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Lotte, founder of MÁDARA, allows us to look into her home during the holiday season, and shares some simple tips for a more fulfilling and sustainable Christmas.
The simplest things can bring the most happiness. I repeat this mantra every year while trying to stay sane when Christmas craze is about to take me over. I organize my celebration around five simple rules that help to make celebration emotionally, financially, and environmentally sustainable.
Good Christmas starts with a good mood, and I would do nothing around the house, food or gifts before I take my bath. My bathroom is my temple, and a treatment ritual with precious oils kick-starts my holidays. A warm bath, sometimes enhanced with a freshly-brewed flat white or a glass of champagne (yes, please!) has never failed to make me totally happy, relaxed and ready for the hassle to come. I light candles and close the doors, the world can explode, but my time is mine.
When it comes to food, it can be troublesome. I remember a party when I tried to surprise guests with 8 course menu with 3 warm courses, and ended up spending the whole night in the kitchen and burning my hand, and totally missing the celebration. Since then, I revised my Christmas kitchen ambitions and came up with a perfect food rule to survive the holidays (many days, actually). I cook a huge pot of Latvian traditional salted grey peas (a Nordic cousin of chickpeas). They are so Christmas’y, so irresistible, so grab-and-go, so filling-up, and so easy to make – they cook on their own within 1 hour. Grey peas are super tasty even cold, and together with some basic sauces they make the perfect comfort meal. Christmas is when I revise the pickled goods in my cellar (or the supermarket shelf) – those little sweet and salty pots and jars of wonders. Sometimes I fix a quick salad or make a cheese-marmalade plate. The saved time I invest in baking gingerbread figures together with my kids – I love this because it wraps the house in alluring and wonderful scent of spices.
If my foods are simple, my crockery is not. I love to serve the traditional grey peas in the gorgeous crystal bowls by an&angel and other tableware masterpieces to honor those simple traditional ingredients. Christmas is when I set table with silver cutlery and bone porcelain, inherited from my great great grandparents. It’s time to celebrate the roots and memories.
The most precious Christmas gift I have ever been given is a cone from Latvian forest, plaited with 24-karat gold. My friend Ieva, the founder of mammalampa, creates unique lamps and lights, combining ultimately opposite natural materials – rust and gold, stones and crystals, fine and coarse wood. It’s not the gold that made this gift so special, but the eye-opening appreciation of the beautiful shape and miraculous structure of this little cone, that otherwise would be considered nothing. This gift has given me so much inspiration to find an extraordinary beauty in the smallest and simplest things, that it changed my gifting strategy forever. In the recent years our family has been exchanging small lovely gifts such as family pictures, framed children drawings, decorations made of straws, home-made sweets. It takes love to create, not money. (Ok, kids are an exception, they get Lego).
Decorating. I love it, and I hate it. I love it when it comes unintentionally and effortlessly. I hate it when I rush through the shops to find the perfect Christmas lights because the old ones have broken down and now will be decorating the landfill, as many parts of electric appliances are never recycled. I used to spend fortune on store-bought decorations (which rarely survive more than one season) until I realized that the most extraordinary decorations require plain simplicity. At the beginning of December, we drive to the forest, collect a trunk full of fallen mossy brunches, blueberry shrubs, rosehip branches, straws. I arrange them in vases around the house, and the natural decors give it a very warm and relaxed feel. It comes at no cost and with the added value of a well-spent day in the healthy, fresh forest air. When fir-tree arrives, the ultimate magic arrives. Some years we go into our countryside forest to cut it ourselves, sometimes we buy it. But it must always be a natural fir with its amazing scent. Christmas tree is so pretty that I am tempted to leave it undecorated. But kids usually dress it up with baubles from assorted eras and places – their first pair of shoes, straw angels, various baubles form cheap supermarket pieces to 50-year-old vintages.
Fire is the element that brings serenity into the house and I can’t imagine Christmas without it. My hobby is making natural perfumed candles. I even have a small family owned workshop that produces hand-made candles: Isle of Wolf, named after my parents’ manor house – their lifetime project of restoration. In each room I burn a different scent, candles are placed in the staircase, bathroom and on the tables, radiating vibrations of joy and tranquility. The only thing that outperforms candles for a few hours is the fireplace – I have been blessed with a such, as I happen to live in an old wooden house, typical to the Baltic-Nordic region. And no Christmas goes by without playing my favourite CD at least 20 times, it’s so so so good, so thoughtful. WHITE LULLABIES collection, compiled by Klass Vavere, starts with the Yoko Ono and Lennon’s iconic 'So this is Xmas, and what have you done…'
*Photo credit: ANDREJS NIKIFOROVS (home interior) and VIKA ANISKO (Lotte's portrait).