Estonian Linens and Scents : Snowbird Family Farm

I met Maria of The Snowbird Family Farm via that sometimes praised and sometimes maligned invention called the Instagram hashtag. One day I decided to search for #kama. Kama is one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast or whenever I want a light but filling snack. It’s a cereal powder of malted and toasted grains that in Estonia finds its way into everything, from kefir shakes to chocolate bars. Kama has a delicately smoky, nutty flavor, and I love it mixed into yogurt and topped with honey. It softens, while retaining its pleasing granular texture.

As I discovered in my #kama search, chocolate and ice cream is not the limit, and kama can even be used in soap. A small artisanal outfit Pääsukese talu, which means the ‘Swallow Farm’ in Estonian, made delicious looking blocks of organic soap with kama. Maria, the genie behind the enterprise, assured me that it will exfoliate the skin, and I placed an order for 10 soaps. Since Maria was at that point trying new directions, she soon stopped making soap and instead focused on traditional Estonian linen weaving, a big passion of her mother’s. Eventually they added ceramics from local studios, and that’s how Snowbird Family Farm was born.

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4 Flamboyant White Florals Against Winter Blues

With the holidays behind us and still too many winter days ahead, it’s important to find ways to add a splash of color to cold, grey mornings. I reach for my brightest dresses and scarves and add swirls of saffron and paprika to my food, evoking sunshine and warmth. Or I rely on white floral perfumes to create a vivid ambiance. White flowers may call to mind bridal veils, but there is nothing prim and pastel about the scent of tropical blossoms like tiaré, frangipani, ylang-ylang, tuberose or jasmine. They have a voluptuous aroma reminiscent of warm skin, coconut milk and petals sticky with nectar. The synesthetes among perfumers swear that white flowers smell purple and pink, rich and saturated, and it’s true that wearing a white floral perfume makes me feel as if the day is brighter.

These opulent, flamboyant scents are the topic of my FT column, Four white floral scents to brighten grey days. You will find the full article here.

How do you cure yourself of winter blues? What flowers among the white floral family are your favorites?

Image via FT

Chocolate Cake with Pistachios and Apricots

The romance that appeals to me has a dark side, such as the poetry of Paul Verlaine, novels by Mary Shelley, gowns by Elsa Schiaparelli and Alexander McQueen, and music by Modest Mussorgsky. In perfume, dark romance is expressed in fragrances like Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin, Caron Nuit de Noël, Arquiste Nanban, and Guerlain Vol de Nuit. If I extrapolate this idea even further into flavors, then it would be my dark chocolate pound cake with pistachios and apricots. It’s darkly romantic and decadent.

Bitter chocolate is complex enough to be paired with a variety of other flavors, but the combination with pistachios and apricots is one that I love for its harmony. Apricots give a tart floral note, while pistachios hold their own. Their sweetness becomes more pronounced against the dark chocolate foil.

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Bardot and Picasso

In 1956 Brigitte Bardot visited Pablo Picasso’s villa in the town of Vallauris on the French Riviera. Although Picasso never painted Bardot, Jerome Brierre of LIFE Magazine took several photographs of the meeting. They show the 21 year old Bardot and the 74 year old Picasso in the artist’s studio filled with his etudes and ceramic sculptures. Although Bardot looks fragile and young, she holds her own, and every image shows her in control, if not in defiance. Exquisite, isn’t she?

Photograph by Jerome Brierre via Getty Images

French Pharmacy Micellar Waters and Cleansers

I’ve been loyal to La Roche-Posay Toleriane and Johnson & Johnson Purpose cleansers for many years, but I still like to test new products to see if there is something better out there. After all, skin changes over time, and so do product formulas. When I was recently packing for a trip, I discovered that I had accumulated quite a few skincare samples and testing notes and I thought that I’d share them here. These products are among the most popular ones at the European pharmacies.

Since everyone has slightly different skincare goals, I might as well mention what I like in a cleanser. As I’ve described in My Skincare Route, for my first cleanse in the evening, I use an oil-based cleanser such as DHC Cleansing Oil. For the second cleanse, however, I turn to a gentle foaming cleanser that doesn’t dry out my skin. It should leave it soft, with a comfortable, soothing feel. I use micellar water to remove makeup, refresh my skin after I get home in the evening, or during travels, when I need to streamline my routine and skip the oil cleanser. Even if some of these products haven’t passed the goldstandard test for me, many came close.

Micellar waters, by the way, are not the same thing as toners. The names comes from micelles, tiny spheres* of cleansing compounds suspended in the aqueous solution. One part of a micelle is hydrophilic, with an affinity to water, while another  is lipophilic, ready absorb or dissolve in oil, and as the argument goes, with skin sebum and dirt. Each brand uses a slightly different formula for the surfactants that aggregate into the micelles, but the idea behind all of them is similar–a water-based cleanser that requires no rinsing.

*Actually, micelles can come in shapes other than spheres; it depends on the molecule shape of the surfactants that make them. Just a chemistry geek note.

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