There is nothing better than a little lipstick - go red, try Dior, why not? To lift your spirits every time you pass the mirror, to empower you on your Zoom calls and to help with the fiction that you are out to dinner even when it's just Deliveroo.
Did you see the incredible red skies in the morning this week? This morning a heavy mist covered the fields, wrapping the earth with crystals of frost decorating its edges. Soft red ribbons ran across the sky, lifting to blue and golden yellow. It seemed as if I was in a Thomas Hardy novel... and all this before breakfast! If you haven't planted your bulbs this is probably the last few days you can before it's too hard underfoot.
On December 3rd this year we will be celebrating with a glass of champagne for anyone coming in to the shop to make this a very special Advent reopening. If you are planning a trip to Sloane Street, we would love to see you and share some Christmas cheer. I have decorated our advent calendar this year with the glorious, extravagant kokoshniki (onion) domes of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. With branches of Scots Pine, Christmas trees and some dogwood, I spent yesterday decorating the pots and balconies outside the shop on Sloane street. The final touch was some lichen-covered branches that remind me of my trip to Norway, walking on the springy moss under the pine trees - their branches heavily weighed down with lichen, moss and snow. I always admire the fir cones (they call them Furu Kongle in Norway) dangling from the pine trees and the little larch cones that sit like robins along a branch.
I love to celebrate Advent and start to decorate the house from then on. Day by day I love bringing out the decorations I have brought back from my travels each year: beautifully woven tiny reed lobster pots from Thailand, wooden red poinsettias from the market in Cusco in Peru, painted wooden 'julpynt' bells from the Gamla Stan in Stockholm. Each one tells a story and I relive those stories one by one as I take each one out from where it has lain patiently dormant out in the shed.
On my walks 'around the block' this week I have caught up with a few friends (socially distanced of course) and pondered on this thought...
What do you want to own that you don't currently possess?
Think about a skill, not an object... is it patience (to handle endless 'why's' from children or grandchildren), is it to look on the bright side (stop worrying about what you can't do, and focus on what you can) or is it to make your own Christmas cards this year and learn how to do calligraphy?
In these darker months, I find I light my Diptyque candles earlier every day. My love affair with their candles goes back to 1983 when I lived in France and was working for Pfizer. In my dream world, I would like to have the Indian tradition of 'candles everywhere' at Diwali almost every evening! I love the flicker of the candle's light, the subtle scents of Cypres or Oranger, and, closer to Christmas, of Myrrh And Eucalyptus.
This weekend is Stir-up Sunday, traditionally a time for making your Christmas pudding and cake. I start by making mince pies, little tiny ones, I can pop in my mouth while on the go. The mincemeat delivers an intense sense of Christmas that leaves me smiling in the anticipation of it all.
And if you haven't already started thinking in a more eco-friendly way, now is the time. Start small: stay aware of your 'supply chain' - if you grow it or make it yourself there is no chain. Reach for your knitting needles and make a jumper or scarf, cut up some old clothes, re-purpose them and make a Christmas dressing gown for your sister, granddaughter, or goddaughter. Plant up some paperwhite narcissi or hyacinths in a pretty basket with some Christmas ribbon to give to a friend you are planning to see when lockdown eases in December. Share Advent and the Christmas spirit wherever you go…
The best recipe I have made recently is for Millionaires Flapjack. I know - it is the U L T I M A T E combo - the healthy flapjack married to all the deliciousness of the 'millionaire' recipe style (reminding me of that wonderful 'Who wants to be a Millionaire' song in the film High Society with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly). Leave it overnight and cut it into small pieces - smaller than you might imagine - to treat yourself to with a cup of coffee.
I bought some scallops this week and cooked them in the air fryer wrapped with some bacon. (Have you bought your air fryer yet?). Perfect for a quick, light lunch with salad any day of the week and it feels like you have been out to a bistro in Paris.
I love to cook small poussin on Sundays for lunch, somehow tastier than a large chicken - and if you cook the poussin in a chicken brick it is similar to cooking in a tagine and all the moisture stays inside the chicken. Add some cherry tomatoes, leeks, potatoes and towards the end, a few green beans. Much less to wash up!... and with the sun setting earlier now, you can then get out for a lovely long walk before dark.
It was minus 3 degrees in Kiruna on the edge of the Arctic circle this morning and 26 degrees on the beach in Cancun, Mexico. How amazing is the planet we live on that gives such different lives and too our different traditions, stories, fashions, and foods? I don't think I could cook breakfast in my igloo, but I might have a go at warming up some mini tortillas on a griddle!
Have a lovely festive planning weekend...