Elderflower Cordial

I’m not big on words this week, pictures are hitting the spot instead: very much enjoying these two visual blogs...

I’ve also been slurping elderflower cordial by the gallon. Elderflowers are everywhere at the mo’...

It’s common to use sugar/honey/citric acid when making elderflower drinks. I’m a fan of the honey version but felt like something lighter this year.

This worked well:

8 elderflower heads (some are large and some are small, so use your discretion)
Juice of half a lime
10 dried figs
Jug of water

Put everything into the jug and leave for a couple of days. Strain (eat the figs!) and store in the fridge. I drink this neat (due to the lack of sugar/honey it’s not really a cordial) but you can also dilute it for a subtler effect.


Christina Kim & Dosa

So, you know from past posts that my consciousness with food extends to clothes (with the odd lapse), see here and here, for example. I adored the article on the girl-crush-worthy Alys Fowler’s attitude to money last w/end. I identified no end, particularly with her confusion and lack of fun in a ‘new’ clothes shop.

Speaking for myself, it’s most certainly not a denial of beauty. I love beautiful things and even the odd browse for inspiration’s sake, amongst very expensive shops, but I prefer to spend my pennies more wisely, and there’s undoubtedly a more personal connection to be had with items that have been pounced upon in a village fĂȘte, unscrambled from a pile of rags in a charity shop, or sewn together using the remnants of someone else’s dress...

I’m also aware that for some people the idea of rooting through piles of clothes at a jumble sale or entering a charity shop is pure anathema. For these people, may I suggest Dosa. There are plenty of companies, who to my mind, have recently stepped aboard the green wagon but have done little to question the consumerist ethos of ‘buy, buy, buy’ and ‘more, more, more’. In some cases, it’s simply added another layer to consumerism, I must buy it because it’s green. NO!

Dosa is different. It’s been around since the early 80s, quietly crafting clothes and other items, keen to promote and continue ancient crafting traditions, often from remnants, and always with l-o-v-e ... Christina Kim, the company’s owner, like Alys Fowler, is another worthy-girl-crush.

I particularly love how Kim describes when ‘items pass through multiple pairs of hands during their construction, they undergo a “transfer of energy” ... Similarly, she considers the discipline imposed by working with finite resources to be not an impediment but a spur to imagination and inventiveness. Recycling limits you to “essences” she says’. (LA Times: 19/04/09).

Be warned, the clothes aren’t cheap (I’ve picked up my own treasured Dosa pieces on ebay) but as a recent article on Kim pointed out, ‘Something intricately made, yet cheaply priced, means the workers who made them were likely paid very little’. (KoreAm: 01/08/09). I can personally attest that these are clothes designed to be worn year after year, after year, after year ...

Inspired talk on Kim:

‘Kim walks her talk. Home is a small Richard Neutra building in Silver Lake that is perfect in design and function. Everything she needs fits perfectly in this tiny space – there is no excess – no walk-in closets filled with shoes and handbags here. Out of a small kitchen filled with jars of herbs and spices collected in her travels, she cooks exotic vegetables she gets from her friend James Birch, an organic farmer. The food is all colour and texture, and it’s delicious - seriously, like nothing you’ve ever tasted’. (NY Times: 31/10/04).

Inspired talk from Kim:
‘It’s important to understand how things are made, what they cost ... It’s about conscientious production, from beginning to end. We don’t cut corners. We try to think about the final impact we are making’. (KoreAm: 01/08/09).

‘Ultimately it’s the time you spend and relationships you create that make the projects successful. It isn’t the speed of doing things, it is doing things with care and love’. (NY Times: 31/10/04).

Pictures © Dosa and the Los Angeles Times


More Dash Than Cash

A friend sweetly presented me with a copy of this book which she’d picked up in a second-hand bookshop ... and it kick-started my recent musing on clothes. The book isn’t new to me: it was my virtual bible through my teenage years. Re-reading it has bought back many happy memories of clothes-hunting ... and I still live by the book’s rules today: quality rather than quantity, hunt everywhere for inspiration (and clothes), sew ‘em yourself if you can, and don’t forget the body that houses the clothes.

The images (and writing) are wonderful (it’s a Vogue book after all) but it’s the section at the end that has made me chuckle the most. It’s a light-hearted look at clothing tribes. No-one wants to be pigeon-holed but you’ll soon recognise yourself overlapping in the form of a fashion Venn diagram ... I am no ‘Executive Dresser’ nor ‘Vamp’ but ‘Land Girl’, ‘Country Girl’, ‘Peasant Girl’ and ‘Jumble Girl’ raised some wry smiles ...

Here are some extracts:

THE LAND GIRL: ‘... To avoid the passĂ© surplus look, the Land Girl has to know how much surplus is too much, and where to stop. The essential ingredient to her look is large doses of wit and the unexpected. Neutral, camouflage colours look dead without an interruption of pure white and delicate pastels, which become the vital back-up to the style ... She is permanently on the look-out for a flying suit in mint condition, and Girl Guide or Boy Scout uniforms that fit ...’

THE COUNTRY GIRL: ‘... In summer she swaps warm, practical clothes for a more pastoral Kate Greenaway look. She loves fresh, sprigged cottons in bright and faded Liberty-style prints: tiered skirts edged with pintucks or broderie anglaise, flower-printed shirts with Peter-Pan collars, puff sleeves and narrow cuffs, drawstring smocks that hang over thin, cotton trousers. She protects her favourite clothes with a long, flowery apron – essential for gardening, picking fruit, making jam and baking bread. When it rains she changes from espradrilles into gumboots, throws on the nearest raincoat and cotton headsquare, and lets the rain fall on her face’.

THE JUMBLE GIRL: ‘Her Granny style springs from a tiny budget and a feeling for nostalgia. Everything, except her underwear, is second-hand. Some things qualify as antiques, others are recent cast-offs, picked up for a few pence in a jumble sale. This astute waif haunts every kind of old clothes source: charity shops, market stalls, auctions and bazaars ... with a well-trained eye to see the potential in things that others regard as old rags...’

THE PEASANT GIRL: ‘... The Peasant Girl is something of an all-round-crank [!!!], treating her food, fashion and health with a single-minded reverence. She is a vegetarian gourmet, ready to spend hours concocting exotic, whole-food banquets, medicinal herb teas or natural-recipe skin-care products. Her greatest joy is finding a source of antique, ethnic treasures: a grandmother’s trunk of frail, exotic, embroidered blouses, a sumptuous Chinese dressing gown, even pieces of foreign cloth that can be adapted into a belt, a scarf, or incorporated into another garment. Fortunately the Peasant Girl can sew reasonably well ... When dressing up ... she wears her most exotic, brightest clothes, releases her preplaited (vegetable-dyed) hair into a crinkly, voluminous halo, accentuates her eyes with black and green kohl pencils, and splashes on her special-occasion patchouli oil.’

Oh, and a quick aside: do check out Ginny Branch Stelling’s post on ‘Campfire Girls ‘. I squealed when I saw the health chart! I need one to keep a regular check of my dry-skin brushing, juice-slurping and disco dancing days!


'I Still Plod Along With Books'

Yesterday’s post couldn’t have been more prescient. Several topics have been on my mind recently: the pace of modern technology and the emotional past amongst them. Thankfully, instead of me banging on about them, I’ve chanced almost magically upon writers who mirror my own thoughts, but in a far more eloquent way ...

I read this on Friday: ‘In an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books’. Harper Lee.

Jeanette Winterson’s monthly column (thankfully back on track) continued the theme. It also introduced me to the wonderful term, ‘the old present’. It ties in with an extract I’d typed up for this blog from a book called In Buddha’s Kitchen, but had failed to post. I’d found the passage striking because over the past year or so, anger has quietly slipped away from my life, whereas previously it had been a dominant, albeit quiet, presence (it’s perhaps simplistic, but to my mind, there are loud, angry people and the quiet variety).

Of course, I will no doubt experience sustained anger again, but whilst some might scoff at the correlation, to me it’s unarguable: the purer and more conscious my diet, the purer my moods.

‘I think a lot about anger these days. How the commercial kitchen used to run on rage. How appropriate it felt to indulge in tirades about what should or shouldn’t be done. I’d seen anger as a divine dance, something I’d earned a right to express. Besides, hadn’t I worked my way up from kitchen help by being unrelentingly precise and demanding in every detail? Hadn’t I made a point of never faltering in my zealous control of both the process and the product? Anger released adrenaline, energy, force. It kept the kitchen going. But ... I discovered that it has a big price tag hanging from its toe. People dislike you afterward, so you have to keep feeling angry, keep feeding it, keep pushing that energy outward in order not to wind up with the letdown, not to take in the effects of your anger on other people.

... once said that when someone gets angry at you, it's as if they were shooting arrows. If you respond with more anger, it is as if you picked up the arrows that fell at your feet and proceeded to stab yourself over and over.

A cook isn’t necessarily angry, but a chef is almost always furious on some level. Why? Control and perfection. Professional entitlement. And what happens to all of this anger in the kitchen at a Buddhist centre? To begin with, it starts to feel like damage rather than privilege. I would track the impact of anger, follow its effects on myself and others. I noted my racing heart, narrowed eyes, intense concentration outward onto something that others, they, were doing wrong. An inner dialogue raged over flaws, the rightness of my position, my method, my perfect food, my idea of how a dish should look, should taste. In short, I concentrated on myself, my own assumptions. I would take what was inside my head, project it outward – reify it- think it was real in itself. I’m right, they are wrong. Puff, puff. But the centre of energy still raged on inside my own being.

That in itself, I came to realize, isn’t the whole problem. When I engage with anger, nothing else can happen. Nothing. No love. No joy. Only rage. And it feeds itself. It comes in waves, say the psychologists. The first wave of anger tends to be fairly mild, but then, after we’ve pumped it up a bit, after we’ve fanned the flames with words and memories of earlier outrages, it becomes stronger, deeper, meaner.

I soon found that getting in touch with rage as a source of power, as the self-help books advise, doesn’t work except in the very short term. When I really began to watch the effects of my words, I saw that anger couldn’t do me or anyone else a bit of good ...’.

In the cutting down of my internet time and the turning off of my mobile (in truth my mobile has, for the most part, been off for the past decade) I’ve been somewhat dreamily contemplating my relationship with old clothes (vintage is perhaps a little rarefied for the odd kit I accumulate). More thoughts on that soon ... perhaps even some favourite raw dips too.


Self Healing, Yoga and Destiny

A rediscovery from my bookshelf, although more of a booklet than a book at only eighty pages, Self Healing, Yoga & Destiny.

From page 22: ‘When viewed by an outside observer, Hatha Yoga exercises appear to be purely physical; actually, however, their mental side is the more important ... Persons who practice yoga exercises without concentration will not succeed in controlling the forces they awaken through the exercises. They can attain physical results, healing, gaining or losing weight, or strengthening their muscles, but they will not attain the true goal of yoga. On the other hand, persons who exercise with concentration will come to recognise how the vital energies they arouse flow through the nervous system and ... physical energies are transformed into mental and vice versa. They will also understand that for each and every one of us our fate is nothing other than the projection of our Self into the external world and that we can hold in our own hand the steering wheel of our fate. How to recognise this and how to use the steering wheel properly is what we learn in the high school of yoga’.

Oh, and I'm totally loving Momo's blog at the mo' ...