dimanche 30 octobre 2011

Things I like for winter

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I like to think of myself as an autumn person, much happier putting on a chunky sweater and tights than a summer dress (even if I have a nice collection of the latter). There's no longer any danger of sweaty nights and the days are often golden and filled with colours. Winter doesn't affect me like some people who feel the cold terribly and get depressed by the dark mornings and short days but every now and then I get a touch of the blues, made worse by miserable grey skies and heavy rain. With that in mind, I've decided to put together a list of things that bring a smile to my face and help me get through times when everything seems as bleak as the wind blowing outside.

1.Classic literature

Some books are simply better for reading in winter and having a good book or two on the go makes staying in seem less bad. Reading Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell always make me feel as if I'm sitting curled up in some country house by a roaring fire, even if the reality is a little less charming. Persuasion has the wistful melancholy of an autumn afternoon and its golden leaves and last year, Cranford had me laughing out loud.

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In our family, we spend our Christmas evenings selecting our favourite texts and reading them aloud. It's so much fun so if you don't live alone, why not give it a try? Diaries like those Pepys are be great orBoswell's Life of Doctor Johnson or some correspondence. Or how about some classic ghost stories like M.R James or Wilkie Collins?

2. Baking with fruit and spices

The kitchen is my favourite room to spend time in but it's unfortunately also the coldest with only a tiny radiator and thin windows and a cold draft. Switching the oven on is a necessary step, plus what could be better than having an apartment filled with the smell of chocolate cake, cinammon or baked apples? In a few weeks' time I'll be preparing my yearly batch of Plätzchen or Christmas cookies to give to my friends. This year though I'd also like to try this Panforte recipe and Julia's Kardemummabullar. In the meantime, there's the stem ginger shortbread recipe at the end of this post.

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Stem ginger shortbread

2. Knitwear

Even if I can never resist a pretty summer dress, secretly I'm always looking forward to the day when the thick jumpers come back. I'm happy to say that fair isle patterned ones are a key trend this season. I covet this one from Gudrun and Gudrun but sadly not the price tag but there are plenty of high street alternatives. I've just ordered this one from Esprit, along with this knitted dress and this jumper from H&M. Otherwise, I'll be wearing my Muji hat from last year on frosty mornings and slipping on the thick socks in the evenings. My best investment recently has been a pair of Sandra Juto wristworms which make it possible for me to write, work on the computer and read while keeping my hands warm.

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3. Kitchen stories

One of my favourite films which I found thanks to Julia and wrote about in more detail here. A story about a Swedish man from a home research institute sent to investigate the kitchen habits of single Norwegian men. Funny, touching and quirky, it's perfect for winter viewing.

4. TV series

There are some things you should know about me; apart from pyjamas and sportswear, I don't own any trousers, I have never had a washing machine and I don't have a TV. Recently though, I've discovered the joys of television series on DVD, the satisfaction of viewing something over several weeks, that sometimes I only feel like watching something for a hour or 30 minutes, rather than a whole film. Last summer I once again fell in love with Brideshead Revisited, nostalgic for a Britain of a different time, and the autumn evenings have been devoted to Fortunes of War with the amazingly young Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. Classic comedies like Frasier or Open All Hours remind me of Friday nights spent glued to the television as a teenager when I had a crush on Niles and wondered if Granville would ever find a girlfriend while the House of Elliott takes me back to Sunday teatime watching it with crumpets and boiled eggs, dreaming of having Evie's style.

Right now though my waking hours are largely devoted to thinking about the Killing, A Danish series revolving around a single case and a stubborn female detective with a black and white jumper I'm also obsessed with. No silly car chases, explosions or glamourous police officers. It's tough limiting myself to just two episodes a week.

5. Woody Allen films

Whenever I feel the winter blues or the mean reds coming on, I reach for a film in my Woody Allen collection. Somehow they make you feel that it's Friday evening even on a grim Monday and that everything is all right with the world. In Woody Allen films there's always something good at the cinema, people burst into song or stroll along the Seine. There are flea markets to visit, restaurants that stay open all night and most of all, New York with jazz music.

6. Beauty products

As a teenager I was an avid reader of fashion and beauty magazines, saving for weeks to buy Lancôme skincare and Clarins make-up. I've since become disenchanted with the whole industry but still rely on a few key products, especially in winter. I suffer from rosacea on my face and eczema on my hands (it's not as bad as it sounds) so need gentle, effective and most of all, unperfumed products. For my face I wouldn't be without my Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish hot cloth cleanser complete with muslin cloth or Simple Hydro Boost cream for dehydrated skin. Sali Hughes has a brilliant beauty column in the Guardian and following her recommendations, I threw away my tins of Vaseline and bought a dinky little tube of Clinique Superbalm. For hands, Body Shop Almond Hand and Nail Cream or L'Occitane Shea Butter hand cream are wonderful.

7. Winter walks

It seems a strange thing to suggest a walk when it's freezing cold outside but often when I'm feeling down, a brisk stroll through the park helps me collect my thoughts. The days are shorter but the light can be amazing. On Christmas Day, there's no feeling like it as we put on our coats, boots and scarves and set out down frozen lanes, silent for once. In Berlin, I keep seeing posters for great houses and palaces in Brandenburg. A walk through fresh snow around Schloss Rheinsberg below would be wonderful.

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8. Soups

If anything can make you grateful for that chill in the air, it's a comforting bowl of hot soup. Except for summer, I eat it almost every evening, dipping into Lindsey Bareham's A Celebration of Soup or my other cookbooks for inspiration. On warmer days, I tend to prepare clearer, lighter soups but now is the time for hot, thick ones, with strong cheddar grated on top and a piece of dark, crusty bread. I'm planning a series on soups, beginning with the cauliflower one below in the next post.

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9. Films/ exhibitions

When I'm not brave enough to face the great outdoors, I head for an afternoon screening at the cinema which still makes me feel as if I'm skipping school. A season of musicals is beginning at the British Film Institute very soon which I'd love to see and in Berlin, I'm looking forward to seeing Meek's Cutoff, the new Paolo Sorrentino film, Polanski's Carnage and perhaps rewatching the latest Jane Eyre because of its Derbyshire landscapes and wonderful performances.

In Berlin there's still time to catch the Hokusai and Faces of the Renaissance exhibitions if you can face the crowds but I preferred to go upstairs in the Gropius Bau to look at the photos by Eugene Smith. The Museum of Photography is always worth returning to and I'm dying to see those Helmut Newton Polaroids. In London, if you can, it's really worth going to see the Degas exhibition at the Royal Academy, along with the Soviet Art and Architecture one. At Somerset House there will soon be ice skating but what I'd most love to see would be these exquisite photos of Venice, like the one below. If you can, will you go there for me?

Apologies for the rather rambling post but then I like so many different things. Let me know what brings you comfort through the winter.

Stem ginger shortbread (from Linda Collister's The Great British Bake Off)

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Makes 20

200g soft unsalted butter
100g caster sugar, plus some extra to sprinkle on top
240g white spelt flour, or 260g plain flour if you prefer
40g rice flour, ground rice or cornflour (I used the third)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
a pinch of salt
50g chopped glacé ginger

1-2 baking sheets, greased

1. Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until creamy. Pour in the sugar and cream again until light and smooth.
2. Sift the flour, rice flour or cornflour, ground ginger and salt into the bowl. Add the chopped ginger and using your hands, combine all ingredients until the mixture can be formed into a ball. Roll the dough into a log shape, wrap in plastic and leave to rest in the fridge for around 20-30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F. Remove the dough from the fridge and using a sharp knife, slice 20 evenly thick rounds. Place them slightly apart on the baking sheet.
3. Bake the biscuits for approximately 20 minutes or until firm but not coloured. Take them out of the oven and sprinkle a little caster sugar over them. Leave to crisp up for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool. They keep really well for up to a week in an airtight container, if you can make them last that long!

If ginger isn't your thing, you can leave out the glacé ginger and ground spice and use 50g chopped dark chocolate instead, skipping the caster sugar sprinkled on top. 50g of chopped, unsalted pistachios would also be a great alternative.

26 commentaires:

  1. You will have a great winter with your choices:))

  2. A lovely list! I also love the movie "Kitche Stories", winter walks, baking with fruits/spices, Woody alle movies and soup.

    Those shortbread cookies are delightful looking!



  3. I had forgotten all about House of Elliot... it was a fine show. Your list is charming and I think the tradition of reading together on holidays is brilliant. I was just reminded about Castle of Otranto (NYTimes travel article on the city) and thought it would be fun to read on Halloween... that Clarimonde story was great too... read by a woman from Hong Kong with a very interesting accent. I actually turned down the lights, closed my eyes and listened ... it was great fun.

    Keep warm... NY had it's first snow already!

  4. Great post, you make the chill of winter sound like a wonderful gift, which it is. There is so much to appreciate and do differently when the climate becomes challenging. Winter walks on a crisp day are good for the soul. Thank you.

  5. I adore this post. It's nice to see that I'm not the only one prepping mentally and physically for the season to come. On Friday I reorganized my wardrobe—winter clothes at eye level and summer tucked away in drawers. Yesterday I bought yarn, lots of yarn and more knitting needles. I swear by Aquaphor to keep lips from chapping and hands from cracking. With baking well under way, I just need to find a suitable stack of books...

  6. We have the same list:) We really do. And share some of the same very specific likes. I'll be back but wanted to pop in. This was fun. I don't feel so bad now. And I'm hopping down to a L'Occitane tomorrow to pick up a free tube of hand cream that I "won" in a FB campaign. Hoorah.


  7. @Dzoli - I sure hope so.
    @Rosa - How nice you also know Kitchen Stories and also like watching TV series. Hope you've found some time for viewing in your break.
    @Deana - I can just imagine that House of Elliott style would appeal to you. It'S funny that you mention Castle of Oranto because that's one book I've been meaning to read for ages and yes, it's perfect for Halloween. Last summer I wanted to visit Strawberry Hill to see where Horace Walpole lived and wrote but the opening hours were so short - just 2 hours for the house and garden. Hope the first snow wasn't as bad as it looked in NY. I was thinking of you yesterday.
    @P.K - That's exactly it, we have to learn to work with what we've got. I can imagine that winter walks would appeal to you and look forward to seeing the seasons changing through your photos.
    @Susan - I was sure we'd have so many things in common and it makes me happy. Am glad you're not feeling so blue and most of all that you won some lovely hand cream. FB is good for something then. It really is the best quality; I can't stand anything greasy or strongly perfumed. Take care and will be in touch very soon.

  8. Voilà un bel hiver en perspective ! Je partage pleinement tes choix, à commencer par Kitchen stories et la soupe de choux fleur que j'ai justement réalisé hier pour la première fois ;-) Elle était très bonne avec un peu de muscade, du lait de soja et du comté râpé... et si belle avec son blanc velouté de saison. J'ai aussi refait une série de "bullar" (à la cannelle cette fois). Mmm... C'est dur, tu verras, de ne pas les manger tous en une fois ;-)

  9. hello there.

    reading through your list was was warming and comforting as a bowl of soup followed by those biscuits. :)

    i'm a fan of classics, frasier (you had a crush on Niles!?), woody allen films, soup, and quirky films.


  10. What a lovely list! I really adored House of Elliot; I think I watched it via Netflix. I wished it could go on and on. I confess, I don't watch very many TV series. And when I read about them later (my daughter pushed Mad Men in my face) I try to find the DVD's.
    Can't stand Woody Allen. Sorry about that.
    And my winter walks aren't quite like yours. :)
    Fall used to be my favorite season when I lived in Michigan. And when I visit, that's the time of year I go.

  11. Oh, my. This post is just filled with goodness. I even like the comments. I'm intrigued by Tracy's Aquaphor. I believe I'll begin delving into the winter world of Emily Vanessa by watching Kitchen Stories.

  12. Lovely post, my dear! Thanks for the inspiration!
    And I like the new header, too!
    Hope you are well,

  13. This is a great post! I like how you're sharing more of yourself these days...

  14. @Tracy - Forgive me for not replying to you earlier but I wasn't feeling well yesterday and somehow my brain was also scrambled. What a great idea to organise the closet for colder days, I must do that this weekend. Like Denise, I'm intrigued by the Aquaphor and had never heard of it before. It sounds perfect for me. I'm jealous of you knitters because it's such a wonderful winter hobby and it must be such fun picking out yarn. Sigh! Let me know about the books you choose.
    @Julia - Merci beaucoup de m'avoir fait découvrir ce film car c'est vraiment un de mes préférés. C'est chouette que tu fasses aussi la soupe de chou fleur, j'ajoute un peu de moutarde et du cheddar râpé à la mienne mais la prochaine fois je prendrai un peu de muscade. Le week-end dernier j'ai finalement eu le temps pour réaliser ces "Bullar" et c'était une réussite, même le tour de main dont j'avais tellement peur. Il ne reste qu'à traduire la recette et la publier ici.
    @Monica - First of all, welcome and thanks for stopping by. I'm so glad you liked my list and that we have many things in common. Yes, I really did have a crush on Niles and still think he's cuter than Frasier. It doesn't matter that David Hyde Pierce is gay. But apparently there are others who also felt the same!
    @Barbara - Aha, another House of Elliott fan, how nice. Somehow TV series on DVD are really satisfying though I can't explain why. I love Mad Men though am ashamed to admit that I've never gotten beyond series 3. I lack the viewing stamina to follow anything for years. It'S hard for me to imagine a different kind of winter like you have but it must be nice not to have to worry about treacherous icy pavements, no?
    @Denise - I know, aren't the comments wonderful! I've also added The Cat's Table to my must read list for winter and am sure I'll love it. Hope you like Kitchen Stories, the music is also great and each time I see it, I want to move to Scandinavia more and more.
    @Kat - Oh thanks dear friend! I see you've also put together a wonderful list so I'm going to stop by your blog very soon.
    @Sasa - Nice to see you here and hope you're well. It seems strange to think that winter is already behind you and I hope you have a wonderful summer.

  15. Your post has thoroughly charmed me. The Killing was also shown on American Television and received critical acclaim as well as a wide audience. I, too, love winter walks and Jane Austin. I also think your cookies are scrumptious. This is my first visit to your site, but I'll definitely be back. You've created a great spot for your readers to visit and I really enjoyed the time I spent here. I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  16. I really, really loved reading your list! Looking forward to some lovely winter walks myself. :)

  17. I just love your list... Perfect in those times when the days get shorter and the temperatures lower. Feels great to be reading you again. Your words convey something incredibly peaceful.

  18. @Mary - Welcome and thanks so much for the lovely comment! It's nice to find so many readers who love the same things and also to learn that the Killing has done so well worldwide. The second series starts soon and apparently there's going to be a third. Have a lovely weekend and take care.
    @Coco - Thanks a lot. Hope I've inspired you and can'T wait to see some of your winter photos.
    @Julie - I've so missed your posts and comments too so it's lovely to find one here :-) Hope you're well and that you're enjoying this wonderful late autumn. The list is full of things I love but it would be OK with me to have mild days and sunshine too.

  19. I love this post! We have so many things in common; thick jumpers and Frasier, Woody Allen and hot, comforting soups...
    We just finished watching The Killing, what a great series. I'm looking forward to museum visits and walks around parks; even though I hate northern European winters, they inspire me in unexpected ways.

  20. The Killing is excellent! One of the best crime series I've ever seen.
    I think I'll have to make these shortbreads... love ginger. And it looks so pretty -- like bits of stained glass.

  21. Your blog is great, I read it all the time. The photos rock!!! I ordered the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser based on your recommendation and I really like it :-) I live in the US and had never heard of her products. Thanks!

  22. @Magda - I often think how nice it would be to watch films with you because we seem to like the same ones; I remember how you also love Broken Flowers. Well, the nice thing about winter is that you don't feel pressurised to spend every free minute outside like in summer, which I find a bit exhausting and there's plenty of time for comfort.
    @Amber - Aha, nice to find so many Killing fans here :-) I totoally agree it's one of the best series ever. I still have 6 more episodes of Series One to go and have an idea who the murderer might be. The second series starts next weekend in the UK and there will be a final one too. Can't wait. I love ginger and shortbread and together they're amazing - thanks for the compliment about the stained glass.
    @Melanie - Oh thanks, it's lovely to read that on a Sunday morning. Great too that you ordered the Liz Earle as I really think it's one of the best cleansers out there. I haven't tried any of her other products yet but they all sound great. Take care.

  23. PS I did love Kitchen Stories. The slow building of their friendship against the brisk snow covered landscape was lovely.

  24. Oh how lovely to know you liekd it! It's such a wonderful film and the music is great too.

  25. hello there.

    reading through your list was was warming and comforting as a bowl of soup followed by those biscuits. :)

    i'm a fan of classics, frasier (you had a crush on Niles!?), woody allen films, soup, and quirky films.