We picked up these little dolls at a Izmailovsky Market in Russia, on a whim because, you know, when in Russia and all that. It's really an obligation. We had picked some blank, unpainted matryoshka dolls a few years ago for our little friend Zo at Shelf in London and I had always wished we had got some for ourselves.
So this time we bought not one but two sets of dolls. The regular matryoshka shape was exactly what we expected, five nesting dolls. We only realized that the little stubby one we bought had not five but nine dolls – and the big one is only three and a half inches tall to begin with! I know it's probably going to be dusting hell but having them all laid out makes me smile.
Last Saturday found me and Natasha on Stamford Connectcut's Shipan Peninsula for our niece Sophia's third birthday party. As my sister and her husband ran off to Carvel for an ice cream cake and a few more carrots for the suburban mandate that is crudité, Natasha and I took Sophia down to the waterfront for a bit of romping around in the muck of low tide. As Sophia gathered kelp and seaweed under the somewhat watchful eye of Natasha, I managed to fall into beachcomber mode looking for any natural wonder or man made detritus I could find. As Sophia's equally keen eye for the unusual spied miniature shells and ladybugs, I began to find rather ornate and water-worn sherds of black pottery. As my Indiana Jones mind kicked into full gear, I wondered to myself, "what could this be"? Ancient Piquot pots broken in the bay as a part of some long forgotten fishing ritual? Evidence of a Pre-Columbian of Viking settlement, or just some industrial age garbage amongst the other crap that lines our nation's once pristine shores?
After a bit of thinking from my bird brain it came to me, these were broken pieces of clay pigeons that were released and mercilessly shot out of the sky by some shotgun-toting Connecticut Yankee. Mystery solved.
OK, so my step mother isn't the only one who is really good at buying presents. Just before we left, Karen was over from London and handed me the iconic blue bag that has my heart going into palpitations. No, not that kind of blue. A better, more valuable kind. To me, anyway.
Smythson is quality in bound form. All their diaries are pigskin and handmade, originally designed to slip into a gentleman's pocket. Hey, I'm no gentleman, but I have a certain swagger with this in my pocket. And I'm not the only one – Smythson has held the esteemed Royal Warrant of Appointment since 1964. I wonder if the Queen has emerald green too?
Ever since Michael read the Salt book, he's an expert on the subject. If someone even mentions a word beginning with sal–, he's there in a flash with a "did you know?" So I knew when I brought him back some Fleur de Sel from Île de Ré, he would be able to give me a brief history of salt making in France. He was also appalled that I hadn't been to the salt works. I had eating to do and only four days, so it hadn't been a priority. Not bothering with the "gros sel", the larger salt that is more for cooking than finishing, I lugged back bags of the lighter finishing salt for him. And he immediately plucked one of our beefsteak tomatoes off the vine to embark upon a taste test with the Rétais salt and our beloved Maldon. Maldon finished off the winner for both of us, but the the Île de Ré salt has a more pungent, salty flavor that worked well with the tomatoes.
The family I stayed with had a beautiful salt cellar and after a little search, I found one at the La Flotte market. It is made in France from porcelain and is perfect for a little fleur de sel, or Maldon, whichever takes your fancy. It's making a regular appearance at our table.