cuticle creme, another find in the above mention goodie bag exchange. Rather nice with a lovely lemon drop scent. Not as top notch good as my favourite nail candy, but nice just the same.
Nailpolish - I really like the idea behind the LONDON Butter nail polish, the writing on their website and all the snazzy colours. This nuance Charlie Dickens is lovely, looks great on nails too and is easy to apply. Still, it does scuff way too soon compared to most other polishes I've used, perhaps the price one has to pay for "poisonfree" nail polish? From the goodie bag exchange treat.
See, that wrap up was a quick and easy one, wasn't it? Happy New Beauty-from-inside-out Year!
For this last Ruby Tuesday of 2008 - gosh how time flies... - I will give you three red books, which all in their very own way is a great way to start the new literary year with. And not only because they look lovely in red on the outside, they do have a content that's more than well worth a read. They are all thought provoking and share three important ingredients in a book as well as in life - love, laughter and tears.
Hjärtat får inga rynkor (The heart doesn't get wrinkles) by Mark Levengood is only available in Swedish at this time, but you can read a bit more about the author here. As usual a book by Levengood is a sweet, humourfilled, witty observation on life and living.
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo is available both in English and Swedish
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie is available in English
Chose one or chose them all and your new book year will get a good beginning! When you've snuggled up in bed or sofa with a ruby book of choice for your mind I think it's only right that you treat your body to something ruby sweet too with that cup of tea I'm sure you've already poured yourself. Might I suggest some scrumptious gingerbread squares with a generous amount of lingonberries on top ~
Monday, December 29, 2008
She later meets an older man and step by step, through immense cultural clashes and completely different views on life, their one year love story is told. The book is written in a hobble way, in a way one newly arrived to the west without any prior knowledge in a language would write, in broken English.
Admittedly I did find it rather difficult to read - and even more difficult not to use my friend the pen and point out solecisms, spelling errors and my musings... - at first, but then I realised that if you were to translate Swedish to English straight off, this is pretty much how it would read. That somehow made it easier to just relax, read and think about the thoughts and ideas, cultural concepts and misconceptions that hid behind the words.
I find the book to be quite brilliant, both the unusual and unique way of telling a story. How in many ways very, very different we look at animals, family, food, freedom, grammar, life, living, love, relationships, tense, travel, words, work here in west compared to east. The way both world's take so many, too many, things for granted makes me sad. How in midst of all these differences there's often a core of the same basic needs and longings. Not to mention how much humour there is to be found in someone struggling to grasp and learn a new language.
Highly recommended read.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
In the not-so-small town of Enköping, some miles northwest of Stockholm, you'll find the adorable little Café Tant Gredelin - which translates Auntie Violet, the literary sister of Auntie Brown/Tant Brun being the name of the cute café in Sigtuna. Both names deriving from the lovely children's book series by Elsa Beskow, about Auntie Brown, Auntie Green, Auntie Violet and Uncle Blue. Sigtuna being the hometown of the real life models for the characters, Beskows own uncle and aunties who remained unmarried and lived in Sigtuna.
In the case of Café Tant Gredelin, if you happen to be in the vicinity of Enköping this is simply a must stop for a lovely, cosy, yummy experience in an oldfashioned environment. When opening the door you're met by tempting whiffs of bread and buns, the prices are decent and the staff friendly. Great care in details as far as interior decoration goes without being overdone.
The only obvious negative aspect about the place for us vegetarians is that the sandwich options are very limited, the cheese sandwich not that good (at least that's my taste buds' opinion) and due to the Swedish *rather* ridiculously restrictive regulations concerning food handling they're not allowed to make other sandwiches in the café...
But if you're only looking for tea - vast selection served at the table in your own teapot - or coffee or hot chocolate with a nice piece of cake enjoyed in a delightful surrounding you've definitely come to the right place!
Situated at Sandgatan 29, they're open Mon-Sat (at special occasions also on Sundays) and apparently also serve afternoon tea buffet every Thursday 14-17 (2pm-5pm), that sounds indeed lovely. As much as I enjoy my tea/coffee outdoors in the summer I really do think this place is best visited during the colder and darker time of the Scandinavian year, indoors, since there are old sofas, wicker chairs, candlelight, warmth and cosiness that just can't be reciprocated in an outdoor area, even if the inner courtyard does look nice too. The place seems to be very popular amongst the locals hence can be rather crowded, so be prepare to wait a while for a table or, if you're feeling adventurous, possibly share.
Now, let the pictures do the final talking -
"Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" is a little gem of a story - that for some odd reason hasn't been translated into Swedish, which is such a pity for Swedes who can't or don't want to read it in English - is set in the early 1970ies and about two teenage sons of academics who are banished to a village in the middle of the Chinese nowhere during the Cultural Revolution.
Though gruesome circumstances the boys find friendship, love (both for books and the little seamstress) and magic. Despite the subject revolving around life's hardship this easy, yet by no means simple, read of a novel manages to both beautifully paint, with carefully chosen words, a most vivid description of nature itself as well as the human - very far from always appealing - equivalence.
Amidst all this dirt and darkness caused by the human mind and body there is humour and just because someone has already written exactly what I'd like to say about this book I will now shamelessly steal/quote a few words from The Boston Globe review on the back cover of the book - "... a glimpse in to that dark place where the human spirit continued, against all odds, to shine its light". Well, some spirit and some light for and by at least some.
At first I did find the ending slightly disappointing and ignominous, but when pondering a bit more about it that ending just gives food for thought instead of completely string it together. And sometimes that can be the best of endings.
The exquisite cover design (of my version of the book) match the words within beautifully. Needless to say, this book, originally written in French, by Dai Sijie, is a highly recommended read, both for the story told and the writing.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Despite its name Chokladkoppen (The Chocolate cup) isn't one of my favourite café hang-outs, although the few times I've been there the lunch, food, coffee and cakes have been really nice. It's pretty much always filled with a variety of guests but somehow neither me nor my café-antenna is tuned-in fully embracing the place. It might have something to do with the fact that it's situated at one of the most touristy addresses in town - Stortorget 18, in the middle of Gamla Sta'n (Old Town) and I'm fond of place at not-so-obvious-addresses.
But passing by the other week I was *this* close to going inside having something warm to drink because this winter window of theirs looked just amazing. Adorable, inviting, warm, friendly, mouthwatering, well-thought out and festive are some words that pop into my head. Actually just that one window with it's perfect decoration could possibly qualify this particular chocolate cup for a soon-to-be-place on my favourite-café-list... Isn't it pretty?
Friday, December 26, 2008
Alas we didn't get a proper white Christmas on these latitudes, though a few snowflakes and some frost made for a rather pretty scene just the same. Every year I find myself thinking that "hey presto, Christmas is gone before it has even begun" - and as I'm not even the traditional, stressing, self-effacing character that thrives on making a big hullabaloo about Christmas, one can only ponder what those individuals feel when it's all C-over...
With this season I like the winter flowers, the spicy scents and the fruits, the candles oh the candles in any shape and form, the warm colours and especially everything red, the decorations in moderation, the snow (if we had any), the drinking of tea, a bit of seasonal music for ambiance, the saffron buns, meeting friends for chats in cafés (which I suppose I do enjoy any time of the year really), the warm cosiness indoors and the crispy clearness outdoors, the planning and writing of Christmas cards that leads up to that one day that ends before it has even begun.
What I don't like with this season is all the self-imposed (yes) stress - not that I feel it but I'm well beyond annoyed of hearing about it from others... - all the traditional food that once had a face with innocent eyes now being stuffed in faces with greedy mouths, the kitschy kind of exaggerated, overdone decoration in homes and on streets (oh my...), the overblown consumerism with giving and receiving more or very less well thought through bought gifts just for the sake of it, too much seasonal music and too many stupid Christmas albums being released (and bought).
Add to that allowing myself to now and then get a sting of bad conscience (even more so this time of the year) for grumping and being at times as self absorbed as the other, since I suppose, despite everything frustrating, compared to some, to many, I'm rather well off - at least when it comes to mind and body, health and education, family and friends, the food I eat and the roof over my head, the darling furries that live under this roof and the books in my shelves - and with all that well offness combined I should, somehow, be able to make even more than I already do for others less fortunate.
So come new year, come new resolutions.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Christmas wouldn't be right without one loaf doggie extraordinaire getting something special, right? This year it was three meatballs and then this small but very loud thing neatly wrapped, though, surprisingly, not so neatly unwrapped by gift-receiver.
A wee hippo! Isn't he just the cutest thing ever?! And imagine he will suffer as a squeaker toy in the impressive jaws of one loafie... I can't see the life expectancy of this wee thing being that long, but the lady in the pet store had apparently *promised* it would be very durable and a perfect gift for terriers ("who only like to tear things apart", hrmf...).
As usual with squeaker toys and one log shaped dog in the prime of life it was love at first sight. And they pretty much have been inseparable for more than a day now. Hippo still squeaks. I really don't blame him for it. I would too if my life would, touch wood, take a twist with me ending up in the jaws of one super excited hairy loaf.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
This year's Christmas gift to myself - yes I do give myself one since I think it's important to be kind also to oneself - is this lovable, handmade felt brooch in red and pink with a dash of green leaves from talented Swedish designer Tina Calén. Who happens to have her studio and shop in last week's small town of Sigtuna. She makes quirky gorgeous clothes and accessories, mainly felted and combined with lace, in many wonderful colours. Many of her things are perhaps too delicate for everyday wear, but I'd truly love to have a dress or two from her designs. And a hat and a bag and...
Another thing that will warm my heart this Christmas is the fact that one of my favourite wee things, Järn-Olle (Little Iron Boy) in Gamla Sta'n (Old Town), here in Stockholm seem to have found a friend in red. The friend doesn't look to unhappy despite the fact that (s)he is soaking wet (we can't all be shaped in iron) and has been sort of chained to the place. Not another lonely Christmas for Järn-Olle. That must be the best gift of them all.
Monday, December 22, 2008
B) the ones who send cards but not the thought through kind
C) the ones who never send cards, but who I consider to be dear friends anyway
D) the ones who might benefit in one way or other from a personalized Christmas card from yours truly, to the
F) the mass emailers
The latter group is, imho, the most despicable there is. If one can't be bothered to write a personal greeting why even bother at all. I. Just. Do. Not. Get. It. No need whatsoever to include me in such email-lists, if one don't think me a well-deserving recipient of a personal Christmas - or whenever - greeting, please exclude me. Me and my e-mail are much happier that way.
Most of these groups are revised every year, some previous receivers are expelled completely, others placed in another group (possibly up for evaluation when it's time to send the cards), some newcomers and some once in a while-comers.
This year's batch of cards is very stylish - perhaps not as top notch as I would have expected, but more on that later - if I may say so, very well thought through and in some cases extremely personalized indeed. The last ones were sent yesterday, hopefully they'll get there in time for Christmas, if not, there'll be a wee sweet card turning up in a mailbox near you in the intermediate!
And to all you that won't get one of these cards, the reason for that might just be I'm not in the possession of a (correct) address or we haven't been introduced properly. But I hope you have a very merry Christmas anyway!
A couple of years back I noticed a new phenomena in Stockholm, concerning the disgusting habit of some, too many, less than well behaved lacking in respect for others dog owners had find it fit to leave the dog poop behind on the pavement for fellow wo/men to walk in. Suddenly some of these stinky piles had a tiny Swedish flag stuck in them.
Being a woman with a highly sophisticated humour I found this to be top notch hilarious. For whatever reason someone one day decided this would be a befitting way to signal dog dropping alert the flag really signals proud determination in the middle of all crap. Brilliant.
Since I am such a sophisticate keen to capture details with camera I have of course been eager to catch one of these flags in dropping for ages. Alas I hadn't found quite the right smelly pile - despite, I admit, having armoured myself with my own tiny Swedish flags in my handbag emergency kit - to get down and dirty, semi-close and far from personal with. Until now.
Even if it was neither smelly - small blessings -, due to frost, nor turd in the city, it was indeed an impressive pile, one of quite a few, carelessly left here and there on a castle lawn. For any visitor not quite looking, or expecting, to step in.
Being this woman of the world I immediately realised I had to, quite methaphorically, kill two birds with one stone, catch a flag on top of a pile at the same time as I did what any sensible person would do, alert others to imminent poop danger.
Flag in frosty pile, me on knees - dressed in skirt, nylons and a pretty coat, see I thrive from danger and I do, almost, anything for the art of photography - on frosty gravel path trying to capture what can quite possibly - in some weird and twisted parallell world - be THE photo of the year.
I do think the frost-nipped lawn made for a rather pleasing flag in crap backdrop. Though however content I am with having shown such bravery capturing that particular frosty moment I would be more than, beyond words, content if many more dog owners would show enough consideration, clean up after your dog, bag it and bin it. Please.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Before I leisurely browsed through the bookstore that day - with a book discount coupon that nearly burnt a hole in my pocket, I wouldn't dream of wasting it... - I had barely heard of the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. But when I saw this book with a green eyed black cat on the front cover I knew it was for me. And reading the back cover made me all the more certain. A budding brick novel that involves a tracker of lost cats, cats that converse with people, fish that tumble from the sky, a forest that harbours men that haven't aged in 60 years and a violent killing that's a riddle - that sounds almost too good to be true!
But as it turned out it wasn't. It was very true and captivating from the first page. I loved the way the story, always an easy read but still eloquently written, went back and forth, to and from, drama, comedy, thriller, horror, philosophy, love, fantasy, reality and then some. It's an elevating, suggestive, immensely entertaining, horrific, heartbreaking, hopeful, bewitching, ingeniously told tale.
As much as I loved reading this unusual and marvelously told narrative, there were also two more or less minor flaws in the book I'd like to whinge a bit about. One is the way Murakami in detail decribes various cats' colours, some non-existing colours as far as genetics go. And I don't get the impression these descriptions are meant to be imaginary colours. Then why even make a fuss with these details when one obviously can't be bothered to check facts...
The second one is the, for me, chopped and simplified ending. To have been on such a venturous literary journey and then *puff* the end, the main character's life is back to normal. The story would so have benefitted from a more subtle and elusive ending.
But, nevertheless, minor flaws or not, a brilliantly woven magical novel about what is, what could have been, a young man's battle against prophecies and an old man's battle against time. And much much more. Do read.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Christmas trees for sale here and there in Stockholm these days. I for one won't be getting one of those cut downs, never have, never will. Since I'm a firm believer in that the trees are chlorophyll happier and benefit the planet and us more left alone to grow in the woods and not being - even if grown for Christmas purposes and however lovely they might look - indoor used for some weeks and then, in most cases, blatantly discarded.
I do immensely enjoy my little sugar loaf fir in garden though, tangled with the ornament tree and the clematis, season appropriately decorated with lights. I'm easy to please that way.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Like I've mention before I'm rarely a winner when it comes to random competitions and lotteries. And to compete for things with neither mind nor talent involved never have, never will interest me. Besides there can be some pretty scary prizes involved if you actually win... I think I can safely say that I'm as far from being a gameaholic as one can be.
As much as I do enjoy things, games and competitions where mind and talent are involved in theory, I rarely consider entering. Now and then I have over the years and now and then I have won. The most memorable win must have been a rather flashy camera - flashy at the time, far from these days - which served me well during quite a few years. It still works, I never use it.
If I did I probably wouldn't have been one of 12 who won "picture of the month" in the 2009 edition of my municipality's so called environmental calender. A calender with photos from the specific municipality which I think every municipality in Sweden give away to its inhabitants once a year.
To be honest I haven't paid all that much attention to those calenders over the years, they contain municipality information, questions and answers regarding environmental issues, recycling etc, some nice photos, some splendid ones and some very less than good ones. Since I prefer to get my own calenders with motifs I choose by heart these environmental calenders get recycled immediately in residence of mine.
Until this year I haven't even realised that the pictures in the calenders are actually the result of an annual photo competition. So I thought, kind of neat to at least enter, and to be blunt, last year's pictures were with few exceptions... well, not a lot to write home about, if the municipality hadn't welcomed lots of new professional or talented amateur photographers since last year I should have at least a pretty fair chance. And if I didn't get picked at least I tried and I was overall pleased with the photos I submitted anyway. Etc, etc.
The winners - one for each month - would be notified in October. October came and went. Not a word, not any scrap of information at the municipality's website. Ah well, that's life. Yesterday evening my mother called me and said that the winners were announced in the local paper, I really did think she was joking when she casually read my name. So I had to rummage through my recycle paper bags for that paper - which I rarely find an interesting read either... - and yes, there it was, tiny, tiny short notice announcing me as one of twelve. Huzzah.
I think that announcement - or rather lack of - leaves a lot to be desired. I still have no idea what the prize is, if I'm supposed to just feel all warm and fuzzy inside happy about the fact that one of my photos with my name on it gets one whole month of hanging on the walls of thousands of local inhabitants - if they're not like me when it comes to calenders... - or if there's some more tangible prize involved.
I have no clue as to which one of the submitted photos they chose. And the calenders won't be distributed until December 30th so I can't make a plethora of nifty, superbly refined Christmas give aways, signed by yours truly. And what if they have chosen one of my lesser good entries, should I change my name, bow my head in shame for a whole month. Mind boggling issues for one of twelve.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Real Food Café is one of those exemplary places for food in England - Scotland with quite a few decent vegetarian alternatives on the menu. Sure it's a fast food joint - not exactly a place for meals I like to frequent, but occasionally it does happen - but it's also a place that displays many interesting ideas when it comes to values, long term thinking, environmental consciousness, community involvement and such. I'm especially intrigued by the rape seed oil for frying that is then turned into fuel for cars.
This road side restaurant - situated in Tyndrum, Trossachs national park - offers both a view of the nearby traffic swooshing by but also a quaint village and grand Scottish woods and hills. At least in the summers when you can sit outside.
We happened to pass Tyndrum when in Scotland last summer, just famished and this looked like a nice enough place for a feed stop. It turned out to be so much nicer than expected though. I feasted on a quite lovely portion - huge, served two when with a side salad and chips - of battered mushrooms. The chips were a bit mushy but not too bad, though what I really loved was the fact that they did serve a lovely, healthy (lots of grated carrots!) mixed side salad and if the main salads on the menu are anything like that one they must be awesome.
If you happen to be in the vicinity, being hungry, do pop by The Real Food Café for a different, and healthier, kind of fast food experience.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
As I've mentioned before in a Ruby post this is the season for Christmas fairs in Sweden, some are held every weekend, from Advent Sunday, up until Christmas whilst others are a one time event. In the picturesque small town of Sigtuna - which actually is the oldest town in Sweden, founded in late 1000 century AD, if you're interested in reading more about this town I suggest you take a peek at a previous Sigtuna post - this year's fair is held four Sundays leading up to Christmas.
Next Sunday will be the last day of Sigtuna Christmas fair this season, opening hours are 11-16 (11am - 4 pm) if one plan to pop by I so strongly recommend to be there when it opens. The immense crowding makes it very less than enjoyable, as far as I'm concerned. The town itself, both for strolling, sightseeing, shopping and eating, is very much worth a visit though. Perhaps save it for a less crowded day?
The inner courtyard at adorable Tant Brun (Auntie Brown) café - a must visit! - , the outdoor area is perhaps not quite the place for having coffee and cake this time of the year. So let's go inside and enjoy coffee, tea, hot cocoa, sandwich, cakes, buns and ginger snaps of choice by the fire instead.
Before heading home a visit to one of these facilities on the other side of the Auntie Brown courtyard, displayed by red hearts, may be just the thing ~
Monday, December 15, 2008
In the pretty suburb of Lidingö, outside Stockholm you'll find the head office of the Swedish industrial gas company AGA, founded in 1904. As Lidingö also is the home of sculptor Carl Milles' Millesgården (Milles' Mansion) one of his sculptures (Hand of God) can be seen adorning the lawn outside the offices.
The office is situated in a vast industrial area called Dalénum - named after one of the company's prominent figures, Nobel Prize laureate in physics Gustaf Dalén, the man who invented the world renowned AGA cooker in 1922 - with many quite lovely looking red brick buildings. It feels like the time somehow has stand still there, in an esthetically very appealing way.
I've only briefly read about the company AGA - since 1999 German owned - details surrounding heavy industrial companies isn't exactly one of my core interests, but from what I read it seems like an interesting company for various reasons, and well before its time in the early 20th century regarding employment conditions and worker's benefits. More information can for example be found at the company's website